Best Bets - AFC East
August 8, 2012
By Joe Nelson
The AFC East produced last year’s AFC Champion with the New England Patriots falling in the big game and they are among the favorites to get back to the Super Bowl this season. No other team in the division had a winning record last season, but that could change this year as drawing the AFC South and NFC West teams should give this division some of the weakest schedules in the NFL. Here are some predictions for the 2012 NFL season and who will be the best in the AFC East.
Best Team: New England Patriots
The Patriots were 13-3 last season, outscoring foes by over 10 points per game on average. No one else in the division came close to that and the Patriots have added Brandon Lloyd to give the offense the deep threat it lacked last season. New England was certainly shaky on defense at times last season, allowing 24 or more points six separate times, but in three playoff games, the Patriots allowed just 17 points per game and the first six picks New England made in the 2012 draft were all defensive players looking to address those needs. As if the Patriots needed any more help they draw a great schedule with only seven true road games and they only will face one home game against a team that had a winning record in 2011. The Patriots have the most stability and best track record at QB and head coach and they deserve to be one of the biggest division favorites in the NFL.
Best ‘OVER’ Win Totals Bet: Buffalo Bills
I posted the ‘over’ on the Bills back in May when the first numbers came out. At the time that figure was at 7 but this has been one of the big risers, as you’ll be looking at 7.5 with big juice or even some books placing the total at 8. It still looks like a favorable play as the Bills have made a number of positive additions and catch a very favorable schedule. It is not something that has been uttered often in the last decade, but the Bills look like a playoff team. This was a team that started 5-2 last season before the wheels fell off and injuries took a severe toll. The Bills still get a fourth-place schedule and the AFC South and NFC West teams on the map went a combined 56-72 last season. Outside of the Patriots, the Bills won’t play a home game against a team that was better than 9-7 in 2011. They will only face two road games in the final seven weeks with none of those final seven games against a team that had a winning record last season, setting up for a strong finish.
Best ‘UNDER’ Win Totals Bet: Miami Dolphins
It is tempting to play ‘under’ 12 with New England simply because that is such a huge number leaving very little margin for error, but in reality every team in this division could see an improved record from last season. That makes choosing an ‘under’ play difficult as the light schedules ahead for the AFC East should leave the door open for a solid season for every team. Miami is the one team in a serious transition with a coaching change and question marks at QB. Matt Moore played well for the Dolphins last year, but the team spent an early pick on rookie Ryan Tannehill and for the time being veteran David Garrard appears ahead of Moore on the depth chart. The lack of stability raises some concern particularly as the team goes the schematic changes in the transition season. Miami started out 0-7 last year and that won’t happen this year with many winnable games early in the year. The third-place schedule is not as easy as it sounds however as Cincinnati and Oakland were decent teams last year and Miami will have a hard time going 3-3 in the division again, winning late season games against uninterested Bills and Jets teams that were out of the playoff hunt. This total appears split between 7 and 7.5 at most outlets and appears to be the best ‘under’ spot among these four teams.
Best ATS Performer: Buffalo Bills
The Bills went just 6-9-1 ATS last season, but seven of those losses came in the final nine games as the Bills season took a turn for the worse on many fronts. While there is growing optimism surrounding this team this is not a team that will likely be favored often early in the year as the toughest games occur in the first half of the season. The Bills are good enough to win several of those games but also could be a slight disappointment through the first few weeks having to play four of the first six on the road. Value could be on Buffalo in the second half and this team has an offense that is capable of keeping up with most teams and also leaving open the possibility of stealing a few late covers as well. I’m all in on the Bills to have a good season this year, even with elevated expectations.
Best Team to Fade: New England Patriots
It will take some courage but you will probably make a profit fading the Patriots in many weeks. New England was 3-6 ATS in the final nine games of last season and as one of the Super Bowl favorites New England will face inflated lines week after week. The schedule is pretty light early in the year so it is hard to envision New England not having a good start to the season and if they score a couple of early blowouts they will face inflated numbers the rest of the season. New England was favored by seven or more 12 times last season counting the postseason and still had a winning ATS record for the year so the lines could get adjusted even further on this team that will remain one of the more popular teams to back. Going against the Patriots will net you a few ugly losses over the course of the year, but New England is just 17-18-1 ATS as home favorites the last four years.
Best ‘OVER’ team: New York Jets
The Jets have a reputation as being a good defensive team, but that was not the case last season. Only five teams in the AFC allowed more points than New York last season and the ‘over’ was 10-6 in Jets games. New York also scored 24 or more points nine times last season and this offense has slowly diverted into more of a passing-oriented team. The Jets should also emerge as an ‘over’ team in the middle of the season as they could have low scoring numbers in the first few weeks. They will play Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Houston in the first five weeks of the season and battling those strong defensive teams could deflate the totals on future Jets games. In the middle of the season there won’t be many high quality defensive teams on the schedule and New York’s offense could get on a roll, regardless of what stage the QB controversy is at.
Best ‘UNDER’ team: Miami Dolphins
Being a losing 6-10 team brings the fair assumption that it was not a great defensive team. Miami played excellent defense following the ugly 0-7 start to the season however. Miami allowed just 16 points per game over the final nine games of the season, going 6-3 SU and 8-1 ATS down the stretch. On the year, the ‘under’ was 11-4-1 in Miami games and while that will be accounted for to some extent this season, the offense could continue to struggle with the transition season and a lot of potential changes on offense. The rest of the division could be higher scoring teams so there may be inflated totals in those division games and an underrated factor is the wear of the long travel that Miami faces on the road as well as the wear road teams face in Miami.