Predicting win totals before training camp begins isn’t an easy task, but there are some excellent values to be had for teams that might not be viewed as favorably as they should be. For full betting advice and much more, check out Fantasy Consigliere (60.8% against-the-spread accuracy for recommended game picks in 2018), but the below predictions are based on my roster breakdowns from the past couple months.
ARI: over 5
New head coach Kliff Kingsbury—who went 35-40 at Texas Tech before being fired—could end up being a disaster in the NFL, but Arizona quietly put together a strong collection of talent on both sides of the ball, and I think the spread attack could have defenses unprepared in 2019.
ATL: over 8.5
A brutal schedule is the only thing giving me any hesitation about the Falcons, as they are arguably the most talented team in the NFC. I think bettors should think about taking the over and also placing a bet on them to win it all with odds as good as 40-1 for some sportsbooks.
BAL: under 8.5
I was high on Lamar Jackson coming out of Louisville, but he did not look comfortable throwing the ball during his rookie campaign, and defenses will have had an entire offseason to find a way to slow down the running game. The stingy secondary being squarely among the best in football will be key for Baltimore.
BUF: over 6.5
Buffalo was able to go 5-6 in Josh Allen’s starts last season despite the worst offensive supporting cast in the league around him, and Sean McDermott’s defense should once again be a top-notch unit. The Bills are probably my favorite pick on this list.
CAR: over 8
Ron Rivera is a very good head coach, but my outlook for Carolina this season may change after we get an inside look at the franchise’s entire operation in this year’s All or Nothing (which follows their 2018 season). For now—based largely on the moves made to improve the defensive front—I like the Panthers to bounce back as contenders.
CHI: over 9
The stability of the kicking game would make me worried if I were a Bears fan, but general manager Ryan Pace has assembled a loaded roster ahead of the NFL’s 100th season. Especially if Mitchell Trubisky takes a leap in Year 3, Chicago should be considered favorites to repeat in the NFC North.
CIN: under 6
I called this a difficult pick because Cincinnati has a couple legitimate stars and several young players that could emerge as difference-makers, but first-round pick Jonah Williams getting season-ending shoulder surgery makes it more likely they finish under six wins in 2019.
CLE: under 9
A fast start against tough opponents would likely mean Cleveland surpasses the increased expectations, but on the other end of the spectrum, a slow start could mean personalities clash in a locker room with plenty of big ones. The Browns would be wise to feed the soft-spoken Nick Chubb to keep them balanced.
DAL: over 9
Dallas sounds ready to open things up for Dak Prescott on offense, and he should be ready for the challenge after averaging double-digit wins over his first three seasons. Plus, the depth is excellent up and down the roster, but my only concern is a couple early losses putting the pressure on head coach Jason Garrett.
DEN: over 7
Vic Fangio has been coaching since 1979, and I don’t see him failing to be prepared for the lead job in Denver. The AFC West is very tough, but the Broncos will have a proven team identity, and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will have a chip on his shoulder playing for his second team.
DET: under 6.5
Detroit showed they could compete against anyone last season when they topped New England and provided a blueprint to slow down the Rams, but is the star power there? Players need to fully buy into Matt Patricia’s culture if they are going to take a step forward.
GB: over 9
Relationships are key in the NFL, so if Aaron Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur aren’t on the same page, it could be a long year in Green Bay. That said, there are impact players on both sides of the ball, and Rodgers should feel more urgency entering his age-35/36 season.
HOU: under 8.5
The Texans have a brutal schedule in the beginning of the year with their first four road games being against the Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, and Colts, but more importantly, the offensive line isn’t expected to be much better than it was a year ago. Overall, I don’t feel good about Houston.
IND: over 9.5
Indianapolis overcame a 1-5 start to make the playoffs last year, and it took a frigid game in Kansas City to stop them from reaching the AFC Championship Game. This offseason, the Colts added even more talent and still have one of the best quarterbacks in football.
JAX: under 8
I would have liked Jacksonville a lot more if they traded Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Fournette, but there is too much false confidence for me to bet on them as an above-.500 team. We’ll see if Nick Foles can get everyone to fall in line to make noise in the AFC South.
KC: under 10.5
There has been no clarity on Tyreek Hill since predicting the under for Kansas City a couple weeks ago, so I’m still assuming he will miss a large chunk—at least half—of the season. On the other side of the ball, defensive changes could take some time to come together.
