AFC Betting Outlook
August 13, 2016
By Scott Rickenbach
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Buffalo Bills – The Bills had a rather quiet off-season after making a lot of noise heading into the 2015 season. It didn’t help a lot as Buffalo went from 9-7 in 2014 to 8-8 in 2015. Buffalo looks poised for a similar mediocre performance this season. One thing to keep in mind about the Bills is that they have been much better at home than on the road in terms of their ATS (Against-the-Spread) records the past three seasons. Buffalo has gone 16-8 ATS at home and only 9-13-2 on the road.
Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins should improve after a disappointing 6-10 record last season. Miami certainly could be a bit undervalued early on as many bettors likely felt the burn of the Dolphins last season as they compiled a 5-11 ATS record. The loss of RB Lamar Miller is significant even though Miami did have a decent draft. The Dolphins did have some significant roster turnover on defense but head coach Adam Gase is a former offensive coordinator so the Dolphins may surprise some teams early this season. With a tough early season schedule, there could be some ATS value being offered early with the Fish in 2016.
New England Patriots – The Patriots have gone 15-6-3 ATS at home the past three seasons combined while only going 8-16 ATS (33%) on the road during this same stretch. That is certainly something to be wary of as you evaluate lines this coming season. Keep in mind this could result in some over-inflated spreads on the Pats at home. Of course the Tom Brady suspension (first four games of the season) will mean we see plenty of Jimmy Garoppolo under center early this season and that will certainly have an impact on the early lines involving the Patriots. Once Brady is back, keep in mind that the Pats have enjoyed a lot of success for many years thanks to beating up on a relatively weak AFC East division. This season, the Patriots will be facing the AFC North and NFC West as part of the non-divisional action and that means some tough match-ups for the Pats. Look for value in fading the Pats, especially if the Brady early season suspension has a carry-over effect when he returns.
New York Jets – The Jets look to be in similar shape on offense this season based on losing a couple of key players but also adding some key personnel in the off-season. The defense is where there is concern as the Jets did lose a handful of starters there. Replacing that production will take time and that is why the totals may be a good place to pay attention to in terms of Jets games early this season. The offensive production should at least be on par with last season but we could see the defense slip up some and that will be especially true early this season until the jell. The Jets record is likely to see a drop-off this season but the production on offense should remain at a respectable level. Keep an eye on the early season totals in Jets games.
Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens had a solid draft that really helps their depth coming into this season. The offensive line has been bolstered and Baltimore suffered so much in the way of the “injury bug” last season that I expect a complete reversal this season. The Ravens only covered five of their 16 games last season and I expect to see a lot of value with Baltimore early this season as the markets may be slow to adjust to just how solid this team is when they aren’t bogged down with injuries. The Ravens look to be improved on both sides of the ball as they also did well in the draft on the defensive side of the ball plus the acquisition of safety Eric Weddle in free agency bolsters the secondary. Experience, talent, and some added depth through the draft combine to make the Ravens a likely team on the rise this year. Remember that Baltimore was a 10-6 team in 2014. They’ll respond after the 2015 debacle.
Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals were a stellar ATS team in 2015 and, of course, these trends have a way of quickly reversing. The ball bounced the way of Cincinnati last year to put it mildly. While this is certainly still going to be a strong Bengals team in 2016 there will have to be some drop-off at the cashiers’ window. The loss of receiving talent – in the form of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu – is going to affect Cincy this year. This defense looks solid again and the Bengals have gone 19-13 to the 'under' the past two seasons and there could be some value again in the 'under' department this year. A tough early season schedule is going to test the moxie of this team and I will likely look for value in going against them early this season after they covered an insane 11 of their 16 games last season.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns have some excitement with Robert Griffin III on board but of course it is tough to get too excited when you’re off of a 3-13 season and have struggled for so many years. Cleveland is unlikely to see much of a change in success level this season because their defense lost a ton of starting talent. Still, off of a season where they covered just five of their 16 games, we may see some early line value spots with the Browns. The best value however is likely to be with the totals. The defense lost so much (in terms of starters) that I expect it to be a problem and this will be especially true early on in the new season. Look for the Browns to have solid potential for being an 'over' team early this season as it takes time for the new personnel to jell on defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers – If Cincinnati does drop off a little it is likely that the Steelers will be there to gladly take their place. My only problem with the Steelers from an ATS perspective is that it could be tough to find spots where there is line value with them. They had one of the top offenses in the league last year and that tremendous production should continue this season (even without wide receiver Martavis Bryant) as they already proved last year that they could move the ball very well even when key guys like Le'Veon Bell are sidelined. On defense, the Steelers secondary should be improved but it is important to evaluate early on how some of the new talent is developing. If they struggle at the NFL level the Steelers could be in for some shootouts as the secondary must come together quickly. Better health in the running back department and a better schedule (face AFC East and NFC East this season) equates to a solid season for the Steelers but it will be a “pick your spots” situation for value as some of the lines could be inflated.
