NFL Betting: Offseason Trade Market Heats Up Despite Coronavirus
The NFL has consistently demonstrated the ability to take over the sports calendar year-round. Whether it be their combine in February, the draft in April, training camps in the spring and summer, or what we experienced yesterday on their first day of the league calendar, as they officially opened up the free agency and trade floodgates. NFL, you certainly have our attention!
I will be the first to admit, with the amount of information that came across throughout the day, it can be dizzying. While this article is not comprehensive, I thought it is important to call out the major transactions that will undoubtedly have an impact on our handicap ahead of this fall, even in the month of March.
Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins traded to the Cardinals in exchange for David Johnson
How often can a team say that they traded for (arguably) the best wide receiver in the league? And only had to give up a running back that they have been openly shopping along with draft picks? I’m not sure what Bill O’Brien is thinking here, but he continues to trade away his most valuable assets (see Jadeveon Clowney last season for a recent example).
As for Arizona, their offense will be legitimately scary if they can get Kenyan Drake going at running back. The number of receiving weapons coupled with Kyler Murray in his second season in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense (following an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign), and this team has nowhere to go but up following their five-win season.
Handicapping Perspective: Houston will now depend on Watson at quarterback even more than they have before. The quarterback has had issues in the past with throwing the ball on time, and has relied on his super-human athletic ability to avoid an insane number of sacks. Now without his favorite receiving target, this gets amplified even further. Houston will be on my list of teams to study and fade heading into the season, unless they can make huge moves in the coming months.
Defensive Tackle DeForest Buckner traded to the Colts for 13th overall pick in this year’s draft
While history is certainly against me, I won’t hesitate to say that the 49ers are doing everything in their power to avoid the famous Super Bowl curse that has haunted the loser of the biggest game for years now. Buckner, who was certain to sign a massive contract due to the quality of his play and pressure he forced in the face of opposing quarterbacks, is no doubt a loss for the Niners. However, turning him into the 13th overall pick where they can likely draft one of the big name wide receivers (think Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, or CeeDee Lamb) is an enormous get. Lining up that type of receiver opposite of Deebo Samuel will work wonders for the San Francisco offense, particularly given the threat of their running game which was on full display at the end of last season.
Meanwhile the Colts defensive line is shored up and will clearly improve in getting after the quarterback with Buckner. The Indianapolis defense was middle of the pack last season, getting a sack on 6.8% of eligible snaps, good for 16th in the league. However, what’s the answer for the Colts at the quarterback position as it seems like the franchise is still reeling from Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement? There is a 38-year-old quarterback with nine children who appears to desperately want to lead the team. Will Philip Rivers be the next domino for the Colts?
Handicapping Perspective: From my standpoint, the 49ers are one of the most well-run organizations in all of football. However, with the Cardinals improving on the offensive side of the ball (see above) and year two of the Kliff Kingsbury experiment, I would be shocked if Arizona didn’t improve on their five-win season. The NFC West is set up to be bonkers next season, even after being the best division in football last year. It will be an all-out war each division game. These teams could easily beat each other up week after week and leave them vulnerable to other players in the NFC. The 49ers are the team to beat in the NFC West at this stage.
I think it’s safe to say that the Texans have regressed (see above), as Hopkins was the glue for that offense and DeShaun Watson’s favorite target. Kenny Stills and Will Fuller will now suffer from what Hopkins has been seeing for years now, with a safety shading their side of the field and double teams (particularly Fuller, when healthy). Depending on what they do at the quarterback position, I view the Colts as a prime team to make the jump to division champion. The Titans will likely be their main competition. Speaking of…
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill signs a huge contract to stay with the Titans
I’ll keep this short. Tannehill demonstrated a knack for being a very good game manager and went on a great run for a couple of months last season. However, it should not be lost that he was traded by the lowly Dolphins for a 7th-round pick just one year ago. Good for Tannehill to get so much money, but the rest of the league will continue to force him to throw downfield and come up with schemes to stop Derrick Henry and the Titans running game.
Handicapping Perspective: The Titans were a surprising OVER team last season, particularly with Tannehill under center (11-8 O/U in all of their games, including playoffs). I think this fortune will turn and they become an UNDER team as defensive coordinators will scheme to force longer throws, cutting off short passing lanes. The Colts will improve (see above), and I view the AFC South as a two-team race.
Offensive Tackle Jack Conklin along with Tight End Austin Hooper sign with Cleveland
The Browns were in the spotlight last year for many reasons. The most talked about team in football underwhelmed week after week (with a few exceptions, that 40-25 win at the Ravens is first to come to mind). Adding Conklin (who is the 10th highest graded tackle by Pro Football Focus last season) will help shore up an offensive line that, to put it mildly, underperformed as quarterback Baker Mayfield was running for his life snap-after-snap last season. This makes the signing of Hooper all the more interesting. Now the highest paid tight end in football, Hooper will have huge expectations heading into the 2020 season. This sounds familiar, right? Nearly every single offensive player on the Browns carries that same weight (Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, etc.). While he’s clearly an upgrade from the disaster that was Freddie Kitchens, can new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski make all of these players happy? In a division where the Steelers should finally be healthy again, coupled with the Ravens and their evolving offense behind Lamar Jackson, I could see the AFC North make a run for being the second-toughest division behind the NFC West.
Handicapping Perspective: The Browns are still a team to fade until proven otherwise. The hype will continue, and there will likely be tremendous value in betting against Cleveland, particularly in a division with the Ravens (who have made no secret about how upset they are about how last season ended). The Browns started 2-6 ATS before the league caught on to how badly coached they were. Their season win total will no question be one that I look to make a play on.
More to come soon, as there is no slowing down in sight with the NFL calendar now in full swing. After all, the greatest quarterback of all time is 42 years old and still wants to play football. Where will he play? It’s clear it won’t be New England.