Football is back.  Naturally, it’s time for a 2014 NFL Preview at The Wife Hates Sports.

To celebrate the return of the NFL, a ton of people will hit Vegas to tackle a number of different bets, with the over-under (O/U) being one of the most common and popular options.

The SportsChump, a longtime friend of mine (and of The Wife Hates Sports), has once again kicked off his NFL Over/Under Contest, asking readers to predict season win totals of teams, specifically extracting a top ten, and assigning confidence points to each.

Here are the Vegas O/U values for each team heading into the 2014 season:

TEAM 2014 O/U
Arizona Cardinals 7 ½
Atlanta Falcons 8 ½
Baltimore Ravens 8 ½
Buffalo Bills 6 ½
Carolina Panthers 8 ½
Chicago Bears 8 ½
Cincinnati Bengals 9
Cleveland Browns 6 ½
Dallas Cowboys 8
Denver Broncos 11 ½
Detroit Lions 8 ½
Green Bay Packers 10 ½
Houston Texans 7 ½
Indianapolis Colts 9 ½
Jacksonville Jaguars 5
Kansas City Chiefs 8 ½
Miami Dolphins 8
Minnesota Vikings 6
New England Patriots 10 ½
New Orleans Saints 9 ½
New York Giants 8
New York Jets 7
Oakland Raiders 4 ½
Philadelphia Eagles 9
Pittsburgh Steelers 8 ½
San Diego Chargers 8
San Francisco 49ers 10 ½
St. Louis Rams 7 ½
Seattle Seahawks 11
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
Tennessee Titans 7
Washington Redskins 7 ½

To piggyback off the Chump’s contest, and add as a mini 2014 NFL Preview, here are my picks (in order of confidence):

Tom Brady and the Patriots are the AFC East favorites

Expect Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to celebrate a lot this season

KP’s 2014 NFL Preview: O/U Win Totals by Confidence

10. New England Patriots – (10 ½ wins – OVER)

Darrelle Revis adds a major boost to New England’s secondary, and the return of Vince Wilfork will further solidify the Patriots in the trenches.  The younger receivers have had a year to get on the same page with Tom Brady, and a few veteran receivers have joined the mix, too.  Combine that with a weaker division and it looks like a sure thing that New England will cruise to another AFC East title.  If Brady and other key pieces remain healthy, eleven wins is a no-brainer.

9. Cleveland Browns – (6 ½ wins – UNDER)

Johnny Manziel is looking more and more like a future NFL bust.  His immaturity is really showing, and playing in a much faster league, his feet can’t save him like they did in college.  Brian Hoyer was terrible during the preseason, yet won the starting job.  Toss in the fact that Josh Gordon – the team’s biggest offensive weapon – is out for the year, and the Browns are really in trouble.  Playing in a division with three playoff contenders, this could be a long year for Cleveland.  Hey Ohio, at least you have LeBron back – and you’re gonna need him.

8. New Orleans Saints – (9 ½ wins – OVER)

Drew Brees has thrown for over 5,000 yards in each of the last three seasons, and there’s no reason to believe that the New Orleans offense will slow down this season.  Offense aside, the Saints also had a top five defense last season, allowing 305.7 yards per game (4th best in the NFL).  With a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, predicting the Saints to win ten games is a no-brainer.  If not for such a difficult schedule, New Orleans could have easily been ranked at the top of this list.

7. St. Louis Rams – (7 ½ wins – UNDER)

The Rams lost Sam Bradford for the year, and will rely on Shaun Hill at the quarterback position.  Hill will be running an offense that was 30th in the league last season.  On top of that, the Rams’ schedule is rather brutal, not only facing divisional foes in the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals, but also teams like the Broncos, Eagles and Chargers.  Sure, the St. Louis defense is solid, with 53 sacks in 2013 (3rd most in the league), but the defense can only take this team so far, especially with so many powerful offenses showing up on the schedule.  Another losing season seems likely.

6. Denver Broncos – (11 ½ wins – OVER)

Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning and Peyton Manning – that’s the primary reason to expect regular season greatness from the Broncos.  Wes Welker is suspended for the first four games, but Manning still has plenty of weapons to throw to, including Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  On defense, Denver signed three major pieces in Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J  Ward.  With that kind of talent, it’s hard not to expect big things from the Broncos.

5. Green Bay Packers – (10 ½ wins – OVER)

Game one against the Seahawks was a rough one for Green Bay, not only because of the lopsided 20-point loss, but also due to injuries to both Bryan Bulaga and Eddie Lacy.  Still, these Packers are jam-packed with talent, and with Aaron Rodgers healthy, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism, despite the team’s disappointing loss in Seattle on the opening night of the season.  There may be some shootouts in the division, what with the powerful offenses in both Chicago and Detroit, but eleven wins is certainly a good possibility.  I submitted this (and the other picks) prior to Thursday’s game, and I’m sticking with Green Bay here.  Way too much talent.

4. Dallas Cowboys – (8 wins – UNDER)

The Cowboys’ defense was atrocious last season, allowing a league-high 415.3 yards per game.  This year’s unit is without Sean Lee (injury), DeMarcus Ware (Broncos) and Jason Hatcher (Redskins).  Other players will need to step up, or it could be an even uglier year defensively.  On offense, Dallas has plenty of firepower with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray.  But how often can a team win shootouts, especially with a guy like Romo that is prone to the late-game interception?  Gutsy pick, yes, but I see the Cowboys closer to 7-9, than to a division title.

3. Indianapolis Colts – (9 ½ wins – OVER)

Andrew Luck has plenty of weapons to throw to, with Hakeem Nicks joining the team and Reggie Wayne returning (and healthy).  T.Y. Hilton is there to stretch the field, and Coby Fleener is another key body to target.  Indy’s run game is a major question mark, and the defense is far from perfect.  Still, the Colts play in a weaker division, presenting them with six very winnable games.  Luck is also a proven winner, and therefore, ten victories (and the playoffs) should be in reach.

2. Baltimore Ravens – (8 ½ wins – OVER)

Baltimore’s defense was the question mark heading into last season, but the group held its own.  It was instead the offense that struggled, finishing 29th in the NFL in yards per game.  The Ravens addressed the offensive needs during the offseason by hiring Gary Kubiak and inking Steve Smith.  The AFC North division looks to be a three team race between the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens.  Baltimore’s moves have focused on its clear needs, and a bounce back winning season seems like a good bet.  But because of the division’s strength, I’m listing the Ravens as a lower confidence grade.

1. San Diego Chargers – (8 wins – UNDER)

San Diego’s offense finished in the top five last season, and the passing game – led by Philip Rivers – finished fourth in the NFL.  Keenan Allen could put up even better numbers this season and Malcolm Floyd will return to the starting lineup, too.  This is a very talented bunch, and looks very much like a playoff team.  To reach the AFC playoffs, teams will likely need a winning record.  I’m therefore taking the over on San Diego, expecting a big season from Rivers and the pass game.

That’s my ten and my 2014 NFL Preview.

Which team(s) do you feel should you be considered a sure thing?

Add your picks here, or at the Chump’s site (or both) – and then kick your feet up, grab a beer and enjoy the return of pro football!