2008 AFC Football Gambling Preview June 27th , 2008
By: Betus NFL Handicapping Staff
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NFL Football Gambling – A Look at AFC Teams
Baltimore Ravens Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Stadium : M&T Bank
Coach: John Harbaugh
NFL Championships: Super Bowl XXXV (2000)
Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore is undergoing a face lift of sorts going into the 2008 season. John Harbaugh has replaced the fired Brian Billick as head coach, and the front office made a bold move in the first round of the draft by drafting quarterback Joe Flacco out of Delaware. The team had hard luck at the QB position last season; Steve McNair, a headliner at Tennessee, got hurt and was ineffective when in the lineup. Kyle Boller, the backup who never quite made it, and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith were also used.
The defense played with spirit, especially in a game where the Ravens almost dealt the New England Patriots a regular season defeat. But the tam was plagued with injuries at the cornerback position (Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle) and there was a fair amount of frustration on the part of Ray Lewis & Co. with the ineptitude of the offense, which eventually led to Billick’s ouster.
The Ravens will plow ahead, hoping to run the ball with Willis McGahee and get good enough quarterback play out of either Boller or Smith until Flacco is ready to assume the reins. Last season Baltimore went 5-11 and 3-13 against the spread, and allowed 24 points a game (22nd in the league). They are +850 to win the AFC North, and will struggle to get to the .500 mark.
Buffalo Bills Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Orchard Park, New York
Stadium : Ralph Wilson
Coach: Dick Jauron
NFL Championships: AFL Champions 1964 & 1965
Buffalo Bills – This is obviously a different franchise than the one that appeared in a record four consecutive Super Bowls. The last remaining link to that Bills string (besides owner Ralph Wilson), Marv Levy, has stepped down from his post as head of football operations, leaving fellow Ivy Leaguer Dick Jauron (the head coach) to move ahead with this team.
Buffalo was besieged by injuries last season on the defensive side of the ball, so in way, their league ranking of 31st in total yards allowed was deceiving. this team will be bolstered by the return of several players, including last year’s #1 draft choice, linebacker Paul Posluczny.
The Bills were 7-9 straight-up but 10-6 against the number last season; there was a lot of good news, including the fact that the team very likely found a quarterback (Trent Edwards) and running back (Marshawn Lynch) who can carry them into the future. If Edwards falters or gets hurt, J.P. Losman, a talented passer, is there in reserve. A key pickup may have been the drafting of wide receiver James Hardy of Indiana, who will add size and speed as a complement to Lee Evans. It is also hoped that he can help this team’s red zone offense, which was one of the worst in the NFL last year.
Beyond New England, the AFC East is pretty wide-open. That means someone could sneak through into a wild card slot. Buffalo is currently +800 to win the division and +3500 to win the AFC in the Top Sportsbooks NFL future betting odds.
Cincinnati Bengals Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Stadium : Paul Brown
Coach: Marvin Lewis
NFL Championships: None
Cincinnati Bengals – Cincinnati experienced quite a few injury difficulties in 2007, particularly in the linebacking corps, which was almost completely wiped out. The team finished with a 7-9 straight-up record, and was 6-9-1 against the pointspread. With some of the linebackers returning to action, and Antwan Odom added to help the pass rush, the Bengals should be able to improve on last year’s #27 ranking in overall defense.
Cincinnati has one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in Carson Palmer, but he will have to protect the ball more than he did in ’07, when he tossed 20 interceptions. Chad Johnson has been unhappy with management, but when it comes down to it, he will lace up his cleats and play. And once again he will team with T.J. Houshmandzadeh to give the Bengals a potent wide receiver duo. Head coach Marvin Lewis is expecting to get more out of Rudi Johnson, who ran for over 2700 yards between the years of 2005 and 2006.
Cincinnati is in a tough division (the AFC North), which also features the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. They are +450 to win that division, and +3000 to reach the Super Bowl as the AFC representative.
