NFL Betting: Which Team Will Have the Worst Record in 2020?
We're not going to do any of that here.
FanDuel Sportsbook has a fun bet that caught my eye -- well, fun for everyone but the fans of some of the teams we're going to talk about. The bet is which team will finish with the worst regular season record in 2020, with Dead Heat rules applying if two teams end up with the same record.
While the NFL can be unpredictable on a year-to-year basis, we have a pretty good idea of which teams should be bad this coming season. But who will be the worst team record-wise? Let's take a look.
Teams to Bet On
What I'm looking for here is a bad team with a bad quarterback. Washington checks both of those boxes.
They were terrible in 2019 -- 3-13 with a -169 point differential, the latter being the second-worst mark in the league. And while it's probably unfair to call Dwayne Haskins "bad" after a small-sample rookie year, he did nothing with his 231 drop backs to make me think otherwise, recording a Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back of -0.11, the third-worst clip among all signal callers with at least 100 drop backs, besting only David Blough (-0.14) and Josh Rosen (-0.24).
Something that doesn't help Haskins is that Washington has assembled a pretty uninspiring group of players around him on offense other than Terry McLaurin. After McLaurin, they have Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon and Jeremy Sprinkle as their top pass-game weapons, and Washington ranked as the second-worst pass blocking offensive line in 2019, according to Football Outsiders.
Washington was bad all over in 2019, owning the fourth-worst offense and third-worst defense, per our schedule-adjusted metrics. I don't envision things being much different in 2020. Their win total prop on FanDuel Sportsbook is set at 5.0 wins, tied with Jacksonville for the lowest in the league, though the over is -120.
With Washington at +600 to have the worst record, there's a nice profit to be made here if it hits, and I think they should be priced closer to Jacksonville (+250).
New York Giants (+1400)
If Washington doesn't wind up with the worst record, it might be because they have two games against the Giants. The Giants check both boxes in terms of being bad and having a bad quarterback, and I think they're good value at these odds.
While Daniel Jones didn't completely faceplant like some feared he would, his rookie-year mark of -0.03 Passing NEP per drop back was still pretty ugly, ranking fifth-worst among quarterbacks with 100-plus attempts. Unlike Haskins, though, Jones has some pretty nice weapons in Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Evan Engram and Darius Slayton. The offensive line is an issue, however, as the front five checked in 25th in the run game and 17th in pass protection. But fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas should help.
Overall, the G-Men went 4-12 in 2019 and put up a -110 point differential, the fourth-worst clip.
In 2020, the Giants have a very difficult schedule, the fifth-toughest by our numbers, and it's particularly brutal at the start -- with games against the Steelers, 49ers, Rams and Cowboys over their first five contests.
Big Blue is likely going to be better than a couple teams in the league, but maybe things go south from the start and they never right the ship. At +1400, I like rolling the dice on them.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+250)
We have to at least talk about the Jaguars since they are priced as the clear favorite for this bet. It sure seems like Jacksonville is kind of trying to be the frontrunner for Trevor Lawrence, the presumed top pick in the 2021 Draft. I mean, they just signed Mike Glennon.
But at +250, I don't love the pricing here -- no other team is lower than +600 -- so I'd tread somewhat lightly, though this should be a bad squad. Their win total prop is set at 5.0, and the under is -145. They're not good.
Jacksonville was bad last year, going 6-10, but six other teams had a worse point differential than the Jaguars' mark of -97. All signs point to Gardner Minshew being at the controls in 2020. As a rookie, Minshew wasn't too bad, posting a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.06 over 503 drop backs, better than the clips of Kyler Murray (0.05) and Josh Allen (0.04), though those two add value with their legs, as well.
And the Jags also play in a pretty soft division, getting six games versus the AFC South. We recently released our initial nERD-based power rankings for 2020, and there's only one NFC South team in the top 15. And that one team, the Titans, could be headed for some regression offensively.
All in all, I expect Jacksonville to be bad, and I don't even disagree with them being listed as the favorite. But I don't think they should be the runaway favorites like they are, so I'd rather bet on someone else -- like Washington -- at a much friendlier line.
Team to Avoid
Cincinnati Bengals (+700)
The Bengals were terrible last year, obviously, winning only two games and finishing with a putrid -141 point differential. But there are reasons for optimism for Cincy in 2020.
The most glaring reason is the arrival of Joe Burrow, who is coming off a historically great college season and should immediately inject some life into the Bengals' offense. And when you look at what the team has to put around Burrow -- A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon -- this could be a sneaky-good offense in 2020.
The other reasons to be a little bullish on Cincy revolve around their awful injury luck in 2019. Not only did the offense lose Green (again), 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams didn't play a single snap last year due to injury. He should give a boost to an offensive line that was 26th in run blocking and 20th in pass protection last year.
The Bengals were also uncharacteristically active in free agency this offseason, particularly on defense, with the additions of D.J. Reader, Vonn Bell, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes among others. Add that to William Jackson III and the three linebackers they took in the draft, and the Bengals should be much improved defensively.
Don't get it twisted -- this should still be a pretty poor team. Cincinnati's win total prop set at 5.5, close to the lowest number in the league. But the over on that win total is -130.
I'm not expecting a big jump from the Bengals in 2020, but I think they'll be good enough to avoid having the league's worst record.