Jeff Baldwin (@JeffBaldwin4) and Jeremy Wardwell (@jdwardwell5) are picking against the spread all season long in Rotoworld's Season Pass, and it’s time for their NFL team Over/Unders. Jeremy and Jeff weigh in on team win totals and related team expectations for the upcoming season.
Dallas - Over/Under: 7.5 wins
Jeff: The Cowboys come off another eight win season where they failed to make the playoffs yet again. The Cowboys suffered a very difficult offseason as they lost defensive lineman DeMarcus Ware to the Broncos and Jason Hatcher to the Redskins, both via free agency. In addition, LB Sean Lee tore his ACL during OTAs back in May. DB Orlando Scandrick will also miss the first four games of the season after testing positive for PEDs. These losses to the defense are ones that can't be replaced. What makes matters worse is that this defense struggled last year, finishing dead last in the NFL in yards allowed while giving up 27 points per game which ranked them 26th in the league. Throw in these key losses in personnel, and it is safe to say the Cowboys will have one of the worst defenses in the NFL this year. This unit simply lacks the overall talent needed to compete in this league on a weekly basis. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys will have a healthy QB Tony Romo back after back surgery this past December. Romo will have all of his weapons back in WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten and RB DeMarco Murray. Throw in the fact that they have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and this offense will have no problem moving the football and putting points on the board. However, given how poor the defense will be, the offense will be put under a lot of pressure as they'll be called upon frequently to keep this team in games. Expect a lot of shootouts in Cowboy games this year. Looking at the Cowboys schedule outside the division, they draw the likes of the 49ers, Seahawks, Colts and Saints. These are all playoff teams from a year ago, and arguably three of the best teams in the NFC. I don't see how this team wins more than seven games even if Romo stays healthy the entire season. Take UNDER 7.5 wins.
Jeremy: The Dallas Cowboys have gone 8-8 each of the past three seasons and haven’t had an overall winning season since 2009. Sad to say if you are a Cowboys fan, that streak won’t end this year. Their defense, which ranked dead last in the NFL in 2013, lost starters DT Jason Hatcher and DE DeMarcus Ware to free agency. Defensive captain LB Sean Lee is out for the season with a torn ACL. The offense, led by talented WR Dez Bryant is well stocked and remains largely intact. Ranked the #2 WR by Rotoworld, Bryant averaged over 1,200 yards receiving the last four seasons. Enigmatic QB Tony Romo consistently puts up impressive stats; he threw for almost 4,000 yards and 31 TDs last year, but has proven time and again that he is incapable of leading this team to the Promised Land. In the backfield, RB DeMarco Murray was finally healthy and rushed for over 1,100 yards but will need to stay on the field for the Cowboys to have any chance at getting over .500. TE Jason Witten and WR Terrance Williams provide additional options for Romo, having combined for 117 receptions and 13 touchdowns last season. Offense is not going to be the problem. A soft defense and an inconsistent QB will once again be the ultimate downfall of this Cowboys team. Take UNDER 7.5 wins.
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New Orleans - Over/Under: 10.5 wins
Jeff: The Saints finished last season with eleven wins as they were able to make it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but came up short against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Seahawks. During the offseason, they lost RB Darren Sproles to the Eagles, but I don't think this will hurt the offense much at all. The Saints drafted WR Brandin Cooks, and he’s been very impressive so far in camp. I'm expecting WR Marques Colston to have a bounce-back year after struggling with injuries last season. The Saints also possess the best TE in the NFL in Jimmy Graham. QB Drew Brees will have a handful of weapons to choose from in the passing game as he leads this potent offense yet again. With respect to the running game, the Saints will most likely go with a committee approach between RB Mark Ingram, RB Pierre Thomas and RB Khiry Robinson. They plan on putting more emphasis on the run game this year to give their offense more versatility. On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints were able to sign S Jairus Byrd who will team up with Kenny Vaccaro making this duo one of the best in the league. The Saints’ strength of schedule ranks 23rd in the NFL, which also plays a big part in this selection. I'm expecting last year's division winner, the Panthers, to take a few steps back. Outside of their division, two of the tougher opponents they'll face which include the Packers and the 49ers, and they'll have the luxury of facing them at home. Given how dominant this team is in their building, this is a huge plus. I'm expecting big things out of the Saints this year. I think they win this division and make a deep run in the playoffs. Bottom line is that they are a better team on both sides of the ball compared to last season. The Saints will have no problem putting up 11-12 wins this year. Take OVER 10.5 wins.
