"You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything
without losing your temper or self-confidence." - Robert Frost

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012 AFC Predictions

AFC EAST (vs. AFC South and NFC West)

New England Patriots 11-13 wins
Over 12 (-120)  Under 12 (-110)
Over 12 (-115)  Under 12 (-115)

I’ll stick right with Vegas on this one and think the Patriots grab another 12 win season and the AFC East title for the 9th time in the last ten seasons.  The Patriots year will again hinge on a questionable pass defense (particularly at critical points in the game) and how the offense handles the occasional aggressive press-man defense that can get to Brady.

Buffalo Bills 7-9 wins
Over 7½ (-165)  Under 7½ (+135)
Over 8 (-105)  Under 8 (-125)

Buffalo might not be a bad play on the over this season depending on how you feel about the Jets.  With the questionable NFC West and AFC South on the schedule, if the Jets falter there are opportunities for both Buffalo and/or Miami to surprise and exceed expectations.  Buffalo made a splash in free agency getting Mario Williams and now have as talented a defensive line as any in football.  The secondary will have to be opportunistic and Fitzpatrick avoid the midseason slump he had a year ago for Buffalo to get above .500 and threaten the playoffs.  They also have to stick together through a rough first half schedule and then make their run on an extremely easy last 7 games (MIA, @IND, JAX, STL, SEA, @MIA, NYJ).

New York Jets  6-8 wins
Over 8½ (-135)  Under 8½ (+105)
Over 8½ (-150)  Under 8½ (+120)

I like the under bet on the Jets this season and think the pressure cooker of New York, Sanchez, Tebow, Holmes and Ryan is just too much to overcome.  How the Jets stack up in the division could be decided early with a home contest vs. Buffalo and a road game at Miami sandwiched around a tough road game at Pittsburgh.  The Jets could easily lose all three of those games if not prepared and that could derail the entire season.

Miami Dolphins 5-7 wins
Over 7½ (+160)  Under 7½ (-200)
Over 7 (+105)  Under 7 (-135)

While the betting odds are terrible, going the under seems a no brainer to me even with the favorable schedule.  I really question where the threats are for this team on offense and any struggles early could mean quarterback changes and a disruptive season.  While I do think the defense is extremely talented, it will be a tough task for them to carry the team with a likely turnover prone quarterback situation.

AFC NORTH (vs. AFC West and NFC East)

Pittsburgh Steelers  10-12 wins
Over 10 (-110)  Under 10 (-120)
Over 10 (-115)  Under 10 (-115)

Vegas has handicapped the Steelers dead on 10 wins, while I am a bit more optimistic and see them as a very solid 11 win team this year.  I like the changes so far this off-season and if not for the contract stalemate with Mike Wallace would be even more bullish about their 2012 season outcome.  When you gamble on the Steelers however, you are gambling on health.  If Roethlisberger stays reasonably healthy and the Steelers defense keeps the big three of Harrison, Woodley and Polamalu on the field (something they had only the first 4 games last year), then there is no way this team is a 9 win or worse team.  Sweeping their prime time games (@DEN, @TEN, @CIN, KC and BAL) is doable and will put the Steelers as strong, national AFC favorites.

Baltimore Ravens  9-11 wins
Over 10 (-105)  Under (-125)
Over 10 (+100)  Under 10 (-130)

I don’t like the Ravens to repeat as a 12 win team and think they have a better chance or disappointing this season than most.  The loss of Terrell Suggs takes a lot away from this defense in my opinion and I’m not convinced the young talent behind him is capable of being even half the disruptive force he was on the weak side.  Suggs’ huge impact in the Steelers matchups alone can’t be overlooked since those games decide the division.

Cincinnati Bengals  6-8 wins
Over 8½ (+160)  Under 8½ (-200)
Over 8 (-120)  Under 8 (-110)

Another tempting bet ruined by the bad vigorish.  The Bengals will greatly struggle this season with the rise of competition level.  While they have a lot to be optimistic about moving forward and are finally home growing a talented group of players, this offense is not ready for the gauntlet of the NFC East and Pittsburgh/Baltimore twice.  Unless either Baltimore or Pittsburgh falls off the map due to injury, Cincinnati will again be the bridesmaid.  If Dalton has any sophomore slump as defenses adjust to him, the Bengals will struggle to improve last season’s 1.66 points per possession (20th) and 64.2% drive success rate (24th).

