Sportsbook.com has become the first book to release NFL season totals for next year. I’m not generally a fan of these bets, and especially not in the NFL when the possible range is so small because of the number of games they play. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to learn from the bets, though. By looking at the numbers and the juice required we can get a good sense of how oddsmakers are feeling about some teams. If any are a surprise then we have lots of time to figure out if they seem right or wrong. Here are the strongest opinions based on the first numbers posted:
Buffalo over 7.5 (-180) – The Bills are the heaviest favorite on the board. Books are obviously pretty confident that they will improve on their seven wins of last season. It’s not hard to justify that opinion – their quarterback has more much needed experience, their injury woes will hopefully be a thing of the past, the offense reloaded in the draft, and they seem to be moving in the right direction. Their division schedule will be tougher than last year, though, because the Pats are still the Pats and the Jets and Dolphins have improved. The rest of the schedule could be tough, too, including San Diego, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. I like the Bills, but certainly not enough to make this bet.
Oakland over 6 (-170) – The second biggest price on the board isn’t very attractive to me, either. To pay off here the Raiders need to find three more wins. Their running game should be improved (though it was pretty much the lone bright spot last year), but they will be relying on a brand new quarterback who isn’t surrounded with overwhelming tools. It could happen, but I don’t love the chances, and I think that this price is just an attempt to sucker in the suckers that call themselves Raiders fans.
Indianapolis under 11 (-165) – Books are down on the Colts. They would have to drop by three wins here. The arguments can be made – the receiving corps has questions (including whether Marvin Harrison will end up in an orange jumpsuit), and Tony Dungy doesn’t seem to be committed to his job for the long term. I don’t know whether I believe in this one or not, but I would be more than a little thrilled if it were true.
Dallas over 10.5 (-160) – I wonder if America’s team has ever been anything other than a heavy favorite to go over. The public can’t seem to be objective about this team, and the books take advantage of it. The number doesn’t seem that unreasonable, but the price sure does.
Atlanta over 4.5 (-160) – The Falcons need to find one more win than last year to pay off here. They have a new quarterback who has to make a gigantic leap up from the ACC, a coach who has never been at the helm of a team before, a GM who has to rebuild the team almost from scratch in his first year as a GM, and players have defected from several key positions. I have no doubts that this team is on the right path and will figure things out eventually, but I don’t think that their improvement this year is nearly the lock that this price would suggest.