Vegas released its early line on total wins for all National Football League teams earlier in the week. It makes for interesting reading. Here’s a look at the numbers sorted by division.
You can draw some broad conclusions by looking at the overall numbers.
The bookies love the NFC. Especially the NFC North and South.
Overall, the early line on total wins [not ATS] favors the blue half of the league 133 wins to 125. Given every team plays a quarter of its games against opponents from the other conference, basic math says sports books think the NFC will go 36-28 against the AFC.
Given each division plays 64 games [ four teams times 16 games], 32 is the .500 win total for divisions. The NFC has three divisions above that mark and one right on it. The AFC North and East are the two teams below it.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how early predictions have each division shaking out.
New England’s line is the highest in the entire NFL. They’re tabbed to win 11. That’s because the handicappers expect them to beat up on a weak division. Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets are all pegged to lose at least ten.
Pittsburgh is the favorite, as usual. Baltimore and Cincinnati will battle to finish second but likely cancel each other out in the wildcard race. That’s if you buy into the 5.5 win line for the Browns.
Cleveland went 0-16 in 2017. They had a good draft but will it bump them up to 5-11? The club hasn’t won five games in the last three seasons combined. The Ravens or the Bengals could be a good pick for the over.
On the other hand, if you think the Browns are going to rise from the ashes, you should be looking at the under for one or two of their division rivals.
This has long been the most competitive foursome in the AFC and the experts are respecting that again. What they don’t respect is Andrew Luck’s chances to be his former self after coming back from a shoulder injury. Quarterbacks do have to throw the ball, after all. That isn’t easy with a bad wing. Doctors will tell you that recovering strength after shoulder surgery is a time-consuming process. The Colts are definitely the bet on which the South hinges.
The strongest division in the conference. Early odds have the Chargers settling into their temporary LA digs at the StubHub Center, home of MLS side LA Galaxy. That suggests there are doubts Andy Reid can sustain the momentum in Kansas City and that Jon Gruden will have a major impact in his return to coaching after more than a decade away.
Vegas is sold on the Super Bowl champion Eagles. Philadelphia is second only to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the betting line, despite their win in February. The Cowboys at 8.5 is an interesting pick. It expresses doubt about Jerry Jones’ project. There’s reason to worry. Will Allen Hurns be an upgrade on Dez Bryant? Can Geoff Swaims and Rico Gathers step up following Jason Witten’s move to the Monday Night Football booth?
There’s not much love for Washington or New York. I Kill Giants is probably a staple in the DVD collection for children of division rivals.
The Black and Blue Division is set to flex its muscle in 2018. Minnesota and Green Bay are the only division rivals both rated as ten-game winners. With Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers behind center respectively, why not? Matthew Stafford and Detroit are the dark horses again, while the Bears continue to hibernate.
This is an even tighter race than the North. Three teams, New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina, are all expected to win at least nine. There’s no love for Jameis Winston and the Bucs, though. Tampa just hasn’t done much to improve a 5-11 team.
It’s a similar story to the South in the Pacific time zone. There’s affection for Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo in LA and San Fran respectively. There’s even some fondness for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks? Sam Bradford and the Cardinals come in; the room goes quiet. When you consider how Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer experienced a renaissance in the desert, Bradford looks like something of a sleeper pick for Arizona. On the other hand, you weren’t as likely to wake up to find Warner and Palmer on the DL.
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Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.