Note that with the top AFC teams expected down compared to the Cardinals, Packers, Panthers and Seahawks, the key is to bet the Ravens to win their conference.
The Bills did thrive on the offensive side last season, as offensive coordinator Greg Roman did an incredible job with quarterback Tyrod Taylor & Co. After Philadelphia traded away Sam Bradford, this number has been raised to 8.5, and I believe that’s an over-adjustment — so I now like the under 8.5 (and ESPN’s Football Power Index and our Money Line Estimate agree as they’re still right around 8 wins). The schedule is tough and front-weighted. The market hasn’t agreed, as the Falcons drifted all the way up to 100-1 before dipping back to 80-1 over Labor Day weekend. Note the Cardinals struggled in both their red zone offense and defense last season, as this team is far too talented for those trends not to turn around. I still like them, but the “value” part isn’t quite there anymore at 14-1. And finally, their road schedule is void of high-caliber competition in Jacksonville, Atlanta, Tennessee, Washington, Philadelphia and their division rivals. However, this team peaked early, and eventually the preseason loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson reared its ugly head along with subpar offensive line play. The first 10 games will test the mettle of Ryan & Co. Look for the Ravens to return to their physical ways with a chance to match any AFC contender. A potential Super Bowl game was promising last season before their collapse in Carolina to end the year after an impeccable 13-3 regular season. Importantly, the key injured cogs from last year are back. We saw how they looked in their 5-0 start last season, when Matt Ryan and Julio Jones looked unstoppable and Devonta Freeman emerged as a scoring machine — and they were the only team to beat Carolina in the regular season. Unfortunately, they’ve lost the services of difference-maker Marcell Dareus for the first four games. Head coach Dan Quinn, who built the Seattle Seahawks’ defense before taking this job, obviously still has a lot of work to do with the defense, but that’s why we’re getting such a great price. In addition, they were minus-15 in turnovers and nine of their 11 losses were within eight points as seemingly nothing went right. Ryan is known for his defensive prowess, but the Bills dropped from fourth in yards allowed in 2014 to 19th in 2015. ESPN Chalk’s NFL Vegas experts, Dave Tuley and Erin Rynning, combine to bring you the ultimate betting guide for 2016. Best future bets, season win total bets, teams to bet on and against — it’s all here in Chalk’s 2016 pro football betting guide. They did lose defensive tackle Kyle Williams early in the season, but a defensive mastermind like Ryan should be capable of working around a key injury.
Offensively, the Cardinals continue to be sound at all levels. The FPI at 9.3 and MLE at 9.4 slightly agree, though it is a little concerning that they’re only clear underdogs in just four games (how they fare in the four pick ‘em games will tell the tale). The better play now is Cincinnati at 20-1, as the Bengals have one of the best all-around teams with a balanced offense and a solid bend-but-don’t-break defense. Basically, it comes down to believing we’re much more likely to see 6 wins (and a winning ticket) as opposed to 8.
Atlanta Falcons (80-1)
Baltimore Ravens (15-1 to win AFC)
Cincinnati Bengals (20-1)
Yes, there’s a trend here with finding value on teams with QB issues. The Jets were 10-6 last year and had the No. However, after ranking 12th in points per game and sixth in yards per play, expect the league to adjust and regression to occur. I don’t believe the Jets can catch the Patriots, but for this bet they just need to finish over .500 again.
It’s not often you get 25-1 on the defending champions. Of course, there are two big obstacles for the Bengals: First, they really need to hold off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North and secure a first-round bye. Nelson is back this season, while the signing of Jared Cook gives Rodgers another weapon.
New York Giants under 8.5 (-120)
I had a lean on the Jets under 8 back in April, but that was when Ryan Fitzpatrick was holding out, and I expected the number to go higher if he signed. The Cardinals are poised and motivated for the NFL title.
Under the leadership of John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have been a threat every season to reach the Super Bowl. Secondly, and ultimately the biggest hurdle, is they have to win three playoff games in a row (four if they don’t get a first-round bye), and head coach Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs and 0-4 with Andy Dalton as the starting QB. They don’t need to win them all to get over the total and, even if they don’t win them all, I give them a decent shot to win some of the rare games where they’ll be underdogs or pick ‘em.
You have to believe that Sam Bradford puts them back on track, and you have to not worry about not pulling the trigger when you could have had 30-1 when Shaun Hill was expected to be the starter.
Kansas City Chiefs under 9.5 ( 120)
After the schedules came out in April, I made the Saints’ under 6.5 ( 115) one of my best bets, so I like under 7 even better, though the juice is heavy at -140. Forever the extreme eternal optimist, Ryan’s Bills generally failed to deliver last season, especially on the defensive side of the football. If Prescott can keep Dallas in contention and Romo returns healthy, the 25-1 price could be an overlay — as long as Romo can stay healthy the rest of the way, which is asking a lot.
The season is finally upon us. And while defenses can still win championships, like we saw last year with Denver, it’s not a necessity in today’s NFL.
The Giants’ over/under was at 8 with added juice most of the summer, and it was a pass for me. Importantly, the huge emergence of running back David Johnson is the catalyst to take the pressure off the deep passing game. The W/L/T that we used in our betting previews for each team and used CG Technology’s Week 1-16 lines to see how many times a team is expected to be favored has the Giants favored in only 8 games, so they would almost have to win all of those (plus any upsets) to get over 8.5.
