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AFC Conference Previews

AFC Conference Previews 1 month 1 week ago #448898

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AFC East Betting Preview
By Matt Fargo
Covers.com

New England Patriots (2016: 14-2 SU, 13-3 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

Odds to win the AFC East: -2,000

Season win total: Over 12.5 (-107) / Under 12.5 (-109)

Why to bet the Patriots: The most dominant team in football for over a decade got even stronger in the offseason by signing wide receiver Brandin Crooks and corner Stephon Gilmore. It almost seems unfair how New England keeps doing it but once again, they are the heavy favorites to win the division and go back to the Super Bowl. It was 10 years ago that the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season and there is actually talk about doing it again this season. While that is unlikely, betting against this team should be done at your own risk as evidenced by their incredible 13-3 ATS record last season (16-3 ATS including the postseason).

Why not to bet the Patriots: As is the case every year, the Patriots have a bulls-eye on their backs and they never face an opponent that is not sky high to face them. One major factor is that New England will be overvalued in a lot of games this season based on expectations and the success it had last season. The schedule outside of the division is not easy as the Patriots face Kansas City, New Orleans, Houston, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Denver, Oakland and Pittsburgh, all of which are playoff contenders. That is not a very easy section of games.

Season win total pick: Under 12.5

Miami Dolphins (2016: 10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS, 12-4 O/U)

Odds to win the AFC East: +1,000

Season win total: Over 7.5 (+134) / Under 7.5 (-157)

Why to bet the Dolphins: Miami was a playoff team last season despite the fact Ryan Tannehill missed the last three games and it is expected to make another run this season. The loss of Tannehill for the year is the big news and while the addition of Jay Cutler is not an upgrade, it is not a downgrade either as he knows the system and should slide right in. He has plenty of playmakers around him. Overall, the Dolphins increased their talent on defense which was a weakness last season and improvements on that side of the ball can make them dangerous.

Why not to bet the Dolphins: While Cutler should be able to fit right in, he is known to take too many chances and he can single-handedly lose games - as we saw many times in Chicago. The emergence of Jay Ajayi was a pleasant surprise but he was very inconsistent as he ran for over 200 yards three times but was held to 51 yards or fewer eight times. While the defense should be better, Miami was No. 29 in rushing defense and that is not an easy fix overnight. After years of being bad, the Dolphins came out of nowhere last season and they will not be sneaking up on anyone. They are still nowhere near the Patriots despite some good upgrades.

Season win total pick: Over 7.5

Buffalo Bills (2016: 7-9 SU, 6-10 ATS, 12-4 O/U)

Odds to win the AFC East: +1,500

Season win total: Over 6.5 (-130) / Under 6.5 (+110)

Why to bet the Bills: Playing New England twice does not help things. But playing the Jets twice does and now that the Dolphins have lost Ryan Tannehill, the Bills caught a break even though the two meetings are in Weeks 15 and 17. The rest of the schedule is not easy however. In additional to having to play the AFC West and NFC South, the other two games are against the Bengals and Colts which were challenging a couple years ago but winnable now. Buffalo has the toughest schedule of any team outside of the AFC West according to ESPN but they expect to once again be competitive.

Why not to bet the Bills: Can a run first team win consistently in what is now a pass happy league? We are about to find out as the Bills did nothing to upgrade their passing attack. The trade of Sammy Watkins was a bit of a surprise but he has been a ticking time bomb with his injury issues, so getting Jordan Matthews could be a slight upgrade. Buffalo still has the longest playoff drought in the NFL as it has not seen the postseason since 1999, and playing what is a tough schedule on paper is not going to make it any easier to break that streak.

Season win total pick: Over 6.5

New York Jets (2016: 5-11 SU, 6-10 ATS, 7-8-1 O/U)

Odds to win the AFC East: +10,000

Season win total: Over 4.5 (+160) / Under 4.5 (-190)

Why to bet the Jets: If you like underdogs and contrarian plays, the Jets are your team. They will be underdogs in every game this season and some are projecting them to go winless because the talent level is that bad. But for betting purposes, that is why there is a pointspread to try and even things out and while this team is young, these players are not going to tank as some claim as they are playing for their jobs. Complete rebuilds are no fun from a fan standpoint, especially for a team coming off a 10-win season the year before, but from a betting standpoint, the value will be there.

Why not to bet the Jets: The Jets will see plenty of value this upcoming season as no one will want to touch them so their spreads are going to be enormous. The problem here is where is the quality of football going to come from? They have no proven quarterback, the receiving corps is one of the worst ever in the NFL, Matt Forte is old, the offensive line is raw and the defense is starting from scratch. There was a lack of discipline last year and that was with numerous veterans on the team, so that discipline could be dangerous again and cost head coach Todd Bowles his job.

Season win total pick: Under 4.5
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AFC Conference Previews 1 month 1 week ago #448899

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AFC South Betting Preview
By: Power Sports
Covers.com

Houston Texans (2016: 9-7 SU, 6-9-1 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

Odds To Win Division: +195

Season Win Total: Over 8.5 (+103) / Under 8.5 (-113)

Why to bet the Texans: I'll go through some of the obvious regression that should take place in the next section, but if you're looking for optimism, one can point in two different directions. Those two directions happen to involve the offense and defense. For the former, the drafting of quarterback Deshaun Watson could be huge. Head coach Bill O'Brien has won nine games each of the last three seasons and done so with a cavalcade of terrible signal-callers, such as Brock Osweiler last season. On the defensive side of the ball, JJ Watt returns to a unit that actually ranked No. 1 in yards allowed without him. Also, there is no clear cut favorite in this division, meaning if the Texans do slip, there's no guaranteed challenger to wrest control of the division away from them.

