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Thread: 2017 NFL Conference Previews

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    2017 AFC South betting preview and odds: Despite poor QB play Jaguars show value

    On paper the AFC South appears to be a three-team race between the Titans, Texans and Colts, but with no standout team in the division don't count out the Jaguars, despite the fact Blake Bortles is their quarterback. Power Sports gives you a team-by-team breakdown of each team, including a season win total pick.

    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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    2017 AFC West betting preview and odds: With Carr healthy, Raiders posied to take next step

    Oakland's season came to a crashing halt in 2016 after quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16. Well, he's healthy again and the Raiders are favorites to win the AFC West crown in 2017. Al McCordie gives you a team-by-team breakdown of the division, including regular season win total picks.

    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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    2017 AFC East betting preview and odds: It's the Patriots followed by everyone else

    It's absolutely absurd how much of a favorite the New England Patriots are to win the AFC East division (-2,000). The Pats have won this division eight years in a row and 13 of the last 14 seasons. Matt Fargo gives you a team-by-team breakdown, including season win total picks.

    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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    Random notes on NFC teams:

    Arizona— Carson Palmer turns 38 on Dec 27; only 27 NFL QB’s have thrown 200+ passes at age 38 or older— 13 of those 17 are or will be in the Hall of Fame. Arizona had the oldest offense in the NFL last year; their time to win a Super Bowl is this year, or else. Over is 13-3 in Arizona road games the last two years; since 2014, under is 14-9-1 in Cardinal home games.

    Atlanta— Blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, fired their DC, lost their OC, have a new stadium this year. Falcons scored 58 TD’s last year, punted 48 times with only 11 turnovers— they were only the third team since 1996 to score a TD on more than 33.3% of their drives. Now what? Underdogs are 13-3 vs spread in Falcon home games, since Quinn has been coach.

    Carolina— How is Cam Newton’s shoulder? That is Question #1. Panthers were -2 in turnovers LY (6-10), after being +20/+3/+11 the three years before that (15-1/7-8-1/12-4). Over last four years, Carolina is 4-10-1 vs spread as a road favorite- their front office had in-fighting this winter— the GM got fired— will that affect the players?

    Chicago— QB Mike Glennon played QB at NC State after Russell Wilson bolted for Wisconsin; then he went 5-13 over two years as a starter in Tampa Bay before they drafted Jameis Winston. He’s thrown 11 passes the last two years, is now renting the Bears’ #1 job until they decide that #1 pick Mitch Trubisky is ready to be the starter. Awkward situation.

    Dallas— Dak Prescott makes $540K this year, $630K next year, which bails Dallas out of a lot of its salary cap quandries. Cowboys ran the ball 59.4% of time on 1st down LY, averaged 5.1 yds/rush on those runs, and averaged 8.9 yds/pass on play action passes. As a result, Cowboys faced 3rd-lowest number of 3rd downs in NFL. Will Prescott fight the sophomore jinx this year?

    Detroit— As a Ram fan, I was frustrated by how bad OT Greg Robinson was for the Rams the last few years; now he is a Lion and is the LT, protecting Matthew Stafford’s blind side. Detroit’s backup QB’s are Jake Rudock/Brad Kaaya. Lions have lost nine playoff games in a row- their last playoff win was in 1991. If Detroit makes the playoffs this year, I’ll be very surprised.

    Green Bay— Since 1992, Packers have had Favre/Rodgers at QB, two first-ballot Hall of Famers. They won Super Bowl in ’96 and ’10, lost in ’97- should they be winning more than they have? Pack made playoffs last 7 years and 14 of last 20 years, but are just 13-13 in playoff games since Favre won his Super Bowl. Last three years, Green Bay is 14-7-2 vs spread as a home favorite.

    LA Rams— 31-year old Sean McVay was hired to develop Jared Goff as a QB, but before that, they have to put together an offensive line that can protect him. 35-year old Andrew Whitwroth was brought in from Cincinnati to play LT and fortify the line. Rams were 4-5 LY, led Miami 10-0 with 5:00 to go in Goff’s debut in Game #10— had they won that game, Jeff Fisher would likely still be the Rams’ coach.

