Baltimore Ravens: Vegas line – 8.5
Prediction: 9. Since the 2000 season four teams have missed the playoffs following a Super Bowl win. Pittsburgh twice, and New England and Tampa Bay once. The odds are technically in favor of them making the post season, but this team has been gutted via retirement and free agency.
Five of the Ravens top eight leading tacklers are no longer Ravens, including leadership that can’t be replaced. Period.
Joe Flacco plays his best football against the Cincinnati Bengals. He posted a 113.9 Passer Rating last year, nearly 26 points higher than his season mark.
It: Whatever magic they had from last year is gone. No more big plays from Boldin on offense, no more big plays from Ed Reed on defense. It’s going to take new magic this time. The Ravens are coached too well to miss the playoffs this year, and that ground attack isn’t going away.
Cincinnati Bengals: Vegas line – 8.5
Prediction: 10. It took a STRONG second half surge for the Bengals to grab a playoff spot last season. Some of that was a top ten defense playing like a top ten defense. The rest of the credit goes to them playing teams with a combined 52-76 record.
Andy Dalton was much more efficient at home 15TD-6INT 91.2QBR than away 12TD-10INT 83.9QBR BUUUUT,
AJ Green was significantly better on the road. 39REC 496YRD 5TD at home and 58REC 854YRD 6TD on the road.
It: The Bengals “it” factor will be their offense this year. With plenty of new weapons for Andy Dalton, they will look to get the ball out of his hands quickly, and into the hands of playmakers such as Green, Gresham and some of the new additions.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Vegas Line – 9
Prediction: 7. The AFC’s toughest division leaves no room for error. The Steelers defense is aging and Roethlisberger is now without a serious deep threat. Isaac Redman has been named the starter at running back by process of elimination. He has yet to surpass 110 carries in a season and has started six total games in his career.
It: It’s the defense. If the defense ages gracefully, the Steelers flip with the Ravens.
Cleveland Browns: Vegas Line – 5
Prediction: 5. Let’s be clear. The Browns are closer to an eight win team than their record will reflect. The pieces are beginning to come together for the Browns. The AFC north boasts three of the best defenses in football, and the Browns simply will need more time to gel offensively. I know you’ve heard it for a long time Browns fans, but, you’re probably one year away.
Trent Richardson has the club record for both rushing touchdowns and rushing yards as a rookie. (Richardson played more games in his season, 16 to Browns 12).
Josh Gordon averaged 16.1 YPC. Eighth in the NFL.
It: IF the Browns are going to do it, it’s going to take big plays on offense and an already good defense, to be great. The Browns one big play-maker, Josh Gordon, is out for at least the first two games. This will put that weight on the broad shoulders of Richardson, who averaged 3.6 yards per carry and only had 2 20+ yard runs.
Denver Broncos: Vegas line – 11.5
Prediction: 12. This is a very high line, and not a very safe bet. Due to the Broncos offense production (4th in total yards), and stifling defense (2th ranked).
It: The Broncos had everything going toward an appearance to a Super Bowl last season, but let it get away from them (or literally get behind them). The already talent-rich team added Patriots stalwart Wes Welker, and versatile rookie Montee Ball in order to give Peyton Manning more Targets. However, the team’s best defender (Von Miller) is out 6 games, and the division is improved. I still believe that the Broncos can survive without Miller and flourish when he returns. Write it down, if Peyton Manning is going to win another ring, it has to be this year (I’ll save that debate for a later blog).
Kansas City Chiefs: Vegas Line – 7.5
Prediction: 9. At this point, no stat from last year would be relevant. I will throw out the numbers 3 and 8. These are the amount of losing seasons Andy Reid has had as a Coach and the number of playoff appearances Reid has had. He knows what it takes to win, and I believe he has the tools.
It: The Chiefs added one of the NFL’s longest tenured Coach’s/Offensive Innovator (Andy Reid) to pair with a quarterback who has just started to tap into his potential (Alex Smith). Last season, the Chiefs had 6 pro bowlers, but only 4 wins. Obviously the talent was there, but the quarterback play was not. When it comes to the Chiefs, I agree with many other NFL pundits. The Chiefs will challenge for the wildcard.
San Diego Chargers: Vegas Line – 7.5
Prediction: 7. The Chargers have a potentially great defense (ranked 8th in the league), but their offense was ranked 31st last season. Phillip Rivers’ inconsistency, lack of a running game, and the improvements of the Chiefs and Broncos will probably lead to a mediocre season.
It: The Chargers have been one of the most overrated/inconsistent teams in recent memory. Quarterback Phillip Rivers has put up big numbers at times, but has rarely done anything to be considered an elite quarterback. Now that the talent level has risen in the division, the Charger’s playoff appearances and win totals have decreased (in the past few seasons). While there is still talent and production here, the will be a middle of the pack team in the National Football League. With the Chargers, the potential to succeed is there. There is talent on this team, especially on the defense. If Phillip Rivers and the offense raise their production, second place will be a toss-up between the Chargers and Chiefs. One of these two teams will step out and battle for the last wildcard spot, don’t be shocked if the Chargers end up around 9-10 wins, and the Chiefs have 6-7 at season’s end.
