Week one of the upcoming NFL season is just under a month away. Time to start getting my predictions in order.
I’ll start with my takes on Vegas’ over/under win total odds for every AFC team, courtesy of Odds Shark. Tomorrow I’ll do the NFC. Pay particular attention to my best bets for each division: they’re the picks I’m most confident in!
Best Bet: Baltimore Ravens UNDER 9 wins
The Ravens lack the offensive firepower to win at least ten games. Baltimore averaged just 5.2 yards per play last season (t-21st in the NFL), and they’ll probably be even more anemic in 2017. There are questions concerning Joe Flacco’s health (he still hasn’t appeared in training camp) and their running-game (28th in rushing yards per game in ’16) remains weak. Despite having a very good defense, this over/under line is at least one win too high. Take the under, particularly since nine wins would result to a push.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OVER 10.5
The Steelers will have one of the best offenses in the league once again. They also project to play just the 27th toughest schedule, according to Football Outsiders. 10.5 wins is a high number, but I’ll take the over. Crossing my fingers Big Ben stays healthy.
Cincinnati Bengals: OVER 8.5
Cincinnati should benefit from better health in 2017. They suffered the third-most injuries last season among their starting players, and I’m betting that they won’t be as unlucky again. With highly-touted rookie running back Joe Mixon joining a solid offensive core that includes receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert, the Bengals will be back in the playoff hunt.
Cleveland Browns: UNDER 4.5
The Browns have some potential. Just not enough to win at least five games. Too many questions at quarterback and…well, everywhere else.
Best Bet: Indianapolis Colts UNDER 9
Andrew Luck may start the season on the PUP list, so as I said two weeks ago, I’m selling Colts stock. Indy has no other options at quarterback, a 34-year-old running back that’s past his prime, and a defense that projects to be mediocre once again. They’re a great bet to go under 9 wins–I could even see them winning only 4-5 games.
Houston Texans: OVER 8.5
The Texans are tough to get a read on. The numbers say they’re in for a decline: Houston significantly over-performed last year based on their point differential. They profiled more as a 6-7 win squad rather than a playoff team. However, with J.J. Watt returning to a defense that ranked third in the NFL in opponent yards per play, the Texans will continue to be competitive. And if either Deshaun Watson or Tom Savage prove to be competent, Houston may be even be one of the better teams in the AFC.
Tennessee Titans: OVER 8.5
The Titans have a chance to be really good this year. Like, 10-12 wins good. Stout offensive line, good running game, emerging quarterback, decent defense–what’s not to like? Over 8.5 is more than reasonable.
Jacksonville Jaguars: UNDER 6.5
I like Jacksonville to improve by 2-3 wins after a 3-13 season. Not enough trust in Blake Bortles, though, for me to take them to go over 6.5.
Best Bet: New York Jets UNDER 4.5
The Jets will probably be the worst team in football this year. They jettisoned many of their good players over the offseason (i.e. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, David Harris). Their best option at quarterback is Josh McCown, whose career record as a starter is 18-42. And while their defense is respectable compared to their offense, it’s still young and thin in many areas. New York will win around two games and secure the number one pick.
New England Patriots: OVER 12.5
The Pats have the highest preseason over/under total I can remember. Normally this is a sign to go against the grain and hammer the under. But I’m confident that New England will win anywhere from 13-14 games, despite a difficult schedule. Tom Brady and company will be too difficult to stop.
Miami Dolphins: OVER 7.5
I identified Miami as my top pick to regress this year, but that was based on their 2016 win total (10). Jay Cutler should do just fine in place of Ryan Tannehill, so I’ll hesitantly go over 7.5, particularly given how weak the Jets and Bills project to be.
Buffalo Bills: UNDER 6
Last week’s trades of receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby signaled that Buffalo is in quasi-rebuilding mode. Six wins seems about right, but I can’t see them winning seven games or more.
Best Bet: Los Angeles Chargers OVER 7.5
The Chargers will bounce back after a rocky 2016 season. They were one of the most injured teams in football last year, and had extremely bad luck in close games. With Philip Rivers guiding the offense and a full season of Joey Bosa to anchor the D, Los Angeles will ascend to the mean in many important statistical metrics and be one of the AFC’s surprise teams. They’ll approach 9-10 wins.
Kansas City Chiefs: OVER 9
Let’s not underrate Kansas City’s competency. The Chiefs are well-coached and stout in nearly every facet. I’ll take over nine wins, even though their final win total may land exactly on that number.
Oakland Raiders: UNDER 10
The Raiders will probably land right smack on ten wins. They’re not quite as good as their 12-4 record from last year would suggest, but they’re too potent offensively to regress dramatically. I guess I’ll side with under ten wins, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Denver Broncos: OVER 8.5
Everyone seems to be sour on the Broncos. Sure, the fact that they completely overhauled their coaching staff is concerning. But I actually like Trevor Siemian, assuming he is eventually named the starter, and I trust their defense. Nine wins is doable, but I’m not overly confident in this prediction.