When Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay in March and New England’s 2020 season win total dropped to 8½, professional sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw took the over.
But Whitelaw’s opinion about the Patriots changed after they had an NFL-high eight players opt out of the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s now banking on them to go under their win total, which climbed to 9 (under -115 at South Point) after they signed former NFL MVP Cam Newton.
“I recently went under 9½ after half their team opted out,” Whitelaw said. “I’m high on the under now because they lost two of their best defensive players (in Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung).
“(Coach Bill) Belichick will do his magic, but it’s going to be a little more difficult without Brady. I don’t put much stock in Newton. Even if he does well, he’s so injury-prone that he doesn’t figure to make much of a difference.”
Whitelaw went 3-1 on his NFL season win totals in the Review-Journal last year, with winners on the Bills Over 6½ (10-6), Browns Under 9½ (6-10), Redskins Under 6½ (3-13) and a narrow loser on Buccaneers Under 6½ (7-9).
Here are his other best bets for 2020:
Cowboys under 10
Dallas went 8-8 last season.
“I just find it very hard to see them winning 11 games. I think everybody in their division has gotten a little bit better,” said Whitelaw, a Buffalo native and Las Vegas resident. “(Wide receiver) CeeDee Lamb is certainly going to help their offense. But I still think, defensively, they have some problems. Asking them to win 11 games is a lot.”
Cardinals under 7½
Arizona finished 5-10-1 last season and added four-time Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
“They’re the weakest team in that division. To ask them to basically go .500 is too much,” Whitelaw said. “(Hopkins) is certainly going to help them, but I don’t know if he’s going to help them enough. I don’t put a lot of weight on one offensive player.
“It’s much more about the offensive and defensive lines. And I’m not sold on their quarterback (Kyler Murray).”
Broncos under 8
Denver went 7-9 last season, and its win total is 7½ at William Hill, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts. The total is 8 (under -150) at the Westgate.
“The division is just very, very difficult,” Whitelaw said. “Obviously, Kansas City is very tough. Oakland’s improved, and the Chargers are close to the same. I just think eight is too high.
“A lot of times when I go under a number, I figure the worst I can do is push. I can’t see them winning nine games, so I go under eight. If it comes eight, no big deal.”
Jets under 6½
Whitelaw took New York to go under 7 after it traded Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams to Seattle and four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley opted out of the season.
“They lost a couple guys, which is going to hurt a lot,” Whitelaw said. “To ask them to go .500 is a lot. They’re probably a 5-11 or 6-10 team.”
Whitelaw said he also played the Jets under 8 at Circa, which posted alternate season win totals for all 32 teams in June, allowing bettors to buy or sell an extra game on their wagers.
“I really enjoyed some of the Circa numbers because they give you so many options,” he said.
Circa recently took the win totals off the board, but sportsbook operations manager Jeff Benson said it “hopes to have them back up in the next couple of weeks.”
“The uncertainty of players getting COVID (Matthew Stafford, Gardner Minshew) and withdrawals (Patriots players, Damien Williams) forced our hand,” Benson said in a text message.
South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said he’s taken sharp action on the Bears under 8, Colts over 9, Steelers over 9 and Buccaneers over 9½.
“I like the Steelers over. I thought that was a little low. They won eight games last year with the (No. 30) offense in the NFL,” Andrews said. “I figure (the return of quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) is going to be worth at least two wins if the defense plays the same.”
If Tampa Bay’s total hits 10, Whitelaw plans to play the under.
“The public pushes some of these things more than they should be,” he said. “Sometimes the public falls in love with things. Depending how high Tampa moves to, I could certainly play them under also. I might be able to get under 10 flat.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.