Ladies and gentlemen, we’re still living in the present — 15 days until kickoff of the 2017 NFL season — but about four weeks after that we’re going to travel Back to the Futures.
One the of the ways I like to prepare for the NFL season is by reading up a lot on each team and then guessing where the oddsmakers will set each team’s win/loss total. If my projected number is a bit higher or lower than the actual number, obviously it demands greater attention and possibly an investment. And then several weeks down the line it’s fun to hop into the DeLorean to see if I whiffed or connected.
Now that we’re halfway into the preseason, depth charts are taking shape and starters have only about one more half of football to avoid a catastrophic injury (maybe less in the wake of Odell Beckham Jr.’s near-disaster on Monday night). Without further, let’s take a look at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook and the MGM Grand Las Vegas‘ team win totals sheets, current as of August 21:
About 70% of New York Jets fans are rooting for the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft while roughly 25% are in denial and think an 8-8 season is attainable, and the other 5% is passed out in a pool of tears and liquor. Good luck finding four wins on the Jets schedule but I’m not going near that one. Notice the MGM’s sheet also indicates the opening line as of late June.
Notable movers and shakers:
New England Patriots: The defending champs’ number has moved out from 11.5 to 12.5; the Patriots have won at least 12 games a season since 2010, and the AFC East has only gotten a bit worse, so it’s strange that it opened at only 11.5. But now you need that 13th win if you like the Patriots.
Dallas Cowboys: From 10 to 9.5. (Ezekiel Elliott.)
Cincinnati Bengals: Up a full game from 7.5 to 8.5. If you liked the over and just a .500 season, well you certainly missed the best of this number. I think the Bengals are poised for a nice bounceback campaign with a replenishment of offensive weapons after Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones left in the same offseason. Cincy added rookie wideout John Ross and running back Joe Mixon and hope to have a healthy (as ever) Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green, who both suffered injuries in ’16.
Los Angeles Chargers: Up a full game from 6.5 to 7.5. Hear that? The Chargers just blew another fourth quarter lead during the 2016 season. Man, that was brutal. New head coach this year, new city, small and old stadium. The AFC West is perhaps the toughest division in football (every other team is projected at 8.5 wins or more) but at least the Chargers are trending in the right direction. Still, that offensive line is brutal and Philip Rivers just might beat fellow Class of ’04 Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out the door.
Feels a bit too high:
Detroit Lions: The number is 7.5 wins, down an important step from 8, but still maybe too high. In almost every single game the Lions won last season, the Lions trailed in the fourth quarter, including a ridiculous streak of seven in a row. That’s not… sustainable. The Lions seriously overachieved and now starting left tackle Taylor Decker is out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, leaving Rams castoff Greg Robinson to protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side. Refer to the Costanza GIF above.
Atlanta Falcons: The number for the defending NFC Champions is an even 10. The Super Bowl loser curse is real. It’s not completely psychological but also a by-product of having to play a more difficult schedule. Former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan deserves blame for the mind-shattering play calling at the end of Super Bowl LI that helped enable the Patriots’ comeback, but he’s still an offensive genius that the Falcons would have liked to retain. Thing may not come as easily for that offense with Shanahan in the Bay Area. And this is a defense that ranked just 26th in DVOA (Football Outsiders) last season.
Feels a bit too low:
Chicago Bears: Over/under 5 wins. The Bears were much more competitive last season than their sorry 3-13 record indicates. Coulda, shoudla, woulda but at least the defense started to congeal down the stretch under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, as 2016 first-round linebacker Leonard Floyd began to harness the powers of his length and athleticism. Chicago shored up its secondary (CBs Prince Amukamara from the Jaguars and Marcus Cooper from the Cardinals) and if they get more snaps out of linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, and better health on the defensive line, they could be a really solid unit. Of course the big question mark is quarterback: rookie Mitch Trubisky or Mike “What Just Happened?!” Glennon. Well, that’s why it’s called betting.
Carolina Panthers: This one has actually dialed down from 9.5 to 9. The Panthers’ 2016 saw team leaders on both sides of the ball — Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly — suffer serious head injuries. Newton in the very first game of the season, a sign of bad things to come. But 2017 offers a shot at redemption. The linebacker corps remains stellar and the secondary performed much better post-Josh Norman last season than pretty much everyone predicted. The offensive line still doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence but the Panthers have a shiny new super-athletic toy, no, that sounds weird — rookie in Christian McCaffrey who may quickly become the focal point of the offense. Carolina has one of the softest schedules in the league and may just end up fighting Atlanta in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve for the NFC South title.