Kansas City Chiefs to make the playoffs +250
I didn’t really see any value with over 7.5 (-175) on the Chiefs, but I thought it was a little strange their odds to make the playoffs were this high. The odds makers seen fairly certain they’ll win 7 and probably 8 games, but the AFC sucks. 9 wins can get you into the playoffs. The Chiefs have legitimate talent around the quarterback and the Alex Smith/Andy Reid combination should stabilize their Head Coaching situation, their quarterback situation, and their league worst turnover margin. Add in a last place schedule in arguably the easiest division in football in by far the easier of the two conferences and I think this is a playoff team. One team goes from 5 wins or fewer to the playoffs every year.
12/30/13: The Chiefs rode one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and a turnover margin that not only stabilized, but went all the way up to +18, one of the best in the NFL. They won 11 games and got the AFC’s 5th seed.
Minnesota Vikings under 7 wins -125
One team also does the opposite and I think the Vikings are the team to do it this year. They weren’t actually far from being one of the 3 worst teams in the NFC last year according to DVOA. DVOA had them as the 9th best team in the NFC, making the playoffs because of a 5-1 record in close games, and there wasn’t much distance between them and the 14th ranked team in the NFC. Give them a tougher schedule, an even more improved conference, more injuries (2nd fewest in the league last year), and a more human season from Adrian Peterson and I think they’re below than 5 wins threshold. This bet gives me 2 games of buffer.
12/30/13: The Vikings did go from in the playoffs to 5 wins or fewer. Adrian Peterson had a very good year, but he didn’t come close to setting any records and the rotating carousel of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and Josh Freeman at quarterback couldn’t find stability. Their aging defense saw more injuries and was one of the worst in the NFL.
Carolina Panthers to win NFC South +350, to make playoffs +220, and over 7.5 wins -140
There’s also a team that goes from out of the playoffs to a first round bye every year. I think that’s the Panthers, who finished last year 6-3 with wins over Washington, Atlanta, and in New Orleans. Their defense surrendered just 21.2 points per game in the final 12 games of last season, after they moved Luke Kuechly to middle linebacker, despite playing 8 top-16 scoring offenses in that stretch. Now they add Star Lotulelei, Kawaan Short, and return Jon Beason. Offensively, they scored 26.0 points per game in the final 8 games of the season as Cam Newton shook off his early season sophomore slump. That’s no fluke as they scored 25.4 points per game in 2011. Going into his 3rd year in the league, I expect the best season of his career from Newton. They could possibly have a top-10 offense and defense.
12/30/13: Had this one perfectly, as the Panthers went 12-4, won the NFC South, and got the 2nd seed in the NFC, as I projected them to before the season. After Cam Newton started 2-12 in his career in games decided by a touchdown or less, he went 5-2 in such games this year. In the beginning of his career, he “didn’t know how to win.” Now he “wills his team to victory.” It’s an insufferable narrative 180. Defensively, Luke Kuechly and Greg Hardy were among the best in the NFL at their positions, Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short had strong rookie years, and Thomas Davis’ return (not Jon Beason’s) helped their linebacking corps tremendously. Their makeshift secondary also held up very well, thanks to the performances of Melvin White, Captain Munnerlyn, Drayton Florence, Mike Mitchell, and Quintin Mikell, on one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Baltimore Ravens to make playoffs +130, over 8.5 wins -125
Their demise has been greatly exaggerated. Sure, they didn’t look good week 1, but I don’t think there were many teams that could beat Peyton Manning when he was playing like that. It’s important not to over-react, which naturally everyone is doing with the 3 day layover. For that reason, I wish I made these bets after week 1, but I still like both of these bets.
