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The Best SBLIII Bets After A Crazy Off-Season

Grading NFL off-season moves is sort of a silly enterprise, because truthfully we don’t know how things are going to play out until we get to the season. Proof is in the pudding, right? Let’s face it – we don’t know what the pudding is going to taste like. The only thing we can go on is this idea of conceptual benefit and even that only exists in the bubble of our own minds.

The beauty of betting on the NFL is that we have multiple days to really get our heads locked in around certain bets, and we’ll leave all that stuff on the table for Week 1 when it’s more meaningful. So what can we do now?

We can stare painstakingly at the NFL futures board and grade how all of these moves impact Super Bowl LIII odds. There are some teams that have made such loud noise that I have to talk about them below. Which teams are worthy fliers, or decent places to park money early on? Find out below.

Not Yet - New England Patriots (+600 to win Super Bowl LIII)
The only team that has triple-digit odds to go all the way is New England, for obvious reasons. That +600 number isn’t going to get much better. I’ve liked what they’ve done over the course of the off-season and I love that they traded for Jason McCourty to unite him with his brother Darren. Financially, Jason is a great get, especially when you consider how much money Malcolm Butler was just paid.

Losing Danny Amendola to Miami is a shame, but it’s not a death sentence by any stretch. Honestly, I could write another 1,500 words on New England and yadda yadda yadda about how great they are. But we all know this. The thing is, they’re not much better or worse than they were last season. That means that there’s absolutely no point in betting on them right now.

Yes! – Minnesota Vikings (+1000 to win Super Bowl LIII)
Welcome to town, Kirk Cousins. Now this is a place where I can spend money and really feel confident. I’ve been battling on all fronts while defending the Team Cousins fortress, and nobody seems to realize that his numbers were top-10 for the past two years while his receivers in Washington were composed of brick handed garbage. Upgrading from Terrelle Pryor, Jae Crowder and god knows who else to a tandem like Thielen and Diggs? I don’t care about the money even though the contract is brilliant for Cousins since he gets to dip in to free agency again at the age of 32. What I know is that Cousins is better than Case Keenum and anyone who doesn’t think that this is a significant upgrade doesn’t get it. Put the Vikings on a three game winning streak, and you know that these Super Bowl LIII odds are going to dip to +800 or +650. This is as good as the value on this team is going to get. I love the bet here.

Nope! – Denver Broncos (+3300 to win Super Bowl LIII)
I have no idea what John Elway is doing at the helm. Do you know who he’s drafted that still matters? Von Miller and Derek Wolfe. Both of those guys were drafted five years ago. Since then, he’s watched his team age, lost Aqib Talib and then scraped the bargain basement bin for Keenum.

Now don’t get me completely wrong – I like Case Keenum. His story is great. It’s a genuine underdog tale that’s not quite on the level of “bagging groceries”, but Keenum’s ceiling is awfully low for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations. He’s a surefire improvement over the three-headed Frankenstein that ate itself last year, and Keenum is a bonafide starter in this league. But if he couldn’t win it on a great team last year, why would you think he could do it on a team that’s exactly the same in 2018? He can’t. They won’t. You shouldn’t.

Hell No – Oakland Raiders (+1600)
The jokes have already been made. Jordy Nelson? Doug Martin? What the hell is this team even going to look like. It’s like Gruden not only took $100 million from Oakland’s bank account in the heist of the century, it’s almost like he’s turning the screw even more by driving the franchise in to the depths of hell for trading him in 2001. It’s more fun if you view this from the imaginary angle that Chucky’s Revenge is a thing, and that’s certainly more enjoyable than the reality of what a bad Raiders team is going to look like next year. I have no idea how they get worse, but they sure as hell did.

Not Convinced – Los Angeles Rams (+1400)
The Rams have done everything possible to mold the defence around the dreams of Wade Phillips. Talib and Marcus Peters are fantastic additions. Shedding salary to Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree was really smart. The problem is that Jared Goff is still the quarterback and the team’s actual weakness was in the passing game. Goff could be totally fine, but he did nothing to scorch the earth like Carson Wentz did in 2017 and his receiving corps is getting noticeably worse.

Los Angeles has opted to move on from Sammy Watkins and (hopefully) Tavon Austin, leaving Cooper Kuup as their top receiver. Uh, what the hell am I missing here? This is a championship level team that has the San Francisco 49ers hard pressing down their throats. I would hold off on betting these guys despite the value their Super Bowl LIII odds represent.

We all saw what happened to Gurley in the playoffs and there’s nothing in the offence to offset the “eight in the box – oh wait, EVERYBODY IN THE BOX” mentality that it takes to stop him. Unless Goff goes to a superhuman level, which I don’t think he’s capable of, with a middling set of pass catchers, the Rams are basically what they were last year with a much better defence. That doesn’t scream “NFC Champion” to me.

Also Not Convinced – San Francisco 49ers (+1200)
Speaking of the NFC odds, San Francisco did some really cool things but mysteriously let Carlos Hyde go because…I don’t know why to be honest. They picked up Jerick McKinnon instead, which would be fine if they didn’t pay him $10.5 million for his services. McKinnon is a comedicaly perfect third-down back. But as a starter? You’ve got to be kidding me.

I’m also very concerned that the whole league has tape on Garoppolo now. Couple that with the slight predictability of a Kyle Shanahan game plan, and the 49ers are not a remotely convincing team. In other words, these odds are ridiculous. I love San Francisco to steal the division, depending on the odds, but to win the Super Bowl? No thanks. Not without Eric Reid anchoring a defence that has holes all over the map.

