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AFC Preview 2007
August 23, 2007

Let's look at each division in turn. I use my Luck Index and Schedule Index to compare last year's record with this year's season win totals line (from BetUS.com). I'll give you my thoughts on the off-season and my outlook for this year with a prediction. Included is the Week 1 game of each team. Compare what you think of each team to what the lines maker thinks the public thinks.

Buffalo Bills

Luck Index: 9

Schedule Index: 15

2006 Record: 7-9

Season Win Line: Under 6, -125

Week 1 game with Opening Line: +3 1/2 vs Denver

Despite the #30 O, #28 Run D and playing the league's toughest schedule, the Bills had it at 7-7 before losing their last 2. Unfortunately, their #1 schedule is brutal again this year. Although they have a bye and 3 home games in the 1st 6, they do not play a sub .500 team from 2006 until Nov. 11 and have only 4 such teams all year. I would circle their pre-bye Oct. 8 game vs Dallas as it is their 1st home MNF game since 1994. The off-season saw some major changes. Watch early to see if 3 new OL can improve on their #27 Run O and #25 47 sacks allowed. Their D is also suspect as supposed run-stuffer Walker was shipped to the Bears and the back 7 lost LB's Spikes and Fletcher and star CB Clements. Rookie Posluzny will start @ MLB.

Prediction: It's Under or nothing.


Miami Dolphins

Luck Index: 13

Schedule Index: 9

2006 Record: 6-10

Season Win Line: Under 7 1/2, -130

Week 1 game with Opening Line: +3, -115 @ Washington

The Fish were on the losing end in a number of "wrong-team-won" scenarios last year, out-stating their opponent but losing due to a few key plays. Despite 10 losses, they outgained their opposition by 335 yds on the year. After last year's #4 sked they get a slight break in 2007 at #10. However, they have no back-to-back home games and one of their "home" games is in London vs the Giants. With their #3 pass rush, expect last year's #4 D to still be solid. Of concern is the fact they released 4 OL and their starting TE. In addition, although he ran the league's #1 O, their new head coach Cam Cameron did not fair well as "the man" in college. With above average WR's (including 1st-rounder Ginn) can QB Trent Green bounce back or is he over the hill?

Prediction: Lean Over, but too much uncertainty with O and coaching to pull the trigger.


New England Patriots

Luck Index: 28

Schedule Index: 30

2006 Record: 12-4

Season Win Line: 11 1/2, -115

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -6 1/2 @ New York Jets

This bandwagon already getting pretty crowded as after opening @ 9 to 2, the Pats are now the leading 5 to 2 favorite to win the Super Bowl. As you can see above, NE has bad numbers on both my indices. They were +6 in turnovers and +3 in close games, although with the best coach in the business and a veteran team that may be repeatable. Their sked gets much tougher going from #18 to #3. They have 5 night games and face Dal/Indy/Bal on the road. The return of SS Harrison and addition of LB Thomas should shore up a back 7 that could not hold a 21-3 lead @ Indy despite a #5 pass rush (costing Belichick only his 2nd playoff loss). I think it crucial they sign CB Samuel. NE's only other weakness was @ WR; thus the acquisition of perennial malcontent Randy Moss. Maybe some Patriot pedigree will rub off on him.

Prediction: Not going to bet against Belichick or my own indices.


New York Jets

Luck Index: 26

Schedule Index: 29

2006 Record: 10-6

Season Win Line: Under 8, -150

Week 1 game with Opening Line: +6 1/2 vs New England

Another team with bad indices. The Jets were the 4th healthiest team last year and finished +2 in close games. Even playing the #24 sked they were outgained by 415 yds; this year they have the #10 sked. Their fate could be decided early with 3 of 1st 4 vs divisional opponents. They also play 4 in 5 away starting Thanksgiving @ Dallas. I will be watching their #24 Run D in pre-season as they have 4 new DL's to audition. The OL is decent, so RB Jones could improve the run game. They finished 2006 with a 5-1 record, but it was all vs sub .500 opposition. A deceptive 10-win playoff team that likely won't be so lucky this year.

Prediction: .500 seems about right.


Baltimore Ravens


Luck Index: 31

Schedule Index: 32

2006 Record: 13-3

Season Win Line: Over 9, -140

Week 1 game with Opening Line: +3, -115 @ Cincinnati

Double whammy for Ravens; tied for last year's luckiest team and taking the biggest sked hit (#25 to 5). We see what a difference turnovers make as 6-10 Baltimore was -10 in '05 and +17 last year for a 7 win turnaround. They upgraded @ RB with McGahee for Lewis to try and improve a #25 Run O that was shut down by a suspect (although finally healthy) Colt D in the playoffs. They better use their bye wisely as coming out of it they have 3 divisional games and then a SD/NE/Indy trifecta. In a division where their 3 opponents all look to be improved, it will be tough to repeat last year's 5-1 record. Too bad the lines maker knows all this as their win total is only 9. Their #1 D and #2 pass rush will let them keep it close.

