- Why are the Seahawks a strong candidate to take a step back in 2019? Which NFC East team is the strongest bet to finish in last place? Our favorite NFC win total unders.
With the NFL preseason in full swing, opening kickoff is nigh, and that means it's time to dive into NFL win totals. SI Gambling will be rolling out our favorite over and under bets for both the AFC and NFC using current win totals available at New Jersey sportsbooks (FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill, PointsBet). After starting with our top AFC under bets, it's time to reveal our two favorite NFC teams to fade.
Seattle Seahawks: 8.5 (Over -135, Under +115 at FanDuel)
Russell Wilson is undoubtedly an elite quarterback, but can his next act as Seattle’s top magician be to lead the Seahawks to another winning record in 2019?
This is a team that lost its top pass rusher (Frank Clark), two best defensive backs (Earl Thomas and Justin Coleman) and No. 1 wideout (Doug Baldwin) this offseason. Its other strong pass rusher, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, is suspended for the first six games of the season. Four of those first six games come against opponents with Vegas win totals of nine or higher.
To help try to generate more pressure given the loss of Clark and suspension of Reed, the Seahawks added Ziggy Ansah in free agency and drafted L.J. Collier in the first round. Ansah is coming off shoulder surgery, though, and hasn’t played in over 50% of his team’s defensive snaps since 2015. Meanwhile Collier has missed important training camp and preseason reps after suffering a high-ankle sprain a few weeks ago, and he won’t be ready to play until the regular season.
If the pass rush can’t get going, that will cause a lot of problems for a secondary that will likely start a second-year player (cornerback Tre Flowers), a third-year safety (Tedric Thompson) and a struggling third-year cornerback in Shaquill Griffin. It's a very young group, and it will have its fair share of challenges in a schedule filled with potent passing attacks. Bobby Wagner is one of the best linebackers in the game, but the defense could take a step back with how many question marks there are.
Seattle’s offensive line has improved since the addition of left tackle Duane Brown, but it still finished with the third-worst adjusted sack rate in the league last season (10.4%). Granted, this is a run-heavy team, yet the OL finished with Pro Football Focus’s 22nd-best run-blocking grade in 2018. There isn’t a lot of high-end skill-position talent, either, though having Wilson running the show will make the pass-catchers’ and ball-carriers’ lives much easier.
The Seahawks went 10-6 last season, but they got to play two games apiece against the Josh Rosen-quarterbacked Cardinals and Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers (though they lost in San Francisco in Week 15). They also only had seven road games since they played the Raiders in London and faced the AFC West, which helped their travel mileage.
This season, Seattle will play in an overall improved NFC West with the 49ers and Cardinals likely to have better records than in 2018. It faces the AFC North, which means more travel and two 1 p.m. EST kickoffs in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It also faces the entire NFC South, including two 1 p.m. EST games on the road against the Falcons and Panthers. It’s always a pain for a West Coast team to have early kickoffs, and the Seahawks will be underdogs in all four of those games. To add more salt to the wound, after finishing in second behind the Rams last season, that results in adding the Eagles and Vikings to complete a rather tough schedule.
Fading Wilson and Pete Carroll is tough given how the Seahawks have seemingly overachieved big time during the Legion of Boom’s decline. But this is an offense that is frustratingly conservative and Brian Schottenheimer’s archaic play-calling could have this team fall behind in the pass-happy version of the NFL. And the defense isn’t well-equipped to lift Seattle if the offense is having trouble.
The Seahawks had an advantageous schedule last season which got them into the playoffs, and with the slate looking much tougher this season, I think a .500 or worse team is a higher possibility than what the odds would suggest.
PICK: UNDER 8.5 Wins
Washington Redskins: 6 (Over -120, Under EVEN at FanDuel)
The Giants were a laughingstock for many after an offseason filled with bizarre moves. But if you’re looking for the true NFC East dumpster fire, look no further than the Redskins. And because New York has drawn most of the national media’s ire compared to Washington, the latter is also where the value lies if you’re looking to fade an NFC East team.
Having Alex Smith under center means you’re likely going to excel at taking care of the football. Smith has the sixth-lowest interception rate in NFL history at 2.0%. He hasn’t exceeded 1.6% in the past six seasons, including a 1.5% mark in his first season in Washington. In the first nine games of 2018, the Redskins were +11 in turnover margin. They were 5-1 in games when having the higher turnover margin over that span, and 1-2 when they either had the same or more giveaways than their opponent.
After Smith suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10 against the Texans, the Redskins unraveled. Playing the three-headed monster of Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson at quarterback predictably increased the turnovers. In Washington’s final six games, it had a -5 turnover differential. The only time the Redskins had a better turnover margin than their opponent in that stretch was, not coincidentally, their only victory—a 16-13 win over the Jaguars.
McCoy, newly acquired Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins are competing for the Week 1 starting gig. McCoy is still having issues with his recovery after suffering a broken leg last season. Keenum predictably fell back to Earth with the Broncos last year after a dream season with the Vikings in 2017. Haskins only played one full season at Ohio State (he played sparingly in mop-up duty in 2017), and now has to make another jump facing NFL defenses. There’s not a lot of optimism surrounding the QB group this year, and it could be even worse if the man under center is being protected by a Trent Williams-less offensive line.
Williams has allowed just one sack over the past two seasons, however it looks more likely by the day that he’ll never play for the Redskins again. That left side of the line looks rough: 36-year-old Donald Penn and second-year player Geron Christian battling at LT while ex-Giants trainwreck Ereck Flowers and rookie Wes Martin are gunning for LG.
There are plenty of other holes on this team. The skill-position talent, particularly at wideout, is lacking a true gamebreaker, outside of possibly oft-injured tight end Jordan Reed. On defense, there are major questions at inside linebacker after Zach Brown signed with the Eagles and Reuben Foster tore his ACL. Even with star corner Josh Norman and marquee free-agent signing Landon Collins, there isn’t that much depth in the secondary.
The schedule also isn’t very forgiving. The Redskins play eight games this season against teams with a William Hill win total of at least 9. After finishing in third place in the division last season, Washington is “rewarded” with hosting the 49ers and traveling to the Panthers, two more games it’ll be an underdog in. Their most winnable road game is against the Dolphins, but Miami will be coming off a bye. They also have to play at Buffalo in the second leg of a road back-to-back.
While many people are eyeing the Giants for a last-place finish, the Redskins are secretly a viable contender to finish with the NFL's worst record.
PICK: UNDER 6 Wins