2017 NFL Win Total Primer

A word on sports gambling before we get started: I talk to people all the time that are shocked by Vegas prognostications. They might marvel that Vegas thinks a college football is going to win by five touchdowns or they may scoff at the idea that Vegas knows the precise run time of the national anthem at the SuperBowl. However, to interpret Vegas-established “numbers” this way is to miss the point entirely. Las Vegas finances those monolithic casinos by enticing us into risking our hard earned money while minimizing their own risk at every turn. Where sports wagering is concerned, this means setting “lines” so that money comes in on both sides. All this is to say that they don’t care about being right. In fact they’re not trying to be right about the outcome at all, so keep that in mind as you look at the numbers.

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For our purposes here, we will use win totals from oddsshark.com. It’s worth noting that their total comes out to 259.5 wins even though only 256 games will be played. (Example: in 2016 there were 254 games with a winner and 2 games that resulted in a tie.) My picks will also be made in that vacuum so don’t assume the totals are interrelated per se.

Arizona Cardinals, 8 wins (last year 7-8-1)

OVER. Four division games against the Rams and 49ers combined with favorable matchups against the AFC South will help the Cardinals win total climb. Both their national TV primetime matchups are at home so look for them to stun either Dallas or Seattle in one of those big spots.

Atlanta Falcons, 9.5 wins (LY: 11-5)

UNDER. The whole division is going to be better and history dictates that the NFC South winner must underperform the following season. Combine that with what might be the worst SuperBowl hangover in history and you’re looking at a Falcons team that will struggle to “get right.” Atlanta is going to be on national TV a lot this season, but a mid-October trip to Foxborough for Sunday Night Football is of particular interest. Unfortunately, the Falcons are going to get throttled in that highly anticipated matchup.

Baltimore Ravens, 9 wins (LY: 8-8)

UNDER. 8-8 feels about right for a Ravens team that doesn’t know whether its franchise QB is healthy. The schedule is relatively kind other than a trip to jolly old England to play the Jags.

Buffalo Bills, 6 wins (LY: 7-9)        

OVER. I have nothing to back up this pick. A new coach, a shaky QB, and a strange off-season trade of its most talented wide receiver are not factors amounting to stability, but they get to play the Jets twice! A scheduling quirk has them playing Miami twice in the last three weeks of the season with a Christmas Eve beat down at New England in between.

Carolina Panthers, 8.5 wins (LY: 6-10)

OVER. Carolina will have better luck this year and Cam will simply play better. Thanks to a league leading number of 1pm kickoffs (13), the Panthers will stay under the radar as they return to the playoffs and challenge for the division title.

Chicago Bears, 5.5 wins (LY: 3-13)

UNDER. The Bears are in rebuilding mode and aren’t doing a good job of it. Other than Jordan Howard, there is very little to be excited about in Chicago. Zero wins in division is a very real possibility with the rest of the NFC North all in the mix for playoff spots.

Cincinnati Bengals 8.5 wins (LY: 6-9-1)

UNDER. I don’t understand this number at all. In fact 5-11 might be the ceiling for a team that is in definite decline. Here’s a bold prediction: the Bengals will be the last team to win a game this season when they knock off Indy at home on 29 October to narrowly avoid going 0-fer before Halloween.

Cleveland Browns, 4.5 wins (LY: 1-15)

OVER! Winning four more games than you won the prior year is tough in the NFL, but I think Cleveland is actually building something (despite the puzzling decision to get rid of Joe Hayden). Giving up a home game to go play in London isn’t ideal, but they weren’t going to beat Minnesota anyway.

Dallas Cowboys, 9.5 wins (LY: 13-3)

OVER. Dallas takes a little step back this year, but is still the best team in the NFC East and 10 wins feels exactly right. With only two early Sunday kickoffs the entire season, the NFL and its broadcasting partners have decided we’re all going to watch the Cowboys whether we like it or not. (Don’t forget that Fox and CBS both employ a former Dallas QB as their #1 color analyst now)

Denver Broncos, 8.5 wins (LY: 9-7)

UNDER. This is going to be another rugged year in the AFC West and 8 wins feels like the ceiling for a team that still has more questions than answers at QB. Losing Wade Phillips likely means the defense will continue to slide as well.

