NFL Offseason – If you don’t believe in the awesome power and meaning of last week’s NFL schedule release extravaganza, consider the case of the Philadelphia Eagles and their 2022 win total prop bet.
The over-under for Eagles wins in 2022 was 8.5, with the over at -150, when we recorded the Football Outsiders Livestream last week. The 2022 DVOA projections aren’t ready to come out of the oven just yet, but we poked them with a fork, and the house number was substantially lower than our number.
Alas, my attempt to play the over at 8.5 during the livestream was foiled by two-step verification; fiddling with my smartphone doesn’t make compelling content. (Neither does writing about it, so I’ll stop.) Come Friday morning, the Eagles line jumped to 9.5, though the payout on the over is now a juicier -115.
What happened? Well, here’s how the Eagles schedule kicks off:
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
Week 2: Minnesota Vikings (MNF)
Week 3: at Washington Commanders
Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 5: Arizona Cardinals
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys (SNF)
Week 7: Bye
The casual Eagles fan sees that start and pencils in at least 4-2 (and maybe 5-1) at the bye: easy wins over the Lions and in the Carson Wentz/Doug Pederson reunion games, at least one win in the Vikings/Cardinals/Cowboys troika. Anyone who snuck a peek at the 2022 DVOA projections sees just about the same thing, with the caveat that one of the Eagles’ early opponents may be tougher than you think. (More in a moment.)
If the Eagles are 4-2 or 5-1 at the bye, they’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot and the NFC East crown as their schedule stiffens. Should they fade a bit in midseason, they’ll still enjoy a Giants-Bears one-two punch in early December, and they’ll likely have something to play for in Week 18 against the Giants, who could be starting general manager Joe Schoen at quarterback by then.
So the Eagles schedule starts with some teams that will still be sorting themselves out in September and ends with some weak teams who may be evaluating their practice squads in January. If the Eagles kicked off with, say, the Packers, Cowboys, Vikings, and Saints, the public wouldn’t have been quite so optimistic about their ability to stay in the playoff chase. But the layout of the Eagles schedule likely sent both sharps and Eagles fans scrambling for their favorite sportsbook app, prompting the house to move the line to even out the action.
No matter how the games are rearranged, the Eagles have the easiest 2022 schedule in the NFL according to DVOA. 9.5 wins is closer than 8.5 to the number wafting from our projections as they cool on the windowsill. But Walkthrough still took the over as soon as our phone, computer, and the sportsbook were once again speaking to each other.
New York Giants: Terrible Team Meets Silly Schedule
The over-under for the Giants is now at 7.0, which at first glance looks about five too high. The under is tempting at -130, the over pure shmuckbait at +110. The only reason not to bet the mortgage on the under is the fact that the Giants face the sixth-easiest schedule in the NFL, according to DVOA.
The Giants, like the Eagles, start out with a rather manageable slate of early games:
Week 1: at Tennessee Titans
Week 2: Carolina Panthers
Week 3: Dallas Cowboys (MNF)
Week 4: Chicago Bears
Home games against the Panthers and Bears could potentially place the Giants at 2-2 when they travel to London to get humiliated by Aaron Rodgers before brunch.
The Giants also enjoy this spooky October-November stretch:
Week 7: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 8: at Seattle Seahawks
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Houston Texans
Week 11: Detroit Lions
There are probably two wins lurking in this bleak span of unwatchable football.
I won’t reveal exactly where the Giants rank in the NFL in our still-cooling DVOA projections, but the two-digit number begins with a 3. That means the Giants should go .500 at best against the Panthers/Bears/Jaguars/Seahawks/Texans/Lions littering their schedule, while projecting more than one obligatory NFC East upset would be over-optimistic.
It’s easy to find five wins on the Giants schedule, and six are not a stretch, but Bill Parcells himself could not coach their roster to the eight wins needed to win a prop bet. And the fact that the Giants are more focused on the future than the present could become a factor if they enter December in the four-win range.
