Three NFC teams that are flying under almost everyone's radar this offseason are Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Washington. I believe they will be excellent teams to bet on in the right spots this upcoming season.
Let's start with Detroit:
The Lions have had winning seasons in three out of the last four years. They've gone to the playoffs twice over that span. This is not a losing team that fired their coach, because he couldn't win. They fired their coach, because they thought he was underperforming with a talented roster. Big difference there.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was 6th in the league in passer rating last season, and he tied for 4th among starters in yards per pass attempt. I have him rated as an easy top-10 quarterback, and possibly top-5. This is not the typical quarterback that a rookie head coach inherits.
Wide receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, Jr. each had 1,000-yard seasons. They were the only teammates in the league to accomplish that last year. LeGarrette Blount, who has won two Super Bowls with New England and one Super Bowl with Philadelphia, along with rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (Auburn), and new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson were brought in to toughen up the run game.
Frank Ragnow (Arkansas) was drafted 20th overall to toughen up the offensive line. Sure, he's a rookie, but in over 2,600 college snaps, playing both guard and center, he never allowed a single sack.
Defensively, the team could not have asked for better help than new head coach Matt Patricia who spent the last six years coordinating New England's defense. Patricia's defenses consistently finished in the top-10 in points allowed. Detroit plays the AFC East this year, a division that Patricia knows like the back of his hand.
Detroit has one of the league's top special teams units. Kicker Matt Prater has the NFL record for most 55-yard field goals in a season.
In short, this is a team that's loaded with talent, yet no one is talking about them.
Tampa Bay is a little different. They aren't as good of a team as Detroit - although they do have talent. What they are is a middle-of-the-road to slightly better team that is being undervalued tremendously due to last year's results. I went into this in great detail in my book Week One NFL Winners (if you haven't already got yourself a copy, I highly recommend you do so now: https://amzn.to/2GN9hoG). Here are a few of the points I made in the book that you may want to consider:
Tampa Bay was the featured team on Hard Knocks last season, a major distraction.
Tampa Bay had their Week One game postponed and had to play 16 games straight. That's a tough spot for any team.
Quarterback Jameis Winston was involved in at least two criminal/civil cases in which he was accused of rape and groping. Another distraction. Winston also dealt with injuries during the season.
Tampa started Ali Marpet at center last year, despite his having never played the position before. This year's center will be Ryan Jensen (BAL), a significant upgrade.
Tampa Bay upgraded their defensive line this year with free agent acquisitions Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG), Vinny Curry (PHI), Beau Allen (PHI), and Mitch Unrein (CHI).
The betting public is going to be as down as you can get for Tampa Bay when the season kicks off. That's an opportunity for you to cash in.
Washington is another team that no one is paying attention to, however, they look to be a much better team than last year, starting at the quarterback position. Based on my formula for adjusted net yards per pass attempt, now-departed quarterback Kirk Cousins averaged 6.87 yards per attempt over the last three years. That's pretty good, but Alex Smith has done even better. I rate him at 7.17 adjusted net yards per pass attempt. In fact, Smith led the league in passer rating last season at 104.7.
The difference between Smith and Cousins is even more pronounced when you look at wins and losses. Over the last three years, Smith is 33-14 SU as a starter. Cousins is 24-24 SU.
Now, obviously, the defenses for their teams played a part in those wins and losses. So let's look at that for a moment. Here's what I wrote about defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and Washington's run defense in the 2017 edition of Week One NFL Winners:
"Tomsula was Frisco's defensive line coach from 2007 to 2014, and their head coach in 2015. During his eight years coaching the defensive line, San Francisco ranked in the top-10 in yards per rush every single year (avg. 3.7), and ranked in the top-10 in rushing yards per game in six out of eight years (avg. 98.4). Manusky had his best years as a coordinator at San Francisco from 2007-2010 with Tomsula on his staff. Tomsula will toughen up the team's run defense, which has been leaky the last two seasons (4.5 and 4.8 yards per rush), and allow Manusky to concentrate on pass defense. The Redskins also went heavy with defense in the draft (and) should be markedly better on that side of the ball in 2017."
Well, that's exactly how Washington's season started out last year. Over their first five games, Washington allowed an average of 3.99 yards per rush and 87 rushing yards per game. The Redskin defense averaged 3 sacks a game and the team went 3-2 SU over that span. But then rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen was lost for the season. From that point on, the team's run defense deteriorated. Over the last eleven games, the Redskins allowed 4.71 yards per rush and 155 rushing yards per game. Sacks dropped to 2.7 a game and Washington went 4-7 SU.
Allen is back this year, and he'll be joined on the defensive line by his old Alabama teammate, run-stuffing rookie Da'Ron Payne. I fully expect Washington to open the season with a run defense and quarterback sack average comparable to their first five games of last season.
With Tomsula coaching the defensive line, and Bill Callahan on the O-line, the Redskins have arguably the league's two top line coaches.
Like Detroit and Tampa Bay, this year's Washington team should be a money-maker in the right spots this season. I'll be sure to highlight those games in my twice-weekly emails.
Speaking of My Football Email List!
I want to thank those of you who have already joined my football email list for 2018. For those of you who haven't yet joined, this is the last email of the 2017 season, so the time to do so is now. Simply send your name and email address to: Mike Mains, 616 South Catalina Street, Suite 8, Los Angeles, California 90005. The suggested donation is $122 via check, money order, cash, or PayPal (send PayPal friend donations to [email protected]).
Just like last year, you'll receive twice-weekly emails from me throughout the season (Tuesday and Friday), and then monthly emails once the season is over.
Last year, we hit two 5-0 weeks. The year before, we hit one 5-0 week. Now the odds of going 5-0 are around 31-1. So with 17 weeks in a season, an average person should go 5-0 a little better than once every two years. Well, we've done it three times in two years, almost triple the average.
Next month, I'll be detailing some sneaky good AFC teams to bet on in 2018. If you'd like to know who they are, join my football email list now.
If you're planning to bet any of the Week One games, then you must - absolutely must - read my book Week One NFL Winners. You can find the paperback book here: https://amzn.to/2GN9hoG
And the Kindle version here: https://amzn.to/2IHsfCF
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