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Jeremy: With 11 wins in 2013 and a flurry of moves in the offseason that strengthened their secondary and replaced some key skill position losses, the New Orleans Saints are primed for another run at the Super Bowl. Drew Brees, ranked the No. 3 QB by Rotoworld, is the straw that stirs the drink and is coming off his 3rd consecutive season of 5,000 yards passing. He has a dangerous set of weapons around him in all-world TE Jimmy Graham and perennial 1,000 YD receiver Marques Colston. Add RB Pierre Thomas who had 77 receptions and over 1,000 all-purpose yards and WR Kenny Stills who averaged 20 YPC, and you have an offense that will keep defensive coordinators up at night. The loss of versatile RB Darren Sproles and WR Lance Moore will be eased by the addition of rookie WR Brandin Cooks. Second year RB Khiry Robinson should see more playing time along with RB Mark Ingram. The Saints defense, which is often overshadowed by the offense, is also stacked. DE Cameron Jordan and LB Junior Galette combined for 24.5 sacks. An already talented secondary that gave up the second fewest passing yards in the NFL last year is bolstered by the addition of safety Jairus Byrd and ageless CB Champ Bailey. The Saints have a favorable schedule with their opponents having a combined sub-.500 winning percentage from last year. Take OVER 10.5 wins.
Kansas City – Over/Under: 8.5 wins
Jeff: The Chiefs come off a solid eleven win season, as they started strong reeling off nine straight wins only to struggle down the stretch going 2-5. In the Wild Card round, the Chiefs couldn't hold onto a big lead as QB Andrew Luck led the Colts to a dramatic comeback victory. This offseason brought a lot of change to the Chiefs offense which creates a number challenges for this team heading into this season. The offensive line took a major hit with the departure of Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah. Last year's number one overall pick Eric Fisher will replace Branden Albert at left tackle. So far in the preseason this move hasn't worked out well which is a serious concern for the Chiefs offense. RB Jamaal Charles will again be leaned on to carry this team on offense. Other than Charles, this team lacks any serious weapons in the receiving game. WR Dwayne Bowe can't be relied on as a number one WR, and WR Donny Avery is a reach at the number two receiver spot. The one bright spot in camp has to be second year TE Travis Kelce. He has been on the receiving end of two long touchdowns in the preseason. The big question is whether Kelce carries his strong play into the regular season. From a defensive standpoint, the Chiefs will look to regain the success they had in the pass rush early last season. If they play like they did toward the latter part of the year, this team will struggle to have a winning record. The Chiefs will not have the luxury of an easy schedule. They are slated to have the 7th most difficult schedule in the NFL. Some of their out of division games include the 49ers, Seahawks and Patriots. I think the Chiefs take a few steps back this year. I have major concerns about their offensive line, and lack of playmakers on the outside. This defense will have to mirror how they started last season if they are to have any hope of making the playoffs. I think they fall short and finish the season with 7-8 wins. Take UNDER 8.5 wins.
Arizona - Over/Under: 7.5 wins
Jeremy: Following a strong 2013 campaign, the Cardinals look to carry their momentum into 2014. QB Carson Palmer has plenty of resources around him and if he can keep the turnovers to a minimum (22 interceptions in 2013), this team will compete for the NFC title. Larry Fitzgerald has his contract situation has been ironed out and he will continue to be the rock that Palmer leans on. Rotoworld ranks RB Andre Ellington as the No. 16 RB heading into 2014. Look for him to improve on a steady rookie season. Arizona did lose WR Andre Roberts but in addition to Fitzgerald and Ellington, Palmer has a huge weapon in 1,000-yard receiver Michael Floyd and new TE John Carlson who will help in goal line situations. After ranking 6th in total defense in the NFL in 2013, the defense will again be a formidable group despite the loss of Darnell Dockett. Stud CB Patrick Peterson will be joined by newly signed CB Antonio Cromartie to strengthen the secondary. Putting pressure on the QB will be a group effort led by LB John Abraham (11.5 sacks in 2013). Even playing in the stout NFC West the Cardinals should easily clear the 7.5 win mark. Take OVER 7.5 wins.