Cleveland Browns  3-5 wins
Over 5½ (+120)  Under 5½ (-150)
Over 5 (-130)  Under 5 (+100)

It is possible Cleveland will be underdogs in all 16 games this season.  With new ownership watching over the shoulder of Holmgren on down, this could be a season that instigates another cyclical change of power.  Much of the Browns season will hinge on their early matchups with Ohio rival, Cincinnati.  If they can exceed expectations and split those contests, maybe they can find a win or two elsewhere on the schedule.  This is one of the most solid under bets in the sportsbook right now.

AFC SOUTH (vs. AFC East and NFC North)

Houston Texans  8-11 wins
Over 10½ (-117)  Under 10½ (-113)
Over 10 (-130)  Under 10 (+100)

Houston looked like the AFC team to beat before Matt Schaub went down with an injury last November.  But there have been significant changes to the offensive line this offseason and losing Gregg Knapp as quarterbacks coach might not be insignificant.  It will be interesting how this team handles success and high expectations.  They were a statistical juggernaut in 2011 when Schaub was at the helm (top 7 offense, top 5 defense) and I question whether they can maintain that type of excellence again this season.

Tennessee Titans  6-8 wins
Over 7 (-150)  Under 7 (+120)
Over 7 (-150)  Under 7 (+120)

The Titans of 2011 were as average as any team could be and I see nothing to change that going forward into 2012.  Hasselbeck led a pretty anemic offense (1.65 points per possession) and the defense relied too much on fumble recoveries (4th) to bank on them to keep things close again.  This is a boring team and it’s only a matter of time before Locker gets his chance, likely at the cost of a few victories.

Indianapolis Colts 5-7 wins
Over 5½ (+180)  Under 5½ (-220)
Over 5 (-130)  Under 5 (+100)

 There are winnable games on this schedule (Vikings, Jacksonville, Browns, Titans, Bills and Dolphins at home) and it will come down to really how ready Andrew Luck is for primetime.  The Colts aren’t as bad as their 2-12 record suggests and think they can be a tough out at home when their still decent pass rush can cause teams problems.  The Colts time in the AFC South cellar is a lot shorter than some think.

Jacksonville Jaguars 4-6 wins
Over 5½ (+130)  Under 5½ (-160)
Over 5 (-130)  Under 5 (+100)

Unlike the Colts, Jacksonville’s schedule is stacked against them with most of the easier opponents on the road and an extremely tough home schedule (CIN, CHI, DET, NYJ and NE out of division).  They won’t be favored in any of those contests and that means a team with little heart to start with and questionable quarterback play has to find wins on the road.  I don’t see that happening and see a team primed for a top-5 pick.

AFC WEST (vs. AFC North and NFC South)

San Diego 9-11 wins
Over 9 (-125)  Under 9 (-105)
Over 9 (-115)  Under 9 (-115)

San Diego burned me last year picking them “over” but I’m going to continue to bet on the best offense and quarterback in the division and hope the league’s 28th ranked forced turnover defense corrects itself.  For all that went wrong with San Diego last year and them still ending up 8-8 seems to portend a nice bounce back season.  Early September road games against OAK and KC will determine how good San Diego’s season will be as they can establish a clear stranglehold on the division by their week 7 bye week (they play DEN at home week 6).

Denver Broncos 8-11 wins
Over 8½ (-165)  Under 8½ (+135)
Over 9 (-120)  Under 9 (-110)

A bet against Denver is a bet against the health of Peyton Manning.  With his neck recovery still “ongoing” it’s only reasonable to hinge the team’s entire success to that outcome.  On paper, Denver looks to have a chance at the division title.  But the ingredients could yield all sorts of results.  Hosting the Steelers opening week on Sunday night is a huge litmus test for their season.  I think the Steelers are out for revenge and if Manning falters could be the beginning of a lot more questions than answers.

Kansas City Chiefs 6-8 wins
Over 8 (-110)  Under 8 (-120)
Over 8 (-115)  Under 8 (-115)

I really like the under on Kansas City’s win total this season.  I don’t think this is a skilled team and I have no faith that Romeo Crennell is the answer or long term coaching solution.  Kansas City is blaming too much of their 2011 season on injuries for my liking and think their failures are more systemic than many think.

Oakland Raiders  5-7 wins
Over 7 (+105)  Under 7 (-135)
Over 7 (+100)  Under 7 (-130)

Oakland continues to go through changes in the wake of Al Davis’ passing.  Oakland was as bad as any defense in football last season and woefully inconsistent.  Combine that with an inconsistent and turnover prone offense and you get a recipe for a big setback from their 8-8 season a year ago.  Carson Palmer’s 16 interceptions in 10 games are bound to improve but Palmer still hasn’t shown any glimpse of his former pro bowl self.  With another new coaching staff this team could be headed towards more rebuilding in the near future.

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