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Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Sports Betting | 0 comments

My NFL Futures Bets (2018 Regular Season) — the AFC

 

 

Note:  This is Part 2.  Read Part 1 HERE.

 

The NFL regular season began last tonight.

As I have done each and every week over the past six seasons, I’ll be picking games against the spread and will update my record as we go along.  Look for weekly write-ups to appear either on Saturday evening or Sunday mornings — depending on my schedule.  Since I’ve been posting picks here at my site, I’ve had four winning seasons and two losing seasons.

What follows in today’s post are my thoughts on AFC season win totals, including my betting recommendations.  Note that most betting values are long gone since the opening numbers were first posted in May.  If you didn’t bet them by now, you’ve probably missed the value.  Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on what are likely to be the closing numbers based on most recent Westgate Las Vegas odds.

You may also be interested in watching a 2-hour video I did with Frank Perez and Stephen Nover where we break down all 32 NFL teams.  WATCH VIDEO HERE

 

REGULAR SEASON WINS TOTALS:

Baltimore Ravens — 8 (Over -145)

There’s nothing attractive about the Ravens other than they play in a weak division.  QB Joe Flacco has deteriorated into a below-average QB since winning the Super Bowl five years ago.  Ravens lack playmakers on the roster and have an average defense.  Baltimore’s home field advantage, once one of the league’s best, has evaporated.  Slight lean to the UNDER here, but can’t fade either side of 8 wins based on so many question marks and some possibility underperforming Flacco gets benched midseason in favor of backup future QB Lamar Jackson, which may be an improvement.  Ravens also face tough NFC South this season in non-division games, which means to reach 9+ wins Baltimore will have to feast on Bengals and Browns and probably defeat Steelers at least once.  My Prediction:  7-9 and 3rd in the AFC North

Buffalo Bills — 6 (-130 Under)

The Bills went 9-7 last season and shocked everyone by making the playoffs, but are forecasted to be one of the worst teams in the AFC this year.  I think oddsmakers may have overadjusted this line a bit too much, especially given the weakness of this division and Bills traditionally being a scrappy team when no one expects them to win.  Nathan Peterman (who?) will get the start at QB, who gets dismissed as a serious threat.  However, it’s not like Peterman is a downgrade from the previous dregs who have led this offense under center.  RB LeSean McCoy’s legal troubles continue and the Bills look sparse at all major skill positions.  But the nucleus of a team including a coaching staff that someone had a winning season in 2017 returns, and for that reason, there appears to be some value with the OVER.  Slight lean here, because I don’t see the Bills being that far behind Dolphins and Jets, if at all in this division.  My Prediction:  7-9 and 2nd in AFC East 

Cincinnati Bengals — 6.5 (Over -170)

Bengals had one of the most bizarre seasons and offseasons in recent memory, starting off awful in 2017, then playing much better down the stretch.  When team ownership announced longtime head coach Marvin Lewis would be released at season’s end, the Bengals played their asses off and beat two playoff hopefuls — Detroit and Baltimore, ending up at 7-9.  Then, Cincinnati announced Lewis would be back in 2018.  There’s lots of experience on this team, with QB Anthony Dalton entering the prime of his career.  Sure, Dalton has looked shaky at times, but he’ll have an excellent receiver corps and solid offensive line.  If Bengals defense can step up, this team should reach the .500 mark.  After starting 0-3 last season, Bengals were basically out of the race.  This year, they should start 2-0 and I think that carries them to a 9-7 season.  This is one of the better plays on the board, even with the high juice on the OVER.  My Prediction:  9-7 and 2nd in the AFC North

Cleveland Browns — 5.5 (Over -160)

Every year, there’s one team many of the so-called experts fall in love with and everyone tries to out-maneuver the squares.  The Browns are that popular and sexy team this year.  Even though Cleveland has gone just 1-31 over the past two seasons, some bold handicappers are touting the Browns as the possible surprise team of 2018.  Let’s get real.  This team lacks a proven QB, ranked at the bottom of virtually every statistical category, and will likely be underdogs in 14 of 16 games.  Perhaps the most damning evidence against Cleveland is — this franchise has a deep and toxic culture of losing.  They don’t know how to win.  A 4- or 5-win season certainly looks achievable, but to wager money on anything beyond that number strikes me as ludicrous.  This is a pass for me, but also a strong recommendation to reject the trendy advice of cappers ignoring history and data.  My Prediction:  4-12 and 4th in the AFC North 

Denver Broncos — 7 (Over -160)

Broncos field one of the league’s best defenses.  But I have serious concerns about the coaching staff, which hasn’t proven they can win yet, combined with pessimism that new QB Case Keenum is the answer to the Bronco’s chronic offensive woes.  Denver plays in a division where they could conceivably finish 1st or 4th, depending on all the volatiles.  But I see the Chargers and Raiders as the class of this division and the Broncos a step behind.  Total looks about right.  Defense may keep Denver in many close games.  My Prediction:  7-9 and tied for 3rd in AFC West  

