It's the Patriots Invitational all over again
The New England Patriots have had some interesting headlines this offseason after they lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles. Still, even with that, they should easily win the AFC East as the teams behind them still have a lot of work to be done. The Jets and Bills hopefully have found their franchise quarterbacks while the Dolphins hope their signal-caller can stay healthy. Let's take a look at the win total numbers out of the South Point Casino in Las Vegas and offer some thoughts on if there's any value in the over/under.
Over 6 wins +120....Under 6 wins -140
Offense: The Bills will probably have the worst offense in football. AJ McCarron figures to start the year under center, but don't be surprised if Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen push him, especially if the wins aren't coming. LeSean McCoy is the one known on this side of the ball, but there's always the chance that he could get suspended at some point for his offseason transgressions. The recent acquisition of Corey Coleman helps out the WR group that is led by Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes among others. This squad will struggle to score all year long.
Defense: This side of the ball has the talent to scare some teams. There's a good chance that rookie Tremaine Edmunds is going to start at middle linebacker. He'll be flanked by Lorenzo Alexander and several other candidates. The front line features the beef of Kyle Williams and Star Lotulelei in the middle. The corners can be strong too if Vontae Davis gets back to his old ways from his time in Indianapolis. Tre'Davious White had a good year last year while the safety position has a solid duo.
Verdict: The money move is right. For as good as the defense can be, the offense will be that bad. It's a rebuilding year for the team, but there are some young players who will grow through the losing. Buffalo could be the biggest challenger to the Patriots... in a couple of years if they keep this going.
Over 6.5 wins -140...Under 6.5 wins +120
Offense: I'm a bigger Ryan Tannehill fan than a lot of people, but he's eventually got to show something to back me up. He's got the talent, but he also needs to cut down on the interceptions with 24 of them the last two years he's played. In a league that's trying to downplay the role of the running back, Frank Gore continues to thrive. He brings his talent over to a Dolphins backfield that also features Kenyan Drake, who is the speed to Gore's power. Jarvis Landry is gone so that means newly acquired Danny Amendola will be among those that will soak up the excess targets. I think the potential is there for this side of the ball to succeed under head coach Adam Gase.
Defense: The defense needs to be better under coordinator Matt Burke whose first year wasn't that great. Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn form a very good duo of rush ends that will collapse the pocket for Akeem Spence in the middle. The problems start at linebacker where Kiko Alonso plays and not very well. The secondary got an infusion of talent when Miami drafted Minkah Fitzpatrick. I'm not a huge fan of the group at cornerback, whomever wins the job.
Verdict: Miami is the opposite of Buffalo with a solid offense, but a defense that needs work. At the price provided, I'd consider taking a shot on the under. I come up with around six or seven wins for this team as they try to fill in the cracks using the draft. Wake and Gore are approaching 36 and won't be in the team's future plans.
Over 11.5 wins +120...Under 11.5 wins -140
Offense: Josh McDaniels came back after the Colts fiasco and one can see why. The ageless one Tom Brady returns for another season with the usual suspects around him. It'll be another timeshare backfield it seems with James White and Rex Burkhead now joined by Cincinnati's Jeremy Hill and rookie Sony Michel, who the team took in the first round. The offense will be without Julian Edelman for four games, but Cordarrelle Patterson is impressing people in practice. Veterans Kenny Britt and Eric Decker are also in the mix. Rob Gronkowski is healthy and making a difference while the offensive line is pretty much intact other than the departure of left tackle Nate Solder.
Defense: The defense saw some fresh blood come in during the offseason. Adrian Clayborn is a legit pass rusher to pair with Trey Flowers on the outside. Dont'a Hightower is a legit linebacker on the second level although the depth behind the starters is a little lacking. Malcolm Butler is gone from the secondary so the likes of Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones will have to fill his role. Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are back at safety.
Verdict: The schedule lines up nicely for the over. New England has three straight home games from Weeks 4-6 and then close out with weak Buffalo and New York should the Patriots need late victories to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. I'm very surprised that you can get the over at this price because this team is still pretty good. The Pats do have home games against the Chiefs, Vikings and Packers.
Over 6 wins +120...Under 6 wins -140
Offense: The most intriguing quarterback room probably resides in New York where Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold fight for the job. Bridgewater is playing for his future career while Darnold is biding his time until he owns the city. McCown is the odd man out, but it seems like he's winning the job as of now. Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell and Thomas Rawls form a decent trio of running backs. Robby Anderson is continuing to improve, but he needs to stay away from the trouble off the field. Terrelle Pryor was a training camp superstar for Washington, but he needs to translate it to the regular season.
Defense: The Jets defense is young with solid free agent pickups mixed in to keep things honest. Gone are the overpaid underperforming talent of the past with Muhammad Wilkerson among those released. Leonard Williams has been very good up front. The team needs to find someone to help him though. Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins can be a good linebacking duo while Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson patrol the outside. Johnson comes over from the Rams after they refused to pay him what he was worth. Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye are potential stars at safety.
Verdict: New York has three stretches of consecutive home games on their schedule. The big question will be if Darnold sees the field or if it's all McCown and Bridgewater. The under is probably the right way to go here although not at this price. Getting the NFC Central will not give too many of the teams in this division victories. Still, the Jets are heading in the right direction.
-- Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.