Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).
AFC North looks to be one of the stronger conferences, with probable AFC Champion Baltimore in the mix with a possibly frisky Bengals team, and a Steelers team that could go anywhere from 7-9 to 12-4 depending how healthy they stay on defense, and how they react during #7's absence. Even Cleveland might be something, but then again, they're Cleveland, so probably not. Teams presented in alphabetical order. Their divisional cross-match this season is against a solid AFC East, and the NFC South (home of the current NFL Champion Saints). None of these teams are going to get any weeks off, really. Not being matched against either of the two crappy divisions (AFC West, NFC West) might reduce each team's win total potential.
Baltimore Ravens (win total 10.0) OVER!
Despite being in a strong division, I think this could be a 12-14 win team this season, so taking the over seems like a no-brainer. A lot depends on how healthy their defensive stars stay this season, but there's no reason to suspect they won't have another competitive regular season like last year. 4-2 in division, and 8-2 outside of their division seems like a pretty good bet to make on this team. They had an easier schedule last year, yet stumbled to a 9-7 mark, but I think they'll perform better this season, some of their losses were pretty flukey. If they play smartly on both sides of the ball, they'll be hard to beat. Unfortunately, they have a history of boneheaded-ness at key moments that might undermine their talent. I'm almost talking myself out of picking them over, but on paper this is one of the strongest teams in the league, and should challenge the Colts for the AFC Championship.
Cincinnati Bengals (win total 8.0) UNDER!
Too many distractions, this team always seems ready for a breakthrough, and then something happens off field and their season goes south. I'm going with history on this one. Excluding the 1982 scab season following their Superbowl loss, the Bengals haven't had consecutive winning seasons since 1977. I have faith in this franchise that they'll find a way to fall apart and lose 10-11 games despite all the talent they seem to have.
Cleveland Browns (win total 5.5) OVER!
Cleveland's taken enough abuse this year, their NFL Franchise will give them a glimmer of hope, mainly because I expect bad things from divisional opponents Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, though, not because the Browns look particularly strong. They'll scratch out at least 8 wins this season, that'll be enough to distract Cleveland fans from all the fun the Miami LeBrons will be having in the NBA during November and December.
Pittsburgh Steelers (win total 9.0) UNDER!
If their defense stays healthy, and Dennis Dixon does a decent job, they might do well, but those are two huge ifs, and I think they'll lose key defensive players to injury, and when Ben #7 comes back after his suspension, that things won't immediately click into place. This is a 7 win team waiting to happen.