Each year I go through every team in the league to look for some plays on futures. First I start out with win totals. Below is a chart of each teams total in Vegas with the Actual ML or juice attached. The Stats ML column indicates what the model thinks the juice should be for each total. The model is basing its figures off of last seasons team performance. Naturally adjustments need to be made for changes in rosters and coaches this season. That is where you need to be a handicapper. The table shown is just one tool you can use to help you formulate a betting strategy. Green Bay was the only team manipulated a bit because of the significance of losing Rodgers last season. I made an adjustment to the model to account for that loss. The model also looked at the schedule for each team to come up with a win total. Once a win total is established the probability of the team finishing over or under the number is calculated and a line is established off of those probabilities.
|Team||U/O||Vegas Line||Stats ML||Actual ML|
I highlighted the significant differences between my line and the Vegas number. Remember the challenge is not only figuring out if the team will go over or under but also figuring out if the price offered is worth a wager. We would all bet New England to win more than 6 games this season but how much juice would be willing to lay to make that bet? So looking at the highlighted teams we can see many 16 unders are of value with just 4 overs of value. This is not surprising. The public bets overs. Nobody likes to root for unders. And most people will bet overs on their teams.
Lets look more in depth at these differences and see if we can understand why and if they are worthy of playing.
Arizona o7.5 -140 – One of the few overs with any value based on the model. The main reason is the division. Many feel the NFC West is the best division in the league and I would tend to agree. They went just 2-4 against divisional foes. Last season Arizona finished 8th in my rankings, the highest team ranked not to make the playoffs. At 10-6 the defense was their dominant side of the ball. Carson Palmer looked good down the stretch as the Cardinals won 7 of 9 just missing the playoffs. Palmer has a full season with the offense now and I expect them to look better. The defense may take a bit of a hit as they lose Karlos Dansby in free agency and Daryl Washington to suspension. Both were key contributors to their defense. Arizona may take a step back defensively but a step forward offensively. They will need to drop 3 games from last year not to get this over. I think 8 wins is very possible. I will take o7.5 -140.
Atlanta u8.5 -140 – The big disparity here in my line to the Vegas line is the fact that Atlanta was riddled with injuries last season. The team went 4-12 but for sure would have won more games if they had White, Jones, Biermann and Jackson the whole way. This season the team loses Tony Gonzalez. Seemingly the only option the Falcons have had inside the red zone. That will be a big loss for QB Matt Ryan. Defensively this team gets little in the way of a pass rush and they did nothing to improve that. That is a recipe for disaster in a league that is pass happy with rules favoring the WR more and more. The play is Atlanta u8.5 -140
Baltimore u8.5 -105 – After winning the Super Bowl the Ravens lost some key contributors lat season and it showed going 8-8. The big talk this season was the Ray Rice issues. His suspension won’t help this team even though Rice had a disappointing 2013. Steve Smith comes in to help fill the void Anquan Boldin left last year. Smith is in his 14th year and we have to wonder how much more he has in the tank. The model has this team as a 2 to 1 dog to get the over based on last seasons numbers. That is a big hill to overcome and this team has not added enough pieces to do it. The play is u8.5 -105.
Carolina o8.5 +175 – There is no doubt this is an offensively challenged football team. But on the defensive side of the ball they were extremely stingy giving up 8 points less than the league average and ranking 2nd behind the Seattle Seahawks. Carolina has a QB who can make plays but not many other weapons. Having teams that lack play makers in the NFL is not typically a team worth backing. Another worry is just how mobile Cam will be following ankle surgery. The positive for this team is the best front 7 in the game. I am banking on the offesive line being good enough to keep Cam healthy and the defense being as good as last season. That could be a lot to ask for but at +175 we can have a relatively low risk bet with a nice return.
Chicago u8.5 +140 – This was my long shot pick to win the Super Bowl last season. Luckily I had Seattle as well because the Bears were a huge disappointment. Going 8-8 the Bears missed winning the division by a half game. The injuries on defense really hurt them. They did not look like the Lovie Smith defensive teams of the past. Offensively this was one of the best teams in football. Marshall and Jeffery imo are the best pair of wideouts in the league. Cutler will continue to thrive under Trestman who is an offensive and QB. Because of the injuries on defense I will hold off on taking this under even though the plus money is very intriguing.
Cincinnati o9 100 – One of the best defenses in the league the Bengals finished 11-5 to win the AFC North last season. But as has happened before the Bengals and Andy Dalton were disappointing in the playoffs losing at home to San Diego. That loss is sticking in the minds of bettors here as the juice is on the under. The defense takes a bit of a hit losing Micheal Johnson but Cincinnati has a knack for finding quality players to replace those they lost. Giovanni Bernard is becoming a top back in the league and will compliment a team with a QB who is efficient and a defense that is stingy. This bet will hinge on Andy Dalton and at least in the regular season he has not let us down. The play is o9 100.
