NFL Preview Part One: The AFC
You can find the NFC here.
One of my favorite rituals while waiting for the season to start is predicting the win-loss records for each team and applying them to futures bets I never make.
Why do I spend so much time researching bets I don’t bother playing? I like to think it pays off later in the season. Besides, it’s always fun to nail something like your 2007 NFC West Champion, the St. Louis Rams.
There are many reasons I rarely play win futures. For starters, as you’re about to read, it’s not as simple as, “The Pats are 12, so I’ll take the over!”
The reality is that the bet is: Pats 12 wins Over (-145), which means you’re paying $145 to win $100.
And that sucks.
You’re also waiting a whole four months before you lose your bet, and what fun is that? You could be using that money to lay bets on Sunday morning, of which you can find that you’ve lost your money by Sunday afternoon. So why wait?
To be honest though, if I had a big enough bankroll to throw down a $1,000 on the handful win futures that are worth it I’d do it. Of course, there’re pesky things like college funds, retirement, and reality that get in the way of that.
I’ll preview the AFC today, and get to the NFC tomorrow.
Kansas City 5.5 W, O (-120) U (even) Proj. 4-12
There’s not a lot to like here. Tony G. and Dwayne Bowe...that’s about it. What else is there? Larry Johnson is running behind what looks like the worst line in football, my uncle Ricky’s semipro team has already agreed to terms with Croyle’s agent when he gets cut, (I advised him against it, but he never listens to me), and their best defensive player was traded to the Vikings...they’re rebuilding.
Oakland 6 W, O (-145) U (+115) Proj. 5-11
The over/under is six, and Vegas wants you to take the under. I like the under, so who’s wrong? Well, we know the Raiders can run, they’ve got a decent defense, and they play in a weak division. So how do I justify five wins?
Buffalo, San Diego (twice), Saints, Jets, Panthers, Pats, Texans, and Bucs. They’ll probably split with KC, get one with Denver, if they’re lucky, and the only other teams that aren’t substantially better on their schedule are Miami, Baltimore, and Atlanta.
Darren McFadden is going off at 50-1 to win the rushing title. They can run, and Fargas has never been the healthiest guy.
Denver 7.5 W, O (-180) U (+150) Proj. 7-9
Yet another where I disagree with the experts. For starters, Selvin Young is talking about 2,000 yards, so if you drafted him, my condolences. The defensive line hasn’t been improved, and I don’t think the addition of Niko Koutouvides and Boss Bailey are going to help a hell of a lot.
What we’re left with is a middle-of-the-road offense and a defense that’s not very good after Champ Bailey. Seven wins might be too much.
San Diego 10.5 W, O (-210) U (+170) Proj. 10-6
With a healthy Merriman, I’d pencil them in for 13-3. Without him, 9-7 seems more appropriate. It looks like he’s going to play, but he won’t be the same player. Four wins is quite a big swing, but without Merriman, the Chargers will struggle to pressure the quarterback, and the best defense in the league suddenly becomes pedestrian.
So let’s go 10-6. They should still win the division.
Miami 5.5 W, O (even) U (-130) Proj. 4-12
Do you think Parcells is respected? Even with the improvements to the rest of the division, the line is at 5.5, which looks like easy money until reality (-130) sets in.
Buffalo 7.5 W, O (-160) U (+130) Proj. 9-7
It gets cold in Buffalo. So cold they can’t sell out December home games and will play a home game in Toronto this year. They end the season with (Home in caps) SF, MIA, Nyj, Den, and a very winnable home game against the Pats in Week 17. That stretch has 3-2 or maybe even 4-1 written all over it.
New York 8 W, O (-160) U (+130) Proj. 9-7
I think the difference between New York and Buffalo is going to be Week 15 at home. The winner might get to flip a coin with the third place team in the South for the final playoff birth.
The Jets open the season with a gimmie against Miami before playing New England and San Diego back-to-back. They then come home and play Arizona before the bye. If Arizona can come into New York and leave the Jets at 1-3, the media may turn on golden boy, and if that happens, all bets are off.
New England 12 W, O (-145) U (+115) Proj. 15-1
The book doesn’t want any action on the Patriots. 12 wins is absurdly low, unless Brady isn’t ready to play. As a result, the book makes it unprofitable to bet the over, and the under doesn’t pay anywhere close to how much it should.