Prediction: Even with normal luck they probably get 9 or 10 wins - no value.


Cincinnati Bengals

Luck Index: 14

Schedule Index: 5

2006 Record: 8-8

Season Win Line: Over 9, -135

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -3, +105 vs Baltimore

Unlike their Week 1 opponent Ravens, Cincy's sked goes from #5 to 15. After a rematch with Baltimore on November 11 none of their remaining 7 is against a .500 plus 2006 team. The Bengals have two problems; one on and one off the field. Their off field behavior has me thinking about developing an "arrests and suspensions index". Perhaps not uncoincidentally their lack of discipline might be part of a #32 Pass D. For a supposedly defensive-minded head coach, that's one reason they have trouble finishing teams off. They did draft a potential shutdown CB 1st round. Of concern was their lack of balance on O with the #26 run game.

Prediction: See them in a lot of close ones - probably a little over .500.


Cleveland Browns

Luck Index: 2

Schedule Index: 13

2006 Record: 4-12

Season Win Line: Under 6, -135

Week 1 game with Opening Line: +4 1/2 vs Pittsburgh

The Browns will be better, but will it show in their record? Last year they led the league in injuries and were 2nd worst in turnovers. However, their sked is still#7 after last year's #5. Their main problems have been at the line of scrimmage: #30 and 29 Run O and D and #30 and 27 in sacks for and against. Not exactly what you'd like to see even if they had a proven QB! They look to have improved on offense 1st with the acquisition of Steinbach and #3 draft choice Thomas. With a new offensive coordinator the OL will have to gel quickly as they have all 3 home divisional games in the 1st 4 weeks. If they start badly, they might be excellent value later when things come together.

Prediction: Luck index suggests an improvement but with 3 iffy QB's I'll pass.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Luck Index: 18

Schedule Index: 27

2006 Record: 8-8

Season Win Line: Under 9, -180

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -4 1/2 @ Cleveland

In the "parity league", Pittsburgh was neck-and-neck with Jacksonville for the best of 8 teams @ 8-8 last year as they were each one of only 3 teams to finish top 10 in O and D (San Diego was the 3rd). Their only negative was a 5th worst in sacks allowed. A healthy Big Ben and more 2 TE schemes from new Offensive Coordinator Arians should help that. I expect their D to be solid as ever, especially vs the run (#3 last year). New HC Tomlin steps into a great situation as they could easily be on a 5-0 roll heading into the bye (toughest opponent Seattle @ home). This is a tight-knit vet group that went from champ to chump last year missing the playoffs - they should be on a mission. They do have the #6 sked but that could be offset by a return from -8 turnovers. The tough part comes late and this team won on the road in 2005.

Prediction: I will take the +150 odds on at least a 10-win season.


Houston Texans

Luck Index: 5

Schedule Index: 21

2006 Record: 6-10

Season Win Line: Under 6 1/2, -135

Week 1 game with Opening Line: Pick 'em vs Kansas City

Mixed bag for Texans as they should be more fortunate than last year's 3rd highest injuries, but must play the #10 sked. HC Kubiak is a former QB and must have been in on the decision to dump former franchise QB Carr in favor of new #1 Schaub and his 161 career regular season passes. They can now rotate RB's with Green/Dayne/Lundy but the OL is still a question mark. Neither do they have a good #2 WR to complement their star Johnson. Last year's #1 overall pick DE Williams has yet to have a big impact as they were #27 in sacks. Except for the QB change the off-season mainly added depth. Houston actually went 3-3 in their division last year with a sweep of JAX and a split with Indy. That means they probably won't sneak up on anybody and they face the improved NFC South.

Prediction: Depending on how Schaub looks in pre-season I may take a shot with the Under.


Indianapolis Colts

Luck Index: 24

Schedule Index: 23

2006 Record: 12-4

Season Win Line: Over 10 1/2, -130

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -6 1/2 vs New Orleans

Last year's least kept secret was Indy's #32 Run D. However, that stat ought to come with a "BS" asterisk. After missing 12 regular season games, when FS Bob Sanders returned for their playoff run they allowed only 83 yds/game their last 4 and outrushed their opposition 604-331. Well publicized off-season losses include LT Glenn, LB June and both starting CB's. It will be interesting to see if Dungy's D system can take that kind of hit in the back-7 when they were #31 in sacks last year. I think we find out September 6 when the Saints #1 O makes a visit. It helps to be lucky to be good and the Colts were last year as they tied the Titans for the #1 net in close games at +5. This year they play my #9 sked but the lines maker has posted a low win total.

