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 2017 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
Oakland Raiders UNDER 9.5 wins
If the 2017 Raiders were a stock on the market, you could make equally compelling cases to buy and sell. I will be falling on the latter’s side, however, as this feels like a team poised for a step back.
The Raiders have the distinct misfortune of playing in one of the most gruesome divisions in football; no quarter is asked or given in the AFC West, and it has gone from afterthought to true powerhouse in a matter of years. The Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers (don’t sleep on them) will pose major challenges to a developing defense. Each division rival is built to counter what is perhaps the Raiders’ greatest strength – their offensive line. Front seven players like Joey Bosa, Von Miller and Justin Houston will be champing at the bit to derail the Raider division title procession that many are predicting.
If you need more reason to take the under, look no further than the schedule. The Raiders have only seven true home games; one has been moved to Mexico City, and that is against the AFC favourite Patriots. On the road, they must contend with cross-country road trips to Washington, Buffalo, Miami, Tennessee and Philadelphia. Whether you believe in it or not, travel time can disrupt a team’s rhythm and tiredness can build up quickly.
It is easy to get caught up in the Oakland hype, but the prudent option might be to bet the regression factor.