    Minnesota— Vikings went 8-8 with a +11 turnover ratio; no bueno; they had 54 third-and-1’s last year, converted 11-15 (73.3%) times when they threw the ball, 25-39 (64.1%) when they ran it. Sam Bradford is 32-45-1 as an NFL starter, 14-15 since leaving the Rams. Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009; since ’05, they’re 1-4 in playoff games. Vikings have had eight #1 QB’s over the last 12 years. Bridgewater’s knee injury last summer was incredibly bad luck.

    NJ Giants— Giants have had one #1 QB since 2005; Eli Manning has played all 192 games, and that is his greatest strength— he shows up to work every week. Giants won Super Bowl after 2007/2011 seasons, going 4-0 in playoffs both years; other than those two years, since 2001, Big Blue is 0-5 in playoff games. Have been in playoffs twice in last eight years, are 1-5 in Week 1 the last six years- they open vs Dallas this year for 5th time in last six years.

    New Orleans— Does signing Adrian Peterson mean Saints will run ball more to protect a poor defense and a 38-year old QB? NO scored 400+ points the last six years, but made playoffs only once in last five years, going 7-9 in other four. Last three years, Saints are 5-13-1 vs spread as a home favorite, 5-0 as home dogs- they’re 3-8 in last 11 tries as a road favorite. Over is 16-8 in Superdome games the last three years; over is 13-11 in NO road games during that time.

    Philadelphia— Eagles missed playoffs five of last six years; their last playoff win was in 2008, but they had to be happy with rookie QB Wentz LY. This will be first time since 2012 that Iggles had same #1 QB as year before (Michael Vick). Philly was 4-1 vs spread as a home underdog LY, after being 1-10 in that role from 2007-15. Eagles were favored in only two of their eight home games LY; the last five years, they’re 5-9-1 vs spread in home games vs divisional rivals.

    San Francisco— Four head coaches in four years is never good; they’re 7-25 since Jim Harbaugh took his act to Ann Arbor. Over last five years, 49ers have averaged 3.96 starts per draft pick, which is poor, so John Lynch runs franchise now; smart guy, but he’s never done this before. As of June 3, 51 of 90 players on roster were acquired since Lynch took over- they let 27 of 31 free agents walk. Kyle Shanahan is the new coach, after helping Falcons win NFC title last season.

    Seattle— Seahawks are 56-23-1 the last five years; they’ve won at least one playoff game in 8 of last 10 seasons, but throwing that INT on goal line at end of Super Bowl will haunt them until they win another Super Bowl. Russell Wilson is 8-4 in playoff games; he was a 3rd-round pick, just like Joe Montana, who was 16-7 in playoff games. Seattle is 6-10 vs spread as a road favorite the last three years; under Carroll, they’re 26-11 vs spread as a home favorite.

    Tampa Bay— Bucs haven’t made playoffs since 2007; their last playoff win was the Super Bowl 15 years ago- they were 9-7 LY, their first winning season since ’10. Adding DeSean Jackson will give Jameis Winston another explosive option; listening to the first episode of Hard Knocks, this is a confident team that expects to make the playoffs, but they’ll need to play better at home. Last three years, Tampa Bay is 8-16 vs spread at home, 2-6 in divisional home games.

    Washington— Sean McVay is in LA; they fired their DC, so two new coordinators this season for Jay Gruden, who goes back to calling plays. Skins were 17-14-1 the last two years; since 2006, they are 0-3 in playoff games. Last time Washington was a playoff game, Joe Gibbs was coach. Gruden is 4-8 vs spread as a home favorite; last two years, Washington is 9-4 vs spread coming off a loss. Last five years, over is 25-14-1 in Redskin road games.

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    2017 AFC North betting preview and odds: Ravens-Steelers rivalry back in full force

    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. 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

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    2017 NFC East betting preview and odds: Giants faves in what should be hotly contested division

    The Cowboys seemingly came out of nowhere to win the NFC East last season, but the target on their backs will be much larger in 2017 and they're squarely in the sights of the Giants, who look to claim their first division crown since 2011. Matt Fargo gives a team-by-team breakdown off the whole division, including season win total picks.

