This generous handicapper shares his earliest NFL picks for 2015 AFC Team Win Totals before the past season with Super Bowl 49 and its memories are washed away.
Much will happen between now and Thursday, Sept. 10 when NFL Kickoff 2015 Weekend kicks off with the defending Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots welcoming an opponent to be named to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro to begin defense of the title they freakishly earned in the closing seconds of Sunday’s thriller against the former defending champion Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Breathe. And again. Okay. It will be alright.
The specific schedules for NFL teams appear like they will be released on or around April 17, but the two unique divisions each individual division will match up against is already known—as well as all of the games’ sites—so some idea of Total Team Win Totals over a 16-game schedule can be discerned from this distance although signings, trades and individual players’ health will definitely be big variables. Seven months is a long way off, but sometimes looking far up the highway is the best way to drive, bubba, because if you look too closely at the gnat near your right eyeball, you’re surely running the risk of rolling off the road. And that’s not good for business.
Looking at last year’s NFL Season Win Totals for the 32 teams posted from the world’s largest sports book—the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook—it appears that 18 teams went Over their posted win totals while 13 teams went Under and one—the Miami Dolphins—pushed their total, going 8-8 and falling right on the 8. Sometimes numbers are weird.
Not knowing what will happen in the next half-year or so and what the specific numbers will actually be makes it hard to recommend too much in early February, but logic dictates that a couple of Team Win Totals will be a little bit off because of the public’s and odds makers’ perceptions of some interdivisional opponents and their considered strengths or weaknesses for the coming football season. And other Team Win Totals may end up being off a skosh because oddsmakers just don’t want to hang a 2 or a 2½ or a 3 on one end, or maybe a 10, 10½ or 11 in the other direction. Mistakes are certainly built into the cake.
And one thing’s for sure: If you do have strong opinions about Team Win Totals in this Modern Day and Information Age and you do plan on betting significant money on them, it’s best to make those bets immediately when the NFL Odds are released as the number of Sharp players and professional gamblers who attack these markets do so from Minute One; and often move some numbers so much that the casual or recreational sports gambler is left with jagged numbers, potential higher juice on his or her play and then perceived unappealing choices...and maybe even some of these Futures Prop Bets never being made. It’s a lot like IPOs and the stock markets. Nobody wants to buy the $30 IPO when it has risen to $70 on pure hype on the first day of trading. Anyway, let’s come up with some rough ideas with a look first at the AFC, followed tomorrow by the NFC version of this two-part NFL Team Win Totals story. Hunker down.
The paltry—although they do now have the defending Super Bowl champions—AFC East plays the AFC South and the NFC East this season and that’s pretty good news on both fronts for this division. The Buffalo Bills (Last season: 6½; Over, Record: 9-7) made nice strides in 2014 and sailed over their posted Total last season but the thought is that the number this season will now be set a little high and that the Bills regress to like 8-8 or 7-9, despite improvements on both sides of the ball. An eventual posted total of 7½ or 8 wins for Buffalo seems fair. And the Miami Dolphins (Last season: 8; Push, 8-8) are also in that same boat, much-improved, but likely to be 8-8 again or 7-9, so a similar 7½ or 8 might appear for The Fish. If so, I’d lean Under on both. The mighty New England Patriots (Last season: 10½; Over, 12-4) always seem to make do with what they have and find a way to make it work and that’s a pretty good way to get through Life if you get good at it. Tom Brady and the Patriots seem to have seven games that could give them trouble—Buffalo, Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas and Denver Away, and, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at Home—next season but expect them to win 4 of those 7 and finish like 13-3, win the division, the AFC, and maybe Super Bowl 50. Bookmakers will probably hang an 11, maybe a 10½ again with high juice on the Over. And those poor, poor New York Jets (Last season: 7; Under, 4-12). Look at that 7 (Last year’s Team Win Total) and laugh. Go ahead. It’s good for your Soul. And then when you realize that you didn’t have the ‘Jets Under 7 Wins’ and you end up crying yourself to sleep, shamefully waking only for a soft pretzel and some cheese at 3:19 a.m., blame the Mailman or someone. End scene. The Jets will probably have trouble beating everyone on their schedule this next season, including the Dolphins and Bills at home in East Rutherford. A 3 or a 3½ seems about right for this perennially struggling team which is fun to poke fun at. And when a team thinks Tim Tebow or Geno Smith are serious QB options, one has to wonder if that team actually knows that it’s in the NFL and not College Football. Mercy.
Everyone in this overachieving division went over the posted Team Win Totals in the 2014 NFL season, albeit just barely. But still, along with the NFC West, the AFC North has probably evolved into one of the two strongest divisions in the league. For now at least. With a great head coach (Jim Harbaugh) and a great starting QB (Joe Flacco), the Baltimore Ravens (Last season: 8½; Over, 10-6) could very well run roughshod over this division if everything goes right and a brilliant undefeated start seems to be in the stars. If anyone can stop the Patriots from returning to the Super Bowl from the AFC next season it will probably wither be this Ravens team or their heated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers (Last season: 8½; Over 10-6) who now have a dynamic WR to build around (Antonio Brown) as well as a nice, new, dependable RB (Le’Veon Bell). Both teams should have similar posted Total Team Win Totals—9 or 9½—and teams in the AFC North will be playing the AFC West and the NFC West in 2015, so don’t plan on every team in this division finishing above .500 like they almost did this past season. The Cincinnati Bengals (Last season: 9; Over, 10-5-1) will probably fall the most and finish around 8-8 or 7-9 while fellow state-mates, the Cleveland Browns (Last season: 6½; Over, 7-9) should also be hurt by having to play Denver, San Diego, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona and feisty St. Louis. And with WR Josh Gordon already suspended and QB Johnny Manziel looking like a draft pick bust, 2015 could be a long one for the Browns who will also have to play the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals twice. Like every other season. It ain’t fun being the Browns. Oddsmakers will probably make the Bengals number around 8 or 8½ with the Browns Team Win Total anywhere from last year’s 6½ down to 5½. The 2015 NFL season may be a tough one on Ohio.
