While THE WIFE marvels at how many foods pop up with a pumpkin spice flavor, the sports lovers of the world focus on the triumphant return of the National Football League.
What better way to celebrate football’s return than to outline a 2017 NFL Preview with a Vegas twist?
OK, there are probably a million better ways, but humor me for a few minutes, won’t you?
The SportsChump – a longtime friend and Buccaneer apologist – is back with his 7th Annual Over-Under Contest, challenging his readers to predict the upcoming regular season win totals of NFL teams, specifically extracting a top ten and assigning confidence points to each.
Before I present my pigskin prognostication, let’s first provide the full list of over-unders, which promise to be Vegas-centric, yet free of any Showtime PPV delays:
Team – 2017 O/U
Arizona Cardinals – 8
Atlanta Falcons – 9 ½
Baltimore Ravens – 8 ½
Buffalo Bills – 6 ½
Carolina Panthers – 9
Chicago Bears – 5 ½
Cincinnati Bengals – 8 ½
Cleveland Browns – 4 ½
Dallas Cowboys – 9 ½
Denver Broncos – 8 ½
Detroit Lions – 7 ½
Green Bay Packers – 10 ½
Houston Texans – 8 ½
Indianapolis Colts – 9
Jacksonville Jaguars – 6 ½
Kansas City Chiefs – 9
Los Angeles Chargers – 7 ½
Los Angeles Rams – 5 ½
Miami Dolphins – 7 ½
Minnesota Vikings – 8 ½
New England Patriots – 12 ½
New Orleans Saints – 8
Oakland Raiders – 9 ½
New York Giants – 8 ½
New York Jets – 4 ½
Philadelphia Eagles – 8
Pittsburgh Steelers – 10 ½
San Francisco 49ers – 4 ½
Seattle Seahawks – 10 ½
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8
Tennessee Titans – 8 ½
Washington Redskins – 7 ½
To piggyback off the Chump’s contest, here’s the TWHS heapin’ helpin’ of NFL season predictions (in order by confidence):
2017 NFL Preview: Team Over/Under Predictions
10. New York Jets – (4 1/2 wins – UNDER)
With rookies on pass defense and a quarterback trio that includes Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, the Jets are a popular pick to post the league’s worst record. Let’s not forget two games on the schedule against New England and a quartet of match-ups versus the AFC West, which is sure to urge some prognosticators to already put the Jets on the clock. Oh, and Matt Forte is available via trade, too. Do I hear Sam Darnold, anyone?
9. Chicago Bears – (5 1/2 wins – UNDER)
It all starts with the quarterback position, where the Bears spent $45 million on Mike Glennon (over three years) and traded away a boatload of picks to draft Mitch Trubisky. As for who to throw to, well, Alshon Jeffery is with the Eagles and Cam Meredith suffered a significant injury during the preseason, leaving the injury prone and unproven Kevin White as the team’s likely top receiver. That leaves opponents to likely stack the box against Jordan Howard, forcing Glennon or Trubisky to beat them. Throw in four games against Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers and it’s likely to be a long season in the Windy City.
8. Cleveland Browns – (4 1/2 wins – UNDER)
The Browns get to face the Jets, Bears and Jags, which is one reason why Cleveland doesn’t crack the top of this list. Still, this is the same Browns team that recently lost corner Joe Haden to the rival Steelers. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer (51% completion during the preseason) will start the season under center and is likely to hit numerous bumps in the road. As a side note, it’ll be interesting to see how Myles Garrett performs during his rookie campaign.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers – (10 1/2 wins – OVER)
The offense featuring Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell will cause headaches for opposing defenses. The defense also added the recently cut Joe Haden, which will be a significant boost to the secondary. On top of that, Pittsburgh’s schedule is fairly forgiving, with the toughest challenges being at Kansas City on October 15th and home against the Patriots on December 17th. If the Steelers can stay healthy, a first round bye is a good bet.
6. Green Bay Packers – (10 1/2 wins – OVER)
Aaron Rodgers has a healthy offense surrounding him, with countless weapons in the passing game. Ty Montgomery showed some flashes in the run game and is likely to keep Green Bay from being too one-dimensional. As it was last year, the defense will not be the best unit in the league, but likely good enough to prevent opponents from outscoring Rodgers and the explosive offense. Expect another deep playoff run for the Pack.
5. Oakland Raiders – (9 1/2 wins – OVER)
The hopes of the 2016 Raiders were dashed after Derek Carr went down with a broken leg. A healthy Carr is ready to return, with Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement and prepared to anchor Oakland’s run game. The defense has some key playmakers like Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, but like Green Bay, won’t be a group that will shut down too many offenses. The key will be whether opponents can outscore Oakland’s explosive offense. More often than not, that answer will be an emphatic “No”.
4. New York Giants – (8 1/2 wins – OVER)
Last year’s Giants were painfully one-dimensional offensively, with an anemic run game that could rarely get anything going. The 2017 Giants added WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, two more weapons for Eli Manning and the pass game. The defense will be solid again, returning a number of key players from last year’s team that won 11 games. Sure, the schedule will be very difficult and the NFC East is sure to be a tight battle, but another winning season seems like a very good bet for the G-Men.
3. Arizona Cardinals – (8 wins – OVER)
I was all in on the 2016 Cardinals, referring to them as a “complete team”. After a slew of injuries on both sides of the football, it’s safe to say that Arizona was the most disappointing team in the NFL last season. On offense, the Cards again feature Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. Defensively, key starters include Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Karlos Dansby. With a roster this balanced, it’s hard to imagine a second sub-par season in the desert.
2. New England Patriots – (12 1/2 wins – OVER)
With Belichick and the Pats, it’s always the next man up. Julian Edelman will be a huge loss, but plain and simple, there are just too many weapons at Tom Brady’s disposal. Many prognosticators have hinted at another perfect regular season for the Pats. While that’s unlikely – especially with the loss of Edelman – this is sure to be another high-flying Patriots team, especially in a weak division that features the Jets and Bills.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – (8 wins – OVER)
This is the breakout opportunity for Jameis Winston, who has new weapons at his disposal. During the offseason, the Bucs added speedy DeSean Jackson to stretch out the field, while drafting the freakishly talented TE OJ Howard. Meanwhile, the defensive front featuring William Gholston, Gerald McCoy, Chris Baker and Robert Ayers is sure to cause fits for opposing quarterbacks. The division will be competitive, but this sure looks like a playoff team.
Agree to disagree? OK, who ya got?