Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?

Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?
Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?

Los Angeles Chargers 2018 Stats Review

Record: 12-4

Pythagorean Wins: 10.6

ATS: 9-7; average line -4.8

Over/Under: 8-8; average total 47.8

Close Games Record: 6-1

Turnover Differential: 0.1

Adjusted Games Lost (injuries): 100.0 (25th)

Offense: 4th in EPA per play (+0.146);  6.37 yards per play

Defense:  8th in EPA per play (-0.015);  5.49 yards per play

Masters of Close Games

Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers had the luck they deserved – after so many years stacked with injuries, and collapses from their special teams. They still ranked in the bottom-eight of injury luck, but they went a terrific 6-1 in close games.  They ranked top-10 on both sides of the ball, and Philip Rivers was awesome – he played a decent mile above his career path. However,  their season ended how some folks predicted it would end: Anthony Lynn and DC Gus Bradley got outcoached by a mile against a great coaching staff at Foxboro.

Since 2009, 38 teams had a close game differential of -5 or worse, or +5 or higher. These 38 teams saw an average absolute change of 4.34 wins the next season.  Only two sides were able to win the same amount of games again; not a single team overcame the regression. The Chargers have a very talented roster, so they will likely land on the positive side of the distribution. But we should expect them to lose more games in 2019.

Against the Cardinals, the Bolts were down 10 (lol) and won. At Kansas City, they were down 14 and won. At Pittsburgh? Down 16 and won. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel randomly decided to go for two after the late touchdown that made the score 19-20, Tennessee failed. Going for it a couple of drives earlier at 12-17 would have been the better option mathematically. They had a two-point win against CJ Beathard.

On top of that, the Bolts were expected to play the second-easiest schedule. They ended up playing the fifth-easiest schedule in terms of wins and losses. Expect some regression going forward.

The Return of Hunter Henry

The biggest problem for the Chargers remains the coaching staff. I have no faith in Anthony Lynn and DC Gus Bradley played zone coverage exclusively against Tom Brady, until the game was over. The Bolts lost deep-threat Tyrell Williams, but they get TE Hunter Henry back. Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, 232 receivers saw 50 or more targets. Hunter Henry ranked second in receiving expected points added per target. Rob Gronkowski ranked first. Even regressing from that performance level, Henry will be an incredible addition to this offense. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry look like a top-10 receiving trio on paper, maybe even better.

Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection

Melvin Gordon could hold out the season, but that shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Austin Ekeler is the more talented receiver, and Ekeler and Justin Jackson can replace a fair share of Gordon’s rush production. The biggest concern, in my opinion, is the offensive line that didn’t get addressed at all. Chargers GM Tom Telesco got a lot of praise for the picks of Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley, but he didn’t upgrade a lousy offensive line, whether in free agency or the draft.

Right tackle Sam Tevi and left guard Dan Feeney were among the worst at their respective positions last year and allowed a combined 125 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Right guard Michael Schofield wasn’t much better either. Center Mike Pouncey played worse as advertised. Left tackle Russell Okung, the unit’s best player, has dealt with a severe medical condition and it’s uncertain whether he will or want to continue his career. The Bolts should give 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp a shot at left or right guard this year; it can’t get worse. Philip Rivers is a good quarterback, and his receiving weapons are deadly. But this offensive line is going to cause trouble, especially when the coaching staff doesn’t try to optimize play-calling tendencies.

The Defense is Loaded

There shouldn’t be a debate about the defense, which is top-10 material on paper. With Tillery and Adderley, the Bolts filled needs, but it’s not easy to predict rookie impact. Because of a lack of alternatives, I expect both guys to see significant playtime. The Draft Network sees Tillery as a pass rush specialist which is extremely intriguing when considering the lack of interior rush last year. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are one of the best edge-rushing duos in the league. Last year’s rookie Uchenna Nwosu played a little over 300 snaps as a rotational pass rusher and did a stable job. Add some contribution by Tillery and blitzes by All-Pro Derwin James, and you have a terrific pass rush together.

Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Depth Chart Projection

Mike linebacker Denzel Perryman’s season was over after nine games. He returns and gets help by 36-year old Thomas Davis (Pro Bowl 2015-2017) who brings a lot of experience and game intelligence to this unit. Last year’s fourth-round-pick, linebacker Kyzir White, who instantly became a starter, went to IR after week three. Anthony Lynn raved about his “speed and explosiveness” during the off-season. It could be the best linebacking group the Los Angeles Chargers have had in a while.

The cornerback group consisting of Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King is outstanding. Derwin James was the steal of the 2018 draft, getting All-Pro honors in his first season. He can do everything – playing in coverage, stopping the run and blitzing. Adrian Philip will likely get the start at free safety, but Nasir Adderley could see significant playing time depending on his development.

Last year, this defense gave up 30 points to the Steelers, 28 to the Rams, 31 and 28 to the Chiefs, and 41 to New England. Offenses dictate matchups, but if the Chargers defense wants elite status, they need to take a step forward against good attacks.

2019 Schedule

After playing an extremely relaxed program last season, it will get slightly harder this time. According to the current Pinnacle season win totals, the implied strength of schedule for the Los Angeles Chargers is 0.4915 which would rank 25th. As measured by 2018 EPA per offensive play, their defense is projected to face the 15th-hardest schedule (+0.0394).

Become a member for the 2019 season and get all team previews, win totals, weekly game analysis, and picks until the Super Bowl. Since I started this service in 2017, we beat the closing line 70.6% of the time for an average closing line value of 4.0%. The record is 136-104 (56.7%) for +27.46 units at 10.5% ROI. Find all the picks with closing line reports on the records page.

Their 3-1 record against the NFC West could get replaced by 2-2 against the NFC North along with two early eastern time matchups at Chicago and Detroit. Will the Raiders be able to sneak out a win with an improved receiving corps? One of their home games gets replaced by a neutral field matchup against the Chiefs in Mexico City, and the Bolts will play two cold-weather games in December at Arrowhead and Mile High. All in all, other teams play significantly more brutal programs.

Los Angeles Chargers 2019: More Wins Than Children?

The positives: the Los Angeles Chargers have a good quarterback, a good receiving corps and a good pass defense. On the negative side: Philip Rivers could regress a little bit, they could feature one of the worst offensive lines, their coaching staff doesn’t seem to put them over the top, and they must expect negative regression in close games. But the overall talent level is too good to expect a massive regression of four or more wins and the strength of their schedule will likely be in the bottom half.

I expect the Chargers to win around ten games, which would be one more than Philip Rivers has children. And I expect them to battle with the Chiefs for the division title once again which should be a close race. It’s hard to win 12+ games back-to-back in this league, and I doubt the Bolts will be able to achieve that. But they should be able to provide Philip Rivers with another playoff ticket.

The season wins total opened at 9.8 (adjusted for juice) and betting markets cautiously attacked the over to push the number to 9.9. I think the current line is spot on, but the Over is priced heavily. The Chargers need to win 10 or more games 60 percent of the time to cash that ticket.

Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism

Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism
Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism

Context Matters

What happened in 2017 was HILARIOUS. The Cleveland Browns won zero games but should have won at least three. Last year’s Hard Knocks season indicated that the clown’s show with former head coach Hue Jackson would continue. After some close games, general manager John Dorsey let Hue go with a record of 2-6-1. Gregg Williams took over from Hue, Freddie Kitchens took over offensive play-calling duties from Todd Haley. The latter showed some unfortunate play-calling tendencies. Cleveland went 5-3 over the past seven games along with excellent offensive output.

The 5-3 run to end the season created an intensive hype, with Cleveland dropping from 50-1 odds to as low as 14-1 to win the Super Bowl. But let me explain why we should cautiously look at their 2018 performance. First of all, the Browns were expected to win a lot more games than they did in 2017.  With Hue, they went 2-3 in close games and followed with a 3-1 record during the Gregg Williams tenure.

From week eight onwards, the Browns went 0-5 against playoff teams. They lost by an average of 9.8 points per game – no matter who the coach was. They were fortunate to play the Bengals twice after Cincy was derailed by injuries (and after they signed Hue), same goes for the Falcons. Against Carolina and Denver, the Browns were behind on the scoreboard, going into the fourth quarter. Context matters.

