Sunday, March 4, 2012

2012 NFL Prop Bets: Six Teams To Like

Something I like to do in the off-season, because I just can't get that into watching men not wearing pads run in a straight line (aka the NFL Combine), and speculating about free agency is just so much hot air before players are actually signed and rubber hits the road...

Is look at some 2012 NFL Prop Bets. And man alive, are there some bargains out there. Let's go through this in tiers. (And by the way, in case you are inexperienced in these things, it's pretty simple; bet a buck, get back the buck plus the bonus. So a dollar on the Packers gets you back $2.50, and a dollar on the Rams gets you back $50.)

Chalk

Green Bay +250
New England +300
New Orleans +300

There's really not that much to be made on these teams, assuming you aren't willing to put real coin into the game. Of the chalk teams, I like the Packers the best, because I think the organization is the most sound of the three, and more able to fix the defense quickly, since all of these clubs need a lot of help there. But if you feel better about the Patriots, given the relative ease of their path to the SB; have at it. The only club that looks shaky at this price level to me is the Saints, who are bound to suffer some karma and penalty for getting their bounty program discovered.

Intriguing

Baltimore +500
Houston +500
Pittsburgh +500
New York Giants +600

Plenty of ammunition here for aggrieved Giants Fan who is convinced that their rings are being slighted. That club could easily be better in 2012 with a healthy defense from the start, and a running game that isn't stuttering, but to me the actual bargain in this group is Houston. Heck, they could be the best bargain in the field, as you are talking about a playoff team that played with their third QB, their #1 WR banged up, their best defender (Mario Williams) out for most of the year, and a division that could be cottony-soft. The only thing I don't like about the Texans is their coach; otherwise, they are a tier below their true level. As for Baltimore and Pittsburgh, both are getting long in the tooth and like to spend the year beating each other senseless. You bet them on loyalty, not a payday.

Pretenders


San Diego +650
Philadelphia +750
New York Jets +800

Three teams with histories of relative success, no playoff games last year, and coaching situations that just seem all kinds of shaky. I get that people think they are being cagey with a discount here, but if you gave me a bet that none of these teams makes the playoffs in 2012, I'd take that bet, and possibly at even money. There are better bargains below.

Value Bets

Atlanta +1000
Dallas +1000
San Francisco +1000
Detroit +1000

I'm not sure who pushes the Niners to win the West next year, or why they can't rack up 12+ wins and another top 2 seed. At that point, you only need to win maybe two home games to be looking at a very nice 10 to 1 payday for winning a Super Bowl, and as unlikely as it seems to call Alex Smith a SB winning QB, I think there's been worse. Lots, actually. And all of that is before free agency, and before the Niners have a chance to upgrade the one position (wideout) that's a festering wound, in a year where good WRs are all over the place. I get that betting on the snapback seems like the smart play, but you are getting the best defense in the NFL that's still on the upswing, for a price that's barely in the wild-card range.

As for the rest, Atlanta's history of playoff turds aren't encouraging at all, but when those things end, they tend to end in a big way, and dome field advantage can be a powerful thing. There's also serious talent at WR, a reasonable defense, and an organization with pedigree. Dallas is always going to be an overpriced fraud, and while I get that Detroit seems young and on the rise, they are also an injury to brittle Matthew Stafford away from real trouble, considering how weak that running game is. I'm also not liking the org enough to keep the DL together for long, and there was too much talent on that team last year to justify how the season ended. Stay away.

Longshots At Best

Chicago +1500
Cincinnati +1800
Indianapolis +1800
Arizona +2000

Indy is incredibly overpriced at any level; this is an aging tear-down that is going to be lucky to win six games in 2012-13, regardless of the presence or absence of Peyton Manning. Chicago was a playoff club before QB Jay Cutler got hurt, so I guess they are the value here... but, um, you are putting money on Jay Cutler, in a division with two good teams. No thanks. Cincy never has back to back good years, and while Arizona has some positive signs, they also won multiple games on fluky special teams plays last year. Once again, better values below.

With Prayer

Kansas City 2300
Miami 2300
Oakland 2300
Tennessee 2300
Carolina 2500
Denver 2500
Seattle 3000

One of these teams is going to make the playoffs next year, in that they will beat the Chargers and win the West... but the problem with betting anyone in this range is that you can't do the really smart thing, which is to sell the ticket as a future when your 'dog starts off 4-0. Of the lot, Carolina strikes me as underpriced, since QB Cam Newton is a true game-changer, and if the defense just got up to mediocre, they could win 10+ games and be scary. But realistically, the more likely thing is that Newton slides back a little and they stay outside, especially in a division with Atlanta and New Orleans. If you have to bet on an AFC West team, go with Oakland; while they aren't the most likely team out there to win the division, they are the most likely to actually win some games if they actually got there, since the roster is littered with high draft pick talent and athleticism.

Without Prayer

Buffalo 4500
Cleveland 4500
Jacksonville 4500
Minnesota 5000
Tampa 5000
Washington 5000
St. Louis 5000

One of these teams, and maybe even two, will surprise everyone and be competent this year, maybe all the way up to a wild card. Maybe it's Cleveland if they trade up in the draft and get a QB, or Tampa if a new coach can reinstall discipline and effort, or Washington if they buy into the Peyton Manning mistake and repeat the false dawn Donovan McNabb Experience.

But even in the fluid world that is the NFL, you don't go from DOA to the Super Bowl in a year, not without a ridiculous infusion of talent and free agency and rookie warning signs. And these seven organizations just don't do that. Instead, they put all of their eggs in one RB (Jacksonville, Minny, St. Louis), run through coaches and free agents like chocolate through a dog (Buffalo, DC), bring in bad character problems into at risk locker rooms (remember, Tampa was the last stop in the Albert Haynesworth , Minny, Washington), disregard skill players to the point of making the rest of the team irrelevant (Cleveland, Jacksonville), pule about their stadiums and markets (Buffalo, Jacksonville) ... and so on, and so on. What they don't do is win Super Bowls, or deserve your sports betting donations.

So, to recap, if you are so inclined. I'm spreading the cash around on Green Bay and Houston, then some smaller moves for San Francisco and Atlanta. The longshot money goes to Carolina and Oakland. And for these minor investments, I get months of low juice excitement, and maybe, just maybe, a clutched ticket on Super Bowl Sunday and weeks of dreaming what I'd do with all of that found cash. I've made worse investments...

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