Why not to bet the Texans: They were outscored by 49 points last season, which is more indicative of a six or seven win team. The only AFC teams with worse point differentials last year were Cleveland, Jacksonville and the Jets. After beating the Bears 23-14 in Week 1 last year, the Texans never again won a game by more than a touchdown. In fact, over their final 14 reg season contests, they got outscored by 66 points. When, or if, Watson will be the starting QB is a mystery. The underwhelming Tom Savage figures to begin the year under center. How much can Watt really improve the defensive performance from last year. By virtue of winning the division last year, they are the only AFC South team that must play the Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs this year.

Season Win Total Pick: Under 8.5

Indianapolis Colts (2016: 8-8 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 9-7 O/U)

Odds to Win Division: +265

Season Win Total: Over 9.0 (+130) / Under 9.0 (-140)

Why to bet the Colts: They have the best QB in the division, Andrew Luck, and also finished with the division's best point differential (just +19) a year ago. If Luck can stay healthy (a big if), then it's difficult to imagine this team not winning more games this year compared to 2016. Efforts have been made to upgrade the roster surrounding Luck and thankfully, awful general manager Ryan Grigson was finally axed. The Colts are expected to be favored in every home game but one this year, Week 10 against the Steelers.

Why not to bet the Colts: Note the asterisk next to the win total. It's off the board as there's already questions about Luck's health and if he misses any time, this team is dead (even in a weak division). Luck isn't the only key player banged up either. Center Ryan Kelly is injured and will miss time in the preseason. It seems as if the entire receiving corps is banged up as well. My view of this team is that they are now "paying up" for overachieving in Luck's first several seasons. Head coach Chuck Pagano seems like a lame duck. The defense just isn't any good. If anything, look to bet the Over with this team.

Season Win Total Pick: Under 9

Jacksonville Jaguars (2016: 3-13 SU, 8-8 ATS, 10-6 SU)

Odds to Win Division: +630
Season Win Total: Over 6.5 (-153) / Under 6.5 (+131)

Why to bet the Jaguars: As you can tell from the odds, the AFC South is expected to be a three-horse race in 2017. But I don't really view any of those three (Texans, Colts, Titans) as substantially better than the Jaguars, so there is some value here. As you can tell by the season win total for 2017, bettors are expecting improvement with the 6.5 heavily juiced to the Over. They had a Pythagorean Win expectation of 5.8 last year, so the won-loss record was a tad bit misleading even if the team was favored in only three games. This year, they're projected to be favored in four and should pull some upsets. Gus Bradley left behind a rapidly improving defense. Top draft choice Leonard Fournette could be a difference maker on offense.

Why not to bet the Jaguars: Again, this team was favored in only three games, so the hype going into last season was never really justified. Personally, I am not a fan of Blake Bortles, whose 2015 numbers were greatly overvalued (mainly by those in the fantasy football community) as he racked up a lot of yards when the team was down. The offense would be better going through a rookie QB as opposed to Bortles, who I do not believe is long for his current job. Over the last five seasons, the Jags have won: 2, 4, 3, 5 and 3 games. So asking them to go Over this year's projected win total seems like asking a lot.

Season Win Total Pick: Over 7.0

Tennessee Titans (2016: 9-7 SU, 7-9 SU, 10-6 O/U)

Odds to Win Division: +195

Season Win Total: Over 8.5 (-145) / Under 8.5 (+124)

Why to bet the Titans: Coming into the year, this looks like the best team in the AFC South. Arguably, they were the best team last year, but a late season injury to QB Marcus Mariota plus a poor record vs. division opponents (2-4 SU) cost them. Some considered taking WR Corey Davis (out of Western Michigan) at No. 5 overall as a reach. I did not. If Mariota stays healthy, the Titans are the rightful favorite to win the division. There's only one game - at present - where they are expected to be a dog of more than three points this year (Week 11 at Pittsburgh). They faded late last year, but this season the final three regular season games are against the 49ers, Rams and Jaguars.

Why not to bet the Titans: Just because they may be better this year doesn't necessarily mean they will win more games. I have them winning the division, but at 8-8 SU. The jump that took place last year (from 3 wins in '15 to 9 in '16) typically necessitates some sort of "leveling off" in year three. I'm a tad bit worried about the hype surrounding a team that won a total of FIVE games in 2014-15. This is a division full of uninspiring head coaches and Mike Mularkey is definitely one of them. The defense was not great last year.

Season Win Total Pick: Under 8.5
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AFC Conference Previews 1 month 1 week ago #448901

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AFC North Betting Preview
By: Steve Merril

It could be Ben Roethlisberger's final season, but that isn't bothering books as he and the Steelers' high-powered offense are the faves to win the third AFC North, but the Ravens could ruin his going-away party. Covers Expert Steve Merril gives you a team-by-team breakdown of the whole division, including season win total picks.

