Football is back! Even though the return of the NFL season means the end of summer and the eventual end of baseball and nice weather, it means 17 straight Sundays of all-day gambling, drinking and eating. I would say it’s a fair trade.
With the season beginning this week, it’s time for the 2019 over/under win total predictions. Five overs and five unders for the season.
(Last season’s win total in parentheses)
NEW YORK GIANTS, 6 (5)
Unfortunately, I have to pick the Giants’ win total. Even more unfortunate, as a Giants fan, I can’t pick the under. I can’t pick the under because I don’t want to believe I will have to sit through another wasted season even if it’s inevitable in 2019.
Last year, the Giants started 0-2 and were eventually 1-7. The year before that, they were 0-5 and eventually 1-8. Two years before that, they finished with six wins. Aside from 2016, when the Giants managed to win 11 games and eight of them by seven points or less, it’s been miserable year after miserable year.
If you look hard enough, you can find a scenario where the Giants might win seven games or at least push with six. Possible wins over Buffalo, at Tampa Bay, one of the two Redskins games, Arizona, at Detroit and Miami. There’s six wins to push and maybe they can sweep the also-bad Redskins or pick up an upset along the way.
Normally, I go into every Giants season thinking they will win the division and possibly even go on a postseason run. Not this season. This season I have absolutely no expectations for the Giants. Fortunately, for the Giants and I, they play their best with no expectations.
NEW YORK JETS 7.5, (4)
The Jets would have to double their four wins from last year to hit the over this year, but I think they can do it. This isn’t me reverse jinxing the Jets to watch my Jets fan friends suffer through another mediocre or bad season, I really think the Jets are at least a .500 team.
Looking at their schedule, winning one of the two Buffalo games, Miami, New York Giants, Washington, Oakland, Cincinnati and Miami is enough to clinch eight wins. Not only is it enough, but if the Jets were to win those games, it would mean a midseason six-game winning streak heading into the final three weeks of the season where they would have the chance to ruin their season and crush their fans. I need this to happen.
JACKSONVILLE 8, (5)
The Jaguars’ decision to hold on to and extend Blake Bortles for three years beginning in 2019 is what led them to their demise last season. A team which could have and should have went to the Super Bowl the year before turned in five wins and despite a 3-1 start, losing six games by six points or less.
I believe the Jaguars are more of the team they were two years ago than the team they were last season. And with Nick Foles as their starting quarterback instead of Bortles, I feel a lot safer picking them to finish over .500.
If the Jaguars go 3-3 in the AFC South, they have home games against Tampa Bay and road games at Denver, Cincinnati and Oakland. That would leave them needing to win two of their remaining six games against Kansas City, Carolina, New Orleans, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers and Atlanta. That’s more than doable.
SEATTLE 8.5, (10)
The Seahawks won 10 games last year, and I feel they are at least as good as last season, if not, then no worse than one game worse. One game worse would give them nine wins and give them an over here.
Their home games are against Cincinnati, New Orleans, Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Arizona and San Francisco. There’s at least five wins in their, when you factor in the home-field advantage, and when you factor in the home-field advantage and the cross-country flights for New Orleans, Baltimore and Tampa Bay, there might be even more than five wins. That would mean the Seahawks would have to play .500 on the road to clinch nine wins. I hate the Seahawks, but I love this over.
MINNESOTA 9, (8)
I don’t want to say how much money Kirk Cousins lost me last year. Actually, I can’t say because I have been too scared to add it all up. A year after riding the Vikings and Case Keenum to win after win after win, I tried to do the same for the 2019 Vikings and my bank account took more hits than Cousins, and no loss was worse than the Week 17 win-and-they’re-in game at home against the Bears, who had nothing to play for.
Like I did when the Vikings signed Cousins, I still think they made a horrible mistake, and all the other general managers who hoped to sign Cousins in free agency saved a terrible blemish from their career resumes. Cousins was a disaster in his first season with the Vikings, taking a win-now team which went to the NFC Championship Game the season before and made them a barely-above-.500 team thanks to an early-season tie. I don’t want to need a Cousins-led team to have to hit an over for me, but since my wife’s Dodgers aren’t going to win her a championship anytime soon, the least I can do is play along that her Vikings might.
Games against Oakland, New York Giants, Washington and Denver give the Vikings a favorable schedule, and if they go what should been an easy-to-achieve 3-3 within their division, they would only need to win two other games against Atlanta, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle and Los Angeles Chargers.
OAKLAND 6, (4)
The Raiders won four games last year, and I can’t remember a single one of them, nor do I know how they managed to win four games. For this season, they added the best wide receiver in the league in Antonio Brown, who pretty much proved on Hard Knocks he’s not going to play a full season.
The Raiders have their usual four games against Kansas City and Los Angeles Chargers, which are four losses, and they will also play the NFC North, AFC South and New York Jets. The Raiders aren’t winning going over six wins. They’re not going to get to six wins. I’m not sure how they will even match last year’s four wins.
CINCINNATI 6, (6)
The Bengals won six games last year, didn’t improve and will be without their best player in A.J. Green to start the season. They are the only weak team in the AFC North, add in games against the NFC West and AFC East this season and where exactly are they going to get seven wins and be better than they were last year? This one feels way too easy.
DETROIT 6.5, (6)
The Lions went 6-10 last year and their expected win total went up by a 1/2 game even though I think they will be worse in 2019 than they were in 2018.
There’s a very good chance the Lions go 0-6 in division play, but let’s say they go 2-4 to be generous. They have easy opponents in Arizona, New York Giants, Oakland, Washington, Tampa Bay and Denver. If the Lions go 2-4 within their division and then win all five of those six games, they would beat their number. But if they fail to do either, they would have to picks up either more wins within their division or find wins against Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia, Kansas City or Dallas. There’s too much that needs to happen for the Lions to be a seven-win team.
INDIANAPOLIS 7.5, (10)
I think Jacoby Brissett will be better than most expect him to be, and I think the Colts won’t be as bad of a team as anyone would expect a team to be when their franchise quarterback retires two weeks before the season. But I don’t think they’re an eight-win team, and it’s nearly impossible to see a path to eight wins on their schedule.
If the Colts are able to go .500 in their division, which won’t be easy, they would have to go 5-5 in non-division play against three Super Bowl-contenders in Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City and New Orleans, and second-tier teams like Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina. Even if the Colts were to upset one or two of those teams, they would have to win all of their easier games against Oakland, Denver, Miami and Tampa Bay, and there’s a better chance they lose to one of those four teams than there is that they beat one of the previous six. It’s just not happening.
SAN FRANCISCO 8, (4)
The 49ers had Jimmy Garoppolo for three games in 2018 before losing him for the season. They went 1-2 in those games and then 3-10 the rest of the way. The 2019 49ers have a chance to get off to a fast start opening the season against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, but with games against the AFC North this season and an absolutely brutal second-half schedule (minus a game against Arizona), I’m not buying the 49ers as a .500 team.
It’s hard to envision a quarterback with a little more than a handful of starts leading an eight-win team in the competitive NFC West. It’s even harder to envision the coach who orchestrated the Falcons’ second-half Super Bowl collapse leading a team to an eight-win season.