Why Didn’t They Do More? – Jacksonville Jaguars (+2000)
Not only did the Jaguars go all-in on Blake Bortles again, they spent big money to improve the offensive line by grabbing Andrew Norwell to play guard. That’s a great move, but that still means that Norwell is going to be blocking for a guy who can’t really get it done. Then the team inexplicably gave Donte Moncrief up to $10.5 million guaranteed, re-upped Marquise Lee and have to hope that Dede and Cole maintain their upward mark. It’s a weird thing to do, especially given that the defence is coming off a semi-historic season. The Jaguars were good enough to get to the AFC Championship, and now they’re being arrogant enough to believe that they don’t have to do more to win it.

Listen, I can’t imagine Blake Bortles winning a Super Bowl, but this team is so damn good despite him that it’s bonkers that they didn’t upgrade the quarterback position when they had the opportunity to. It’s the inverse of the Vikings when you think about it. Minnesota had a problem and fixed it. The Jaguars just went back to the same well. I wouldn’t touch these odds with a ten-foot pole.

Potentially Great Value – Houston Texans (+1600)
It’s hard to go through the AFC overall and really convince yourself that any team is going to thwart the Patriots, but if there’s any team out there that might it’s the Houston Texans. I know, I know. They’re a running joke overall. But adding Tyrann Mathieu was massive, and if DeShaun Watson and JJ Watt can stay healthy (which are both big “ifs”), this team is downright deadly.

It’s easy to be negative about the off-season moves, but the Houston Texans are being hedged here by the oddsmakers. We saw what they could do with Watson under center. Questions abound about the quality of the offensive line, but if there two most important players can just stay on the field for 2018, the Houston Texans are very much poised to steal the AFC South and give New England a daunting challenge.

If there’s any team capable of establishing themselves as a contender early on and carrying it through the season, it’s Houston.

Same Old Story – Tampa Bay and Tennessee (+4000)
Here we have two teams that seem great at doing the same thing every summer expecting different results. Tampa added Jason Pierre-Paul, which seems great on paper until you realize that every defensive “star” they’ve added in the off-season has been a bust. They also re-upped Mike Evans and then dumbfounded everyone when they gave a ton of money to Connor Brate. I don’t know what Tampa is thinking. They seem more than willing to live and die with this Winston-Koetter combination. I’d be shocked if they even sniff six wins next year. But hey, at least nobody’s pretending like they’re the “it” team heading in to the summer. At least we’ve broken that trend.

Same goes for Tennessee, which can’t help itself from spending too much money on New England Patriots. My main issue with Tennessee is identity. They want to let Marcus Mariota run, but don’t do it all the time. They never seem willing to give Derrick Henry the damn football, and when it’s his time, they forklift Dion Lewis a Brinks truck. This is still a passing league, and the Titans are so committed to the run that it seems like they’re stuck in the mid-2000’s.

I’m so done with both of these franchises…and I can’t wait to convince myself that they’re good bets in the regular season. Argh.

The Sneaky Pick – Los Angeles Chargers (+2500)
WHAT?! Yes, I know. The one team that hasn’t signed anybody of note in the off-season is flying so low under the radar that everyone forgot that they existed. But think about it this way: Kansas shipped Alex Smith and is praying to god that Mahomes can be the guy, Denver stinks and didn’t get that much better and Oakland is the laughing stock of the league all over again. Why not the Chargers?

Well, because of history in general. But people forget that Rivers led the best passing offence in the league and this defence was damn near impregnable for much of the season. Joey Bosa rejuvenated the defence and will only get better, as will Melvin Ingram, who was out of control last year. Where San Diego has lacked is in the offensive line, but Dan Feeney dropped out of the sky last year as a third rounder and became an All-Rookie selection.

People also dutifully ignored the quality production of Melvin Gordon, who was finally healthy last year. Keenan Allen, Tyrelle the Gazelle and Hunter Henry are a capable – albeit seemingly average – receiving corps, and the team really needs to hope that Mike Williams makes some sort of leap.

But that’s where you remind yourself that the odds are +2500. The AFC is wide open, and if you’re looking for a team to swing at the fences with, it’s the Chargers. Look at the conference and tell me who is better? I’m more inclined to believe that a battle tested Rivers is more reliable than Houston with Watson. After those two, I’m really grabbing at straws to talk myself in to any team.

Would Rather Wait – Pittsburgh Steelers (+1200)
Pittsburgh’s a fine play, but the more I watch Ben Roethlisberger play, the more I’m convinced that his body is going to betray him this year. A shoddy offensive line that didn’t improve, more in-house fighting with Le’Veon and the departure of Todd Haley have me with question marks. Randy Fichtner, who has been the quarterback whisperer for the team since 2010 is now calling plays. He’s a solid choice because anyone’s better than Todd Haley (sorry Cleveland), but the Steelers just have a weird feeling. It’s not a bad pick at all, so go for it if you’re inclined. I’d just rather throw cash at the Chargers since it’s only March.

Defending Champs – Philadelphia Eagles (+1000)
If you’re looking for a safe bet, the Philadelphia Eagles are it. Parking money in the NFL futures at this time of year takes guts, but if you’re looking for a “safe” bet then the Eagles are it. The return of Wentz might scare people in to the corner of Kirk Cousins because the injury happened so late in the year, but that’s why the Eagles aren’t at +800 or +600 alongside New England. The team has also lost some important defensive cogs like Vinny Curry and others because they got tight with the purse strings. That’s fine. The core of what Philadelphia did to get to the top of the proverbial mountain last year is intact, as is there chances of repeating.

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