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NFL Futures Predictions, Part 1

   by Al McMordie - 07/16/2006

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. A year ago in this column I gave out seven teams to look at and went 4-2-1 on over/unders. The lone push was on the Vikings as I wrote, “The over/under is 9 and this is a tough call.â€쳌 They ended up winning 9, and I nailed the over with the Bengals, Chargers, Steelers and Cowboys.

For 2006 the Steelers, Seahawks and Colts are both tops with 11.5 projected wins, while the team that has won three of the last five Super Bowls, the Patriots, are over/under 10 along with Denver. Scheduling and division play have plenty to do with it, too, as the Seahawks are in a far weaker division than the Steelers and Patriots. All of these factors come into play when assessing futures, in addition to offseason changes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at changes that took place with certain teams and how that might influence their status for the current over/unders.

Eagles (8 wins): All teams that have great runs see that run come to an end. Are the Eagles there? After four straight trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl appearance, Philly flat-lined in 2005 with a 6-10 SU, 5-11 ATS season of injuries and chaos. The return of healthy star QB Donovan McNabb is the biggest concern.

While getting rid of problem child Terrell Owens improves chemistry, the passing game is average with newcomer WR Jabar Gaffney, age 25, and young WR Reggie Brown. This has been a team without much of a running game even in its good seasons. Defensively, the Eagles ranked 23rd in the league and ranked 21st against the run, allowing 4 yards per carry. Despite a 2-6 SU/ATS road mark in 2005, Philadelphia is an amazing 28-14 SU, 26-16 ATS on the road the last 5 years. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of upgrades, and the competition is tough in a division with the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys. Prediction: Under 8 wins.

Chargers (8.5 wins): I had the Chargers over 8 projected wins a year ago, but I have to go under the 8.5 for 2006. We can all agree that quarterback is the most important position on the gridiron. San Diego has gotten brilliant QB play from Drew Brees the last two seasons, but he is gone, off to New Orleans. So the Phillip Rivers era begins. Rivers only passed for 115 yards with no TDs and one pick last season. He is not ready for the NFL, even though he is surrounded by some outstanding skill position talent. Still, the pass defense is very poor and conservative coach Marty Schottenheimer is still in charge. A team with a kid QB should struggle (just ask the Bills and J.P. Losman last year). San Diego is 10-6 SU, 12-2-2 ATS on the road the last two seasons, numbers which won’t continue. Prediction: Under 8.5 wins.

Bills (7 wins): So Buffalo was 5-11 last season and its projected win total for 2006 is seven. What did they do this offseason to warrant an improvement of 2-3 more wins? I don’t see it. Dick Jauron is the new head coach, and he didn't impress me with the Bears or when he served as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator the last two years. Forget about that 2001 Coach of the Year award he won with Chicago – his Bears team was outcoached in the first round of the playoffs, a home loss as a favorite to Philly. And how did Bill Belichick NOT win it in 2001, anyway?

Jauron's 2006 Bills team has a QB battle with Losman and Kelly Holcomb, neither of whom excite Buffalo fans. The passing offense ranked 29th in 2005. Ace WR Eric Moulds was unhappy and left, along with several other key players. The defense couldn’t stop the run and they made some strange picks in the draft. Buffalo packed it in on the road allowing 28 ppg, where they went 1-7 SU, 3-5 ATS. Buffalo is 18-9 over the total its last 27 games and looks like a bad team stuck in a division with the Patriots and Dolphins. Prediction: Under 7 wins. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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