Baltimore Ravens (2016: 8-8 SU, 7-9 ATS, 7-8-1 O/U)

Odds to win division: +400
Season win total: 8.5

Why to bet the Ravens: Baltimore's secondary figures to improve with the additions of Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. The two of them join Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle who made impacts last year. The Ravens also are a great bet to win close games with arguably the best kicker in football in Justin Tucker. He missed just one field goal last year and that was blocked.

Why not to bet the Ravens: The offense is already battling injuries, starting with Joe Flacco who dealt with back problems this offseason. The running back group is filled with question marks. Kenneth Dixon is done for the season, leaving the likes of Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Javorius Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro to share the carries. The tight end group would have been a strength before they were ravaged by injuries

Season win total pick: Over 8.5

Cincinnati Bengals (2016: 6-9-1 SU, 7-9 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

Odds to win division: +350
Season win total: 8.5

Why to bet the Bengals: The offense has a ton of weapons after acquiring John Ross and Joe Mixon in the draft. Ross provides enough speed to prevent teams from doubling AJ Green out wide. Mixon could be the lead back for Cincinnati by the end of the season as he moves ahead of Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. This team will have a strong secondary led by Adam Jones.

Why not to bet the Bengals: Andy Dalton puts up good numbers at quarterback against weak teams, but he has struggled in big games. Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict are suspensions waiting to happen. The Bengals have a stretch of four road games in five weeks after an early bye.

Season win total pick: Under 8.5

Cleveland Browns (2016: 1-15 SU, 3-12-1 ATS, 8-8 O/U)

Odds to win division: +5000
Season win total: 4.5

Why to bet the Browns: The team is building themselves a solid defense with the moves made this offseason. Getting Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers in the draft will pay off nicely. Jamie Collins is a good leader to have in the linebacker corp. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are a solid running back duo, with Johnson also being used in the slot.

Why not to bet the Browns: When your quarterback race is between Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler, you aren't going to win too many games. Kenny Britt is the veteran presence at wide receiver, but he will likely see a lot of double teams considering the lack of other weapons. Cleveland closes the season with four road games over the last six weeks.

Season win total pick: Under 4.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (2016: 11-5 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

Odds to win division: -170
Season win total: 10.5

Why to bet the Steelers: Any time you can roll out Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger, you are going to win. Brown is the best wide receiver in football, while Bell can make the same claim at running back. The offensive line is highly rated as well. Linebacker is a strength with Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier and James Harrison.

Why not to bet the Steelers: Injuries could derail this veteran team rather quickly. Roethlisberger has missed games during the past two seasons. Bell is not in training camp which could lead to a sluggish start when he finally returns to the team. James Harrison is 39 years old, so there is a possibility he will start to lose a step.

Season win total pick: Under 10.5
Last Edit: 1 month 1 week ago by Blade.
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AFC Conference Previews 1 month 1 week ago #449059

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AFC West Betting Preview
By: Al McMordie
Covers.com

Denver Broncos (2016: 9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS, 7-9 O/U)

Odds to win division: +342

Season win total: Over 8.5 +142/Under 8.5 -167

Why to bet the Broncos: Despite the retirement of head coach Gary Kubiak, the Broncos’ new staff has a plethora of coaching experience. Head coach Vance Joseph was the defensive coordinator in Miami last season, while Mike McCoy is back in Denver as offensive coordinator after a head coaching stint with the Chargers and Joe Woods takes over the defense. This regime change could energize the team, which floundered last season following a Super Bowl title two years ago. Last season, Denver ranked No. 4 in Total Defense, including No. 1 versus the pass. Additionally, its offensive numbers should improve this season under McCoy, who will overhaul the scheme to incorporate more short, quick passes. Moreover, Denver should get more productivity at running back, provided C.J. Anderson doesn’t miss more than half the season again. Woods should also improve Denver’s rush defense, which ranked No. 28 last season, by mixing up the looks, and not relying too heavily on base concepts.

Why not to bet the Broncos: Denver has several question marks. First, of course, is who will be its quarterback. Trevor Siemian started most of last season, but he will battle Paxton Lynch for the job. Neither signal caller rates above league average. Second, Denver’s offensive line had major problems last season. Last season’s zone-heavy scheme is being scrapped by new coach Jeff Davidson, who favors a gap approach. But it’s unclear whether this season’s offensive line will be any better than last year’s. If not, then Denver’s quarterbackss will once again face heavy pressure and be vulnerable to sacks (40 last year). Finally, Denver’s schedule is the league’s most difficult, based on its opponents’ records last season.

Season win total pick: Under 8.5

Kansas City Chiefs (2016: 12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

Odds to win division: +238

Season win total: Over 9, -109/Under 9 -107

Why to bet the Chiefs: In four seasons with the Chiefs, coach Andy Reid has posted a record of 43-21 in the regular season. Last year, KC went 12-4 and is returning all of its offensive starters from last season, plus all but one of its defensive starters. But even though management isn’t bringing in new talent, that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. Last year’s breakout rookie, Tyreek Hill, should be able to build on his 2016 campaign, as the coaching staff will feature him much more this season. Star pass rusher Justin Houston will also contribute more, as he played just five games last year due to injury.