Minnesota Vikings: Making Money off Mediocrity
The Minnesota Vikings over-under is set at 9.0, with the over at -115. The Vikings’ strength of schedule hovers in the lower middle of the pack, per DVOA. But our projections love the Vikings enough to make that over look tasty.
The Vikings finished 8-9 and 16th in DVOA in 2021. It may have been the Vikingest season ever: as expensively middling as middling can get. And their offseason was pretty Vikingish, too, despite a regime change. Za’Darius Smith was added to a roster which brings back Kirk Cousins and most of your other favorites for yet another encore, with rookies Lew Cine and Andrew Booth juicing up the secondary a tiny bit.
No team on earth builds for exactly nine wins—no more, no less—like the Vikings. This year, however, the Packers have slipped a bit, while the Bears are weaker than ever. (The Lions remain the Lions.) A 4-2 NFC North record should be a cinch. The Giants and Jets are wins five and six: the Jets will be better this year, but they won’t be win-road-games-against-playoff-contenders-in-December good. All the Vikings need to do to clear the over is split with all of the other unpredictable middleweights on their schedule: Saints, Dolphins, Cardinals, Patriots (in Minnesota), Colts, Commanders, Cowboys.
Walkthrough would adore this wager at 8.5. As it stands, the Vikings could end up precisely 9-8. A push is the ultimate Vikings result! And 8-8-1 is also in play, because the Vikings are avatars of central tendency and they hate me nearly as much as I hate them. But keep the Vikings on your prop-bet radar; the public and house may both be sleeping on their unique flavor of averageness.
You may want to keep an eye on them at +275 to win the NFC North, too.
New Orleans Saints: Wild Card or Bust!
Speaking of misguided NFC middleweights/Walkthrough punching bags, the Saints win-total over-under for 2022 is 8.0, with the over at -130 and the under at +110.
Walkthrough is practically a Saints skepticism newsletter these days, but c’mon: they’re a veteran team that is still adding talent (Tyrann Mathieu, Jarvis Landry) after the draft, and they play in a division with two glorified expansion teams. The overall Saints schedule ranks in the top half of the league according to DVOA, but they could go 9-8 with Jameis Winston blindfolded. (And no, that wouldn’t be an improvement.)
There are obvious differences between evaluating a team’s Super Bowl prospects and long-range philosophy and their chances to accomplish a minor goal like clearing an over or earning a wild-card berth. The Saints’ Super Bowl chances are slim-to-none—they’re tied with the Commanders at +2500 to win the NFC—and their long-range plan is delusional-to-nonexistent. But like the Vikings, they’re built to trounce weaklings and trade paint with the other B-tier playoff hopefuls. The Eagles, by contrast, are a little more likely to end up either 13-4 or 4-13.
The Saints may end up as the best value on the team futures board if both the current line and the soon-to-be-released DVOA projections hold up. If you play the Saints over, tell ’em Walkthrough sent ya. They will be surprised. And confused, since no one knows who “Walkthrough” is. And also, you are probably betting on an app, so in what fantasy realm is there even a “they?”
Walkthrough Cinematic Universe Presents: Howie Roseman and the Multicap of Mayhem!
Our tale begins with Howie Roseman, the once-and-future Salary Cap Sorcerer Supreme, strolling down Main Street in Manayunk when he spots a young quarterback desperately dodging eldritch horrors trying to ensnare him.
HOWIE: I must cast a ward of protection to help that poor lad. (Gesturing dramatically) By the eye of Mailata, I banish thee, evil monsters!
JALEN: Thanks! My name is Jalen Hurts. Those monsters have been chasing me all across the multiverse for some reason.
HOWIE: Hmmm, I surmise it’s because you are a starting quarterback on a rookie contract. Someone sent those monsters to capture your untapped power and affordability. But those monsters did not appear to be the product of sorcery at all, but witchcraft. Faithful assistant Nick!
NICK SIRIANNI: Bruh?
HOWIE: Protect young Jalen whilst I enlist the help of a former colleague.
Moments later, Howie walks down bustling Bourbon Street with that former colleague.
HOWIE: Whomever our villain is must clearly be a master of salary cap illusions. But I believe they have gone too far, and now need a quarterback on a rookie contract to achieve their inscrutable goals. We should team up to solve this mystery.
