With the NFL season set to kick off today with a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, it’s time to take a closer look at each team’s prospects.
This off-season has been a busy one across the league. Despite a relatively ho-hum draft class, several teams are looking to rebound from an underwhelming 2015 season; others will be trying to repeat their newfound success.
While season-long bets lack instant gratification, they often offer better value to bettors who have a read on a certain team. After all, you have a much better chance of turning your advantage into real profits over a 16-game sample than a single-game sample.
Let’s take a look at some of the juiciest season win totals on offer with our friends over at bet365.
Indianapolis Colts—Over 9.5 Wins 33/20
The Colts are coming off a 2015 season to forget, going 8-8 in an extremely weak division, and walk away lucky that it wasn’t worse. An offense that was expected to be one of the most prolific in the league put up only 333 points, good for 24th in the league.
Andrew Luck looked mediocre for most of the year, in part due to an offense line that looked like a shell of its former self. Their defense, meanwhile, suffered some key injuries and finished as the 25th-best unit for the year.
So why the optimism for this new season? Because a team that endured a perfect storm of misfortunes last season are well positioned to bounce back under more favorable conditions. The Colts start the season at Buffalo and then face Baltimore and Philadelphia at home. They should win all of those games, and this friendly early schedule will help this talented offense find its confidence again.
Need another reason? Andrew Luck. Widely regarded as one of the most intelligent players in the league, Luck will have spent all off-season studying film from last year and learning from his mistakes. Never bet against a player this bright and talented who has an opportunity to atone for a lost season.
Los Angeles Rams—Under 6.5 Wins 17/10
The Rams’ offense was anemic last year, finishing last in the league in yards from scrimmage and third-to-last in points scored. While a decent draft class will help the team’s prospects long-term, don’t expect new acquisitions to have an impact this year.
This team has needed to find a quarterback of the future, so went out and drafted Jared Goff first overall. While you can’t blame the Rams for taking a shot, it doesn’t look like Goff will be the team’s savior in 2016. He’s currently listed as the second-string QB behind Case Keenum. The uncertainty around the team’s QB situation will be a drag on the Ram’s season as they look to turn the corner as a franchise.
And don’t forget that this team is still seeking a new identity. Having just moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the fan base will be ripe with enthusiasm and high expectations, which will no doubt filter through to the players themselves. Having such tremendous pressure starting in Week 1 is going to be a major challenge for this young squad.
And while most casual NFL fans will wish them success, smart bettors will look past the shiny new paint job and will recognize a team still a year or two away from being a major presence in the league.
New Orleans Saints—Over 6.5 Wins 5/8
The Saints are another team coming off a season they’ll want to forget. After beginning the season with their usual sky high expectations, the team stumbled to a 0-3 start and never truly recovered, finishing 7-9.
But their record doesn’t really tell the full story. The Saints may have gone 7-9, but they lost five games by a single possession, including two to the Panthers, who many regard as the best team in the NFL last year. And despite a comically porous defense that ranked last in the league, their offense showed signs of life, finishing eighth in points scored.
The Saints should be able score their way to a better record this year, led by the eternal Drew Brees and a three-headed rushing attack that will rival almost any team’s ground game. While their defense will prevent them from challenging the Panthers for the division title, they should be a good bet to finish around .500 on the year.
Look for Brees and new tight end Coby Fleener to keep the offense humming yet again, while new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen begins to turn a shameful defensive unit around, keeping the team competitive in almost every contest.
New York Giants—Over 8.5 Wins 5/4
The top reasons for the rosy outlook on the Giants have little to do with the team itself. First and foremost is the cupcake schedule the Giants have lucked into this year, estimated at third easiest in the league based on last year’s results.
Building on this, the Giants also have the good fortune to share the same division as the Eagles, Redskins, and Cowboys, three teams who suffered turbulent off-seasons and come into the new year looking worse for the wear. All three teams have question marks at quarterback this season, with the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins being the most stable of the three main men. If that doesn’t sum up the Giants’ competition this year, I don’t know what does.
With the Eagles set to hand over their offense to a true rookie in Carson Wentz and the Cowboys left without Tony Romo (again) for the first half of the season, the Giants suddenly seem the team to beat in a topsy-turvy NFC East.
Houston Texans—Under 8.5 Wins 20/21
The Texans, meanwhile, find themselves in the opposite situation to the Giants. This relatively stable team looks likely to get passed by three division foes whose outlook is much brighter this season. Perennial walkovers Jacksonville and Tennessee could both find their way toward respective records this year, while the Colts, led by a motivated Andrew Luck, should be headed for double-digit wins.
What happens when you take a 9-7 team (who needed a lot of luck to finish above .500), leave them relatively unimproved, and add season upside to their opponents? They struggle to finish middle of the pack in what should be a greatly improved AFC South.
Nowhere is this challenge better reflected than the Texans’ strength of schedule, rated as fourth-hardest in the NFL without even accounting for improvements by divisional foes. With out of conference road trips to Green Bay and Minnesota planned this year, the Texans are really up against it. While it’s possible that the talented duo of Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins bail them out, it’s much more likely they’ll face an uphill battle to claw toward 8-8 on the season.
Other season-long picks
Favorite team not profiled above? Here are some quick picks for the other 27 teams:
Under 9.5 wins 33/20. Age finally catches up with Carson Palmer.
Under 7.5 wins 5/7. Devonte Freeman won’t save them again.
Over 8.5 wins 23/20. Don’t sleep on an underrated, dynamic team.
Under 8.5 wins 20/29. Rex Ryan seems to have lost his touch in recent years.
Over 10.5 wins 1/1. No reason to doubt they’ll repeat last year’s success.
Under 7.5 wins 4/6. No sparks here, just more anemic Jay Cutler performances.
Under 9.5 wins 5/6. Falling back to earth hurts, but it looks like reality for this squad.
Over 4.5 wins 5/7. RGIII inspires the Browns to 6-10 respectability.
Over 9.5 wins 2/1. No Romo, no problem. The Cowboys have the league’s easiest schedule this year.
Over 9.5 wins 6/5. Addition by subtraction: arrivederci, Peyton.
Under 7.5 wins 5/8. Rough division and offense has been fading.
Green Bay Packers
Over 10.5 wins 20/31. Aaron Rodgers gets his payback on the Vikings this year.
Under 7.5 wins 10/11. I’m not buying the hype around a Blake Bortles offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Over 9.5 wins 4/5. Jamaal Charles is the comeback player of the year.
Under 6.5 wins 33/20. Another fan base left scraping for reasons for optimism this year.
No line posted due to quarterback uncertainty.
New England Patriots
Over 10.5 wins 10/13. Never bet against Bill Belichick. Ever.
New York Jets
Under 7.5 wins 1/1. Impossible schedule for a mediocre squad.
Over 8.5 wins 5/6. All aboard the bandwagon. Look for a hot start.
No line posted due to quarterback uncertainty.
Over 10.5 wins 1/1. Huge sleeper potential this year if they can stay healthy.
San Diego Chargers
Under 6.5 wins 7/4. An easy schedule won’t save this uninspired squad.
San Francisco 49ers
Under 5.5 wins 10/13. Six wins isn’t a lot but it’s too many for this pitiful group.
Over 10.5 wins 20/29. An easy division plus a rock solid defense brings success yet again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Under 7.5 wins 20/33. Trust Jameis Winston to carry this team? No thanks.
Over 5.5 wins 10/17. Marcus Mariota leads a capable offense to a 7-9 season.
Under 7.5 wins 20/23. Kirk Cousins fails to capitalize on a strong team defense.