Houston Texans – Good draft on the offensive side of the ball but how quickly will those guys be key contributors is going to be the important factor for Houston early this season. Of course the offense was the focus for Texans in the off-season and they picked up some key pieces via free agency. However, the defense did lose a few pieces and has to have some drop-off after a fantastic season last year. Houston could be a play against early on as they have some tough match-ups in the first six weeks of the season. Also, if the offense takes some time to jell with a new QB then there could be more trouble looming.
Indianapolis Colts – Strengthened the offensive line in the off-season as they want better protection for QB Andrew Luck who is hopeful of more time on the field this season! The Colts have plenty of motivation after last season was impacted by the Luck injury situation and Indianapolis dropped to 8-8 after back-to-back 11-5 seasons. The Colts defense could be standing in the way of the Colts making a run at the AFC South this season. It will depend on how well the new faces integrate because Indianapolis did lose some key cogs from last season’s defense and the defense was already a liability for the Colts last year. With the Jaguars and Titans on the way up and the Texans likely having another solid season, Indianapolis will have their hands full in this division. That statement holds true even with a healthy Luck. The D must step up and that will likely prove to again be an area of concern for the Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars – You can look at the stats for the Jaguars offense from last season (and now add in the fact that they added RB Chris Ivory from the Jets) and there is reason to believe Jacksonville will be strong on that side of the ball again. Some changes on the offensive line could result in a little uncertainty early in the season but eventually the Jags offense should be firing on all cylinders. That means the Jaguars could definitely be on their continued upward trajectory this season as the defense looks much improved coming into this season. Held back by the D last season, this season the defense should make big strides toward improvement thanks to some key free agent pick-ups as well as some solid draft picks in the early rounds that can contribute right away. Jacksonville should be a team on your ATS watch list!
Tennessee Titans – Like Jacksonville, Tennessee is likely to be on the way up this season. The Titans have been a money-burner the past two seasons with an 8-24 ATS (25%) mark! That means value should be available playing on Tennessee early this season before many realize how much improvement there truly is with this Titans team. Tennessee’s defense, in terms of yardage allowed per game, was actually respectable last season. The problem for the Titans was on offense but they are making strides in the right direction. Tennessee made big pick-ups in the running game through both the draft and free agency. Also, QB Marcus Mariota should show improvement in his 2nd year and should face less pressure with some fortification to the offensive line for this season. On the defensive side of the ball, I like the additions the Titans have for the secondary and, though the SU record may not improve drastically this season I do expect the ATS record to improve substantially for the Titans. They should prove to be a dangerous dog this season!
Denver Broncos – After going 12-4 each of the prior two seasons and 13-3 three years ago, the Broncos are in for quite a drop this year as I don’t expect them to reach double digits in victories. The offense was certainly not the strength for Denver last season but it quickly has gone from “middle of the pack” to “significant concern” as Peyton Manning has retired and Brock Osweiler is now in Houston. The Broncos have a “question mark” with Mark Sanchez at QB and rookie Paxton Lynch is certainly going to take time to develop. On defense the Broncos will still be solid but, even there; some drop-off is expected as they lost a couple of key starters in free agency. After going 27-19-2 ATS in regular season action the last three seasons, I expect to see some solid ATS value in going against the Broncos early and often this season.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs now “have their shot” after playing 'second-fiddle' to the Broncos in the AFC West each of the last three seasons. However, Kansas City is not without some concerns of their own. KC lost not just one, not even just two, but three starters from the offensive line in the off-season. Continuity on the offensive line is so important that this could certainly be an early-season “issue” for Kansas City. Certainly it will be something to keep an eye on early in the schedule. One thing that could help KC is a relatively favorable early season schedule but even if they get some SU wins and I expect to see some spots with ATS value in going against them. The adds they made on defense in the draft will take some time to contribute and they did lose quite a lot of depth on the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs were plus-14 in turnovers (29-15) last year so they had some “good fortune” to say the least and that has a way of turning around from year to year! The ball is likely to bounce the “other way” this season.
Oakland Raiders – With Derek Carr at QB the Raiders are “dangerous” on offense and it often gives them that chance at “back door cover” potential. Coming into this season, with some upgrades on defense, the Raiders could jump up a little again after improving from 3-13 two seasons ago to 7-9 last year. Getting to .500 is certainly in Oakland’s sights after improving their secondary and linebacking corps through free agency and strengthening the overall depth on defense through the draft. In particular, I would look for the Raiders to improve their ATS results at home this season after a dismal 2-6 ATS showing on their home turf last year.
San Diego Chargers – The Chargers are a team that I could be looking at more in terms of value with their O/U’s than with their spreads this season. San Diego has been an 'under' team in terms of totals in recent seasons but with the offense staying solid (led by Phillip Rivers) and the defense in for a drop-off (departure of Eric Weddle and other significant starters), this team could be in for some explosive, high-scoring games. This could be particularly true early this season as there will most certainly be an “adjustment phase” on the defensive side of the ball. It is likely to be another tough season in San Diego (4-12 last year) but at least their games should be very entertaining if you like offense.
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