Pittsburgh – Over/Under: 8.5 wins
Jeff: The Steelers finished last season at 8-8, but came on strong the last eight games of the year as they went 6-2. They will look to build off that finish as they'll need to get off to a better start this season. The offense, led by QB Ben Roethlisberger, will have a few new additions which include WR Lance Moore and RB LeGarrette Blount. WR Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Broncos in the offseason, leaving WR Markus Wheaton in position to take over that role. There's not much of an impact here as Wheaton should fill this role effectively. RB Le'Veon Bell had a solid rookie campaign. I expect him only to get better this year in both the running and passing game. The Steelers have solidified the offensive line contractually so the big issue as in the past is staying healthy. This will be key to the success of their season. On the defensive side of the ball, they need to do a better job putting pressure on the quarterback and creating turnovers. Last year they finished toward the bottom of the league in sacks and interceptions. The Steelers drafted LB Ryan Shazier in the first round which should improve this defense right away as he will get the start in Week 1. I'm expecting the Steelers to bounce back this season and make the playoffs. Their schedule isn't one of the tougher ones, putting them in a good position to rebound nicely here and put together a solid 9-10 win season. With all their struggles to begin the season last year, this team still finished with eight wins. I expect more consistency this season as all I'll need is one more win to hit the over. It is possible Bell and Blount get suspended for a game at some point later in the season, but that's not enough to steer me away from liking this win total to go over. Take OVER 8.5 wins.
Atlanta – Over/Under: 8.5 wins
Jeff: The Falcons will try and bounce back after a dismal 4-12 season last year. The season began with very high expectations after making it to the NFC Championship the year before. WR Julio Jones is expected to be fully healed after a broken foot ended his season last October. This offense led by QB Matt Ryan should be able to put up a lot of points with both WR Julio Jones and WR Roddy White making plays in the passing game. They will be relied on even more as TE Tony Gonzalez retired from the NFL. The offensive line took a major hit as starting LT Sam Baker tore his right patellar tendon during their second preseason game and is out for the season. RB Steven Jackson will have to prove that he can stay healthy. The Falcons are very high on fourth round pick RB Devonta Freeman who has been very impressive so far in the preseason. The concern with this team won't be on the offensive side of the ball. The Falcons defense really struggled last year as they gave up close to 28 points per game, and were ranked near the bottom of the league in yards allowed. To make matters worse, the Falcons lost starting LB Sean Weatherspoon to a torn Achilles' tendon in early June during an OTA practice. This is a crushing loss to a defense that already wasn't considered a strong unit. Similar to the Cowboys, the Falcons will be in a lot of high scoring games as their offense will be forced to keep them in games. The Falcons’ schedule isn't considered easy by any stretch. They have the 11th toughest schedule in the league which is another hurdle they'll have to overcome. In the end, I think the defensive woes will be too much for this team to overcome. Their win total will increase from a year ago, but I don't think it will be by much. Look for the Falcons to finish the season with 7-8 wins. Take UNDER 8.5 wins.
Indianapolis – Over/Under: 9.5 wins
Jeff: The Colts enter this season after winning the AFC South following an impressive eleven win season last year. QB Andrew Luck led them to an incredible comeback victory against the Chiefs in the Wild Card round. However, their season came to an end the following week in the Divisional Round as they had no answer for the Patriots rushing attack. Luck threw seven interceptions combined in those two playoff games. Look for Luck to clean up those mistakes this year as he'll continue to get better. I see a similar type season from a win total perspective for the Colts this year. They don't play in a difficult division, and their overall strength of season is deemed the easiest in the NFL as their opponents’ winning percentage is a lowly .430. The Colts offense lost RB Donald Brown through free agency to the Chargers, but a healthy RB Ahmad Bradshaw should be able to fill that role effectively. The Colts added WR Hakeem Nicks to the receiving corps along with third round pick WR Donte Moncrief who has had a very productive camp up to this point. One of the big question marks besides how much they will get out of RB Trent Richardson this season is how healthy and productive WR Reggie Wayne will be after he tore his ACL last October. All reports out of camp have been positive which bodes well for this offense. Defensively, the Colts finished in the middle of the pack last year. I expect similar type results this season. They were able to lock up CB Vontae Davis on a four year deal. They did lose S Antoine Bethea to the 49ers, but I don't think it will impact their defense much as he did struggle defending the pass last season. There is no reason why the Colts can't put up close to the same number of wins from last season. I expect them to finish with 10-11 wins on the year. Take OVER 9.5 wins.
