NFL WIN PROJECTIONS: Six easy-to-navigate ‘over’ locks for the 2020 season, citing one Vegas publication

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Odell Beckham Jr. has averaged 76 catches, 1,044 yards and five touchdowns since 2018 — a far cry from his three-year averages of 96 catches, 1,374 yards and 12 TDs from 2014-16 (with the Giants).

BATSBY Sports has perused the team-by-team victory projections for the 2020 NFL season (source: VegasInsider.com), and we’re ready to identify six healthy locks for the over bets.

(Perhaps we’ll address the best ‘under’ bets after the holiday weekend.)

We’ve written similar pieces in recent years, with a track record that hovers around the 70-percent range.

In other words … solid work!

The only drawback for this exercise: The better value lies with the middle-of-the-pack or bottom-feeding clubs, meaning we’re not prepared to make any wild proclamations of the Chiefs going 15-1 … or the Cowboys easily missing the projected mark of 10 wins.

VEGAS INSIDER WIN THRESHOLDS FOR ALL 32 TEAMS

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2020 PROJECTED TOTAL: 10.5
2019 RECORD: 13-3 (NFC champions)
2019 RANKINGS: 2nd in points scored … 8th in points allowed

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) We’re well aware of how the 1992-93 Bills are the last Super Bowl loser to play for the Lombardi Trophy the following season.

However, the current Niners are perfectly set up for a repeat run at championship glory, thanks to a robust returning roster, a consistently strong running game and a defense which posted top-five tallies with sacks, fumble recoveries and defensive touchdowns last season.

b) Raheem Mostert will likely remain embroiled in a time-share situation, divvying up carries and touches among the likes of Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Jerick McKinnon, a lightning-fast asset who’s been plagued by major injuries for back-to-back seasons.

That said, it’s impossible to ignore Mostert’s absurd finishing kick to last season.

Citing his final nine games (including the playoffs), Mostert accounted for 13 total touchdowns … without toting more than 20 carries in a single outing.

And during that prolific span, Mostert held sublime averages of 95.4 total yards and 1.4 TDs.

c) The Cardinals look better on paper this offseason, thanks to the evolving maturity of quarterback Kyler Murray and stealth acquisition of receiver DeAndre Hopkins (three-year average with the Texans: 105 catches, 1,372 yards, 10.3 TDs).

On the flip side, it’s hard to argue the Rams — after losing Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler Jr., Clay Matthews Jr., among others — are primed for a sizable upgrade from last year’s 9-7 finish.

That yin-yang effect should help the Niners laser-focus on the two most feasible goals for the upcoming season: Holding off the Seahawks for the NFC West crown … and staking a claim for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

d) San Francisco enjoyed nine double-digit victories last season, including two in the playoffs.

On the negative side, the 49ers’ three regular-season defeats had a grand total of 13 points … and the Falcons needed two touchdowns in the final five seconds to win by seven.

e) Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (3,978 yards passing, 28 total TDs last year) should be a good candidate for similar numbers in 2020.

What’s more, his interceptions count of 13 figures to remain flat, at worst.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2020 PROJECTED TOTAL: 8
2019 RECORD: 6-10 (missed the playoffs)
2019 RANKINGS: 22nd in points scored … 20th in points allowed

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) Don’t laugh, but the Browns might have the NFL’s fourth-best roster, after the Chiefs, 49ers and Ravens. Go ahead and click on the depth chart … and then kindly identify any holes with Cleveland’s all-22 setup.

The only apparent weakness: The club registered just eight sacks in the final six games, coinciding with Myles Garrett’s season-ending suspension after the Mason Rudolph-helmet debacle.

b) The Browns are loaded with premium talent at receiver (Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry), tight end (Austin Hooper, David Njoku), running back (Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt); and now, it’s fair to wonder if Cleveland has top-10 upside along the offensive line, with first-round pick Jedrick Wills Jr. and free-agent signee Jack Conklin anchoring the tackle slots.

c) The Browns fell woefully short of last year’s massive preseason expectations, a precipitous downfall which began with a 30-point home drubbing, at the hands of the Titans.

