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Analyzing NFL Win Totals

   by Bryan Leonard - 07/07/2006

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 Ravens were projected over/under 10 wins. I wrote, “Ten is a lot of wins. Baltimore was 9-7 in 2004. So what has this team done to improve? You need a balanced football team to go at least 10-6 with a shot at the playoffs and this is still a terrible offense.

“RB Jamal Lewis’s production dropped significantly last season because of injuries and off-field problems. And this passing offense is anemic, with young QB Kyle Boller unable to put up even average numbers, partly because of no speed at wideout to throw to. This team averaged 12 points per game on the road with the worst passing game in pro football (144 yards per game). In a division with the mighty Steelers and the up and coming Bengals, 10 wins is too much for this team.â€쳌 In 2005 the Ravens finished 6-10. Let’s take a quick peak at some of the numbers for the upcoming season and see if there is some betting value.

Cowboys over/under 9 wins: Bill Parcells rebuilt the defense a year ago (12th in the NFL), and he’s fine-tuned this veteran offense for 2006. The offensive line was poor, so Dallas adds versatile Kyle Kosier and signed 6-foot-7, 304-pound offensive tackle Jason Fabini to a three-year contract, a potentially key addition. The schedule is a bit easier, with games against Tennessee, Houston, Arizona, New Orleans and Detroit.

RB Julius Jones anchors the ground game, while veteran QB Drew Bledsoe will throw to old pal Terry Glenn and….newcomer Terrell Owens! Owens, like departed Keyshawn Johnson, is often good for one season before problems arise. Dallas appears to be a balanced, veteran team that could top 9 wins. Now what’s the over/under on Parcells/Owens confrontations?

Ravens over/under 7.5 wins: Baltimore has been all defense, little offense the last six years, and that even includes their Super Bowl championship team of 2000. QB Kyle Boller played well in the final three games of last season as the offense averaged 31 points. They bring in veteran QB Steve McNair, too, there is still little breakout speed at wideout.

Brian Billick’s team is 34-14 SU, 29-18-3 ATS at home since 2000 (12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS the last two seasons at home, but 0-8 SU, 2-6 ATS on the road last season. Check out their road schedule for 2006: at Tampa Bay, at Cleveland, at Denver, at New Orleans, at Tennessee at Cincinnati, at Kansas City and at Pittsburgh. The Browns and Saints appear improved this offseason, so this is a tough road schedule. Throw in home games against Carolina, Cincy, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and reaching 8 wins is going to be a challenge.

Bills over/under 7 wins: The late push to nearly make the playoffs in 2004 was a mirage. The Bills have gone 31-49 since 2001, tied with Cleveland for the third worst record in the NFL over that span. And they looked lost for 2006. New coach Dick Jauron steps in after a less than remarkable run with the Bears a few years ago. There is no good QB play, with J.P. Losman and Kelly Holcomb battling for the job. They let a lot of talent walk, losing WR Eric Moulds, S Lawyer Milloy and NT Sam Adams (cap casualties).

One of the biggest surprises of the 2006 draft was when the Bills selected Ohio State safety Donte Whitner with the No. 8 pick. Buffalo surprised again by taking N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo, who wasn't expected to go that high. The secondary adds rookies Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty and South Carolina safety Ko Simpson. This secondary will be very young, and the defense couldn't stop the run last season (29th) and doesn't look any better. In a division with Miami and New England, under 7 wins is more likely.

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