JJ Watt to Cardinals odds fallout: Watt signing improves Arizona's NFC West betting futures more than 20 percent, regular-season win total to 9.2 via SportsLine Projection Model

In a bit of a surprise, former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt will sign with the Arizona Cardinals -- who saw their odds to win the NFC West improve.
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In the 2019 NFL season, the Houston Texans had two of the best players at their position in the league in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and defensive end JJ Watt. They helped lead the Texans to a 10-6 record, AFC South Division title and a wild-card win over Buffalo. In 2021, Hopkins and Watt will both be members of the Arizona Cardinals as Watt in a fairly decent surprise has chosen to sign with the Cards over the likes of the Bills, Browns, Titans, Packers and Steelers – those were all playoff teams last season, while Arizona wasn't. The SportsLine Projection Model forecasts Watt improving the Cards across the board, and their NFC West futures also have improved via William Hill Sportsbook.

One could argue that the Cardinals got Hopkins and Watt for the stupidly low price of running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-rounder – that's a steal! Hopkins was traded to Arizona last March for those assets in a major blunder by then-Texans coach and general manager Bill O'Brien, who has long since been fired from both roles. Hopkins helped "recruit" Watt to sign with Arizona.

Watt, who was scheduled to make around $17.6 million in 2021 with the Texans before the sides mutually agreed to part ways, is getting a two-year, $31 million deal that includes $23 million guaranteed. While free agency doesn't officially open until March 17, Watt can sign immediately because he was released from his prior team.

Arizona was 6-3 at one point this past season and competing for the NFC West title but then lost five of its final seven to finish 8-8 and lose out on a wild card spot on the final day of the regular season. The Cards' defense was middle of the pack in allowing 351.9 yards per game and 22.9 points. The team was fourth with 48 sacks despite losing top pass-rusher Chandler Jones after just five games to a season-ending injury.

In 2020, Watt ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass-rush win rate. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five-time first-team All-Pro finished the season with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception he returned for a touchdown. Vance Joseph, the Cardinals' defensive coordinator, was a defensive backs coach for Houston when Watt began his career.

Based on Arizona's known 16-game schedule for 2021 – but a 17th game will be added and the Cardinals likely will face the Browns in Cleveland; the Cards also do host Houston – the SportsLine Projection Model (see below) had forecasted the club for 8.8 wins, a 15.9 percent chance of winning the loaded NFC West and 49.3 percent shot at the playoffs. With Watt, those numbers rise to 9.2 wins, 21.6 percent and 58.5 percent, respectively.

At William Hill, Arizona has already dropped from +700 to win the NFC West to +550 (about 21 percent better). Those are still the longest odds in the division with the Rams as +175 favorites. No change yet on odds to win the NFC or Super Bowl 56. 

Before 8.8 55.00% 15.90% 49.30% 5.30% 2.20%
w/ Watt 9.2 57.50% 21.60% 58.50% 7.60% 3.20%
Difference 0.4 2.50% 5.70% 9.20% 2.30% 1.00%

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it returned over $5,000 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks last season. The model is also up almost $8,500 on top-rated NBA picks over the past two-plus seasons. Dating back to last season, it enters Week 11 of the 2020-21 NBA schedule on a stunning 85-52 roll on top-rated NBA picks against the spread. Anybody who has followed it has seen HUGE returns.

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