Wednesday, May 6, 2020

We Need Sports Things to Talk About, So Let's Gamble on Football (if there is football)

In the middle of a contract dispute with the Cowboys, surely nobody would bet on Dak Prescott to win the MVP, would they?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

While there are certainly more important things happening now than a lack of sports, crawling along in a sports-less desert has made many fans thirsty for ANYTHING to argue about.

Look no further than ESPN's documentary series "The Last Dance," chronicling Michael Jordan's final season (and really, entire career) with the Chicago Bulls. A documentary like this would normally be very popular anyway, but it has absolutely taken over the sports social media world, and drawn millions of viewers each week.

Similarly, the WNBA and NFL Draft both had their best years, in terms of viewership, in their history, and several notable players have mainstream news made waves by changing squads during NFL free agency (maybe you've heard of that Brady guy?).

The dust has not totally settled, but with the draft complete, and the NFL seemingly intent on playing games without interruption, now seems like a perfect time to start some more debates and look at a few NFL futures bets.

Odds for the Super Bowl, MVP and division winners have been updated, and you can find all that information here, along with other NFL related news. There will be more updates up until NFL starts so take the current odds with a grain of salt. For the sake of this blog, I'm going to take a look at my favorite, and least favorite picks to win divisions, and the MVP.

So, which bets are my Stone Cold Locks of The Quarantine? Find out below.

Best Divisional Bet: Miami +900 to win the AFC East

I mean, I don't know if I can really talk myself into saying the Dolphins actually will win the division, but you're giving me +900 in a wide-open division, where the other quarterbacks are Tom Brady Jarrett Stidham, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold.

Yes, I know the Dolphins are moving forward with either a rookie Tua Tagovailoa, or Ryan Fitzpatrick. But, Tua is one of the most talented and polished rookies to come out in the last decade, and, in spurts, Fitzpatrick has lived up to the name Fitzmagic, including last year in Foxboro, where he essentially ended the Brady-Belichick era by knocking off the Patriots, and forcing them to play on Wildcard Weekend.

Basically, Miami's quarterback situation isn't a slam dunk, but is it that much worse than the other three teams in this division? Is Brian Flores, who won in spite of a tank-ready roster last season, anything less than the second best coach in a division that features Adam Gase and Sean McDermott?

Again, I don't know, but at +900, and with the Pats (+120) and Bills (+130) both giving much lesser returns, I would happily take this bet and roll the dice.

Worst Divisional Bet: Indianapolis +135 to win the AFC South

Ok, riddle me this: How is reigning AFC South champion, and AFC conference finalist Tennessee at +165, while a Colts team that went 7-9, losing five of their last six, going for +135? Is it because they added Phil Rivers in free agency? Probably, as Jacoby Brissett was a serviceable, but less than explosive quarterback for Indy last season.

Still, am I really willing to bet that a 38-year old Phillip Rivers, coming off a 20 interception season where his team won just five games, is the answer? I'm gonna say no, and I can't see why anyone wouldn't take the better odds and bet on the reigning division champ, with more continuity, a better defense, and more exciting young weapons.

Best MVP Bet: Dak Prescott +1200

Look, the top three guys are clearly Patrick Mahomes (+380), reigning MVP Lamar Jackson (+600) and Russell Wilson (also +600), in some order. My problem with those three are- Mahomes, while the obvious favorite, gives you very little return on investment, and took a big step back, numbers-wise, from his first season starting to his second, for a variety of reasons.

While I love Lamar, you have to think defenses will have a better feel for him, both as a runner and a passer, in his second season starting for the Ravens. As for Wilson, I think he is annoyingly properly valued by Vegas, while continuing to be underrated by the average fan.

I want to be clear, I don't think any of those guys are bad bets, they're actually all pegged about right. But, I love Prescott's value at +1200. Here's a guy who will either be playing a new deal and happy, or playing on the franchise tag and looking to prove something, and his stud running back is coming off back-to-back years where he carried the ball over 300 times.

That likely means less touches for Ezekiel Elliot on the ground, and even more free reign to air it out for Prescott. Considering he nearly threw for 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, Dak's floor seems to be low, and with an even larger load of Dallas' offense to shoulder this season, his ceiling might just be as high as those three aforementioned favorites.

Again, this pick is about value, and with twice the return of the second-tier favorites, with about the same ceiling, Dak is my guy.

Worst MVP Bet: Drew Brees +1600

Nothing against Purdue legend Drew Brees (Boiler Up!!), but he just isn't a realistic MVP candidate at this point in his career, as he transitions to more of a game manager role. Don't believe me? The Saints were one of only four teams to run the ball over 400 times last year, and ranked 20th in the league in pass attempts. Now, if Drew is healthy, I would expect those numbers to change a bit, but the fact is, New Orleans is going to win by running the ball, and when they do throw, by getting it to All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

In fact, if any player in the Saints' passing game is poised to make an MVP run, it would be Thomas, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards last season, both by sizable margins. Just by the way his team is structured, and with so many other promising candidates getting better returns, Drew is, unfortunately, my least favorite MVP bet.


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