The NFL Draft is over, which means we head into the doldrums of the NFL offseason. Every year in the first two weeks of May, I embark upon a dangerous mission: looking at the win totals for every NFL team and deciding whether or not each team will win more or less games than Vegas predicts. Guessing in May as to who will end up with a certain number of wins come January isn't easy. And things can go south quickly -- two years ago I went a very disappointing 14-17-1 overall. Last year was much more promising, however, as I finished 18-12-2 across the board. I will take that all day and run with it.
We're going to look at two divisions per day over the next few days. If you hate any picks, love any picks or have better ideas, leave them in the comments or yell at me on Twitter @WillBrinson. Some notes:
1) Any best bets are noted by (***) and the words BEST BET in large letters.
2) Lines are courtesy of Sportsbook.ag. The numbers next to the win total indicate the juice. If an over is +150, it means you make $150 for betting $100. If it's -150 you need to bet $150 just to win $100
3) Look for these to drop in this order:
Monday, May 15 - AFC North
Tuesday, May 16 - AFC South
Tuesday, May 16 - AFC West
10.5 Over (-115) / Under (-115)
The 2016 Steelers season is fascinating, because it's largely considered a disappointment but the Steelers were just a game away from the Super Bowl. That game just happened to be a blowout loss to the Patriots, which . The Steelers enter 2017 with high expectations and there's good reason: This offense should be loaded again. Ben Roethlisberger didn't retire and Martavis Bryant will be returning to help out Antonio Brown. Le'Veon Bell was the best running back in the game for the second half of last season. The defense added a couple more talented young pieces in T.J. Watt and Cameron Sutton after other young guys like Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier flashed last season. This is a complete team capable of making a run to the Super Bowl again.
This is a great schedule for the Steelers. They open up against the Browns on the road before playing the Vikings at home. A road trip against the Bears is in Week 3, followed by a road game against the Ravens and a home game against the Jaguars. That's an unlikely, but potential, 5-0 start. The Steelers' bye is in Week 9 -- they only have to leave Pittsburgh three times after Halloween.
9.0 Over (-110) / Under (-120)
The past two years have been a tremendous disappointment for the Ravens. Winning just 13 games is not up to snuff for John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome. The good news is Baltimore addressed at least one of its major problems in the draft by investing heavily on the defensive side of the ball. Marlon Humphrey, Tyus Bowser and Chris Wormley are all impact guys who could end up seeing some pretty decent playing time this season. But there are a lot of questions about this offense. Danny Woodhead is a good addition, but the running game with Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West might need a kickstart. The receivers are a big red flag, with Steve Smith's retirement leaving just Mike Wallace (long in the tooth), Breshad Perriman (unproven former first-round pick) and Michael Campanero as the primary weapons. If everything clicks those guys could be dangerous but they'll need Dennis Pitta,Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams and Crockett Gilmore to help out if not. This offense just doesn't feel explosive enough.
Expect the Ravens to jump out to another hot start. A road game against the Bengals opens up the season, followed by a home matchup against the Browns and a road trip to Jacksonville. The Ravens also have home games against the Bears and Dolphins before their Week 10 bye. If everything breaks right there are 10 wins on this schedule. I think it ends up being a push.
8.5 Over (-115) / Under (-115)
The Bengals made finding another weapon for Andy Dalton a priority in the draft, snatching John Ross with the No. 9 pick and selecting the controversial Joe Mixon with their second-round pick. Ross is an excellent complement to A.J. Green and should provide an immediate impact weapon down the field. Mixon, from a strict football perspective, could be a game-changer and, quite honestly, a sleeper to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. The real question on the offense, assuming Tyler Eifert is healthy, is how the offensive line looks in 2017. After losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler in free agency, the Bengals need Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, early-round picks in 2015, to step in and be starter-quality players. Defensively this squad is still pretty strong and should be able to produce a unit that approaches the top half of the league again.
There is an opportunity for a hot start here, with the Ravens and Texans at home out of the gate. The Packers on the road is tough but it's followed by a trip to Cleveland and a home game against the Bills before the Week 6 bye. A 4-1 start is possible. After the bye is tough -- the Bengals have the Steelers on the road and the Colts at home before a three-game road trip against the Jaguars, Titans and Broncos. At least that's followed by a three-game stretch at home against the Browns, Steelers and Bears. Feels like a bounce-back opportunity.
4.5 Over (Even) / Under (-130)
The Browns have been crushing the under on their totals for a while, several years in a row. And once again this is a not-great team with a questionable quarterback situation. Adding DeShone Kizer in the draft to a room with Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan makes for an interesting group but it doesn't mean they'll be any good. The upshot is they added David Njoku, who is already drawing rave reviews, and should get a full season out of Corey Coleman. They really improved the offensive line in the offseason, adding Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter. Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers should make the defense more dynamic. Between Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib they can actually get after the passer. There are starting to be some play-makers on the back end too.
The problem is it's just tough to see five wins on this schedule. They can beat the Jets at home. They could steal one from the Bengals and/or Ravens. The Jaguars at home is a very winnable game. They could beat the Bears on the road. They beat the Chargers last year! But all of that has to happen for Cleveland to hit the over. Maybe next year.