Houston Texans — 8.5 (Over -150)

Texans were 4-12 last year and will have to win 5 more games in 2018 to break the OVER.  That seems like quite a leap, especially in this tough division with lots of possible volatility.  Like everyone else who watched him, QB Deshaun Watson looks to be one of the NFL’s most exciting players, capable of changing the outcome of a game on his own.  But highly-mobile QBs often get injured (like last season) and for Houston to reach the 9+ win mark and contend for the playoffs, Watson must stay healthy and play just as well.  I think defenses will make some adjustments.  Meanwhile, Houston’s once-solid defense played poorly last year and has many question marks.  At RB, Lamar Miller is coming off his worst season as a pro.  This number should be 7.5 and certainly no higher than 8.  I recommend an UNDER wager, given the tough quality of competition in this division (especially if Indianapolis improves), combined with getting a plus price at +120.  My Prediction:  8-8 and tied for 2nd in the AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars — 9 (Over -145)

Here’s another inexplicable season win total.  Jaguars field one of the NFL’s best defenses.  The offense improved dramatically last season, having no trouble moving the ball and scoring points on the road in playoff games against Pittsburgh and New England.  While we can’t read too much into a small sample size of games, let’s remember Jacksonville could have been the AFC champions with a play or two in the 4th quarter.  Supposedly, experts predict a regression here from the 10-6 mark they posted in 2017.  But to go UNDER on this total, the Jags would have to win 8 games or less.  This defense is too good to let that happen.  Also, I really like the receiver corps.  QB Blake Bortles gets lots of heat from some erratic play over his career, but he may have found his niche.  Most importantly, the coaching staff has this team believing they can win.  I see Jacksonville either winning 11 games, or at worst falling back to 9-7 and sneaking into the playoffs as a Wild Card.  Lots of upside to the OVER.  My Prediction:  11-5 and 1st in AFC South

Indianapolis — 6.5 (Over -210)

To reach 7+ wins, QB Andrew Luck will have to return to his early career form after a nearly two-year layoff, and then stay healthy.  That’s a lot to ask.  Even with Luck taking most snaps, this team is awful on both sides of the ball, especially on defense.  Frank Reich takes over with a new coaching staff for a team that went 4-12 in 2017.  Clearly, all three other teams in this division are better than Indy.  Based on schedule, it’s very possible the Colts start off 1-4 or 0-5.  Getting plus money on the UNDER is a bargain.  While as a contrarian I tend to avoid going UNDER on teams projected to post a losing record, I’m fading this team in 2018.  Way too many things have to go right for the Colts to reach 7-9 or better.  My Prediction:  4-12 and 4th in the AFC South

Kansas City Chiefs — 8.5 (Under -150)

Credit head coach Andy Reid.  He wins the games he should.  Reid has won 9+ games in all five of his previous seasons at Kansas City, so this total would seem a bit low.  KC has also won division titles two straight seasons.  Reid’s teams can’t beat elite competition and his playoff record is abysmal, but Kansas City sure takes care of business when they should.  Questions linger coming into this season however because of drastic adjustment at QB.  Alex Smith is gone which means Chiefs will give the nod to Patrick Mahomes.  Perhaps he’ll be an improvement.  Perhaps he won’t.  There are too many question marks about Kansas City coming into this new season to have a conclusive opinion about the win total.  My Prediction:  7-9 and 3rd in the AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers — 9 (Over -170)

This is another popular public pick as a strong playoff contender, yet the total hasn’t moved off the 9 (juice rocketed upward).  I see the reasons for optimism since the Chargers lost so many close games last season (at least 2-3 because of a bad kicking game).  The consensus is, Chargers will rebound and win the AFC West.  What scares me a little are the Raiders and Broncos, both of which might be better this season.  And the feisty Chiefs always seem to get on the right side of an 8-win mark.  So, I’m not sure the Chargers hit that critical 10-win target needed to cash the OVER.  It also bothers me this team lacks any serious home-field edge.  Too many questions about this team for me to make a wager or even have much of an opinion.  I’ll sit this one out.  My Prediction:  9-7 and tied for 1st in the AFC West

Miami Dolphins — 6.5 (Over -135)

All eyes are on QB Ryan Tannehill who returns as the starter after missing entire last season with a knee injury.  For Dolphins to approach the .500 mark he will have to stay healthy and play well.  I think that might be too much to expect given a weak Dolphins offensive line and no standout receivers.  BTW, Tannehill’s backup is Brock Osweiler.  Enough said.  Dolphins losing three starters in free agency (arguably their three best players –Landry, Pouncey, and Suh) also harms this team’s chances for success in 2018.  Looks like another losing season in Miami.  My Prediction:  6-10 and tied for 2nd in the AFC East

New England Patriots — 11 (Over -135)

