Now that the draft is behind us, it's time to scour the football odds and see which overlooked teams are carrying value into the 2015 campaign. How do you spell “Jets” again?
You'd think in this day and age, there'd be no such thing as a “sleeper” when you're making NFL picks. Isn't everybody on the Internet now? Desktops with multiple monitors? Tablets and smartphones at the ready? True, but you know what's on most of those screens. That's right: kittens playing pianos. Meanwhile, you, dear reader, have sacrificed one screen and some of your precious time to brush up on the NFL. Everyone here at the ranch thanks you for your patronage.
Let's get a leg up on the rest of the marketplace by identifying some potential “value” teams to add to our football picks for 2015. We'll be using the NFL odds for the Super Bowl 50 futures market at The Greek, as well as the advanced stats at Football Outsiders. It's all free information for us to use, so let's use it, starting with the AFC. We're looking for the teams that performed better in 2014 than their win-loss records would suggest. If they had good offseasons, and if their odds are long enough, that's value right there.
We're not saying that the Titans (2-14 SU, 3-12-1 ATS last year) are a good value at +20000 to win Super Bowl 50. But on a game-per-game basis, we like their chances to beat the spread. Caveat emptor: We thought the same thing last year, before Jake Locker turned into dust again. New QB Marcus Mariota could/should be an instant upgrade at that position.
Last year, the Titans won just two games despite playing well enough to record 4.0 Estimated Wins at Football Outsiders. Health-wise, they were No. 7 in Time Missed Impact To Team (TMITT) according to Man Games Lost, with Locker representing a big chunk of that missing talent. And the Titans have the No. 26-ranked strength of schedule for 2015, based purely on their opponents' collective record in 2014 (111-144-1). Value, my friends.
New York Jets
This is still a reach as a +5000 Super Bowl 50 pick, but again, the Jets (4-12 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) are set up nicely for some positive regression in single-game ATS situations. They were good enough for 5.9 Estimated Wins last year, they cleaned out their front office to positive reviews, and they had an outstanding draft with DE Leonard Williams falling into their laps with the No. 6 overall pick.
The big question remains at quarterback, where Geno Smith (77.5 passer rating) looks like he'll get another crack at the starting job. Smith had a rough go of it last year as a sophomore, but he improved upon his rookie campaign, and he's got Chan Gailey as his new offensive co-ordinator. Gailey is known as an adaptable coach who isn't afraid to use a spread offense, which would maximize Smith's talents. And the Jets have a fairly soft schedule this year at No. 18 overall (125-131). Buy low, sell high.
Now we're in Super Bowl sleeper territory. The Ravens (10-6 SU, 7-8-1 ATS) barely squeaked into the playoffs last year, but they made it to the Divisional Round and nearly beat the New England Patriots. Baltimore played well enough for 11.5 Estimated Wins, so even as a double-digit winner, the Ravens have room for positive regression in 2015. And they're only +2000 to win the Super Bowl, something they did just three years ago? We're lovin' it.
Draft-wise, the Ravens had three picks in the Top 90, and they got some good value when WR Breshad Perriman fell to them at No. 26. The 2015 schedule ranks No. 11 in strength (137-111-2), which isn't too imposing. On top of that, Baltimore is a +155 favorite to win the AFC North. That would be eight playoffs in nine years under John Harbaugh. Let's hope all the footballs are properly inflated this time.