Green Bay u10.5 +115 – The Packers lost Rodgers for 5 games last season and it showed. The Vegas lines were adjusted about 10 points for the injury. An astounding number in the NFL that few players are worthy of. Despite the key loss the Packers managed to sneak in the playoffs at 8-7-1 but lost to a team they have struggled with, the San Francisco 49ers. The model had this team as an under even after I made an adjustment to factor in the Rodgers loss last season. After tossing out Rodgers first season as a starter he averages almost 12 wins over a 16 game season. For that reason alone we will stay away from this under.
Houston u7.5 +140 – Can you have a worse season than Houston last year? The talent did not match the results as the Texans finished 2-14. The model naturally picks this team to finish under 7.5 games after their performance last year but we have to figure that was closer to an anomaly than the norm. This team had Seattle all but beat until a pick 6 with 2 minutes to go changed everything. From that point they went on a tailspin as Schaub threw more pick 6 td’s than any QB I can remember. Kubiak is out and Bill O’Brien formerly of the Patriots and Penn St is in. O’Brien can handle this job considering how well he handled the Penn St nightmare he inherited. Clowney was the number one pick going to a team that should have been a playoff team last year. Fitzpatrick takes over at QB. Too much talent on the defensive side of the ball to think 2013 will happen again. I will steer clear of this team and not follow the model.
Indianapolis u9.5 -110 – AT 11-5 the Colts won the AFC South in 2013 and had an amazing playoff win at home against Kansas City. Luck is establishing himself as a winner in this league and proof that a top notch QB can make the world of a difference in today’s NFL. The Colts traded for Trent Richardson and he looked just as bad with a horseshoe on his helmet as he did in all brown. The NFL has a long history of sticking with busts long after they should have. Richardson is probably in that category. Hakeem Nicks was a key pickup for this team. He hopes to improve on back to back seasons of sub 60 catches. It very well may be TY Hilton who has the breakout for this team on offense if the Colts allow Luck to open it up a bit. Last season it appeared this team wanted to try and run it but I think this season Luck gets more control and we see them throw it more often. Sticking with the “don’t take unders against top QB’s” theory I will pass on the models prediction here.
Jacksonville u4.5 +185 – Everybody’s favorite doormats the Jacksonville Jaguars have a pretty low number once again this season as just 5 wins gets them over. Jones Drew is gone as is Blaine Gabbert at QB. In comes rookie Blake Bortles to try his hand at being the QB to turn around this dismal franchise. Before he gets his chance it looks like Chad Henne will be the starter. We have seen what Henne can do and it is not impressive, especially with this cast around him. With Toby Gerhart now the main threat on offense and Chad Henne at QB there is not much to get excited about. I will take the massive juice and listen to the model u4.5 +185.
Kansas City o8.5 +165 – A big turnaround last season for Kansas City finishing 11-5 behind Denver in the AFC West. The defense was exposed in Indianapolis giving up 45 in a 1 point loss on the road in the Wild Card round. Jamaal Charles is the best back in the league right now. The offense played it close to the vest early on last year and started 9-0. Over their last 7 games the offense put up 34.6 ppg but won just 2 of those games. The schedule is tough and that is helping the juice on this over. The Chiefs get to play the NFC West this season and none of those games will be easy. At +165 it is hard to pass up. The Chiefs may not have been as good as their 9-0 start but they arent as bad as the 2-6 finish either. I will take a shot at +165 they can get to 9.
New England u10.5 +145 – The model likes u10.5 here for the Patriots. Tom Brady has played 12 full seasons and won less than 10.5 twice. I am not going to look into this any further. Do not take unders on the top QB’s in the league. Next.
NY Giants u8 -120 – Are the Giants paying for selling their souls to win those two Super Bowls against the Patriots? Perhaps. Last season the G-Men went 7-9 and Eli Manning looked awful getting picked off 27 times. By all accounts this was a one off type of season for Manning. The offensive line was terrible allowing Eli to be sacked 29 times. Out with Offensive Coordinator Kevin Glibride and in with Ben McAdoo. McAdoo is implementing a more West Coast style offense that should help Manning in the sack department. The running game is non existent for the Giants. Averaging just 3.5 ypc last season the Giants ranked 30th in the NFL. Rashad Jennings will take over the RB duties. A long time backup this is Jennings shot to become a featured back. The Giants beefed up their secondary, which has been poor the last few years, adding Rodgers-Cromartie, Zack Bowman and Walter Thurmond. The Giants lose Tuck this season and the front seven is not looking very good. u8 may be tough but I will follow the model here and take NYG u8 -120.
