Givin Futures: AFC West & NFC West

Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts during the first half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on November 28, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.
Image Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Each week, BetPrep Sharp and NBC Sports Betting Analyst Brad Feinberg discusses expected win totals, division odds, Super Bowl favorites, and potential award winners with host and BetPrep Editor Michael Salfino of The Athletic and FiveThirtyEight. It’s the official futures podcast of BetPrep, a free sports betting research site that empowers bettors with the same tools both the sharps and the sportsbooks use.

Here are some highlights from the latest episode of the Givin’ Futures Podcast.

Do you think that with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, the Broncos are significantly better than they were last year?

Brad: 100% yes. Their over/under right now sitting at 8.5. I was going to bet Denver over 7.5. We talked about it on the podcast. Then news broke that Aaron Rodgers was potentially going to Denver. The number went to 8.5. And here we sit in September, and it’s still 8.5. It’s interesting; it has not moved. This is actually a perfect situation for Bridgewater. Good defense. Good weapons around him. He just needs to not screw it up. I think his team wins 10 games. And I’ll go as far as to say I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the division. I found Denver -150 not to make the playoffs and +155 to make the playoffs. Most people don’t think the Broncos are going to be that good, but I think they have a winning record.

Where are you on Herbert in Los Angeles? Do you think he could be an MVP candidate and therefore raise the level of the Chargers overall?

Brad: Justin Herbert to me was the biggest surprise for what I thought he would be versus what he was. It was instantaneous. First time I saw him I thought, “Holy smokes, this guy’s not good—he’s great.” I’m terribly bullish on Herbert. You could take the Chargers over nine wins with pretty big juice like -150 area or over 9.5 with even money. I did take a shot on Herbert basically at 45-to-1 to win the Super Bowl just because I could see a world where this team is really good. Because I think they have good players. But 9.5 season wins is the right number. I do think this is going to be a good football team this year.

Next up is the Raiders who were right in the middle of the league, and pretty much all of the metrics. Do you expect them to be a losing team?

Brad: Jon Gruden is the de facto GM and it’s painfully obvious he’s not just overmatched, he’s blatantly overmatched. He doesn’t understand value. But we talked about Justin Herbert. When I watched Derek Carr last year, I thought, “Gosh, man, that guy’s just freaking good.” I had Raiders over 7.0. When the schedule came out, theirs was rated first hardest in the NFL. I then bet under 7.5. I got out because of the schedule. The number is back down to 7.0. I’d still be on the over if I had to bet because I do think Carr’s a good quarterback. I have no problem with Gruden the coach. It’s a really tough division but I don’t think this team goes 6-11. +400 to make the playoffs. Do I think the Raiders have a 20% chance? Yeah, I do.

I think quarterback wins are real. And I think the proof of it is there’s nothing that the Chiefs could do to make it likely with a healthy Patrick Mahomes that they’re going to be a losing team. 

Brad: Yes, look, their over/under is sitting at 12.5. For me, as much respect as I have for Mahomes, that’s a big number. Their division is really tough. They won so many one-score games last year, setting a record for consecutive wins that way, and they probably won’t be as fortunate in 2021. There are such fine lines between being a great team and a good team and a good team and an average team and an average team and a bad team. If the Chiefs lose Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill, they’re going to struggle. There is no depth with their receivers. If you wanted to take a chance on one of the other teams like the Raiders at 18-to-1 to win the division or the Broncos at 6-to-1, I wouldn’t argue. The Chiefs remind me of a luxury automobile. If they’re healthy and it’s running great, it’s beautiful; but when it breaks down and it’s in the shop, that’s another story completely.

So now going over to the NFC West, Kliff Kingsbury is a little bit of a donkey and overrated. Sort of the handsome Adam Gase in a way.

Brad: Handsome Adam Gase! That’s just brilliant. I do have a very big bet on the Cardinals over 8.0 and it’s now 8.5. I’m daring them not to go 7-10. I think they’re good. They added Chandler Jones, who basically didn’t play last year. They added J.J. Watt. They drafted defense in the first round. Last year, when Kyler Murray ran, this team was great. And when Murray didn’t run, it was pedestrian. Murray reminds me of a piece of chewing gum when it first starts out, it’s so delicious and tasty. And then the flavor runs out. That to me is his running. He starts out and it’s like, “Oh my God, this guy’s the best.” But he’s not Lamar Jackson. I would be at lean over 8.5 but they’re 6-to-1 to win the division. They’re -220 not to make the playoffs +180 to make them. But I don’t like to coach. I do think they will find a way to have a winning record even in this hard division.

No matter who the quarterback is, are the 49ers a Super Bowl-caliber team?

Brad: This was going to be my all-in bet and I got fooled. I did not give the sportsbooks enough credit. I thought they were going to see a 5-11 team and would be 25 or 30-to-1 to win the Super Bowl, stealing. But they’re 15-to-1 as they should be. They have some very good defensive personnel. I love Kittle, Deebo, and Aiyuk. I love the way the team runs the ball. But I can’t go over 10.5. I can’t I can’t go over in this division, where they’re 2-to-1 to win. It’s just such a hard division. They did draw Cincinnati in their extra game, but I can’t go under because I respect the talent and I can’t go over because it’s just too big a number.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks rolled offensively early and struggled and then won in the second half with a more conservative offense and better defense.

Brad: That was one of the more interesting years I’ve ever seen a team go through. Seattle may be my biggest bet before the year to win the Super Bowl. So I follow them quite closely. And it was a very weird 12-4 year. Wilson has had only one year in his magnificent career where he did not win double-digit games in a 16-game season. This team really did improve defensively by the end of the year. I think they have a lot of hope for Jordyn Brooks, their first-round pick from last year. Bobby Wagner is a really good linebacker. Chris Carson is phenomenal. D.K. Metcalf to me is an absolute force of nature. How can I take under 10 if Russell Wilson has gone 10 or more every year in his career except one? And now with one extra game? Any time you have Russell Wilson, you’ll be competing for a Super Bowl.

The Rams have a new QB but seem like a thin team that was really exposed last year in the postseason when their best player, Aaron Darnold, was very ineffective due to injury and Aaron Rodgers carved them up. 

Brad: The loss of Cam Akers is going to hurt them a little bit. I love Cooper Kupp. Robert Woods is really solid. This is the perfect role for DeSean Jackson at this point. But again, very thin on the offensive line. Very thin everywhere.

This is a team that if everything goes perfectly will be tough to beat and it can win the Super Bowl. But shouldn’t we expect things to go wrong? I mean, it’s the NFL. It’s a chaotic league.

Brad: That’s very fair. Look, their over/under is 10.5 wins. Before they had any injury, I did bet over 10. It’s up to 10.5. I would not do that tonight. But again, I don’t think they’ll go 9-8. So I did make a small bet. They’re -160 to make the playoffs and +160 not to. If things are going well, if you’re looking to bet on this team, individual games, I would probably be more apt to bet them earlier in the year when they’re healthy. As soon as you start seeing any kind of cluster injuries to this team anywhere, forget them. I don’t think they have the depth that some of these other teams do, like the 49ers. This is a stay-away team for me just because, at these current numbers, I really have too much respect for all the other teams in the NFC West.