Cleveland Browns Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Stadium : Cleveland Browns
Coach: Romeo Crennel
NFL Championships: 1950, 1954, 1955 & 1964
Cleveland Browns – In 2007, the Browns made great strides. Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was healthy and very productive. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards emerged as a star. Quarterback Derek Anderson came on the scene after Charlie Frye bombed out in the season opener and used his strong arm to throw for 29 touchdowns. All of them, plus rookie left tackle Joe Thomas, the top draft choice, made it to the Pro Bowl. Another first-round draftee, Brady Quinn, was projected to be eased into the starting role, but his training camp holdout, combined with Anderson’s success, kept him on the bench.
The Browns actually tied for the AFC North title, with a 10-6 straight-up record (and a sizzling 12-4 against the spread), but lost in the division and wild card races via a tie-breaker. That was a disappointment, but there has been some reason to expect improvement.
As they head into the 2008 season, Cleveland has added personnel, with defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams coming over from Detroit and Green Bay, respectively. And Donte Stallworth, who played for the Patriots last season, gives Anderson another big play receiver to aim his throws at.
Cleveland is a +175 choice to win the AFC North (the Steelers are even money), and the Browns are +1600 to make it to the Super Bowl.
Denver Broncos, Lines & Betting
Location: Denver, Colorado
Stadium : Invesco Field at Mile High
Coach: Mike Shanahan
NFL Championships: Super Bowl XXXII (1997) & Super Bowl XXXIII (1998)
Denver Broncos – Behind quarterback John Elway, the Broncos won two consecutive Super Bowls, but coach Mike Shanahan has not returned to the Super Bowl since the departure of Elway. Last season his team did not get to the playoffs, compiling just a 7-9 straight-up record, with 5-11 against the spread. The Broncos could not stop the run in the ’07 season, as their defense ranked 30th in that category.
As usual, the team ran the ball well, ranking ninth (112 ypg), but remember that Alex Gibbs, who was responsible for a lot of the success of Denver’s running game with his innovative zone-blocking scheme, has been off the staff for a few seasons now.
Jay Cutler was diagnosed with diabetes in the off-season, but that is under control, and he is firmly entrenched as Shanahan’s quarterback of the future. What he needs is a better corps of receivers to work with. Brandon Marshall is a standout (102 receptions last year) but if the team is counting on Darrell Jackson for some explosiveness, they might wind up being sorely disappointed. Denver may also suffer from lack of stability in the place-kicking department; Jason Elam, who had been a stalwart in the Mile High City for 15 years, left town to accept a free agent offer from Atlanta.
The Broncos are +450 to win the AFC West, where San Diego is a clear favorite, and they may have their work cut out for them to hold off an Oakland team that figures it may have landed a missing component in explosive running back Darren McFadden.
Houston Texans Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Houston, Texas
Stadium : Reliant
Coach: Gary Kubiak
NFL Championships: None
Houston Texans – This franchise took a step backward and had a catastrophic 2-14 record in 2005. Gary Kubiak, the former offensive coordinator in Denver, took over the Texans after that disaster and has gone from that 2-14 record to 6-10 to 8-8 in his two years on the job. He has also swept former #1 draft choice David Carr out of town and replaced him with Matt Schaub (or when Schaub is injured, Sage Rosenfels). Kubiak has turned his organization into what some have called “Denver South,” taking a lot of former Bronco people with him. Indeed, Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s 28-year-old son, is the new offensive coordinator, and Alex Gibbs, the architect of the Denver running game for nine seasons before going to Atlanta, has been hired by Kubiak as assistant head coach.
Naturally, Kubiak wants to run the ball better, and the Texans signed free agent Chris Brown and drafted Steve Slaton to help make that happen. It;s the infusion of talent into the defense, however, that makes this a team to watch. The newcomers in the last three years – DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye – form the nucleus of what could eventually become one of the league’s best stop units. That may not all happen this year, but Houston probably won;t be ranked 24th in the league in yards allowed this season.
Houston, which was also 8-8 against the spread in 2007, is listed as +1600 to win the AFC South, which would seem a bit unusual for a young, developing team that reached the .500 mark the year before. The Texans are also +3500 to win the AFC title.
Indianapolis Colts Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Stadium : Lucas Oil
Coach: Tony Dungy
NFL Championships: 1958, 1959, 1968, Super Bowl V (1970), Super Bowl XLI (2007)
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts finally got Peyton Manning a Super Bowl ring after the 2006 season, and even though the run defense was last in the NFL, it played best when it really counted. In the rain-soaked Dolphin
Stadium, Indy beat the Chicago Bears and mistake-prone quarterback Rex Grossman, behind improvisation from Manning and solid play from running backs Joseph Addai and Dominick Rhodes.
