Washington Football Team u8.5 wins -110 (1u)
This is not me hating on this team. In fact, going into my research my gut told me to take the over. Let me explain. First off, you have a change in QB that has been overblown in it’s projected impact. This team ranked 28th in QBR last year at 80.1, which isn’t good. But you have to remember they started an uninterested Dwayne Haskins for 8 games and he put up a 73.0, good for 3rd last among qualified QBs.
The play of Alex Smith and Taylor Heinecke was not all that bad down the stretch. Over the course of the last 17 games Fitzpatrick has started, he’s had a QB rating at 89, which would’ve placed him 21st among QBs with 10+ starts over that same time. Yes, it might be an improvement. But it’s an improvement that might get you a few more shootout wins, but he is also going to kill you with turnovers more times than Alex Smith did to end the season. He’s another year older, and although he likely has a better supporting cast at the skill positions, that o-line is still a big question.
Second, this team is so young (pun intended) and have so many guys who are going to be so important for them while still on rookie contracts. Antonio Gibson came on as a rookie and played very well, but he’s still so inexperienced and has shown us 12 good games. Logan Thomas showed promise but again, although not super young, had ¾ of a good year.
On the defensive side, they have a great unit against the run, but expect them to regress in the secondary. They did rank well last year, but here’s a list of QBs that started against them last year. Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones x2, Jared Goff, Andy Dalton x2, Joe Burrow(and a half of Ryan Findley), Nick Mullens, Teddy Bridgewater, Jalen Hurts(with some Nate Sudfeld). That’s 10 games against very poor QB play. Yes, I know they still get to play Hurts and Wentz 4 times this year, but outside of that, it gets much much tougher.
They have a middle of the road schedule this year, but my biggest concern with a young squad is that the majority of their winnable games outside of the division come on the road. They go to Denver, to Carolina, to Atlanta, and to Vegas. Outside of that, you have @GB, @Buffalo and home to KC, Tampa, Seattle, New Orleans, and the Chargers, where you’d be happy to steal 2 or 3.₁ The fact that so many of their games that will be expected to be close are on the road does not bode well for a team with so much youth outside of the QB position.
As a whole, I like this team for the future but I just don’t see where 9 wins come from. Take 4/6 from that dumpster fire of a division, which would be a big success, and they still have to take 5/11 from those games mentioned above.₁ They’re a trendy and lovable team that I hate to root against, but give me the under.
Titans to win the AFC South (-125) 1.5u
Yes, this might be an obvious, boring pick. Let’s be honest though, this division is a 2 horse race. Jacksonville and Houston aren’t winning anything, so that’ll be the only time I mention them. Indy on the other hand, is who most would be worried about.
However, I’m going to tell you first why I hate the Colts this year, which is half the reason I love this bet. I’m still confused at what the Colts think they’re doing at QB. Unless they’re starting my guy, the greatest college QB of all time, Sam Ehlinger, I hate their QB play for this year. I get it, Wentz had 1 and a half good year under Frank Reich in Philly, who’s now in Indianapolis, but did people just forget about last year? I mean the guy was 2nd to last in the NFL in passer rating last season among qualified QBs last year, while Phillip Rivers was 12th. Heck, even Rivers was 4 points higher last year than Wentz was in a decent 2019. So I’m expecting at the absolute best, for the Colts to get similar QB play as last year but likely will take a little step down. Other than that, they do get Darius Leonard and Marlon Mack back from injury, but who knows when TY Hilton and Quentin Nelson return. They didn’t lose much in free agency, but also added just about nothing.
Enough about the Colts. They didn’t do much to get better if anything and have a new QB, but what about the reigning division champs, the Titans. I’m not going to come on here and act like Julio Jones is going to go back 6 years and be the best receiver in football. But as a #2 option he’s about the best in football. A top 3 receiving corps in football, the best running back in the league, and a QB with the 5th highest QBR in football over the last 2 seasons? That sounds like a top NFL offense to me, even if they don’t put up the points like some other big dogs due to their run first mentality.
We know the Titans offense is going to be sick, and yes, the Colts may be better defensively. However, bringing in Bud Dupree and Denico Autry (oh yes, from the Colts) who had an under the radar 2020, should help generate the pass rush after a disappointing season from Clowney last year.
They retooled a bit in the secondary, letting Kenny Vaccaro and Adoree Jackson walk and losing Malcolm Butler to retirement. However, 2020 second rounder Kristin Fulton looked more than ready last year and they brought in Janoris Jenkins to be a solid veteran. Combine that with another year of Jeffery Simmons development, and I expect this defense to be a serviceable, middle of the road unit this year. They aren’t great on that side, but they aren’t as bad as they showed last year giving up the 9th most points and 4th most yards in football, so expect some progression to the mean (oh and they still won the division with that bad defense last year).
To wrap it up, this bet is just as much about the lack of faith I have in the Colts (and the rest of the division) as it is about my confidence in Mike Vrabel’s team. I just don’t see the script flipping from the last few years given how the off-season’s went.