OTA’s are barely finished for some teams and Sportsbook.ag has already updated their over/under for the 2015 season. While there is a degree of fun to these rankings, they are also a good barometer of Vegas’s expectations for every team out there.
Dallas Cowboys, 9.5 wins
Vegas is really expecting the Cowboys to keep up their roll from 2014. Or at the very least, Vegas is expecting everyone to THINK the Cowboys will continue their success into 2015. It’s logical. The additions of Greg Hardy (even with his suspension) and Randy Gregory are questionable moral moves perhaps but they’re strong football adds if they work out. Dallas’ defense should be better. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are all back. The offensive line is probably the best in the NFL. Not overpaying for DeMarco Murray was smart. But I can’t shake questions about Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden shouldering the load for this offense.
Philadelphia Eagles, 9.5 wins
Meanwhile the Eagles are a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Chip Kelly continues to do the craziest things and no one really knows how Sam Bradford is going to work out. I do know this: Kelly has dumped a ton of assets into his defense and it should result in an improved unit. On offense, adding Nelson Agholor in the draft does a lot to improve the receiver corps. It’s not star-studded but it’s full of dudes who are going to run precise routes and fit in Chip’s system. DeMarco Murray is a better north-south runner than LeSean McCoy. There’s lots of depth here too. If Bradford flops, Mark Sanchez is there to step in quickly.
New York Giants, 8.5 wins
The over felt like an easy pick until the Will Beatty injury. It’s crazy to think of him as that important, but you see the trickle-down effect and it’s scary. Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Justin Pugh at right tackle, John Jerry back at guard. Yikes. Eli Manning has Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell. Pairing Shane Vereen with Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings gives them a ton of versatility in the backfield. This offense could be primed to take off. The defensive line doesn’t have the depth and talent of past highly successful Giants teams but there are more pass rushers than last year.
Washington Redskins, 6 wins
It’s all on Robert Griffin III, right? If he can be anything close to his 2012 self, the Redskins could approach .500. If not, it’s hard to imagine this team is going to be really dangerous. Alfred Morris is an underrated, consistent backfield option. DeSean Jackson is a dangerous deep threat. The defense is improving as part of a slow rebuild but it’s still a ways off. Brandon Scherff will help protect RG3 but can Griffin be an effective pocket presence triggerman this year? It’s a massive question mark.
Green Bay Packers, 11 wins
This, along with Seattle, is the highest win total in the NFL this year. Eleven wins is a TON. You think about all the success for the Packers under Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers but you probably don’t realize they’ve only won more than 11 games twice. Another two times they’ve won exactly 11, so it’s not like they aren’t winning, but 11 is a lot. Of course, look at the schedule this year and if you can see 5 road wins from a team returning its entire offense — including would-be free agents Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga — and most of the defense then you can feel comfortable taking the over. I see San Francisco, Chicago, Minnesota and Oakland as road wins. Add seven home wins and you just need to snake one somewhere.
Detroit Lions, 8.5 wins
It has been a transformative offseason for the Lions, even if it has been a relatively quiet one. They lost Ndamukong Suh but acquired Haloti Ngata on a defense that looks questionable, although doubt Teryl Austin’s ability to impact that unit at your own risk. The offense appears to be a more run-heavy unit this season. Even with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson on hand, there has been a lot invested into the run game, including a trade to acquire Manny Ramirez and a first-round pick of mauling Duke guard Laken Tomlinson. Oh yeah, and explosive Nebraska back Ameer Abdullah. The Lions even drafted a fullback! It wouldn’t stun me if they were this year’s Cowboys.
Chicago Bears, 7 wins
Ryan Pace hasn’t been afraid to switch things up in his first year as GM. He shipped out Brandon Marshall, although he replaced the volatile receiver with first-round pick Kevin White, who is going to be a beast next to Alshon Jeffery. Martellus Bennett has contract issues … and Jay Cutler is still under center. John Fox has a history of flipping teams around in quick fashion but the only defensive line help they really got was Eddie Goldman as Chicago shifts to a 3-4 defense. There are some nice pieces on defense but this is a tough, tough division.
Minnesota Vikings, 7.5 wins
The Vikings are a big-time playoff sleeper heading into 2015. Mike Zimmer did a nice job with this roster last year and this defense could be in for a huge season. It’s stacked with young, impact players at nearly every position and they added Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks early in the draft. Adrian Peterson is miffed at the team but if he comes out angry it’s only going to benefit the offense. Teddy Bridgewater was outstanding down the stretch in 2014 (72.3 completion percentage and 273 yards per game in December) and Charles Johnson/Mike Wallace/Cordarrelle Patterson should be an improved trio over last year’s receivers.
