NFL Division Betting: Are the 49ers Set to Repeat as NFC West Champions?
It somehow feels like the 2020 NFL Draft was yesterday and four years ago at the same time.
With the draft that saw a record amount of money bet behind us, it's time to look forward to the upcoming season. Luckily, FanDuel Sportsbook has well north of 150 props already available for you to choose from.
With this series, I'm going to go division by division and come up with my favorite picks to take home the divisional crown -- as always, the goal is to find some value.
Here's a look at the team I'd bet on to win the NFC West.
NFC West Overview
The NFC West has three teams with implied odds to win the division that are greater than 20 percent -- the San Francisco 49ers +100, Seattle Seahawks +240, and Los Angeles Rams +370. The Grand Canyon lies between Los Angeles and the Arizona Cardinals, who come in at +900 to take home the division crown.
Teams that make it to the Super Bowl tend to be elite squads, which is why it might come as a surprise that just 9 of the last 25 Super Bowl losing teams went on to win their division the following season. On average, those teams won 3.3 fewer games in the campaign following their Super Bowl loss. The only team in the last 10 years to win more games following a season where they lost the title game? The 2013 49ers.
The three squads trying to overtake San Francisco will have their work cut out for them. Here's a look at how the division's schedules stack up.
|Team||Overall SoS||Games vs. Teams
With O/U ≥ .500
|San Francisco 49ers||0.506||10||-0.32|
|Los Angeles Rams||0.514||10||0.19|
According to Brandon Gdula's schedule rankings -- where he utilizes numberFire's nERD metric in conjunction with FanDuel Sportsbook's win totals -- the 49ers have the easiest schedule in the West and eighth-easiest in the league. Per Gdula, San Fran is also tied for the third-most games with a nERD advantage, at 14 -- only the Kansas City Chiefs (16) and Indianapolis Colts (14) have more.
The Niners did experience some significant losses this offseason, notably DeForest Buckner, Joe Staley, and Emmanuel Sanders. However, they did a more than adequate job at mitigating those losses. The team drafted Javon Kinlaw to replace Buckner -- it's unlikely that the rookie will be able to fill those shoes, making this their biggest net loss. They traded for Trent Williams to take Staley's spot. And they traded up to get Brandon Aiyuk, who should be a better fit for their offense than Sanders was.
Given their flashy moves -- trading for DeAndre Hopkins and drafting Isaiah Simmons -- the Cardinals might gain some traction as a dark horse pick. After all, San Francisco went third-to-first in 2018-19, can the Cardinals pull off a similar feat?
Hopkins is a game-changing receiver, who, on average, has ranked sixth in Net Expected Points (NEP) at the position. In short, he's elite at adding to his team's expected points total. Simmons and newly-added defensive tackle Jordan Phillips should help shore up some of their biggest weaknesses on the defensive side. Rookie tackle Josh Jones could prove vital as the season progresses.
All in all, I'd say the Cardinals are worth a dart throw at 9/1, but I wouldn't rely on it happening. I'd much prefer betting the over (-115) on their win total of 7.0.
For a team that's had bottom-nine pass-protecting offensive lines for seven consecutive seasons, Seattle sure as hell doesn't seem to be making a concerted effort to fix the leakage. Perhaps having Russell Wilson run for his life is part of their strategy?
In 2019, 20% of all the Big Time Throws while the QB was scrambling belonged to Russell Wilson
Here's 98 seconds of magic: https://t.co/tt9rIxYcTe pic.twitter.com/xSfg3DXpHn
— Seth Galina (@pff_seth) May 19, 2020
Seattle will be down three starters on their line at the start of the 2020 season and failed to make any significant investment in replacing them. Along the defensive line, it's quite possible that they'll be sans both Quinton Jefferson and Jadeveon Clowney.
I'd want a line better than +270 to bet on the Seahawks to win the West.
Los Angeles Rams
On offense, Los Angeles will without Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks. Their line will essentially remain the same, which isn't exactly a good thing. Defensively, the Rams lost two players -- Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews -- who were responsible for 19.5 sacks in 2019. Their top linebacker -- Cory Littleton -- and slot corner -- Nickell Robey-Coleman -- will also be wearing different uniforms in 2020.
That's a lot of losses for a team that's slated to square off against eight teams with projected win totals of nine or better.
Along with plenty of high-end talent, the 49ers are also one of the deepest teams in the league. In some ways, it felt like they were just scratching the surface in 2019.
Couple all that with the fact that they have (arguably) the easiest schedule in their division, and it makes it really tough to pick anyone else.
At even odds, I'm not rushing to place a bet here, but it is a wager I'd make nonetheless.