The positives here: National pundits won’t be walking on eggshells with grandiose predictions this summer.

But not us. We’re willing to bet the proverbial farm the Browns reach the postseason.

d) It’s worth noting: The Browns were the only regular-season team to dismantle the Ravens last year, hanging 40 on the eventual AFC North champs in Week 4.

e) Speaking of sure bets, you can take it to the bank that quarterback Baker Mayfield (3,827 yards passing, 25 total TDs) will post a completion rate above 60 percent this fall … and that he’ll toss fewer than 20 interceptions.

f) The Browns draw eight games with the NFC East and AFC North — arguably the league’s two worst divisions last season.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

2020 PROJECTED TOTAL: 9.5
2019 RECORD: 7-9 (missed the playoffs)
2019 RANKINGS: 3rd in points scored … 29th in points allowed

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) Let’s start with the obvious here: Tom Brady represents a major upgrade over Jameis Winston at quarterback, even if the former falls short of matching Winston’s 2019 tallies of 5,109 yards passing and 34 total touchdowns.

What makes this true?

Brady has merely averaged eight interceptions over the previous eight seasons (with the Patriots), a far cry from Winston’s 30 picks with the Bucs last year; and consequently, Tampa Bay stands to have more scoring drives, longer possessions and better field position than the opposition for nearly every game.

Plus, there’s the whole intangible quality of Brady (eight-year average: 4,425 yards passing, 32 TDs) being the best team leader in the NFL.

Brady’s obsession with hard work, on-field continuity and winning will invariably rub off on his Bucs teammates, while also holding ’em accountable during the regular season.

b) Even the Saints, 49ers and Chiefs might have trouble competing with the Bucs’ absurd cast of playmakers, a group led by Mike Evans (67 catches/1,157 yards/8 TDs last year), Chris Godwin (86 catches/1,333 yards/9 TDs), Ronald Jones (1,033 total yards/6 TDs), O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson and tight end extraordinaire Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s no-longer-retired, Hall of Fame-worthy teammate from the New England days.

c) In 2019, the Buccaneers ranked eighth in sacks, fourth in fumble recoveries and tied for first with defensive touchdowns. For good measure, Tampa Bay also had the NFL’s top-rated rush defense, surrendering only 74 ground yards per game.

d) Brady’s Buccaneers are near-certain locks to avoid any cold- or bad-weather games for Weeks 10-17, thanks to a schedule which includes four sun-drenched home outings (Rams, Chiefs, Vikings, Falcons), two climate-controlled matchups (@ Detroit, @ Atlanta) and one late bye.

e) For this column, the Bucs might represent the toughest ‘over’ lock, given the crossover scheduling dates with the NFC North and AFC West.

That said, it’s implausible to believe The Brady Effect won’t lead to double-digit victories in Year 1. Especially with head coach Bruce Arians aggressively running the show in Tampa.

TENNESSEE TITANS

2020 PROJECTED TOTAL: 9.5
2019 RECORD: 9-7 (advanced to AFC title game)
2019 RANKINGS: 10th in points scored … 12th in points allowed

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) The Vegas experts apparently don’t have much respect for the Titans’ 9-4 finish to last season, which included road playoff upsets of the Patriots and Ravens … and one highly competitive loss to the Chiefs (AFC championship).

b) Citing Tennessee’s 11 total victories (including the postseason), the club cultivated a spread of seven or more points eight different times.

That feeds into the Titans’ reputation of shredding the opposition through pinpoint passing early on … and then riding the power moves of NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry (1,540 yards, 18 total TDs) in the second half.

c) The Titans posted above-average tallies with sacks, interceptions and defensive touchdowns last season. Tennessee also held its 2019 opponents to 21 or less points six times.

d) Ryan Tannehill, the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year, still has plenty of upside with the Titans, even after rolling for 2,742 yards passing and 26 total touchdowns in just 10 regular-season starts.