MICKEY: Splendid idea. Why not bring Jalen here for protection?
HOWIE: Wait, I never told you his name. Why, I’ll bet this isn’t even the real Bourbon Street at all!
Mickey snaps his fingers, and the historic cultural destination transforms into a nightmarish hellscape. Which, if you have ever seen Bourbon Street the morning after Mardi Gras, ain’t much of a stretch.
MICKEY: I bankrupted Bourbon Street, Howie.
HOWIE: Wait? You’re the villain? That wasn’t telegraphed in the trailers at all.
MICKEY: It’s an organic extension of my character. You see, in every other universe my Saints won multiple Super Bowls. Only here in the NFL 616 am I trapped endlessly trying to recreate brief glory from over a decade ago. So I will use the Dark Wand of Capageddon to cast you into the voidable years so I can get what I want.
HOWIE: No! The Dark Wand of Capageddon restructures the very fabric of space-time-money! It’s only to be used in absolute emergencies!
A star-shaped portal appears.
JALEN: Hold on tight. Imma scramble us into a new reality. Yoink!
Several expensive, trippy special effects later, Howie and Jalen find themselves trapped in clear, futuristic cells while a lab-coated scientist studies computer readouts with his back turned to the camera.
HOWIE: We’re trapped! Why didn’t you scramble us to a place where we might find help?
JALEN: I thought I did. But I don’t know how to control my powers yet.
HOWIE: And these handcuffs nerf my cap magic. Hey! Evil scientist! Show your face so I can … oh my heavens. Drew Brees? With a mullet?
DREW BREES WITH A MULLET: I am the version of Drew Brees who protects the multiversal hub. And you are a Howie Roseman, which makes you dangerous.
HOWIE: I am not the danger here. Mickey Loomis wants to crash the multiversal economy in pursuit of a Super Bowl he cannot win.
MULLET BREES: I am aware of that. Here in the multiversal hub, I have watched Mickey and myself win thousands of Super Bowls in untold numbers of universes together. Parting with me is what drove him over the edge in your realm. But OUR Howie Roseman also nearly destroyed the multiverse.
HOWIE: Ridiculous. How could I do such a thing?
MULLET BREES: You gave Carson Wentz a 20-year, $250-billion contract. That’s why everything beyond this citadel is a featureless void.
HOWIE: That tracks.
MULLET BREES: Luckily, we created the Financial Illuminati to defeat any threat to the multicap. Are you ready for some gratuitous universe building and Easter eggs?
Brees waves his hand and a mysterious gathering of elders appears upon a balcony.
MULLET BREES: Meet the NFL commissioner from the most utopian reality in the multiverse: Amy Trask.
AMY TRASK: Thanks! And hi!
MULLET BREES: And then there’s Chris Ballard, aka Deadwallet Thriftyknickers. He dares not even speak, lest it constitute a transaction.
CHRIS BALLARD: (nods)
MULLET BREES: Finally, there’s Sam Bradford, aka Mister Ordinary, the most overpaid human in the multiverse.
MISTER ORDINARY: We meet again, Howie. Surely you realize we cannot allow an incursion of the dark cap arts into this multiversal safe space.
Just then a fleur-de-lis-shaped portal opens.
MICKEY: Fools. You are powerless to stop me.
MISTER ORDINARY: Oh really? Don’t you realize that Chris can destroy you simply by opening his wallet?
MICKEY: (Casting a spell despite not using the special effects that usually denote spell casting.) What wallet?
CHRIS BALLARD: (Fishing through the pockets of his trousers.) My wallet. It’s … empty! Jim must have spent all of my money on vintage guitars. I don’t even have cab fare. I’m dooooooooooommmed.
MISTER ORDINARY: No worries. I will simply blast you with my money beams. (Firing money from his fingertips.) Could you come a little closer? And hold perfectly still?
MICKEY: Fool. Money beams only make me stronger. Watch as I reflect them right back at you!
MISTER ORDINARY: (Showering in $100 bills.) I am getting paid to do nothing. This feels right.