Why not to bet the Chiefs: There is absolutely no depth at the quarterback position, should starter Alex Smith sustain an injury. Last year’s back-up, Nick Foles, was not retained, so all the Chiefs have behind Smith are inexperienced Tyler Bray and rookie Pat Mahomes. The running back position is also a concern. Jamaal Charles is gone, so the Chiefs will rely on both Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. Neither had a play from scrimmage greater than 46 yards last season. Ware’s production was poor in the second half of the season, when he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry (compared to 5.0 yards per carry in the first half). Like all the teams in the AFC West, Kansas City’s schedule is brutal this season and ranks as the league’s second most difficult behind Denver’s. Finally, the Chiefs benefited greatly from turnovers last season, as they led the league with 33. But turnovers are somewhat random, so it will be hard for the Chiefs to match that performance this season.

Season win total pick: Under 9

Oakland Raiders (2016: 12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS, 11-5 O/U)

Odds to win division: +168

Season win total: Over 9.5, -109/Under 9.5, -107

Why to bet the Raiders: The Raiders have a supremely talented quarterback in Derek Carr. Indeed, many believe Oakland would have reached the Super Bowl had Carr not broken his fibula in Week 16. But Carr is healthy this season and will have an excellent group of receivers at his disposal. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper both topped 1,000 yards last season. The Raiders also brought in tight end Jared Cook from Green Bay to give Carr yet another solid pass-catching option. On the other side of the ball, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack is a force and he garnered 11 sacks last season. First Round draft pick Gareon Conley could also be impactful in the secondary.

Why not to bet the Raiders: Oakland has made major strides over the past three seasons, going from 3-13 in 2014 to 7-9 in 2015 and then to 12-4 last season. Oakland will be saddled with a very difficult schedule this year (the fourth hardest in the NFL), which includes a “home” game in Mexico City versus New England. There’s also a big concern at the running back position. General manager Reggie McKenzie traded for Marshawn Lynch, who has come out of retirement to play for his hometown team. But Lynch is now 31 years old and only gained 417 yards in seven games two seasons ago. Last season, the Raiders were tied with the Chiefs for the league’s best turnover differential (+16). But that is a statistic which can greatly change from year-to-year, so the Raiders’ success will be adversely affected if they don’t reach the same heights again.

Season win total pick: Under 9.5

Los Angeles Chargers (2016: 5-11 SU, 7-9 ATS, 9-6-1 O/U)

Odds to win division: +429

Season win total: Over 7.5, -123/Under 7.5 +105

Why to bet the Chargers: Last year, the Chargers’ season took a huge hit early, when wide receiver Keenan Allen was injured in Game 1, but he is healthy now and will have help in the form of rookie WR Mike Williams (if he can stay healthy), who was drafted No. 7 overall. Those two, plus tight end Antonio Gates, will give QB Philip Rivers a terrific trio to target. Moreover, the Chargers have a great weapon at running back, in Melvin Gordon. The second-year pro rushed for 997 yards last season and will be featured in Anthony Lynn’s “ground-and-pound” approach. Also, while other teams have to worry about losing their quarterback to injury, that’s toward the bottom of the Chargers’ concerns, as Rivers has started 176 consecutive games.

Why not to bet the Chargers: The Chargers may lack a home field advantage. Last year, they played in front of 57,000 fans, on average, in San Diego. But this season — their first in Los Angeles — the Chargers will have just 30,000 fans in the seats at StubHub Center, the NFL’s smallest stadium. That won’t generate much excitement. Although Los Angeles looks to be set on offense, its stop unit is another story. Gus Bradley is the new defensive coordinator following his stint as Jacksonville head coach and he’ll implement a 4-3 defensive scheme. Bradley is a very good coach, but it might take another year for him to acquire the talent to fit his system. Even worse: Los Angeles plays in the most difficult division in football and has the third toughest schedule in the league this season.

Season win total pick: Over 7.5
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AFC Conference Previews 1 month 3 days ago #449652

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2017 AFC Preview
By Marc Lawrence
Playbook.com

Toe-to-Toe

The AFC stands a blasé 154-169-2 SU and 154-160-11 ATS in non-conference clashes against the NFC the past five seasons, including 6-1 SUATS as double-digit favorites.

They have gone 172-148-5 ‘Over’ in those games, including 100-83-3 ‘Over’ when playing as a dog.

In intra conference games – AFC versus AFC – overall the teams off a SU underdog win have struggled to get back up the following game, going just 65-93 SU and 62-88-8 ATS. Inside those numbers is a paltry 1-14 SU and 4-11 ATS mark for dogs of 6 or more points.

Passer Rating Differential

In a passer-friendly league these days, it’s important to know that you win when you have a quality quarterback, and you lose when you don’t.

Of the 50 teams in the NFL that ranked in the Top 10 in season ending defensive pass efficiency, 32 of them make the playoffs (although only three last season).

Among those a total of the 14 teams combined to finish the season ranked in both offensive and defensive pass efficiency, with 13 of them finding their way to the postseason. The only one that did not: the 2015 New York Jets of the AFC.

This is our NFL AFC Division pointspread prognosis for this season...

