If you’ve ever fancied yourself a sports gambler, season win totals are a good way to get your feet wet. Even though you have to wait months for the potential payout, it keeps the excitement and intrigue building throughout the season. Plus, most books carry low betting limits. That’s a tip for you that the oddsmakers lack confidence in their position. Here are some values that I see as ripe for investment.
New York Jets +/- 6.5 wins
This one screams at the under for a barrage of factors. The Jets still haven’t settled on a starting quarterback, as neither Geno Smith nor Mark Sanchez has seized control. The winner will be the lesser of two evils. Whichever wins will not have the services of top wideout Santonio Holmes, who is still nursing a foot injury that might land him on the PUP, which means he’s out at least the first six weeks. Their offensive skill position talent is far and away the weakest in the NFL, and their guard situation might be the worst too. When you factor in the Big City Bump, where books typically inflate the win totals by at least one to extract more money from overconfident, overzealous fans, the Jets are a great buy. The money line on the under has skyrocketed from -110 to as high as -180 since early June, which means the heavy money is on the under. It’s not going to make for a lucrative payout, as that means you have to bet $180 to win $100, but it’s still profit. When swimming with the sharks, follow the whales. I’ll be stunned if these Jets record even five wins.
San Diego Chargers +/- 7.5 wins
The Chargers were the first season preview I wrote, and I tend to write them in order of confidence in my prediction. I pegged the Chargers at 5-11 and that was before watching their starting offense stumble and bumble in their first two preseason games. There’s a simple bottom line here: to take the over you are betting that this Chargers team is better than last year’s 7-9 squad. If anything, this roster has declined while their schedule looks more ominous than a year ago. San Diego will not be favored in any of their first four games and will likely wind up home underdogs in four of their final six home dates. At -125 they are a very juicy way to make some nice return on investment.
Cincinnati Bengals +/- 8.5 wins
It seems the bookmakers are slow to give the Bengals due respect. Cincinnati has made the playoffs in consecutive years, winning nine and ten games. They won the AFC North last year ahead of the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens, who carry many questions. Adding TE Tyler Eifert and RB Gio Bernard brings diversity and punch to the offense, while the defense is flat-out loaded with pass rushers and cornerback depth. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this is the best, most complete team in the AFC on paper. As long as QB Andy Dalton doesn’t regress this team will win double digit games despite a tough schedule. The over has moved from -125 to -150, which means the professional money agrees. As a side prop, Geno Atkins for Defensive Player of the Year is worth a $25 outlay.
New Orleans Saints +/- 9 wins
Getting Sean Payton back gives the Saints a couple of real boosts. First, he and Drew Brees are special together. The loaded offense now has the master puppeteer back pulling the strings, and I expect the Saints to lead the league in scoring. They might even threaten the record for points per game. Second, this team has a decided chip on its shoulder after Payton’s suspension to the Bountygate brouhaha. They feel wronged and are aiming for vindication, making up for a lost season. Pervasive intangible motivations can carry teams to unexpected heights; see last year’s Chuckstrong Colts. Even though the defense figures to give up scores of scores, I believe the high-powered offense is able to overcome and outduel at least 10 opponents. During the season, you should be able to make some profit betting the “over” point totals in most every Saints contest, as I expect both teams to score at least 28 points in just about every game.
Carolina Panthers +/- 7.5 wins
The Panthers currently hold the weakest pay line on the board at Bovada with a -175 for the over. The smart money appears confident in the revamped defense and the late-season improvement by Cam Newton a year ago. There is some risk here, as the Panthers play in a stacked NFC South and are relying on several unproven youngsters in key spots. That’s why they call it “gambling”… Take the over but be smart about it.
Pittsburgh Steelers +/- 9 wins
These Steelers are a case of a successful franchise carrying a great deal of credit based on past performance. If you looked at this roster and the schedule, with the porous offensive line and defensive questions, without knowing that it was the Pittsburgh Steelers you would see a 6 or 7 win team. But because they are the Steelers and have a great coach in Mike Tomlin and a two-time Super Bowl champion QB in Ben Roethlisberger, it’s hard to see them struggling once again. They won eight a year ago despite loads of key injuries, notably to Roethlisberger and defensive catalyst Troy Polamalu. I think they’re getting too much credit to expect an uptick in wins. It’s interesting that the pay line for both the over and under is -115, an indication that the bookies don’t have a lot of confidence either way. Unless you are a big Pittsburgh fan, pounce on the indecisiveness and take the under.