Most of the splashy, impact free agents have signed, and trades have occurred, so I thought it would be fun to take an initial look at the NFL Win Totals for 2011. I’ll start today by looking at the teams with a over/under win total of 10.0 wins or more. I’ll later look at the teams in the middle and at the bottom of the win totals.
Before I get to some specific picks, though, a quick thought on over/under totals in general. The public loves to play on favorites and against underdogs, particularly on these seasonal totals. You fill out your win totals, look at the schedule, and there’s a win, there’s a loss, etc. It would be better to assign a percentage because there is no sure win.
I was able to find over/under win totals for the 2005 to 2010 seasons. Teams that had a win total of 10.0 or more went “Over” 11 times, compared to 17 “Unders.” In contrast, the teams with a win total of 6.0 or less went “Over” 17 times and “Under” nine times (and 1 push). If you would have put zero thought into it, and just took the “Under” for all teams projected to win 10 or more, and the Over for all teams projected to win 6 or less, you would have gone a healthy 34-20-1 (62.7%).
So feel free to ignore what comes next and just take the Under on all these teams, but it would be pretty boring if I didn’t try to pick out some Overs. Most seasons, 4 to 5 teams are projected with 10 or more wins. This year, it is a whopping 9 teams, so the betting public is expecting a lot of dominant teams to continue. My guess, based on how things have gone over the last two decades, is expect the unexpected.
Green Bay Packers (11.5 wins): The defending champs probably won it a year early, considering all the injuries and adversity they overcame in barely making it into the playoffs at 10-6. Last year proved their depth, and they have a reasonable young core of star players, and players ready to move in for the few spots with age. It’s a large number, and I probably wouldn’t lay it at all, but if I have to make a pick, I’m going OVER.
New England Patriots (11.5 wins): The Patriots rolled through the second half of the regular season, as Tom Brady was amazing. Then, the playoff loss to the Jets at home showed the offense was human. The defense was young and struggled at times, and has added some veteran parts along the front. The offense, on the other hand, is the oldest among the contenders. In addition to Ocho Cinco coming in at wide receiver, three of the linemen are over 32 when the season starts. The line has been a strength, but you never know when an aging core will start to decline, and at this price, I’ll take the UNDER.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10.5 wins): Part of this high win projection is schedule; both Pittsburgh and Baltimore draw the NFC West and I’m sure people say 12-4 last year, West this year, easy money. If New England has the old offense, Pittsburgh more than matches them on defense, with Ziggy Hood, Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons the only established starters under 30 entering the season. We saw Polamalu struggle in the playoffs with injury, and the line is on the precipice of needing re-tooling and infusion of youth. The Steelers haven’t been consistent in coming off their recent Super Bowl runs (missed playoffs in 2006 and 2009) and I’ll say UNDER.
Baltimore Ravens (10.5 wins). This is a hard one for me because I basically have this team right about at this number. They’ve lost some veterans on offense that they need to replace, and Joe Flacco needs to play better. Will Ray Lewis continue to discover the fountain of youth, and will Ed Reed join him? Slight lean to the UNDER because I’m a tie-goes-to-the-under kind of guy.
Philadelphia Eagles (10.5 Wins). I know it seems like I’m bagging on the Eagles, but I’m just bagging on the coverage of the moves. They should be improved, and they’ve added veteran pieces to a young, talented core that already won 11 games in 2010. Even if the offense regresses a little, I think they can hit this number because the defense will improve. OVER.
Atlanta Falcons (10 wins). We saw in the playoffs that they weren’t as good as the 13-3 record, and the defense needs to get more pressure on the quarterback (they’ve added Ray Edwards). This team hasn’t been that much different, other than close game outcomes, over the last two years, when they won 9 then 13. I don’t look for them to fall apart, but I think UNDER is the play here.
New Orleans Saints (10 Wins). The Saints seem to be a little bit under the national conscience for a team that just won the Super Bowl two years ago. They regressed defensively in 2010, and just signed Aubrayo Franklin in a great move. I expect a bounce back toward 2009. On offense, the running back position was a mess last year, affecting Brees’ continuity and contributing to his interception total. Mark Ingram will stabilize the running game, Sproles is an upgrade over Reggie Bush, and Jimmy Graham began to emerge late in the year. I like this team to be closer to the 2009 version. OVER.
San Diego Chargers (10 wins): I’ve already expressed my thoughts on this team. They underachieved for their talent last year thanks to horrific special teams. They still won 9 games, within 1 of this total, despite all that. They have good depth and will see if they can supplement that with some contribution from veterans like Takeo Spikes and Bob Sanders. I think they come back with something to prove. OVER.
New York Jets (10 wins). The front seven is aging, and wasn’t nearly as good at generating pressure as they were in 2009. I did not like the offseason on offense for this team. They retained Holmes, but swapped Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith for Plaxico Burress. Combine that with the talk of reducing LT’s role in favor of Shonne Greene (hardly a QB’s best friend in pass protection and as a receiver), and I think Sanchez will have to personally take a big step forward to prevent a downturn in the offense. J-E-T-S. UNDER, UNDER, UNDER.
Indianapolis Colts (9.5 wins): Indianapolis has won 10 games every year since 2002. It would seem foolish to go under. I’m just the fool to do it. The line should be improved, but young and inexperienced and a work in progress. Wayne and Clark are getting to the age where you wonder when they will start to lose it; Collie is a question mark with the concussions. The defense needs Mathis and Freeney to keep generating consistent pressure. I don’t think this team falls apart, and they will contend for the division like last year, but I’m thinking slight lean to UNDER.
[photo via Getty]