NFL Team-By-Team Glances
It's summertime and that means the annual report on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks... note that we list the SU (straight-up) mark including post-season games after the team name below plus check out our pointspread notes on each/every team.
BALTIMORE (5-11) - The scoresheet didn't lie and it said the Ravens scored 20 points or less in nine of their final 11 games last year yet optimism abound with QB Joe Flacco (knee) revved up for a return but one major key could be the play at tight end where Dennis Pitta is looking to rebound from the second dislocation of his right hip. Pitta has not played a down since September 2014 and he'll face major competition at the position from the likes of Ben Watson, Crockett Gilmore and second-year pro Maxx Williams all battling for reps ... keep your eye on Williams, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher, who is one of our favorites and could be a fantasy league stud.
Pointspread Notes - Last year's Ravens finished 5-9-2 ATS (against the spread) and that was not bad considering Baltimore was 0-5-1 vig-wise right out of the proverbial starting gate. Overall, this AFC North crew is a decent 10-7-1 ATS away since the start of the 2014 campaign.
CAROLINA (17-2) - It's safe to say that the Panthers overcame some early adversity last year when star WR Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury and never did play a single down in 2015 but this club now is not only counting on a big comeback from Benjamin, but a solid season from second-year WR Devin Funchess who scored five touchdowns in his final nine games and is expected to be a QB Cam Newton target right from the start. Still, should folks expect the Panthers' passing game to make a major leap after ranking 24th in the NFL last year (averaged 224.3 ypg)?
Pointspread Notes - The Panthers have registered a .500-or-better pointspread mark in each of the past five years including last season's snazzy 13-6 spread log. Note that Carolina is a cumulative 49-36-1 ATS the past five years (a .576 winning rate) including a spread split in six overall post-season games.
CLEVELAND (3-13) - Gotta go all the way back to the 2007 season to find the last time the Browns sported a winning record (see 10-6 but no playoff berth that year under Romeo Crennel) and it won't be easy for new coach Hue Jackson's gang especially considering the '16 sked includes five road games in the first seven weeks - yikes! The Browns open at Philadelphia on September 11th and later travel to Miami in Week 3, to Washington in Week 4, to Tennessee in Week 6 and to Cincinnati in Week 7. Last year the Browns won once on the road - a 33-30 overtime triumph at 6.5-point favorite Baltimore in a Week 5 game.
Pointspread Notes - Talk about burning some moolah as the Browns went 2-8-1 versus the vig last year starting with a Week 6 overtime loss/push against Denver. Overall, Cleveland's 2-8-1 ATS (against the spread) in its last 11 season-opening games.
DALLAS (4-12) - If the Cowboys are regain their status as one of the league's top rushing teams than there's little question first-round draftee Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) must be a star but don't forget about former Washington star Alfred Morris who inked a two-year, $3.5 million dollar in March. The 'Boys would like Morris to be a quicker study in the passing game - he had some problems with routes and protections in the minicamp - but this could be a critical part of the Dallas attack and especially if Elliott somehow falters.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, the Cowboys finished last year with a 4-11-1 ATS mark, representing their worst pointspread record in more than a decade. Note that Dallas went 6-10 spreadwise in 2012 and 5-10-1 ATS in 2011.
DETROIT (7-9) - Critics claim the Lions have more than a few holes to plug as we draw nearer to the start of the 2016 campaign and one area of great concern is at linebacker where LB DeAndre Levy is said to be in fine form after a hip injury really compromised his '15 season. In fact, the Lions' official web site claims that the 29-year-old Levy "shows no signs of the hip injury that limited him" last year. Note Detroit ranked 19th in the NFL versus the rush a year ago while the Lions' defense surrendered 24-or-more points in seven of the team's first eight games.
Pointspread Notes - In the past five years, the Lions are 33-48-1 against the odds overall (a lousy .407 winning percentage) and that includes a 16-26 ATS away mark (and that's just a .381 winning rate).
JACKSONVILLE (5-11) - Is the Jaguars' once-moribund ground game gonna be a whole lot better here in 2016? Note that second-year running back T.J. Yeldon - who led last year's squad with 740 rushing yards - is going to get help from free-agent signee RB Chris Ivory who last season led the New York Jets with 1,070 rushing yards and so one would think that between 'em the Jaguars should get a boost from being the NFL's 27th-best ground game (averaged 92.1 ypg) to more a middle-of-the-pack crew. One other thing: If Jacksonville is gonna get out the gate quickly this year after losing five of its first six games a year ago, then thriving against non-divisional foes is key 'cause the Jaguars play five of their first six games against non-AFC South crews with the season opener at home versus Green Bay on September 11th.
Pointspread Notes - Since the start of the 2013 season, the J'ville Jaguars are just 15-24-2 ATS (against the spread) when in the underdog role and that included a respectable 5-5-1 spread log as pups a year ago. Overall, the Jags are also just 9-20-1 against the odds when playing outside the AFC South these past three seasons.
NEW ENGLAND (13-5) - Let's throw a couple of names your way ... Rookie Jacoby Brissett (N.C. State) and veteran backup Jimmy Garoppolo: They are the two names behind QB Tom Brady who surely looks to be headed to a season-starting four-game suspension (please don't ask when DeflateGate is going away!). So, don't be surprised if the Patriots have some wandering eyes when it comes to potentially available quarterbacks this summer although insiders swear Garoppolo will get the lion's share of snaps this summer while headed to the numero uno role with Brady expected to miss the first quarter of the 2016 campaign. Note on Garoppolo is that his career stats include 20-of-31 pass completions for 188 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs while he's been sacked five times ... just thought you'd like to know.
Pointspread Notes - Did you know that the NE Patriots are a composite 160-120-7 ATS during the Bill Belichick Era that's now entering its 17th season? The Pats, however, are just 9-13-1 spreadwise when playing fellow AFC East team since dating back to early in the 2012 campaign.
