Yesterday I covered the NFC conference over/under totals, and total I will take a look at the AFC conference.
The numbers come from Sportsbook.ag and while there is a degree of fun to these rankings, they are also a good barometer of Vegas’s expectations for every team out there.
New England Patriots, 10 wins
This over/under was initially 12.5 games before Tom Brady got handed a 4-game suspension. 10 is probably right for a season without Tom Brady, but right now this over this one of my favorite bets, even at the hefty price. Brady’s suspension is going to get reduced and end up at one or two games. Even with Jimmy Garrapolo at the helm for the first four games, 2-2 isn’t out of the question against Pittsburgh, at Buffalo, against Jacksonville and at Dallas in the first four games. The early bye stings, there isn’t a substantial running game in New England these days and the secondary without Darrelle Revis is a big concern. But the Pats are going to be in us-against-the-world mode when Brady comes back. If Rob Gronkowski is healthy they could seriously run the table. At the very least I’m spying 11 or 12 wins here.
Buffalo Bills, 8.5 wins
Surprisingly this over isn’t more popular. After all, read the hype on the Bills and Rex Ryan taking over and it’s surprising more people aren’t on Buffalo as a 9-plus win team. They’ve got the same roster from last year’s 9-win season with an upgrade at coach, an upgrade at running back thanks to the LeSean McCoy trade and a defense that should dominate in 2015. There’s just that pesky issue of quarterback. Matt Cassel is an upgrade over Kyle Orton … maybe? More likely a lateral move. A tough opening schedule with Indy, New England, at Miami and the Giants is a major test for Ryan at his new job. Looking at the schedule this feels like a ball is going to bounce the right or wrong way against Rex’s old team to determine 8 or 9 wins.
Miami Dolphins, 8.5 wins
Miami made a lot of smart moves this offseason. Ndamukong Suh is a massive impact player on the defensive front. His contract doesn’t affect the win-loss total for this year. Ryan Tannehill’s contract sets Miami up nicely for the long haul, particularly if he has a breakout 2014. DeVante Parker is a massive help from the draft, Jarvis Landry should take a step forward and losing Mike Wallace is addition by subtraction. A pair of opening road games at Washington and Jacksonville are a nice opportunity for a hot start to the year. Would not be surprised at all if this team started out 6-0. In late October things could take a nasty turn but you’ve got to believe even Joe Philbin can figure out a way to win 3-4 of his final 10 games.
New York Jets, 7.5 wins
The problem with ALL of the AFC East teams making huge offseason strides is you can’t expect the Bills, Dolphins and Jets to all make a big leap forward. New York added Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromarite to shore up the secondary. The defensive line, with the addition of Leonard Williams, is flat-out ridiculous. Brandon Marshall puts Eric Decker into a legitimate No. 2 role, Jeremy Kerley can man the slot, Devin Smith is a deadly deep threat and Jace Amaro should improve. Can Geno Smith take a step forward under Chan Gailey? That’s the big question for this team and maybe the entire division. There’s more to like about him than people want to let you know.
Indianapolis Colts, 10.5 wins
What an insane price. 10.5 wins and you’ve basically got to pay double. There’s a reason: the AFC South still isn’t great. The Colts probably pick up 4-5 wins inside the division alone. They get the AFC East this year and the NFC South. Oh and Andrew Luck picked up MORE WEAPONS this offseason. Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and Philip Dorsett are added to one of 2014’s most explosive offenses. It’s not hard to imagine this team putting up record-breaking numbers as they chase a Super Bowl. 10 wins almost feels like the floor.
Houston Texans, 8.5 wins
Bill O’Brien definitely didn’t get the credit he deserved for piloting the Texans to nine wins in his debut as an NFL head coach. Having J.J. Watt is really nice but winning nine games without a legit starting quarterback is a hard, hard thing to do in the NFL. Unfortunately O’Brien faces the same challenge in 2015, with heightened expectations. The Texans did a nice job landing Kevin Johnson, Benardrick McKinney and Jaelen Strong in the draft; all three guys could ultimately end up starting. But there’s an uphill battle here to repeat a 9-win season.
Jacksonville Jaguars, 5.5 wins
How did they not hit 4.5 last year?? The result might be a nice buy opportunity here, with Blake Bortles likely to take a leap and an impressive draft class — even with Dante Fowler out for the season already — that should impact this team early and often. They’re young across the board but added Julius Thomas, T.J. Yeldon and Rashad Greene on offense, all of whom will help reduce the time Bortles has to hold the ball and thus the number of sacks he’ll take. The Fowler injury really does sting; Gus Bradley’s defense was finally supposed to emerge this season. It still could. I look at a bunch of two-set home games for the Jags where they can split and manage to pull of a 6-win season if everything breaks right.
Tennessee Titans, 5.5 wins
It’s hard to win less than five games in back-to-back seasons, but the Titans looked prime to do it. Marcus Mariota doesn’t feel like an instant impact type of guy, even if Ken Whisenhunt can mold an offense around him. This offensive line looked like a major strength this time last year and now it’s much thinner. There’s a possibility for a surprising start here with road games at Tampa and Cleveland to open followed by a four-game home stretch against Indy, Buffalo, Miami and Atlanta. At Jacksonville, versus Oakland, versus Jacksonville is another nice three-game stretch later in the year. But a slow start could spell doom again.