The Colts were more solid on defense in 2007, ranking first in the league with the least points allowed. Bob Sanders emerged as one of the best defensive players in the league at any position. And Dwight Freeney, who lost much of his 2007 regular season due to injury, is expected back. Indianapolis was 13-3 straight-up and 9-7 against the spread in 2007, but they were severely disappointed when they were beaten at home by San Diego in the AFC semi-finals. That prevented a Colts-Patriots showdown/rematch from taking place.
Manning is in the peak of his form, and he will once again have enough receivers to choose from, including Marvin Harrison, who may not be as effective as he once was but should be healthier than he was last year. Expect Anthony Gonzalez, last year’s first-round pick, to play a more pivotal role. And look for Rhodes, one of those Super Bowl heroes who was re-acquired in the off-season, to be able to give Addai a breather every now and then. Manning is able to run his offense more expertly than anyone in the NFL, and that is an intangible that sometimes transcends the abundance of personnel he has at his disposal.
A well-balanced team at this point, the Colts, who move into the brand-new Lucas Oil
Stadium, are one of the favorites to once again reach the Super Bowl. Indeed, at BetUS, Indianapolis is -175 to win the very competitive AFC South and is +450 to win the AFC title.
Jacksonville Jaguars Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Stadium : Jacksonville Memorial
Coach: Jack Del Rio
NFL Championships: None
Jacksonville Jaguars – This team had a lot to be proud of in 2007 finishing with a 11-5 regular season record and covering 11 of 16 games against the pointspread. They also crossed a bridge by advancing past Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs before losing to New England.
One of the things that has made the Jags highly competitive has been their ability to develop an effective running game behind Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. It is head coach Jack Del Rio’s objective to pound the ball first and play a controlled passing attack. David Garrard proved to be an ideal quarterback for him, as Garrard completed 64% of his throws with just three interceptions in the regular season. Garrard’s success was important to Del Rio, because it justified him cutting Byron Leftwich loose before the season began.
The Jaguars added defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves as a way of improving a pass rush that was disappointing last year. Elsewhere, this is a team that is not only solid but has acquired a mental toughness under Del Rio as well. They are listed at +200 to win the AFC South and +800 to win the AFC in the Top Sportsbooks NFL futures.
Kansas City Chiefs Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Stadium : Arrowhead
Coach: Herm Edwards
NFL Championships: Super Bowl IV (1969)
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs were a full-blown disappointment in 2007, finishing the schedule with a record of 4-12 straight-up and 7-8-1 against the number. It did not help that star running back Larry Johnson held out during training camp and later got injured. But there was a stale quality to the Kansas City personnel, and general manager Carl Peterson called for an overhaul.
So the Chiefs are undergoing a youth movement of sorts, with Glenn Dorsey the cornerstone of the “new” defense. Dorsey, the All-American defensive lineman from LSU, will anchor a stop unit that failed to stop opposing rushing attacks last year, ranking 28th in the league in yards allowed on the ground. But they lose Jared Allen, last year’s NFL sack leader, who was dealt to the Minnesota Vikings.
And the problems didn’t end there. Kansas City also ranked second from the bottom in scoring and yards gained, and this year will be another year of transition as the Chiefs are committed to Brodie Croyle, who needs to step up and show he belongs. The offensive line, which was getting brittle with age, adds rookie Branden Albert from Virginia. Someone needs to step forward and join tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in the offense.
Right now there are too many holes to consider the Chiefs , listed at +1000 to win the AFC West, a contender. And if Croyle implodes, that could bring Herm Edwards’ tenure in Kansas City to an abrupt halt.
Miami Dolphins Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Miami, Florida
Stadium : Dolphin
Coach: Tony Sporano
NFL Championships: Super Bowl VII (1972) & Super Bowl VIII (1973)
Miami Dolphins – Over the years, Dolphin fans had become accustomed to winning, first under Don Shula and later with Jimmy Johnson. This remains the only franchise to go through the regular season and playoffs with an unbeaten record. None of that is comforting now, not on the heels last year’s 1-15 embarrassment (5-9-2 against the spread) that got Cam Cameron fired after just on season as head coach.
