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October 24, 2014

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NFL by the Vegas odds: Sports book preview of the AFC

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Christopher DeVargas

A Superbowl bet is placed at the Las Vegas Hotel Superbook Tues. Jan. 31, 2012.

The anticipation starts to come to an end tonight.

Make room in the sports book because the NFL season kicks off at 5:30 with the Denver Broncos hosting the Baltimore Ravens as 7.5-point favorites. The rest of the Week 1 games arrive Sunday following months worth of future betting in Las Vegas.

There’s no more opportune time to take a snapshot of what the oddsmakers and betting market think of every team’s chances heading into the upcoming season.

Click through below to find future odds and over/under win totals for every team in the AFC from the LVH Superbook with commentary from Executive Director Jay Kornegay on the gambling action. I’ll provide my own thoughts and five win total bets spread throughout. Check back tomorrow for the NFC.

And lastly, run to the betting window and take the 7.5 points with the Ravens.

    • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talks with reporters following a team NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, July 25, 2013.

      New England Patriots

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-8 (13-5 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 10.5 (over minus-120, under Even)

      Super Bowl odds: 10-to-1

      Odds to win AFC East: 2-to-7

      Kornegay’s report: “The Patriots haven’t been a betting favorite this offseason. A lot of people have been betting against them with all the problems they’ve had. The injuries, what they’ve lost and the question marks have deterred the money we normally see on the Patriots.”

      Keefer’s take: The drop-off of gambling support on New England is somehow both understandable and preposterous. Bettors exercising caution with a team that endured Aaron Hernandez’s murder indictment, Wes Welker’s free-agent departure and Rob Gronkowski’s prolonged recovery during the offseason makes sense. But betting against a team that’s won at least 10 games for 10 straight seasons while covering more than 55 percent of the time? No thanks. Tom Brady hasn’t been as terrific with fewer weapons in the past, but he’s still more than gotten by. And last year’s biggest weakness, the pass defense, should improve with a full years worth of cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard. No official plays, but a lean to the over 10.5 wins. There’s even some value in New England’s future prices.

    • Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes to running back Lamar Miller (26) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

      Miami Dolphins

      2012 Against the spread record: 8-8 (7-9 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-155, under plus-135)

      Super Bowl odds: 40-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC East: 13-to-4

      Kornegay’s report: “There’s more interest in betting on Miami than anyone else in their division. I think it’s by default because they’re against the Patriots and don’t like the Bills or Jets. Ever since early May, a lot of money has come in on the Dolphins.”

      Keefer’s take: One word comes to mind in response to the betting market’s infatuation with the Dolphins — why. Last year’s preseason betting consensus of Miami being one of the worst teams in the league is closer to the truth than this year’s label as a sleeper team. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill surprised as a rookie — by being mediocre instead of disastrous. A step back is a strong possibility in his sophomore campaign with a weaker offensive line, in part due to the departure of left tackle Jake Long, protecting him. The running back corps is also less proven, though hometown product Lamar Miller looks like a breakout candidate. Going against the market here, and taking the Dolphins to go under 7.5 wins.

    • New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith looks for a receiver during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in East Rutherford N.J.

      New York Jets

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-9 (6-10 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 6.5 (over plus-105, under minus-125)

      Super Bowl odds: 80-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC East: 14-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “Here’s a team that doesn’t have any leader or threat. They might run the ball decently and play OK defense, but that’s it. It’s amazing how much publicity they get despite being a .500 team or worse.”

      Keefer’s take: The only difference is, that publicity used to turn into wagers at the sports book. Not anymore. Gamblers have mostly neglected the Jets during the offseason, the little action they receive going against them with both the price on their win total and Super Bowl odds climbing slightly. This whole season feels like an unceremonious sendoff to the tenure of coach Rex Ryan. The best-case scenario is the duo of rookie quarterback Geno Smith and trade-acquired running back Chris Ivory keeps the offense afloat while the mix of aging former standouts and developing youngsters turns in another decent defensive season. Even then, the feeling is the Jets would peak around .500. The oddsmakers got this one right. The Jets should win six or seven games.

