Pick: Steelers over 8.5 wins (-135)
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been in Pittsburgh for eight seasons. The team has won nine games or more in six of those seasons. Other than a pair of 8-8 seasons in 2012 and 2013, the Steelers have won more games than their posted season win total for 2015. The Pittsburgh defense was going through a rebuild in the two seasons where they finished .500 but now they are primed to win a second consecutive division title in 2015.
The offense has the pieces to be one of the best in the NFL. Le’Veon Bell is suspended the first two games of the season, for now, but is one of the best running backs in the league. His suspension is part of the reason why this win total isn’t at nine yet. When Bell misses time, Antonio Brown will see plenty of targets and is one of the most exciting wide receivers in football. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to have a big season under center.
The Steelers open the season against he Patriots in New England and Tom Brady could be suspended. There’s a chance for a win on opening night. Pittsburgh has to play at Kansas City and Seattle, and host Denver. However, I still see a lot of chances for victories and winning at least nine games is very reasonable. I think the Steelers will also win the division but will play it safe and make over 8.5 wins the official pick.
Pick: Oklahoma State over 7.5 wins (-165)
I’m not a big fan of making season win total picks in college football but there was one prop that stood out for me. I prefer making college football picks based on situations in the middle of the year but I have a strong opinion before the season about the Oklahoma State Cowboys. I think they will win eight or more games in 2015.
Oklahoma State has long been overshadowed in the state by Oklahoma. Now Mike Gundy has built a competitive program that is a threat to compete for a conference title most years. The Cowboys have won double-digit games in the regular season three times since 2010.
Oklahoma State had a down year in 2014 and needed to burn the redshirt on quarterback Mason Rudolph to gain bowl eligibility. Rudolph spelled Daxx Garman, who didn’t take his opportunity when he had the starting job. Rudolph led Oklahoma State to an upset at Oklahoma and the Cowboys defeated the Washington Huskies in their bowl game.
Oklahoma State has a favorable schedule this season. Their three toughest opponents are Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma. The Cowboys play those three games in November and they are all at home. Not having to play the top teams until the final month of the regular season is huge especially with a first-year starting quarterback. I don’t think Oklahoma State will win the Big 12 but I think they can upset either Baylor or TCU at home, and end up winning double-digit games. They only have to win eight games so my reasoning leads me to over 7.5 wins.
Pick: Buccaneers over 5.5 wins (-165)
Things couldn’t have been worse for Lovie Smith in his return as a coach in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers finished 2-14 and had the worst record in the NFL while playing in the worst division in the league.
It was a forgettable 2014 but there were several bright spots for the Buccaneers. Rookie Mike Evans proved to be the right pick in the first round of the 2014 Draft. The record was misleading becasue Tampa Bay played in a lot of close games and were on the wrong side of the result. The team still has defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and middle linebacker Lavonte David who two of the best players at their position. The Buccaneers had the No. 1 pick in the draft and took quarterback Jameis Winston, who will be an upgrade from Josh McCown.
Asking the Buccaneers to win six games is very reasonable. Winston might be shaky at times but he will at least bring excitement to a fanbase that didn’t have anything to cheer about in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tampa Bay makes a run at the division title in the NFC South. I’m going to look at the win total with them and believe over 5.5 wins is a very strong pick.
Pick: Saints under 9 wins (-160)
The New Orleans Saints have been recently known for their high-powered offense and one of the best home field advantages in the league. The defense has been below league average and is one of the reasons why Drew Brees only has won one Super Bowl.
In 2014, the Saints greatly underachieved by finishing 7-9 and dropped their last five games at home. Last season’s performance and record is why I’m confused why they are expected to win nine game this season. Brees is now 36 and showed signs of slowing down last year. He lost two of his top weapons in tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Kenny Stills. Graham was traded to the Seahawks and I don’t see anyone of the Saints roster filling into Graham’s role. The Saints defense didn’t get better and they released Junior Galette after his controversial offseason.
The NFC South was very bad last season but I think the three other teams in the division will have better seasons. I see the Saints as the team in that division not playing better and can see New Orleans finishing in the basement of the NFC South.
Pick: Vikings over 7.5 wins (-160)
The Minnesota Vikings usually don’t get much preseason hype but this summer has been an exception. Running back Adrian Peterson returns to the team after his off-field issues and Minnesota has an exciting quarterback entering his second year in Teddy Bridgewater.
The Vikings were 7-9 last season but played exceptionally strong in the last six weeks of the season. They went 3-3 in that span but lost the three games by a combined eight points. Bridgewater really impressed and didn’t have much to work with. His offensive line was a mess, there wasn’t a No. 1 wide receiver or a every-down running back. Now Peterson is back and looks better than ever in his summer workouts. Minnesota added a downfield threat in wide receiver Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson is another passing game option who emerged late last season. The Defense should improve under defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings just need to go .500 for me to win this pick. I think the team believes they can do more than that and I expect Minnesota to compete for a playoff spot in the NFC.