By Dan Leach
You can smell the pigskin and fall foliage in the air and it signals that one of the greatest times of the year is upon us….FOOTBALL SEASON. Over the next few weeks leading up to the 2014 Thursday Night NFL Kickoff, I will take a look at the best bets to win the Super Bowl, Conferences, Divisions, and season win total over/unders. It’s sure to be an epic NFL year. Here we go!
I think Vegas has some weak lines for several teams when it comes to win totals as they either are tremendously undervaluing a team’s chances or overvaluing them. I am going to give you my top two picks in each conference to go over their win total as well as under.
DETROIT LIONS OVER 8.5 WINS- The Lions were one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments in 2013. They come into 2014 with a new coach in Jim Caldwell, what should be one of the NFL’s best offenses, and a defense that should be improved enough to give the Lions a great shot at getting to the postseason. The schedule sets up nicely as well as most of their toughest games are at home including opening up the season on the first Monday Night football game of the year. Draft Picks TE Eric Ebron and LB Kyle Van Noy should make an impact right away and look for Detroit to start fast and gain momentum as the season goes on. PREDICTION: How their season goes will be officially unveiled the week before the Lions Monday Night football kickoff against the Giants
CAROLINA PANTHERS OVER 8.5 WINS- The Panthers are tremendously undervalued by Vegas this year and are an absurd 50-1 to win SB 49. Now while I don’t think the Panthers are going to hoist Lombardi’s trophy this year, they will have a great shot to win the NFC South again and make a run in January. QB Cam Newton showed he was the real deal last year after a mild sophomore slump and adding rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin off last year’s National Title Florida State squad gives him another huge weapon. The Panthers D should be better than last years’ unit if they can stay healthy, but could also be the teams Achilles’ heel. Look for Carolina to be near or at the top of the NFC South all season long. PREDICTION 9-7 PLAYOFF BERTH
GREEN BAY PACKERS UNDER 10.5 WINS Green Bay has the type of balance on both sides of the ball to make a run at the NFC North crown yet again. The problem is the rest of the division, save Minny, has gotten better and the Pack still have a ton of questions on defense. A-Rod and the offense will be fun to watch and WR Randall Cobb has become one of the better deep threats in the game. The Packers D though has holes everywhere and depth issue that will give many teams, including the Lions and Bears which they face twice, a good chance at wins. PREDICTION 9-7 WILD CARD
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS UNDER 10.5 WINS The Saints will be an NFC contender again this year, but their road struggles in the past couple of years make this number seem too high for my liking. N.O will be gangbusters on offense as they have for years now, but the D, especially the secondary leaves a lot to be desired. This is a team that will often be in track meet 40-38, 35-30, type of games, and the defense will let them down in some of them that will make it tough for this team to get to 11 wins. PREDICTION 9-7 PLAYOFF BERTH
CLEVELAND BROWNS OVER 6.5 WINS This has nothing to do with Johnny Football — OK, I kid, I kid. Whether or not the second coming starts at QB before week 8 which will be the latest I believe it will be, the Browns are a much improved team. I love what new coach Mike Pettine brings to the table and you can already see the team responding to him through the start of camp into the preseason. The Browns defense is its best unit and should be even better this year than last when it kept itself in games most of the season. Not having Josh Gordon will be trough for the offense, but WR Travis Benjamin should make up for Gordon’s loss and TE Jordan Cameron is an absolute beast. PREDICTION 8-8 NO PLAYOFFS
BUFFALO BILLS OVER 6.5 WINS The Bills are a fascinating team that should make forward strides this season. While I am not sold on their overall balance and ability to win close games which plagued them last year, this is a team that is trending upwards. QB E.J Manuel is a stud and the first round draft pick WR Sammy Watkins could be the rookie of the year. The Bills front four led by DE Mario Williams is one of the better units in the AFC and the LB core in underrated. Look for Buffalo to be in a lot of games this year cause of their offense and for the D to keep them in enough games to get close to .500 Head Coach Doug Marrone will have this team in playoff contention in 2015 and will use the 14’ campaign to showcase the bright future for Bon Jovi and the Bills in Buffalo. PREDICTION 8-8 NO PLAYOFFS
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS UNDER 11 WINS The Pats will once again be among the legit contenders to win the AFC in 2014, but asking them to get to 12 wins will be a monumental task in the improved AFC East. While teams Buffalo, Miami, and The J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS, won’t light the world on fire this season, they will give New England a lot more trouble than last year. Road games at Indy, Green Bay, and Kansas City will be tough and the health of TE Rob Gronkowski always looms large for this team’s success in recent years. PREDICTION 10-6 AFC EAST CHAMPS
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS UNDER 8 WINS The Chargers are the epitome of a team in no-man’s land. They have the talent to at least contend for a Wild Card berth, but have just the amount of deficiencies to keep them out. Phillip Little Rivers Band is still a top level QB and the Bolts have a ton of weapons on offense, but lack the depth to truly put a hurt in an opposing defense of any merit. Their inconsistent play and turnover proneness has been their undoing in recent years and will again this year. I like what the future holds under head coach Mike McCoy, but 2014 will be the definition of an up and down year for S.D PREDICTION 7-9 MISS PLAYOFFS