    • New York Jets fullback Lex Hilliard (36) is tackled by Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (99) and linebacker Bryan Scott (43) during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

      Buffalo Bills

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-9 (6-10 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 6 (over plus-110, under minus-130)

      Super Bowl odds: 100-to-1

      Odds to win AFC East: 15-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “The Bills haven’t had any positive news throughout the entire preseason. I don’t know what anyone could see and say, ‘wow, look at the Bills.’ I guess it’s a positive that C.J. Spiller didn’t get hurt, and he’s certainly one of the best running backs in the league. But if you don’t have a quarterback who can throw the ball or any threats in the passing game, then teams should be able to focus on stopping Spiller.”

      Keefer’s take: Remember when the Bills were expected to be the AFC East team whose fortunes were looking up at this time last year? No one else seems to. Many of the reasons for optimism a year ago — running back C.J. Spiller, defensive end turned linebacker Mario Williams and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus — are back and in a better position to succeed, but gamblers have the team penciled in as one of the worst in the AFC. New coach Doug Marrone, an offensive innovator, got to handpick his quarterback in rookie E.J. Manuel. In terms of talent, Buffalo might only trail New England in the AFC East and is better than the other perceived AFC bottom feeders. Buffalo should go over six wins.

    • Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin before an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, in Pittsburgh. New York won 18-13.(AP Photo/)

      Pittsburgh Steelers

      2012 Against the spread record: 6-9-1 (8-8 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 9 (over minus-110, under minus-110)

      Super Bowl odds: 20-to-1

      Odds to win AFC North: 8-to-5

      Kornegay’s report: “The big money is on the Steelers. I think they’re really close in a competitive division, but not a marquee team this year. They’re solidly in that second-tier of teams along with the Bengals and Ravens.”

      Keefer’s take: Kornegay’s assertion that the sharp money is on the Steelers should reinforce something everyone should have already realized: Don’t write off Pittsburgh. This is a franchise, after all, that hasn’t missed the playoffs in two consecutive years since the turn of the century. So even though it’s possible to argue both the Ravens and Bengals look stronger on paper, the Steelers could bust through with something like the 15-1 season that came out of nowhere in 2004. Concerns include the lack of a running game, an old roster and the loss of receiver Mike Wallace. Because of their large national fan base, the Steelers always get bet as much as any team in the NFL. They haven’t done well dealing with the inflation recently, going 30-36 against the spread over the last four years. Avoid betting on Pittsburgh’s win total or futures because the range of possibilities is too wide.

    • New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) is pursued by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati.

      Cincinnati Bengals

      2012 Against the spread record: 9-7-1 (10-7 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 8.5 (over minus-165, under plus-145)

      Super Bowl odds: 25-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC North: 8-to-5

      Kornegay’s report: “There’s a lot of interest on the Bengals. They’ve kind of taken on that whole sexy-pick persona. We have by far the most tickets on them to win their division. We have eight times as many tickets on the Bengals than we do for the Steelers to win the division. I can’t ever remember that happening.”

      Keefer’s take: Joining in on the hype is usually a bad idea, but it’s so easy to see where it’s coming from with Cincinnati. Led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals are loaded with talent on defense. They’ve made the playoffs in two straight seasons despite developing a slew of young players on offense. If quarterback Andy Dalton makes reasonable improvements in his third season and rookie running back Giovani Bernard boosts the ground game, then this is a team without any weaknesses. It’s a team that sounds better than their 25-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl or 11-to-1 mark to win the AFC. Tread lightly with the heavy vigorish, but expect Cincinnati to go over 8.5 wins.

    • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) passes against the Cleveland Browns in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Cleveland, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.

      Baltimore Ravens

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-9-1 (14-6 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 8.5 (over Even, under minus-120)

      Super Bowl odds: 30-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC North: 5-to-2

      Kornegay’s report: “We’ve dropped the Ravens back a bit, but they’re still in the middle. We have about half as many tickets on the Ravens to win the division as the Bengals but twice as many as we do on the Steelers.”

      Keefer’s take: The Ravens celebrated their Super Bowl victory, but wisely didn’t let the jubilation get in the way of what needed to be done in terms of shedding undesirable contracts and players who were exiting their primes. The question is if the reconstructed team will experience some growing pains during their title defense. The betting market thinks so, as both the Ravens win total and Super Bowl odds have been downgraded from where they opened. The flipside to the argument is that the Ravens were never that great to begin with — not until last year’s playoffs at least. They over-achieved to go 10-6 and win the AFC North during the regular season with a fair dose of luck in close games. Expect this season to look a lot like that one, with the Ravens ultimately pulling off somewhere in the range of eight to 10 wins. That means a lean to the over 8.5 wins, but not strong enough to act on it.

    • Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden (23) runs with the ball during an NFL football game  against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Cleveland.

      Cleveland Browns

      2012 Against the spread record: 8-7-1 (5-11 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 6.5 (over minus-150, under plus-130)

      Super Bowl odds: 60-to-1

      Odds to win AFC North: 10-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “The Browns are going to be pretty good. It looks like a three-team race in the North, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns threw a wrench into things. I think they’ll be competitive at the least.”

      Keefer’s take: Cleveland is potentially poised to take the next step at every position except one. The bad news is it’s the most important one — quarterback. Brandon Weeden failed to inspire much confidence in his first season at the helm, and he’s ancient in terms of a second-year NFL player as he’ll turn 30 in the middle of this season. If the defense gets a tad luckier with injuries, the Browns should improve on that side of the ball. But in a tough division and with a roster that’s never experienced success, calling for a breakout is going too far. No opinion on this team. The odds seem to match up well.

    • Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt takes the field before an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Houston.

      Houston Texans

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-8 (13-5 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 10 (over minus-120, under Even)

      Super Bowl odds: 12-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC South: 2-to-5

      Kornegay’s report: “The Texans seem to be heads and shoulders above the rest of their division. They’ve got to be licking their chops knowing they get to play the Colts, Titans and Texans twice. This looks like a runaway.”

      Keefer’s take: Is there a division more boring than the AFC South? And is there a good team more uninteresting than the Texans? Probably not. Houston will make the playoffs by virtue of playing one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, but probably not pull off much more than that. If they’re capable, though, now’s the time with the offensive core of quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson getting older. The Texans can at least look forward to utilizing the services of who looks the best defensive player in the league, J.J. Watt, for years to come. Sports books give them nearly an 85 percent chance to make the playoffs, which sounds about right.

    • Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws before a preseason NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013.

      Indianapolis Colts

      2012 Against the spread record: 12-6 (12-6 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 8.5 (over plus-105, under minus-125)

      Super Bowl odds: 30-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC South: 9-to-4

      Kornegay’s report: “You can try to make a case for the Colts, and some have, but I think it’s a reach. The Colts should take a step back because they probably had a better record than they really deserved last year with all the close victories they pulled out.”

      Keefer’s take: The market’s move in favor of the Colts registers as at least a little bit surprising. Anyone who looks closely back at last season, as Kornegay teased, can’t possibly see a team as strong as the 11-5 record they ended up with. Nearly every break went the Colts way — including turnovers, injuries and schedule — and they can’t count on that kind of luck again. The only thing that could throw off the likely regression is Andrew Luck. If the second-year quarterback turns into the superstar many believe he’s destined to be, then the Colts could defy all expectations. But that’s a remote possibility. Take the Colts to go under 8.5 wins.

    • Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) falls to the turf after running against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.

      Tennessee Titans

      2012 Against the spread record: 6-10 (6-10 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 6.5 (over Even, under minus-120)

      Super Bowl odds: 100-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC South: 10-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “We’ve taken a few bets on the Titans, but we’ll do OK either way with them. I don’t think anyone’s expecting much. I know the Titans are trying to make some strides by focusing on the running game, which is interesting because it kind of reminds me of how the NFL was 10 years ago.”

      Keefer’s take: The Titans haven’t posted a winning record against the spread, or straight-up for that matter, in five years. The weekly plight of bookmakers dealing with bettors taking Tennessee’s opponent on parlay cards will continue in 2013. It’s bad enough that the franchise must deal with perhaps the most inaccurate quarterback, Jake Locker, in the NFL but it may also have one of the worst defenses without a drastic improvement from last year. Oddsmakers have accordingly set the bar low, so there’s no reason to get involved.

    • Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts (84) runs with the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Miami.

      Jacksonville Jaguars

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-9 (2-14 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 5 (over Even, under minus-120)

      Super Bowl odds: 500-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC South: 30-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “I think it’s just fans or people looking to take a shot, but we actually have a big accumulation of liability on the Jaguars to win the AFC South.”

      Keefer’s take: The most telling part of Kornegay’s shocking reveal that the Jaguars are actually getting bet is how he’s responded. He’s done nothing. Despite taking a lot of bets on Jacksonville, the team has stayed at 30-to-1 to win the AFC South at the LVH Superbook. That means they aren’t seen as any possible threat. And as long as quarterback Blaine Gabbert leads the offense, that makes sense. The Jaguars have made strides to get better and younger on defense, probably even enough to win more than five games. Putting any money on Jacksonville for the season, however, remains ill advised.

    • Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (38) pushes through St. Louis Rams defensive back Robert Steeples (36) in the third quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Denver.

      Denver Broncos

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-7 (13-4 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 11.5 (over plus-110, under minus-130)

      Super Bowl odds: 5-to-1

      Odds to win AFC West: 4-to-17

      Kornegay’s report: “Despite being the Super Bowl favorites, which they are, there has just been some softening of the support surrounding them. Maybe people are just tired of the overwhelming support they received over the early summer and noticed the negative situations, injuries and suspensions that interrupted the flow we saw two months ago.”

      Keefer’s take: A year later, the public is still celebrating Peyton Manning’s comeback. Bookmakers took a hit on the 7-3 against the spread run Manning and the Broncos went on at the end of the 2012 regular season. The house got the last laugh, though, when it didn’t have to pay up on any of the future tickets to win the Super Bowl or the AFC. There are several more out there this year even with the volume tailing off in the last couple weeks. A win total of 11.5 — tied with the 49ers for the highest in the league — looks a bit high. But, as any bettor would quickly spout off, it’s never a great idea to go against Manning.

    • San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy looks on before the Charges play the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in San Diego.

      San Diego Chargers

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-9 (7-9 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 7.5 (over plus-115, under minus-135)

      Super Bowl odds: 60-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC West: 9-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “The Chargers have taken a couple steps back according to the money and the ticket count. People don’t think much of them. I know they have some talent left over from when they were potentially the best team in the NFL but just couldn’t win that big playoff game and I like their coach, but there are probably too many holes.”

      Keefer’s take: Here’s a guess that the public might have the surprise team in the AFC West wrong. Maybe it’s the Chargers, and not the Chiefs. The switch from Norv Turner to Mike McCoy at head coach projects as a major upgrade. Not to mention McCoy snagged an impressive set of assistants, specifically offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator John Pagano. Philip Rivers had a horrendous season last year that could possibly just be an outlier. The defense was average and could improve with the infusion of more young talent. Bank on the Chargers going over 7.5 wins at the plus price.

    • Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, left, talks with quarterback Alex Smith during the first half of an preseason NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 16, 2013.

      Kansas City Chiefs

      2012 Against the spread record: 5-11 (2-14 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 7 (over minus-135, under plus-115)

      Super Bowl odds: 50-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC West: 4-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “It’s kind of like what we saw last year: They are a clear choice as a surprise team that people are willing to support. The Chiefs are, by far, out-writing most of the other teams that struggled in the AFC last year. They’re a popular choice. People are thinking they can challenge the Broncos for the division.”

      Keefer’s take: Knowing history is supposed to help shield from repeating the same mistakes. Many bet the Chiefs in the futures market last year and suffered when they slogged through a 2-14 campaign. Why do it again? Oh, because Andy Reid is in as the new coach and Alex Smith took over the quarterback duties? Those are far from compelling enough reasons as Reid is coming off of two straight disappointing seasons. But at least he’s had more than one positive campaign in the past. Not as much can be said about Smith, or most of the rest of the Chiefs roster. They’ll get more than two wins by default, but playoff contention is still far away. The Chiefs will go under seven wins.

    • Oakland Raiders' Darren McFadden (20) runs as Carolina Panthers' Thomas Davis (58) and Greg Hardy (76) pursue during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012.

      Oakland Raiders

      2012 Against the spread record: 5-11 (4-12 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 5.5 (over plus-110, under minus-130)

      Super Bowl odds: 500-to-1

      Odds to win the AFC West: 30-to-1

      Kornegay’s report: “I don’t know if the Raiders can back up anymore, but they can certainly try. They’re clearly the worst team in the NFL. That organization just continues to be in disarray. You try to pick out a strong point on that team and it’s very difficult. There’s not a single positive.”

      Keefer’s take: No one is calling for the Raiders to have anything resembling a decent season. Their under 5.5 wins is one of the most popular bets on the preseason board. This is usually where it’s profitable to eschew the public sentiment and jump in on the other side. But not with the Raiders. Reasons for optimism are spread too thin. If anything, watch for signs of life during the season and bet on the inflated lines when — actually if — the Raiders improve.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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