On Twitter, I have received multiple questions regarding my thoughts on specific player props, awards, and team win totals. I asked my followers to send in any questions they had and decided to answer a few of them below. One of the most common questions I’ve been asked by many followers has been how to find the props that have the absolute most value, with lines that are off by the widest margin. I will be coming out those next week in a special “NFL Futures” release.
Q: @squeezeslabski What are your thoughts on Baltimore this year? With a strong defense and if Lamar Jackson can take the next step, I can see them winning at least 8 games even in that division.
Q: @PhantomPunter Thoughts on ravens win total (8.5)? To me, they are the most interesting team – look to be doing something very different but in a competitive division.
The Ravens are as polarizing a team that I have seen this offseason and there are smart folks with opinions that are all over the map. I tend to side with the Baltimore going under their 8.5 win total but it is not something I think is worth a bet. I am skeptical that this revolutionary, run-heavy offense that John Harbaugh has promised is something that can work for a full 16 games. Besides the fact that it is a recipe for major injury disaster to run a quarterback as often as they plan for Lamar Jackson, I think the Ravens’ thinking is skewed by the late-season schedule they lucked into last year. After Jackson took over the reins in Week 11 as starting quarterback over Joe Flacco, he and the Ravens proceeded to face six of the 10 worst run defenses in the NFL in the final eight games, including the three worst in Atlanta, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay.
In those six games, the Ravens controlled the ball and ran all over their opponents, to the tune of a 58 percent success rate. In the other two games, both against the Chargers, the Ravens’ offense struggled mightily. Baltimore could only muster a 34 percent run success rate and 5.4 yards per play in those two games. Jackson’s rushing success rate against every other team not named the Chargers was 54 percent. In the wild card game at home against the Chargers, the only team to play Jackson twice, the Ravens were awful on offense. Baltimore produced a measly 85 yards total through three quarters and only showed signs of life once the Chargers’ defense went into a prevent.
There is some optimism with the signing of Mark Ingram and the drafting of speedy wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin that should help. Mark Andrews looks to be a breakout player as well at tight end and if all those pieces come together there is upside to the offense. The other side of the ball, however, could see a major decline from the third-ranked defense according to DVOA. Baltimore not only lost its leading tackler in C.J. Mosley but also two of their top three sack producers in Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs. Baltimore did nothing to replace those three defenders. I think there are more questions than answers from this Ravens team but not enough to take the under here due to the upgrades on offense.
Q: @GuesserThe Any Coach of the year ideas or longshots?
I typically don’t spend a lot of time on Coach of the Year futures, but I will take a shot here. Since 1991, every coach of the year led their team to at least 10 wins. The last two award winners, Matt Nagy and Sean McVay, were first-year coaches. You want to look at either a first-year head coach who has a shot at leading his team to a division championship or an existing head coach who can win 10+ games with a good national narrative. I am not a huge Mike Tomlin fan in general but if the Steelers win the AFC North with double-digit wins, he will have the narrative of winning despite both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown leaving the team. He’s probably the best longshot at 28-1.
Q: @SpencerB_abz Any lean on offensive ROY futures?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you just yet. Of all the awards out there, I like to wait and watch how a couple of preseason games go first before taking a shot at ROY. Three years ago, I took a stab at Dak Prescott at 250-1 after watching him dominate in his first two preseason games with the theory that if Tony Romo ever were to get hurt, he could be in a great spot. I like to see how running backs, specifically, look on the field and to see if there are any injuries in front of them. So, my advice, for now, is to pay attention to the first two preseason games and even if it’s on a few carries, look for some guys who play well with a good opportunity to be a bell-cow back. David Montgomery and Miles Sanders are two guys I will be keeping a close eye on.
Q: @KFS216 What is your opinion on the Browns win total?
Well since it’s my hometown team I guess I am obligated to give an opinion. Honestly, I think 9.5 is the perfect win total right now. I don’t have a strong opinion either way. Looking at some of their stats from last season, the Browns were 4-5 in one-score games and ranked 28th in net success rate against a schedule that ranked 10th hardest in the NFL. Of course, those numbers look much better after Hue Jackson was fired. Under Hue, the Browns ranked 27th in rush success rate and 31st in pass success rate.
After Gregg Williams took over and Freddie Kitchens started calling the plays, the Browns finished the season eighth in rushing and fifth in passing on offense. The Browns produced the third-highest rate of explosive pass plays under Kitchen and with the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Todd Monken at offensive coordinator, the Browns will take their share of deep shots. The Browns’ defense relied a lot on producing turnovers, finishing second in the NFL last year. The defense recovered the seventh-highest percentage of available fumbles on defense. Typically, takeaways, and especially fumble recoveries, tend to regress the next season so don’t expect the defense to force as many turnovers again.
Besides an expected regression on takeaways, the biggest questions are on the offensive line with journeyman Greg Robinson entrenched as the starting left tackle with additional questions at right guard and right tackle. The Browns will need the line to hold up if they want to fully execute Kitchens and Monken’s deep passing attack.
Otherwise, the Browns are loaded all over the offense and should be in every game they play in this year. The Browns’ schedule looks to ease up a lot, ranking as the fourth easiest based on expected win totals. The first eight games of the schedule are by far the most difficult, with seven games where I project the Browns to either be underdogs or favorites of three points or less. If they can go at least 4-4 in the early part of the schedule they should be in a good position to win 10 games, as they should be favored in seven of their final eight games. Barring catastrophic injuries, the Browns should win 9-10 games.