Mr. Pythagorean is in the House

The Browns went 7-8-1 and had a Pythagorean win expectation of 7.1 – right on the money. However, during their final 5-3 stretch, their Pythagorean expectation was only 4.2 victories. They overperformed in wins, as indicated by their close game record. They underperformed under Hue but overperformed under Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens. Hypothetically speaking: if Cleveland won one or two close games more under Hue, they would have been overperformers on the full season. In contrast, the Baltimore Ravens had a Pythagorean win expectation of 5.5 in one fewer game with Lamar Jackson starting.

On the season, the Cleveland Browns went 5-4 in close games and had a turnover margin of +0.4. Their defense collected 31 takeaways – it will be a tough quest to reproduce that number. Over the stretch with Freddie Kitchens, Baker Mayfield ranked 5th in EPA per dropback (0.22) among 37 quarterbacks with 100 or more passes. To put that into context: 0.22 EPA per dropback would rank in the upper nine percent among all quarterbacks with at least 200 passes in a season since 2009. For comparison, Carson Wentz had 0.20 EPA per dropback during the 2017 season.

I’m not saying that Baker Mayfield won’t be a very good quarterback in the future. Probably he will be. But 0.22 EPA per dropback doesn’t provide tons of upside for the Browns offense. And is even hard to sustain for the best signal-callers in the game. Since 2009, Tom Brady had five seasons above 0.20 EPA per dropback, but also five below that mark. For Baker Mayfield to sustain that level of play, and the Cleveland Browns capitalizing from it, some other things need to go right, too.

A Match Made in Heaven?

As the great Jake Burns has beautifully explained, the marriage of Freddie Kitchens and offensive coordinator Todd Monken seems to be like a match made in heaven. Kitchens will mesh his Air Coryell philosophy with Monken’s Air Raid scheme to support Baker Mayfield’s aggressive approach to the game. Both of them have displayed smart situational play-calling last season with a pass-first approach. Also, James Campen will coach the offensive line. He spent the previous 14 years coaching the five guys in front of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Since 2014, the Packers’ offensive line graded as a top-7 unit in pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus. From a coaching perspective, this trio is a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, Campen gets to coach the likely Achilles’ heel of the Browns.

Cleveland Browns Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Cleveland Browns Offensive Depth Chart Projection

The Cleveland Browns traded away right guard Kevin Zeitler to the Giants for edge-rusher Olivier Vernon. Even though Vernon is going to boost the pass rush, it was a trade I couldn’t grasp. Zeitler is one of the best guards in the game. Zeitler’s absence leaves the Browns offensive line with two quality players on paper, left guard Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter. Left tackle Greg Robinson and right tackle Chris Hubbard form one of the worse tandems in the league. Last year, they ranked 53th and 56th out of 85 qualifying tackles in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric, respectively. In pass-blocking grade, which is more predictive, they ranked 56th and 39th. Second-year player Austin Corbett, who expects to start in place of Zeitler, has 14 career snaps under his belt. That setup is likely going to be a problem on long-developing plays and might not support Mayfield’s aggressiveness every time.

Incredible Group of Receivers

As questionable as the offensive line looks to be, the receiving corps is full of potential. Odell Beckham is an absolute stud and has been one of the best wide receivers since 2014. He consistently made Eli Manning look better than he is. Everyone who has watched Giants games instead of listening to Mike Francesa will confirm this. Beckham’s former LSU-teammate Jarvis Landry is ideally suited in a WR2-role, whereas Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway showed in 2018 that they are underrated third and fourth options.

This team preview will hopefully provide you with a lot of information. But it doesn’t replace your weekly handicapping/pricing process. It’s your job to price all 32 NFL teams and situations accurately weekly. 

Tight end David Njoku has steadily improved and is looking for a breakout season in his third year. Todd Monken had a lot of success teaming up Jameis Winston and OJ Howard at Tampa Bay. Running backs Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson complement the passing game. Johnson has been one of the best receivers at the position throughout his career. I don’t know whether Kareem Hunt will be an option this year.