(Of course, it will be difficult to replicate the 70-percent completion rate.)

The reason for such high confidence?

Second-year wideout A.J. Brown (52 catches, 1,051 yards, 8 TDs) might take another giant leap forward this season. For his final six games as a rookie, Brown posted excellent averages of 4.2 catches, 6.5 targets, 101 yards and 0.8 TDs.

NEW YORK GIANTS

2020 PROJECTED TOTAL: 6.5
2019 RECORD: 4-12 (missed the playoffs)
2019 RANKINGS: 18th in points scored … 30th in points allowed

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) The Giants have invested premium picks on quarterback (Daniel Jones), tailback (Saquon Barkley), tight end (Evan Engram) and offensive line (tackle Andrew Thomas, guard Will Hernandez) over the last four drafts, while simultaneously improving the defense through the draft, free agency and major trades.

b) Forget about his 3-9 record as a rookie. Jones was an unqualified success with the Giants in 2019, posting one of the league’s greatest starting debuts of this century (336 yards passing, 4 total TDs vs. Tampa Bay) … and then producing a strong finishing kick in the final five outings (1,351 yards passing, 13 TDs, 61-percent completion rate).

Heading into Year 2, Jones should be considered a legitimate candidate for 3,800 yards passing and 27-plus touchdowns.

c) The NFC East was the NFL’s weakest division last year, fielding just one club with a winning record (9-7 Eagles); and the Giants certainly have the offensive firepower to compete with the Cowboys, Eagles or Redskins in any potential shootout.

d) The Giants defense could benefit from the onslaught of ugly-weather games for Weeks 10-17, with New York having four home outings, three trips to colder markets (Cincinnati, Seattle, Baltimore) and one bye during this span.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2020 PROJECTED TOTAL: 5.5
2019 RECORD: 2-14 (missed the playoffs)
2019 RANKINGS: 30th in points scored … 25th in points allowed

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

a) We rarely lean on rookie quarterbacks to get the job done, especially with teams coming off the league’s worst record.

However, Joe Burrow just concluded the greatest individual campaign in college football history, notching record highs with passing yards (5,671 over 15 games … averaging 378), touchdown passes (60) and total touchdowns (65), while claiming the Heisman Trophy and national championship (LSU Tigers).

The 23-year-old Ohio native should be a game-changing fit in the Bengals’ pass-heavy offense, perhaps taking the starting reins on Day 1.

b) Last year, Joe Mixon was among the NFL’s five best tailbacks during the November/December months.

For the Bengals’ final seven outings, Mixon enjoyed stellar averages of 124 total yards and 0.62 TDs; and for his last nine games, Mixon collected 100 total yards and/or one TD seven times.

c) The Bengals had a bottom-10 offensive line last season, according to Football Outsiders.

However, this porous ranking doesn’t fully account for Cincinnati’s significant injuries in the trenches, or the club’s commitment to rebuilding the O-line through the draft (first-round guard Jonah Williams in 2019, first-round center Billy Price in 2018).

d) Five of Cincinnati’s 14 losses from last season involved a spread of six or fewer points, with three defeats occurring against playoff clubs.

e) The Bengals might have the AFC’s deepest corps of 1-6 receivers, when presuming full health for A.J. Green (missed 2019 to injury), Tyler Boyd (90 catches/1,146 yards/5 TDs last year), John Ross (11 catches/270 yards/3 TDs after two weeks last season, before getting injured), Auden Tate, Alex Erickson and explosive rookie Tee Higgins, who amassed 2,100-plus receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in his final two seasons with Clemson.

f) The AFC North might be one of the NFL’s toughest divisions, but the Bengals also get a double reprieve on the back side, thanks to nine total games with the NFC East, AFC South and still-rebuilding Dolphins.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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