A new regime is in place, with Bill Parcells taking over football operations and Tony Sporano, a former assistant to Parcells in Dallas, named the new head coach. But this team needs a lot of personnel. The offensive cupboard is almost bare, and although one could maintain that Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, supported by #1 overall draft pick Jake Long, could give Miami as serviceable ground attack, the Dolphins might find themselves handing the quarterback duties to rookie Chad Henne or second-year man John Beck, and that will bring growing pains.
Jason Taylor is far and away the best performer on defense, but he could be traded before or during training camp. If he stays, his talents could be wasted, because there is little support. Taylor’s brother-in-law, Zach Thomas, has left for Dallas, and there is much work to be done for a front line that yielded more yards on the ground than anyone in the NFL (153.5 per game).
New England Patriots Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Foxborough, Massachusetts
Stadium : Gillette
Coach: Bill Belichick
NFL Championships: Super Bowl XXXVI (2001), Super Bowl XXXVIII (2003) & Super Bowl XXXIX (2004)
New England Patriots – There was triumph and tragedy for this franchise in 2007. Yes, the Pats were unbeaten in the regular season (16-0, and 10-6 against the spread), the second team in the NFL to do that. But they lost the most important game of all, as the Giants beat them in the Super Bowl.
There was not much in the way of significant player additions, unless first-round pick Jerod Mayo becomes an immediate contributor at a linebacker spot. But there were a couple of meaningful player losses, as wide receiver Donte Stallworth and cornerback Asante Samuel both walked out the door. Bill Belichick has to be concerned with age catching up to this defense, which would leave a shorter window for the Pats to go back and get some redemption for last season’s loss. But you can’t deny that this tam is still loaded with personnel. Tom Brady, who threw for an NFL record 50 touchdowns last year, will have Randy Moss and Wes Welker (112 catches in ’07), and with Lawrence Maroney slated to get some more carries, this will be an attack that will light up the scoreboard again.
The way he has been known to motivate his troops in the past, no one would should be surprised if Belichick has his team roaring out of the gate once again. The Patriots are listed at -1000 to win the division +300 to win the Super Bowl in the Top Sportsbooks NFL futures odds, and they have more than enough to reward their backers this season.
New York Jets Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey
Stadium : Giants
Coach: Eric Mangini
NFL Championships: AFL-NFL Super Bowl III (1968)
New York Jets – Well, let’s just say that by the end of the 2007 season, we weren’t hearing much about “Eric Man-Genius” around the New York area. What we heard were things like “Spygate,” which involved Mangini squealing on former mentor Bill Belichick, who was reportedly stealing defensive signals from his team.
The Jets had gone from 4-12 in 2005 to 10-6 and a playoff spot in ’06 under Mangini. But last year it was back to 4-12 (6-9-1 against the number) and now we have something of a quarterback controversy whereby Chad Pennington, the veteran short-arm, will battle it out with inconsistent Kellen Clemens. With the acquisition of fullback Tony Richardson and offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Damien Woody, the running game is in a position to be better. Thomas Jones, who averaged less than four yards a carry last year, needs to be equal to the task.
Vernon Gholston is the new blood on offense; many scouts considered him one of the top two or three players available in the draft. But the loss of linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who went to New Orleans, needs to be compensated for.
The Jets, who are +3500 to win the AFC and +8000 to win the Super Bowl at BetUS, shouldn’t be counted completely out, based on what Mangini was able to get done in his first year. But the QB situation may never be settled, and Jones may not be the real answer in the backfield.
Oakland Raiders Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Oakland, California
Stadium : McAfee Coliseum
Coach: Lane Kiffin
NFL Championships: Super Bowl XI (1976), Super Bowl XV (1980) & Super Bowl XVIII (1983)
Oakland Raiders – The Silver and Black has long since lost its swagger, and last season’s 4-12 finish (where they were 6-10 against the pointspread) did not produce many magic moments. But the Raiders could run the ball; in fact, they ranked sixth in the league in that department, and Justin Fargas had a 100-yard season. Now they can take that running game to a new level with th addition of Darren McFadden, who has a chance to become one of the NFL’s best.