The Patriots enter this season with the highest projected win total for the third consecutive year.  Their history of producing OVERS is astounding.  New England has exceeded its win total 12 of the last 14 seasons during the Belichick-Brady era.  The last time the Patriots didn’t win 12+ games was 2010.  So, one might think this OVER looks easy.  I suspect contrarians of pessimists with concerns about Tom Brady’s age (he’s 40) are keeping this number lower than expected.  While the Patriots are worth a fade in some games, there’s no way to justify going UNDER this number.  This is especially true since the Patriots play in such a weak division.  There’s almost no threat to the Patriots repeating as AFC East champions.  I see no value betting the Patriots wither way, but have to agree it seems more likely they win 12+ games than 10 or fewer.  My Prediction:  12-4 and 1st in the AFC East

New York Jets — 6.5 (Under -120)

I’m the only handicapper in the universe optimistic about the Jets.  I watched this team closely last season, which covered the spread more often than not and had chances to win far more games (Jets prepared well each week, but crumbled in the 4th quarter of many games, the sign of an inexperienced team).  I think they step up this season and remain just as feisty, and then win a few more games.  Clearly, the roster leaves something to be desired, and it’s highly risky to bank on a rookie QB.  But the Jets have many winnable games and I think will improve as the season progresses.  I’m comfortable going OVER this low number in a very weak division, especially with a team that seems to respond well to its coaching staff each week after close losses.  Lots of intangibles and between the lines analysis here which doesn’t show up on the scoreboard, but I see Jets heading in the right direction.  My Prediction:  7-9 and tied for second in the AFC East

Oakland Raiders — 7.5 (Under -120)

I’ve been fading the Raiders since Derek Carr became QB.  Not a fan.  Oakland has been poorly coached and fielded a terrible defense in recent years.  But that all might change with Jon Gruden in command.  The new coach looks to have sparked some enthusiasm among his new/old team.  I watched each Raiders’ pre-season game and I’ve changed my mind about this hire:  Gruden was the right pick and will fit perfectly into this system.  I’m not sure he has all the tools yet to create the team he wants, but Oakland should reach at least 8 wins.  I’m thinking discipline and motivation are gonna’ be big factors this year for the Raiders and they will win an extra 2-3 games they would have lost in previous years.  Surprise pick here to make the playoffs as a Wild Card.  My Prediction:  9-7 and tied for 1st in AFC West

Pittsburgh Steelers — 10 (Over -150)

Like the Patriots in the AFC East, it seems the Steelers should win their mega-soft division by default.  Pittsburgh fields an experienced team likely to win 10 or 11 games.  However, I recommend against laying the high juice and betting on the obvious.  RB Bell continues his contract holdout, which could hurt Steelers early in the season.  Moreover, Pittsburgh plays a tough non-division schedule, facing 6 playoff teams from last season, plus the Raiders, Broncos, Chargers — all expected to be improved.  Steelers’ solid OL, DL, and LB corps combined with QB Ben Roethlisberger’s experience should guide this team to another playoff appearance.  My Prediction:  10-6 and 1st in the AFC North

Tennessee Titans — 8 (Over -120)

This is perhaps the toughest team in the league to figure out.  Titans are solid on both sides of the ball and have a QB entering his prime.  But they also fired the head coach in the offseason, even though Titans made playoffs and even won a playoff game on the road last season.  I see that as a huge red flag and a team with way too many question marks, especially since they play in a tough division with three other teams capable of just about anything.  This total looks about right, though some slight temptation to play the OVER based on expectations QB Mariota will continue to improve and Tennessee’s running game will keep them in many games.  My Prediction:  8-8 and tied for 2nd in AFC South

 

A RECAP (MY PREDICTIONS)

AFC East

New England Patriots — 12-5 *

Buffalo Bills — 7-9

New York Jets — 7-9

Miami Dolphins — 6-10

 

NFC North

Pittsburgh — 10-6 *

Cincinnati Bengals — 9-7 **

Baltimore Ravens — 7-9

Cleveland Browns — 4-12

 

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars — 11-5 *

Houston Texans — 8-8 

Tennessee Titans — 8-8

Indianapolis Colts — 4-12

 

NFC West

Los Angeles Chargers — 9-7 *

Oakland Raiders — 9-7 **

Denver Broncos — 7-9

Kansas City Chiefs — 7-9

* —– division winner

** —– wild card

 

MY WAGERS ON NFL SEASON WIN TOTALS:

Arizona Cardinals OVER 5.5 wins

Buffalo Bills OVER 6 wins

Cincinnati Bengals OVER 6.5 wins

Dallas Cowboys UNDER 8.5 wins

Detroit Lions UNDER 7.5 wins

Houston Texans UNDER 8.5 wins

Jacksonville Jaguars OVER 9 wins

Indianapolis Colts UNDER 6.5 wins

New Orleans Saints OVER 9.5 wins

Seattle Seahawks UNDER 8 wins (Best Bet)

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