The NFL Draft is deep in the rearview. OTAs are underway, but we are hurtling towards the dead period in the NFL. There's no better time to embark upon a dangerous but fun 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.
Nothing ages better than NFL predictions in May right? Turns out I'm not terrible at it! The last few seasons have been pretty profitable: 2016 I went 10-5-1 in the AFC and 8-7-1 in the NFC. In 2017 I went 12-2-2 (!) in the AFC and 9-7 in the NFC. Last year in the NFC was not ideal with a 7-8-1 record. The AFC was once again absurd, as I went 12-4 in my over/under picks for that conference.
For you math majors, my AFC record from May the last three years is 34-11-3 in terms of picking over-unders. That's stupid. I'd tell you to bet on every AFC pick I give here, but there's some regression coming at some point probably.
Last year we went team-by-team with these picks, but this year we'll be going back to the divisional format I used in 2016 and 2017. If you hate any picks, love any picks or have better ideas, leave them in the comments or yell at me on Twitter @WillBrinson. You can also get an audio breakdown of all these divisions on the Pick Six Podcast, as we run through each division on our DAILY NFL PODCAST over the next few weeks. Listen to the AFC West edition of our over/under picks below:
All lines are courtesy of the Westgate at the time the article was published. They're subject to change, but I'll be grading myself next May on these numbers. 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.
Win Total: 10.5 Over (+130) / Under (-150)
Fading Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid is a very dangerous proposition, but it's hard not to like the Chiefs' under in this spot. Kansas City had an explosive season in 2018, . The problem is we're now talking about an additional 2.5 games added onto their total (it was eight last season), with some expected regression built into the offense.
I don't want to spoil this season for you, but Mahomes probably won't throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns again. He could! But the odds are against him. Kareem Hunt is gone. Travis Kelce is coming back from an injury. There's turnover on the offensive line. Tyreek Hill is almost certainly going to get some sort of punishment from the league. The schedule is much more difficult, somehow. Three of four on the road to start the season, a brutal Packers, Vikings, Titans (road), Chargers (road) set of games before the Week 12 bye and trips to New England and Chicago after it. The division should be better. Mahomes was one of the luckiest QBs in the NFL in terms of interceptions last season. The defense probably won't be that great this year either.
They could win 13 games but I think 10 or less is more likely.
Los Angeles Chargers
Win Total 9.5 Over (-150) / Under (+120)
This will surprise no one, but I love the Chargers this year! They're bringing basically everyone back and should get a fully healthy Hunter Henry at tight end to give Philip Rivers even more weapons. Additionally, they picked up Jerry Tillery and Nassir Adderly in the draft, which could very well push this defense over the top and make it one of the top five units in the league this coming season.
I think you can make the argument that the Chargers have the most complete roster in football -- Tom Telesco deserves more credit for the job he's done building this team out as a whole. If there's a weakness, it would either be offensive line or linebacker. I trust Rivers to overcome the former, and Gus Bradley fixed the latter last year (until they ran into New England in the playoffs). I love the Chargers at +220 to win the division and as R.J. White and I discussed on the podcast, there's some value in them to win the Super Bowl at 16-to-1.
Their September schedule might actually lead to a fast start for once, as the Chargers draw the Colts (home), Lions (away), Texans (home) and Dolphins (away). Starting 1-3 wouldn't surprise me because they're the Chargers, but Indy and Houston aren't showing up with thousands of fans in Los Angeles and Detroit/Miami are very winnable road games. I think the AFC West flips this season, finally.
Win Total: 7 Over (-120) / Under (EV)
What a fascinating team here. Do you believe in the combo of Joe Flacco and Drew Lock to create a competent quarterback situation? I'm not sure it matters that much, because I think this could end up being one of the sneaky best run games in football this year. The Broncos stole OL coach Mike Munchak from the Steelers, a huge addition that should improve a questionable line that is filled with talented players like Garett Bolles, Ronald Leary and new draft pick Dalton Risner. The combo of Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman is a very good one and Flacco's got enough weapons, especially with the addition of Noah Fant in the draft, to do damage down the field.
I'm bullish on this defense, especially with the return of Chris Harris (underrated and underpaid but back in the fold!) as well as the likely growth of Bradley Chubb and the studliness of Von Miller. They underperformed their win total by 1.4 wins last season, thanks in large part to Vance Joseph playing it hyper-conservative in several games. We don't know how good Vic Fangio will be as a first-year head coach, but I would expect it at least has a positive impact on the defense. At one point in the middle of last year the Broncos were the only team in the NFL with a top-10 offense and defense by DVOA.
Fangio and Co. draw the Bears in Week 2 and the Packers in Week 3. Those are tough games, but he has a lot of advance knowledge about the personnel for both, especially the Bears. I think Denver can start hot and cruise over this total.
Win Total: 6 Over (-130) / Under (+110)
It should be telling that the Raiders made more offseason splashes than just about anyone in the NFL and their expected win total went down. Last year their over/under of eight wins in Jon Gruden's first year was an absolute layup on the under,. Betting on an under of six is difficult, because the ball bounces in funny ways and teams can catch tons of breaks to end up going 7-9. It's not a great season, but it's a losing money season if that happens.
Adding Antonio Brown, Josh Jacobs and Tyrell Williams to the skill positions plus Trent Brown on the line set up Gruden's offense to be in a much better spot. It hinges on Derek Carr -- if he can play the way he did in 2015, the Raiders offense will be scary. It remains to be seen if they can protect him enough. Defensively I think they're headed in the right direction, but there's still a lot to be desired. I would think in 2020 or 2021 this could be a great unit under Paul Guenther, with guys like Maurice Hurst, Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram.
But here are my concerns: this team is on "Hard Knocks," which has always served as a distraction. It's moving to Vegas in a year and that is very much on everyone's mind. It's in a very difficult division and it's loaded with combustable personalities. It's not hard to imagine Brown screaming at Carr or Gruden on the sidelines in Week 4 when things aren't going well. I think the Raiders are headed in the right direction, but there are too many difficult games on their schedule and too much uncertainty with their overall situation for me to back the over. They start with the Broncos and Chiefs at home, then get the Colts and Vikings on the road before hosting Khalil Mack and the Bears. 1-4 could be in the cards, and that's a big hole to dig out of that early in a crucial season.