    New York Giants (2016: 11-5 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 4-12 O/U)

    Odds to win the NFC East: +160
    Season win total: Over 8.5 -140/Under 8.5 +120

    Why to bet the Giants: The Giants finished 11-5 last season and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 so they can build on that heading into this year. The offense upgraded with the signing of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafting of tight end Evan Engram. The defense upgraded last season and it showed as New York went from dead last in total defense in 2015 to No. 10 last season while allowing the second fewest amount of points. The Giants only lost one of those starters so they could be even better this year. A pretty weak schedule should help them get back to the postseason.

    Why not to bet the Giants: While the passing offense was upgraded, the rushing offense remains a huge concern. The Giants finished No. 29 in rushing, averaged 3.5 yards per carry and scored a league-low six rushing touchdowns. There are still talks going on about adding a veteran running back but right now it is Paul Perkins who improved as last year went along. The offensive line is partly to blame and no upgrades were done there either. Four of their first six games are on the road including the opener at Dallas which will be a challenge even if Ezekiel Elliott is out.

    Season win total pick: Over 8.5 -140

    Dallas Cowboys (2016: 13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

    Odds to win the NFC East: +185
    Season win total: Over 9.5 -125/Under 9.5 +105

    Why to bet the Cowboys: Dallas was the biggest surprise in the NFL last season as rookie quarterback Dak Prescott led the Cowboys to the NFC East title. They lost to Green Bay at home in the Divisional Round of the playoffs so they are hungry to repeat and post a bigger playoff run. Prescott was solid since day one and he can only get better although upping his numbers will be tough. Dallas has the best offensive line in football so even without Elliott for a possible six games, they can pave the way for Darren McFadden. The defense is not spectacular but is solid enough to hold its own.

    Why not to bet the Cowboys: For a team that goes 13-3, regression is always possible and Dallas will not be sneaking up on anyone this season. The core group of the Cowboys is back but they did lose 10 players that accounted for over 500 games so depth could be an issue. Four of those losses came in the secondary as all four starters are gone and in a pass-heavy league, that is not a good thing. Teams will be better prepared for Prescott with a full year of film to look at. The division has gotten stronger and going 10-0 outside the division is not going to happen again.

    Season win total pick: Under 9.5 +105

    Philadelphia Eagles (2016: 7-9 SU, 8-8 ATS, 9-7 O/U)

    Odds to win the NFC East: +300
    Season win total: Over 8 -125/Under 8 +105

    Why to bet the Eagles: Quarterback Carson Wentz turned some heads as a rookie but he regressed as the season went along although he is bound for greatness. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews became expendable with the signing of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith so they traded Matthews and upgraded their secondary by getting cornerback Ronald Darby. Defensively, Philadelphia was sound overall and the Darby trade will help their weakest part of the defense. The Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount to replace Ryan Matthews to hopefully improve the running game.

    Why not to bet the Eagles: With the overall division better, it will be hard for the Eagles to improve on their seven wins from last season considering they started 0-4 in the division and winning the last two games when they meant nothing in Week 16 and Week 17. The schedule is tame but the opening stretch is a challenge with four of their first six games on the road and the two home games coming against the Giants and Cardinals. Philadelphia did not lose much in any big areas but did not add enough to gain significant progress either.

    Season win total pick: Under 8 +105

    Washington (2016: 8-7-1 SU, 10-6 ATS, 12-4 O/U)

    Odds to win the NFC East: +500
    Season win total: Over 7.5 Even/Under 7.5 -120

    Why to bet Washington: Kirk Cousins has become a top-tier quarterback and should have another season of outstanding numbers. There were questions in the offseason if he would even be here but is back and has plenty around him to achieve success. Washington signed wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to make up for the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and they have a stable running game behind a strong offensive line that allowed just 23 sacks, fourth fewest in the NFL. Greg Manusky is the new defensive coordinator which should improve the unit.

