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.
That success came especially in the AFC, where I was a scorching 10-5-1 in terms of hitting the over/unders, including a sweep of the AFC East and a sweep of my two best bets (Raiders and Patriots over). The NFC wasn't quite as good, but I still managed to go 8-7-1, and that's not a loser, although my two best bets (Cardinals, Bears) were total eggs.
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
- Thursday, May 11 - NFC North
- 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
Green Bay Packers
10 Over (-120) / Under (-110)
The expectations for an Aaron Rodgers-led team are always high, but they're a little submerged from last year (10.5 wins, -160), especially with Green Bay "only" winning 10 games last year during a campaign that saw people question Mike McCarthy's future and Rodgers' ability to play at a high level. Rodgers predicted the Packers would "run the table" and they did just that, nearly topping the win total despite an off season. Jordy Nelson was dominant down the stretch and could carry that over into this year. Davante Adams quasi-quietly emerged. The draft was a boon on both sides of the ball: Jamaal Williams is a nice complement to Ty Montgomery at running back, and Kevin King/Josh Jones should make an immediate impact in a thin secondary.
The Packers get the Seahawks (home) and Falcons (road) to open, so they'll be tested early. But if they hold serve at home and come away with one road win before the Week 8 bye, they'll be 5-1. That means beating the Lions, Ravens, Buccaneers and Vikings at home and beating the Browns on the road to get to 10 wins without counting road games against the Bears and Lions as possible wins.
8.5 Over (Even) / Under (-130)
The final undefeated team from 2016 comes in with lower expectations after falling apart down the stretch, but a hot start wouldn't be surprising for the Vikings this year either. They leave the comfort of Minnesota just three times before their bye in Week 9, playing in Pittsburgh (Week 2), Chicago (Week 5) and Cleveland (Week 8). The five teams they play at home (Saints, Bucs, Lions, Packers and Ravens) aren't easy matchups or guaranteed wins, but that's a pile of home games out of the stretch. They could go 6-2 before the break. Even if they just got to 5-3 or 4-4, they would have the Rams, Bears and Bengals at home after the break. It's not a stretch to find nine wins from a talented team.
The question is this: Do you buy the Vikings as a talented team? I certainly do, considering the offseason they just had. Grabbing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to shore up the tackle position isn't going to guarantee success, but it's still a huge upgrade. Latavius Murray was a "meh" signing, although letting Adrian Peterson walk was smart. The real coup is Dalvin Cook, who can contend for OROY honors if he's healthy. Sam Bradford should improve in his second season in this offense, especially with an actual offseason to prepare. Any Mike Zimmer defense is going to be dangerous, but this unit remains absolutely loaded.
8 Over (-115) / Under (-115)
The Lions were historically lucky throughout the 2016 season, repeatedly finding themselves down in the fourth quarter, only to storm back and win late. Credit Matthew Stafford transforming at this point in his career, and credit Jim Bob Cooter for helping Stafford to transform. They profiled more as a seven- or eight-win team but eventually made the playoffs despite losing in Week 17 to the Packers, part of a three-game slide that occurred right as Stafford suffered a hand injury.
Frankly, the Lions are a hard team to figure out. Jim Caldwell was considered a candidate to be fired late last year even though they won nine games. Stafford took a step forward but his weapons -- Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron -- aren't entirely trustworthy. Detroit is pinning its the running game on Ameer Abdullah being healthy, which is scary. The offensive line was upgraded even though it lost Reiff and Larry Warford, thanks to the additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang. The defense added Jarrad Davis in the draft, who could be one of the biggest impact first-year players in the entire division. But there are still a ton of questions all over that unit. Credit Teryl Austin for getting the most out of them.
The schedule is pretty tough to start the season, though. The Cardinals, Giants (away), Falcons, Vikings (away), Panthers and Saints are not easy matchups on paper. That also means the Packers are coming twice after the Week 7 bye.
5.5 Over (Even) / Under (-130)
Not the best offseason for Chicago, unless you give points for franchises creating quarterback drama that should linger for a few months into training camp by signing a quarterback (Mike Glennon) in free agency and not telling him the plan to draft another quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Regardless of what happens, the process involved for Ryan Pace and the Bears feels flawed. The Glennon/Jordan Howard/Cameron Meredith nucleus on offense -- along with some talented players on the offensive line, including Kyle Long -- makes this team at least interesting. But you look at this depth chart and they simply didn't add a ton of impact players in the draft. For a team that was originally picking No. 3 overall, that is a pretty big concern.
The schedule for Chicago is terrifying. Their opponents before their Week 9 bye are the Falcons (home), Buccaneers (road), Steelers (home), Packers (road), Vikings (home), Ravens (road), Panthers (home), Saints (road). That puts 0-8 firmly in play, which means that no matter how Glennon is playing, there are going to be cries for Trubisky. What's the best case for Chicago through that stretch, 4-4? That might inspire calls too.