Chicago over 9.5 -115 2 units
The Bears were 11-5 and made it to the NFC Championship game in 2010 and last year they were 7-3 before Jay Cutler and Matt Forte went down. Brandon Marshall comes in to bolster their receiving corps and Mike Martz leaves as offensive coordinator, which is addition by subtraction because they never fit his scheme. The defense will be solid as always, even with their linebackers aging, with strong defensive line and secondary play. They’re one of the best teams in the league and should go over here.
Cincinnati under 8 -140 4 units
The Bengals made a 5 game improvement last season to go from 4 wins to 9 wins. If history holds, they’ll regress this year as teams that make that kind of improvement regress an average of 2.4 wins per season since the beginning of the 16 game NFL season. They only need to regress 1 game to push here and 2 games to make me money. Andy Dalton had a rough preseason and really struggled in games against playoff teams last season, during which he went 0-8. The Bengals were also hit hard by injuries this preseason as offensive lineman Kyle Cook and Travelle Wharton are both expected to miss the season, with Wharton already on IR.
Detroit under 9 -140 2 units
In order to win 10 or more games, the Lions would have to improve their win total for the 4th straight season. In the up and down NFL, that rarely happens. Their running back depth chart is basically the same as their injured list. They finished last season 5-7, including playoffs. They had a distraction filled offseason and they needed an NFL record 4 comebacks of 13 points or more to even win 10 games last year, because of how bad their passing defense is. It’s not any better this season and if the offense doesn’t bail them out at a record rate again, they could regress.
Indianapolis over 5.5 -115 3 units
Historically, when an over/under win total is 6 or lower, the over hits about 2 of 3 three times. I wish I liked more of the lower over/under totals this year, but I do like the Colts. Andrew Luck doesn’t have much of a supporting cast, but he should prove to be a franchise quarterback from the word go and with an easy schedule, they should be able to at least match the 6 wins the Panthers got last year. Besides, sticking with the bounce back principle, since the start of a 16 game season, teams that regress 8 wins win on average 5.0 more the following season. Obviously losing Peyton Manning hurts, but I like their chances to cover the over here.
New Orleans over 10 +140 2 units
Call me crazy, but if anyone can handle the offseason the Saints just had, it’s Drew Brees and the Saints. The offense will still be great with Drew Brees as essentially an assistant coach and the schemes not changing up much, while they should be improved defensively with the additions of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne at linebacker and Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. Spags is known for getting the most out of defensive linemen and pass rushers and that was the Saints’ weakness last season. Under normal circumstances, they’d be my Super Bowl pick. Under these circumstances, I’ll just take them to win double digit games with positive juice.
Oakland under 7 -110 3 units
The Raiders’ Pythagorean Expectation last year suggested they should have won 6 games, not 8, as they went 7-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less, the most wins of that kind of any team last season. Even if they regress to that 6 win total, I win this bet, but the Raiders also lost their top cornerback Stanford Routt and their top pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley in free agency. If that’s not enough, starting linebacker Aaron Curry could be out for the year and will be replaced in the starting lineup by a 4th round rookie and defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour are both going into their age 33 seasons, with the latter already dealing with a bad knee.
Philadelphia over 10 +110 1 unit
I have the Eagles making a big improvement this season. The problem is so does everyone else so this line is already 2 games better than their win total last year. However, I love the way they finished once the pressure was off and once defensive coordinator Juan Castillo made the necessary schematic changes and moved Nnamdi Asomugha back to where he was comfortable. They also fell short their Pythagorean Expectation by close to 2 wins last year, as it suggested they were about a 10 win team. They did this despite having more than 35 turnovers. That number should decrease this year. Teams that have that many turnovers average about 28.3 turnovers on average the next season, while teams that have 20 or fewer turnovers average 26.3 turnovers on average the next season. Less turnovers will mean more wins and those types of teams average 1.61 more wins the next season.
San Francisco under 10 -145 2 units
Consider the 49ers the anti-Eagles, at least with turnovers. They had 10 turnovers last year, an NFL record. Teams that have fewer than 20 turnovers win, on average, 2.69 fewer games the next season. The same is true for takeaways. Teams with 35 or more have had 10.58 fewer turnovers and 2 fewer wins in their next season. The 49ers forced 38, for a turnover differential of +28, best in the league over the past decade. Teams with differential of +15 have had a differential 16.35 points lower and won 2.3 fewer games the following season .Meanwhile, the 49ers also improved 7 games last year and teams that do that win, on average, 4.5 fewer games the next season. Along the same lines, since 2003, of the 16 teams who have gone from out of the playoffs to a 1st round bye (like the 49ers did last year), 7 did the opposite thing the following season, and those teams won an average of 3.2 fewer games the following season.
