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Analyzing Potential Win Totals, Part 1

   by Bryan Leonard - 07/12/2007

The football season is fast approaching and, as always, there are significant changes on the field and the sidelines to examine. Futures lines are out for the projected win totals of pro teams. A year ago in this column, the Falcons were projected over/under 8 wins. I wrote, “Did Atlanta tire of Jim Mora’s tirades? The Falcons flopped in 2005, losing 6 of their final 8 games. This passing game still doesn't scare anyone. Mike Vick is a great running back, but a below average quarterback. His career completion percentage is 54%, and his best ever in the NFL was 56.4% (2004). They didn’t upgrade the passing game, either, which ranked 27th.

“The division is competitive with Carolina, Tampa Bay and improving New Orleans and the schedule is tough, with games against Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at Baltimore, at Washington, the NY Giants and Dallas. A winning record will be difficult with this one-dimensional offense and suspect run defense. Play under 8 wins.â€쳌 The Falcons did slip under 8 wins with a losing record as coach Mora was shown the door. Let’s take a peak at some of the numbers for the upcoming season and see if there is some betting value.

Saints over/under 9 wins: Sean Payton did a sensational job in his first season, getting the Saints to the NFC Championship game. Who’s going to stop this offense? They were No. 1 in the NFL last season, led by Drew Brees (4,418 yards), and the backfield tandem of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. The offense gets even better with first round pick WR Robert Meachem, another in a long line of speedy Tennessee wideouts.

This offense is tailor-made for the indoor surface in New Orleans. Defensively, the Saints have made good upgrades with safety Kevin Kaesviharn and LB Brian Simmons. The schedule isn’t bad for a division winner, with games against Tennessee and Arizona. And remember they played in a division in 2006 where no other team had a winning record, including the rebuilding Falcons and Bucs. Over 9 wins is more likely.

Chiefs over/under 8 wins: How did this team make the playoffs? They backed in. And that was appropriate, as Kansas City was not very good in 2006, with an aging defense, a one-dimensional offense and a poor coaching staff under Herm Edwards. Willie Roaf and Will Shields are gone, and the QB spot is not strong with Damon Huard and young Brodie Croyle.

They were dominated in the playoffs by the Colts with the most unimaginative game plan in postseason history. Edwards traded kick returner Dante Hall away and the secondary has age with Ty Law and Patrick Surtain. Playing in the AFC West might be the toughest blow of all, battling Denver and San Diego four times. Throw in roads game at Chicago, Indy, and at the NY Jets, plus hosting Jacksonville and Cincy, and a losing record is in the cards: under 8 wins.

Steelers over/under 9 wins: The defending champs suffered through an injury-marred 2006 where everything seemed to go wrong. However, there is plenty of talent for new head coach Mike Tomlin. Best of all, Tomlin is keeping a lot of things in place that Bill Cowher used to do, including keeping DC Dick LeBeau and the blitzing, 3-4 defense.

Top draft picks LB Lawrence Timmons (Florida State) and DE LaMarr Woodley (Michigan) add more depth to the aggressive line. QB Ben Roethlisberger should bounce back after suffering through a serious motorcycle accident last summer and an appendectomy as the season began. They could open the season 4-0 with games at Cleveland, Buffalo, San Francisco and at Arizona, which would help in their quest to go over 9 wins.

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