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3 NFL Teams to Bet on in 2017

3 NFL Teams to Bet on in 2017

3 NFL Teams to Bet on in 2017

Let’s dive right into it. The season is now just a few weeks away and I want to analyze a few teams that I think will have some advantageous lines early and often.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals had an awful 2016 campaign. Not only were they 6-9-1 overall, but they were 7-9 ATS.  There’s no question in my mind that the Bengals 2015 playoff collapse against the Steelers carried over into the next season.  Their lack of mental awareness on the field and nonexistent composure from the coaching staff were clear factors during their stretches of poor play in 2016.

But here’s why I think they have a strong chance of turning their fortunes in 2017:

The Defense:  When this team was 14-3 ATS, they were a dominant unit.  Their rankings were 2nd in Points allowed and 4th in Passer Rating Defense.  In 2016, They ranked 6th in Passer rating defense and 7th in points allowed.  The drop off from 2015 to 2016 was not significant enough to justify the enormous drop from 14-3 to 7-9 ATS.  

Many of the same talented names and faces in the secondary and defensive line remain intact.  I expect Geno Atkins & the athletic defensive line to be in the faces of quarterbacks all season.  The secondary is still full of play makers with Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones.  Although coaching and discipline are always a concern with the Bengals, I think the defense will retain its position within the top 10 units of the NFL.

The Offense: I’ll admit it was hard to watch Andy Dalton last year. At times, this looked like an anemic offense with no hope.  Despite these struggles Dalton finished with a rating of 91.80.  Although he was inept for long stretches, he did not turn the ball over much at all. 

So why did he struggle so much?  I think the largest contributor factor was that they played much of their season without AJ Green and Tyler Eifert.  Pro Football focus provided an eye-opening number that revealed just how important Eifert was in 2015.  Look below at the comparison of Dalton’s QB rating when targeting Eifert, compared to his career average:

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The Bengals were essentially the “Anti-Lions” as they had 6 losses in games decided by 8 points or less.  It is highly unlikely that they will continue to lose this many close games.  I think if AJ Green and Tyler Eifert stay relatively healthy, and the offensive line isn’t a complete disaster, this team should finish closer to 60% ATS in 2017. 

In spite of all of the issues listed above, the Bengals finished with a Passer Rating Differential of 8.76 in 2016 which ranked them ahead of the Packers, Dolphins, Raiders, and Steelers (All Playoff Teams).  Almost nothing went right for the Bengals last year.  I don’t anticipate that happening again.

 

Seattle Seahawks

2017 feels like a bounce back season for the Seahawks.  The window on this elite defense is closing, but I think they have at least one dominant season left.  2016 was full of key injuries for Seattle.  Look at how many games their best defenders missed last year:

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I have no worries about this defense.  Provided they stay relatively healthy, Seattle will be one of the league’s most disruptive defenses.

Russell Wilson clearly wasn’t himself last year after his ankle sprain in the first month of the season.  This was an especially key injury to Seattle as he lost his run threat.  He was simply not the dynamic QB that we have been accustomed to seeing.  Look at his 2016 decline in both Rushing Yards and Rushing Yards / Attempt and the effect it had on his QB Rating.

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There is certainly a correlation between his ineffectiveness as a runner and his passer rating.  He suffered career lows in all of those rushing categories.  Wilson has often used his legs for critical 3rd down conversions in the past which extend drives and increase offensive efficiency. 

An obvious key to this season is the strength (or weakness in this case) of schedule. I think the NFC west has quickly returned to being the worst division in football as the Niners and Rams have virtually no chance of winning more than 6 games.  It would honestly surprise the Hell out of me, if Seattle doesn’t wipe the floor with the Rams in both contests in 2017 after being embarrassed twice last year.  If this isn’t a point of emphasis, Pete Carroll should be fired.

Finally, over the past 3 seasons, the Seahawks have been neck and neck with the Patriots in terms of Passer Rating Differential:

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I think this chart really shows who the elite teams of the past 3 years have been.  The beauty of the statistic is that it can be achieved through different styles.  The Patriots do it through unstoppable offense, and the Seahawks have done it primarily through their lock-down defense.

The biggest question mark for the Seahawks will be their inexperienced offensive line.  I have always been a believer that great QB play and solid coaching can mitigate the lack of offensive line talent.  I have seen Brady and Belichick do this year after year with mediocre line play.  This year will certainly be a test for both Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll, but I think they will patch it together. 

 

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are a young, emerging team that should win its division in 2017.  Unlike the two teams I mentioned above, this team has a rock solid offensive line.  Pro football focus has ranked their offensive line as the 4th best unit in football.  With their talented back field of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, I expect this rushing attack to be one of the best in the NFL.  If Mariota can prove he’s healthy, this offense should make even greater strides this year.  I see a lot of comparable characteristics to the 2016 Dallas Cowboys and this team.  They both have young, smart and athletic quarterbacks combined with high-ceiling skill position players.  And of course, both teams have stout offensive lines that can overpower defenses and make life easier for the quarterbacks.

A year ago, the Titans finished with a net positive Passer Rating Differential (5.35). Despite this positive development they were only 43.80% ATS. 

I like the additions they made both in free agency and the draft.  Eric Decker has been a very consistent and productive player since 2011.  He missed almost all of 2016 due to injury, but that appears to be just a blip on the radar.  Throughout his career he has proven to be just under a touchdown per game player.  I think he will be a welcomed threat in the red zone for Mariota. 

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Logan Ryan is also a valuable veteran addition on the defensive side.  As a Patriots fan, I watched him closely as he was often given the assignments of the bigger more athletic receivers.  He has always felt like a player that elevates his game against elite competition.  Throw him in the mix with this talented front 7 and I think they should be an upper echelon defensive team.  Two numbers that jump out to me for the defense were their 9th Rated 3rd Down Defense and their 6th ranking in Defensive Sacks in 2016. 

Well I hope you enjoyed my analysis.  I am looking forward to getting the picks in soon!


Nicholas Shorestein is an NFL writer & handicapper. He writes about NFL analytics and handicapping for The Saturday EdgeHe also writes about the NFL on his blog ShoresteinSays.comYou can follow him on twitter @n_shorestein.


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