The end of August is one of the hardest times of the year. The preseason games are over, the regular-season games haven’t begun and the insufferable waiting game in between has us feeling like we are trapped in quicksand.
In between checking all my favorite sources for updates, I find myself combing through the different available markets to see if I can put any finishing touches on my futures bets. Roster cut-downs are a nice distraction, but they aren’t going to have a big influence on any of my Week 1 bets. Win totals have been bet into oblivion at this point, so it’s rare that you can uncover a significant edge this close to the season.
Surprisingly, one of the teams to make some noise this week was the Arizona Cardinals. After releasing QB Colt McCoy, they are turning the offense over to either newly acquired QB Joshua Dobbs or rookie Clayton Tune. The move caused the betting market to downgrade the Cardinals even further, pushing their win total down to 3.5 games at select sportsbooks. The rebuilding Cardinals were already considered to have the lowest-rated roster in the league, and the move away from McCoy inspired even less confidence in the team’s chances to remain competitive this season.
Is it warranted? I am not so sure, unless you expected way too much from Colt McCoy at this point in his career. Regardless, there was a shift in odds, opening up the opportunity to take advantage of any over or under reactions from the books. I wasn’t about to sign up for a four-month sweat on whether the Cardinals can win four games. However, the process led me to BetMGM’s team prop markets, where I placed some smaller value plays on the best and worst teams in the league.
Instilling a winning culture takes time. There is only so much DeMeco Ryans can do in his first year. He is starting from rock bottom and inherited one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Houston closed as underdogs in all 17 games in 2022 and tied Chicago for the fewest wins with three. The future holds promise, but I question whether QB CJ Stroud is going to make an immediate impact behind an offensive line that’s still a work in progress. PFF recently ranked every roster heading into this year, and Houston ranked 29th. As bad as things look in Arizona, I can’t justify the gap in implied odds between these two teams.
Arizona at +220 has an implied probability of 31.3%, while Houston at +850 indicates only a 10.5% likelihood it ends up with the fewest wins. The ironic part of this bet is that the Cardinals own the Texans' first-round pick, so they can still end up with the No. 1 overall pick if they finish ahead of the Texans. Rebuilding rosters don’t have the depth to overcome injuries, so a few bad breaks could easily erode any slight talent edge the Texans hold over any other team in the league. This bet isn’t as much about the Texans as it is pushing back against the notion that Arizona is written in stone as this year’s worst team.
You can make a case for Tampa Bay at +700 if Baker Mayfield doesn’t stay healthy for the entire season. Typically, there are very thin margins separating the bottom teams, and this wager gives us a chance to take advantage of the current betting landscape. I’d much rather make a small wager on Houston at +850 than lay juice on the Cardinals' win total.
Chiefs AFC No. 1 Seed +300
OK, I will come clean. While I was window-shopping in the prop market, I decided to add to my exposure to the Chiefs. Maybe it’s an impulse buy, but there are worse ideas than adding a little more Patrick Mahomes to your betting portfolio.
There hasn’t been a more consistent team than Kansas City, which has won seven consecutive AFC West titles. The scary part about the Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes era is that the floor appears to be 12 wins, a number Mahomes has reached in all five seasons as starting quarterback. He has been even better in the last three seasons, earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC twice while compiling a 40-10 regular season record.
While some might see more value in the Chiefs having the most regular season wins at +500, I preferred isolating the AFC due to the competitive imbalance between the two conferences. NFC powerhouses Philadelphia and San Francisco are projected to have easier overall schedules.
Kansas City is historically overvalued on a week-to-week basis during the season (7-10 ATS), but this is a wager based on an outcome they should be highly motivated to hit. Ever since the league moved to seven playoff teams per conference, the stakes are much higher for the top teams to secure the first-round bye. When the games become more important late in the season, I will be happy to have my money on Mahomes at +300 odds.