The big names have found new homes after one week of NFL free agency. Plenty more players will change teams, and we still have the 2019 NFL Draft to come, but a sizable chunk of rosters are settling into place.
Schedules do not drop until mid-April, but in the meantime, the Westgate SuperBook and other sportsbooks posted odds for each of the eight divisions. There are some obvious choices like the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, but not every favorite is a logical choice for betting purposes. I decided to take a look at each division and compare the favorite with who stands out as a sleeper value play.
The NFC East remains a sloppy mess, and Philadelphia seems like the logical call. The Cowboys have held back thus far, while the Eagles added defensive tackle Malik Jackson and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Giants appear to be a quasi-rebuilding mess, while Washington is rolling the dice with Case Keenum. Even with the addition of Landon Collins, Washington has serious problems.
The Bears broke out in a big way last season, and replaced some key departures with the signing of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, guard Ted Larsen, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. However, the real value is the Packers. They were aggressive in free agency for the first time in a long time, and it’s always hard to bet against Aaron Rodgers.
No surprises here, but if you are of the belief that Drew Brees might run into a wall sooner rather than later, there is value elsewhere. The Falcons should revert back to the mean in terms of injuries, while the Panthers will depend on Cam Newton’s shoulder recovery. Atlanta is the best value of this group.
The Rams have seen some turnover, with guard Rodger Saffold leaving the team likely looking for offensive line help in the 2019 NFL Draft. But they retained edge rusher Dante Fowler, and signed safety Eric Weddle to replace LaMarcus Joyner, so it’s hard to think of them as anything other than the divisional favorites. The Seahawks quietly added some offensive line depth, but don’t seem better or worse to any extent. The 49ers are the big question mark with Jimmy Garoppolo returning from a torn ACL, so any bet on them is going to have to factor that in. As for Arizona? Until we figure out their plan between Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray, it’s hard to fully assess them.
Can there be a sleeper as long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady remain in New England? The Dolphins are clearly rebuilding, so if you want to bet on them, just light your money on fire instead. The Jets and Bills were aggressive in free agency, and should be better than last year. But that won’t be enough to get past the Patriots.
The Browns have gone from divisional doormat to divisional favorite in less than a year, and there is not much value for the time being. Baltimore is intriguing as a sleeper, but with big questions in their pass rush, 5-2 is only valuable if you think Lamar Jackson can develop into a transcendent talent.
The Colts appear to be atop with the impression that Andrew Luck will be even better this coming season. Meanwhile, Houston lost safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Kareem Jackson, but replaced them with safety Tashaun Gipson, and cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. The Texans hold more value, and, like the Colts, have three picks in the first two rounds of the coming draft. The Jaguars are hoping Nick Foles can build on his Super Bowl magic, but I would rather bet on the Titans at 6/1 than the Jaguars at 7-2.
The Chiefs are the clear favorite after Patrick Mahomes broke out last season, but they face big questions on the defensive side of the ball with the departures of edge rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston, cornerback Steven Nelson, and safety Eric Berry. The Chargers hold some value if you think the Chiefs’ defense will get even worse, but the Raiders might be the most intriguing with their recent offseason overhaul coupled with their coming three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.