1. #1
    Chance Harper
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    Fade or Follow? Chiefs and Redskins make the cut

    Fade or Follow? Chiefs and Redskins make the cut

    Seasoned handicappers know better than to pay too much attention to this soap opera in Green Bay starring Bret Favre. While John Q. Public is caught up in 'As the Cheese Melts,' bettors that are serious about making coin this NFL season are busy reading reports from the various training camps and scouting the most profitable teams to fade and follow this year. The Chiefs and Redskins are among them.

    The New England Patriots? Whatever. They may have been the center of the NFL universe last year, breaking all sorts of offensive records and winning everything but the Super Bowl. But they weren’t the best team in the league from a handicapping standpoint. That honor goes to the Cleveland Browns, who experienced a renaissance under Derek Anderson (!) and finished the 2007 campaign at 12-4 against the spread.

    Likewise, the most unprofitable team in the NFL wasn’t the Miami Dolphins, but the Baltimore Ravens at 3-13 ATS. Being really bad like the Dolphins (or good like New England) isn’t necessarily enough to make a major dent in the betting odds – a team also has to confound the expectations of the betting public. Anderson was expected to flop in Cleveland; he went to the Pro Bowl. The Ravens won 13 games in 2006; they won five in 2007.

    The salary cap and the short career of the average NFL player ensure that there will be even more turnaround stories in 2008. I’ll be keeping my eye on these two teams to follow and fade:

    Follow: Kansas City Chiefs
    Last year was an absolute mess at Arrowhead Stadium. The offensive line went from mediocre to awful after the retirement of Will Shields, and running back Larry Johnson missed most of training camp in a contract holdout. Throw in a starting quarterback battle between career backup Damon Huard and untested sophomore Brodie Croyle, and the Chiefs were just asking for trouble.

    They got it. Huard and Johnson were both ineffective before injuries took them off the field. Croyle was fed to the wolves and was predictably not up to the task – few young quarterbacks are in this league. But Croyle took his lumps and should be better for it in 2008. Coach Herm Edwards already declared Croyle his starter for this year, and he’ll be operating in what should be vastly improved working conditions. New offensive co-ordinator Chan Gailey has installed a ground-based attack that will lean on Johnson’s formidable power rushing. The two-time Pro Bowler appears fully recovered from his broken foot, judging by his performance in camp thus far.

    The Chiefs’ pass defense was a solid No. 10 in the league last year in terms of efficiency, so the question on both sides of the ball remains in the trenches – the theme of this year’s NFL Draft. Kansas City scored a first-round coup with defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and offensive guard Branden Albert, who is making the move to left tackle to become Croyle’s main protector. Unfortunately, the whole thing could go haywire after both Dorsey (sprained knee) and Albert (sprained foot) were injured last week in practice.

    How quickly they heal will determine how quickly the Chiefs start winning. The betting public tends to overlook the importance of these “non-skill” positions, and Kansas City has been pegged with a pessimistic total of 5.5 wins on the futures market. The Chiefs even have a forgiving .453 strength of schedule (116-140) to work with. You can’t ask for much more as a handicapper.

    Fade: Washington Redskins
    The Redskins also hired a new offensive co-ordinator, but then they promoted him to head coach two weeks later. Jim Zorn is now the man in charge following the end of Joe Gibbs’ second stint in Washington. Zorn was clearly not the Skins’ first choice – Steve Spagnuolo turned them down to stay with the defending champion New York Giants. This is the kind of palace intrigue that you often see at the low point in a dynastic cycle.

    Zorn and his new coaching staff have the task of rebuilding a team that has all kinds of problems. QB Jason Campbell got a lot of praise last year as a young prospect, but after 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Washington was 5-7 and needed Todd Collins (five TDs, zero INTs) to save the day with four straight wins and a trip to the playoffs.

    Campbell will have to develop quickly if the Redskins are going to come close to their over/under of eight regular season victories. That’s unlikely to happen on a team burdened with underperforming veterans and a series of training camp injuries, especially on the offensive line. Adding to Washington’s degree of difficulty: a .523 strength of schedule (134-122). Times are going to be tough.

  2. #2
    Willie Bee
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    As long as the Redskins beat Jerry's kids twice, I'll be happy this NFL season.

  3. #3
    swifty's Avatar Become A Pro!
    Join Date: 02-22-06
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    Washington look good they will make the superbowl in 2009..... Opps New England will beat them in the super bowl.