PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of my favorite things to do before every NFL season is to play the over/under game, where I guess over or under the projected win total for each NFL team. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not half bad. The key is not to get caught up in strength of schedule (SOS). Use it, don’t abuse it.
With that, here are my over/under locks for the 2014-15 NFL season.
*Note all over/under win total’s are courtesy of Bovada LV.
Arizona Cardinals – Over 7.5 wins
The NFC West is scary, I get all that, but the Cards went 10-6 last season under new head coach Bruce Arians. Defensively, the Cards—ranked as the NFL’s sixth best defense last season—added Antonio Cromartie to lineup across from Patrick Peterson at cornerback. On offense, they added Jared Veldheer at left tackle to protect Carson Palmer and got him another weapon in Ted Ginn. Ginn will be the team’s third wide receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald (he’s pretty good) and the third-year talented wide out Michael Floyd, who many expect to make a big leap in 2014.
All that, and I haven’t even mentioned their second-year explosive running back Andre Ellington. Ellington, who wasn’t featured in the Cardinals offense until midway through the season, averaged 5.53 yards per carry. That was the most in the NFL for running backs with at least 100 carries. Ellington received double-digit carries only six times during his rookie campaign enters his “sophomore” NFL season in superb shape, as the Cards featured back, expected to touch the ball 20-25 times per game.
Chicago Bears – Under 8.5 wins
According to Bovada LV, 95% of the money coming in for the Bears is on the over. That’s an immediate red flag.
The Bears are a sexy team, especially in this fantasy-football crazed season. They have a ton of weapons: Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffrey. However, Chicago had the 30th ranked defense in the NFL last season and finished 8-8. They did add Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Israel Idonije, M.D. Jennings, Danny McRay, and Ryan Mundy this offseason, but it seems like a desperate “Dream Team” like effort to bolster the defense. Not much cohesiveness going on here. Also, Josh McCown is gone so the Bears are a bad Jay Cutler hit away from disaster.
The Bears will see each of the Lions, Packers, and Vikings twice per season in a tough NFC North division, but check out some of their non-divisional road opponents: at SF, at NYJ, at CAR, and at NE. Add a home game against the Saints to that list as well.
Cincinnati Bengals – Over 9 wins
The Bengals won 9, 10, and 11 games respectively each of the last three seasons and they are without a doubt the class of the AFC North. They didn’t improve much this offseason, losing WR Andrew Hawkins and DE Michael Johnson. The Bengals also lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators, and many people believe the loss of d-coordinator Mike Zimmer is monumental. While the loss of Zimmer is impactful, this is a personnel-driven league. The Bengals are stacked on offense led by WR A.J. Green and emerging star RB Giovani Bernard.
On top of two games against the Browns, the Bengals get the Jags, Falcons, and Titans at home, plus the Texans and Bucs on the road. All very winnable games. I don’t think there is anyway the Bengals do worse than 9-7, in which case you settle for a push.
Miami Dolphins – Over 7.5 wins
Last year the Eagles quarterbacks coach was Bill Lazor. This year, Lazor is the offensive coordinator in Miami and he’s bringing a lot of “Chip Kelly-type” offensive things to the Dolphins, which adds running back Knowshon Moreno to the roster. Ryan Tannehill is expected to make major improvements in his third NFL season, now with some time to develop chemistry with second-year Dolphin Mike Wallace. RB Lamar Miller is another third-year offensive player that the Dolphins expect to progress in their new fast-paced offense.
On defense, the Dolphins added former Lions safety Louis Delmas and dynamic CB Cortland Finnegan.
Schedule wise—besides getting the Bills twice—the Dolphins have 2013 duds Oakland, Jacksonville, and Minnesota on their schedule. That’s three to five wins right there.
New York Jets – Over 7 wins
Linebacker Calvin Pace called the Jets the best defense in the NFL, and he may have a case. Last season, the Jets ranked 11th in total defense, third in rushing yards allowed per game., and third in takeaway/giveaway ratio. And they wen’t 8-8. With a rookie quarterback.
This season, Geno Smith has a year under his belt and an experienced veteran in Mike Vick there to help aid him, if not start himself. The Jets also added wide receivers Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford, running back Chris Johnson, as well as first-round pick safety Calvin Pryor on defense.
The Jets open the season at home against the Raiders, which will give them a nice confidence boost to get things going. This team will win a lot of 17-7 type games, but a win is a win.
Philadelphia Eagles – Over 9 wins
That’s right, the home town team. Gulp. I tend to stay away from the Eagles when doing things like this because of the natural bias, but I couldn’t resist. The Eagles are playing a mediocre NFC East with three teams that do not have an identity, one year after going 10-6 and winning the division in head coach Chip Kelly’s first season.
Nick Foles enters 2014, his third season, as the starting quarterback for the first time in his career. His weapons? Reigning NFL rushing champ LeSean McCoy, arguably the explosive back in the league Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
On defense, the Birds add rookie LB Marcus Smith and safety Malcolm Jenkins to Billy Davis’ improving 3-4 scheme.
Similarly to the Bengals pick, 9-7 is a push and no way the Eagles go 8-8.
Green Bay Packers – Under 10.5 wins
Aaron Rodgers is good—we know this—but sometimes the public overrates the Packers simply because of their elite QB. About all of the Packers’ action on this prop is on the over, according to Bovada, forcing their total to go up from 10 to 10.5 wins.
Their offensive line allowed the 9th most sacks to opposing defenses last season and Rodgers played only nine games due to a collar-bone injury. Rodgers will open 2014 with a new center for the fourth straight season, and the Packers will likely have a new set of tackles for the fifth straight season.
The Packers only high-profiled addition this offseason was DE Julius Peppers. On the flip side, they lost 13 veterans including TE Jermichael Finley, FS M.D. Jennings, and WR James Jones. Yes, the Packers have plenty offensive weapons around Rodgers (Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarett Boykin, and Eddie Lacy), but their defense has concerns.
The Pack play in a tough NFC North division forcing them to see the always dangerous Bears and Lions as well as the improved Vikings, twice per season. They open the season on Thursday Night Football in Seattle, have a week 8 date at New Orleans, and a week 13 matchup against the Pats. Yikes. 10-6 and a division title is foreseeable, but 11-5 in this league is a stretch. I’ll take the under.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Over 7 wins
The Bucs had one of the best offseasons in the NFL, acquiring DE Michael Johnson, OT Anthony Collins, CB Alterraun Verner (to replace Darrelle Revis), and QB Josh McCown. While I really like Mike Glennon, McCown provides the Bucs with a viable veteran signal caller to help along the second-year Glennon.
On offense, the Bucs are solid. First off, they get Doug Martin back from injury to go along with Mike James and Bobby Rainey in the backfield. They added TE Brandon Myers, and drafted TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and WR Mike Evans to add to a receiving corp led by Vincent Jackson.
Defensively, with Johnson, DT Gerald McCoy, and LB Lavonte David they should have no problem getting to the quarterback. Their secondary consists of CB Jonathan Banks, FS Dashon Goldson, and the aforementioned Verner.
While the Saints are the class of the NFC South, the Falcons and Panthers both have many question marks. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Bucs finish second in the division this season.
View full over/under win totals here.
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