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NFL Futures: Analyzing NFL Win Totals

   by Bryan Leonard - 07/12/2008

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 Chiefs were projected over/under 8 wins. I wrote, “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.â€쳌 The Chiefs were a bust at 4-12, going way under 8 wins. 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 8½ wins: Sean Payton did a sensational job in his first season, getting the Saints to the NFC Championship game, then everything went wrong last season. In an age of offense, the Saints are still loaded, No. 1 in total offense in 2006 and No. 4 last season, led by Drew Brees (4,423 yards, 28 TDs, 18 INTs), and the backfield tandem of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. This offense is tailor-made for the indoor surface in New Orleans.

The defense has been a problem, but they moved up in the draft to take USC nose tackle Sedrick Ellis with the 7th pick, along with DT DeMario Pressley (5th round, NC State). After having to duel with the AFC South last season (losses to the Texans, Colts and Titans), the Saints get the AFC West, which includes a pair of cupcakes in the Chiefs and Raiders. And remember they played in a division in 2007 where only one team (Bucs) had a winning record. Over 8½ wins is more likely.

Bears over/under 8 wins: The heat is on coach Lovie Smith, as he’s made a lot of changes the last two seasons – and the Bears look worse for it. The offense loses WRs Bernard Berrian and Mushan Muhammed and is counting on 32-year old WR Marty Booker and rookie WR Earl Bennett (Vanderbilt) to contribute. Trading away RB Thomas Jones from their Super Bowl team was

a disaster, as RB Cedric Benson was soft behind a weak offensive line. Chicago was 30th in rushing.

One move they DIDN’T make was also a mistake, not finding a replacement for erratic QB Rex Grossman. The guy who led the offense for most of last season, QB Brian Griese, left for Tampa Bay. The defense was beset by injuries and thin on depth. The Bears’ open the season at Indy and Carolina, then come home to play Tampa Bay and Philly. The Bucs, Colts and Eagles were ranked No. 2, 3 and 10 in total defense last season. Chicago also plays three straight road games in November. Under 8 wins.

Steelers over/under 9 wins: The Steelers won the title in 2005 and made the playoffs last season with the top-ranked defense. There is plenty of talent again for second-year head coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin kept a lot of things in place that Bill Cowher used to do, including keeping DC Dick LeBeau and the blitzing, 3-4 defense.

QB Ben Roethlisberger bounced back with an impressive campaign, 32 TDs and 11 picks. Big Ben is 44-18 as a starter. Speedy RB Willie Parker gets help in the backfield with bruising RB Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois) and they may have gotten a steal with big WR Limas Sweed (Texas). They still have WR Hines Ward, speedster Santonio Holmes (942 yards, 8 TDs) and 6-foot-5 TE Heath Miller. The Steelers look loaded, which will help in their quest to go over 9 wins.

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