    Why not to bet Washington: That defense however was awful as the Redskins allowed 377.9 yards per game which was No. 28 in the league. A new coordinator and scheme can help but it might take time to come together and in a division which should be tight, the progress cannot take too long. While the signing of Pryor helps, losing two quality receivers is hard to overcome. Rob Kelley is the starting running back but he went over 100 yards only once last season so there will be little offensive balance. Like the Eagles, not enough was brought in to make a significant jump up.

    Season win total pick: Under 7.5 -120

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    Wiseguys are advising that these Week 1 NFL lines are going to move

    Each week during the pro football season, Art Aronson of AAA Sports looks at the NFL odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.

    Game to bet now

    Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (-3.5)

    This one opened at Denver -4.5, but quickly melted down as quarterback issues arose during Bronco training camp. At some point in the process new coach Vance Joseph will have to decide between Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian as the search for the next John Elway or Peyton Manning continues to play out at Mile High. The early returns on both Siemian and Lynch were not all that encouraging, and only served to mask the fact that the Broncos have other problems to deal with – namely on the offensive line.

    The Chargers are hoping against hope that the move to Los Angeles will invigorate the roster after winning just nine of 32 games in their last two seasons in San Diego. QB Philip Rivers turns 36 before the end of this season, so if the Chargers get off slow there may be rumbling about seeing what they have in former Buffalo Bill Cardale Jones. Unless there’s a major injury, this line probably will stick.

    Game to wait on

    New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)

    It’s not hard to figure out where the Vikings went south and lost control of the NFC North last season. After recovering from Teddy Bridgewater’s late-camp, season-ending knee injury, Minny rallied behind new QB Sam Bradford and started the season with five straight wins. Any playoff hopes went down the drain, though, when the Vikes lost six of seven, averaging just over 12 points a game in those losses.

    It all added up to a disappointing 8-8 record and this season Minnesota will try to buck the league-wide trend and do it with defense. Last season the Vikes had the third-ranked defense in the NFL, and this time around feel that they just may have the best D. We’ll get back to you on that, but it might be wise to see how things stand health-wise as we get closer to kickoff.

    Total to watch

    Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (48.5)

    This has actually been bet down since opening at 50, and the question is why? New England has loaded up the offense in moves reminiscent of 2007 (Randy Moss, Wes Welker), and Tom Brady finally has a burner (Brandin Cooks). It should be 1980s Lakers Showtime in Foxboro this year with Cooks outside the numbers, a health Rob Gronkowski down the seam and Julian Edelman working the underneath stuff as only he can. The over deserves a good, hard look in this one.

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    2017 NFC South betting preview and odds: Falcons should fly again despite tough competition

    The Falcons are coming off maybe the toughest loss in Super Bowl history, but they're out to prove they were no fluke in 2016 and are the faves to win the NFC South once again despite some tough competition in the division. Power Sports gives a team-by-team breakdown of the division, which includes his regular season win total picks.

    Atlanta Falcons (2016: 11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS, 12-3-1 O/U)

    Odds To Win Division: +164
    Season Win Total: 9.5 (-108)

    Why to bet the Falcons: The defending NFC Champs return the vast majority of last year’s league-leading offense, which averaged 34.1 points per game. Led by MVP Matt Ryan, this group scored 58 touchdowns a year ago. To put that number in its proper perspective, they had only one more drive end in either a punt or a turnover. The defense should be better this year as well. It’s Dan Quinn’s third year at the helm, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t be better. Make no mistake about it; there was nothing “phony” about the Dirty Birds’ run to the Super Bowl and of course who could forget they led the Patriots 28-3 before falling apart?

    Why not to bet the Falcons: The offense is probably going to regress. Granted, it was still be one of the most prolific units in the league, but the loss of OC Kyle Shanahan certainly matters and I don’t see Ryan matching last year’s numbers. Also, the big question here is how will the team respond after gagging away the Super Bowl in February? In other sports, there have been recent examples of a team coming up short in a championship scenario, only to go “all the way” the following year. Clemson football, UNC hoops and the Cleveland Cavaliers all come to mind. But we haven’t seen a Super Bowl loser make it back to that game the following season since Buffalo’s string of setbacks in the early 1990’s. The division is vastly improved this year and with Atlanta expected to be favored in as many as 12 games, there should be ample opportunities to fade them.

