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Analyzing NFL Win Totals

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/12/2011

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. Three years ago in this column, the Steelers were projected over/under 9 wins. I wrote, "The Steelers won the title in 2005 and made the playoffs in 2007 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). 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." The Steelers were a powerhouse, going 12-4 in the regular season, capped off by another Super Bowl title.
A year ago in this column I was not crazy about the 49ers, projecting under 9 wins: “San Francisco improved to 8-8 in 2009, though they didn't improve stat-wise much, ranked 15th in total defense, 27th in offense. They lost to banged up Seattle, got blown out by Atlanta (45-10) and had a win over the Bears, 10-6, that felt like a loss as they played a miserable game.
QB Alex Smith moving more to the shotgun was a good move, though his numbers (18 TDs, 12 INTs) don't inspire great confidence. Neither does adding WR Tedd Ginn from the Dolphins, a first-round reach/bust. This secondary is still below average and the schedule is tough, with road games at Atlanta, Carolina, Arizona, Green Bay and San Diego, plus getting the Saints, Broncos and Eagles at home. Under 9 wins is more likely.” Let's take a peek at some of the numbers for the upcoming season and see if there is some betting value.

Texans over/under wins: Houston has been stockpiling high draft picks the last few years and finally took a major step forward in 2009, winning 9 games with a winning record (5-3) on the road. Last year was a step back, going 6-10 losing a string of close games. They finished 4th in the NFL in offense, last in total defense.
QB Matt Schaub keeps getting better, along with star WR Andre Johnson. The offense will be fine, and the defense loaded up with new talent, using their first 5 draft picks on defensive players, including DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) with the 11th overall pick. The schedule finds 4 games against the Jaguars and Titans, plus the Raiders, Browns, Bucs, Bengals and Panthers. Over 8 wins.

Dolphins over/under 7½ wins: QB Chad Henne has already been booed in practice! In a division with powerhouse teams like the Jets and Patriots it’s going to be hard to find wins, plus games at Dallas, at the NY Giants, at the Chiefs and at San Diego. In fact, 5 of their first 8 games are on the road, and the home games are against the Pats, Texans and Broncos. Anything around a 1-7 start is a tough hole to climb out of to get 8 wins or more. Under 7½ wins.

Jaguars over/under 6½ wins: Jacksonville has won 5, 7 and 8 games the last three years. After letting Marcus Stroud walk in 2009, the usually reliable Jaguar defense slipped to 23rd last fall, while the offense was 18th. They tried to upgrade the defense in the draft, but reached everywhere, particularly grabbing Cal DE Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick. And didn’t work, finishing 28th in passing yards allowed and 22nd against the run.
And does this QB rotation give you confidence: 33-year old David Garrard (23 TDs, 15 INTs), rookie Blain Gabbert and Luke McCown? The schedule is difficult, opening with the Saints, Jets, Steelers, Chargers and Falcons, plus the passing attacks of the Colts and Texans twice. It’s difficult to figure where those 7 wins will come from. Under 6½ wins.

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