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.
- Any best bets are noted by (***) and the words BEST BET in large letters.
- 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
- Look for these to drop in this order:
- Thursday, May 11 -- NFC East
- Friday, May 12 -- NFC South
- Friday, May 12 - NFC West
- Monday, May 15 - AFC East
- Monday, May 15 - AFC North
- Tuesday, May 16 - AFC South
- Tuesday, May 16 - AFC West
9.5 Over (-145) / Under (+115)
Last year I got "suckered" by the Cowboys taking Ezekiel Elliott early and had them pegged as a 10-win team way before now colleague Tony Romo got injured. That was a good decision. This year feels like a zag, where the Cowboys are assumed to roll in the division but take a step back. They got much better on defense in the draft, grabbing Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis with their first three picks. But those guys could be quickly pressed into action, and that might not be good news.
The offense should be fine to replicate the success from 2016, but that also assumes Dak Prescott is once again a Pro Bowl player in his second year, that no one on the offensive line suffers an injury, that Dez Bryant is the dominant player he was late in the season and that Elliott's heavy workload last year doesn't take a toll. That's asking a lot, and I think there's a slight regression to the point where Dallas is a nine-win team. Their schedule is manageable, although back-to-back road games against the Broncos and Cardinals early could be an issue. December features three games on the road (Raiders, Giants, Eagles) and a home game against the Seahawks.
New York Giants
9.0 Over (Even) / Under (-130)
Last year the Giants outperformed their expected win total by more than two games and did so with Eli Manning having one of the two worst seasons of his career, largely because the Giants lacked a rushing attack and sufficient protection for Eli. Paul Perkins may be a legit feature back, but that remains to be seen over the course of a year. The offensive line simply wasn't addressed, which means Ereck Flowers is going to remain on Eli's blindside. Adding Evan Engram to disrupt defenses along the seam is wonderful, but Eli might very well not have enough time to throw it deep.
The Giants defense made a massive leap forward on defense last year, improving from No. 30 in DOVA to No. 2 overall. It's worth considering that their variance on that end, according to Football Outsiders, was only 16th in the league. They were not an extremely consistent defense; something worth watching to see if they can maintain their success from one year to the next. The talent is certainly there, with New York retaining Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison. Landon Collins could fully blossom into a DPOY candidate. Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple form an outstanding young cornerback combo. Their first seven games are against potential playoff teams, with four of them on the road. There are only two layup games on the road (Rams at home, 49ers on the road) and they're back to back and involve a long road trip. This looks menacing.
8.5 Over (-115) / Under (-115)
Also an ugly early schedule for the Eagles, who get three of their first four on the road, including having to wait until September 24 to play at home against the Giants. A three-game December stretch on the road features a game in Los Angeles, a game in Seattle and a game against the Giants. But this team still feels like a team that is on the come up -- their expected win total last year was nine, but they only won seven games. Carson Wentz looked like a franchise quarterback early and/or when Lane Johnson played. Philadelphia upgraded his weapons this offseason by adding Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency along with Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey and Shelton Gibson in the draft.
There should be concerns about the running game, which features Pumphrey (who I am admittedly very high on), Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood. Ryan Mathews is up in the air in terms of his future, meaning the Eagles have a very small group of running backs. Their wideouts are deep and complementary though: Jeffery is the big body, Smith/Hollins add deep speed, Jordan Matthews is underrated and in a better role now, Zach Ertz desperately wants to break out over a full season one of these years and Nelson Agholor is a "Chip Kelly used to work here" trophy.
7.5 Over (-125) / Under (-105)
For the second straight season, Vegas isn't very high on the Redskins. This would be fine if Washington screwed the pooch this offseason after deciding to fire its GM on the first day of free agency, but this was a very un-Redskins-like stretch. They lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but didn't panic and overpay anyone, instead waiting to get Terrelle Pryor on a value deal. Add him to Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson and there is real potential for Kirk Cousins to have yet another impressive group of pass catchers to throw to. The draft featured Washington sitting back and letting Jonathan Allen fall into their laps; if he's healthy heading into 2017, he will have an immediate impact on their defense. Don't sleep on Ryan Anderson helping early either.
The Redskins have a Week 5 bye before playing the 49ers at home, which isn't a great usage of the extra week relative to who you could to prepare for. They also get 10 days before playing the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 13 after hosting the Giants on Thanksgiving. Like the rest of the division, they get the AFC West and NFC West, which does not create a ton of easy games.