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NFL Over/Unders, Part 2

   by Al McMordie - 08/11/2005

Earlier this week I examined some NFL teams that may be worth a look at going over or under the total based on key offseason personnel changes, and coaching adjustments. Let’s continue with some more.

Titans: Tennessee’s over/under win total is 6½. After being a regular AFC power for several years, injuries and salary cap problems decimated the Titans in 2004. While they will be a younger team after jettisoning a lot of high priced talent the last two years, they could also win 7 games or more. Jeff Fisher has one of the longest coaching tenures in the NFL and has proven to be an above-average coach. Two big offseason stories provide hope to the Titans, as well. QB Steve McNair, the NFL MVP in 2003, decided not to retire and will be back behind center. Also, the Titans were able to get former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow -- a real coup. Chow has been around for decades and has a brilliant record of developing QBs and high scoring offensive attacks while at BYU, NC State and USC. The challenge of the NFL will a good one, but this man has enormous talent and teaching ability.

Bucs: For a team that went 5-11, an over/under of 7 suggests they made some important offseason upgrades, though I don’t really see many. The one thing that has happened the last two seasons is head coach Jon Gruden has discarded a lot of talent: Keyshawn Johnson, Warren Sapp, Jon Lynch, and Keenan McCardell, to name but a few. This is no longer an easy division, either. New Orleans (8-8) nearly made the playoffs, Atlanta made the NFC Championship game, and Carolina was in the Super Bowl two years ago. Tampa Bay, like all teams, appears in a decline since winning the 2003 Super Bowl. Prediction: Under 7 wins.

Vikings: The over/under is 9 and this is a tough call. At first, it looked like a play under nine wins, as Minnesota unloaded talented WR Randy Moss and has center Matt Birk on the injured list from offseason surgery. The defense has been awful and coach Mike Tice hasn’t excelled as a big game coach, either. On the other hand, perhaps Moss and his nutty antics hurt the team and they will be a more cohesive unit. Still, the division is no longer easy, with the improving Lions and Bears, and Green Bay welcoming back Brett Favre for another season. A tough call, but I lean toward the under with what has been an unpredictable team that last few seasons.

Cowboys: So which Bill Parcells’ team will show up, the overachieving playoff unit of 2003, or the flops of 2004? The bottom line is: Don’t count Parcells out -- ever. He has a long history of having the occasional bad season, followed by a very good one. In 1995 his Patriots flopped to 5-11, only to reach the Super Bowl the next year. He took a 1-15 Jets team to the AFC title game in just two seasons. The over/under for Dallas victories is 8. I lean over that number, because Parcells upgraded the defense through the draft, switched to a 3-4, and the offense has a very different look. Gone is AARP member Vinny Testaverde, and in is Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe’s best days are behind him, for sure, but he’s still a significant upgrade over the INT-prone Vinny. And Dallas has a terrific young RB in Julius Jones, along with veteran WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn. Playing the Redskins and Giants twice, along with the 49ers, Raiders, Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions and Rams won’t hurt, either. So taking the over 8 wins doesn’t look that difficult. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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