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NFL Futures Picks: Bet Steelers Win Total and Jared Goff Interceptions

NFL Futures Picks: Bet Steelers Win Total and Jared Goff Interceptions article feature image
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Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images. Pictured: TJ Watt (left).

Welcome back to yet another edition of Futures Friday!

Every Friday, we zoom out from the game-to-game trees and consider the whole NFL forest. We’ll take a look around the league and talk big-picture awards, season leaders, playoff odds and more as we look to the future.

Too many bettors think of futures as dart throws to make prior to the season before crossing their fingers, waiting six months and hoping for the best. Instead, we’re playing the market every week, buying low and selling high, building a deep and varied portfolio that should give us big line value and long-term upside.

Today, we’ve got one team win total and one season leaders bet.

Over 5.5 Wins (+110, DraftKings)

It feels like the Steelers are mostly an afterthought.

And that’s pretty weird, right? The Steelers are one franchise that’s almost never an afterthought. You probably know the crazy Mike Tomlin stat about how he’s never finished below .500 even once since taking over the Pittsburgh job in 2007. Turns out that will keep a franchise pretty relevant.

But at 2-6 at the season’s midpoint, that streak seems very much in jeopardy, especially in the uber-competitive AFC. With so many teams in contention, most pundits have left the Steelers for dead.

But I’m not sure they’re dead just yet.

The bye week, badly needed for Kenny Pickett and the offense, came at just the right moment.

Pickett was thrown into the fire unexpectedly at halftime of the Jets game and subsequently made three of his first four starts on the road (at Bills, Dolphins and Eagles) against three of the four leading MVP candidates. The Steelers did win the one home game in that stretch (against the Bucs), and close losses to the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins look much better in hindsight.

It’s a pretty tough ask for your rookie QB to begin his career against Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Suffice it to say that the extra week to settle in and build a better scheme around Pickett’s strengths should do this team wonders.

More importantly — and that’s saying something — this Pittsburgh defense finally had a chance to get healthy.

T.J. Watt is back, and he changes everything for this team. Watt is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and the Steelers ranked 13th in defensive DVOA and top 10 against the pass with him on the field last season. In the two games he missed, the Steelers defense plummeted to 30th.

This year, the Steelers ranked third in Watt’s one game, but fell to 31st in the games without him. Pittsburgh leads the league in sacks in five consecutive years when Watt is on the field.

Watt might be the single biggest impact defensive player. He truly changes everything for this unit. Without him, Pittsburgh’s defense has been about as bad as anyone’s, especially against that murderer’s row of QBs. With Watt, the Steelers are a top-10 defense, and often top five against the pass.

It’s not just Watt. Safety Damontae Kazee is finally healthy, and the rest of the secondary is on the mend after missing one-to-three starters for most of the last month. This defense is about to go from the outhouse to the penthouse. In my defensive positions matrix, a healthy Pittsburgh defense grades out as a top-five unit.

A short home underdog to the Saints, the Steelers are one of my top plays of Week 10. And I’ll tell you right now I already love Pittsburgh as a home underdog in Week 11 to the rival Bengals, who will likely still be without Ja’Marr Chase. The Steelers could easily win one or both of these home games with their revitalized defense.

Pittsburgh has faced the league’s most difficult schedule thus far, per Football Outsiders. Every one of its opponents have ranked top 13 in DVOA! But the remaining schedule is just the 20th-most difficult and, honestly, every game looks winnable.

A refreshed and dominant Steelers defense could make them favorites in games against the Colts, Falcons, Panthers, Raiders and Browns.

Tomlin covers 71% of the time as an underdog from Week 5 forward, always dangerous in that spot, and he’s 13-4 straight up as a home dog. Even two games against Baltimore are likely to be close, because they always are — 11 of the last 14 matchups have been one-score affairs.

If Pittsburgh’s defense is back and Watt is ready to go, this team will have chances to win. This is a proud franchise that absolutely wants to try to salvage its season and that .500 streak. They also already have their franchise QB going forward in Pickett, so there’s no pressing need to tank for a high draft pick.

These in-season team totals have been profitable plays this season. We played Seahawks over 5.5 in mid-October at plus odds and already cashed that ticket. We grabbed Colts under 8.5 the following week and are feeling pretty good there. This Steelers over could also cash well before the end of the season.

I project the Steelers at 6.8 wins, and if Pittsburgh beats Baltimore in one of those two games, this over should be a wrap. Even if they don’t, there are plenty of paths for Pickett and this refreshed defense to get to six wins. I’m grabbing the over at plus money while it’s still there.

Jared Goff, Interceptions Leader (+1400, bet365)

The interceptions leader market looks soft right now.

Matt Ryan leads the league with nine, but he’s been benched and might not play again. Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford are up next with eight each, but both are injured and could miss time.

Davis Mills and Kenny Pickett also have eight. Pickett’s eight have come in 4.5 games, so he’s the betting favorite, but half of those came on two tipped passes, a Hail Mary and a play his receiver fell down. They still count, but that means they’re less predictive going forward. And if you listened to our season leaders Action Network Podcast in the preseason, you might have a Pickett 50-1 ticket already anyway.

Jared Goff is one of a handful of players next down the line with seven interceptions. He is an intriguing play — shout out to Kullen Koelker on Twitter for pointing this one out and asking me if it was a good angle.

Turns out it’s a great one! Who doesn’t want to bet against Goff?

The interceptions leader has had 15 and 17 picks the last two seasons, so we’re looking for about one per game. Goff has thrown at least one interception in all but two games this season.

Goff’s 2.3% interception rate since the start of the 2019 season is not horrendous, but it’s not good. You want that number below 2.0, and the best QBs are closer to 1.0. Goff has thrown 44 interceptions in 53 games since, an average of about five picks every six games, or 0.83 per game.

Right now, even if nothing changes, Goff is on pace to throw 14.9 interceptions. That would likely put him heavily in the mix for this “award.”

But it gets better. Goff already has 15 turnover-worthy passes this season, per PFF. That ranks third in the NFL behind only Josh Allen and Kyler Murray, the latter of which also dealing with an injury.

Goff’s 4.7% turnover worthy play rate is among the five highest QBs in the league. In other words, he’s making bad throws and should almost certainly have more than seven interceptions so far. Those sort of things tend to even out in the long run.

Six of Goff’s nine remaining games are against an opponent that ranks in the top quarter of the league in passes intercepted. That includes tough defenses like the Bills and Jets — even his Week 10 opponent, the Bears, rank top five in interceptions and will face Goff again in Week 17.

There’s one more important consideration.

To lead the league in interceptions, you need to be bad, but juuust good enough to not get benched. And doesn’t that sound like the very definition of Goff?

Goff has been very durable in his career, and there’s little reason to think he’ll get benched. Only Nate Sudfeld and Tim Boyle are behind Goff on Detroit’s depth chart, and they sound more like characters from “The Office than NFL quarterbacks. There’s no young QB to develop or turn to. The Lions want to win and establish a winning culture, and they probably also want to make Goff look good and boost his potential trade value.

He’s not going anywhere, so the interceptions may come flocking in like the salmon of Capistrano.

Come on, Jared Goff — throw some interceptions. He’s never led the league in that category yet, and that just feels like a missing bullet point from an ever mediocre resume. Could this be the year he gets over the hump? Let’s find out at +1400.

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