The NFL season begins in 18 days, so you have roughly 440-ish hours left to place wagers on win totals for the 2014 season. You don’t need that much time, of course; simply reading this post will arm you with all the information you need to sprint to your nearest sportsbook/neighborhood bookie/gambling website and win some money. Remember, I entered the Hilton Supercontest last year and finished 42-41-2! All totals via Las Vegas Hilton.
UNDER: Arizona 7.5 wins. Won 10 games last year (cough, overachieved, cough). Loved the ever-improving defense, but the Karlos Dansby loss (leading tackler, by a lot) is significant. The John Abraham suspension (assuming he gets one) would hurt; ditto the Daryl Washington one. In fact, the Cards lost their top three tacklers from last year and No. 4 (Honey Badger) won’t start the season after suffering this brutal injury. Carson Palmer is still the biggest question mark on this team, but they gave him more help by signing Ted Ginn and drafting Notre Dame TE Troy Niklas. The schedule: Open against a good San Diego team, and then have a short week to fly across the country to play the Giants at 1 pm. Then its San Francisco, bye, @ Denver. A challenging first four games. Did get fortunate to get Philly and KC at home. Feels like 7-9.
OVER: St. Louis 7.5 wins. Remember how the Rams were viewed as losers in the RG3 trade after his rookie year in Washington? Yeah, well, they look like winners in the deal now, and things are about to get better – if Sam Bradford can stay healthy and make plays. The defense – especially the front seven – is nasty. The schedule early is kind – Minnesota/Tampa/Dallas could mean a 3-0 start … but followed by Philly/SF/Seattle/KC/SF which could put Jeff Fisher right back on the hot seat. If you hate the Bradford question, I’ll ask this: Do they have enough talent at WR? Kenny Britt has opened some eyes in camp, but his history doesn’t have me sold … yet. Wait, did I just talk myself out of the Rams? No, no, sticking with the over.
OVER: Jacksonville 4.5 wins. Gus Bradley! Defense! He was so smart in Seattle! They can’t be worse than last year! Feels like a poor man’s Jets – sturdy front seven, run the ball on offense, and try to have the QB limit mistakes. I’ve seen some wacky could-hit-.500 projections; no. But 5-6 wins? Sure, why not? Open the season with a gauntlet of maybe five playoff teams – @ Philly, @ Washington, vs. Indianapolis, @ San Diego, vs. Pittsburgh. It softens from there, and they get Houston twice in December … but will the Texans be much better then?
UNDER: Dallas 8 wins. Feel like they’re looking at 4-5 tops, but I’ve been saying that for months (here, here, here). The offense will score; the defense will struggle to stop some of the NFL’s worst teams. Romo’s back doesn’t hold up and it’ll be Armageddon in Dallas. Everyone in the NFC East improved; Dallas regressed.
UNDER: Miami 8 wins. Garbage. Garbage. Can the offensive line protect Ryan Tannehill (sacked 57 times) enough early to survive the season? No. Didn’t love their draft or their free agent moves. Was Knowshon Moreno a Peyton Manning creation? (Yes.) Worst team in the AFC East. Did get a little lucky with the schedule – Packers at home, travel to Chicago in mid-October, only play one 2013 playoff team after Thanksgiving (Patriots, 12/14).
OVER: Eagles 9 wins. I love Chip Kelly. Is that enough? The DeSean Jackson loss was significant, but can Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews combine to match his numbers? Chip Kelly with Darren Sproles seems unfair. I don’t think anyone expects Nick Foles to play that well again (27 TDs, 2 INTS in 13 regular season games, 9.1 ypa), but the defense has much room for improvement (bottom five unit by most metrics), so they should balance each other out. The first place schedule means some land mines – at Indianapolis, at Green Bay – but at least they get the Seahawks at home. And in the final three weeks, any ground they need to make up in the division, they can: v Dallas, @ Washington, @ NYG. All that being said, the Eagles were +14 in turnovers last year, and that was with a very below-average defense.
UNDER: Carolina 8 wins. Hate the Panthers this year. Horrible offseason in which they lost their top three WRs (Smith, Ginn, LaFell), and three starters in the secondary (who were all in the top five among Panthers tacklers last year). Oh, and OT Jordan Gross retired, Cam Newton had ankle surgery, and Greg Hardy is embroiled in a legal mess and will probably face a lengthy suspension. Better open 2-0 because what follows is lethal: vs Pittsburgh, @ Baltimore, vs Chicago, @ Cincinnati, @ Green Bay, vs. Seattle, vs. New Orleans, at Philadelphia. That could be an 8-game losing streak. I’ll be stunned if the Panthers win two of those.
OVER: Washington 7.5 wins. Risky pick, more of a car payment play than a mortgage play. I’m banking on RG3 returning to rookie form and clicking with DeSean Jackson to make magic. The defense doesn’t inspire confidence, but neither does anyone in the division. Last year, the Redskins were 27th in the NFL in turnover margin (-8) and last in the NFC in point differential (-144). Clearly, that team quit on Shanahan.
UNDER: Chicago 8 wins. We’ve already been over the Bears. You hate that I don’t like them this year. That offense! Cutler Marshall Forte Jeffery Bennett and if you say that five times fast I think it sounds like “Super Bowl.”
Just missed: Jets (over 7); Tampa Bay (over 7); San Francisco (under 10.5).