Oakland Raiders: Vegas line 5.5
Prediction: 2. Oakland has one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, and plays in a division with 3 Pro-Bowl Quarterbacks as starters.
It: This place is an absolute dumpster fire. They parted ways with their top playmaker at receiver (Heyward-Bay) and cut ties with Carson Palmer (whom they gave up multiple picks for). Shortly thereafter, Raiders traded for everyone’s favorite enigma, Matt Flynn. Not only did Flynn get injured, but he played so badly in the pre-season that he lost his job to Terrelle Pryor. Darren Mcfadden looks and plays the part, but can he stay healthy? The cupboard on the offense is bare, and the serviceable defense will suffer.
Houston Texans – Vegas 10
Prediction: 10. Last year Houston was in the top ten in both offense and defense. However, they collapsed last year losing 3 of 4 going into the playoffs. This year they have many question marks regarding key players. Will Ed Reed perform as he did with the Ravens? Will Arian Foster struggle with injuries?
IT: The shotgun formation doesn’t do well for the Texans, as Schaub only completed 59% of his passes and had a rating of 76 from the formation. Meanwhile with one tailback both Schaub and Foster perform well.
Indianapolis Colts – Vegas 8.5
Prediction: 12. Indianapolis is on the upswing and Andrew Luck is at the center of it all. He had a better rookie year than Peyton Manning in Indy, and a better record. They ranked seventh in passing yards last year, but their defense kept them from being the colts of old.
IT: Peyton Manning’s sophomore season led to a 13 and 3 record. It’s hard to not draw comparisons between the two quarterbacks, but look for Andrew Luck to have similar success
Jacksonville Jaguars – Vegas 5
Prediction: 5. The Jaguars were in the bottom of the league in both offense and defense last year, and this year looks to be more of the same. Maurice Jones-Drew is not healthy, there is confusion as to the future of their Quarterback situation, and their star receiver causes too much trouble off the field.
IT: Blaine Gabbert statistically outperformed Henne last year, but only won one game. He did however play very well on the road throwing for 5 touchdowns and no interceptions for a rating of 91.9. He has potential, and the starting job.
Tennessee Titans – Vegas 6.5
Prediction: 3. Another team in the AFC south in the bottom of the league in both offense and defense last year. Jake Locker doesn’t seem like he belongs in the starting position, and Chris Johnson is far away from another 2,000-yard season—and that’s just the offense.
IT: The Titans allowed the most points of any team last year on defense. That same defense brings back just about everyone in the starting lineup, and so far in the preseason they are performing the same way.
– D. Ewing Baseball Guy
New England: Vegas line – 11
Prediction: 13. The Patriots may be 6-0 in their division. This is by far the worst division in football, and New England is far from down. The Jets had the division’s best defense statistically in 2012, the Patriots dropped 29 and 49 on them. The turnover the Patriots are experiencing on offense is mentioned a lot, and understandably. But this thing seems to be the norm for New England. In Belichick they trust.
New England was 6-0 in the division last year and beat Buffalo by 24, NYJ by 30, and Miami by 28.
The Patriots have two starters on defense less than 30 years of age.
It: New England was 25th in total defense in 2012. A couple additions to the defense and some growing up at key positions, I foresee a much improved unit on that side of the ball.
New York Jets: Vegas line – 6.5
Prediction: 3. I watched a surprising amount of the 2008 Detroit Lions. Let’s just say I was intrigued. Based on talent alone, this Jets team may be that bad. The one caveat for Jets fans, the defense isn’t THAT bad. But on the other hand, Orlovsky had Megatron to throw to?
It: The Jets are mentally weak. There are no pretty words to use for this. I’m an X’s and O’s guy. They have neither.
Buffalo Bills: Vegas line – 6.5
Prediction: 8. This team’s success falls on their quarterback play. If EJ Manuel can simply not turn the ball over and keep the offense on the field, this defense will drastically improve. The Patriots need to take full advantage of this division while they can, because the Bills are on the way.
It: CJ Spiller. He isn’t Adrian Peterson, but he’s number 2. This guy can win games by himself with his game breaking abilities. Led the league with 6.0 Yards Per Carry.
Miami Dolphins: Vegas line – 7.5
Prediction: 6. The Dolphins are closer than some might think. I’m not sold on Tannehill, but he’s a very popular pick to have a breakout year. If he does, you can bet on the dolphins getting closer to 9 wins.
Miami only gave up 108 Rush Yrds/game. Dannell Ellerbe could move this team in the top third of the League in this stat.
It: How is the Offensive line going to fair with the loss of Jake Long? Look for the dolphins to depend on the running game greatly this year. My “It” factor, Lamar Miller.