With the 2014 NFL season fast approaching, it’s time to look at team win totals. Oddsmakers set win totals for all 32 teams, and you have to predict whether they will finish over or under that set number of wins during the regular season. After previewing each team to find out what they have to offer entering the new season, I now have a good idea as to which teams will exceed expectations, and which will fail to meet them.
A lot of these lines are set based on results from previous seasons because the betting public uses that as their main reference. However, past results don’t mean a whole lot when it comes to what’s going to happen in the future. Many bad teams from last year have easier schedules and a chance to rebound. That’s why almost every year, half of the teams that made the playoffs the year before do not the following season. Let’s take a look at my top 5 ‘over’ and ‘under’ bets for the 2014 campaign.
Top 5 OVER Bets
1. Houston Texans OVER 8 (-105)
The Texans lost their final 14 games of 2013 to finish with the worst record in the NFL. Nothing went right for them, but they were nowhere near as bad as their record would indicate. They went an NFL-worst 2-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They also had the worst turnover differential in the league at -20. Making matters worse is that they gave up the second-most points (38) from turnovers on offense that resulted in defensive touchdowns or safeties. They actually outgained opponents by 29.6 yards per game last year.
Remember, this was a Super Bowl contender heading into 2013 after advancing in the playoffs each of the previous two seasons. The talent is still there for new head coach Bill O’Brien to get the Texans back to the top of the AFC South. Studs Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing are the leaders. They added in the No. 1 overall pick in Jadeveon Clowney, who will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. They play the Bills and Raiders from the AFC East and AFC West divisions, while the Colts have to play the Patriots and Broncos from those respective divisions. That scheduling advantage will have them winning the AFC South and eclipsing this 7.5-win total in the process. I actually have the Texans winning 10 games.
2. New England Patriots OVER 11 (-115)
In what was considered a down season last year, the Patriots still went 12-4 during the regular season and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game. Tom Brady had one of the worst years of his career, but that can be mostly blamed on an inexperienced, injury-plagued receiving corps. Rob Gronkowski is back to full strength, and Brady will now be relying on second-year receivers rather than rookies. He also has Julian Edelmen and Danny Amendola to get the ball to. His weaponry has improved, and the offense should flourish this season because of it.
The Patriots got better defensively last year, ranking 10th in the league in scoring defense (21.1 ppg). They will be even better on this side of the ball as they have added CB Darrelle Revis, CB Brandon Browner and first-round rookie Dominique Easley. Plus, both Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo return from injury after missing most of last season. New England has won 10 of the last 11 division titles, and it will top the AFC East once again with 11-plus wins. I’ll call for another 12-win season in 2014.
3. Washington Redskins OVER 7.5 (-105)
After winning the division in Robert Griffin III’s rookie season in 2012 with 10 victories, the Redskins fell flat on their faces last year. They went just 3-13, which was their worst record in 19 seasons. Mike Shanahan’s way of doing things simply did not work, and the Redskins were bitten hard by the injury bug. They still weren’t as bad as their record would indicate. They went 2-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, while also finishing -8 in turnover differential. They also outgained opponents by an average of 15.6 yards per game on the season. Griffin III didn’t even play in the final few games due to precautionary reasons.
Washington gets a fresh start in 2014 with Jay Gruden as its new head coach. The brother of Jon Gruden, Jay was the offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals the last three years, leading them to the playoffs each season. He did wonders with Andy Dalton, and he should do the same with Griffin III. The Redskins add in DeSean Jackson for another offensive weapons, and the defense is loaded with star players in Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher and DeAngelo Hall. They schedule is easier than the rest of the NFC East. That’s because they get to play the Vikings from the NFC North and the Buccaneers from the NFC South, while the other three teams in the East have to deal with the three best teams from those two divisions. I have the Redskins going 9-7 this year and winning the division.
4. Denver Broncos OVER 11.5 (+105)
It’s always scary taking an over on a team that has the highest win total of all the teams in the league. However, I have no doubt that Denver is the best team in the NFL in 2014. It went 13-3 last year and earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC while making it all the way to the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning had a career year, throwing for a league-record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. The offense should be explosive again even with the losses of Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno. They added in Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Cody Latimer, while the offensive line gets a healthy return of left tackle Ryan Clady and should be improved.
Instead of standing pat, the Broncos set out to upgrade their defense this offseason after seeing what the Seahawks did to them in the Super Bowl. Boy did they ever upgrade it. They added elite pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, top-notch corner Aqib Talib, and underrated safety T.J. Ward. Now, they will not only score at will offensively, but they will also be able to stop some teams. The AFC West did have three playoff teams last year, but I don’t believe the Chargers or Chiefs will be as strong as last year. The Broncos may run the table within the division after going 5-1 in its last season. They will go 13-3 and take down the No. 1 seed in the AFC once again.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers OVER 9 (+100)
For starters, the Steelers have not finished with a losing record since 2003. That bodes well for this 8.5-win total, though they have gone 8-8 the past two years and missed the playoffs in each. Obviously, this is one of the best organizations in the league, and they expect a lot more. That’s why they set out to fill some glaring holes this offseason. They had spent the previous two drafts trying to upgrade the offense, and they have done a fine job of doing so. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. The offensive line is finally in good hands, he has plenty of weapons outside including Antonio Brown, and he now has a two-headed monster at running back in Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.
