You’re going to hear and read dozens of NFL reports between now and the start of training camps in late July. For football bettors, the vast majority of the information is a complete waste of time, offering little for cappers to sink their teeth into.
There are a handful of factors worth paying attention too over the next six months, however, and another handful that are perfectly acceptable to ignore.
Pay attention to...
Analyzing positions of need
I’m very interested in the local beat writers’ assessments of team needs and unit priorities in the offseason. It’s obvious that the Houston Texans’ top offseason need is at quarterback or that the Vikings need to fix their offensive line.
Not all team needs are quite that obvious, but I take note of what those closest to the team are saying leading into free agency. At the start of training camps, this offseason work makes it much easier to see which teams filled their holes appropriately and which didn’t.
Strength of schedule
The league puts out official strength of schedule numbers even before the 2017 schedule comes out (third week of April). Those numbers are based on the final win/loss records for every team from last year. The problem, of course, is that last year was last year.
Once the first NFL season win total odds hit the board in at the sportsbooks, strength of schedule based on this year’s expected results becomes a much more accurate tool for assessing how tough a slate really is. There’s no better starting point for offseason analysis than a thorough review of the opening win totals and their subsequent “wiseguy heavy” line movement.
Coordinator changes (or the lack thereof)
There was some discussion last offseason that Kyle Shanahan might be “one and done” as an offensive coordinator in Atlanta. Dan Quinn stuck with him, and the Falcons offense made a huge jump in Shanahan’s second season as the coordinator.
So it’s not always about the coordinator changes. Sometimes it’s about continuity and comfort level within a system. Of course, when a Wade Phillips gets called on to coach the defense, you can expect immediate improvement. First-year, first-time coordinators don’t tend to be “bet-on” coaches.
If you want to have fun, go back and read some of the post-draft nonsense that was written last year (or any year, for that matter). The pundits are always wrong. The draft grades are always wrong. The “can’t miss” prospects often miss while the unheralded sixth-round pick is capable of morphing into the league’s greatest quarterback in history.
There’s a reason that several prominent sportsbooks aren’t shy about posting season win totals before the draft occurs. Any team that gets hyped for having a great draft tends to be overvalued moving forward, like the Jaguars and Bills last year.
Head coaching hires
Remember when the Tennessee Titans decided to retain interim head coach Mike Mularkey last offseason? Every pundit in the world piled on the Titans. Of course, Tennessee turned out to be one of the bigger surprises in the NFL last year, flying Over its season win total.
Bill Belichick was fired from the Browns and was not received well by the national or local media when he was hired in New England. Making broad assessments about a team based on a single coaching hire is a dicey proposition at best, yet the pundits do it all the time. Don’t make that mistake.
NFL futures odds
Sportsbook directors aren’t foolish and they know full well that future book odds are a major profit center. It’s not hard to make a profit, of course, when you’re offering odds that only return $1 or $1.25 out of every $2 bet - regardless of who eventually wins the title.
Books set odds to win the Super Bowl to attract recreational bettors and those odds don’t really move all that much over the summer months. You’ll likely be able to find a similar line for almost any team in July that you can find right now. Season win totals are the future book bets to make and to focus on, not long-shot Super Bowl odds.