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:
Tuesday, May 16 - AFC West
10 Over (-115) / Under (-115)
Last season the Raiders were one of my best bets to go over their total and that was a total laugher midway through the season. Oakland cruised to 12 wins and would've had a division title and a playoff win if Derek Carr hadn't gone down. There are many reasons to like the Raiders again this year. Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack are only getting better. The offensive line in Oakland remains loaded. Jared Cook should help make the offense more dangerous. Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to be the physical, bruising back that would be perfect behind that line. Early investments in the defense (Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu) could play early dividends.
This schedule is not fun, though. Three of four on the road to start, followed by home games against the Ravens, Chargers and Chiefs. Two road games before the bye give way to a home stretch against the Patriots, Broncos and Giants. The Chiefs on the road, the Cowboys at home and then Oakland finishes with the Eagles and Chargers on the road. That is a lot of landmines.
Kansas City Chiefs
9 Over (-120) / Under (-110)
Last year I made the mistake of doubting the Kansas City Chiefs. That was dumb. Andy Reid remains incredibly underrated as a coach, and the work he's done with John Dorsey has been incredible. The Chiefs are a consistent winner with a smart approach to keeping talent on the roster. Patrick Mahomes II was a luxury pick but one that could pay off huge dividends beginning in 2018 because Alex Smith is the starter of this team this coming year barring something going wrong.
This is a totally different group of weapons than what Reid had when he arrived. Jeremy Maclin hasn't had to be a true No. 1 wideout because Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce emerged last year. Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West and Kareem Hunt is a better running back group than you think and perfect for this offense. The defense isn't entirely flashy, but Justin Houston should be back to form this year, while Marcus Peters and Eric Berry on the back end is studly. Bennie Logan should be an upgrade over Dontari Poe. Tamba Hali and Dee Ford provide additional pass rushing help. Maybe the defense is flashier than I think. The Chiefs are just quiet about their business.
Looking at their schedule in a fairly conservative fashion and assuming that there isn't some major controversy that happens to this team (injury or quarterback battle), then you look at this schedule and see nine wins without things really breaking in their favor too heavily.
8.5 Over (-125) / Under (-105)
The hallmark of this team will continue to be the defense, which should continue to be exceptional in 2017. Von Miller is a DPOY candidate and the "No-Fly Zone" secondary of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart is just filthy. The loss of Wade Phillips shouldn't go unnoticed. Ultimately this is going to come down to the offensive line, and how well Garett Bolles and Ronald Leary can help improve the protection for whoever plays quarterback.
And that is the big question -- is it going to be Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian? If it's Siemian, then he's going to be learning an entirely new system from the one he was tailored to fit with Gary Kubiak. He was better than people thought, but that might be expecting too much. And it also means that Lynch couldn't beat him out, which is a huge red flag for Denver's season. If Lynch starts, we're going to get a very quick and very interesting referendum on the future of the position for Denver. The addition of Mike McCoy should be a big plus for the position.
A Week 5 bye is brutal, but at least the Broncos have three home games before they go on the break. The only road game is against the Bills, meaning the Broncos could come out of the gates quickly. Anything less than 2-2 would be a total disaster. The early home slate means they're backloaded with road games -- they get the Giants at home after the bye, then the Chargers, Chiefs and Eagles on the road. They get to come home and play the Patriots and Bengals before playing four of their last six on the road.
Los Angeles Chargers
7.5 Over (-115) / Under (-115)
I'm not even going to pretend I'm not huge on the Chargers this year. I want the driver's seat on this bandwagon and I will be sitting there even when it careens off the cliff like it usually does. The Chargers offense is loaded, with Mike Williams a smart addition to Philip Rivers' arsenal along with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Melvin Gordon should be good for 1,000 yards this year, or at least 997. The depth at running back is a little concerning. Defensively this team is sneaky good -- Joey Bosa was absurd last year and Jason Verrett should come back healthy. Melvin Ingram will be motivated on the franchise tag. This defense has top-five potential.
If the Chargers can beat the Broncos in Denver in Week 1, there's a decent chance they start 4-0, with a trio of home games following the opener. I expect that little bandbox to be rocking early and often if the Chargers play well. It's going to become a popular feature (outside of San Diego anyway) in 2017. The Chargers close with three of four on the road before their Week 9 bye, including road games against the Raiders, Giants and Patriots. The Jaguars, Bills, Browns and Redskins are among their first five games after the bye.