The Cleveland Browns have put together an incredible offensive coaching staff. They also have a promising young quarterback in place who is going to throw to the likes of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The biggest – and only – weakness remains the offensive line which has a couple of weak spots. Furthermore, it will be a lot to ask to vastly improve from the efficiency this offense put together over the last eight games in 2018. It can be a terrific offense next season, but I am not expecting the 2011 Packers.

Zone or Man?

The Browns are returning a defense that ranked 7th in pass DVOA last season – they had the fifth-most interceptions at 17. While they improved on paper, I’ve got some concerns about new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. He runs one of the most zone-heaviest defenses in the league. Last season at Arizona, he prioritized his philosophy over the strength of his best cornerback: Patrick Peterson. The latter excelled at man-press coverage throughout his career, but Wilks forced him to play more off-coverage.

With Denzel Ward, the Browns have a cornerback who has been light years better in man-coverage than in zone throughout his career, as Ryan McCrystal explains with the use of charting data. As McCrystal found out, the Browns created a lot more pressure when they were in man, because opposing quarterbacks needed to hold the ball longer. Will Wilks adjust his scheme completely? Here’s an interesting quote from McCrystal:

There’s a good reason coaches typically stick with what they know best. They have a set of plays they have confidence calling in various situations, and Wilks obviously has that comfort level with his current scheme. Dramatically increasing his use of man coverage would force him outside his comfort zone, and likely lead to some poor decisions in the early stages of adjusting his scheme.

Either way, the Browns defense is likely to go through some growing pains as the team adjusts to Wilks’ scheme or as Wilks adjusts his scheme to the Browns’ personnel.

With Greedy Williams, John Dorsey drafted a cornerback in the second round who is well-suited to play man-press coverage exclusively. Williams expects to play on the outside, opposite of Denzel Ward. Steve Wilks will work with two starting cornerbacks who are best-suited for a scheme he doesn’t run. It’s hard to predict cornerback success in the first season. But not playing the role you are comfortable with, makes the situation more complicated. We shouldn’t expect elite play out of that secondary in 2019.

Nasty Front Seven

The front seven is as dangerous as it gets. But they will be reliant on the secondary to cover well for the first three seconds of the play. Slot cornerback TJ Carrie has been underwhelming throughout his five-year career. Free safety Damarious Randall survived the switch from cornerback in a manner that makes all Browns fans optimistic for the future. It’s highly questionable whether strong safety Morgan Burnett is an upgrade from departed Jabrill Peppers.

Cleveland Browns Defensive Depth Chart Projection
Cleveland Browns Defensive Depth Chart Projection

Edge rusher Myles Garrett could have a monster season. Olivier Vernon has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons, but he has put up very high pass-rushing grades. On the interior, the Cleveland Browns feature young explosion Larry Ogunjobi as well as the underrated Sheldon Richardson. The latter has quietly put together good seasons at Seattle and Minnesota recently. Mike linebacker Joe Schobert graded out as one of the best coverage-players at his position last year whereas Christian Kirksey couldn’t keep pace with him. Rookies Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson will battle for rotational snaps.

This defense is incredibly talented among its front seven, but performances will rise and fall with the secondary play. If Steve Wilks doesn’t adjust his scheme to his cornerbacks” strengths, it could be a long season for Myles Garrett and co.

2019 Schedule

The Cleveland Browns have a significant advantage. According to current win totals at the sharpest bookmaker in the world, Pinnacle, the Browns are projected to play the fourth-easiest schedule in the league. The same goes for their defense, which is expected to play the sixth-easiest schedule in terms of opposing pass EPA from 2018. Due to their third-place division finish, they will face the Titans and Broncos instead of, say, the Colts and Chiefs. A schedule against the weakest division in football over recent years, the AFC East, helps, too.

Pinnacle Win Totals vs. Implied SOS
Pinnacle Win Totals vs. Implied SOS

However, the Browns will play a tight schedule within their division. The Steelers and Ravens are playoff contenders, and I am probably higher on the Bengals than most folks out there. They can play an early home game against the Seahawks, but they play disadvantageous body-clock matchups against the Rams and Niners in night games.

