In 18 of the last 20 NFL seasons, at least one team has ascended from worst to first in its division while countless others have dramatically reversed their fortunes.
For examples from last season, the Jaguars improved from 3-14 to 9-8 and a division title, while the Rams regressed from 12-5 and a Super Bowl title to 5-12.
I spoke with 10 bookmakers, bettors and analysts about the upcoming season and top regression candidates.
The No. 1 consensus play is the Packers, who fell from 13-4 to 8-9 last season before trading four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the Jets.
The Westgate SuperBook and Circa Sports reported sharp action on Green Bay to go over its win total of 7½ (o-140) behind coach Matt LaFleur and third-year QB Jordan Love.
“There’s a perception that Rodgers is going to be a huge loss,” Circa sportsbook risk manager Dylan Sullivan said. “But the sharp opinion is that Jordan Love is going to fit in better.”
SumerSports executive Eric Eager and VSiN hosts Wes Reynolds and Mike Somich — who were on a panel at the “Circa Football Preview” Saturday — also are backing the Pack.
“Matt LaFleur is underrated quite a bit,” Eager said. “They have a lot of question marks for wide receiver, tight end and, to an extent, the offensive line. But if those things hit, I think this team can be division champions.”
“Green Bay over 7½, division, conference — all of those are plus EV (positive expected value).”
For the Birds
The SuperBook, Circa and South Point also reported sharp action on the Falcons to go over their win total of 8½ (o-145).
“The sharps really like the Falcons this year,” Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “No one ran the ball like Atlanta did last year. They got some pieces through the draft and free agency, and the division is just awful.”
The Falcons were second in the league in rushing last season (159.9 yards per game) and have the NFL’s easiest schedule based on win totals.
Atlanta is one of the largest liabilities at Station Casinos to win the NFC.
“The NFC South might be the weakest division in all of football,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “They are loaded with young talent at the skill positions in Desmond Ridder, Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London, and they have a good offensive line.”
The Seahawks are another NFC liability at Station, and Somich said there’s some value on them to win the conference (14-1) and Super Bowl (35-1). Seattle is the +220 second choice to win the NFC West behind San Francisco (-177).
“Seattle has a decent path to be able to win that division,” he said. “I’m not sold on (Niners QB) Brock Purdy. He’s going to have to prove it to me this year.
“I know a lot of people don’t believe in (Seahawks QB) Geno Smith. But I like their receivers. They have three go-to guys if (Jaxon) Smith-Njigba is able to come back healthy.”
Remember the Titans?
The South Point also has taken sharp action on Tennessee to go over its win total of 7½ (-120) and Reynolds agrees.
The Titans reeled off six straight winning seasons and started last year 7-3 before losing their final seven games.
“They were so banged up last year. They had the worst injury luck of any team in the league,” Reynolds said. “It’s a veteran team with a quarterback in the last year of his contract. Ryan Tannehill is playing for a job.”
Sullivan expects the Bears (7½, o-140) and Dolphins (9½) to be worse than projected.
“It’s hard to see the Bears winning too many games,” he said. “I’m not so high on the Dolphins. If a couple things go wrong for them, they could be one of the worst teams in the league.”
Eager expects the Vikings to regress after going 11-0 in one-score games last season and 13-4 overall. Their win total is 8½ (o-135) but Eager’s computer model made the total 7.9.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mike Somich’s name.