At $17.5 million, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will earn the highest base salary of any NFL player in 2014, per Sportrac.com. Throw in his prorated signing bonus, and Cutler will rake in $18.1 million, placing him seventh on the highest-paid list—or eight spots higher than Tom Brady.
Put aside, for the moment, how ludicrous that is, seeing that Cutler in eight oft-injured seasons has started two playoff games (and finished just one). Instead, picture Cutler pulling off the freeway, his Ferrari 458 running on empty. The station to his left is selling gas for $3.81 a gallon, the one to his right is at $3.65. Which way do you think Cutler turns?
The point: No matter our socioeconomic status, we’re all preconditioned to shop for the best deals possible—even brittle NFL quarterbacks making nearly $50,000 per day. Which brings me to the topic of NFL season win totals. Every sportsbook in Nevada has win-total odds posted, and those odds fluctuate greatly from one property to the other. Take, for example, the New York Jets: William Hill has the Jets at 6½ wins; Station Casinos and the Westgate Las Vegas (formerly LVH) are at 7 wins; and MGM Resorts puts the number at 7½.
So as I offer up my 2014 win-total recommendations over the next four weeks, please know that the single most important piece of advice you’ll see is this: Shop around! The second most important piece of advice: Do not fall for the Johnny Manziel hype! (More on that next week …)
On to my AFC East selections:
Patriots (10½ wins): With its best offensive weapon (Rob Gronkowski) and several key defensive starters sidelined for a chunk of 2013, New England still went 12-4—the 11th consecutive year the Pats have posted double-digit wins, and the seventh time they’ve won at least 12 games. One of these years Brady & Co. will fall flat on their arrogant faces—and with the league’s 10th-toughest schedule, perhaps this is the year … but I’m not betting on it. OVER (-160, William Hill and Station)
Jets (7½): The good news for the Jets: They’ve won at least eight games five times in the past six seasons. The bad news: QB Geno Smith—he of the 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions as a rookie last year—said earlier this summer he believes he’ll be a top-five NFL QB by season’s end. With Michael Vick behind him, Smith may not even be the top QB on his own team by October. UNDER (-140, MGM)
Dolphins (7½): Nice steady progress by Miami the last three seasons (6-10, 7-9, 8-8), and a nice sophomore campaign by QB Ryan Tannehill (nearly 4,000 passing yards, 24 TDs, 17 INTs). Except for a late-November game at Denver and their annual trip to New England, the Dolphins catch a schedule break in that their toughest games (Chiefs, Packers, Chargers, Ravens) will be in South Beach. OVER (-115, William Hill)
Bills (6½): Who says the Bills are inconsistent? This franchise is riding a streak of three straight 6-10 seasons! Why will this be the year the Bills reach seven victories for the first time since 2008? Because the defense is sneaky good (ranked 10th last season); because the offense has added some much-needed weapons; and because I took Buffalo “over” last year and just missed. It’s not like the Bills to repeatedly disappoint someone, right? OVER (-160, Westgate, William Hill and Station)
Next week: AFC North, AFC South, AFC West.
Matt Jacob appears at 10 a.m. Fridays on “First Preview” on ESPN Radio 1100-AM and 98.9-FM.