Detroit Lions, 8 wins (LY: 9-7)

UNDER. The Lions play the NFL’s 6th toughest schedule this year despite the pleasure of hammering the woeful Bears twice. Stafford got paid—in part because so many of the comeback wins from last year are memorable—, but it’s impossible to imagine a Jim Caldwell coached team continuing to have that kind of late game success.

Green Bay Packers, 10 wins (LY: 10-6)

PUSH. Death, taxes, and Rogers getting to 10 wins (7 of 9 years as a pro he’s reached at least 10). The defense is going to be . . . good enough. Circle your calendar now for Thanksgiving weekend when the Pack travel to Pittsburgh for Sunday Night Football. The term “possible SuperBowl preview” is going to be thrown around like crazy.

Houston Texans, 8.5 wins (LY: 9-7)

OVER. The QB play is going to be better no matter who plays and the defense is going to be elite again with Clowney actually showing some signs of life. The schedule sets up nicely with their two toughest road games coming after longer than usual rest (@ New England on 10 days’ rest; @ Seattle after a bye week). The Texans get to 10 wins and wrap up another AFC South title.

Indianapolis Colts, 9 wins (LY: 8-8)

UNDER. The team has announced that Andrew Luck will not dress in Week 1 and “no timetable exists” for his return to action. No matter how much goes right for Indy, this team is going nowhere without its franchise QB.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 6.5 wins (LY: 3-13)

UNDER. Much like their division rival Colts, the Jags have no clue what is going on with the QB position. Fournette is intriguing at RB, but he will run against stacked boxes all season long resulting mostly in frustration. This team is so bad and uninteresting that it will not appear in a single prime time game the entire season. Not even Thursday Night Football, guys. Seriously.

Kansas City Chiefs, 9 wins (LY: 12-4)

OVER. Andy Reid coached Chiefs teams usually win 11 games and this year is no different. The defense may be the NFL’s best and Kareem Hunt will be a breakout star making everyone forget about Spencer Ware. Opening the season on Thursday night against the Patriots is a bad spot, but the team will rebound nicely after its 0-1 start.

F.U. Chargers, 7.5 wins (LY: 5-11)

UNDER. F%$& this team. I hope they never once sell out the little soccer stadium they are playing in this year (although selling out is an organizational competency). I hope the Spanos family goes broke and that nothing works out in LA at all. HOWEVER, God bless you, Philip Rivers. You’re a good man.

Los Angeles Rams, 5.5 wins (LY: 4-12)

UNDER. The defense is going to be sneaky good, but there isn’t much on the offensive side of the ball aside from Gurley. Six wins just feels too high for Jared Goff at this point. Starting last season 3-1 is a distant memory.

Miami Dolphins, 7.5 wins (LY: 10-6)

UNDER. With Hurricane Irma inbound, the NFL has chosen to make Miami take its bye in Week 1. This means that they will have to play 16 consecutive weeks, something that never happens in the NFL. Silver lining: Jay Cutler gets an extra week to get ready? Yikes. This may be a lost season for the ‘Phins and it hasn’t even started.

Minnesota Vikings, 8.5 wins (LY: 8-8)

OVER. The organization is turning the page on the AD years and it feels like a collective sigh of relief. Dalvin Cook might be the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Sam Bradford will be solid. This feels like nine wins and a wild card spot for the Vikes. Also I have to mention that they play a game at Twickenham Stadium in London because Twickenham is a fun word.

New England Patriots, 12.5 wins (LY: 14-2)

UNDER. Assuming 13 wins is a lot even for the Golden Boy and Belli-cheat and you can win this bet with a 12-4 Pats team so that’s still pretty damn good. The cliff is closer for the Patriots than you think and when it happens, we’re all going to look around and realize that the signs were there but we chose to ignore them. That said, it was a hell of a run and I might be eating a big plate of crow in four months.