Despite not having the sexiest division right now itself, the AFC South did get the fortune of drawing the AFC East and NFC South. But overall results in this division will probably look pretty much the same as will the final standings (Colts-Texans-Jaguars-Titans). We’ll have more on that (‘Predicting NFL Divisions Next Season’) in this space later in the week. The Houston Texans (Last season: 7½; Over, 9-7) finished strong and are often overlooked and will likely have a 7½ again or an 8 for its Team Win Total when posted this spring. The defending division champs, the Indianapolis Colts (Last season: 9½; Over, 11-5) and QB Andrew Luck will be hard-pressed to have as good a season as 2014—where the Colts went 6-0 against its own anemic AFC South—with tough Home games against Houston, Super Bowl champs New England, Drew Brees and New Orleans and former team legend Peyton Manning and Denver, as well as road tilts versus Houston, Buffalo, Miami, Carolina and Pittsburgh. Oddsmakers will probably put the Colts around 9½ again, or maybe even 10 (wins) again next season but with that list of opponents, winning 9 games would be impressive in my mind. The Jacksonville Jaguars (Last season: 5; Under, 3-13) have a QB now with Blake Bortles and a little, much-needed confidence, and, having to play the AFC East and NFC South could either work for the Jaguars and get them to 6 wins, or keep them at 3. A 4½ or 5 (again) Team Total Wins seems about right. And the Tennessee Titans (Last season: 7; Under 2-14) thrust themselves onto the list of the league’s most underwhelming and worst teams last season, and a 3 or 3½ Season Team Wins Total may be hung for the Titans—half or less than half of the 7 (wins) oddsmakers lined them at in 2014.
Unfortunately for residents of the AFC West, they have to play the AFC North and the NFC North this coming season. So, try to get your sympathy cards and fresh fruit to them by September. The Denver Broncos (Last season: 11½; Over, 12-4) will be getting QB Peyton Manning back for at least one more last hurrah, but all of this team seems to be getting old and the Broncos need to avoid injuries to its key receivers and will have to protect Peyton the Elder as much as humanly possible just to have any chance to even make the AFC Championship game. Denver will get Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay and league champs New England all at Home and Pittsburgh, Detroit and Indianapolis on the Road. Ouch. The number on the Broncos should be lined down a half- or full-game (to 11 or 10½) this season and playing all these aforementioned teams along with the upstart Kansas City Chiefs (Last season: 8; Over, 9-7) twice, will be sort of a math problem for Denver. Just too many good teams on the 2015 Menu for Ole Boy. Manning will be sleeping in the whirlpool by October. And oh-so those pesky—Who beat both Super Bowl participants? We did.—Chiefs should end up around 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 (again), and Kansas City’s number should be around 8 (again) or 8½, so there is no perceived healthy margin of difference from this distance. And it’s real hard to get excited about a team that doesn’t throw TD passes to WRs. That seems like an easy problem to fix, but 0 over 16 games means a trip to the Psychiatrist’s Couch may be in order, brother. And those good old, bad old Oakland Raiders (Last season: 5; Under, 3-13) have a new head coach (Jack Del Rio) and are threatening to run a Hurry-Up Offense and should be lined right around that 5 (wins) number again, but with two games apiece against Denver, Kansas City and the San Diego Chargers (Last season: 8; Over, 9-7), as well as those AFC and NFC North foes, Oakland could very well end up with just 3 wins (or less) again this year. And those constantly hoping the Chargers will also suffer from the non-divisional slate and may have trouble getting to the 9 wins they did in 2014. Expect odds makers here in Sin City over at The International House of Kornegay to probably put up another 8 on San Diego this season.
For those interested, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released its 2014 NFL Season Win Totals around May 18 last year, while CG Technology (formerly Cantor Gaming) actually had its numbers posted in mid-March. So, doing homework and reading about it on Groundhog Day really probably isn’t that obsessive. So, doing homework and reading about it on Groundhog Day really probably isn’t that obsessive. So, doing homework and reading about it on Groundhog Day really probably isn’t that obsessive. I’m sorry. I felt a little like Jack Nicholson in The Shining there for a second. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Too much writing. Anyway, it’s never too early to start (because we’ve already started) and The Early Bird gets The Worm and all that other jazz. And if getting a jump on things is your thing, then this Super Bowl 50 Futures Book Odds story may also be of interest to you.
2015 AFC Season Win Team Total Picks: Bills Under (Projected: 6-10), Ravens Over (Projected: 12-4), Browns Under (Projected: 3-13), Colts Under (Projected: 9-7), Broncos Under (Projected: 10-6)