Pittsburgh Steelers, 8.5 wins
Weird to see Pittsburgh blast the total last year with 11 wins and then get 8.5 a year later. Ben Roethlisberger is really starting to put it all together in Todd Haley’s offense. Le’Veon Bell is missing a few games, but DeAngelo Williams can hold the fort together early on. Antonio Brown is a top-five wideout and Markus Wheaton/Martavius Bryant are excellent complimentary pieces. Long story short is this offense will explode. How will the defense look under Keith Butler with Dick LeBeau gone? The secondary is decimated, but there’s a TON of early-round investments in the front seven right now. Mike Tomlin has two 8-win finishes in the last three years but those are the only two of his coaching tenure.
Cincinnati Bengals, 8.5 wins
For all the talk about Marvin Lewis’ inability to win a playoff game and the concerns about whether or not Andy Dalton is a franchise quarterback, the Bengals have won 9, 10, 11, 10 games the last four seasons. That’s a strong stretch. Every single major wide receiver on this roster — A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Brandon Tate — is playing for a contract. Tyler Eifert should be back and able to help. Cincy went heavy on offensive line, both for the future and present and we should see plenty of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard next year. This team will compete in the division again.
Baltimore Ravens, 9 wins
As you can see, Vegas is about as sure when it comes to the AFC North as everyone else is. These lines are basically identical from last year, with the Bengals and Ravens flipped at 9. Baltimore’s only won less than 9 games once under John Harbaugh, when an 8-8 season in 2013 caused them to miss the playoffs. Haloti Ngata is gone via trade and Torrey Smith said adios via free agency. Ozzie Newsome worked his magic, though, and Breshad Perriman/Maxx Williams should help keep Joe Flacco steady under Marc Trestman (who should keep some zone-running principles in place for Justin Forsett). The defense has plenty of bodies and talent; don’t fret any name-value departures you see in the headlines.
Cleveland Browns, 6.5 wins
If Johnny Manziel stuns the world and returns in time to make a major impact for 2015, this could be a surprise team next year. But as it stands, how can you trust the Browns to improve on 7-9 last year? The trio of Isaiah Crowell/Terrance West/Duke Johnson is interesting in the backfield, but there’s nothing interesting about Dwayne Bowe/Brian Hartline/Andrew Hawkins when it comes to scaring cornerbacks. I’d be willing to bet this defense really steps up this year under Mike Pettine and we see them win a few games with impressive play. But not sure it will be enough for 7 wins.
Denver Broncos, 10.5 wins
So the average win totals per season with Peyton Manning in Denver is 12.7 games. There’s a big difference here and it’s largely fueled by Manning’s poor performance at the end of 2014. That’s fair, because he struggled late with his health and ability to push the ball down the field (even as he was breaking the record for most touchdown passes ever). Julius Thomas is gone and Wes Welker is still in limbo as a free agent. But there’s still a load of talent here. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are a dynamite combo and Cody Latimer could surprise this season. CJ Anderson emerged last season and could thrive in Gary Kubiak’s scheme. There’s loads of talent on defense. Worst-case scenario is Manning’s done and this is a laugher for the under. But he threw 39 touchdown passes last year! Let’s not bury him THAT quickly.
San Diego Chargers, 8 wins
What does this look like if Philip Rivers isn’t on the roster anymore? Yikes. Instead, Rivers is playing for a contract and should put up big numbers for the third-straight year under Mike McCoy. Dude still doesn’t have any A+ weapons in the passing game, but you could argue the trio of Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd are underrated heading into this year. Stevie Johnson could be a sneaky fit in this system. Melvin Gordon’s addition could be HUGE. Like, Offensive Rookie of the Year huge. This is a better defense than you think and has a pile of early investments on that side of the ball.
Kansas City Chiefs, 8.5 wins
Andy Reid wasn’t playing when it came to getting help for Alex Smith, making it rain for Jeremy Maclin in free agency. The Chiefs offense is still limited but Jamaal Charles, Maclin and Travis Kelce are three really dangerous weapons for what Reid wants to do here. Justin Houston is back for another massive season and the defense is again a very impressive unit. The opening schedule is really hard — three away games plus Denver at home. Getting the Raiders twice isn’t a guarantee anymore, right? And the other top two teams in this division are scary. Reid always manages to coach up his team but there won’t be a hot start to ride this year.
Oakland Raiders, 5.5 wins
For years the Raiders under has been free money. Feels less like it this year with people believing Derek Carr and Khalil Mack represent the future for Oakland. Add Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree to the receiving corps, give Latavius Murray some carries, don’t give Trent Richardson some carries and it feels like the offense could be spunky. The defense is better than it has been, but that’s not saying much. Getting the AFC North is brutal, especially when you’ve got three of the four teams to open the season! They’re not definitely winning one of their first six games at all. 6-4 down the stretch is tough with at Pittsburgh, at Detroit, at Denver, at Kansas City and home games against Green Bay and San Diego. The Chargers matchup on Christmas Eve could be the final home game in Oakland if this team is moving.
What do you think of the proposed over/under numbers for the AFC?