Posted 05/24/2012 at 10:56 AM
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 ‘under’ on this season.
Miami Dolphins (UNDER 7.5): The Dolphins closed the 2011 season with wins in six of the last nine games following the tough luck 0-7 start to the season. QB Matt Moore played pretty well after replacing Chad Henne but the team went out and drafted Ryan Tannehill as the first big move of the new leadership with first time head coach Joe Philbin. The talent to work with, particularly in the receiving corps won’t be what Philbin had to work with in Green Bay and the Dolphins will be the only team in a major transition in what could be a pretty tough AFC East. Miami also draws a third place schedule despite going just 6-10 last year and this year that means facing Oakland and Cincinnati, two teams that were quite competitive last year. The Dolphins do get to play the AFC South and the NFC West teams so there will be opportunities for wins but repeating last year’s 3-3 mark in the division is certainly not assured. Miami also opens the year with difficult road games in three of the first five weeks, a challenge for a team in transition and also has to play on the road against Houston and San Francisco, the two projected top teams in the AFC South and NFC West draws.
Carolina Panthers (UNDER 7.5): The Panthers will likely get some play in the other direction as Cam Newton emerged as a star last season. Many forget that the Panthers still went just 6-10 despite his big numbers and that the defense was one of the worst in the NFL. Carolina went 4-2 in the final four games of the season to help build that optimism but consider the wins; a narrow win against then 0-10 Indianapolis, two wins against a Tampa Bay team that clearly had quit on the season and knew its coach would be fired, and a win against Houston who had already clinched the AFC South and was playing with T. J. Yates in his third NFL start ever. The schedule for the Panthers will be one of the toughest in the entire NFL this season. Even with the Saints viewed as damaged goods right now the NFC South will be one of the toughest divisions in the league and the third place draw allows the Panthers to have to play at Chicago while also hosting Seattle, hardly two easy games. All four NFC East teams are on the path as well and while 2011 was a disappointing year for that division all four teams could be improved this season. All four AFC West teams are on the schedule which is beneficial in theory but it will make for a pair of tricky late season road games with long travel. The final six weeks are brutal on the schedule so a promising start could easily get wiped out and teams will be much better prepared to contain Newton this season.
Denver Broncos (UNDER 9.5): By no means is this indicating disapproval with the Peyton Manning signing but this is still a major transition and Manning is still a big question mark. This is a Broncos team that caught a ton of breaks last season and still went just 8-8 despite being outscored by 81 points on the season. The defense got some praise last season but only three teams in the AFC allowed more points. For finishing first place amongst four mediocre teams in the AFC West the Broncos face by far the toughest schedule of those four teams in 2012. Denver gets to play New England and Houston, two teams the rest of the division misses as the entire division takes on the AFC North, a division that featured three playoff teams last year. The NFC South is also on the map and all four teams in that division will be a tough out this season. The Broncos would have a better chance if the schedule started out easy, allowing some time for the transition to take place and some time for Manning to get comfortable after sitting out a year. That won’t be the case. Pittsburgh comes to Denver in week 1, then the Broncos face Atlanta, Houston, Oakland, New England, and San Diego before the bye week. It doesn’t get much easier after the break either.
New Orleans Saints (UNDER 10): The Saints went 13-3 last season with epic offensive numbers but New Orleans was stamped out early in the playoffs. New Orleans benefited from not winning the AFC South in 2010 and taking on an easier schedule last season but this year that won’t be the case. The Packers and 49ers are both on the schedule along with all four NFC East teams including the Super Bowl champion Giants to go along with Dallas and Philadelphia teams that are likely better than the 2011 records indicate. Everyone remembers how dominant the Saints were late in the year but they won four games by seven points or less, actually catching a lot of good fortune to end up with the great record while padding the statistics in a couple of blowouts. It was also a team that lost to Tampa Bay and St. Louis, two of the worst teams in the NFL last season. The off season issues and the suspensions will have a huge impact and the Saints will likely struggle early in the year. Even though the schedule is much softer in the first half, they will likely drop a few games against lesser teams which will make it tough to reach ten wins. All three teams in the division look improved as well so going 5-1 again in the division is pretty unlikely, as is going 8-0 at home again.
Green Bay Packers (UNDER 12): The Packers were nearly historic last season, going 15-1 but then they were blown out at home in the first game of the playoffs. The statistics were clear all season, this was not a team that deserved to have that strong of a record, featuring some of the worst defensive numbers in the NFL. Green Bay also benefited from a second place schedule last year and this year the slate will be much tougher, particularly early in the year as they face three elite teams in the first six weeks. The Packers are the only NFC North team that has to play the Saints or the Giants and while the AFC South draw looks light the Packers will have to play at Houston. Green Bay will also have a much tougher time going 6-0 in the division, something that had never happened in the history of the NFC North, as Detroit and Chicago certainly look formidable. Ten of Green Bay’s 15 wins came by twelve points or less so this was not as dominant of a team as it seemed last season. Since 1990 46 teams have gone 13-3 or better but only five of those teams matched or improved on that record the following season. Only once in the last ten years has a team had a total of 12 or higher and repeating last year’s regular season results is not likely for the Packers.