Posted 05/23/2012 at 03:03 PM
This week Cantor Gaming has opened the doors on NFL win total wagering for the 2012 season. This may be the earliest that NFL win totals have ever been released, a welcome change from the extremely late release last season with the impact of the lockout. While there certainly will be pricing adjustments to the requisite juice involved, books are pretty hesitant to move the core numbers. A lot can change before opening kickoff in September but as of late May here are five teams that I’d be inclined to consider the ‘over’ on this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (OVER 6): The Bucs finished 4-12 in 2011 but this is a team that opened the year 4-2 and then in the next four weeks played very competitive games with some of the best teams in the league, suffering close losses to Chicago, New Orleans, and Green Bay. The losing took its toll and coupled with injuries this is a team that clearly quit on the season, eventually costing Coach Morris his job. Greg Schiano inherits a decent amount of returning talent and the Bucs have been aggressive this offseason with some nice additions. The NFC South could be a bit down this season with the issues in New Orleans, an Atlanta team that appears to have hit a plateau, and a Carolina team facing a brutal schedule that could lead to a sophomore slump for Cam Newton. Tampa Bay faces no home games outside of the division against teams that made the playoffs last year and Bucs only play two games against teams that had a winning record last year in the first ten games of the season.
St. Louis Rams (OVER 6): The Rams were considered playoff sleepers entering last season as in 2010 St. Louis produced an encouraging 7-9 season. 2011 was nothing short of a disaster at 2-14 and the team cleaned house with veteran coach Jeff Fisher taking over. The Rams had an absolutely brutal first half schedule last season and a much better start should be possible with this year’s slate. St. Louis will only play one 2011 playoff team in the first six games of the season and drawing Washington and Tampa Bay as part of the fourth place schedule also gives the Rams a big edge over the match-ups that the rest of the division will face. The division as a whole should also be one of the weaker divisions in the league. Some regression should be expected from San Francisco and there are still huge question marks for Seattle and Arizona, particularly at QB. Five losses came by seven or fewer points last season and it won’t take much to deliver a greatly improved record in St. Louis.
Buffalo Bills (OVER 7): The Bills started out hot last season before fizzling and eventually finishing 6-10. Buffalo will get to play a fourth place schedule again this season which means they draw Cleveland and Kansas City in addition to the four AFC South teams. That makes for five winnable games alone on the schedule for Buffalo and this is a team that went just 1-5 in the division last season with that win coming against the Patriots. A slight improvement in the division standings and splitting the four games with the NFC West teams and the Bills have a pretty promising outlook for the 2012 season. Not to mention that Buffalo made some massive upgrades on defense and also should have Fred Jackson healthy again as well as more experience for an emerging offense. New England certainly looks like the team to beat in the East and perhaps the AFC but the Jets and Dolphins certainly do not look like significantly improved teams and both could certainly get derailed by QB controversies, leaving an opportunity for the Bills.
Atlanta Falcons (OVER 9): Not too many people associated with the Falcons would have a lot of positive things to say looking back at last season yet the Falcons were 10-6 and made the playoffs, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions. Atlanta was a solid defensive team last year particularly against the run and there is great balance on offense even though the running game had a disappointing year. The Falcons went just 3-3 in the division last year and had to face a first place schedule following the strong 2010 season. The schedule is much more favorable this season. The Falcons get to play the four teams in a very mediocre AFC West as well as the four teams in what was a mediocre NFC East. The Falcons also avoid Green Bay and San Francisco, the top two teams in the NFC last season. The division looks solid top to bottom but New Orleans could certainly struggle given the rocky offseason and Carolina and Tampa Bay certainly have question marks. Atlanta won’t play a team that had a winning record last season until week 10 so this is a team that could definitely get on an early season roll.
Pittsburgh Steelers (OVER 10): The early exit from the playoffs at the hands of Tim Tebow is the lasting memory of the 2011 season for Pittsburgh but don’t forget that this team went 12-4 in the regular season. They lost both regular season meetings with Baltimore for the first time since 2006 and the other two losses came in tight games against two of the best teams in the league Houston and San Francisco. Statistically Pittsburgh had the best pass defense in the NFL, something critically important in this day and age and the offense was a lot more productive than the team’s reputation suggests. The benefit of finishing second in the division last year is that the Steelers don’t play Houston or New England, a pretty huge advantage given that those two teams will be two of the AFC favorites. Pittsburgh gets to play all four AFC West teams as well as all four NFC East teams, a group of eight teams that featured one team with a winning record last season. Cincinnati feels like a team that will step back this season and the Browns don’t figure to make a big jump, so a strong division record is again likely and the Steelers could emerge as one of the top seeds in the AFC.