AMY TRASK: (Brandishing the NFL shield.) I am not so easily vanquished. I have ruled the NFL with fiscal responsibility and benevolence for decades since I seized the crown from my evil-but-relatable father, Al Thanos. I am immune to financial temptations.
MICKEY: Ah, but you are not a Disney+ subscriber, and therefore unaware of my power to make people think they are old sitcom characters.
AMY TRASK: (Suddenly in black-and-white, looking spaced out.) There are so many chocolates coming along on this conveyor belt. What can I do? Ethel, help me eat them!
Suddenly, an expensive, venerable actor glides into view in a futuristic wheelchair.
109-YEAR-OLD VINCE LOMBARDI IN A CAMEO SPOILED BY THE TRAILERS: Stop! This ends here. Winning isn’t everything, Mickey.
MICKEY: No. But wanting to win is.
(With a wave of his hand, Mickey banishes 109-year-old Vince Lombardi to the Paramount+ streaming service where he will never be seen again.)
MULLET BREES: Mickey, Saints fans enjoyed a Super Bowl and lots of great seasons in your universe. Can’t that be enough? Can’t you put the past to rest and start rebuilding in the present?
MICKEY: Don’t you DARE say the R-word in my presence. Did you use the precious time the Illuminati bought you to compose that facile speech?
MULLET BREES: No. I used it to free Jalen and mentor him on how to use his powers.
JALEN: I cannot stop you, so I will give you what you want. Yoink!
(A star-shaped portal opens, and our main characters find themselves in an upbeat Saints locker room.)
PARALLEL-UNIVERSE, NON-EVIL MICKEY LOOMIS: It has been a tough year, fellas. But look how well all of the guys I selected with the picks I didn’t trade away are developing, including our universe’s version of Jalen Hurts, whom I drafted in 2020, when we obviously needed a quarterback of the future. Plus, all the cap space I cleared should make us contenders again by the time we induct Cameron Jordan into the ring of honor next year.
MICKEY: Fool. Jordan should be under contract through 2026. (Bonks other self on the noggin.) Hey fellas, I’m here to lead you on a hopeless, expensive quest to win a Super Bowl right now!
PARALLEL-UNIVERSE JALEN HURTS: But we’re not ready to win a Super Bowl this year. I thought we were stockpiling future draft picks and building for the long haul.
TREVOR PENNING: You expect me to start at left tackle for a Super Bowl team as a rookie? I was on a team that lost to Eastern Washington last year. I’m not ready!
MICHAEL THOMAS: Whatever. Ouch. My ankle is something something.
TAYSOM HILL: (Sobbing) You’re not my real daddy!
A stunned Mickey Loomis casts another spell, placing him in the middle of this universe’s Bourbon Street.
MICKEY: Saints fans of the multiverse! Don’t you want to go back to the good old days with Drew? Behold! I even brought you LSU greats! Jarvis Landry! Tyrann Mathieu!
A dude in a fading Demario Davis jersey wearing Mardi Gras beads and munching on a shrimp po’ boy approaches Mickey.
FAN: We love Drew Brees. We love the Saints. And we love you, Mickey. But we all know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Saints fans in our universe are excited about the future, so we have no need for your bag of tricks.
Clarity dawns upon Mickey Loomis. He sheds a single tear. With that, he waves his arms and returns our heroes to our universe.
JALEN: We did it! We saved the multiverse!
HOWIE: Yeah, I thought I was supposed to be the protagonist, but I guess I am not that likeable, and portrayed by an overrated actor, so I actually didn’t do much. Whatever. Faithful assistant Nick?
NICK SIRIANNI: Bruh?
HOWIE: Return Jalen to our NovaCare stronghold so he may continue to develop his powers.
JALEN: And what about you? Now that Mickey is on a redemption arc, maybe you should give back all the draft picks you stole from him back in March, when he was consumed with nostalgia and regret.
HOWIE: (Third eye opening on his forehead.) No fuckin’ way I’m doing that.
(Thanks everyone. Don’t be mad, Amy.)