New Orleans Saints, 8 wins (LY: 7-9)

UNDER. After three straight years at 7-9, I don’t see any reason for the win total to go up. Brees is terrific, but the aforementioned cliff is close for him too. Two of the Saints’ first four games are in strange time slots with a Monday opener at 7:10PM and a 9:30AM game in London. The lack of familiarity contributes to the strong possibility of heading into the bye week at 0-4.

New York Giants, 9 wins (LY: 11-5)

PUSH. Winning 11 games last year was a tremendous coup and a feat that the Giants will not be able to repeat as they face the NFL’s third toughest schedule in 2017. There is no running game to speak of which places too much pressure on an aging Eli Manning.  They swept Dallas last year and looked to have a leg up in their Week 1 matchup until news dropped that Ezekiel Elliott will somehow be eligible for that game before his six game suspension starts. Bad luck for Big Blue.

New York Jets, 4.5 wins (LY: 5-11)

UNDER. This looks like a 2-3 win team at best. Advanced metrics are projecting this team to be the NFL’s worst on offense and special teams while being the second worst on defense. That is an unprecedented and unthinkable level of suck. Let the Sam Darnold Sweepstakes begin!

Oakland Raiders, 10 wins (LY: 12-4)

OVER. The Carr injury at the end of last season was cruel, but he will be back. Khalil Mack is every bit as good as advertised and at just 26 years old, he might actually be getting better. There is a certain amount of chaos that comes with a franchise relocating, but the Raiders take after their hard-nosed head coach and will be fine. In what may be the best game ever pledged to the NFL’s International Series, the Raiders “host” the defending champs at the legendary Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on 19 November.

Philadelphia Eagles, 8 wins (LY: 7-9)

UNDER. There are no easy games in division and Wentz still has a lot to learn. I love the Donnel Pumphrey draft pick though. Despite being just 5’9 and 170 lbs. the guy broke all Marshall Faulk’s records at San Diego State. And us Aztecs gotta stick together! Schedule wise, the Eagles drew the short straw starting the year with two road games then finishing with games on Christmas day and New Year’s Eve.

Pittsburgh Steelers, 10.5 wins (LY: 11-5)

OVER. This one is suspicious because it seems too easy, but I like the Steelers to win 11-12 games and maintain control of the AFC North. The rest of the division is way behind and the schedule is rather kind. Pittsburgh plays in prime time four straight weeks in November/December so get ready for the Killer B’s to take over your living room for a month.

San Francisco 49ers, 4.5 wins (LY: 2-14)

OVER. This next statement may cost me all my credibility, but I kinda like this team with Brian Hoyer at QB. The division is tough, however John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are going to be a great GM/HC combo and will have the ship righted sooner than most people think. The schedule isn’t overly tough, but the harder games do come earlier in the season so getting to 5-6 wins won’t happen until December.

Seattle Seahawks, 10.5 wins (LY: 10-5-1)

OVER. This is one of the tougher numbers on the board, but the Seahawks benefit from a very easy schedule. They also have a realistic shot at being top 5 in offense and defense with Russell Wilson healthy again. A Christmas Eve date in Dallas is the NFL’s gift to us. It would only be better if Tony Romo had to call the game instead of Troy Aikman.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8.5 wins (LY: 9-7)

OVER. Pass the Hard Knocks Koolaid! Jameis is a moron, but he’s primed for a terrific year with Mike Evans and Desean Jackson. Also Gerald McCoy is my new favorite NFL player and should get some sort of Father of the Year award. Nine or ten wins feels right even though the division is going to be tough. The Hurricane Irma reschedule sucks, but it will galvanize this up and coming team.

Tennessee Titans, 8.5 wins (LY: 9-7)

UNDER. The Titan bandwagon is really gaining momentum with 2017’s second easiest schedule as well as players on that offense that are easy to like. The hype just doesn’t make sense for a Mike Mularkey coached team and a QB coming off a major injury.

Washington Redskins, 7.5 wins (LY: 8-7-1)

OVER. This is an eight win team again despite the loss of Desean Jackson and the idiotic situation with the franchise QB. Kirk Cousins is getting used to playing “contract year football” and will put up even better numbers with Pryor and Doctson than he did with Garcon and Jackson. The schedule is the toughest in the NFL for 2017, but I have to live among these fans so I am taking the over.