NY Jets u7 +140 – The Jets finished 8-8 last season and Vegas is looking for them to take a step back with a 7 total. Rex Ryan continues to be the clown of the NFL but somehow maintains his job as head coach. Should he not make the playoffs this season things may be different. Geno Smith had a shaky rookie campaign tossing 21 interceptions. Vick comes in with a chance to take over and is obviously the better of the two QB’s. The problem is Vick can not stay healthy and when he does he is a bit of a turnover machine himself. Vick had much better weapons in Philadelphia and that did not seem to get him very far. The defense will be good as that is Rex Ryan’s specialty but they did take a step back as just the 11th ranked in the league. The Jets still look to be a mess. I like the plus juice and the u7 here.
Philadelphia u9 +105 – The Eagles finished 10-6 winning the NFC East last season. Nick Foles will be the starter as there is no controversy in Philly at the position any longer. Vick is gone to the Jets and Foles has control of the team. Under Foles the team went 8-2 last season. Foles had an incredible 27:2 TD:INT ratio. That is not just a product of the offense, Foles stepped up to become a star in this league. Add in LeSean McCoy to this offense and they are going to be formidable. McCoy will get some rest though as the Eagles picked up Sproles in the offseason. Seemingly a great fit for the style of play in Philadelphia. The model looked at a full season of last years stats and that included 6 games without Foles. I will pass here in anticipation of this offense being tough to stop.
Pittsburgh u8.5 +115 – The Steelers finished last season at 8-8 missing the playoffs by a game. They made major changes this season on the defensive side of the ball losing 5 veterans. Young players on defense will have to step up. The Steelers look to become more run reliant than they have in the past. Le”Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will get the bulk of the carries with rookie speedster Dri Archer as a potential change of pace type back. 9 wins is not out of the question but I will stick with the model and take the u8.5 +115.
San Francisco u10.5 -125 – 3 straight NFC championship games with a tough Super Bowl defeat mixed in for the 49ers. Playing in an increasingly tough NFC West will make getting to 11 wins much more difficult than last season when they went 12-4. Frank Gore continues to produce even at 31 years old. Last season the 49ers relied heavily on the RB and he produced with 1,128 yards and 9 TD’s. Kaepernick has questions to answer. After electrifying the league in 2012, Kap led the 49ers to the least amount of pass attempts in the NFL last season and under 200 yards passing per game. Expect the offense to open up a bit with the addition of Stevie Johnson from Buffalo. Defensively this team is still pretty tough giving up just 17ppg last year. I will pass on the models suggestion here.
St. Louis u7.5 +110 – St. Louis seems to be a sexy pick. Jeff Fisher is as good a coach as there is in football and the defense keeps getting better. The Question is can they score enough. Last season the offense was about 2 ppg under the league average. Playing 4 games against Seattle and San Francisco doesn’t help but when adjusted for schedule the Rams were actually the 22nd ranked offense. The offensive line has been banged up and will need to stay healthy. Jake Long is a quality LT but he is returning from a torn ACL. Sam Bradford has yet to prove he can be a franchise type QB in this league. Without a guy under center who can be relied on it is tough to win in the NFL. I will follow the model and take u7.5 +110.
Tampa Bay u7 +110 – The model thinks there is a 2.5/1 chance the Bucs go under the 7 total. There are however major changes in Tampa this year that the model is not factoring. Lovie Smith and his ball hawking defensive style is the new head coach. The defense does lose Revis at CB however. McCown will take over at QB after looking good with Chicago when Cutler went down. I am leery of that success as I think the offense of Trestman was much to credit there. There are improvements over last season here but not enough to get this team to 8-8. I will take u7 +110.
Washington u7 100 – Jay Gruden comes in as a first time head coach. Offensive minded, Gruden will look to utilize the talents of RGIII while trying to keep him healthy. RGIII returned from major knee surgery and looked tentative. The QB who dazzled fans in 2012 with his ability to make plays on the ground and the air was not the same guy in 2013. This season we should expect a healthier RGIII with a head coach who understand how to coach QB’s. I am hesitant in agreeing with the model here. The offense should be improved with RGIII healthy. There are too many variables here for me to have an opinion so I will stay away.
Arizona 07.5 -140
Atlanta u8.5 -140
Baltimore u8.5 -105
Carolina o8.5 +175
Cincinnati o9 100
Jacksonville u4.5 +185
Kansas City o8.5 +165
NY Giants u8 -120
NY Jets u7 +140
Pittsburgh u8.5 +115
St. Louis u7.5 +110
Tampa Bay u7 +110