Cleveland Browns 2019: Cautious Optimism

While the Browns are set up very well, the overwhelming hype is too much. At Pinnacle, the Browns are the fifth-best favorite to win the Super Bowl, and they are the favorites to win the division. I don’t think they are the best team in their division – yet. And from my point of view, there are three factors why I am only cautious optimistic:

  1. It’s a young team with a rookie head coach, and the offensive line can hold the Browns back.
  2. DC Steve Wilks and his scheme is a big question mark for the secondary that needs to play well.
  3. The Browns don’t play in a scrub division. The AFC North will most likely be highly competitive.

I can see the Browns going to the playoffs this year. But I don’t believe it’s as sure of a thing as many folks out there claim it to be. It will be a rocky road, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw at least three AFC North teams fighting for the playoffs in December.

The Browns look to play their harder part of the schedule over the first half of 2019. Five of eight games are on the road, and two home games are against the Rams and Seahawks. Right now, I wouldn’t put my money on any Browns future. The prices are inflated. It’s probably a much better idea to wait and grab a future at some point during the first nine weeks.

Become a member for the 2019 season and get all team previews, win totals, weekly analysis, and picks until the Super Bowl. Since I started this service in 2017, we beat the closing line 70.6% of the time for an average closing line value of 4.0%. The record is 136-104 (56.7%) for +27.46 units at 10.5% ROI. Find all the picks with closing line reports on the records page.

Carolina Panthers 2019 – Rising Tendency

Carolina Panthers 2019: Rising Tendency
Carolina Panthers 2019: Rising Tendency

Regression was Inevitable for the Carolina Panthers

Last year, the Carolina Panthers were set up for one of the biggest regression seasons in years as they had significantly overperformed in 2018. They started the season 6-2 and were on an 11-3 run in close games which had to regress. They closed the season on a 1-7 run with an 0-5 stretch in close games. It didn’t help that Cam Newton played with a banged up shoulder throughout the season. At some point, he wasn’t able to throw a 20-yard pass anymore.

The Panthers defense was as bad as advertised, finishing the season 22nd in DVOA; 24th against the pass. However, their passing offense surprised me – positively. Even though Cam Newton played with a hurt shoulder and missed the last two games against ATL and NO, Carolina finished 11th in DVOA, 19th in passing. Newton himself – probably because of the injury – wasn’t that violent as a runner, but he still finished 20th in QBR (out of 33, 200+ passes) and 16th in EPA per dropback (out of 39, 150+ passes). Against my prediction, OC Norv Turner shaped the offense towards its strengths. He also showed some smart situational play-calling like an above average pass rate on early downs. That’s the most significant driver for their potential future success in 2019.

The Panthers have some positive regression going for them. They went 7-9 but had 7.8 Pythagorean wins. Their turnover margin was a neutral 0.1, but they had a record of 3-7 in close games, tied with three other teams for the worst differential. They were injury-riddled, finishing with 103.8 adjusted games lost, the 6th-highest number in the league and 22.9 over average. Carolina should get luckier in close games and more healthy overall – starting with Cam Newton.

Bounce-Back Year for Cam Newton and the Offense?

Throughout his career, Cam Newton has been an elite runner and an above average passer. His running ability declined after 2014, along with some injuries. Since 2009, 77 quarterbacks attempted at least 500 passes in the NFL. Cam Newton ranks 26th in EPA per dropback (0.043). That is Baker Mayfield level of 2018 and ranks exactly behind Alex Smith who enjoyed five years with Andy Reid and never played extended stretches with a hurt shoulder. You can win games with Cam Newton – build around him! All reports indicate that he will be healthy going into 2019. At age 30, he got some time left to be a multi-weapon – it could be a bounce-back year.

Carolina Panthers Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Carolina Panthers Offensive Depth Chart Projection

When watching Panthers pre-season games, I always thought that Taylor Moton should get a starting gig, especially over Daryl Williams. The latter had one “good” season during which he got a lot of extra help by chips. Moton started in place of the injured Williams and didn’t disappoint. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 12th-best pass blocking tackle last season. If I’m the Panthers, I would pencil in Moton at left tackle and let rookie Greg Little play at right tackle. Make Daryl Williams the swing tackle. Center Matt Paradis is one of the better players at his position, same for right guard Trai Turner. Greg Van Roten remains the weakest spot. All in all, this unit looks improved from last season.

