Now that my daily NFL home/road split previews have concluded, I will spend the next week or so addressing some interesting 5Dimes props where the site pits a top college team against an NFL team in terms of wins for the 2015 season -- remember, NCAA teams are only regular-season wins, not conference title games or bowls.
And we start with Alabama, the site's +925 second-favorite to win the national title, against Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos, the +1500 fifth-favorites to win Super Bowl 50. The Broncos are -120 favorites on this prop, with the Crimson Tide at -110.
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The Tide are given a wins total of 9, with the "over" at -155 and "under" at +135. Nick Saban's club hasn't been held to single-digit wins since his first season in 2007 when the Tide were 7-6. Their lowest win total since then was 10 in 2010, which includes a Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State. That's the last time Alabama hasn't played in major bowl.
It's a bit tough to project what Alabama will do this season because we still don't know who the team's starting quarterback will be. Most presume it will be senior Jacob Coker, the former backup to Jameis Winston at Florida State. But then most presumed that last year, and he was beaten out by Blake Sims, who went on to have one of the great seasons in school history -- although he did struggle a bit in Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Coker suffered a foot injury Monday that was supposed to cost him a few days. But he was back in there Wednesday. Coker is battling redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett for the No. 1 job.
If the Tide had an easy opener , I might think Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would be OK going with a freshman starter. But Alabama opens against a good Wisconsin team in Arlington, Texas, so I'd think those guys would lean toward Coker, who at least has some on-field game experience. That said, Cornwell was nearly named the starter after the spring game.
Alabama has only four returning offensive starters, also losing superstar receiver Amari Cooper. Thus it will no doubt be a heavy dose of running back Derrick Henry early in the season as the offense jells. The defense, with seven starters back and maybe the best front seven in the nation, will have to carry the load at first.
As for the schedule, Alabama hasn't been an underdog since the 2009 SEC Championship Game against Florida. I'm quite sure the Tide will be 4-0 -- beating Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Ole Miss and Louisiana-Monroe (last three at home) -- before a very tough test at Georgia, the East Division favorite, on Oct. 3. The Tide could be dogs there or in the season finale at Auburn. I don't see them losing at home this season. The team's other road games are Texas A&M and Mississippi State, and those shouldn't be major problems. So that's 10 wins at worst. Thus, I'm going over that 9 wins total. You can also get Alabama at +1600 as the 15-0 National Champion. Can't recommend that. That Alabama has any other record is -3200.
As for Denver, the site lists a few wins totals: 11.5 (over +279, under -339), 11 (+222/-262), 10.5 (+125/-145), 10 (-120/+100) and 9.5 (-180/+158).
The Broncos haven't won fewer than 12 games since Manning arrived in the Mile High City. But Manning looked rather old at the end of last season. Plus, the team lost Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas to free agency and starting left tackle Ryan Clady to a season-ending injury. On paper, this looks like potentially Manning's worst team in orange and blue. Manning also has to learn new head coach Gary Kubiak's West Coast system, although I'm pretty sure Manning will do whatever he wants at the line of scrimmage. The Broncos are likely to run more this season, and I do believe C.J. Anderson will have a big year.
Denver's overall schedule ranks as the 10th-toughest in the NFL as its opponents combined for a .541 winning percentage in 2014. There are seven games against playoff clubs, including a tough home opener against Baltimore. The Broncos still are going to be favored in every home game, barring a Manning injury, even though they also host Green Bay and New England. Hard to see another 8-0 home record. The toughest road games outside the division are Detroit, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
I'd project Alabama's ceiling is 11 regular-season wins but with a floor of 9. I'd say 10 wins is all but a lock for the Broncos, again barring a Manning multi-game injury. Can the Broncos get to 12 if need be? I could see 7-1 at home and 5-3 on the road. Thus, Denver is the pick on this prop.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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