We look at the NFL odds for three teams that could potentially go under their respective season win total for many different reasons, making them valuable NFL picks.
Buffalo Bills (8.5 | -120 to -105)
New head coach Rex Ryan is a top-of-the-line defensive specialist, and you might see how his defection to the Buffalo Bills would only build on their biggest strength. But Ryan is also a consistent tinkerer of quarterbacks, and this roster just doesn't have anyone who can get the job done on that front. When your depth chart is creating situations in which Tyrod Taylor is praised as a potential starter, that's a major flaw. And with Ryan's offenses, that sort of thing is a feature rather than a bug.
Yet this situation occurs over and over again for Ryan teams. And here's the real problem: the Bills have a bad offensive line that they're relying on rookies and castaways to fix, and LeSean McCoy is coming off a lost season in one of the best offenses a NFL running back can play in. I don't think the Bills are going to be a four-win team or something like that, but you can't turn every NFL game into a 1970s grindhouse track and think you'll win nine of them.
San Francisco 49ers (8.5 – 6.5 | -110 to -205)
This offseason saw San Francisco 49ers coaches and players flee the front office as if they were on The Walking Dead. The aftermath leaves the 49ers with about half of the offense and little of the defense from their last Super Bowl team. Except instead of Jim Harbaugh, they're now coached by Jim Tomsula – a man who literally has never been a head coach anywhere in his life. Even at a high school or in NFL Europe. The new offensive coordinator, Geep Chryst, only has experience at the position melding the 1999-2000 San Diego Chargers. That's right, he's got Ryan Leaf's stink on him.
So it's not really a surprise that Vegas can't make these lines low enough, and that they've already started to adjust the payoffs down and the number of wins have been dragged down. My guess is that we haven't seen the nadir yet in San Francisco. And while I like quarterback Colin Kaepernick to have a bounce-back fantasy football season with a lot of garbage-time stats, I can't in good conscience believe that this team is finishing ahead of anyone in the NFC West. That smells like a six-win team at best.
Cleveland Browns (6.5-6 | -135 to -145)
Josh McCown is one of the worst starting quarterbacks of the past 10 years, and the Cleveland press is treating him like he cured polio just because he can competently run a practice. That's your first clue with this team. I'd be more opposed to betting this under if I felt that Johnny Manziel was going to bounce back from a bad first season, but rehab is a serious thing and I would put my chips on him taking longer than a year to fully overcome it.
That leaves a good offensive line and a decent set of backs to plow into the line for three yards over and over again, while a defense that has never fully gelled will be asked not to regress just to keep the short-term gains they had in 2014. And, oh by the way, they'll be doing it against the seventh-hardest schedule in the league according to Football Outsiders Almanac 2015. In leafing through the Cleveland Browns' schedule, I found a pair of games where I thought they'd be favored.
Now that's not to say that the Browns are going to win two games – most NFL teams that are bad can at least manage to hit four or five – but when you combine a lack of offensive talent with a tough schedule, I don’t think the Browns are in any sort of position to build on 2014.