Yesterday, I went through the win totals of the top ten teams, and today we move to the next 10, all teams with win projections between 7.5 and 9.5. Before getting to the teams, though, a quick word on the totals.
As someone pointed out to me, I should probably discuss the odds for taking either side, as Vegas adjusts the odds (not always 110 to win 100, denoted as -110) to encourage the action, rather than moving the win total. Sometimes, it makes sense to take a side, because the risk is too good. Take for example, the Giants below. I’m using the Hilton lines here, and you would have to risk $170 to win $100 to take the Under. Don’t do that, shop for a different line if you want the under, either a lower total or better odds.
These are presented for entertainment purposes in trying to pick teams wins, but keep the odds in mind as well.
New York Giants (9.5 wins, Over +150/Under -170). The Giants let go of two offensive linemen, Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert, who were past their prime. That will cause some uncertainty. The Umenyiora drama is a distraction. They also had a whopping 42 turnovers in 2010, and still won 10 games, and came within a tiebreaker and a DeSean Jackson punt return of winning the division. Love the Eli to Hakeem combo, and with Bradshaw returning, the offense will still be good. I think that this is a 9-7 or 10-6 type team again, but given those odds, I would go OVER.
Dallas Cowboys (9.0 wins, Over -110/Under -110). They will be better, but how much improvement will they get on defense, where they didn’t add any significant pieces? I expect the offense to be good with Romo returning, but I’m not sure the defense will be good enough to hit 10. It’s a solid line, but I’ll lean 8 rather than 10. UNDER.
Houston Texans (8.5 wins, Over -110/Under +110). Defensive implosion in 2010, but Johnathan Joseph + return of DeMeco Ryans plus addition of Wade Phillips means they can be at least moving toward competent. A semi-competent pass defense wouldn’t have lost to Jacksonville on a hail mary, blown a late lead at the Jets, or gotten torched all year. The offense is loaded, and with Andre Johnson’s sore ankle, Duane Brown missing 4 games to suspension, and Owen Daniels now two years from his knee tear, I don’t expect a dropoff. OVER.
Chicago Bears (8.5 wins, Over +130/Under -150). The Bears had 11 wins (recognized everywhere but the Detroit city limits) but the underlying numbers weren’t as good. Lots of reason to expect regression, from the number of Devin Hester returns to the age of the defense. The offensive line needs improvement. UNDER, but not at those odds. Shop for 8 wins.
Detroit Lions (8.0 wins, Over +130/Under -150). No team has underperformed the win totals as often or spectacularly as the Detroit Lions over the last decade. It’s appropriate to be cynical, and the news of Nick Fairly missing time in preseason is concerning. I love the potential of the offense, with Calvin Johnson and a healthier Jahvid Best plus Mikel LeShoure. The defensive line will be dominant, and just needs more from the secondary. Especially given favorable odds, OVER.
Kansas City Chiefs (8.0 wins, Over +135/Under -155). The Chiefs were an average team with a great schedule last year, as the 4-0 against the NFC West helped them to 10. I think the team will be slightly improved, with better receiver options opposite Bowe, and a maturing secondary, but the defensive line is a concern, along with the schedule. With games against the NFC North, New England, Pittsburgh, New York Jets, Indianapolis, and 2 against San Diego, I think they could be an underdog in 10 of the 16 games. UNDER, but look for 7.5 at better odds.
Tampa Bay Bucs (8.0 wins, Over +135/Under -155). Like the Chiefs, the Bucs had an easy schedule and won close games. They also have a young core with upside on offense, and I love the additions of Bowers and Clayborn on the line on defense. Another team that should be improved but could have a worse record, I still had them at 8.5 wins when I went through the matchups, and given the upside potential of the young maturing offense, I’ll go OVER.
San Francisco 49ers (7.5 wins, Over -110/Under -110). New coach, and lots of defensive turnover. I understand why the number is where it is, because San Francisco has the best point differential over the last two years in the NFC West (the definition of damning with faint praise), but there are too many unknowns to lay the number, and I see more of a 6-10 or 7-9 debut for Harbaugh. UNDER.
St. Louis Rams (7.5 wins, Over +130/Under -150). I like the Rams’ offseason, from adding OG Harvey Dahl, depth at running back, an upgrade at safety with Mikell, and though I’m not sold on Mike Sims-Walker, between he and the returns of Avery and Clayton, the receivers will be better by hook or by crook. Add in some improvement from Bradford, and OVER.
Miami Dolphins (7.5, Over +110/Under -130). Miami is generating no excitement, and the fan base is clamoring for Kyle Orton. Now, keep in mind that they went an almost impossible 1-7 at home and 6-2 on the road, and were 30th in the league in turnover margin, which should regress. If they get a more motivated Brandon Marshall, and an upgrade at running back, not because of Reggie Bush, but because Daniel Thomas will provide more than Brown/Williams behind a pretty good line. I love Cameron Wake and Vontae Davis on defense, I expect that side of the ball to be an above average unit, and think the Dolphins fit the definition of sleeper, precisely because they have zero buzz, because their strengths are likely to be defense and the offensive line. OVER.
[photo via Getty]