Season win totals in the NFL are one of my favorite ways to attack the season. Last year I went 5-0 with season win totals involving the Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, Steelers and Browns. There’s a lot of value in these long-term props. The only issue is waiting until December and January to know if you cashed a winner.
My favorite season win total for the 2016 NFL season is over 8 (-135) on the Baltimore Ravens, which is a team I identified back in January. After all the injuries, I was confident that Baltimore would bounce back after a 5-11 season.
Baltimore has been one of the most consistent NFL teams since John Harbaugh took over in 2008. The Ravens have made the playoff six times in that span and the only time they finished with a losing record was last season.
I would throw everything about the 2015 campaign out the window. The team was ravaged by injuries. Quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs all suffered season-ending blows. Those key players will be back for this season. Another player who got injured before the season was wide receiver Breshad Perriman. The rookie didn’t play a snap last season and is expected to give a big boost to the Ravens offense.
Because the Ravens struggled last season, they are being priced as an average team. The bias from last year is where value is created. The Ravens would have to go under .500 for me to lose this bet and that has been a rarity in the Harbaugh era. Well-coached teams off a down year are usually a good bet to go over their win total. I’m picking the Ravens as the season win total bet I’m most confident in.
Pick: Ravens over 8 (-135)
Rams (+1) over Steelers: I think the wrong team is the favorite in this game. The Steelers are coming off a blowout victory against the 49ers but the result is misleading. The 49ers were coming off a Monday night game and had to make the long trip to Pittsburgh on a short week. The Rams had a letdown against the Redskins after beating the Seahawks in Week 1. I think the Rams bounce back and we are getting some value after their poor performance against the Redskins. The Steelers play the Ravens on Thursday night in Week 4 so this is a lookahead game for them.
Eagles (+1.5) over Jets: Another game where we can take advantage of overreaction. The Eagles are 0-2 and their offense is struggling. The Jets are coming off a big Monday win at the Colts. Coming back on a short week is a tough spot for New York. The Eagles would the favorite in this game if they won one of their first two games and I think now is the perfect time to buy low on Chip Kelly’s team.
Ravens (-2.5) over Bengals: This game is the season for the Ravens. They started 0-2 after falling to two AFC West opponents. Despite the two road defeats I think Baltimore still has a great chance of making the playoffs but they have to win this game. The Bengals might be a little better than the Ravens but considering home field and the situation, I think the Ravens cover.
Bills (+3) over Dolphins: The Bills were getting too much respect last week and closed as a favorite against the Patriots. They got in a shootout with the Patriots, and this Bills team won’t win games playing high-scoring games. They need to run the ball and play well on defense, which is what they did against the Colts in Week 1. There was a lot of preseason hype surrounding the Dolphins this preseason but they have not been impressive in games over the Redskins and Jaguars. I see this being a low-scoring game and the Bills winning straight up.
Lions (+3) over Broncos: Another situation where I will back a 0-2 team that needs to win. The Lions are a much better team at home and the building will be rocking on a Sunday night. Despite winning and covering in the first two games, I have not been impressed with Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. If Denver loses to Kansas City then this line is probably closer to a pick ’em. I’ll take my chances with the Lions.
A historical trend that you will hear about the NFL Divisional round is that at least one team who played in the Wild Card round has moved on to the conference championship since 2005. A lot of people say the NFL has parity, and any team that makes the playoffs could win the Super Bowl. This has been true in cases with the New York Giants twice under Eli Manning and the Packers in 2011. However, you have to ponder if there is still parity in the NFL. The Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers were all expected to win double-digit games before the season, and they accomplished that feat. Those four teams are clearly the best teams in the league and it’s reflected in the point spreads this weekend. So the historical trend that a home team is likely to lose this weekend can be thrown out the window. It would be surprising if the final four doesn’t involve New England, Denver, Seattle and Green Bay (unless Rodgers is ineffective because of injury.)
Here is a look at each game and my thoughts on the point spread and totals:
Here are my Week 14 NFL picks and the rest of the contest picks:
Ravens at Dolphins (-3)
My line: Dolphins -1.5
Steelers at Bengals (-3.5)
My line: Bengals -6.5
Colts (-4) at Browns
My line: Colts -2
Pick: Pass (Contest: Browns)
Ravens (-6) over Chargers: This line might be a little higher after Baltimore went into New Orleans and beat the Saints on Monday night. The short week isn’t an ideal situation for the Ravens but I think the win by double digits at home. The Chargers are 3-3 in their last six games and haven’t covered a spread. The Ravens are right in the AFC North race and face must-win games every week.
Bengals (-4) over Buccaneers: I think this line might be lower than I expected because the Bengals play the Steelers next week. However, Cincinnati can’t afford to look ahead as the Ravens, Steelers and Browns are right behind them in the division race. Tampa Bay is coming off a big game where they played Lovie Smith’s former team. Next week they travel to Detroit, which might also be an important game for Smith facing an old NFC North rival. The Bengals are a different team with a healthy Giovani Bernard along with Jeremy Hill and I think they win by a touchdown.
