For the first time, I’ve decided to put some pre-season NFL bets on. I’ve bet on each of the division winners and also thrown in a few over/under picks. I’ve listened to American podcasts, I’ve researched the schedule, I’ve made win estimates for each team, I’ve really immersed myself in the NFL world. Which is nice, but ultimately I’ll probably still lose my money. Because gambling is for mugs (I’m a mug).
Lets start with each of the division winners. Firstly the AFC East (Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets). This was one of the easiest to pick. Without a shadow of doubt in my mind the Patriots will win this division. The Dolphins have the potential to be a little frisky but their offensive line problems remain and there are still question marks over Ryan Tannehill. The Bills and Jets are awful (more on this later). The Patriots have added Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to improve their secondary and whilst their receivers aren’t the best, they do have Tom Brady.
AFC EAST: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The AFC North (Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers) is a much tighter division to call. Aside from the Browns who have problems at quarterback and offensively in general (Josh Gordon suspended), every team in this division has a chance. The Ravens and the Steelers are difficult to predict. They both seem equally capable of going deep in the playoffs or missing the playoffs altogether. However I decided to go for the safe pick with the Bengals. Their defense will be elite once again despite the loss of Mike Zimmer, there is just too much talent. Andy Dalton will be better than people expect, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill are an impressive running back duo and in A.J. Green they have one of the best receivers in the NFL.
AFC NORTH: CINCINNATI BENGALS
Much like the East, the AFC South (Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans) is a relatively easy one to pick. The Titans and the Jags will be as bad as usual and whilst the Texans have some good pieces on defense (J.J. WATT) they still don’t have a good quarterback. That definitely isn’t the problem for the Colts. Andrew Luck is now in his 3rd year and will continue to improve towards becoming an ‘elite’ QB, their defense isn’t great but their offense could be spectacular.
AFC SOUTH: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Again the AFC West (Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers) is quite easy to predict in my opinion. The Raiders will be bad, potentially very bad, they probably have the worst coach in the NFL. The Chiefs benefited from an unbelievably easy schedule last year and whilst their defense is impressive I don’t think the offense will have the required big play ability. The Chargers will be good and should build on the progress they made last year but you can’t look past Peyton Manning in this division. The Broncos made the Super Bowl last year with a historically good offense. In the offseason they added Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward to improve their defense and they should cruise to the AFC West title.
AFC WEST: DENVER BRONCOS
Now onto the NFC East (Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins). Oh boy, the NFC East. The Redskins were 3-13 last season and have a quarterback who is coming off a slew of injuries with a disastrous offensive line. The New York Giants don’t have enough talent. Eli Manning wasn’t a particularly great quarterback when he won 2 Super Bowls now he seems to have completely lost it, turnover machine. The Cowboys should have a spectacular offense but defensively they are a shambles and will be lucky to finish 8-8 again. That leaves just the Eagles and the Chip Kelly offense. Nick Foles will not be as good as last year but he will have great opportunities for big plays as part of this offense and he has Shady McCoy in the backfield, plus Darren Sproles will have an impact.
NFC EAST: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
This seems to be a worryingly common theme but I’m again quite confident about my pick in the NFC North (Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings). The Vikings have a new coach in Mike Zimmer and will spring some surprises, however you have to worry about their passing game. The Bears have the opposite problem, their offense should be extremely good if their offensive line can perform well. But their defense faces problems, they’re old and have holes at Linebacker. That leaves the Lions who’ve added Golden Tate across from Megatron to improve their offense and have some interesting players on defense and the Packers. Green Bay has the best quarterback in football and one of the best running backs in football. That should be enough to win them this division.
NFC NORTH: GREEN BAY PACKERS
The NFC South (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is much trickier to predict. All four teams can be considered contenders, which, in my reckoning, is the only division where this is the case. The Bucs had a horrendous schedule last year and drafted well. The defense should be strong again and if Josh McCown can play similar to last season then the offense can be successful. Lovie Smith is also a huge upgrade over Greg Schiano, who was out of his depth at this level. The Falcons again should be much improved over last year, the receiving core is strong even without Tony Gonzalez however the defense has problems. The Panthers defense should again be impressive but they have serious problems offensively. The receivers Cam has to throw at are dreadful and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are huge salary cap problems with little production. From the Saints point of view they have no such problems on offense with playmakers across the board. Their question mark is whether the defense can continue its improvement over last year. I decided to pick the Saints but I can see any team winning this division.
NFC SOUTH: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Finally the NFC West (Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St Louis Rams) which is again a tricky one to predict. The Rams have added to what was already an incredible defensive line but without a quarterback after poor Sam Bradford re-tore his ACL. This could be the year the 49ers drop off after their run of success. Aldon Smith is suspended, NaVorro Bowman is injured, there are question marks over Jim Harbaugh’s future and Kaepernick is wildly inconsistent at QB. I think the Niners are destined for a Wildcard spot at best. The Cardinals were a surprising 10-6 last year and I expect them to take a step backwards. They’ve lost some players on defense which was really their strength last year. That leaves just the Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks. They’ve lost Golden Tate, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond and Clinton McDonald amongst others. Whilst the defense and the Legion of Boom in particular should be fine, there are some issues with the offense. Can rookie 2nd round pick Paul Richardson step up? Does Marshawn Lynch have too many miles and hits on the clock? Despite these questions I still think Seattle is the best team in this division.
NFC WEST: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Now onto my Over/Under picks. I looked through all of the over/under markets for every team and concluded that I would take advantage of four. Firstly I took the over on the Eagles at 9 wins. I’m confident they can take advantage of a quite poor division and claim double figure wins. I decided to go for the under on the Titans and Jets at 7 wins. I honestly think these are mistakes from the bookies. Does anyone honestly think these teams can win more than 6 games? I certainly don’t, they’re both very bad. If I’m confident on the Titans and Jets bets than I’m uber confident about the Bills under 6.5 wins. They have a bad quarterback, a poor offensive line, average at best receivers and a defense that will be on the field too much to be impactful. So yeah, I’m all in on the over/under bets, I think I’m printing money.
EAGLES OVER 9 WINS
JETS UNDER 7 WINS
TITANS UNDER 7 WINS
BILLS UNDER 6.5 WINS