AFC EAST PREVIEW

BUFFALO BILLS


TEAM THEME: SALUD

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8 -130
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 123.5

Rex Ryan’s grandstand firing of OC Greg Roman following an 0-2 start last season wasn’t enough to save his hide as his toxic personality, along with his defenses that finished No. 24 and 26 in two years with the Bills, proved to be his Waterloo. Fired brother Rob also won’t benefit from the finally healthy services of last year’s top pick, DE Shaq Lawson who never fully recovered from preseason shoulder surgery, or 2nd-rounder LB Reggie Ragland who sat out the entire season with a torn ACL. As for the offense, Dan Graziano of ESPN notes that of the quarterbacks who have played at least 20 games the past years, Tyrod Taylor ranks 4th in TD/INT ratio and 7th in Total QBR.

The addition of WR Zay Jones, who set an NCAA single-season record with 158 receptions at East Carolina last season, along with the healthy return of stud Sammy Watkins, should help Taylor and 1st-year head coach Sean McDermott ease the pain of a difficult schedule that finds the Bills taking on foes with a projected 134.5 wins. And if upper management can prevent any further pillaging from their division rival Patriots, maybe even retired anchor Chris Berman will, once again, circle the wagons in upstate New York.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rex Ryan’s record with Buffalo was the best of any of the previous five Bills’ head coaches.

PLAY ON: vs. NY Jets (9/10)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

TEAM THEME: GASING AT THE POSSIBILITIES

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 7 -120
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 134

There’s a lot to like about the 2017 Dolphins as owner Stephen Ross laid out a bundle in resigning key personnel while trying to hold on to the core of his 10-6 team. There’s also a lot to be concerned with as the Fish allowed went just 4-13 ‘In The Stats’, allowed more points than they scored, and were also only 2-4 SU against winning opposition last season. The latter is extremely alarming considering Miami tackles the 3rd most difficult schedule in the league (projected wins 134) and the 6th toughest based on win-loss records from last year (148-119).

Numerous close calls (seven games decided by overtime or 4 points or less) had the Dolphins gazing at defense in the draft, headlined by pass-rusher Charles Harris (Missouri) in the first round. Looking for red-zone help, they also re-united TE Julius Thomas with head coach Adam Gase. The offensive line looks to be a strength as Laremy Tunsil, last year’s value-packed first-round pick, will move to his natural position at left tackle, though they will need Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey to overcome nagging injuries that has caused him to miss 19 games over the past four seasons. The main question is whether retread QB Jay Cutler can adequately fill former starter Ryan Tannehill’s shoes.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since 2000, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald notes the Dolphins have drafted a total of 12 players that have totaled 12 Pro Bowl seasons.

PLAY AGAINST: at Buffalo (12/17)

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

TEAM THEME: GAME OF GROANS

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 12.5 +100
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 124

Tom Brady got his ‘one for the thumb’ in leading the Pats past Atlanta, capping the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. We’re not sure who groaned more: the growing legion of New England haters or the sportsbooks who took a virtual bath, especially on 2nd half action. After suffering its first shutout loss at Gillette Stadium in franchise history in Week Four, Brady returned from suspension and the Pats never looked back. We don’t want to say he’s getting old but your TV might still have knobs on it as old as Brady (40). Nonetheless, he adds another weapon to his “5’10” arsenal” in deep threat Brandon Cooks, complimenting Julian Edelman out of the slot and pass-catching back James White.

A 9th straight postseason appearance figures to be in the bank as a difficult non-division lineup is offset by the soft AFC East. And the more things change in the ever-developing NFL, the more they stay the same in Foxborough: the Patriots will continue to employ one of the NFL’s smaller coaching staffs (its 15-member group is far below the league average of 20). It’s an old school approach that Belichick feels leads to better communication. One thing’s for sure… with or without rabbit ears, his message is clear.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since 2006, five defending Super Bowl champions have failed to make it back to the playoffs the following season.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Atlanta (10/22)

NEW YORK JETS

TEAM THEME: KISS THIS

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 5 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 131.5

You know you’re in trouble when your owner asks the fans for patience. Even Hall of Fame QB Joe Namath, who displayed just that when waiting for a kiss from his main squeeze, Suzy Kolber, said, “Right now I don’t think there are many teams wary of the Jets.” Recognizing an obvious need to officially begin their rebuild, the Jets said adios to mainstays Ryan Clady, Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall and Darrell Revis. They then proceeded to trade down four times in the NFL draft to acquire much-needed extra selections for an aging roster.

Quizzically, QB Josh McCown (19-46 SU in the NFL, including 2-20 the last 22) figures to start until they figure out what they want to do with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Together they form a sluggish MPH (McCown, Petty, Hackenberg) trio that is simply not up to speed in this league. Its no wonder why the Flyboys season win total came in at 5 – the same number of victories they finished with last season after posting 10 wins in HC Todd Bowles’ rookie season. Despite filling obvious needs, New York’s draft also looked like something out of Noah’s Ark as the Jets drafted positions in pairs: two safeties, two receivers and two corners. Right now they are hoping the ‘beat out’ Cleveland for the top spot in this year’s draft.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Jets are 15-0-1 ATS as division dogs against foes off a division ATS win.