St. Louis over 6 -125 3 units
With the 49ers going down in the NFC West, it opens a door for another team. The Rams have as good a chance as any other team and I get to pick the over on a line of 6 or fewer, which I love doing. The Rams improved 6 games in 2010, but, as could have been predictable, regressed 5 games last year. They should bounce back this year. Teams that regress 5 games win an average of 1.6 more the following season. The Rams were destroyed by injuries last year and should have better healthy in the secondary and on the offensive line, where they also added key free agents. A healthier offensive line should lead to a healthier and better Sam Bradford under center, while, on the defensive side of the ball, they have one of the league’s best defensive lines and should be able to win some games with strong defense, running the football, and decent quarterback play.
St. Louis to win NFC West +900 1 unit
Read the last two entries. Their odds to win this division are much better than 9 to 1.
Packers to win Super Bowl (+600) 1 unit
Yeah, it’s boring and it’s “chalk,” but they’re that good. I love the 6 to 1 odds.
Cleveland +1000 to make playoffs .5 unit
Indianapolis +750 to make playoffs .5 unit
Jacksonville +1000 to make playoffs .5 unit
Minnesota +700 to make playoffs.5 unit
St. Louis +600 to make playoffs.5 unit
Tampa Bay +500 to make playoffs .5 unit
Washington +450 to make playoffs .5 unit
I love this one. If history holds, one of these teams will make the playoffs. These are the 7 teams that finished 5-11 or worse last season and a team like that has gone on to make the playoffs in each of the last 10 years. If it’s St. Louis, Tampa Bay, or Washington, I’m out a little bit of money. If it’s any of the other 4 (more than 50%), either break even or win money and if two of them make it, I’m well on the positive side no matter what.
Luke Kuechly +450 to win defensive rookie of the year 1 unit
Unless there is a stud pass rusher, the top linebacker normally wins this because of all the tackles they rack up. Luke Kuechly is one of the top true linebacker prospects in years (Von Miller does not count) and no pass rusher went in the top-15.
Matt Ryan +100 to go over 4200 yards 3 units
Matt Ryan had 4177 last season and now he has Julio Jones poised for a monster year and a new offensive coordinator who wants to open things up more. At the very least, he’ll exceed his yardage total on pure volume after passing just 566 times last season.
Joe Flacco -130 to go over 3500 yards 2 units
Flacco hasn’t gone under 3500 yards since his rookie year in 2008 and now the Ravens are opening up the offense and will be passing more and, also like Matt Ryan, he has a budding 2nd year receiver, Torrey Smith. Unless he gets hurt, this is a pretty safe bet.
Cam Newton -130 to go under 9 rushing touchdowns 3 units
Newton’s 14 rushing touchdowns last year was one of the biggest flukes I’ve ever seen. Steve Young is the leader in career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and he had 43 and never topped out at more than 7. Newton will run less this year to preserve his body and while he could see a big chunk of their goal line carries again, there might not be as many as there were last year. The Panthers could also opt to have one of three talented backs, Mike Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart punch it in again. I don’t see Newton going into double digits for the 2nd straight year, which, unsurprisingly, has never even been close to being done.
Andrew Luck +250 to break single season rookie passing yards record (4051) .5 units
Not a big bet, but the combination of a terrible defense and running game forcing Luck to throw early and often and Luck’s talent as arguably the best quarterback prospect of the decade make this is interesting bet. For the record, Newton ranked just 10th in passing yards last year when he set the record. Luck can do that. The odds are definitely much better than 5:2.
Justin Blackmon -115 to go under 850.5 receiving yards 2 units
Discounting Julio Jones and AJ Green (outliers), since the 2005 NFL Draft, 22 receivers have gone in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. In their rookie years, they have averaged 37 catches for 524 yards and 3 touchdowns. And this is not a group of busts. This group includes, among others, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Britt, Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Robert Meachem, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Roddy White. The leader in rookie production among those 22, strangely Dwayne Bowe, who caught 70 passes for 995 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2007. That just proves how special Julio Jones’ and AJ Green’s rookie years were, but I don’t see that happening for Blackmon. It’s too improbable, especially with Blaine Gabbert throwing him the football. Both Larry Fitzgerald (780 and Calvin Johnson (756) went under that number as rookies.
Percy Harvin -115 to go over 900.5 receiving yards 3 units
Harvin had 967 yards last year with inconsistencies at quarterback. A 2nd year Christian Ponder should be a little bit better and healthier and have more time to throw under an improved offensive line. Harvin is their only true receiving threat and caught 56 passes for 665 yards and 5 touchdowns in his team’s final 8 games last year, as things at quarterback started to get better. On top of that, he had a mini “holdout,” and rightfully so, because of his playing time, after ranking 2nd on the team in wide receiver snaps played last year, behind Devin Aromashodu.
Mark Sanchez -115 to go under 3200 passing yards 1 unit
Taking a shot that he gets benched at some point this season, in which case the under will win easily here. Even if he starts all 16 games, he’s no sure thing to throw for more than this many yards with his miserable receiving corps on what figures to be a very run heavy offense.
Jake Locker -130 to go over 3300 passing yards 1 unit
Unless he gets benched, he exceed this total. For more on why, click here.
Jake Locker -115 to go over 17.5 passing touchdowns.
I’m all in on the Jake Locker train this season. Actually, I’m all in on the Titans.