It’s been argued by some—OK, many—that I am the Ryan Leaf of NFL prognosticators: an enormous bust. To that I take enormous offense, as I’ve won a lot more than four NFL games. Fine, so my winning percentage might be a tad Leaf-ian, and certainly my balance sheet suggests I’m a long way from being nominated for induction into the Handicapper’s Hall of Fame. But this much you can’t deny: When it comes to NFL win-total predictions, I make Joe Montana look like a chump.
Over the past three seasons, I’ve compiled a 52-25-1 record with NFL win-total recommendations; last year alone, I went 22-9-1. What’s my secret? I could tell you … if only I knew. And frankly, I don’t want to know. To paraphrase my electronic-dance-music DJ pals, it’s best not to waste brainpower overanalyzing unexplainable success. Just ride the wave until it inevitably pounds you into the ocean floor. With that said, let’s take a quick-hitter look at William Hill sportsbooks’ recently released 2013 season over/under numbers, starting with the AFC. Note: This is just an appetizer; check back in about six weeks for my official recommendations.
Bills (6½ wins): Count me among the idiots who last year believed Chan Gailey would guide Buffalo to its second winning record since 1999. The Bills, whose win total jumped to as high as eight last summer, limped to 6-10—its fourth straight season with six wins or fewer.
Dolphins (7½): With a rookie coach (Joe Philbin) and a rookie QB (Ryan Tannehill), Miami went 7-9 in 2012 (its third such record in the last four years). Both Philbin and Tannehill drop to their knees nightly to give thanks for four games versus the Jets and Bills.
Jets (6½): A synopsis of New York’s offseason: It kept coach Rex Ryan, kept quarterback Mark Sanchez, dumped one of the league’s best defensive players (Darrelle Revis), drafted a QB with a questionable work ethic (Geno Smith) and kicked God (Tim Tebow) to the curb. Do you trust this franchise to win seven games?
Patriots (11½): Ten straight double-digit-victory seasons and counting for Bill Belichick & Co., including seven seasons of at least 12 wins. No wonder the Pats are tied with Denver and San Francisco for the highest projected win total.
Bengals (8½): Cincinnati is coming off consecutive 9-7 and 10-6 campaigns. The last time the Bungles won more than eight games in three straight seasons? That would be never.
Browns (6½): New offensive coordinator Norv Turner recently told CBSSports.com that the Browns’ offense is “going to attack.” Somebody needs to introduce Norv to his quarterback, Brandon Weeden. (FYI: Cleveland has won at least seven games exactly once since 2003.)
Ravens (8½): Baltimore’s victory totals in the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era: 11, 9, 12, 12 and 10. Victory totals for the last six defending Super Bowl champs: 9, 15, 11, 9, 12, 13.
Steelers (9½): From 2000-11, Pittsburgh finished with fewer than 10 wins four times. Following each of those years, the Steelers posted consecutive double-digit-victory seasons. Pittsburgh went 8-8 in 2012.
Colts (8½): Indianapolis was one of eight teams with at least 11 wins last year. The other seven had a point differential of at least plus-85, including five teams that outscored their opponents by at least 120 points. The Colts’ point differential: minus-30.
Jaguars (5): Who says the Jaguars (7-25 the last two seasons) never win anything? They have the lowest win total of 2013!
Texans (10½): Houston’s six games against division rivals Indy, Jacksonville and Tennessee are offset by six brutal contests against the Ravens, Seahawks, 49ers, Rams, Patriots and Broncos.
Titans (6½): Only four teams in 2012 had a worse point differential than Tennessee’s minus-141. Those teams finished 4-12, 4-12, 2-14 and 2-14. The Titans went 6-10. The password is: fluke!
Broncos (11½): NFL Wagering 101: Never bet on Peyton Manning in the playoffs; never bet against him in the regular season—Manning has won at least 12 games in eight of his last nine full seasons.
Chargers (7½): San Diego went 7-9 in 2012, its first sub-.500 record since 2003. But Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith have left the building, which has to be good for at least one additional victory, right?
Chiefs (7½): Speaking of addition by subtraction: So long Matt Cassel and Romeo Crennel; hello Alex Smith and Andy Reid. (This is a good thing, Chiefs fans. I swear.)
Raiders (5½): You did it, Oakland: a full decade (2003-12) without a single winning season, including eight years with five victories or fewer. Just (Continue to) Lose, Baby!