    Season Win Total Pick: Under 9.5


    Carolina Panthers (2016: 6-10 SU, 6-9-1 ATS, 7-8-1 O/U)

    Odds to Win Division: +246
    Season Win Total: Over 9.0 (-117) / Under 9.0 (+100)

    Why to bet the Panthers: Trust me when I say that all signs are pointing up this year. Going into last year, no one believed Carolina would match 2015’s 15-1 mark, but the fall was far harsher than anyone could have predicted. They won nine fewer games due in large part to going from +20 to -2 in turnover margin and going 2-6 SU in one-score games (where they were 7-1 the previous season). Expect them to finish somewhere in between the last two years, this year. That means a potential return to the playoffs as Cam Newton will be healthier and he’s got a new weapon in Christian McCaffery. By virtue of finishing last in the South last year, they will play an easier schedule. With the 49ers, Bills and Saints being the first three opponents this year, a 3-0 SU start is a very real possibility.

    Why not to bet the Panthers: They’ll improve, but by how much. Said improvement is expected as oddsmakers have installed them in as many as nine games. Already, they are nearly a full TD favorite at San Francisco in Week 1, so the value just might not be there. The offense scored 131 pts fewer in 2016 compared to ’15 as Cam Newton was beaten up regularly. There’s a question of instability here as GM Dabe Gettleman was fired in the summer and replaced with his predecessor Marty Hurney. Maybe not everyone in the organization is on the same page?

    Season Win Total Pick: Over 9.0


    New Orleans Saints (2016: 7-9 SU, 11-5 ATS, 9-7 O/U)

    Odds to Win Division: +441
    Season Win Total: Over 8.0 (+111) / Under 8.0 (-130)

    Why to bet the Saints: As long as the Drew Brees-Sean Payton nucleus remains present, the Saints are going to put up points. There’s also the perceived homefield advantage at the Superdome. (Team is favored in six of eight home games this year). They also play only seven “true” road games as they’ll play Miami in London, a very winnable game. While the rival Falcons scored more points, the Saints gained more yards than any other offense in the league last year. They are adding Adrian Peterson to the mix for this year. Given that this team was No. 3 in yards per game differential last year and had seven losses by a TD or less, one could argue they were better than their won-loss record showed.

    Why not to bet the Saints: There are two sides to every equation. As automatic as it may be to proclaim this offense as “good,” it’s just as easy to call the defense “very bad.” Brees is also getting old (he’s 38). I expect very little out of Peterson. The team traded away top receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. Unless they plan on winning a lot of shootouts, another average season (at best) should be expected here. Having covered a division best 11 games in ’16, I don’t expect them to be as successful at the betting window this season. They weren’t getting the usual respect at home (for some reason) last year.

    Season Win Total Pick: Under 8.0


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2016: 9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS, 7-8-1 O/U)

    Odds to Win Division: +341
    Season Win Total: Over 8.0 (-136) / Under 8.0 (+116)

    Why to bet the Bucs: Meet 2017’s trendy team. This could be last year’s Raiders. What I mean by that is a team that’s improved it’s win total in back to back years and now set to make a major jump. The offense should be great as long as Jameis Winston can keep it together. He has a bevy of weapons to throw to, led by WR Mike Evans, who actually made Johnny Manziel look good once. The Bucs won at Atlanta and Carolina last year and also beat Kansas City and Seattle. So they’ve proven they can beat the big boys.

    Why not to bet the Bucs: I am nowhere near as high on this group as everyone else seems to be. My main issue is that they managed to win nine games last year despite being favored in only three. Clearly, they caught the oddsmakers by surprise. Their +6 in net upsets led the league and indicates that regression could be on the way. For all the hype, the Bucs are favored in only five (maybe six) games this year, so this kind of reminds me of last year’s Jaguars (they won’t be that bad though). Personally, I believe this team was not as good as last year’s record. The division is tough, they won’t win at both Atlanta and Carolina again (trust me!) and I believe are set up for disappointment

    Season Win Total Pick: Under 8.0

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    Good Info Thanks for sharing Rance!
    Common sense is not so common.
    “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want out of life.” Zig Ziglar

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    Quote Originally Posted by BettorsChat View Post
    Good Info Thanks for sharing Rance!
    You're welcome, Monte!