PLAY ON: vs. Miami (9/24)

AFC NORTH PREVIEW

BALTIMORE RAVENS


TEAM THEME: THE MUCK STOPS HERE

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 9 +110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 127

Yes, Joe Flacco has won 83 games since entering the league in 2008, only trailing Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan during that span. However, since winning the Super Bowl and signing a monster contract in 2013, Flacco’s total QBR rating ranks 21st, behind the likes of Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The firing of OC Marc Trestman five games into the season didn’t help as the Ravens ended the year averaging only 2 points and 10 yards per game more than with him. Nor does the lack of depth at wide receiver as Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman are primarily deep threats that struggle to make plays (Perriman has yet to produce 65 receiving yards in a game). Thus, the signing of WR Jeremy Maclin should help.

So in typical Ravens’ fashion when all else fails, John Harbaugh will, once again, turn to a defense that features six new starters and a deep secondary. Harbaugh is pumped, going on record as saying “I don’t want to overstate the expectations, but I’m not afraid to do that, really. I expect these guys to be great.” That should certainly help a team that played in a whopping 11 games last season that were decided by one score (7 points) or less.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Half of the Ravens’ road wins the last two years have been at Cleveland.

PLAY ON: at Oakland (10/8 )

CINCINNATI BENGALS

TEAM THEME: STARVIN’ MARVIN

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8.5 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 123

Apparently London Bridge wasn’t the only thing falling down across the pond. Cincinnati’s trip to Wembley Stadium in late October against the Redskins resulted in a 24-24 tie and the Bengals could never really get it in gear from that point on, closing out a dismal 2016 campaign with a 3-5 finish (all five losses by 5 or fewer points) – and ending a streak of five straight one-and-done postseason appearances. However, things are looking up for Andy Dalton in America’s Queen City. Cincy has added speedy WR John Ross and controversial RB Joe Mixon to an explosive offense that features WR A.J. Green and TE Tyler Eifert.

In addition, no team will face an easier set of foes in 2017 as the Bengals’ schedule of opponents tallies a combined 123 projected wins. Marvin Lewis' men also have the luxury of traveling the second fewest air miles in the loop (7,652) while taking on the NFC North - a division they have owned of late as evidenced by a 10-2 SU and 8-3-1 ATS mark since 2005. It’s all for naught, though, unless the offensive line can keep their red-headed rifle upright and seeing ‘Green.’ With that, it’s hard to look past the fact that Cincinnati last tasted playoff victory in 1990.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Cincinnati is 12-2-1 ATS as a pick or dog of 3 or less points off a DD win under Lewis.

PLAY ON: vs. Detroit (12/24)

CLEVELAND BROWNS

TEAM THEME: KIZER PEMANENTE

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 4.5 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 132

The quarterback-starved Browns passed on signal callers with their two first-round selections but the carousal added another pony in the following round with the selection of DeShone Kizer. Kizer will likely open the season holding the clipboard for Brock Osweiler and/or Cody Kessler but history suggests it won’t take long before he gets his chance as the Browns have cycled through 26 QBs since 1999 (New England has used a total of five in that span and would have been three if not for Brady’s suspension). Still, color us intrigued as it looks like Hue Jackson has the Brownies heading in the right direction. They upgraded their offensive line and amassed a ton of draft picks (12) for 2018, including two firsts, three seconds and a pair of fourth rounders. All this while earning top grades in this year’s draft.

One constant is LT Joe Thomas (160 consecutive starts in 10 Pro Bowl seasons) who will need to remain productive as the game plan should be to pound the ball on the ground with RBs Isaiah Crowell (4.8 YPR) and Duke Johnson (4.9 YPR). The hire of DC Gregg ‘Bounty’ Williams is a good move but that will lead to a change of schemes (back to 4-3) for the third time in seven years. A salty division slate, along with a 1-5 SUATS log at home versus the NFC North, figures to keep the Brownies in the oven for another season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since 2006, the Browns have drafted 7 QBs that have gone 22-69 collectively.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Green Bay (12/10)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

TEAM THEME: KILLER B’S

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 10.5 -130
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 129

Playing every away game in an Eastern Time zone for only the third time in NFL history, the Steelers capitalized by going 5-3 SUATS in those games en route to a 11-win regular season – keeping Mike Tomlin’s 10-year streak of never having a losing campaign intact. And not only will the Steelers, like last year, travel the fewest air miles (6,790) in the league, they’re also expected to be favored in all but two games this season (small dogs at KC, small home dog to NE) according to Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas. The full time return of WR Martavius Bryant is a scary proposition as Ben Roethlisberger has never played a full season with all three B’s (Bell, Bryant, and Brown) in the lineup (provided LeVeon Bell eventually signs a contract).

The feel-good addition of RB James Conner compliments Bell while second-round selection WR JuJu Smith-Schuster gives Big Ben another weapon (can you say 40 TD passes!) to improve on an already impressive 138-66 SU record in his NFL career, including 25-10 SU and 23-12 ATS in division roadies. Anything less than a fourth consecutive double-digit win season and a second straight AFC North title will be a disappointment for the Terrible Towels.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Persistence has paid off for Pittsburgh: the Steelers have made 29 playoff appearances over the last 45 seasons. They are also only the fourth NFL franchise to earn 600 victories, trailing only Chicago, Green Bay, and NY Giants.

