You’re very welcome back to a special preseason edition of ‘Inside Slant’, a column normally reserved for the bumpy ride of the regular season dipping its foot into the comparatively calm waters of the offseason. As our football hibernation comes to a shuddering halt, it is about time to dust off our punters’ caps and turn our attention to the season ahead – and specifically, how we can get ahead of the pack with our wagers and mine some real value.
By the time training camp rolls around after a barren spell without football, it is easy – perhaps even understandable – to get caught up in the chatter.
‘This team will be better this year’, they prognosticate from their plush sets on television, adjusting their ties and shirt sleeves with self-assured sniffs.
‘With Player X back, expect this team to put together a deep playoff run.’ While one player can certainly make a difference, football is never that simple and often the more nuanced analysis is eschewed in this quick-fix world for a bite-size chunk of predictability.
Expectations and attempting to predict what will happen based on last year is, quite simply, folly. Of course, we are under no illusions that everything we predict has its share of risk, but that is part of the fun. I always find that analysing win totals for the season is an excellent place to start to get the lay of the land. The totals are released by Vegas at an early stage; many are subsequently betted on heavily, while others are just right and avoid any major action.
Finding the soft underbelly of the totals is the entertaining part, and it is exactly what I will endeavour to do with this column.
Where is the value in the 2016 NFL win totals, and should we pounce now while the meat is fresh or let it simmer a bit before making our move?
Note: My source for these win totals was www.footballlocks.com
The Value Plays
Chicago Bears OVER 6.5
John Fox’s team were not always pretty last season, but their guts and a solid coaching job got them into a groove down the stretch, culminating in a 6-10 finish. Unbelievably, the Bears went 1-7 at Soldier Field in 2015, a mark that surely will not be repeated this season. The schedule is kind, featuring a full slate of games against the AFC South, a last-placed versus last-placed game against San Francisco at home and a few pops at the ever-unpredictable NFC East. With the additions the Bears have made defensively – Leonard Floyd, Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan, Akiem Hicks – and a passable offensive effort, this team can easily get to seven wins.