    The Redbirds are only 3.5 games out but I don't anticipate much of a postseason out of this year's team if we make it. I'm ready for football!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Udog View Post
    You're welcome, Monte!

    The Redbirds are only 3.5 games out but I don't anticipate much of a postseason out of this year's team if we make it. I'm ready for football!
    Don't count them out yet as they have some decent pitching.
    Common sense is not so common.
    “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want out of life.” Zig Ziglar

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    “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”
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    “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1)


    We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.


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    Quote Originally Posted by BettorsChat View Post
    Don't count them out yet as they have some decent pitching.
    Yes, they do! The lineup has awakened, finally, for the second half but it's pitching that's kept us in it all year. That's unusual for the St. Louis franchise. Pitching is usually the question mark.

    I'm very curious as to whether or not the Dodgers can keep their incredible streak alive through the playoffs. I haven't seen anything like that since the days of the Big Red Machine or the Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine and Avery era in Atlanta.

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    2017 NFC North betting preview and odds: Packers division to lose

    As long as Aaron Rodgers is the Packers starting quarterback, the Packers will be favorites to win the NFC North. That will be the case once again in 2017 as they are laying chalk to win their sixth division title in the last seven year. Steve Merril gives a team-by-team breakdown of the whole division, including his season win total picks.

    Chicago Bears (2016: 3-13 SU, 7-9 ATS, 8-8 O/U)

    Odds to win division: +2500
    Season win total: 5.5

    Why to bet the Bears: Jordan Howard accounted for over 1,600 yards in 2016 and that was with a lot of uncertainty around him on offense. Cam Meredith showed flashes of brilliance at wide receiver with almost 900 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Mitchell Trubisky will be a solid option at quarterback when he eventually takes over. The team spent a lot of money this offseason to upgrade the defense.

    Why not to bet the Bears: Until John Fox figures out Trubisky is the answer, the team will continue to use Mike Glennon who is not very good. The defensive line's ability to get to the quarterback is a concern. Three of the final four games are on the road and they start the year out with Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

    Season win total pick: Over 5.5

    Detroit Lions (2016: 9-7 SU, 8-8 ATS, 6-10 O/U)

    Odds to win division: +600
    Season win total: 7.5

    Why to bet the Lions: Matt Stafford is playing for a new contract this year so he'll be highly motivated to succeed. Reports out of training camp say rookie Kenny Golladay will make a difference in the wide receiver corps and in the red zone. Darius Slay is one of the better cornerbacks in the league. Matt Prater and Sam Martin form a fantastic special teams group.

    Why not to bet the Lions: The defensive line has taken a few injuries already this offseason including Kerry Hyder who had eight sacks in 2016. Ameer Abdullah is supposed to be the feature back, but the team needs to get more from the run to keep defenses honest. Abdullah has missed some time in the past, so it could be a concern that he won't be able to stand up to a regular workload. The road slate is rough with trips to New Orleans, New York, Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

    Season win total pick: Under 7.5

    Green Bay Packers (2016: 10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 10-6 O/U)

    Odds to win division: -240
    Season win total: 10.5

    Why to bet the Packers: You really only need Aaron Rodgers as a reason to bet this team. He's got Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb back as well as Martellus Bennett who will be big for the team across the middle. Rodgers is the most effective when he's spreading the ball around. Mason Crosby came up clutch last year in close games when Green Bay needed him. The secondary is much improved just a season after they were ranked 31st in football against the pass.

    Why not to bet the Packers: The run game still needs a lot of work with Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams vying for carries. Montgomery is a converted WR while Williams is a rookie. The team is relying on a lot of young players on defense especially if they start Kevin King at corner right out of college. Three of their final four games are on the road.