PLAY ON: vs. New England (12/17)

AFC SOUTH PREVIEW

HOUSTON TEXANS


TEAM THEME: ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8 -120
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 130.5

It’s been reported that head coach Bill O’Brien changes quarterbacks more often than he does underwear, which if true, could lead to a malodorous situation in Houston this season. The truth of the matter, though, is no one gets more from a stable of mediocre quarterbacks than the QB whisperer as his teams have started 8 different signal-callers in his three years with the Texans, yet somehow managed to pull off 28 wins and a couple of playoff appearances along the way. Despite paying dearly for first-round pick Deshaun Watson, it’s unlikely the Clemson star will join the stable anytime soon as O’Brien’s philosophy is rookie quarterbacks should be seen and not blurred (and if all else fails, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear a few Tony Romo ‘whispers’).

The return of J.J. Watt, who missed 13 games last season after undergoing back surgery, along with the rise of DE/LB Jadeveon Clowney – who is now playing at the level expected when Houston made him the top pick in the draft four years ago – ensures the defense is no laughing matter. It also should send the Texans back to the postseason out of a very winnable AFC South.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Houston is 12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS as a favorite against foes off a loss under O’Brien.

PLAY ON: at New England (9/24)

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

TEAM THEME: OPERATION: DVOA

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8.5 +120
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 122.5

There’s a new buzzword in Indy this season: DEFENSE. According to Bill Barnwell of ESPN, new GM Chris Ballard shored up the league’s fourth worst defense per DVOA via the draft and free agency. (DVOA is a statistical metric devised by Football Outsiders.com that measures Defense-adjusted Value Over Average – sort of like MLB’s ‘WAR’ Wins Above Replacement statistic. It allows you to compare teams and players overall and their offenses and defenses with better accuracy than standard measures such as yards gained and yards allowed, which don’t adjust for opponent quality.)

The offense, which ranked 7th in the league in points scored and 9th in total yardage won’t need metrics as long as Andrew Luck is back at full strength following off-season shoulder surgery – and that’s iffy as of this writing. Luck (46-30) is coming off a quiet 4,24/31 TD/63.5 completion percentage performance and will face the league’s softest SOS slate with foes going just 112-147 last season. Sure, the offensive line still needs help but if last year’s three selections (nabbed with the first five picks) come around and Ballard’s defensive plan pans out, the Colts could get off the 8-win schneid and return to the postseason for the first time in three years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: QB Andrew Luck is 21-3 SU and 20-4 ATS in his NFL career in games following a Colts’ SUATS loss.

PLAY ON: at Houston (11/5)

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

TEAM THEME: HAIL THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 6.5 -150
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 124.5

Despite holding half of their opponents to under 300 yards last season, the Jags managed to net only three wins as they lost a league-high eight games by a touchdown or less. It marked their sixth straight losing season, as they have not made the playoffs since 2007. Hence, they got busy in the offseason, bringing in numerous free agents, removing the interim label from head coach Doug Marrone and naming Tom Coughlin VP director of football operations. They also landed RB Leonard Fournette who should make an early splash as five of the Jags’ first six foes ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed per attempt last season. That can only help QB Blake Bortles, who next to Philip Rivers (52), has tossed more interceptions (51) than anyone in the league over the past three years (it’s never a good sign when your QB has more pick-6s than wins).

The Jaguars will also need to outplay Vegas projections as they are predicted to be favored in only six of their sixteen contests and will count on Marrone to handle division duties as the former head man in Buffalo (15-17 SU) is 10-4 ATS in division games, including a near spotless 5-1 ATS at home. A September 17th date versus an improved Tennessee team will put that number to the test. It will also be crucial to Bortles’ future as a starter with Jacksonville.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Jaguars are 1-10 SUATS at home in games after facing an NFC foe.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Indianapolis (12/3)

TENNESSEE TITANS

TEAM THEME: MULARKEY ASIDE, BEWARE OF THE TITANS

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8.5 -130
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 124.5

Taking the Titans from 3 wins in his rookie season to 9 victories last year, QB Marcus Mariota’s career looks promising – as long as he can avoid the dreaded injury bug that cut short each of his first two seasons in the league. That becomes a major hassle should Tennessee be forced to turn to Matt Cassel. The rest of the offense is also in good hands as dynamic first-round draft pick WR Corey Davis joins Rishard Matthews, who exploded over the final 12 games of the season, catching 65 balls for 945 yards and 9 TDs. The backfield is also well fortified as DeMarco Murray re-established himself as a bonafide anchor while Derrick Henry averaged 4.5 YPR in his rookie campaign.

On the other side of the ball, the Titans reinforced a secondary that ranked 30th overall with key free agent signings. Yes, we realize that head coach Mike Mularkey is just 14-34 SU in his last 48 games dating back to his days with Buffalo, but if they can take advantage of a soft schedule that finds only six foes owning winning records in 2016 (116-148 overall), then they just might make some noise in the vulnerable AFC South.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Music City Titans are 10-1 SU and 8-2-1 ATS versus sub .500 NFC West opponents.

