Friday, July 13, 2012

NFL Win Totals: Five Early Predictions

Sportsbook has released their over/unders for NFL teams for the 2012 season.  If you live in Vegas, this is a great opportunity to invest a hearty sum of cash right now and see a nice return by the new year.  If you do not live in Vegas, it is a good reason to convince your wife to move there.  OK, maybe not.  Actually, it’s a good way to make your wife force you to sleep on the couch.  But at least then, you can watch NFL network highlights at 2 in the morning.  That is, until she cancels your NFL network subscription.  Suddenly, this article is becoming autobiographical . . . in any event, here are some early season wagers that could pay off nicely (along with an open invitation to Todd to make Vegas plans right now).

Buffalo Bills (Under 7.5 wins +125)
$100 bet pays $125

The Bills are undoubtedly the NFL’s lovable losers – it is almost as impossible to root against them as it is for them to actually win games.  They showed some signs of life last season with a 5-2 start and legitimate talent on both sides of the ball (Fitzpatrick and Jackson both came up just short of 4,000 and 1,000 yards respectively, and the defense ranked 5th in forced turnovers).  But a .500 season is a lot to ask.  In 2012, four of Buffalo’s first six games are on the road (including cross-country visits to San Francisco and Arizona.)  And that’s not counting two additional road games in November against the Texans and Patriots back-to-back.  Speaking of AFC East teams, the Bills did finally beat New England last year, giving them their first win against the Pats since Week 1 of 2003.  This pushed their record to 1-15 against New England in their last 16 games (they ended up losing the season finale at New England, making their record 1-16). Not that the rest of the division has exactly been a cakewalk: Since 2008, Buffalo has beat the Jets a grand total of one game (a 16-13 overtime win in 2009) and have lost six of eight to Miami.  Sorry Ryan Fitzpatrick – it’s not too late to turn that Harvard degree into success somewhere else.

Detroit Lions (Under 9 wins +105)
$100 bet pays $105

I expect the under to move up as the season gets closer, but the stars are perfectly aligned for this one: Calvin Johnson appearing on the cover of Madden, the sophomore slump for any team appearing in the playoffs for the first time in the new millennium, and six of their first nine games on the road.  Their draft didn’t really solve their most nagging problem (a complete lack of consistent running game), and with Chicago and Minnesota likely to improve, playing any team in the NFC North suddenly seems like a daunting task.  Five of their last seven games are at home, but opponents the likes of Green Bay, Houston, and Atlanta don’t exactly spell relief.  This is a talented team with a bright future, and nine wins this season would be more than impressive.

Denver Broncos (Under 8.5 wins +125)
$100 bet pays $125

Peyton Manning is 36 years old.  He hasn’t thrown a pass in the NFL since January 8, 2011.  He is recovering from a neck fusion.  His primary targets are Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and fellow 36-year-old Brandon Stokley (who admittedly did put up stellar numbers with Manning as QB . . . in 2004).     

Then there’s Denver.  The Broncos haven’t won 9 games since 2006 (the transition year from Jake Plummer to Jay Cutler).  Three of their first four games in 2012 are against double-digit win playoff teams from 2011 (Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, Houston, and at New England).  In fact, the Broncos only play three teams that won 7 or fewer games last season (Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland).  But never mind their schedule.  Never mind Peyton Manning, or their 24th ranked scoring defense from last season.  There’s karma involved here.  When you win your first division title and first playoff game in six years, and when you choose to ship off a talent like Tim Tebow and instead choose to spend $13 million on a kicker, bad fortune awaits you (ask Trent Dilfer and the 2001 Baltimore Ravens).  The 2012 Broncos are a disaster waiting to implode.

New York Giants (Over 8.5 wins -160)
$100 bet pays $62.50

I’ve tried to avoid negative lines since we’re looking for lucrative preseason bets, but this one completely defies logic.  Did the oddsmakers stop watching the Giants at the end of the regular season?  Did they just assume they were another middle-of-the-line 9-win team?  Put it this way: The over/under for San Diego – a team which has not made the playoffs since 2009 – is 9 and the over/under for New Orleans – a team whose coach has been suspended, whose franchise is in turmoil, and whose quarterback is currently embroiled in contract dispute – is 9.5.  And the G-men?  8.5 games.  Slap in the face.

Granted, their schedule is tougher than others: Seven games against playoff teams from 2011, and some tough road games at San Francisco, Atlanta, and Baltimore.  But they haven’t had too much turnover since their Super Bowl title besides already-underperforming Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham, and the last I saw, they looked indestructible in their Super Bowl run.  The season after they won Super XLII, they didn’t exactly slouch either, going 12-4 and clinching the NFC’s #1 seed.  Yes, they have the propensity for extreme unpredictability – to a frustrating extent – but they can make 9 wins in their sleep.  On the upside, $62.50 can pay for three nights at the Stratosphere.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 10.5 wins +140)
$100 bet pays $140

Everyone is eager to call this team old, slow, and downright lucky to have won 12 games last year (when you face off against quarterbacks like Tyler Palko, Kellen Clemens, Blaine Gabbert, Tavaris Jackson, and Colt McCoy, 12 wins suddenly doesn’t seem so tough).  The reality is that only six teams won 11+ games last year, and the Stealers were one of the them.  Another reality is that Pittsburgh was a Torrey Smith catch away from being the AFC’s #1 seed.  As usual, Pittsburgh’s schedule is inexplicably easy: Only five games against over-.500 teams from last season (the Ravens are their only opponent with double-digit wins).  Three of their final four games are at home.  No Patriots, Texans, Packers, Saints, or 49ers.  The only five games they could lose are at Cincinnati, at New York Giants, Baltimore, at Baltimore, and at Dallas – and this is generous.  And look at the plus side: If you blow $100 on this line and it doesn’t deliver, that means Shittsburgh would have lost six or more games.  In fact, my bad karma makes me want to put a lot of money on this.  No amount of money could possibly quantify how happy it would make me if this team really is too old.


  1. I like this article, Zach. I think I would be most tempted to bet on the Broncos under 8.5, even odds for the Jags under 5 wins, and +105 for the Eagles under 10.5 wins. Not sure I love your Giants bet, since Eli has had some mediocre regular seasons. They will probably be great, but -160 would push me away from it.

    Plus, just let me know a date, and I will be on the next flight to Vegas. I can't even imagine being there during football season over a weekend...

  2. I agree with you about the Eagles... but I can't remember them ever having two mediocre seasons in a row under Reid ('05: 6-10, '06: 10-6, '07: 8-8, '08: 9-6-1 + NFC Championship appearance). 10.5 wins is a lot though.