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AFC Division Predictions

   by ASA - 09/03/2008

AFC East Champs - Play on New England (-550)
The Patriots had a disappointing conclusion to their 2007 season, falling to the Giants in the Su­per Bowl. Don’t expect too much of a hangover this year as New England brings back largely the same roster. The Patriots dominated the AFC East last year and will do the same this year.

New England dominated division games last year, going a perfect 6-0 and winning by an average of 25.5 points per game. Each win came by double figures with the Patriots averaging a ridiculous 39.8 points per game.

The Patriot offense was so dominant last year that the defense rarely got the credit it deserved. It was fourth in the NFL in both total and scoring defense last season and should again be among the league leaders. We don’t believe New England will be de­throned this year but, with these odds, also don’t recommend a bet.

AFC South Champs - Play on Jacksonville (+175)
The Colts have owned the AFC South for most of Peyton Manning’s career. That domination comes to a close this year with Jacksonville replacing In­dianapolis atop the division. In arguably the best division in football, the Jaguars will come out with the best record.

The one issue holding back the Jaguars over the years was inconsistency at quarterback. That prob­lem was solved last year when David Garrard was named the starter. Garrard has a Pro Bowl-caliber season in leading Jacksonville into the second round of the playoffs.

Jacksonville has been in the upper half in the NFL in defense for some time now. The drafting of speedy defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves should give the Jags the outside pass rush they lacked last year. Take Jacksonville to win the AFC South.

AFC North Champs - Play on Pittsburgh (+110)
Pittsburgh has pretty much dominated the AFC North since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004. With both Cincinnati and Baltimore taking steps back in recent years and Cleveland not quite ready for primetime, we expect the Steelers to main­tain their stranglehold on the division.

The Steelers finished the 2007 campaign ninth in the NFL with 24.6 points per game. They should be even better this year. Pittsburgh used its first two draft picks on skill position players Rashard Men­denhall and Limas Sweed, both of whom should contribute. Add them to an already potent offense and you have the makings of an explosive unit.

Year-in and year-out Pittsburgh is among the NFL’s best defensive teams and there is no reason to think otherwise this year. They finished first in the NFL in yards allowed and second in points allowed last year. Expect more of the same this year.

AFC West Champs - Play on San Diego (-450)
The AFC West was arguably the NFL’s worst divi­sion last year with only San Diego proving capable of contending for the playoffs. Expect more the same this season. Oakland and Kansas City are entrenched in rebuilding mode and Denver just doesn’t have the defense to contend.

The Chargers boast one of the most talented ros­ters, from top to bottom, in the league. They have talent on offense, on defense and on special teams. San Diego’s overall offensive numbers weren’t that spectacular but it still finished fifth in the NFL in scoring and tallied 23 or more points in 10 of its last 12 games.

The San Diego defense was similar as its overall statistics weren’t that great. But it epitomized the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy, allowing just 17.8 points per game. The Chargers are head and shoulders above the rest of the division.

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