The third installment of the Over/Under series concludes today, after covering ten teams in both part I and part II. With the twelve remaining teams with projected wins of 7 or under to get to today, there’s no room for flowery talk. Let’s get to these surprise candidates for 2011.
Oakland Raiders (7.0 wins, Over -110/Under -110). The franchise had a non-losing record for the first time since 2002, and so Al Davis fired Tom Cable and promoted Hue Jackson, who in one year managed to produce the 6th highest scoring team in the league. The schedule played a part in that, though. The offseason has seen them lose not only their best defender, Asomugha, but also their leading receiver, TE Zach Miller, and run blocker, failed tackle turned road grating guard Robert Gallery. That 8-8 record was achieved by going 6-0 in the West, something I don’t see happening again. UNDER.
Arizona Cardinals (7.0 wins, Over -110/Under -110). This team was awful last year, far worse than the record indicates because they managed to win some fluky games. The moves to get Kevin Kolb and Todd Heap will improve the passing offense, but I think still provide below average production. Levi Brown is a bad left tackle, Alan Faneca is so far past he can’t even see his prime in the rear view mirror [edit: he is so far passed, I forgot about his retirement this offseason], and Deuce Lutui is back at guard only because he failed the Bengals’ physical. The defense has lost personnel, and has an aging core. I like the Patrick Peterson pick, but I don’t think this team bounces back to the 3-year run (well, for this franchise) of 27 regular season wins from 2007-2009 just yet. UNDER.
Minnesota Vikings (7.0 wins, Over +110/Under -130). Lots of reasons not to like the Vikings. The offensive line is in flux, with overrated LT Bryant McKinnie showing up at 400 pounds and getting cut, and Steve Hutchinson aging. They lost Sidney Rice, but then again, he didn’t play last year. They lost their youngest defensive lineman. On the other hand, Favre was horrible last year, and I expect McNabb to be an upgrade at the position, Leslie Frazier is not Brad Childress, and the circus, and all expectations are gone. Feels like an 8-8 team with flaws to me, and consider I’d have to pay more for the under, I’ll hesitantly say OVER.
Tennessee Titans (7.0 wins, Over +120/Under -140). Another team that had a circus like atmosphere in 2010, with the Jeff Fisher vs. Vince Young drama and being part of the Randy Moss experience. They also looked like a playoff team at 5-2, until that collapse, and still scored more points than they allowed despite going 6-10. They lost Jason Babin and Stephen Tulloch in free agency, while adding Hasselbeck. I don’t think he’s going to be great, but he will stabilize the position. The offensive line is still a strength, and I think they will score if Kenny Britt stays healthy/out of jail. OVER.
Cleveland Browns (6.5 wins, Over -150/Under +130). The Browns were 3-7 in close games, and played a tough schedule. The line is a strength, and they lacked any kind of receivers. I expect Greg Little to move into the starting lineup as a rookie and provide an upgrade, and Colt McCoy will get a full season. They were one of the few teams to handle the Patriots, and showed that they have upside. A young developing team with a schedule that eases up makes an easy OVER for me (though I wouldn’t pay that -150 price).
Jacksonville Jaguars (6.5 wins, Over Even/Under -120). It was amazing that this team was in playoff position at 8-6 last year, because they weren’t very good. They got blown out, or won some close games, including that hail mary from Garrard to Thomas. The schedule looks to be a bit tougher this year (AFC North/NFC South + San Diego/Jets) and without the rabbit’s foot, this feels like a 5-11 or 6-10 type team, particularly with the possibility of going to rookie Blaine Gabbert and playing for next year if they start slow. UNDER.
Washington Redskins (6.0 wins, Over -120/Under Even). The easy answer is to say under. The quarterbacks consist of a bunch of guys who would never get a wedding registry post on our site. I don’t go for the easy answer. It’s been an un-Washington like offseason, with no splash signings. Trent Williams missed 3 games with injury last year, and should take a step forward at LT this year. Brian Orakpo is ready to become a star. Shanahan is entering year two, after cleaning house. The definition of an under the radar team, which I never thought Daniel Snyder could oversee. They won 6 games last year, with all the Haynesworth issues, and McNabb drama. They just need 7, and I think they get it. OVER.
Seattle Seahawks (6.0 wins, Over -105/Under -115). Everyone will focus on Tarvaris Jackson instead of Matt Hasselbeck, but let’s go through the offense. LT Russell Okung was a rookie and missed 6 games with ankle injuries, but the offense was much better with him. If he stays healthier and progresses, that’s a huge upgrade over what they got last year. Sidney Rice + Zach Miller is a massive upgrade over Ben Obamanu/Deon Butler/John Carlson. The interior offensive line was a problem and they couldn’t run the ball; they brought in Tom Cable to coach the line, added two linemen in the first 3 rounds of the draft, and signed Robert Gallery to play guard. It’s year two in this system, and this is going to be a better offensive unit than last year, even with Jackson. And you can get them at the lowest price in the NFC West, a division with no powerhouses. It wouldn’t shock me at all if they won a pillow fight for the division at 8-8 again. OVER.
Buffalo Bills (5.5 wins, Over -120/Under Even). Yeah, I said the Bills wouldn’t be as bad as you think last year (and they went 4-12) and I’ll say it again. How important is schedule? They went 0-9 vs. playoff teams, including several OT losses. They had the toughest schedule in the league in 2010. After the disaster that was Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick stabilized the position. Predicting future schedule strength is tough, but odds are, it won’t be the worst in the league again, and turn a few of those close losses to wins, and this is an easy OVER.
Cincinnati Bengals (5.5 wins, Over -120/Under Even). The Bungles are returning after a stretch of mediocrity, because Mike Brown isn’t going away. They didn’t franchise Johnathan Joseph and lost one of their best young players. Bruce Gradkowski and Andy Dalton will compete to start the opening game. UNDER.
Denver Bronc0s (5.5 wins, Over -120/Under Even). Denver won fewer than 6 games last year, the first time that has happened since 1990, and only second time since 1972. The Josh McDaniels regime was a trainwreck by the end, and I have a feeling that this team will respond under John Fox. Add in two impact defenders that can get the pass rush pressure this team lacked, in rookie Von Miller and injured Elvis Dumervil, and I this team should improve on the 4-12 from a season ago, no matter who is at quarterback. OVER.
Carolina Panthers (4.5 wins, Over -125/Under +105). Carolina joins the 2008 Falcons as the only team with a win projection below 5 since 2005 – that was Matt Ryan’s rookie year. This team won 20 games the previous two years, before it all fell apart. Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen were dreadful, Steve Smith was slowed by an injury and there was absolutely no other receiving option, DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart were hurt, and the team desperately missed road-grating RT Jeff Otah, who ended up missing the whole season. I wasn’t a fan of the DeAngelo resigning at the price for the long term, but in the short term, it will help. Smith is back after re-signing and presumably happy, and they upgraded with the combo of Shockey and Olsen at tight end. Otah is back in camp. Oh, and Cam Newton may not be great as a rookie, but he should be better than what they had in 2010. So many things went wrong in 2010, and they look to already be addressing them. Another Easy OVER for me.
[photo via Getty]