Improvement Across the Board

Running back Christian McCaffrey is a beast as a receiver, but he should see targets even more while Carolina should pound him less on longer downs. WR Curtis Samuel was injury-plagued but occasionally flashed whereas last year’s first-round pick DJ Moore created a lot of efficiency targets. Former Patriot Chris Hogan brings a lot of experience and should contribute as the third option in the passing game. Over the past three seasons at New England, he posted a combined stat line of 107-1651-12 while missing seven games in 2017. There could be worse options for the third slot. Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright should play complementary roles. It’s uncertain how much gas veteran tight end Greg Olsen has left in the tank, but at least he will enter the season back healthy.

This team preview will hopefully provide you with a lot of information. But it doesn’t replace your weekly handicapping/pricing process. It’s your job to price all 32 NFL teams and situations accurately weekly. 

Norv Turner got creative in the run game, running a lot of options and sweeps. The Panthers finished 2nd in offensive rush DVOA but unfortunately, running the ball only gets you as far as the passing game. Efficient quarterback runs are a cheat code though, as Cam Newton has shown over his career. With him being healthy, we should expect some damage via the ground game again. Newton has averaged around 0.43 EPA per rush over the first four seasons of his career, only 0.18 last year. With an improved receiving corps, an improved offensive line and Cam Newton healthy, the Panthers should cause some havoc for opposing offenses. The passing game can open up the run game involving Newton.

The Defense Has Two Faces

Carolina is switching their base defense from 4-3 to 3-4. In today’s NFL, that isn’t much of an issue, because teams spend only about 20-25 percent in their “base” defense. It could be less next year. Nowadays,  nickel (5 DBs) should be called base. IF – and it might not be small if – the Panthers can establish a quality pass rush out of their edge rush rotation, they could have a decent front seven.

With the addition of DT Gerald McCoy, Carolina features one of the better interior starting duos, along with Kawann Short. The latter had a down year, but with the addition of McCoy, Short might not face as many double teams. Nose tackle Dontari Poe will play his natural position on base downs. End Mario Addison is coming off three straight seasons with 9+ sacks but hasn’t graded well on a play-by-play basis.

Carolina Panthers Defensive Depth Chart Projection
Carolina Panthers Defensive Depth Chart Projection

Rookie Brian Burns joins the NFL with one of the best athletic profiles for an edge rusher in a long time, and he gets premature praise for his explosiveness. Veteran Bruce Irvin, who didn’t find his groove at Oakland and Atlanta last year, should be the third pass rusher in the rotation. Having him as an occasional pass rusher could make him more valuable.

However, Addison, Burns, and Irvin are going to decide whether this front seven is going to be average or good. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is still top-3 at his position. With the departure of Thomas Davis to the Bolts, Shaq Thompson needs to take his game to the next level. If Ron Rivera, who will be calling plays in 2019, can get a decent pass rush out of his new-look front and gets creative with blitzes, this front seven could be nasty. It better be. Because the secondary remains a big problem. Aside from safety Eric Reid, there aren’t guys you can bank on to be useful in coverage. Ross Cockrell missed all of 2018, S Rashaan Gaulden and CB Donte Jackson will go into their second years. CB James Bradberry remains a liability in coverage, according to target data.

Schedule Analysis

According to the current Pinnacle regular season win totals (06/25), Carolina will face the 10th-hardest schedule next year. Mostly due to their competitive division, they will play the 6th-hardest schedule according to 2018 offensive pass EPA. Their technical program is no slouch, either. They will travel the 8th-most miles with games at San Francisco, Arizona, and London. Their second-half schedule is robust, with games vs. New Orleans (2x), Atlanta (2x), at Green Bay, at Indianapolis and vs. Seattle. Intriguing situational spots:

  • Week 6 vs. TB: Carolina will travel to London after a home game against the Jags whereas the Bucs will be on their third straight roadie after playing at Los Angeles and New Orleans. It’s complete bullshit by the NFL, but be aware: this will be priced into the line. You better pray for the Panthers to be on a losing streak.
  • Week 13 vs. WAS: this one screams LETDOWN SPOT with an inflated price. The Panthers have a sandwich game between road games at Atlanta and New Orleans.

