NFL Season Win Totals Picks: Toughest Teams to Handicap
by Trevor Whenham - 6/2/2014
When you look at NFL season win totals , there are some that jump out as immediate bargains - your opinion and those of the oddsmakers differ, and there is value to be had. Then there are several totals in which a side clearly emerges after you consider the options for a while. What's left behind are the teams that just don't stand out - the really tough teams to judge. One second you can make an argument that the "over" is the right call. The next moment it's the "under" that stands out. You can drive yourself crazy staring at the teams trying to make a decision. Here are the four toughest teams to call this year ( odds are from Sportsbook.ag):
Carolina Panthers (o/u 8.5): I was so high on this team all season last year, and I really felt like they were doing things right and building a real contender. If you had asked me about this number back in October I would have mortgaged my house to take the over. The offseason, though, has been far from a model of excellence. Their receiving corps has gone from a strength to a real question - and that's being kind. When a team comes off such a strong season you look for them to carry the momentum forward, and it really doesn't feel like they have. One the surface, then, it is easy to be negative about this squad. It can't be as simple as that, though. They won 12 games last year, and Cam Newton took major steps forward both on the field and in terms of his maturity. He faces a big task this year, but if he is up to it, and the players around him embrace the challenges facing them, then things could really get interesting. You can make a convincing argument for things to turn out better or worse than this number. The early action is squarely on the under, but that's as much of a reason to bet the over as anything else.
Houston Texans (o/u 7.5): How do you judge a team when their head coach has never been an NFL head coach and has been out of the NFL for a couple of years and when he doesn't have a starting quarterback? It's not easy. Their handling of their quarterback situation has bordered on the bizarre, so we are left to speculate both about who the starter will be and whether he will be even remotely ready for prime time when he gets the chance. That quarterback is also either going to deal with an upset Andre Johnson or the total absence of him - and neither is attractive. Defensively, the addition of Jadeveon Clowney is nice, but he is added at a position of relative strength, so his impact will be significant rather than transformational. Last year's two wins were an epic disaster, and there were clear signs of pervasive issues with the team. It's hard to tell if they have done enough to overcome those issues and start the season in a better place. On paper they have the talent to be decent, but can they get out of their own way? Bettors are very optimistic - the over is at -160 - but I am not sure I share their optimism.
Seattle Seahawks (o/u 11): The Seahawks were dominating champions last year, and they are built to last. It is very tough to repeat in this league, though, so there are legitimate concerns about their chances of winning more than 11 games in my eyes. The two biggest concerns are the two biggest stars - Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman. Both guys have seen their star power multiply dramatically in the last year. That leads to countless more distractions and temptations. Sherman has a massive new contract, and some players haven't dealt with that particularly well. Wilson has had a rough personal offseason - filing in divorce in April after just two years of marriage - and is heavily in demand from seemingly everyone these days. If the Seahawks were a stock I would be buying and holding them for the long term, but I wouldn't be expecting immediate returns. Some very good teams have followed up championships with very average seasons, and that is a risk here as well - especially considering how tough their division will be this year.
Washington Redskins (o/u 7.5): Will the quarterback be the good RGIII? Or the evil RGIII? The rookie Griffin had people reserving his place in Canton and lambasting the Colts for choosing the wrong QB. Last year Griffin had people wishing that the team would give Kirk Cousins a chance. It was the play on the field but also the way he carried himself. Griffin is the franchise at this point, so how the team fares has a lot to do with how he responds and performs out of the gate. On top of that, I just can't get excited about the concept of Jay Gruden as a head coach. He seems much more like a coordinator to me, and I am not convinced that he and his staff are going to hit the ground running. I obviously lean towards the under, but if Griffin is good there are some very nice pieces on this team, and the division isn't overwhelming. They could certainly go over.
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