The NFL season is right around the corner, so let’s jump right into this, with five teams to keep an eye on based on some things I’ve noticed and want you to be aware of as you approach your future bets or weekly wagers.
1. Buffalo Bills: The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Bills installed as the team to beat in a division the Patriots have dominated since 1996. New England has won the AFC East 19 of the last 24 seasons, including the last 11. The last time Buffalo won the division crown was in 1995, when it had won the East six of eight years.
Well, this may be the year the Bills return to division supremacy. Last year, Buffalo finished with the second-best scoring defense (16.2 points per game) and with the No. 3 stop unit overall. Behind its staunch defense, the Bills clinched a postseason berth for the second time in three seasons.
The area needing improvement? The 24th-ranked offense. Enter wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who has been hampered with a back injury, but will make a difference. The Bills strengthened the defense with free agent additions Vernon Butler, Mario Addison and Quinton Jefferson joining the line, along with second-round draft choice AJ Epenesa. Look for pure value with this team as the season begins with four non-playoff teams from a year ago, and just one playoff team over its last four contests.
1ï¸âƒ£7ï¸âƒ£ —> 1ï¸âƒ£6ï¸âƒ£#GoBills | #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/nMvQ2QVp8t
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 1, 2020
2. Miami Dolphins: I’ll stay within the AFC East and look for big lines when the Dolphins take the field. Remember when they were being accused of tanking the 2019 season after an 0-7 start to the campaign, and had been outscored by 23 points per contest? Then, the Fins began to swim and were highly competitive over their last nine games, winning five, including a three-point victory over New England. They also covered nine of their last 12. This year the Dolphins are a highly improved team.
I don’t know about challenging the Bills and Patriots for the AFC East, but they can improve their win total and certainly cover some numbers. The average line when Miami visited New England the last five years was 10.9, so call it 11. The Dolphins are catching +6 in Foxborough in Week 1 at the SuperBook. With the addition of first-round quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and free agent running backs Matt Breida and Jordan Howard on offense, and defensive ends Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah and linebacker Kyle Van Noy on the other side of the ball, don’t be surprised if Miami pulls off a shocker to open the season. I most certainly would consider over five wins.
3. Houston Texans: Fading the Texans will be something I’ll consider over the first four weeks. Houston opens its season by visiting defending champion Kansas City and then Pittsburgh, before hosting Baltimore and Minnesota. It is probably the Texans’ toughest four-game stretch of the campaign, and it wouldn’t shock me to see them 0-4 by Oct. 4. Remember, gone are key playmakers wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on offense and cornerback Johnathan Joseph on defense. The offseason acquisition list is nothing to brag about, and with no preseason games to get acquainted, I’m skeptical how this team responds. It’s no surprise Kansas City is laying double digits on the season-opening Thursday.
4. Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders should win more than seven games — end of story. The current number is 7.5, and I think they have a .500 season in them at the very least. They’ve bulked up their receiving corps, not only with a slew of wideouts who bring in different intangibles for quarterback Derek Carr, but there’s future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten and emerging TE Darren Waller to help out. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has veteran D-line coach Rod Marinelli sculpting the front line, and defensive tackle Maliek Collins bolstering it.
Yes, the Raiders have a tough start to the season with four of their first five opponents fresh off postseason berths, but Las Vegas bring a lot of hype and motivation into this season. Consider this to be a playoff-or-bust season. I strongly consider over 7.5 wins.
5. San Francisco 49ers: A big disappointment might be last year’s runner-up, as I’m not convinced the 49ers are going to be anything close to what we saw in 2019. I wrote last year in this space how the 49ers might have been a facade and would run into trouble somewhere in the playoffs due to a weaker schedule. Ultimately, Kansas City was simply the better team in the Super Bowl.
This season, San Francisco’s opponents had a combined winning percentage of .527 in 2019 —the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL. The win total is 10.5, and it’s that hook that might get you.