Jeffrey T. Barnes / AP, file
Thursday, June 15, 2023 | 2 a.m.
It’s beginning to look a lot like football season. While there’s still more than two months before the first college regular-season games kick off in late August, with the NFL following in the first week of September, football is already taking center stage in local sportsbooks. With other sports winding down, bookmakers have begun posting a variety of ways to bet on the upcoming seasons on the gridiron.
Some books already have full menus, and it’s worth starting to dive into them. It’s still early enough that bettors can find great value before the market beats the numbers into shape over the next several weeks.
To kick off football betting for the 2023-2024 season, here’s a futures bet to win the championship, a futures wager on the biggest trophy and a Week 1 play in both the NFL and college football.
To win the Super Bowl: Buffalo Bills at 10-to-1 (South Point)
The Bills resisted making moves as splashy as their competitors this offseason, because they didn’t need to. They were the best team in the NFL for a large part of last season before a rash of injuries eventually derailed them.
It still took a major upset to knock them out of the playoffs, with the Cincinnati Bengals prevailing 27-10 as a 6-point road underdog in the snow. Making Buffalo the fifth choice to win the title coming into this season — behind Kansas City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Cincinnati — is a major overreaction to that ouster.
I’m already on record picking the Bills to play in Las Vegas’ first Super Bowl at the conclusion of this season, so count this as a case of putting my money where my mouth is.
To win NFL MVP: Lamar Jackson at 18-to-1 (Caesars/William Hill)
It’s going to be difficult for anyone to keep up with the statistical production of reigning MVP/Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but the Ravens’ quarterback is one player who has proven he’s capable. See Jackson’s 2018 NFL MVP trophy for proof.
The concern is injury, as the new $260 million man has missed extended time at the end of each of the past two seasons. But at this high of a price, it’s worth the risk.
Jackson won the award five years ago, because he thrived in a unique, new offense built around his dual-threat talents. This could be a case of history repeating, with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, formerly with the University of Georgia, stepping in to build a new scheme for the QB.
NFL Week 1: Green Bay Packers +2.5 at Chicago Bears (Boyd Sports)
Yes, the Packers lost three-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a trade to the New York Jets this offseason. But Rodgers will turn 40 years old during the season and showed decline last year.
Will longtime understudy Jordan Love really be that big of a drop-off taking over as the starter? Even if Love does struggle at the start of the season, the Packers have a well-built roster around him — especially on defense.
The Bears had the worst record in the NFL last season, and their fate won’t change overnight. The Packers have won and covered in eight straight in this rivalry series, and at this price, should be well on the way to nine in a row.
To win the College Football Playoff: Ohio State at 8-to-1 (Caesars/William Hill)
Georgia and Ohio State squared off in an instant-classic national semifinal game in January, with the Bulldogs eventually overtaking the Buckeyes to win 42-41 in the final minute.
The margin was every bit as tight as the final score indicated, so there’s no good reason why Ohio State should be available at this high of a price, with Georgia at as low as +160 (i.e. risking $100 to win $160) going into this season. Both teams lost their quarterbacks to the NFL, but the Buckeyes actually have more overall returning production than the Bulldogs.
Two-time defending national champion Georgia deserves to be the favorite going into the season, but not this large of one. A few more teams than normal actually have a shot this season.
LSU and Texas are both worth a look if they creep back over 20-to-1, but for now, Ohio State is the best value on the board.
To win the Heisman Trophy: Carson Beck at 30-to-1 (SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas)
A fair consensus has formed that Georgia is the team to beat, so how is its quarterback available at this high of a price to win college football’s most prestigious award?
It’s largely because Beck hasn’t been named the starter yet, but that appears to be a formality, given reading reports out of Athens, Georgia. Beck, a fourth-year junior, has more experience than his competitor, third-year sophomore Brock Vandagriff, and far outplayed him during spring practice.
Beck, or Vandagriff, will have an embarrassment of riches around him at the skill positions to inflate statistical production. And Georgia landed a relatively easy schedule, avoiding both Alabama and LSU in the Southeastern Conference’s rotating set of inter-division opponents.
College Football Week 1: LSU -1.5 vs. Florida State (Boyd Sports)
This is the biggest game of Week 1 — two top-10 teams and sleeper national-championship picks clashing on a semineutral site in Orlando.
Florida State returns more players than any program in the nation, including virtually all of its skill players, led by quarterback Jordan Travis. But the Seminoles might be outmatched in the trenches, where the Tigers are much bigger and stronger.
LSU’s defense is also chock full of five-star prospects. The Tigers aren’t as experienced as the Seminoles on either side of the ball, but there’s a good chance LSU can overwhelm Florida athletically.
Look for this spread to close more in the range of LSU -3.5.