Carolina Panthers, 8.5 wins
If you were picking any team from this division to hold steady in 2015 it would be the Panthers. Unfortunately, that might not be a compliment. Carolina became the first team to win the South in back-to-back seasons and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they pulled off the three-peat. The offense will be better with Devin Funchess and Daryl Williams added through the draft and Ted Ginn back via free agency. It won’t be explosive, but it should be red-zone efficient. The defense adds Shaq Thompson, who doesn’t necessarily slot in perfectly but gives the Panthers another talented athlete to use in the linebacking corps. Thomas Davis/Luke Kuechly/Shaq has to be the best LB unit in the league, right? Unfortunately this schedule is BRUTAL. Carolina could get off to a hot start but hosting Philly, Green Bay and Indy in the span of 14 days after coming off a trip to Seattle? Ouch.
New Orleans Saints, 9 wins
Friendly number from Vegas here toward the Saints after their miserable offseason. The draft didn’t bring a ton of impact guys to this team but the offense has been remade in a manner that resembles the championship team Sean Payton previously trotted out. Trading Jimmy Graham for Max Unger, signing C.J. Spiller, bringing back Mark Ingram, drafting Andrus Peat? All those moves point to a team that’s going to run the ball a ton. The defense has to be better by default. There’s still talent in the secondary with Keenan Lewis, Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd. Drew Brees will put up big numbers regardless of who he’s playing with. I’m back to buying again, sigh.
Atlanta Falcons, 8.5 wins
Believing in Dan Quinn isn’t a hard thing to do. He comes from the Pete Carroll school of enthusiastic competition and he plays Kris Kross at Falcons practices. The latter had me sold right away. But can he really transform this defense immediately? Vic Beasley will be an impact player in this defense, Jalen Collins could boost a young, talented secondary. It had to be a better unit, but I’m not sure I buy it’s going to be elite immediately. On offense this team is going to put up points with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and some combo of Tevin Coleman/Devonta Freeman running things in the backfield.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6 wins
Are you on or off the Jameis Winston bandwagon? Ultimately that’s how you decide where you go with this. Seven wins isn’t crazy for the Bucs but I’m not buying Winston as a guy who can come in and win a ton of games for Tampa Bay. I think he’s the most “pro ready” quarterback in this class and will probably have more immediate success than Marcus Mariota, but I also think he’s going to throw 30 interceptions. Yes, THIRTY. Having Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson on the roster is a big plus. Lavonte David might be the most underrated defensive player in the league, Gerald McCoy is a stud and this defense should be better than last year. But the schedule is slotted out poorly for a strong season from this team. Lots of back-to-back road games against tough teams and pairs of home games. I see six as the top end here.
Seattle Seahawks, 11 wins
Seattle has easily covered the over the past few years and they’re tied with Green Bay for the highest total this season after falling just short in the Super Bowl. John Schneider got bold again this offseason, trading for Jimmy Graham to finally give Russell Wilson a legit No. 1 option. Marshawn Lynch will be back, Wilson might be motivated by money and all the pieces are in place for this defense to be a top-five unit again. There are some issues with the offensive line that should give people pause, but the Seahawks will once again be a dominant team in 2015. Worst case is they’re winning 10 games.
Arizona Cardinals, 8.5 wins
This line is WAY too low! Again — the Cards were one of my locks from the NFC last year and it panned out nicely. Eagles-Seahawks-Packers to close out is brutal, but Arizona can come out hot again in 2015. Carson Palmer should be good to go and he’ll have more protection than ever with D.J. Humphries added to a line that features Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Cooper and Bobby Massie. This team is stacked at wide receiver and once again loaded in the secondary thanks to Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon. The front seven has some holes but Bruce Arians just keeps producing winners whenever he coaches.
San Francisco 49ers, 7.5 wins
Nightmare offseason for the Niners, as they lost Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland on defense, as well as Mike Iupati and Frank Gore on offense. Colin Kaepernick could actually take a step forward under this new regime and he won’t be hurt by the addition of Torrey Smith. Arik Armstead and Darnell Dockett will help defensively and it’s possible this team is a surprising unit in 2015. If you were picking someone to fall back from eight wins, this is the team.
St. Louis Rams, 8 wins
Love, love, love the Todd Gurley addition and you can see how the Rams could potentially run the ball like crazy. They kind of have to with Nick Foles under center and a lack of viable weapons on the outside. Defensively there’s a ton to expect here, with the absolutely stacked defensive line capable of terrorizing quarterbacks like no one else in the NFL. Aaron Donald, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, Nick Fairley … it’s just not fair. The problem is they open with Seattle, Washington, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Green Bay, which could mean another cold start for Jeff Fisher’s crew. Expecting a season over .500 is asking a lot.
What do you this of the numbers?