My wife could teach Paris Hilton the theory of relativity, cure the common cold and write a coherent, convincing dissertation titled “Sharknado: How It Could Really Happen”—all within 24 hours—before she could tell you the difference between a punt and a field goal. The point: My wife is highly intelligent, but she doesn’t know—nor care to know—jack squat about football. And yet even she understands the object of the game is to score more points than the opposition.
Which is why I would never even try to explain to her the ass-backward season produced by the 2012 Indianapolis Colts. Here’s what I mean by ass-backward: After going 2-14 in 2011, Indianapolis last season finished 11-5—an astonishing nine-game improvement, this despite breaking in a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach, the latter of whom missed most of the season while battling leukemia. But that’s not even the confounding part; this is: The Colts won 11 games despite scoring 30 fewer points than their opponents. (It’s OK; you can re-read that last sentence.)
To put this absurdity into context, consider that Miami last season was outscored by 29 points—or one fewer than Indy—and finished 7-9. Then there’s Seattle, which compiled the same 11-5 record as Indy … while scoring 167 points more than the opposition! (Why, yes, the Colts’ logo is a horseshoe, and their quarterback’s surname is Luck.) Anyway, as I continue with my 2013 NFL win-total recommendations with the AFC South, you can probably guess which way I’m leaning with Indy—hell, the wife could probably guess which way I’m leaning with Indy. (Note: I’m using the best available odds from the LVH, William Hill, Cantor Gaming and Station Casinos sportsbooks.)
Colts (8½ wins): Will QB Andrew Luck, who had an outstanding rookie campaign, avoid a sophomore slump? Probably (he’s as gifted as Blaine Gabbert is not). Will Indy benefit from a full season with cancer-free coach Chuck Pagano on the sideline? Undoubtedly. Will the Colts, as they did a year ago, once again benefit from one of the league’s five easiest schedules? No. Moreover, will the Colts, as they did a year ago, win nine of 10 games decided by a touchdown or less? Hell no.
Show any stats geek Indy’s minus-30 point-differential last year, and he’ll tell you that was a 7-9 team wrapped in an 11-5 record. Meaning the Colts could actually play better this season and not finish above .500. The play: UNDER (-105, LVH and Cantor).
Jaguars (5): Did somebody say Blaine Gabbert? Certainly, no Jacksonville fan did—unless it was followed by “sucks” or “should get the hell out of town.” Actually, in fairness to Gabbert, he does have more TD passes (21) than interceptions (17) in his two seasons. Of course, he’s also averaged just 5.6 yards per pass attempt. To grasp how truly awful that is, consider the career yards-per-attempt numbers of Brandon Weeden (6.5), Matt Cassel (6.6) and Kevin Kolb (6.9). The good news is the Jags have a capable backup in veteran Chad Henne. The bad news is Henne is more brittle than your granddad’s hip. The play: UNDER (+110, LVH).
Texans (10): Only two teams in the NFL last year averaged more than 130 rushing yards and 235 passing yards per game. One was New England; the other was Houston. At the same time, only four teams allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards and 230 passing yards per game: the Steelers, Broncos, 49ers and Texans. That right there explains Houston’s franchise-best 12-4 record in 2012. (Well, that and this crappy division.) Assuming the Texans match last year’s 5-1 divisional record—not exactly a stretch—they’d have to go 6-4 outside the AFC South to get over this win total. Well, of their four toughest games (Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots and Broncos), three are at home. Also, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Co. won’t play a single cold-weather game all year. The play: OVER (-130, LVH).
Titans (6½): Little-known fact: The Titans, who are coming off a 6-10 campaign, have had consecutive losing seasons just once since the franchise moved from Houston to Tennessee prior to the 1997 season. I’m inclined to bet on that streak continuing, because the Titans have a bunch of offensive weapons (and, yes, I’m including QB Jake Locker; check his numbers) and because they’ve got a bunch of winnable home games (Chargers, Jets, Chiefs, Jaguars, Colts and Cardinals, plus the Raiders on the road). Then again, Tennessee also faces the Steelers, Texans (twice), Seahawks, 49ers, Rams and Broncos; and the defense—which last year surrendered an NFL-high 29.4 points per game—hasn’t improved much. So … flip a coin. The play: UNDER (-110, LVH).
Best Bet: Colts-UNDER
Next Week: AFC West