For the second-straight year, the Pats have one of the easiest schedules in football, and this year, would you bet they don’t come in motivated to rectify 18-1?
Pittsburgh 9 W, O (even) U (-130) Proj. 8-8
Before you cry foul Steeler fans, look at the under.
I see one more season on the top, sort of how Seattle holds down the NFC West. We know the D isn’t as good, the line gives up too many hits on the quarterback, and Vegas does not want you to take the under.
Now this is what I think: I think their schedule is brutal and they won’t have one game where they’re an overwhelming favorite. I think the AFC North winner will have a 4-2 record within the division, and the worst team (Cinci) will go 2-4.
I think Pittsburgh wins eight games this year and finishes substantially better than their record.
Cleveland 8 W, O (-115) U (-115) Proj. 7-9
Some red flags with this team:
-Peter King raved about the cafeteria during the first week of camp but ended the preseason with the impression that the team lacks a sense of urgency. Convincing Peter King that you’re playing with urgency is like when your grandmother corners you and starts talking about Jesus. It doesn’t take much to please her.
-Everyone is rooting for them.
-Their starting quarterback suffered a concussion (never a good sign).
-The defense struggled against the run and the pass last year, and as a result, they traded their best defensive playing for an inconsistent defensive tackle from Detroit whose never played nose tackle before.
-If C.C. Sabathia is any indication, Cleveland is on a losing streak.
Most Passing Yards: Derek Anderson (25-1)
Baltimore 6 W, O (-120) U (even) Proj. 7-9
If Flacco (or later Smith, after he gets benched) can come in and manage the game, and McGahee and Rice can run effectively, the defense will bounce back after a disappointing season and they will take the division.
(Flacco and Smith won’t be able to do that.)
Cincinnati 7 W, O (-145) U (+115) Proj. 5-11
Quick, pile on the under!
Tennessee 8 W, O (+110) U (-140) Proj. 8-8
A couple of years ago, I was watching the Rose Bowl, and this quarterback with the worst throwing motion I ever saw marched down the field to topple USC, and I remember thinking to myself, "How’d he make it that far without knowing how to throw?"
Sometimes I wonder what happened to that guy.
(An unrelated aside: Does anyone else think Dave Navarro is looking like Michael Jackson? Watching the Gong Show while I’m finishing this up...never seen it before...where’s the remote?)
Indianapolis 11 W, O (-105) U (-125) Proj. 9-7
This is the first season in years where Indy’s no longer a lock for the playoffs. They come into the season with a lot of unanswered questions:
-Is Manning 100%?
-Do they have the depth to replace Jeff Saturday?
-Where are Freeney and Harrison, are they still effective?
-Can Bob Sanders stay healthy?
The loss of Saturday is bigger than anyone seems to realize. Offensive line is crucial to the success of the offense, and the center is the leader of the line.
Peyton has the same problem with his knee that Harrison had last year...the early word was that he recovered from the same injury in college and recovered to play in a bowl game a month later. Now he’s 32. There’s a big difference between the recovery time of a guy in his early 30s, and a guy in his early 20s.
Jacksonville 10 W, O (-110) U (even) Proj. 9-7
Jacksonville has spent the last two seasons as an elite team. They come into the season as a popular Super Bowl pick, but they worry me. Their defense fell off a bit last year, and we won’t know if their defense is back until the season starts.
The offense succeeded last year because they ran the ball well, and Garrard played out of his mind. Expect them to keep running well, but it’s not realistic to expect him to throw six TDs for every interception this year.
He’s coming back to earth. He’s still going to be a good QB, I still see them making the playoffs, but I just won’t be making any reservations come February.
Houston 7.5 W, O (-145) U (+115) Proj. 11-5
The Colts don’t appear healthy and can’t seem to stay that way. Jacksonville will turn the ball over this season, and they both have brutal schedules. Houston has a tough schedule as well, but it’s a little softer.
Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson lit the world on fire before they went down with their respective injuries. Mario Williams looks like he might be the best defensive end in football, and he’s surrounded by a young, talented defense that looks ready to take the next step forward.
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