    Season win total pick: Under 10.5

    Minnesota Vikings (2016: 8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS, 7-9 O/U)

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

    Why to bet the Vikings: The loss of Adrian Peterson was mitigated by the additions of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. Cook is going to add some speed to the backfield and provide another option in the passing game. Sam Bradford will actually get a whole offseason with the team as opposed to last year when he came over just before the regular season began. The defense is littered with young talent including Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph.

    Why not to bet the Vikings: Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were good last year, but can they take the next step and be consistent? The offensive line was a massive issue last year with injuries ravaging the group. Their health will be important in keeping Bradford upright. Kai Forbath's reliability in close games is unknown as he only attempted 15 field goals last year.

    Season win total pick: Over 8.5

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    2017 NFC West betting preview and odds: Seahawks look to return to Super Bowl form

    Now two years removed from back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, the Seahawks are healthy and eager to get back to the Big Game and they're big faves to win their fourth division title in five years. Al McMordie gives you a team-by-team breakdown of the division, including his season win total picks.

    Arizona Cardinals (2016: 7-8-1 SU, 6-10 ATS, 10-6 O/U)

    Odds to win division: +299
    Season win total: Over 8, -154/Under 8, +131

    Why to bet the Cardinals: Arizona was 7-8-1 last season, but its failures could largely be chalked up to losing close games. In games decided by seven points or less, the Cardinals were 2-5-1. In 2015, when Arizona went 13-3, it was 4-1 in games decided by seven or less points. A major factor in this decline was the performance of place kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who succeeded on just 75 percent of his attempts (after converting 90.3 percent in 2015). Management replaced Catanzaro with 42-year-old veteran Phil Dawson, who has missed just three field goals each of the past two seasons. Otherwise, Arizona chose to not over-react to its disappointing season. The well-respected coaching staff remains largely in place. Bruce Arians heads the unit, and he’s 51-27-1 in his career when in charge of a staff. The Cards also boast one of the best talents in the league in running back David Johnson, who gained 100-plus yards from scrimmage in each of his first 15 games last season. And, of course, veterans Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald provide both skill and leadership to a talented offensive unit.

    Why not to bet the Cardinals: The defense has question marks following the free agency departure of five starters, including defensive end Calais Campbell, who had 56 pressures last season. Arizona hopes former first round pick Robert Nkemdiche will step up in the place of Campbell, but he failed to contribute much last season. It’s also worrisome that the Cards will heavily rely on older players like Palmer (37-years-old), Fitzgerald (34-years-old) and Dawson (42-years-old). Last season, Palmer took a league-high 117 hits and his QB rating declined from 104.6 in 2015 to 87.2 and even though Fitzgerald still plays at an exceptionally high level, beyond him, the receiving corps is thin. Arizona hopes that John Brown will be fully healthy this season after struggling with symptoms related to sickle-cell disease, but there’s no guarantee that will be the case.

    Season win total pick: Over 8

    Los Angeles Rams (2016: 4-12 SU, 4-11-1 ATS, 7-9 O/U)

    Odds to win division: +2337
    Season win total: Over 6, +123/Under 6, -144

    Why to bet the Rams: Last season, the Rams went 4-12 and coach Jeff Fisher was fired in December. In his place this season will be Sean McVay, who was 30 years old at the time of his hiring (the youngest head coach in modern NFL history). The Rams never had a winning season under Fisher and his message grew stale. McVay’s passion and enthusiasm will be key in turning around this franchise. Additionally, Wade Phillips is the new defensive coordinator. Though the Rams ranked No. 9 in total defense last season, Phillips is arguably the best defensive coordinator in the NFL and can make the unit even better. The coaching staff’s primary goal this past offseason was to upgrade the talent around second-year QB Jared Goff, who had a disastrous rookie season. A key signing was veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Goff also should benefit from a change in scheme, as McVay favors more of a spread offense, which is what Goff succeeded in at Cal-Berkeley. Finally, running back Todd Gurley should have a bounce-back campaign following a season in which he rushed for just 885 yards (the fewest in NFL history by a back with 275-plus carries). Last year, defenses were able to stack the box against him, but that will be less the case this season.

