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NFL Over/Unders Part 1

   by Al McMordie - 08/08/2005

With the NFL season just around the corner, this is good time to look at what might happen this fall on the gridiron. Future numbers are out for each team. The Eagles and Colts are both tops with 11½ projected wins, while the two-time Super Bowl champion Patriots are over/under 11. Does this mean oddsmakers think the Colts and Eagles are better than the Pats? No, it’s that the Patriots have a difficult schedule and play in a very tough division, with potential playoff challengers in the Jets and Bills. The Jets made the playoffs last season while the Bills came up just short on the final week. The Colts and Eagles play in easier divisions and won’t be challenged by as many strong opponents. All of these factors come into play when assessing futures, in addition to offseason changes. With that in mind, let’s take a look this week on changes that took place with certain teams and how that might influence their status for the current over/unders.

Bengals: This is a team heading in the right direction under Marvin Lewis, who has brought a winning attitude to a franchise long accustomed to losing. The over/under for the Bengals is 8 wins. At this juncture, I’d be leaning toward the 'over' for several reasons. QB Carson Palmer got thrown into the fire last season and performed well. He has excellent skill position weapons alongside him in WRs Chad Johnson, Kelley Washington and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, while RB Rudi Johnson provides balance. Lewis was not happy with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who was fired, and Chuck Bresnahan steps in. A new approach should help, as well as two rookie linebackers in David Pollack and Odell Thurman, both from Georgia. Defensive tackle Bryan Robinson comes in to bolster the run defense. Cincy also brings a 7-4 SU/ATS run into the new season.

Chargers: The over/under is 8 and with their key players back on a team that went 12-4, I wouldn’t be surprised to see San Diego top 8 wins. QB Drew Brees remains in place, along with a strong balanced offense. RB LaDainian Tomlinson is a workhorse, while TE Antonio Gates and WRs Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker are top targets. Remember that McCardell played just half the season with the Chargers, coming over in a trade from Tampa Bay. They have no trouble stopping the run, either, with mammoth 348-pound Jamal Williams and DT Igor Olshansky up front. Last year was not a fluke – this is a talented group.

Steelers: A 15-1 regular season finds Pittsburgh’s 2005 over/under at 9½, which means there are some who wonder if last year was a one-shot deal. I don’t. Pittsburgh got back to the smashmouth style and beat up opponents with a physical defense. In addition, their key players are back, and the offense has exceptional balance, with RBs Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis. The "Bus" contemplated retirement, but is coming back. Also, rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the real deal and has terrific WRs in Hines Ward, Antawn Randle-El, young Lee Mays and rookie Fred Gibson (Georgia). They won’t go 15-1 again, but they just have to to top 9 ½ wins.

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