Most Surprising Early NFL Lines for 2014-15 Season
by Trevor Whenham - 5/21/2014
Cantor Gaming has already, impressively, released lines for every game on the NFL schedule throughout the regular season. At first glance, there are seven lines over the first six weeks that stand out to me as being particularly surprising:
Saints (-2.5) at Browns, Week 2: This is our first of what will be many clear signs that public bettors are completely and utterly in love with "Johnny Football". The Saints are coming off a solid season, and they have had a pretty good offseason. They are a better team in many ways than they were last year, and they should again be ready to score a whole pile of points and give opposing defenses fits. The Browns had a good draft, but they have a lot of holes, a young secondary, and a whole lot of room to improve from last year to even be a decent team - never mind a good one. They also are dealing with yet another coaching change, and that doesn't always go well early on. They are arguably moving in the right direction, but that isn't certain, and even if they are they still have a long way to go. If the Browns had drafted anyone else they would be given far more points than they are here.
Lions (+3.5) at Panthers, Week 2: I really like the offseason the Lions have had. They have addressed some needs, made some nice tweaks, and made a much-needed change - and upgrade - at head coach. The talent here has been far less of a concern than the mindset in recent years, so there is reason to be positive. On the other sideline, the Panthers have had a lousy offseason. They don't have obvious pass catchers, and distractions abound. They had such a promising season last year, but it is far from certain that they will be able to maintain their momentum. I find it much easier to trust the Lions than the Panthers at this moment, so I am surprised that the Panthers get more credit than just the home-field advantage here.
Packers (-1) at Lions, Week 3: You can pretty much take what I said in the last game and apply it here. Detroit has lots of nice pieces, and they have done a lot to improve their chances of achieving some of their potential. The Packers are the Packers, and they haven't done a lot to substantially change that in my eyes. It takes a lot for a road team to be favored, and I just don't see enough at this point in the Packers to expect it to happen here. I'm not saying that the Packers absolutely can't win the game, obviously, but I just don't see how this line accurately reflects what the Lions should be capable of.
Bears (pick) at Jets, Week 3: These oddsmakers are a lot more optimistic about the Jets than I am. I like where the Bears are at, and I expect them to take a nice step forward in the second year of the Marc Trestman era. The Jets, meanwhile, have to still be viewed as a total circus until they prove that they aren't anymore. Questions abound at quarterback and elsewhere, coaching is a major question mark still, and the mental make-up of this team is a real question mark. I just don't see how the Bears aren't solid favorites.
Patriots (+1) at Chiefs, Week 4: This is the clearest sign we have had so far that the Chiefs aren't particularly getting a lot of respect - and so is the fact that they are seven-point underdogs at the Niners the next week. Andy Reid had a remarkable season in his first year, the team had a decent offseason in many ways, and Reid and QB Alex Smith are in their second year together. The Patriots are obviously a very public team, and that is a big factor here, but I'm surprised that the Chiefs are seen as underdogs at this point in a stadium as tough as theirs.
Cardinals (+9) at Broncos, Week 5: I understand that everyone loves all things Peyton Manning, but this line is silly. The Cardinals were solid last year, have had a decent offseason, and are clearly moving forward. Bruce Arians is an excellent coach, and there is some nice talent here. Denver, meanwhile, is far from the surest bet out there because the last time we saw them they were completely terrible. The Broncos should obviously be favored at home, but nine points is a whole lot this far before the game, and I just don't see it. Arizona deserves more respect.
Colts (+1) at Texans, Week 6: Andrew Luck is getting older and, hopefully, wiser. There is talent maturing around him. Houston, meanwhile, is dealing with their first coaching change in a long time, so it is far from certain what we will see from them. There is also the small detail of a quarterback - the Texans don't really have one at this point. I find it completely mystifying - more than any other line on this list - that Indianapolis is still viewed as an underdog. Jadeveon Clowney is impressive and all, and Houston's defensive front should be scary for Luck, but I just don't see how that is enough to justify this line given what Houston looked like last year.
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