    Why not to bet the Rams: Sean McVay was hired largely on the basis of his accomplishments as the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins. Under his tutelage, quarterback Kirk Cousins set the Redskins’ franchise passing yardage record two years in a row. But he may be unable to transform Goff into a respectable starting quarterback. It certainly doesn’t help matters any that Los Angeles doesn’t have a “go-to” No. 1 receiver on its roster. Should Goff (and a relatively weak group of receivers) fail to develop, then that will not relax the defensive pressure other teams place on Gurley, who had only two runs of 20-plus yards last season.

    Season win total pick: Over 6

    San Francisco 49ers (2016: 2-14 SU, 4-11-1 ATS, 10-6 O/U)

    Odds to win division: +3758
    Season win total: Over 4.5, -162/Under 4.5, +138

    Why to bet the 49ers: Erstwhile head coach Chip Kelly lasted just one season in San Francisco. The 49ers went just 2-14, in no small measure due to the fact that the players didn’t fit Kelly’s system. Enter rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. They’ve overhauled much of the roster (50 of the team’s players on its offseason roster were new), with an eye toward acquiring talent (e.g., FB Kyle Juszczyk, TE George Kittle) that will allow Shanahan to create an offense founded on personnel groups equally adept at running and passing the football. To help with the transition, the 49ers have also brought in players like QB Brian Hoyer and WR Pierre Garcon, who have worked under Shanahan in the past.

    Why not to bet the 49ers: There is enormous inexperience throughout the coaching staff. This, of course, is Shanahan’s first job as head coach. It’s true he had tremendous success in Atlanta, but he also benefited from working with superb talent, a la QB Matt Ryan. Now, in San Francisco, his signal caller will be Hoyer, who is playing for his sixth team in seven years. Robert Saleh also is a first-year defensive coordinator and he will be implementing a new 4-3 scheme. Unfortunately, former top draft picks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, were both drafted to fit a different defense and linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is a perfect fit, is coming off his second major injury in three seasons. Finally, there’s a big question mark in San Francisco’s kicking game. The Niners chose to not bring back their place kicker Dawson (who signed with Arizona), even though he was a career 84.5 percent FG kicker. Instead, the duties will fall to Robbie Gould, who was ineffective last season.

    Season win total pick: Over 4.5

    Seattle Seahawks (2016: 10-5-1 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 9-7 O/U)

    Odds to win division: -301
    Season win total: Over 10.5, -123/Under 10.5, +105

    Why to bet the Seahawks: Seattle won 10 games last season — its fifth straight season it reached double-digit wins — a hallmark of consistency under coach Pete Carroll. If not for injuries to key personnel, Seattle likely would have won more than it did. Indeed, free safety Earl Thomas suffered a broken leg in a December game versus Carolina, after which Seattle’s defense gave up 30-plus points in three of its final six games (losing those three). Additionally, cornerback Richard Sherman was bothered by an MCL injury, while QB Russell Wilson battled knee and ankle injuries the entire season. Wilson’s rushing productivity was greatly affected, as he ran for a career-low 259 yards. The good news is that all of Seattle’s key players are feeling fit, so it’s a reasonable expectation that it will once again find the form which allowed it to reach the Super Bowl in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. However, management isn’t just relying on a return to health. It also looked to shore up the running game by signing Eddie Lacy to a one-year contract (laden with weight incentives). Finally, the Seahawks play in a weak division, and get to play two of the worst teams in football (Rams, 49ers) twice each.

    Why not to bet the Seahawks: It’s true that the Seahawks have long had one of the best defenses in football. After all, it has allowed the fewest points in the league in four of the past five seasons, but it’s also a unit which is aging. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin and ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, are all on the wrong side of 30. With age, of course, can come injuries, or even just a decline in play. Seattle also did nothing to bolster a below-average offensive line. Last season, Seattle’s QB was sacked 42 times, which was sixth-worst in the NFL. Last, but not least, there’s always a risk that Sherman will once again cause distractions by voicing displeasure with the coaching staff. For a team which badly wants to get back to the Super Bowl, it can ill-afford that sort of a headache.

    Season win total pick: Over 10.5

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