Cam Newton won a league MVP award and led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl. Now he's in New England, replacing Patriots legend Tom Brady. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Mike Craven staff


Craven’s Corner: Eight bets to make before the start of the NFL season

Posted September 9th, 2020


Craven’s Corner returned with a trip to the collection window last week. This week features a Big 12 slate, NFL football and even more college games. We posted a 70-61-4 record against the spread last year. We also won future bets by picking Ohio State to win the Big Ten, Memphis winning the AAC and the Baltimore Ravens winning the AFC North.

You can still get value from the college football future bets we placed last week, which were Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 (+700), Florida to win the SEC (+1000) and Clemson winning the ACC (-500).

A quick refresher: Betting looks difficult, but it’s easy to grasp. A negative number denotes the favorite. The number after the negative represents how much money you’d need to bet to win $100. So, a -265 favorite would require a $265 bet to win you $100. Conversely, a positive number is the underdog. The number following the positive represents how much money you’d make on a $100 bet. So, a +265 bet means $100 earns you $265.


We’re using as our general sports book. Remember that lines fluctuate based on bets and are subject to change before kickoff. We’re avoiding college games this weekend with most of them being lopsided out-of-conference matchups. We’ll instead focus on NFL futures and Week 1 of the season. 

Got it? OK, let’s make some money: 

New England to win AFC East +130: My money in the AFC East remains on New England despite Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay and the opting out of a handful of potential starters over COVID-19 concerns. The dropoff between Brady and Cam Newton won’t be vast. Newton is a former MVP who helped Carolina reach a Super Bowl. He’s no Brady, but neither is Brady at his age. New England will be fine in a division that I simply don’t trust to handle success. The Patriots know how to win. They’re used to dominating the division. The +130 odds are second in the division, trailing the Bills at +125. 

New Orleans to win NFC South -120: The Saints would be the overwhelming division favorite if Brady wasn’t in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are +135 with the public overreacting to Brady’s arrival. Tampa Bay will be improved, but it’ll take a handful of games to gain consistency and rhythm with such a weird offseason following a mountain of new additions. New Orleans should gain a substantial division lead over that time and claim a division title while Tampa Bay fights for a wildcard spot. 

Seattle Seahawks to win NFC West +210: The Super Bowl loser tends to struggle the next season. I expect that’ll happen to the San Francisco 49ers, which is good news for Seattle. The Seahawks still have the best quarterback in the division with Russell Wilson. Seattle was one win away from winning the West in 2019. Give me the Seahawks to win the division thanks to Wilson, an improved offensive line and an always consistent defense. 

Texans +9.5 over Chiefs (Thursday): Kansas City is undoubtedly the better team, and I’d pick the Chiefs to win by around a touchdown. I’m not sure Kansas City comes out of the gates as the defending champions with all cylinders firing, though, which leads me to believe that the Texans can manage to keep this from being a double-digit loss. Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson just signed a new contract and will want to show the league that the Texans can compete without wide receiver De’Andre Hopkins. 

Seahawks -1 over Falcons: Bettors tend to overrate the Falcons and Matt Ryan. It’s been going on for a decade now. Take advantage of that early in the season, especially in Week 1 against the Seahawks. Crowd noise won’t be an issue for Seattle on the road with COVID-19 preventing the NFL from filling up the dome. We picked Seattle to win the NFC West, so we need them off to a fast start. The money line is -125 if you don’t want to give away the point. 

Packers +2.5 over Vikings: Aaron Rodgers. That’s normally the reason I put my money on Green Bay. The Packers are likely my pick to win the NFC North, which means beating Minnesota for that title. The Packers beat the Vikings in both 2019 regular season matchups, and the Vikings didn’t do anything in the playoffs that makes me believe anything will change. I get the team I’d favor to win with 2.5 extra points. 

Los Angeles Rams +3 over Cowboys: Dallas should be fine under new leadership at head coach. I’m just not sure the Cowboys start off with a bang. I tend to fade the public on the Cowboys, betting on them as underdogs and choosing the other teams when favored. Dallas is perpetually inconsistent. The Cowboys could come out and dominate this game, but I’m leaning toward an inconsistent performance that leaves the fans unimpressed with Mike McCarthy. Because what is a Cowboys season without some early drama? 

Saints -3.5 over Buccaneers: Take Tampa Bay if you feel like the Buccaneers will be resurrected with Brady. I’m not in that boat. I think the Saints, led by Drew Brees, will win the NFC South. Therefore I’m picking New Orleans to win this one. Tampa Bay will be playoff contenders, but I can’t bet on a team undergoing that many changes in Week 1. New Orleans is on a mission, so give me New Orleans to put in an impressive performance.