2019 Prediction – Rising Tendency

With Cam Newton back healthy, the 2019 outlook is promising. The Carolina Panthers are healthy (for now) and will enter the season with an improved offensive line and receiving corps. Their secondary remains a question mark and will mostly be dependent on the offense scoring enough points. If Newton – for whatever reason – isn’t as healthy as it seems, and rookie Will Grier will start, their season could take a swing. Grier was Matt Waldman’s highest ranked quarterback entering the draft, though. The critical problem is the schedule with a competitive AFC South and lots of travel miles. If this isn’t going to be a successful season for Carolina, Ron Rivera might find himself unemployed next January.

However, this team is set up to march back into the playoffs, and I believe they are a 9-7 team on paper. I can see them as one of the new faces in the playoff picture. I lean towards the Over on their win total of 7.5 (-120 at Pinnacle), and I agree with the market movement thus far. But Cam Newton’s shoulder still provides some uncertainty, despite the reports – that’s why I’m staying away from futures for now.

Become a member for the 2019 season and get win totals, weekly analysis and picks until the Super Bowl. Since I started this service in 2017, we beat the closing line 70.6% of the time for an average closing line value of 4.0%. The record is 136-104 (56.7%) for +27.46 units at 10.5% ROI. Find all the picks with closing line reports on the records page.

NFL Win Totals – Recap of 2018 Pinnacle Numbers

It’s schedule SZN! It is the time of the year when most bookmakers release their NFL win totals for the upcoming season. Predicting future records in sports is as hard as it gets. Teams may change drastically from one season to another. Regression to the mean, positively or negatively, plays a significant role, too. However, year in year out bettors across the world try to predict future wins by placing their hard earned money on season win totals.

Roughly two weeks before the 2018 NFL season, I posted the implied strength of schedule based on Pinnacle win totals. The published number by the bookmaker doesn’t always represent the exact win total. Due to the juice, the numbers usually shade towards either side. For instance, the Arizona Cardinals sat at 5.5 wins odds of -193 in favor of the over. This price tag equals 6.3 wins. It’s the normalized win total.

NFL Win Totals from Pinnacle and the corresponding results and SOS implication
2018 NFL RSW from Pinnacle (08/20) and corresponding results plus numbers

During the off-season, public opinions on NFL teams are widely positive. Every organization is better than the year before, addressed its weaknesses during free agency, and every veteran is in the shape of my life. Beat writers are supposed to be biased and to cover their teams in a positive manner.

The betting markets tend to judge NFL teams more positively than negatively, too. With 16 games on their schedule, NFL teams can win a collective 256 games per season. The sum of the normalized win totals from Pinnacle last year was 260.7. That’s 4.7 more wins than it’s mathematically possible. Twenty-two win totals shaded towards the over. However, the Over/Under was 13-17-2 last season. If you had bet the Over blindly 32 times for $100 as the base amount, your result would have netted -$820 on the year (-19.8% ROI). In contrast, if you had bet all 32 Unders blindly, your profit would have been +$620 (+17.7% ROI). Distribution-wise, you would expect the Over/Under to be around 50/50 over time. But with the heavy shade towards the over side, it’s not truly a winning proposition to bet overs blindly.

Last season, the difference between actual wins and Pinnacle’s normalized win totals was 2.1 per average. The betting markets predicted 13 win totals to be within 1.5 wins of the actual team record. Ten times they fell outside the range of 2.5 wins. The correlation between Pinnacle win totals and the real team wins was 0.27 (R^2).

Win Totals and Strength of Schedule

With the schedule release, many football fans and media outlets try to predict the future strength of schedule (SOS) based on team wins from the season before. Here’s a friendly reminder: don’t do this! There is no predictive nature. It doesn’t matter how many games a team wins in the season before. Predicting future SOS is hard. Based on our team projections we can calculate a rough estimate, but it cannot be perfect. If Deshaun Watson got hurt in week one in 2018, it would have changed the SOS landscape entirely. The SOS for teams like the Colts or Jaguars would change because the Texans were suddenly much weaker than predicted before the season.