With the offense in good shape, the key was upgrading the defense this offseason. The Steelers are used to finishing in the top 5 in total defense every year, but they actually slipped to 13th last season. They used their first-round pick on LB Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State. They spent their second-rounder on Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt at DE/DT. Both players figure to play significant roles as rookies this year while adding some youth to what was an aging defense. I simply believe this is now the most complete team in the AFC North, and the Cincinnati Bengals will take a big step back this year. I have the Steelers winning 10 games and a division title.
Top 5 UNDER Bets
1. Carolina Panthers UNDER 8 (-145)
I was big on the over for the Panthers last year and cashed it in with ease. I’m changing gears in 2014. I know that no team has repeated as divisions champs in the AFC South since the realignment in 2002. Just like the Atlanta Falcons went from first to worst in 2013 with a 4-12 record, I am calling for the Panthers to go from first to worst in 2014. They were an underrated team last year and finished 12-4 to earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC. The problem is that general manager Dave Gettleman stepped into a tough situation left by the previous regimen. He was handcuffed by the salary cap this offseason, which meant that he wouldn’t be able to spend much money in free agency.
Each of the top three receivers in Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn are gone from last year. They will be replaced by Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Kelvim Benjamin. Ryan Kalil is the only effective starter returning along the offensive line after four guys retired up front this offseason, leaving it depleted. The secondary lost three of four starters as well. The Panthers do have a dominant front seven defensively, and Cam Newton to carry the offense, but that won’t be enough this time around. The Panthers also draw the Seahawks from the NFC West and the Eagles from the NFC East, while the other three teams in the NFC South do not have to face those two teams. I am calling for a 6-10 season out of Carolina in 2014.
2. Miami Dolphins UNDER 7.5 (-115)
The Dolphins were actually 8-6 last year and in a great position to make the playoffs. However, they would lose each of their final two games to the Bills and Jets to shoot themselves in the foot when they controlled their own destiny. While this was an 8-8 team, a closer look shows that they weren’t as good as their record would indicate. They were actually outgained 312.9 to 359.4 on the season, or by an average of 46.5 yards per game. That is more of a sign of a 6-10 team than one that went 8-8. They have done nothing this offseason to make me feel like they will take a step forward in 2014.
Miami gave up the most sacks (58) in the league last year. The offensive line lost Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, and the Dolphins failed to upgrade the offensive line. Ryan Tannehill is a solid quarterback, but he won’t be able to live up to his potential because of this shaky offensive line, as well as a lack of weapons outside. The defense lost Chris Clemons in free agency, and they signed one of the worst cornerbacks in the league in Cortland Finnegan to play opposite Brent Grimes. Paul Soliai has also bolted for Atlanta this offseason, so this stop unit is going to be even worse than it was last year. I look for the Dolphins to go 6-10 this season.
3. Kansas City Chiefs UNDER 7.5 (-120)
Aside from the blown 28-point lead to the Colts in the playoffs, everything just seemed to go right for the Chiefs last year. They allowed 17 or fewer points in every game prior to their bye in Week 10, but they were playing against some terrible teams and many backup quarterbacks during that time. Reality kicked in after that, and the Chiefs actually finished just 24th in the league in total defense (367.8 ypg). They were 21st in total offense (337.2 ypg), actually getting outgained by 30.6 ypg despite going 11-5. They were aided by finishing +18 in turnover differential, and they had 11 return touchdowns on defense and special teams.
Alex Smith is a limited quarterback who simply cannot stretch the ball down the field, and he lacks the weapons to do so as well. The Chiefs did nothing to upgrade their weaponry this offseason. In fact, Jamaal Charles led the team in receiving last year, so the offense is way too predictable. The offensive line takes a big hit with the losses of their two best players up front in Branden Albert and Jon Asamoah. Smith figures to be running for his life this year. I like the defense for the most part, but you have to remember that they gave up 45 points against the Colts, and they were terrible in the second half. I look for the Chiefs to take a big step back in 2014 with just a 7-9 finish.
4. Cincinnati Bengals UNDER 9 (-120)
The Bengals have improved each of the last three years by exactly one win. They went 11-5 in 2013 for their third straight trip to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they went one-and-done in the postseason all three years. There were questions about whether or not Andy Dalton was a franchise quarterback, but the team made a bold stand by signing him to a six-year, $115 million deal recently. I do think Dalton is an OK quarterback, and he has plenty of weapons around him, but he won’t be as successful without the guidance of offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden. He has left for the head coaching job with the Washington Redskins.