NEW YORK JETS (10-6) - The on-going contract squabble between QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the J-E-T-S has been playing out on the New York City tabloids for months now, so let's discuss another new component on this AFC East team ... CB Darrelle Revis.
When last seen at the Jets' team facility a couple of weeks ago, Revis was taking baby steps after wrist surgery in March -- Revis claims he played almost all last year with a ruptured tendon - and the target date remains the start of training camp in late July although insiders say don't be surprised if Revis sees minimal game action the first couple of preseason games.
Pointspread Notes - The Jets have covered 11 of their last 18 divisional games while dating back to the start of the 2013 season and that includes five-of-six spread wins against New England.
OAKLAND (7-9) - Only four NFL teams sported worse rushing yards per game averages a year ago that these Raiders (91.1 ypg rushing) and so expect there to be a major microscope on this team's ground game that stars RB Latavius Murray (1,066 yards rushing that included nine carries of 20+ yards last season). The silver-and-black is banking on contributions from the likes of veteran Roy Helu who's battling back from hip woes plus tiny rookie RB DeAndre Washington (Texas Tech) - a 5-foot-7 dynamo - could be a neat change-of-pace back for this rush-starved attack.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, the Raiders are 11-19-1 ATS (against the spread) at home the past four seasons ... maybe another reason they're wanting to move to Las Vegas! Note that last year Oakland banged out a rock-solid 7-3-1 ATS mark when placed in the underdog role.
PHILADELPHIA (7-9) - One of the strangest off-season free-agent signings in all the NFL was the Eagles nabbing backup QB Chase Daniel from Kansas City where new Birds head coach Doug Pederson served as Andy Reid's offensive coordinator. But maybe Daniel - who figures to start off this season behind Sam Bradford and ahead of #2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) on the team's depth chart - could wind up being a significant player here in 2016 despite the fact he's completed just 50 passes for 464 yards with one TD in his NFL career. Stay tuned.
Pointspread Notes - Here's another NFL team with a lousy mark spread mark in recent years as the Eagles are 14-26-1 versus the vig as hosts since the start of the 2011 campaign and that includes their final two home games a year ago against Arizona and Washington.
TAMPA BAY (6-10) - Welcome to the Dirk Koetter Era though who knows how long that might last? Consider that since Jon Gruden exited town following the 2008 season, the Bucs have employed three other heads coaches: Raheem Morris (2009-2011), Greg Schiano (2012-13) and Lovie Smith (2014-15) and none of those gentlemen were able to produce a single playoff berth. One thing the offensive-minded Koetter would like to see is the Bucs shore up a defense that closed out last season by yielding 38, 26, 31 and 24 points in the final four games.
Pointspread Notes - No doubt the Buccaneers staggered to the finish line last year with four consecutive pointspread "L's" in the final four weeks of play but did you know that Tampa Bay is also just 2-6 ATS as betting favorites the past two years?
SAN FRANCISCO (5-11) - Doesn't first-year 49ers head coach Chip Kelly have enough to fret about these days than getting "into it" with GM Trent Baalke right out of the starting gate? Reports circulated this week that Kelly - fresh off his three-year disastrous stint as head ball coach of the Philadelphia Eagles - already has not seen eye-to-eye with his new general manager and wonder how that's gonna play out when it comes to personnel decisions, etc. this summer with the Niners. One thing both men better agree on is the fact San Fran needs to jump-start an offense that last year ranked 31st in the league and scored below 20 points in 12 of the team's 16 regular-season games.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, the 49ers were wagering underdogs in each/every one of their 16 regular-season games last year and wound up going a wobbly 7-9 against the numbers but included in that mix was a handful of outright winners such as the 17-16 victory against 9-point road fav Atlanta and the 26-20 OT triumph at 6.5-point favorite Chicago.
SEATTLE (11-7) - The Marshawn Lynch Era is officially over in the Emerald City, so forgive "fantasy league" owners for fighting hard to get RB Thomas Rawls. True, last year's snazzy out-of-left-field rookie season included a team-leading 830 rushing yards - remember Lynch rushed for just 417 yards while starting only six games - did end with a thud as Rawls suffered a broken ankle late in the year and so expect plenty of summertime reps for the likes of RBs Christine Michael, third-round draft pick C.J. Prosise (Notre Dame) and fifth-round pick Alex Collins (Arkansas).
Pointspread Notes - Go back to the start of the 2011 campaign and you'll see the Seahawks are an electric 20-7-2 ATS when placed in the underdog role. Overall, Seattle's 12-6-1 versus the vig in NFC West games the past three years and that includes a snappy 5-0-1 ATS mark against rival San Francisco.
TENNESSEE (3-13) - Did you realize that last year's rookie QB Marcus Mariota only ran with the ball 34 times (for 252 rushing yards and two TDs) in the dozen games he played for the woe-be-gone Titans? Mariota - who has bulked up a bit so he can play at 225 pounds this year - didn't get much help from a tattered offensive line but rookie OT Jack Conklin (Michigan State), the eighth overall pick in this spring's NFL Draft, should lend a hand and ditto for new C Ben Jones. If the Titans get their way, they'll have Mariota run the ball four or five times a game with sprint-option plays made available to him. Now, we'll soon see whether a heftier Mariota can stand the heat or will he resort to handing it more to RB DeMarco Murray who has his own sights set on 25-or-more carries per game. Stay tuned.
Pointspread Notes - The Titans are a collective 25-49-6 ATS (against the spread) since the start of the 2011 season (that's a dour .338 winning percentage) and note this AFC South squad ended last year on a rotten 0-7-1 spread skid.
Come back tomorrow as we look at more NFL teams.