Last week we took a look at some NFC win totals to pursue.
Now we’ll tackle the AFC side of things with some futures bets that look either too high or too low.
It’s the perfect time to start taking a collective look at all of the transactions a team has made over the course of the season and see how well that can translate to win totals. Strength of schedule plays a role, but it’s one piece of a large puzzle with so many offseason changes made around the league. Last year’s 12-4 team could easily become an 8-8 squad with a few key retirements or free agent departures.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest glaring win totals in the AFC that could be worth pursuing.
Los Angles Chargers (9.5 Wins) – OVER
Key injuries have prevented the Chargers from reaching their potential over the past few years. Most recently, they’ve lost Hunter Henry, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Gordon for important stretches during last season. Injuries can always squander a futures bet instantly, but these are the risks we take.
The return of Hunter Henry makes the Chargers offense one of the more complete units in the league. Last year’s squad was one of the most efficient offenses in terms of scoring per game (sixth) and per FootballOutsider’s DVOA (third). They now get to add Henry to help in the red zone where he had 29 combined targets over his first two seasons. Gordon was already one of the more efficient rushers in the red zone and now Henry’s addition just makes them that much more versatile.
Defensively, the Chargers have playmakers at every unit. Bosa and Melvin Ingram are both premiere pass rushers capable of disrupting a play at any moment. Their backend is filled with stars from Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and Derwin James. They added second round pick Nassir Adderley to continue upgrading the defense. Last year’s unit ranked top-10 in fewest rushing yards, passing yards, and points allowed. This team is capable of both disrupting the passer and forcing turnovers due to pressure. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they led the league in takeaways.
Their schedule includes a ton of quality opponents, but comes out as a middling 16th in terms of difficulty based on last year’s win percentage. Their conference has some challenges, but it’s not a terribly daunting one to face. Kansas City’s offense can put up points in a hurry, but their defense was one of the worst last year. Now they’re losing both Justin Houston and Dee Ford and transitioning to a 4-3 defense under Steve Spagnuolo. Los Angeles should split that series, but they can easily sweep Oakland and Denver — two teams in major transitions.
This is a complete unit on both offense and defense. Double-digit wins should be their expectation this season, not a lofty goal. Take the OVER with confidence.
Denver Broncos (7 Wins) – UNDER
The offseason addition of Joe Flacco seems like the next name on an ever-growing list of poor quarterback decisions by John Elway. Despite the Super Bowl win on his resume, Flacco isn’t really a quarterback to build around as he enters his 12th season in the league. Over the last three years he’s averaged a paltry 3.1% touchdown rate, well below the league average of 5.0% — which he’s only topped once in his 11-year career. His 5.9 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) during that span would’ve beat only Josh Allen and Josh Rosen last season. A change of scenery can bring optimism, but it can’t transform Flacco into a new quarterback.
Head Coach Vic Fangio will play a major role in revamping last year’s defense. They lost a several key departures in Brandon Marshall, Shaq Barrett, Bradley Roby, and Darian Stewart. They added Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan to help mitigate the backend losses, and their additions could actually be seen as an improvement. Callahan was a terrific slot corner for the Bears last season that Fangio poached from his former team, and Jackson was PFF’s No. 14 graded cornerback last season.
Last year’s squad navigated its way through the 2018 season with a 6-10 record. While the defense could see some improvement under Fangio’s scheme, they face the second-most difficult schedule on paper, trailing only Oakland. Denver plays seven games against squads that reached the playoffs last year, while undergoing major changes both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. If you can find a book that has 7.5 as the Broncos win total, I’d prefer that (Heritage is the only place I see offering that), but even six wins will be tough to come by for this Broncos squad in 2019. Give me the UNDER on 7 wins.
Indianapolis Colts (9.5 Wins) – OVER
I have a tough time curtailing my enthusiasm for the Colts this year. I’m enamored with the moves they made this offseason by bolstering their wide receiver corps with a physical presence in Devin Funchess (6’-4”, 232 pounds) and adding a speedy quick-twitch playmaker underneath in Parris Campbell (4.31 speed). Last year seemed like an insult to Andrew Luck forcing him to throw to Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers outside of preseason. These additions — and the return of a healthy Jack Doyle — provide Luck weapons to attack every level of the defense and some depth in case injuries arise.
Defensively, the Colts added Justin Houston from the Chiefs, and spent early draft capital on cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and linebackers Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke. All four additions should be heavy contributors this season. GM Chris Ballard successfully traded down several times during the draft taking quality players along the way while acquiring as many picks as possible. Bringing in Frank Reich to run the defense was another fantastic move. Strong personnel moves and strong draft moves should put another feather in Ballard’s cap.
The Colts fall into the top-10 in terms of toughest schedule this year, but much like the Chargers, this is a complete team that has a very strong shot at double-digit wins and a deep playoff run. A few key road matchups could cause some trouble — specifically playing at Kansas City, at Pittsburgh, and at New Orleans — but Ballard’s moves this offseason have the Colts in good position to make those competitive outings. I’m taking the OVER on 9.5 wins.