2012 Quick Preview
Look for the Patriots to control this division the whole way without any major challenges. As we all know, they excelled offensively (3rd in efficiency) and should remain effective without any major subtractions. They had their struggles on defense (29th in league in efficiency), however should improve after spending 4 picks in this draft’s top 90 on defensive players, as well as being healthier in the secondary. Look for the Jets to fall off towards a disappointing season; outside of Darrelle Revis, they lack talent on both sides of the ball and have no depth whatsoever. They will struggle to cover point spreads, especially early on. We like the Bills to cover spreads this year; Ryan Fitzpatrick should bounce back after playing the second half of 2011 with injured ribs. They should be able to put lots of pressure on the quarterback and have talent in the secondary. Look for Buffalo to compete for a wild card. The Dolphins have an undervalued defense, but will struggle to put points on the board since rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will not be ready to produce immediately. With this in mind, and in noting that the Dolphins only went over the posted total in 4 of their 16 games last season, keep an eye on their totals early in the year as a way to find value.
Future Bet – New York Jets – Under 8.5 Wins
Baltimore was one play away from advancing to the Superbowl and should not suffer a letdown this year despite the absence of Terrell Suggs. Joe Flacco gets the job done, and look for big years from Torrey Smith and Ray Rice with the defense continuing to produce. Pittsburgh will not be as good as they have been in recent years; they have one of the league’s most erratic offensive lines and Roethlisber will be going into the season banged-up. Their defense will still be exceptional, but as a whole they did not do much during the offseason to improve their team from last season. I expect the Bengals to take a big step back; they were a great story in going 9-7 last year, but did not defeat a single team with a winning record all season. They benefited from one of the easiest schedules in the league last year and were trounced by the Texans and their 3rd string quarterback in the wild-card round. The Browns should improve this year, but are too young to be expected to compete. Brandon Weeden should be competent early on, but lacks the weapons to put up big points. They had the 9th most efficient defense last year and 11 of 16 games went under the posted total.
Future Bet – Cincinnati – Under 8 Wins
Houston is a lock to win this division and are by far and away the most talented team here. The Texans are arguably the most balanced team in the entire league and can beat you in a number of different ways. Their defense was just as effective after Mario Williams’ injury last season and they should not miss him as much as has been published; J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, and Connor Barwin will be able to put plenty of pressure on opposing QBs. Any Gary Kubiak team will have one of the game’s best running games, and Matt Schaub should lead a proficient passing offense as well. I like the Colts to be the second best team in this division; Andrew Luck should be effective immediately and has many weapons to throw to. Their defense still has the personnel in place to slow people down and should improve in moving to a 3-4. This is a team that was outwardly trying to lose games towards the end of last season and with a new coach, scheme, quarterback, and increased effort, should win some games. The same cannot be said for Tennessee and Jacksonville, who lack the talent at quarterback to be competitive. Jake Locker lacks the accuracy to be a winning NFL quarterback and the Titans will not be relevant this season. Jacksonville was dead last in offensive efficiency last year and has one of the worst rosters in the league. They will be a mess from the beginning and struggle to score points all season long. Because of the prevalent weaknesses of the other 3 teams in the division, expect Houston to go well over their 10 win total.
Future Bet – Houston – Over 10 Wins.
This should be one of the more competitive divisions in the league, with three teams having a legitimate shot to win it. Denver upgraded at quarterback and should have a vastly improved offense. With that, their defense should improve with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil returning from injury to provide pressure on the quarterback. Concerns are plentiful about Manning staying healthy, but Denver should be a major player. San Diego had a disappointing season last year, but still should be able to compete this year, with Phillip Rivers bouncing back. The Chiefs will be vastly improved after the return of Matt Cassell, Jamal Charles, and Eric Berry. They had a winning record ATS last year despite playing half of the season for a coach that they despised in Todd Hayley. With that said, the Raiders are clearly the worst team among the four in the west and will struggle to win games. Carson Palmer turned the ball over too much last year, and Darren McFadden continues to struggle to stay on the field.