Houston - Over/Under: 7.5 wins
Jeremy: 2013 proved to be an absolute disaster for the Houston Texans. After winning their first two games, the wheels came off as they dropped the final 14 games of the season. The future looks brighter with the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who will join with J.J. Watt to form a dominant pair on the right side of the Texans D-Line. Unfortunately, they won’t be enough to overcome an offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick at starting QB. With a career QBR of 77.5, Fitzpatrick has never thrown for more than 4,000 yards in his career and has regressed each year after his best statistical season in 2011. One bright spot for the Texans is WR Andre Johnson. Johnson, ranked the No. 11 WR by Rotoworld heading into 2014, has always found a way to thrive regardless of the QB throwing to him, averaging over 1,100 receiving yards per season for his career. The hope is that RB Arian Foster will be healthier this year but one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank after having over 1,300 touches in the last five years. DeAndre Hopkins was a pleasant surprise last year with 800 receiving yards, but how will he do with Fitzpatrick as his QB? Things are looking up in Houston but not enough to reach the 7.5 win plateau. Take UNDER 7.5 wins.
Minnesota - Over/Under: 6 wins
Jeremy: After going 5-10-1 in 2013 the Minnesota Vikings canned head coach Leslie Frazier and brought in Mike Zimmer and offensive guru Norv Turner. They then drafted QB Teddy Bridgewater who will start the season behind Matt Cassel. During camp, Cassel has been working with up and coming WR Cordarrelle Patterson who Turner has promised will have an increased presence in the Vikings offense after catching 45 passes in 2013. Despite having franchise RB Adrian Peterson, the Vikings still have many questions on offense. Peterson, ranked the #3 RB by Rotoworld, had a sub-par 2013 by his standards but still managed to rush for over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns and will again be the main focus for the Vikings. Onetime 1,000 yard receiver Greg Jennings has seen his numbers dip since coming to Minnesota and could soon be overtaken by Patterson as the team’s WR1. WR Jerome Simpson is serviceable as a WR3 but saw his targets and receptions drop in the second half last year. That trend will continue with the emergence of Patterson and the increased role of TE Kyle Rudolph. In the offseason, Minnesota lost two defensive stalwarts. DT Kevin Williams moved on to the Seahawks and DE Jared Allen took his 128.5 career sacks to the rival Bears. The Vikings opened 2013 going 1-7 and this year will have a similar record before the bye and struggle as they install Bridgewater at starter in the second half. Take UNDER 6 wins.
New England - Over/Under: 10.5 wins
Jeremy: Last season, despite a rash of injuries to integral players on both sides of the ball, the New England Patriots made it to the AFC Championship Game for the 8th time since 2001. After watching Peyton Manning throw for 400 yards in that game, they added CB’s Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the offseason to shore up a secondary that allowed almost 4,000 yards passing in 2013. Third year DE Chandler Jones (11.5 sacks) will team with Rob Ninkovich and promising LB Jamie Collins to form an exciting pass rush that has been missing in past years. In addition, LB Jerrod Mayo, OL Sebastian Vollmer, NT Vince Wilfork, DT Tommy Kelly and TE Rob Gronkowski will provide crucial depth as they return from season-ending injuries. Gronkowski, ranked the #2 TE by Rotoworld, is the Patriot’s most important player outside of Tom Brady. When healthy, he is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL. Not only because of what he can do with the ball but because of the mismatches he creates that allow Brady to exploit opposing defenses. WR Julian Edelman (105 REC/1,056 YDS) will again be Brady’s primary option while new addition Brandon LaFell gives him a bigger target on the outside and in red zone situations. The running game will be handled by a committee with Stevan Ridley getting the majority of the carries. Shane Vereen will serve as the third down back and James White will be mixed in with different formations. With an influx of new and returning talent to a team that went 12-4 and a clear focus on winning one more title during the Brady/Belichick era, the Patriots will most certainly eclipse the 11 win mark. Take OVER 10.5 wins.