Even if you’re not a betting person, the initial release of the NFL’s Over/Under win totals is an exciting mark of the offseason. It signifies the end of major moves and means we now have such a clear picture of what rosters are going to look like that Las Vegas will allow you to profit – or more likely lose – hundreds of dollars on the upcoming season.
It also allows you to see the public perception of your favorite team. With the goal of getting folks to bet evenly on both sides, each win total is roughly an average of how good or terrible everyone thinks your team will be in 2016. Sure, there are always surprises each year, but the win totals are generally pretty accurate. So if you were expecting the San Francisco 49ers to suddenly surge to 12 wins under Chip Kelly, sorry, you’re alone in that boat (genius that Chip is).
However, there are a few win totals that jumped out to me right away as a little off. Here are three cases where Vegas may be over or underestimating teams.
Arizona Cardinals: Over/Under (9.5)
Vegas set the over/under at 10.5 for five teams, the supposed “upper echelon” of the league. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Arizona wasn’t part of it. If winning 13 games and playing in last year’s NFC Championship Game doesn’t make a team a bona fide contender, I don’t what does.
The Cards are returning all their key pieces from last year, and have even seen an upgrade in the pass rush department thanks to the addition of Chandler Jones. The team has also finished with double-digit wins in every season under Bruce Arians. The line of demarcation that Vegas has drawn between Arizona and the rest of the league’s top contenders should most certainly come back to bite them.
Dallas Cowboys: Over/Under (9.5)
You can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps, and I would imagine the same can be said about a football team. For the Dallas Cowboys, a tenant of the NFC Least, to have them on par with Arizona is curious for a couple reasons.
One: no one is sure which Cowboys team we’ll be getting next year, even if Tony Romo stays healthy. But while they have the ability to shock in both good and bad ways, Dallas will always regress to the mean: the team has averaged eight wins per season for the last five years.
Two: the rest of the NFC East has such dirt-poor expectations why are the Cowboys exempt from that? The next highest win total is the Giants at 8.5, and Washington – the reigning division champ – is third with 7.5. For a division that is always a tight race, Dallas is not a clear heads-above-the-rest choice, even with the assumed perfect health that comes with preseason picks.
Realistically, the number is this high because of how many Cowboy fans will blindly bet the over expecting greatness from their team. I’m just reminding them those expectations should be lower.
San Diego Chargers: Over/Under (7)
At what point do injuries stop becoming an excuse? The Chargers’ team bus may have been an ambulance last year, but their 4-12 record was as much a signal that their 53-man roster simply doesn’t have enough talent. Don’t let the band-aids mask how bad this team truly is.
Basically, if Philip Rivers doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done. And Rivers doesn’t run the ball or play defense. He may be a magician that has made the likes of Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Danario Alexander, and Dontrelle Inman look like real NFL receivers, but the 34-year-old can’t carry this team by himself.
The Chargers play on the field reflected their stadium situation off it: future uncertain. As a team that had a nine-win ceiling at best, San Diego should be entering full-on rebuild mode. But as long as the veteran Rivers remains under center, they’ll keep trying for quick fixes instead.
However, the real reason I think the total should be way lower is how tough their division has become. Home to some of the most dominant pass rushers in the game, the Chargers were winless versus the AFC West last season, and seem headed down a similar path this year.