We continue our look at dual forecast football betting with a tour of the junior circuit, aka the AFC. Which two teams from each division belong in your NFL picks this year?
Last time out, we introduced the concept of dual forecast betting – it's like picking the quinella in horse racing, but you can apply it to any race or tournament-style setting, including the NFL regular season. Then we looked at the four NFC divisions; this time around, let's take a gander at the AFC, where at least one division appears to have been decided well in advance.
AFC East: Patriots and Jets (NL)
Dude, where are our NFL odds? We're not surprised that dual forecast NFL lines are still pending on this side of the Atlantic, but apparently our friends across the pond have taken a pass on the AFC East for now. Perhaps they're waiting for the results of Tom Brady's suspension appeal, although his New England Patriots (12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS) should win the division again no matter who starts the first four games.
We're taking what would be a longer shot and putting the New York Jets (4-12 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) in our prospective quinella. Their turnaround time is shorter than it may appear under new head coach Todd Bowles, while we're not nearly as comfortable with the Buffalo Bills (9-7 SU and ATS) or especially the Miami Dolphins (8-8 SU, 7-9 ATS).
AFC North: Ravens and Bengals (9-4)
It's always an interesting ride in the AFC North. Three teams won at least 10 games last year: the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS), the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) and the Baltimore Ravens (10-6 SU, 7-8-1 ATS). And then you had the Cleveland Browns (7-9 SU, 9-5-2 ATS), who teased us by winning three of their first four games before falling apart in characteristic Brownsian fashion.
We're leaving the Steelers out of our dual forecast bet. They haven't been as consistent as the Bengals, who have finished in the Top 2 in each of Andy Dalton's four years under center. The Ravens have also kept things steady during the past seven years of the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco Era. Also, the Ravens-Steelers quinella only pays out at 7-4.
AFC South: Colts and Texans (4-11)
Not much to argue about here. The AFC South features one team that's not rebuilding: the Indianapolis Colts (11-5 SU, 10-5-1 ATS), who are looking for their third straight division title. Of the remaining three teams, the Texans (9-7 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) clearly have a leg up at this point, while the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) and Tennessee Titans (2-14 SU, 3-12-1 ATS) have the farthest to climb.
We're slightly tempted to recommend the Colts-Titans quinella instead at a healthy 9-2. If quarterbacks are the key to NFL success, the Titans have a promising future in Marcus Mariota, while the Texans made the entirely predictable – and wrong in our opinion – choice of cutting ties with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, it'll be former Browns QB Brian Hoyer battling it out with former Patriots backup QB Ryan Mallett. Harrumph.
AFC West: Broncos and Chiefs (6-4)
This should be a lot of fun. The Denver Broncos (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS) have won the AFC West each of the past four seasons, including the last three with Peyton Manning at quarterback. That doesn't figure to change now that Gary Kubiak has replaced John Fox as head coach. The fun part comes with deciding which other team to put in our NFL picks: the San Diego Chargers (9-7 SU, 7-9 ATS), the Kansas City Chiefs (9-7 SU, 10-6 ATS), or the Oakland Raiders (3-13 SU, 8-8 ATS).
Okay, maybe not the Raiders. But the other two teams are in play, and for us, the Chiefs are the easy choice. The Broncos-Chargers quinella only pays out at 4-5, but the Chiefs have been competitive since Andy Reid took over as head coach two years ago. They were good for 9.4 Estimated Wins last year, according to Football Outsiders, while the Chargers racked up just 8.0 EW. We have to wonder about San Diego's offensive line and the relocation chatter, too. Funny how everyone wants to move back to L.A. now.