Each year, before the NFL season kicks off, I go through the forecasted win totals for each team and try to find numbers that don't fit with my season projections.
The analysis considers talent, first and foremost, but also schedules, injuries and historical comparisons.
In many of these cases, there is already a lot of momentum going against some teams and the odds reflect as much, with four of the six teams requiring more than a $200 wager to win $100 on the season win total. That shows how dramatically some teams' fortunes can change over the course of the offseason.
(Side note: In addition to all my fantasy football participation, I have agreed to join a handicapping contest with WagerMinds, so I'll share my five picks of the week in my blog throughout the season.)
Here, then, are half a dozen totals for this season that seem off the mark, at least a couple of which are already beyond the point of providing value.
(Lines taken from www.bet365.com)
HOUSTON OVER 10 WINS
Being in a division that is full of rebuilding teams helps. Having QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson healthy helps. Non-divisional games against the AFC East probably helps too. While it's possible that the Texans could lose seven games, and last year's 10 wins was a franchise record, a lot would have to go wrong for them to finish with fewer than 10 wins this season and if things break right for them, the Texans could be Super Bowl contenders. The odds have tilted heavily in their favour (-220 on the over).
NEW ORLEANS OVER 9.5 WINS
Even before the Saints got their defensive suspensions overturned, I had high expectations, ranking them fourth in the Power Rankings. Maybe they will miss head coach Sean Payton. Maybe there will be enough problems on defence that they fall under 10 wins for the first time since 2008 (after winning 37 games the last three seasons), but I'm inclined to think that the Saints will still be able to score with the best and can at least continue their streak of double-digit winning seasons.
SEATTLE OVER 7 WINS
Maybe a tad optimistic for a team starting a rookie quarterback, drafted in the third round, but playing in the NFC West, with a strong defence and the upside that Russell Wilson (the aforementioned quarterback) brings to the table makes it conceivable that the Seahawks could finish with a winning record, or maybe not with a losing record -- that would be enough. After four straight seasons under .500, the Seahawks have back-to-back seven-win seasons under Pete Carroll and only need to show the slightest improvement to beat the number this year. The odds have gone heavily in Seattle's favour (-260).
ARIZONA UNDER 7 WINS
Given the Cardinals' trouble at quarterback, it's no surprise that the line has shifted heavily in favour of the under (-210), but it's justified. Even if San Francisco can't duplicate their 2011 season, Seattle is a solid team and St. Louis has to be better, while non-divisional games against New England, Philadelphia, Atlanta and the NFC North certainly appear problematic. If Arizona manages a 3-3 record against their divisional opponents -- and that may be charitable -- they still have to go 5-5 over their other 10 games to go over. Though the Cardinals have at least eight wins in four of the last five seasons, three of those seasons had Kurt Warner at quarterback. With John Skelton and Kevin Kolb manning the controls, they could be a five-win team.
KANSAS CITY UNDER 8 WINS
There are reasons to be hopeful for the Chiefs this year. As the season starts fresh, they have a healthy Jamaal Charles and newcomer Peyton Hillis running the ball (adding right tackle Eric Winston should help in that regard too). Tight end Tony Moeaki and free safety Eric Berry return from injuries that derailed their 2011 seasons too, but they are still quarterbacked by Matt Cassel and their schedule is challenging enough. None of San Diego, Denver or Oakland appears to be a powerhouse, but none of them are gift-wrapped wins either, so going 3-3 in the division may even be optimistic. Add in the NFC South (Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay), Baltimore and Cincinnati and suddenly it starts looking difficult to finish on the right side of .500 by season's end and they have been under .500 in four of the last five seasons. The Chiefs look like a team that could have five wins as easily as a nine wins.
MIAMI UNDER 7.5 WINS
The Dolphins' disastrous offseason leaves them with rookie Ryan Tannehill at quarterback with his top two targets slated to be Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee. If running back Reggie Bush can't duplicate his breakout 2011 season -- or simply stay healthy -- it could be tough to move the ball consistently, let alone win games and they have won seven games or fewer in five of the last six seasons. With non-divisional games at Houston, Cincinnati and San Francisco, the Dolphins will need to make hay in two games against the Jets and Bills as well as matchups against the Jaguars and Rams. Given the talent on this roster, a break-even record is highly unlikely and the now-heavily-slanted line (-350 on the under) indicates as much.