As mentioned before, the correlation between Pinnacle win totals and actual team wins was 0.27 in 2018. However, the relationship between 2017 wins and 2018 wins was just 0.12. The calculated SOS based on 2017 wins correlated 0.02 with the actual 2018 SOS. It’s simply noise. Wins from the season before have no predictive value for the victories the next season.

How to Bet with Pinnacle via Asian Connect

Picture with the headline: How to Bet with Pinnacle via Asian Connect

First of all, the platform I am going to refer to doesn’t have any affiliate connections to me. Maybe they are going to contact me after reading this, but right now, there is not an affiliate deal in place. I write this for betting purposes only. In this article, I will explain how to bet with Pinnacle without actually using the original site.

Pinnacle is one of the largest off-shore bookmakers in the world. They are also known as the ‘sharpest’ book with the best odds and the lowest margins. Also, they do not ban ‘sharp’ players but instead use their money to balance their action. Getting the best of the line and saving a few cents can make a big difference in the long run.

But there’s a problem: Pinnacle prohibits bettors from several countries, such as essential markets like the United States of America or the United Kingdom. US-bettors who want to benefit from betting into spreads at -105 odds are not allowed to sign up and bet with Pinnacle. The website blocks users when they log in with an IP from the prohibited country. Withdrawing money is impossible with a residence in a prohibited country. Asian Connect prohibits US residents, too. However, residents from many countries like Germany or England are allowed to sign up.

The Middleman

The solution? Last year I was looking for ways to bet at Pinnacle. My attention shifted towards Asian Connect when I read some excellent reviews. You can bet with Pinnacle via Asian Connect. It is an Asian broker that acts as a middleman between several bookmakers and bettors. They work together with books like Matchbook, SBObet and – Pinnacle.

Screenshot of the dashboard at Asian Connect
The dashboard at Asian Connect

After signing up, you can request an account for one of the several available bookmakers and deposit money via Skrill, Neteller, Bank Wire or Bitcoin. I haven’t tried out the other books, because I only wanted to bet with Pinnacle. After depositing, Asian Connect immediately creates an ‘anonymous’ account at PS3838.com, which is some manner of a farm or daughter site of Pinnacle. Your primary account is at Asian Connect.

The design of PS3838 differentiates quite a bit from Pinnacle’s original website, but it’s the same content. Asian Connect claims that PS3838 is the same as Pinnacle. I have never experienced any deviations during the last NFL season. As soon as a line changes at Pinnacle, it shifts at PS3838, too. It feels like a duplicate of the original site.

NBA odds table at PS3838
NBA odds table at PS383

There’s just one hurdle: Pinnacle still blocks access from banned countries. That’s why Asian Connect tells you to use VPN software before logging in to PS3838. I am using Tunnel Bear. It’s a smooth software that you can also use as an app on your mobile device. The free version has enough Megabyte traffic per month to place your bets. You need to open it before logging in to PS3838. It’s worth the effort to bet into Pinnacle lines.

Last step to bet with Pinnacle: Deposit via Bitcoin

Everything worked out smoothly. The significant advantage of Asian Connect that I’ve found out is its 24/7 live chat. As soon as I experienced a problem or had a question, I used the conversation, and my problem was solved immediately. You can even use it to speed up your deposit or verification process which I found to be very useful.

I deposited via Skrill and withdrew via Bitcoin after the NFL season. According to Asian Connect, there are no deposit limits with Skrill, but the Bitcoin limit per deposit is 50 BTC. I’m not a pro sports bettor, so I can’t test out potential limits. But I had no issues in the thousands range, depositing or withdrawing. It was a smooth process for the benefit of betting with Pinnacle.

Withdrawal and Verification

When you intend to withdraw your money, you need to verify your account. I sent photos of my ID card, the last TV/Internet bill and a screenshot of Skrill via email. It’s essential that you use the same email that you use at Asian Connect. I assume that you don’t need to send a screenshot of Skril when you deposit via Bitcoin.

One day after sending those documents, I got a code via text message that I got to communicate via email. I posted the code, and after a couple of days without a response, I contacted the chat. The verification processed immediately.

Asian Connect is a fantastic way to bet with Pinnacle. I cannot guarantee you that everything works out as smoothly as it did for me. But I highly recommend Asian Connect to bet at websites that ban your country. Check it out!