Future Bet – Oakland – Under 7 Wins
This should also be one of the more balanced divisions in football and will most likely come down to the last couple weeks of the season. While the Giants have had a great deal of post-season success, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that they have been a very inconsistent and erratic regular season team over the past couple years. While they have the talent to compete anyone in the league and division, wager with caution. Dallas did a tremendous job of improving their pass defense over the off season, which was by far and away their weakest unit last year. Expect them to compete all year with their improved secondary and challenge for the division title. The Eagles have as much talent as anyone in the division, but they were very inconsistent against the spread last season and cannot be trusted to bring the same level of intensity on a week-to-week basis. Pick your spots carefully. The Redskins are by far the least talented team in the division; I expect Robert Griffin to play well, however he lacks skilled players to throw too and their defense is average at best. Shannahan’s job may be on the line by season’s end.
Future Bet – Dallas – Over 8.5 Wins
The Packers have the most talent in the division and were very good against the spread (including 7-1 at home) last season. The offense should continue to put up plenty of points on the board and the defense should improve, leading to double digit wins despite a difficult schedule. The Bears are the second best team in the division and will put themselves right into the playoff picture; Brandon Marshall is the best offensive weapon they have had in quite some time. I am looking for a big step back from the Lions; they have big holes on defense (23rd in opponent yards per game) and will continue to give up a bunch of points. They lack talent in the secondary and lacked production from their overrated defensive line. Jim Schwartz is an overrated coach and the lack of discipline will catch-up with them for a disappointing season. The Vikings lack the talent on both sides to compete. Adrian Peterson is not fully healthy, Christian Ponder is still developing, and their defense is below average.
Future Bet – Detroit – Under 9 Wins
This is the most balanced division in the league, with all four teams able to compete against one another. The Saints were the best team in the league against the spread last season at 12-4, including a perfect 8-0 at home, so be careful in betting against them, even with the losses of Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma. The offense will still be proficient and Drew Brees will continue to produce at an elite level. The Falcons are a solid team that lacks the ceiling that many other teams in the league have. You can expect them to be in the playoff picture again, however this team is far from elite and does not show up in big games. I see good value in wagering against Carolina this season, especially early on. Cam Newton was prolific last season, but is important to keep in mind that they were 30th in the league in defensive efficiency and they were also airing the ball out while playing from far behind in second halves. They did not make any substantial additions to the team to expect great improvement and will not live-up to expectations. Betting against Tampa Bay in the second half of last year was one of the more automatic bets in recent memory, as they lost their last 10 against the spread. They gave-up on their coach and a new face should be able to bring out more effort and an improved record. The additions of Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, as well as safety Mark Barron and running back Doug Martin in the draft, should give them a boost. Look for Tampa to cover a lot of spreads.
Future Bet – Tampa Bay – Over 6 Wins
The 49ers controlled the division from wire to wire least season, and again have the most talent. With that said, I am looking for them to take a step back and for Seattle to make some noise and challenge for the playoffs. The 49ers defense should continue to be one of the best in the league in returning all 11 starters, however they had the highest turnover differential last year, which I do not expect to carry-over to this season. They will also face a far more difficult schedule and lack firepower on offense. Seattle was under the radar 10-5-1 against the spread last season and are a better team this season. They possess one of the better home field advantages in the league and drafted two preseason standouts in Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson. They boasted the seventh most efficient defense last year and will upgrade at quarterback going from Tavaris Jackson to Russell Wilson. While the Rams should be healthier, more experienced, and improved this year, they were the worst team in the league against the spread last year at 3-12-1. They traded the second overall pick for a big haul of picks and will continue to build towards the future. As of now, they lack the depth to consistently compete, even in this division. Arizona has one of the biggest holes at quarterback in the league, yet managed to go 9-7 against the spread last year, mainly on the strength of the 10 most efficient defense in the league. With that said, Patrick Peterson bailed them out multiple times with timely punt returns last year, and we do not expect teams to continue to kick the ball to him. They also did a poor job of addressing their team’s needs this offseason; Arizona will be one of the worst teams in the league.
Future Bet – Arizona – Under 7 Wins