Saints (+4.5) over Steelers: The best thing for the Saints after three uncharacteristic home losses is to get away from New Orleans. I think they regroup especially with a division title to play for. I still think the Steelers can win this game but it will be by a field goal. Saints have played a lot of close games on the road where they just fell short.
Panthers (+3) over Vikings: The Vikings had a great effort against the Packers last week and I think they show up flat. The Panthers had a bye week to prepare and amazingly are still in the NFC South race. I think this will be a very low scoring game in Minnesota.
Broncos (-1.5) over Chiefs: The Chiefs have a great home field and this game is at night. I still think the Broncos should be the favorite in this game and the line should be closer to a field goal. Julius Thomas looks like he is coming back for Denver, which will cause matchup problems for the Chiefs defense. The inconsistent play from Kansas City receivers will catchup up to them and I think the Broncos win by at least three points.
Here are the rest of the picks for Week 9:
Chargers at Dolphins (-1)
My line: Pick em
Pick: Pass (Contest: Chargers)
Jaguars at Bengals (-11)
My line: Bengals -11
Pick: Pass (Jaguars)
Buccaneers at Browns (+7)
My line: Browns -6.5
Pick: Pass (Buccaneers)
Redskins at Vikings (-2.5)
My line: Vikings -1.5
Continued my Thursday night struggles with another loss on a contest pick. Have five picks this Sunday after a 5-1 day in Week 7. Here are the rest of the picks for Week 8:
Lions (-3.5) vs. Falcons in London
My line: Lions -3.5
Pick: Pass (Contest: Lions)
Vikings at Buccaneers (-3)
My line: Buccaneers -1
Pick: Pass (Vikings)
Bears at Patriots (-7)
My line: Patriots -7
Pick: Pass (Bears)
Rams at Chiefs (-7)
My line: Chiefs -6
Seahawks (-6) at Panthers
My line: Seahawks -3.5
The Steelers renew their rivalry with the Ravens on Thursday night in Week 2. There will be plenty of negative story lines before this game after the release of Ray Rice. The running back would’ve been suspended for this game but his release is an extra distraction that might be tough for the Ravens to overcome.
Baltimore lost in Week 1 to the Cincinnati 23-16. The Ravens were fortunate that the Bengals offense settled for five first half field goals. The Ravens ended up running 85 plays and average 4.9 yards per play. The Bengals averaged 5.9 yards per play.
The Steelers played a dominant first half against the Browns and led 27-3 going into halftime. Then they fell apart and the game was tied early in the fourth quarter. They ended up kicking a field goal at the buzzer to win but it wasn’t encouraging that they lost the lead. Maybe they were thinking ahead to the Ravens game but it’s still inexcusable from Mike Tomlin’s team.
The last five meetings in this series has been decided by three points or less. Last season the Ravens won by two points at home against the Steelers. I think this game will be decided by a field goal or less again and the Steelers will win straight up.
Pick: Steelers (+3) over Ravens
I have four picks for Sunday and Monday night in the NFL. I will provide my contest picks with a short analysis for the rest of the games. “My line” means what I think the line should be.
Saints (-3) at Falcons
My line: Saints -1
Analysis: I was very close to picking Atlanta but don’t trust taking them here. Saints offense can dominate in opener.
Pick: Pass (Contest: Falcons)
Vikings at Rams (-3.5)
My Line: Rams -3.5
Analysis: Shaun Hill against Matt Cassel isn’t what we imagined. Can see either team winning this game so take the points if you have to.
Pick: Pass (Vikings)
Browns at Steelers (-7)
My Line: Steelers -7.5
Analysis: Don’t trust either team right now. Steelers started off slowly last year and I could see that same thing happening again.
Pick: Pass (Browns)
I have the Bengals and Ravens rated about the same at the moment. I think the Ravens will end up wining the AFC North and the Bengals will finish third in the division. Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green are special talents on the Bengals offense. The defense has a lot of great players too. However, one reason to go against the Bengals this week is the pressure of a new contract on Andy Dalton. The Bengals quarterback has been above average in his three seasons and earned the kind of money that most starting NFL quarterbacks receive. I think the pressure of playing in his first game since the big payday will hurt him against a well-coached Ravens defense.
Another reason to pick the Ravens is a change in offensive scheme. Gary Kubiak is now the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. I think he will help Joe Flaaco improve this season. Steve Smith is a great pickup to play along with Torrey Smith. The Ray Rice absence doesn’t mean much and Bernard Pierce can be a serviceable running back. I think the Ravens should be a three-point favorite in this game.
Pick: Ravens (-1)