12/30/13: Came close on the 8.5 win one, but lost both of these. The defense actually ended up being much better than I thought, shaking off that 49 point performance week 1 (not the first time Manning would torch a defense), but the offense was close to the worst in the NFL. Joe Flacco’s regressed big time statistically, but it wasn’t all his fault. Torrey Smith was their only receiver to provide Flacco with a consistent target, Ray Rice struggled mightily through a hip injury, and the offensive line fell apart as Michael Oher flopped in his contract year, Kelechi Osemele got hurt, and first time starter Gino Gradkowski was horrible.
Atlanta Falcons to miss playoffs +160
A lot of good teams for not a lot of playoff spots in the NFC. One team always goes from a first round bye to out of the playoffs and the Falcons are by far the most likely to do so this season. 10 wins might not be enough for a playoff spot in the NFC. The average 13 win team wins 9.5 games the following season and, in 2012, the Falcons benefitted from a 7-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, an unsustainably high fumble recovery rate and turnover margin, and a schedule that featured just 2 eventual playoff teams. They also return just 2 starters in their original spot on an offensive line whose biggest strength is continuity and they lost their top pass rusher John Abraham.
12/30/13: They did this and then some, finishing 4-12. Two things that had been historically friendly to the Falcons in the Mike Smith era, close games and turnovers, did not go in their favor this season and they also had a ton of injuries, particularly on an aging defense that saw veterans Asante Samuel and Osi Umenyiora both get benched by the end of the season.
New England Patriots over 11 wins +130
The AFC East should give them 5 wins at the very least. They’d only need to go 6-4 in their only 10 games to at least push this bet and I think they have a much better chance at 12 wins than 10. A lot has been made about what they’ve lost in the receiving corps, but before 2007, they had 5 different leading receivers in 7 years and only Moss, who came over from a 4th round pick, ever did anything before or after leaving New England. Aaron Hernandez is also gone, but Brady somehow played better without him last season, which just solidifies my point that receivers don’t really matter to him. The offensive line is still one of the best in the league and they’ll still be able to run the ball. Defensively, their young squad played well to end last season and may have finally matured.
12/30/13: This wasn’t as automatic as I thought, but the Patriots pulled out their 8th 12 win season in the past 13 seasons, a remarkable feat. They had a lot of luck in close games, but lucky is not a good way to describe the 2013 Patriots given how many injuries they suffered.
Oakland Raiders under 5 wins -165
I hate taking publicly bet sides and paying huge juice, but the Raiders are terrible. They’re going to have a hard time winning the 4 games they won last year, let alone winning the 6 that would lose this bet for me. They have 50+ million in dead money on their cap and of their top-10 cap numbers, 6 are dead money guys, 1 is a kicker, and one is a backup quarterback. They lost arguably their top best defensive players in Philip Wheeler and Desmond Bryant, as well as starting defensive back Michael Huff, and leading receiver Brandon Myers, while top offensive player, left tackle Jared Veldheer, is expected to miss 10-12 games with a torn triceps.
12/30/13: This was another one I had to sweat out as the scrappy Raiders started 4-5, but they eventually fell back down to earth and lost their final 7 games.
Indianapolis Colts under 8.5 wins -110
They won just 2 came by more than double digits last season and beat just 3 teams that finished with 8 or more wins. If they want to come close to 11 wins again, they’ll have to play much, much better than they did last season. A few solid off-season additions and a 2nd year Andrew Luck could do that, but this number is high enough that I’m comfortable making this play.
12/30/13: This is the other one I missed on. There were times that the Colts looked like their 2012 selves, barely beating Oakland, Houston (once), Tennessee (twice), losing to Miami and St. Louis, getting blown out by Cincinnati and Arizona, but they also beat Denver, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Seattle, blew out Jacksonville (twice), and Houston (once). They were probably the most unpredictable team in the NFL this season and they probably, overall, weren’t as good as their 11-5 record as they were helped out by a good record in close games again, but they were noticeably better than 2012 and could be very dangerous in the post-season if they get hot. Overall, I’m fine with going 8-3 on these 11 prop bets, especially since a lot of them had strong juices.