Prediction: They were 10-0 @ home last year and I'm not betting on at least 6 total losses.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Luck Index: 6

Schedule Index: 7

2006 Record: 8-8

Season Win Line: Over 9, +105

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -6 1/2 vs Tennessee

The Jags were at the other end of the close game spectrum going a 2nd worst net -5. They also had the 5th most injuries. As mentioned yesterday, they are one of only 3 2006 teams to finish top 10 in O and D. Their #2 D will be solid again and they have an excellent RB tandem in Taylor and Jones-Drew (#3 Run O). New Offensive Coordinator Koetter may be just what the doctor ordered for the pass game. At present, they have only 1 night game which is a MNF showdown with Indy and might stay under the radar. One key may be whether they can survive the 3 game road trip that follows. The other will be whether a Jaguar can change it's spots. Hot seat HC Del Rio and his "cats" lost 6 games straight up as favorites last year! Playing a manageable #17 sked if they win the ones they're supposed to they probably win the division.

Prediction: Over 9 with a small money line looks like a bargain.


Tennessee Titans

Luck Index: 22

Schedule Index: 15

2006 Record: 8-8

Season Win Line: Under 7, -145

Week 1 game with Opening Line: +6 1/2 @ Jacksonville

What goes around comes around?. If so, not looking good for the Titans. They finished 8-8 by going 8-3 down the stretch with 7 close wins. For the season, their #27 O and #32 D made them a league 2nd-worst -1105 yards vs their opposition. In the off-season they lost 55% of their O and saw #1 CB and special teams standout Jones suspended for the year. They also get the #2 sked with only 5 sub .500 2006 opponents.

Prediction: Definitely Under and I will be waiting to see if I can get 6 1/2 with a short money line.


Denver Broncos

Luck Index: 14

Schedule Index: 2

2006 Record: 9-7

Season Win Line: 9 1/2, -115

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -3 1/2, -105 @ Buffalo

Denver catches a big break with the #26 sked vs last year's #8. However, the 1st to 2nd half difference is dramatic. They will hope to build momentum with 5 home games and a bye in the 1st 8 weeks, because then its 6 of 8 on the road (including all their divisional rematches). After a great start last year, Denver had it in their hands but went 2-5 (2-3 with QB Cutler) down the stretch with the icing on the cake a Week 17 home OT loss to the 49ers costing them the playoffs. How their 2nd year QB plays in road games will likely determine their fate. RB Henry and TE Graham are significant O upgrades while WR's Smith's age and Stokely's achilles are question marks for a #25 Pass O. The #21 Pass D should be aided by CB Bly and an extensive DL rotation designed to increase sacks.

Prediction: Their early sked gives them the potential for double-digit W's but the 2nd half nullifies it - pass.


Kansas City Chiefs


Luck Index: 26

Schedule Index: 27

2006 Record: 9-7

Season Win Line: Under 7 1/2, -125

Week 1 game with Opening Line: Pick 'em @ Houston

KC won the Week 17 tiebreaker lottery and slipped into the playoffs, but were totally outmatched by the Colts. HC Edwards conservatism cost them as he was unwilling to change the O game plan until it was too late. With an outstanding OL and RB's the Chiefs led the NFL in O in 2004 and 2005. They now have only 1 of those OL left in front of QB Huard or Croyle with below average WR's. Sked goes from #20 to 8 with 3 of their 1st 4 away. Their back 7 is solid (but older and not deep) and they drafted 2 run stuffers. What was an "Over" team looks to have morphed into an "Under" (7-2 Under last 9 last year).

Prediction: With high numbers on my indices and a fading O this looks like a good Under.


Oakland Raiders

Luck Index: 7

Schedule Index: 14

2006 Record: 2-14

Season Win Line: Under 5, -125

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -2 1/2 vs Detroit

Last year the Raiders had the league's worst O, sacks allowed and turnover margin. Given that kind of futility (only 12 offensive TD's) on one side of the ball, its amazing that their D finished #3. They also were a net -3 in close games so there's some reason for optimism. Unfortunately their sked goes from #3 to #4 and the bulk of their most winnable games come early. Much like the Browns that's when they'll be working through wholesale changes on the OL with an iffy QB (McCown?) and a rookie head coach. I'll be looking for value on the Raiders as a decent sized dog as last year before they gave up they had a 6-1 ATS run.

Prediction: Their D will keep them close, can they score enough to win? 5 or 6 wins seems about right.


San Diego Chargers

Luck Index: 30

Schedule Index: 25

2006 Record: 14-2

Season Win Line: Over 10 1/2, -135

Week 1 game with Opening Line: -6 vs Chicago

The Chargers had won 10 in a row when "playoff Marty" took over and it was one-and-done and another recycled head coach now steps in. We might watch the "Peter principle" in action as Norv Turner is only batting .414 (58-82-1) in his career. The sked is a little harder; #22 vs 28, and SD was 5th fewest in injuries and 3rd in turnover margin last year. They did little in free agency other than dump some veterans and the big draft was CB Weddle. Without an impact WR to complement TE Gates and probably fewer short fields more will be on the shoulders of QB Rivers - and teams may now have a book on him. Unfortunately, the lines maker has knocked 3 1/2 games off last year's total.

Prediction: Too low to go Under with "LT" and #22 sked.

Reed Hogben M.D.

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