PLAY ON: vs. Indianapolis (10/16)

AFC WEST PREVIEW

DENVER BRONCOS


TEAM THEME: RIGHT BACK AT YOU

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 8 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 133.5

It’s a good thing rookie head coach Vance Joseph, a former defensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins, won’t have to spend too much time shoring up a stop-unit that ranked 3rd in the league in points allowed (18.6) and 4th in overall total defense (316.1) last season. That’s because he’ll be spending most of his days (and nights) figuring out who will be under center while tackling the second most difficult slate in the league based on opponents’ win-loss records last year (150-114), and fourth hardest looking at foes’ projected wins (133.5) for this season.

Will it be Paxton Lynch, Denver’s top pick in the 2016 draft? Trevor Siemian, a 7th-rounder in 2015? Or perhaps Mr. Irrelevant – Chad Kelly – the final selection in the 2017 class will eventually get his chance. If healthy, the signing of RB Jamaal Charles could be a coup for a rushing attack that averaged less than 100 YPG for the first time in recent history. Simply put, the Broncos will need to get back to a bread-and-butter run offense in order to avoid the ‘Lynch’ mob and book their usual postseason spot. ‘Ad- Vance’ notice: Christmas (at Kansas City) and New Years (vs. Oakland) will likely decide how the AFC West is won this season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Broncos are 15-3 SU and 14-4 ATS in their last 18 division away games.

PLAY ON: at Kansas City (10/30) - *KEY

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

TEAM THEME: ONE STEP UP, TWO STEPS BACK

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 9 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 132

After trading up 17 spots in the first round of this year’s draft, many feel Patrick Mahomes II will be Andy Reid’s quarterback in the near future. Considering Mahomes went 0-9 SU in his college career against ranked opponents and the Chiefs square off against the toughest SOS in 2017 with foes sporting an overall .573 win percentage (153-115), Reid should consider jumping in the Delorean ASAP and driving back to the future. Despite being outgained by 34 YPG and losing the stat battle in 11 of 16 contests, the Chiefs managed to collect 12 scalps in 2016.

That immediately puts them on our early-season fade list unless they can improve on a defense that is often forced to play a Dime package (6 DBs) due to lack of depth at linebacker and ranked 22nd or worse against the run five of the past six seasons. However, if oft-injured MLB Derrick Johnson returns and RB Kareem Hunt, who surpassed 300 touches and came into his own as a weapon out of the backfield last year at Toledo, can fill in for the departed Jamaal Charles, things for Andy could be just dandy in the wild, wild AFC West. But we simply don’t trust teams from one year to the next that lead the league in net turnovers. They tend to regress to the mean in a mean way.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The last quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to win a game in the NFL was in 1983.

PLAY AGAINST: at NY Jets (12/3)

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

TEAM THEME: BOLTING FOR L.A.

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total 7.5 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 128.5

There was plenty of crying for Philip Rivers last season in San Diego as the Chargers all-time passing yards leader – who hasn’t missed a start since taking over the reins in 2006 – suffered a career-high 21 picks while completing just over 60% of his passes, far below his career completion percentage. It’s no wonder why the Chargers drafted stud WR Mike Williams and used three of their seven draft picks on offensive linemen. Unfortunately, Williams is out until at least October with a back injury. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bolts allowed the most pass pressure in the league over the past three seasons. That same massive line, though, is the main reason RB Melvin Gordon showed considerable improvement.

The defense also asserted itself with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram forming a fierce pass-rushing duo. However, the schedule-maker did the Chargers and rookie head coach Anthony Lynn no favors this season as they take on a league-high 11 foes that owned winning records in 2016. The feeling here, though, is if this team can shake their annual injury bug (they led the league with 355 man games lost last season) and pull out a few close ones (1-8 in games decided by a TD or less), they could supplant the Chiefs as playoff contenders.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Chargers are 24-4-1 ATS as road dogs of more than 4 points since 2004.

PLAY ON: vs. Miami (9/17)

OAKLAND RAIDERS

TEAM THEME: JUST SAY WHEN, BABY

Westgate SuperBook Season Win Total: 9.5 -110
Opponents’ Collective Season Win Total: 124

Future bettors who rolled the dice on the Raiders last season were rewarded early as the Vegas-bound Silver and Black easily topped their projected win total of 8.5 by delivering 12 victories, despite the fact that they were actually outyarded on the season. With that a serious red flag pops up – especially if they can’t match a trend that saw them go 8-1 in games decided by a TD of less. A relatively easy schedule this season (according to Vegas, not the NFL) may see them top the number (9.5) this year, especially with a healthy Derek Carr driving a potent attack that features WR Amari Cooper and recently added RB Marshawn Lynch and TE Jared Cook. Unfortunately, the Raiders made no high impact moves to help Khalil Mack and beef up a front seven that failed to sack Brock Osweiler in a humbling Wild Card round loss to the Texans.

The good news is last season was the first time since 1967 that Oakland won five consecutive road games; the bad news is Blackjack Del Rio’s bunch is 1-8 SU versus the NFC East since 2005. Still, we’ll consider a double down ‘under 10 wins’ should the public drive the number up as teams who lead the league in net turnovers (tied with the Chiefs last year) average 16.5 less net TO’s the following year. Think about that before jumping off the high board again with the Black-and-Silver in 2017.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: After going 1-18 SU since 2009 in games in Eastern Time zone cities, the Raiders went 3-0 in 2016.

PLAY AGAINST: at Buffalo (10/29)
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