(Friday July 11th)
The football season is fast
approaching and, as always, there are significant
changes on the field and the sidelines to examine.
Futures lines are out for the projected win
totals of pro teams. A year ago in this column,
the Ravens were projected over/under 10 wins.
I wrote, “Ten is a lot of wins. Baltimore
was 9-7 in 2004. So what has this team done
to improve? You need a balanced football team
to go at least 10-6 with a shot at the playoffs
and this is still a terrible offense.
“RB Jamal Lewis’s production dropped
significantly last season because of injuries
and off-field problems. And this passing offense
is anemic, with young QB Kyle Boller unable
to put up even average numbers, partly because
of no speed at wideout to throw to. This team
averaged 12 points per game on the road with
the worst passing game in pro football (144
yards per game). In a division with the mighty
Steelers and the up and coming Bengals, 10 wins
is too much for this team.” In 2005 the
Ravens finished 6-10. Let’s take a quick
peak at some of the numbers for the upcoming
season and see if there is some betting value.
Cowboys over/under 9 wins: Bill Parcells rebuilt
the defense a year ago (12th in the NFL), and
he’s fine-tuned this veteran offense for
2006. The offensive line was poor, so Dallas
adds versatile Kyle Kosier and signed 6-foot-7,
304-pound offensive tackle Jason Fabini to a
three-year contract, a potentially key addition.
The schedule is a bit easier, with games against
Tennessee, Houston, Arizona, New Orleans and
RB Julius Jones anchors the ground game, while
veteran QB Drew Bledsoe will throw to old pal
Terry Glenn and….newcomer Terrell Owens!
Owens, like departed Keyshawn Johnson, is often
good for one season before problems arise. Dallas
appears to be a balanced, veteran team that
could top 9 wins. Now what’s the over/under
on Parcells/Owens confrontations?
Ravens over/under 7.5 wins: Baltimore has been
all defense, little offense the last six years,
and that even includes their Super Bowl championship
team of 2000. QB Kyle Boller played well in
the final three games of last season as the
offense averaged 31 points. They bring in veteran
QB Steve McNair, too, there is still little
breakout speed at wideout.
Brian Billick’s team is 34-14 SU, 29-18-3
ATS at home since 2000 (12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS the
last two seasons at home, but 0-8 SU, 2-6 ATS
on the road last season. Check out their road
schedule for 2006: at Tampa Bay, at Cleveland,
at Denver, at New Orleans, at Tennessee at Cincinnati,
at Kansas City and at Pittsburgh. The Browns
and Saints appear improved this offseason, so
this is a tough road schedule. Throw in home
games against Carolina, Cincy, Atlanta and Pittsburgh,
and reaching 8 wins is going to be a challenge.
Bills over/under 7 wins: The late push to nearly
make the playoffs in 2004 was a mirage. The
Bills have gone 31-49 since 2001, tied with
Cleveland for the third worst record in the
NFL over that span. And they looked lost for
2006. New coach Dick Jauron steps in after a
less than remarkable run with the Bears a few
years ago. There is no good QB play, with J.P.
Losman and Kelly Holcomb battling for the job.
They let a lot of talent walk, losing WR Eric
Moulds, S Lawyer Milloy and NT Sam Adams (cap
One of the biggest surprises of the 2006 draft
was when the Bills selected Ohio State safety
Donte Whitner with the No. 8 pick. Buffalo surprised
again by taking N.C. State defensive tackle
John McCargo, who wasn't expected to go that
high. The secondary adds rookies Ohio State
cornerback Ashton Youboty and South Carolina
safety Ko Simpson. This secondary will be very
young, and the defense couldn't stop the run
last season (29th) and doesn't look any better.
In a division with Miami and New England, under
7 wins is more likely.
This is part
two of a look at NFL future lines for projected
win totals. Let’s take a peak at
some offseason moves and if there is some betting
value with respect to future win totals.
Falcons: over/under 8 wins: Did Atlanta tire
of Jim Mora’s tirades? The Falcons flopped
in 2005, losing 6 of their final 8 games. This
passing game still doesn't scare anyone. Mike
Vick is a great running back, but a below average
quarterback. The last three years he has 33
TDs, 28 INTs. His career completion percentage
is 54%, and his best ever in the NFL was 56.4%
(2004). They didn’t upgrade the passing
game, either, which ranked 27th.
The secondary adds safety Lawyer Milloy, but
stopping the pass wasn’t a problem. The
run defense fell apart last season, ranking
26th, allowing 4.7 yards per carry. The division
is competitive with Carolina, Tampa Bay and
improving New Orleans. And the schedule is tough,
with games against Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati,
at Baltimore, at Washington, the NY Giants and
Dallas. A winning record will be difficult with
this one-dimensional offense and suspect run
defense. If they struggle, will Mora flip out
again? And will the players begin to tune him
Chargers: over/under 8.5 wins: So how are the
Chargers going to have a winning record without
a quarterback? After two great seasons, QB Drew
Brees left as a free agent, so out of necessity
QB Philip Rivers takes over. In two years he
has thrown 30 passes with one TD and one pick.
This team has a lot of talent surrounding him,
but quarterback is such a pivotal position,
this looks like a step back for San Diego.
The secondary has been poor the last two years
and they took a shot with Florida State CB Antonio
Cromartie, which was interesting. Still, the
quarterback situation stands out like a sore
thumb and the schedule is brutal, with road
games at Baltimore, at Kansas City, at Cincinnati,
at Denver, at Seattle and at Buffalo (in December)!
Remember a year ago when Buffalo went with untested
QB J.P. Losman? He wasn’t ready for the
rugged world of the NFL and the Bills flopped.
For the 2006 Bolts, under 8.5 wins is likely.
Vikings: over/under 8 wins: Brad Childress
is the new Minnesota head coach, a former offensive
coordinator with the Eagles. I hope he knows
what he's getting into. Trading star WR Randy
Moss and shipping out star QB Daunte Culpepper
in each of the last two offseasons while getting
little in return makes it very tough on the
new coach. Capable QBs are rare in this league,
and to dump Culpepper without at least seeing
if he is healthy for a potential bounce-back
season makes little sense. After all, he is
only 29-years old and in 2004 Culpepper had
an incredible season with 39 TDs and 11 picks.
They also let WR Nate Burleson walk. He was
off a poor season, but in 2004 Burleson had
1,006 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Minnesota's
offense was 25th in the NFL in 2005, a poor
27th rushing the football, and will be again
run by 38-year old QB Brad Johnson. The Vikings
defense wasn't much better than the offense,
ranked 21st overall. Many eyebrows were raised
on draft day when the Vikings TRADED UP into
the second round to take QB Tarvaris Jackson
of Alabama State. Who? Don't worry, you're not
alone. A lot of folks are wondering what the
Vikings are doing. Under 8 wins.
Bryan Leonard is a documented member of The
Professional Handicappers League.
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