I do not encourage gambling in any way. However, something was released yesterday that I thought would make for a great speculative article. Online sportsbook Bovada.lv released its projected win totals for all 32 NFL teams. So, I’m going to take a look at five teams and play a little over under with their projected win totals. These will be just a few teams whose numbers jump out at me.
Chicago (7.5 projected wins, over)- All John Fox does is turnaround bad teams in a hurry. He did it in Carolina and Denver, and he is at it again with the Bears. It is strange to say that the defense is the problem in Chicago, but that certainly was the case last year. They lost seven games last year when they scored 20 or more points. They finished 6-10. Fox knows what he is doing as he heads into year two.
The Bears signed two of the most underrated linebackers in football in free agency, Jarrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. Fox coached Trevathan in Denver. He was the unsung hero of that defense last year. Both guys have a nose for the football and are tackling machines. They will make the defense a lot better from day one.
Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffrey have become one of the most dynamic quarterback wide receiver duos in the league. Combine all this with a workable early schedule, and I say Chicago will be in the mix for a playoff spot this year.
Philadelphia (7 projected wins, under)-With a new coach and well-documented confusing quarterback drama, I see no way for them to reach seven wins. Things get even bleaker when you consider that the division rival Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins are loaded with offensive talent, and the Eagles made no significant changes to a defense that was in the bottom five against both the run and the pass last year. The Eagles traded up to pick second overall in the draft this year. I suspect they may be picking one spot higher next year, and will not have to trade to get it.
Baltimore (8.5 projected wins, over)- When healthy, they have one of the best offenses in the league. Last year though, no one was healthy. Quarterback Joe Flacco and ageless wonder wide receiver Steve Smith both missed most of last season with injuries. By the time December rolled around, they were literally signing quarterbacks and wide receivers off the street and starting them to finish out the year.
The one thing they really could have used was a wide receiver to stretch the field and go deep. They will be getting two. Former Steeler wide out Mike Wallace may be the best deep-threat in football. The Ravens snatched him up in free agency. He has somewhat disappeared after leaving Pittsburgh a few years ago, but Baltimore is a perfect fit. Flacco throws one of the best deep balls I have ever seen. There is also last year’s first-round pick Breshad Perriman who sat out all of last year due to injury. He has the speed to be an instant impact player. The defense is average. If the offensive personnel pans out, that is all they will need to be.
Carolina (10.5 projected wins, under)- This is more about the law of averages than anything else. This team lost just two games last year, including the Super Bowl. They won seven games by a single possession. That is the kind of thing that evens out the following year. Outside of Cam Newton, their offense should not scare anyone. Also, the defense is just a little bit more vulnerable with the unexpected loss of shutdown corner Josh Norman to Washington. They will still be very good, but will take a step back.
Minnesota (9.5 projected wins, under)- Mike Zimmer is a great coach and Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Fame running back. That does not change the fact that this team will go as far as young quarterback Teddy Bridgwater takes it. He still has not shown me a lot. As seen in last year’s playoff loss to Seattle, he lacks the arm strength to effectively throw through cold and windy conditions. Thus, I obviously do not think he is the long-term answer in Minnesota. They ranked 31st in passing offense last year. Adrian Peterson and that defense cannot do all the heavy lifting forever. Bridgwater is going to have to win them some games on his own this year, but I do not think he can do it. With Chicago poised to take a step forward, someone in this division has to take a step back. I think it will be Minnesota and to a lesser extent, Detroit.
Well, there you have it folks. Use this advice at your own risk. Let the endless speculation and second-guessing begin.