LAC: over 9.5
It doesn’t seem like the Chargers have been talked about much this offseason, but they should once again be contenders, and I’m sure they want to make another bid for the No. 1 seed after falling short last season so they don’t need to head to Foxborough in January again.
LAR: over 10.5
The Super Bowl loss certainly hurt, but the core of Sean McVay and Jared Goff should be in place for a very long time, and I don’t see a hangover coming for the Rams. Even if Todd Gurley isn’t a workhorse, the addition of Darrell Henderson as a home-run hitter off the bench could give Los Angeles their most explosive offense yet.
MIA: under 5
Miami will do their best to compete every week, but I think they are early favorites to pick first in the 2020 NFL Draft, especially if Josh Rosen isn’t able to earn the starting job and play better than he did in Arizona. The most important thing for the Dolphins will be establishing their culture as they lay a foundation for the future.
MIN: under 9
Maybe a more run-heavy, play-action based attack (which head coach Mike Zimmer wants) will allow the Vikings to finally reach their potential with the talented core that’s in place, but something seems to be missing as things are currently constructed in Minnesota.
NE: over 11
The Patriots have won at least 11 games every year this decade, and there’s no reason to anticipate a 2019 decline coming off their sixth Super Bowl victory. Against what looks like a soft schedule, the floor might be 12-4 or 13-3, which is a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.
NO: under 10.5
I’m not very optimistic about the Saints remaining among the NFC’s elite because a) the rest of the NFC South improved, and b) it’s unclear how they will rebound from another heartbreaking postseason loss. Also, while Drew Brees is still playing at a very high level, he turned 40 in January, and not everyone will easily play into their 40s like Tom Brady.
NYG: over 6
The Giants have been ignorantly ridiculed over the past several months, but general manager Dave Gettleman has—contrary to popular belief—built a roster that’s stockpiled with young, star-level talent like Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez, Lorenzo Carter, and B.J. Hill in 2018, and Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence, and Deandre Baker in 2019.
NYJ: over 7.5
Impact signings Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley need to live up to expectations, but the Jets have a good head coach and a promising franchise quarterback that just turned 22 last month. New York should still be competing in December if the offensive line stays healthy.
OAK: over 6
Being on the road from the middle of September through the beginning of November won’t be easy, but Jon Gruden badly wants to bring a winner to Oakland in their final season before moving to Las Vegas, and I think the offense will get rolling in Year 2 with Derek Carr more comfortable in the system.
PHI: under 9.5
This is one of the toughest totals to predict, but I’m leaning towards the under simply because Nick Foles is no longer around as a premium insurance plan for Carson Wentz. A lot will ride on Fletcher Cox creating pressure on the interior to once again cover up issues on the backend.
PIT: over 9
I think the Steelers are still favorites in the AFC North despite losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and the draft haul (mainly linebacker Devin Bush and cornerback Justin Layne) should allow the defense to significantly improve in 2019.
SF: over 8
The final month of the season (@ BAL, @ NO, v ATL, v LAR, @ SEA) is daunting, but San Francisco has the talent to reach 9-7 or 10-6 in my opinion. Others may not agree, but I think the Niners have a “star” for every position group on the roster.
SEA: over 8.5
Seattle drafted upwards of ten guys that could make an impact this season, which is important after making Russell Wilson the highest paid player in the league. Basically the entire core of the Legion of Boom days is gone, but Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner—the two big names remaining—are still in the prime of their careers.
TB: over 6.5
I am not at all confident in this pick because I don’t trust Jameis Winston, but Tampa Bay has talent, and Bruce Arians is a bright enough offensive mind to hopefully overcome any mistakes that the former No. 1 overall pick will inevitably make.
TEN: over 8
Tennessee already had a solid roster heading into the offseason, and they bolstered it by signing veterans (Adam Humphries, Rodger Saffold, and Cameron Wake), but their best move might have been drafting A.J. Brown in the second round. If they feed Derrick Henry from the get-go, there’s no reason to finish below 9-7.
WAS: over 6.5
The Redskins were 6-3 before Alex Smith (leg) went down last year, and even with Reuben Foster (knee) unfortunately done for the upcoming season after a torn ACL suffered in May, the defense looks very formidable with the additions of Landon Collins and Montez Sweat. I think Washington could be a surprise playoff contender if they get solid quarterback play.