Early Results in the NFL’s Regular Season Cause Major Shift in Las Vegas’s Super Bowl Betting Odds
The Las Vegas sportsbooks were talking Monday about the shifting odds provided by only three weeks of NFL football. No other sports changes as quickly as the National Football League, due to age, injuries, coaching changes, and free agency. For that reason, the early season in the NFL sees the biggest shift in betting odds of any of the major sports.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles have seen the most dramatic change in Super Bowl betting. After their surprising 3-0 start, the Philadelphia Eagles have seen their odds to win the Superbowl lower significantly.
CT Technology began the betting with the Eagles’ over/under on losses at 7.5 wins. Due to the huge number of bets on the under proposition, that total had to be lowered to 6.5 before the season started. With the Eagles at 3-0 and after blowing out a loaded Steelers team coming off a short week, they appear to be a safe bet to get those needed 7 wins on the over proposition.
Jason Simbal on the Eagles
Jason Simbal, VP of Race and Sport at CG Technology, said it shows what the experts know. Simbal said, “That just goes to show how everybody…fans, smart guys, faded this team before the season. People were talking about them being the worst team in the league.”
What it shows is what a star quarterback can do for a franchise. It also shows what a revamped defense and a new coaching staff can do for the confidence and performance of a team. All of that was added to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. Now suddenly, the team appears on its way to a big season — and perhaps ten years of greatness.
“The Worst Team in the League”
In the offseason, some considered the Philadelphia Eagles to be the worst team in the National Football League. The franchise’s former coach and general manager, Chip Kelly, had traded away or allowed to walk the team’s biggest name stars: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin. Kelly traded away the quarterback for an ineffective Sam Bradford, while sending away key members of the offensive line.
As September betting opened on the eve of the NFL regular season, the Eagles had 100-1 odds to win the Superbowl. Only the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers (Chip Kelly’s new team) had worse odds. No one considered the Eagles to be a promising up-and-coming team, at least not in the short term.
Doug Pederson as Eagles Head Coach
The faces were new. After firing Chip Kelly, the team hired Chiefs assistant coach Doug Pederson to be the new head coach. Doug Pederson had been a journeyman backup quarterback in the NFL, playing behind greats like Brett Favre and Dan Marino. Pederson had been an assistant on several of Coach Andy Reid’s staffs, both with the Eagles and the Chiefs. In Kansas City, Doug Pederson was given credit for coaching-up Alex Smith, but Pederson had never called plays and was not a hot commodity on the coaching market.
In sports, being a journeyman as a player is not necessarily a bad thing. To star players, the game comes easy — or at least easier than it comes to a mere mortal. When all-time great hitter Ted Williams was a manager, he would tell his players facing great pitchers or shifted infields to simply hit laser-focused balls to one spot on the field (they couldn’t). When Magic Johnson was the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers (briefly), he similarly told players to do it they way he did when he played. Neither man could explain how that’s accomplished, because those players didn’t have the skill set or the workout dedication to become a Hall of Fame talent.
From Obscure to Elite
Meanwhile, solid NBA contributors (but hardly stars) like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley have thrived for decades as coaches and, in Riley’s case, as a GM. Such players — and those of lesser stature — had to learn every trick of the trade just to stay in the league. Thus, they understand what it takes for lesser players to make a contribution, and they could convey that message to their players.
Baseball history is littered with minor league talents who became Hall of Fame Major League managers. George Halas, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, and Bill Walsh were hardly known for their on-field exploits, but they were great football coaches. Frankly, it’s rare to see a great player become a great coach or general manager. (Jerry West is one of the rare examples.) In short, lesser players become better managers, so Doug Pederson is a natural as an NFL coach.
The Carson Wentz Factor
The team traded 6 draft picks to move up in the NFL Draft, though. The Eagles used those picks to trade up to the 2nd pick overall, which they used to draft Carson Wentz, where he was a member of five NCAA Division I Football Championship teams. Though he was the backup quarterback in the first three seasons, Wentz led the Bisons to back-to-back NCAA Division I Football Championships in his junior and 5th-year seasons.
The problem is, Division I football is a far cry from the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten. North Dakota State is a smaller school playing much less-vaunted talent, so Carson Wentz’s accomplishments were discounted. When he impressed in interviews and workouts at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, his skill set was acknowledged, but it was assumed he would take a long time to adjust to the NFL game. A long windup in his throwing motion was cited as a potential trouble spot.
Though it was no surprise that the Eagles drafted Cameron Wentz with the #2 pick in the draft, he was considered second to Jared Goff, who played at a bigger school. Wentz also was not a consensus franchise quarterback, as evidenced by the Cleveland Browns’ decision to trade down. Of course, the Browns are known for making disastrous decisions; the decision to trade away the chance to draft Carson Wentz appears to be the latest in a long line of fiascos.
Wentz as the Week 1 Starter
In preseason, Carson Wentz showed his lack of caution, as he didn’t avoid contact and missed 3 preseason games with a hairline fracture of the rib. Thus, it was shocking that Wentz was named an opening Sunday starter for the Eagles. It was even more shocking that he came out and looked like he was an old pro.
He looked poised against the lowly Browns, and then against the lowly Chicago Bears. Most assumed the Week 3 match-up versus the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers would be his comeuppance, because the Steelers are a legitimate contender. Yet the Eagles won 34-3.
Jim Schwartz’s Defense
That 34-3 total underscores another reason the Eagles have turned things around: the Eagles Defense. Jim Schwartz came over to the Eagles from the NFL’s Officiating Department, where he served for a season as a consultant. Not every NFL fan is going to know Jim Schwartz, despite a 6-year run as the Detroit Lions head coach and Schwartz’s passing resemblance to the character Dean Winchester from the monster-hunting TV show Supernatural.
In 2014, Schwartz spent a year as the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator, where he took the Bills Defense from #31 to #3 in one season. Despite that, Schwartz was fired when the Bills hired Rex Ryan, a defensive guru. People wondered at the time why the Bills made a hire to fix the part of the team which was excellent. The Bills’ decision was a boon to the Eagles, though.
A Bit of a Mean Streak
Jim Schwartz had a reputation with the Tennessee Titans (2001-2008) and Bills (2014) as a defensive guru. He brings smarts, passion, and a bit of a mean streak. That’s why he was hired to be the Detroit Lions’ coach in a time when they had to recover from a 0-16 season. Schwartz instilled the kind of attitude in the Lions Defense which made Ndamukong Suh infamous. Jim Schwartz himself got into an altercation with then-49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh after a game, a moment which helped define the aggressive style both coaches embodied.
With the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, Jim Schwartz had built a unit which combines big young talent with veteran presences. Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan, and Mychal Kendrichs each have been drafted by the franchise in 2012 or later. That core is now in its prime and making huge contributions. Veteran free agents signed from other squads, such as Leodis McKelvin, Malcolm Jenkins, Connor Barwin, and Nigel Bradham have added a stabilizing element to the talent assembled through the draft.
Why the Eagles Have Dominated?
That unit held Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and the Steelers vaunted offense to 3 points this last weekend. Coming into the season, many said the Steelers had the best offense in the NFL. Through two weeks, someone could have made that argument. But the Eagles Defense simply dominated Roethlisberger, Brown, and company.
The Steelers were missing Le’Veon Bell, but it was an impressive performance. Thus, the Las Vegas sportsbooks had to make a huge adjustment to the Eagles’ betting line. The new coach, the new star quarterback, and the revamped defense have combined to turn around a franchise seemingly overnight. And even a few of the Chip Kelly draft picks have made big contributions.