The Bengals also lose their defensive coordinator in Mike Zimmer. This is a huge loss because Zimmer led one of the more underrated stop units in the league the last three years. They lose top pass rusher Michael Johnson, and there’s no guaranteed Geno Atkins will be the same player he was before he tore his ACL last year. The secondary is relying on too many aging veterans like Terrance Newman, Pacman Jones and Leon Hall. This is still a talented team, but the schedule will prevent the Bengals from getting back to the playoffs for a fourth straight year. They have to play both the Patriots and Broncos, while the other three teams in the AFC North avoid those two juggernauts. I’ll call for the Bengals to finish 8-8 and in third place in the division.
5. Indianapolis Colts UNDER 9.5 (-130)
Admittedly, I was down on the Colts last year after their 11-5 campaign in Andrew Luck’s first season on the job in 2012. That’s because they were extremely fortunate, going 9-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, while also actually getting outscored on the season. Those are signs that a team will regress, but the Colts were an exception. They went 11-5 for a second straight year in the 2013 and won the AFC South. They went 5-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less to aid their cause again, and they were actually outgained on the season. That puts them at a ridiculous 14-2 in games decided by a TD or less over the last two seasons. I’m going to give Andrew Luck some credit for that, but he cannot keep this up.
The Colts are in a world of hurt along the offensive line as they failed to make the upgrades this offseason to protect their franchise QB. In fact, this may be the worst offensive line in the entire league. Many like to give Luck the credit for the comeback win over the Chiefs in the playoffs, but he wouldn’t have had to had the defense not given up 44 points. The stop unit was terrible last year, and it will be again this season, especially since Robert Mathis will have to miss the first four games of the season due to suspension. The fact of the matter is that this is one of the least-talented rosters in the NFL, and Luck is not going to bail them out again. Plus, the Colts have to play the Broncos and Patriots, while the rest of the AFC South does not have to face those two teams. I have the Colts finishing 9-7 at best this year.
Complete List of 2014 NFL Win Totals
|ARIZONA CARDINALS||DALLAS COWBOYS||MIAMI DOLPHINS||PITTSBURGH STEELERS|
|Over 8 (+100)||Over 7.5 (-105)||Over 7.5 (-115)||Over 9 (+100)|
|Under 8 (-120)||Under 7.5 (-115)||Under 7.5 (-105)||Under 9 (-120)|
|ATLANTA FALCONS||DENVER BRONCOS||MINNESOTA VIKINGS||SAN DIEGO CHARGERS|
|Over 8 (-120)||Over 11.5 (+105)||Over 6.5 (-105)||Over 8.5 (-135)|
|Under 8 (+100)||Under 11.5 (-125)||Under 6.5 (-115)||Under 8.5 (+115)|
|BALTIMORE RAVENS||DETROIT LIONS||NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS||SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS|
|Over 8.5 (-110)||Over 8.5 (+105)||Over 11 (-115)||Over 10 (-110)|
|Under 8.5 (-110)||Under 8.5 (-125)||Under 11 (-105)||Under 10 (-110)|
|BUFFALO BILLS||GREEN BAY PACKERS||NEW ORLEANS SAINTS||SEATTLE SEAHAWKS|
|Over 6.5 (-130)||Over 10.5 (+105)||Over 10 (-150)||Over 11 (-105)|
|Under 6.5 (+110)||Under 10.5 (-125)||Under 10 (+130)||Under 11 (-115)|
|CAROLINA PANTHERS||HOUSTON TEXANS||NEW YORK GIANTS||ST. LOUIS RAMS|
|Over 8 (+125)||Over 8 (-105)||Over 8 (+110)||Over 6.5 (-135)|
|Under 8 (-145)||Under 8 (-115)||Under 8 (-130)||Under 6.5 (+115)|
|CHICAGO BEARS||INDIANAPOLIS COLTS||NEW YORK JETS||TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS|
|Over 8.5 (-145)||Over 9.5 (+110)||Over 7 (-135)||Over 7 (-120)|
|Under 8.5 (+125)||Under 9.5 (-130)||Under 7 (+115)||Under 7 (+100)|
|CINCINNATI BENGALS||JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
||OAKLAND RAIDERS||TENNESSEE TITANS|
|Over 9 (+100)||Over 5.5 (+105)||Over 5 (-120)||Over 7 (-135)|
|Under 9 (-120)||Under 5.5 (-125)||Under 5 (+100)||Under 7 (+115)|
|CLEVELAND BROWNS||KANSAS CITY CHIEFS||PHILADELPHIA EAGLES||WASHINGTON REDSKINS|
|Over 6.5 (-105)||Over 7.5 (-120)||Over 9 (-125)||Over 7.5 (-105)|
|Under 6.5 (-115)||Under 7.5 (+100)||Under 9 (+105)||Under 7.5 (-115)|
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