If Oakland gets what it expects out of JaMarcus Russell, the #1 draft choice in 2007 who played sparingly last year after holding out of training camp, this can get closer to the kind of offense Al Davis really likes.
On defense, however, Oakland could not stop anyone on the ground (31st in the league). That must be addressed. But D’Angelo Hall, a Pro Bowler in Atlanta, is a very significant addition to the secondary. Oakland is +900 to win the AFC West, and though that might be a lofty goal with San Diego in the division, it is not inconceivable that with a few breaks, they could overtake Denver, which may fade a bit.
Pittsburgh Steelers Odds, Lines & Betting
Stadium : Heinz Field
Coach: Mike Tomlin
NFL Championships: Super Bowl IX (1974), Super Bowl X (1975), Super Bowl XIII (1978), Super Bowl XIV (1979) & Super Bowl XL (2005)
Pittsburgh Steelers – In Mike Tomlin’s first season, the Steelers were tough, winning the AFC North with a 10-6 straight-up record (8-8 against the spread), but they have the Cleveland Browns breathing down their neck now. The Steelers lost a home playoff game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which surprised many, and showed an inability to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked 47 times. Then they lost All-Pro offensive guard Alan Faneca to the New York Jets via free agency. Needless to say, this is a problem that needs to be corrected.
But there is some optimism about the arrival of Rashard Mendenhall, who will give this team some added strength in the backfield and support for Willie Parker, one of the best runners in the AFC. And the defense ranked #1 in the NFL in yards allowed, not to mention second in points allowed. Look for that area to be solid again.
Tomlin has done a good job where his predecessor, Bill Cowher left off. The Steelers are listed in the Top Sportsbooks NFL futures odds as an even money choice to once again win the AFC North, and +1600 to win the Super Bowl. They will surely be in the playoff hunt.
San Diego Chargers Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: San Diego, California
Stadium : Qualcomm
Coach: Norv Turner
NFL Championships: None
San Diego Chargers – It was tumultuous for this team leading into the 2007 season. After another playoff disappointment, Marty Schottenheimer got the ax as head coach and got it late, because the situation between him and general manager A.J. Smith had just become too difficult. Norv Turner, who was less than successful in previous stops at Washington and Oakland, was brought in, and to compound matters, the Chargers lost three of their first four games. But this team came on like gangbusters to win its last six to finish 11-5, both straight-up and against the spread, then beat Indianapolis in the playoffs before falling to New England in the AFC title game.
Phillip Rivers played that game with a knee injury, and immediately had surgery. He’ll be back, as will LaDanian Tomlinson, although backup running back Michael Turner left for Atlanta. Chris Chambers is in the lineup for a full season this time, and somewhere they’ll figure out a way to use speedy Darren Sproles more in the offense.
San Diego is pretty solid throughout its defense, and Eric Weddle, an industrious second-year pro out of Utah, should move into the free safety position nicely. The Chargers are the class of the AFC West, and so they are priced at +400 to win the conference and +700 to win the Super Bowl. They are justifiably one of the favorites.
Tennessee Titans Odds, Lines & Betting
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Stadium : LP Field
Coach: Jeff Fisher
NFL Championships: None
Tennessee Titans – Vince Young made his first playoff appearance last year for the Titans, but with just nine TD’s and 17 interceptions, he’ll have to improve his accuracy. Hopefully the addition of tight end Alge Crumpler will help. But he wide receivers don’t scare anybody, so it will be critical that LenDale White continue to produce, as Young and head coach Jeff Fisher need to create some favorable down-and-distance situations.
With Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee is going to put some pressure on the quarterback, and maybe Jevon Kearse, acquired via free agency, has enough left in the gas tank to provide even more help in that area. The Titans’ defense ought to hold up – last year it ranked fifth overall in the league.
Once again, the leadership of Young is going to be a key. He knows how to improvise, although due to injuries, he wasn’t quite the threat on the ground that he was as a rookie. Tennessee posted a solid 10-6 mark last year (8-8 against the spread), beating the Cleveland Browns on a tie-breaker for a wild card spot. Priced at +600 for the AFC South title, +2200 to win the conference and +3500 to capture a Super Bowl crown, they may just offer some value along the way to their backers at Our best Sportsbooks.
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