2007 NFL Playoff Props: Fringe Teams
by Joe Paciella - 09/07/2007
The good people at BetUS were kind enough to post odds for each NFL team to make the playoffs this year. Anyone can bet on the Patriots to be playing after week 17, but at -1000 there's no value. The real question is whether the Panthers, Broncos, or other teams of that ilk, can make the postseason Here are some teams to look out for in this upcoming season.
Three solid wagers that will boost your payday:
Arizona Cardinals +300
The Cardinals come in to this season with a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt and a new offensive line coach, Russ Grimm. This team was never going to go anywhere under Dennis Green, and the folks at the top of the organization correctly saw that and made the move. What Whisenhunt and his staff bring to the table is the ability to utilize Leinart, Fitzgerald and Boldin, not to mention the all but forgotten Edgerrin James. The draft selection of tackle Levi Brown should create holes for James, while bolstering the line on pass protection for Leinart. Moreover, what made the Steelers Super Bowl champs was Whisenhunt's ability to develop Ben Roethlisberger quickly enough to compete at a high level in playoff pressure. We should see something similar here with Leinart. What could keep them out would be a brutal opening four games, which includes a Monday night opener at San Fran, then home against Seattle, at Baltimore and then home against Pittsburgh. But, if they survive that stretch, the rest is filled with defenses that won't be able to stop the Air Correyle-esq passing attack.
Carolina Panthers +130
A new zone blocking scheme in Carolina suits the running styles of DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams perfectly. Running the ball more effectively will mean easier looks for the 5'9" phenom, Steve Smith. Recovered 100 percent from his hamstring injury of last year, Smith will have a huge campaign and help propel the Panthers back into the post season. What helps Carolina even more is their schedule. They could easily go 5-1 before their Week 7 bye. After that, the schedule gets tough, but they get most of their stronger opponents at home. In addition, you can almost chalk up four divisional wins against Atlanta and Tampa Bay. If they split against the Saints, who knows? We may be talking about a divisional championship for the Panthers.
Denver Broncos +110
The only reason that you are getting plus money back here is that they are in the same division as San Diego, and thus have to compete with the likes of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburg and the Jets for a wild card spot. Jay Cutler had some experience last year, and didn't look half bad in his final few starts. What's going to help Cutler immensely is wideout Javon Walker. Coming off knee surgery the year before, Walker should be back up to the level he is capable of playing at and should be one of the top three receivers in the AFC. Yes, you heard that right. Travis Henry should fit in well with the running game, as do most backs Mike Shanahan puts out there. Aside from their customary two games against the Chargers, Denver plays a weak divisional schedule. If they can get past their first half games (which includes Jacksonville, Indianapolis and San Diego), and take care of business against the NFC north this year, they shouldn't have a problem being right in the mix by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.
Three teams you shouldn't touch:
St. Louis Rams: +300
I have never seen a team that is as hyped as this one since the Fortune 500 Redskins, as they are known in the DC area. (For those of you who don't remember, in 2000 Dan Snyder spent a fortune on stars such as Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Marc Carrier, only to finish .500.) It's not a question of whether or not this squad can light up the scoreboard; the question is if they can keep the other team from doing the same. Last year only one team gave up more rushing yards than the Rams. They will be playing from behind and will simply not have the ball enough to let Steven Jackson become a factor. They also play against the same tough AFC north as do the Cardinals and 49ers, but the difference is since they finished second in the division last year, they get Dallas and Green Bay, teams who also finished as division runner-ups. Those two games may be the difference between Wild Card Weekend and cleaning out their lockers early.
New York Giants: +225
The Giants limped into the playoffs last season with a record of 8-8. That's sad. What many people saw was the defense not being able to stop Vince Young in the 21-point collapse in Tennessee, or be able to contain Jeff Garcia and the Eagles in a pivotal tilt at the Meadowlands in mid-December. The actual culprit of this 2-6 finish was the loss of Luke Petitgout and Amani Toomer. When the G-Men were cruising, Eli Manning could go to Toomer in the clutch and have enough time to do so because of Petitgout. This year Toomer is older and coming off an injury, Luke is gone and their all-time leading rusher, Tiki Barber, has jumped ship for TV. Eli will have to muster all of the leadership he has just to keep this team motivated before the inevitable firing of Tom Coughlin. Wager on Big Blue at your own peril. They will keep it interesting until week 13 or so only because they play in the NFC and wild card berths are more easily accessible. However, they have a tough closing stretch and have seven games against playoff teams from last season. All of these factors spell out a 6-10 season as far as I'm concerned.
Tennessee Titans: +600
Two words here: Madden Cover. Another two words: Kerry Collins. Vince Young had the pleasure of gracing the cover of this year's Madden video game. This could spell disaster for Jeff Fisher's Titans. Don't get me wrong here. I like Vince Young and his ability as not only a passer and runner, but also as a competitor. I just can't get past the fact though, that players since Garrison Hearst ('99) have been bitten by the cover jinx. If he goes down, the former Nittany Lion Collins won't be able to keep this team in the hunt. What Young also has going against him is the game film that was compiled on him, while he was compiling yards, touchdowns and wins on the competition. While one player doesn't make or break a team, this one player could make a huge difference. Tennessee lacks a proven running back, and I challenge you to name their two starting wide receivers. Aside from an easy October, the rest of the schedule is close to impossible, with their first three games against the Jags, Colts and Saints. They could be 0-3 heading into the bye week, trying to play catch up the whole season. With games against Carolina, Jacksonville, Denver, Cincinnati, San Diego and, oh yeah, the Colts again during the second half of the year, they will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Bonus: The Chicago Bears to not make the playoffs +250
This bet is somewhat of a long-shot, but this team has all the makings of a team ready to plunge into a season of turmoil. After you get past the idea of the Super Bowl loser having a terrible following season, we look at the players. Tank Johnson's not there. Lance Briggs wrecked his Lamborghini. Rex Grossman is, well, Rex Grossman. The Bears QB has the pressure on him to make this team a playoff- and Super Bowl-contending one. They play a slew of playoff teams from last season (seven), and have an improved Green Bay team fighting them for a division title. Lastly, don't pay any attention to their strength of schedule (31st). This stat is compiled from last year's records of this season's opponents. Most of the teams that were bad are improved, especially on defense, putting Rex in a spot where he's going to have to win some key games by himself. Not going to happen.