Opening week last year, the Ravens lost defensive force and team leader? Terrell Suggs — and quite simply, it was all downhill from there. They just need to keep doing what they’re doing in the regular season, and I don’t see too much of a falloff from the team that finished 12-4 a year ago. However, we’ve clearly seen the high end of this Packers team over the previous two seasons as an offensive machine and a capable defense. Peyton Manning is gone, of course, but if Trevor Siemian can run the offense — which relied more on the running game last year anyway — the defense can carry this team far.
Atlanta Falcons over 7 (-130)
I originally had a lean on the Chiefs under 9 back in the spring, so I really like it now that it has been bet up to 9.5 (and 120 to boot!). They jumped to 6-0 record before their bye week, outscoring the opposition 164-101. with trips to Baltimore, New England, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle and Cincinnati, while garnering the Jets, Arizona and New England at home. 6 overall draft choice, left tackle Ronnie Stanley. But the talent is there to take a flier.
Other potential future-book plays
Denver Broncos (25-1)
The question lingers as to whether Rex and his brother Rob Ryan turn this defense around. Tony Romo got hurt again and the Cowboys’ odds were raised, but there is hope, as he’s projected to miss six to 10 weeks, and rookie Dak Prescott stepped up in the preseason. Obviously we can’t have the Chiefs going on another 10-game winning streak, but that was a bit of a fluke, and no one’s going to be looking past them this year.
Again, we don’t need the Bengals to erase their playoff demons to cash this bet. ESPN’s Football Power Index has this total pushing with exactly 7 wins, but I like that the Saints are only projected to be favored in six games at CG Technology, plus the Money Line Estimate only adds up to 6.4 wins. They’ve fortified their defensive line with the additions of Chandler Jones and top draft choice Robert Nkemdiche to aid in the all-important NFL pressuring of the quarterback. The Bears and Lions continue to erode, while the Vikings obviously lose some luster with the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Yes, the schedule lightens up after that, but Ryan might have one foot out the door.
Tuley: Teams I love (to bet on) Tuley: Teams I love (to fade) Tuley’s totals: Best over/under teams
Vital when handicapping over/under season wins is the schedule, and the Packers’ slate is relatively smooth sailing. So, I actually think now that the value is on the over 8, especially at the current 150 price. They eventually placed 20 players on injured reserve, including eight projected starters — Suggs, Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett and Steve Smith included. They added defensive leader Eric Weddle to their defensive backfield, and were able to add the No. In addition, their top draft choice, Shaq Lawson, might be back from injury in November and second-rounder Reggie Ragland is already done for the season. Besides, the encouraging number is the 12 games that the Bengals are expected to be favored in this year. They’re still the best value bet on the board in my opinion. They’ll most likely catch the Cowboys without Tony Romo. Before last season, Harbaugh owned a 72-38 regular-season NFL record as head coach, plus 10-5 in the postseason. Their offensive line, receivers and quarterback certainly rank in the upper echelon of the NFL. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu was devastating for this group late last season, as he works himself to 100 percent by this season’s end.
Note: I still like the Houston Texans over 8.5 (-120), but not as much as I did when I got over 8 over the summer (though it still takes 9 wins to cash), so that’s why it didn’t make my list of top “over” bets. Note that this offense actually led the league last year in three-and-outs at 28 percent.
If I like the Falcons to go to the playoffs (and especially to make a Super Bowl run), then I must love the over 7 at -130. In proper Ryan-like fashion, the Bills also led the NFL in penalties last year. Importantly, the Cardinals can move forward from last year. If you don’t mind giving up the insurance of a push on 7, there are some books that have over 7.5 at plus-money, and even if they don’t live up to my lofty expectations, I don’t think they’ll be worse than a .500 team and get at least the 8 wins needed to cash this bet..
Cincinnati Bengals over 9.5 (EVEN)
After Super Bowl 50, the Houston Texans were my choice for best value play out of the AFC at 40-1.
AFC betting previews | NFC | Super Bowl bets
Arizona’s brilliant head coach Bruce Arians continues to preach it’s all about getting that ring on your finger, and his team is as well-rounded as any to deliver the title this season.
Green Bay Packers over 10.5 (-170)
New Orleans Saints under 7 (-140)
Buffalo Bills under 8 (-150)
Minnesota Vikings (20-1)
After Super Bowl 50, I made the Falcons my best value bet for Super Bowl LI at 40-1. Well, the oddsmakers obviously felt all along that he would return to the fold as the odds didn’t budge. 4 defense with Fitzpatrick leading an already-balanced offense that adds running back Matt Forte. Yes, this is a tall win projection, but the Packers are a heavy hitter and the schedule is as soft as a pillow.
New York Jets over 8 ( 150)
Dallas Cowboys (25-1)
Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
New York Giants Chicago Bears New Orleans Saints Arizona Cardinals Pittsburgh Steelers Jacksonville Jaguars
Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers loomed especially large the first six weeks of last season. However, it’s easy to flush last season down the drain and move forward with this rock-solid organization.
If only the Las Vegas oddsmakers would buy into the promises of Bills coach Rex Ryan