Wednesday, September 7, 2011

3 NFL Win Total picks

Some quick-hitters here re NFL Team Win Totals OVER/UNDER for 2011

Chicago Bears OVER 8.5

A “Lovie” triangle was formed in Chicago in 2010 when Lovie Smith (Bears Head Coach desperate to get an Offense to go with his D...Bears had not won NFC North since 2006, and 3 straight single-digit win seasons – 2 of those losing seasons) plus QB Jay Cutler (2008 Pro Bowl QB, but poor 2009 had his relevance in the NFL dwindling) were joined by Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz (architect of The Greatest Show On Turf St Louis Rams teams, but 2 seasons in Detroit and 1 with SF had little success...Martz was not coaching anywhere in 2009)

The triangle of Bears all needed each other to help each other get back to being relevant in the National Football League...The results were a 11 win season, but the O #’s were poor (actually bad)...Bottom 1/3 in almost every Offensive category, and brutal on Yards Per Game

2011 Off-Season added WR Roy Williams and RB Marion Barber...Williams is re-united with Martz who was his O-Coordinator for 2 great season in 2006 and 2007...Training Camp/Pre-Season have been underwhelming as far as performance, but the games do not have meaning just yet...As for Marion the Barbarian he may be just what the Doctor ordered for ChiTown’s running game...Barber runs with purpose and intensity...The Bears O-Line is decent-at-best so the holes for the RB are not exactly gaping...Barber has been a great backfield-mate more often than not in his career and he gets teamed with 4th year RB Matt Forte to provide a legit ground game for Martz/Lovie...This is an 11 win 2010 team who should see upswings on O

4 of the Bears opening 6 games are in Chicago...There are teams like Hotlanta and Green Bay during that stretch, but also teams like Carolina and Minnesota...NFC North cross-over AFC Division in 2011 is AFC West...In the AFC West we would likely agree that the Division is top-heavy with SD and KC as the class of the Division, with Jokeland and Denver among the NFL’s worst team...The schedule really works in Bears favour as the games vs tough SD and KC are both in Chicago, while Denver and Jokeland should provide easy (at least easier) road games

A sensational D (#4 in NFL last season) coupled with an improving O, and a favourable schedule, have me believing this team will not regress by 3 wins this season (11 W’s in 2010, would have to dip by 3 games to give us a loss here...I don’t see it coming!)...I think the Bears are entering a 3-4 year window of relevance in the NFL

St Louis Rams UNDER 7.5

I feel like I am in the minority here when I predict an UNDER for the 2011 St Louis Rams...The 2010 Rams were led by (then) rookie QB Sam Bradford and they improved from winning 6 games total the past 3 seasons (YIKES) to a 2010 tally of 7...To think that this team is on the rise looks accurate enough, especially in the potentially brutal NFC West...So why the UNDER pick?!?!  Let’s take a look...
OUT is O-Coordinator Pat Shurmur (now Head Coach in Cleveland) and his replacement is disgraced Broncos ex-Head Coach Josh McDaniels...This guy was great under Bill Belichick as his O-C in New England, but McDaniels’ tenure in Denver, especially his player-personnel decisions, were laughable...so A) OUT goes O-C that sparked success with Bradford, so getting new O-C IN is likely going to have a built-in time to adjust/learn/progress...and B) have I mentioned that I have little faith in Josh McDaniels?!?!

The schedule makers have the UNDER I can tell you that!  They did not do this Rams team any favours...The 2011 Rams sched looks more like it should be the test for the defending Champs or something like that...This Rams team averages 3 wins over the past 4 seasons, yet they have Philly, NY Giants, and Baltimore right out of the gate...Coming out of a Week 5 BYE they are @ Green Bay, then @ Dallas, followed by a home game vs New Orleans...Things get easier Weeks 10 through 13, but a Christmas Eve date @ Pittsburgh could be enough to deflate any potential late-season spurt

The only chance I see for the Rams to get OVER the 7.5 is if they establish complete dominance in their Division in the 6 games they will play vs NFC West foes San Fran, Seattle, and Arizona...This team could do this one day, and could find a way through schemes etc to be a legit O under O-C McDaniels, but it does seem to me that the Rams climb to the Best in the West could take a bit of time still despite 2010 success

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OVER 8

Head Coach Raheem Morris enters season #3 of his rebuilding project in TB...a 3-13 debut season in 2009 was followed by a 7 win improvement (largest in team history) in 2010 as the Bucs went 10-6 and just missed qualifying for the Post-Season

Morris has a O, and a D on the rise...The running game was very solid in 2010, and Josh Freeman is on the rise big-time into status of legit starting NFL QB...2010 rookie RB LeGarrette Blount surpassed Cadillac Williams as the teams #1 guy (1,000+ yards, plus gaudy 5.0 Yards Per Carry for Blount as a rookie) and fellow rookie Mike Williams had a fantastic rookie season at WR (led team in Receiving Yards, and twice as many Receiving TD’s as any other Buc)...Of the skill-positions on O it is Freeman (26 games) who is the veteran as they are y-o-u-n-g on Morris’ O (but improving rapidly)

On D Morris had a very good Secondary in 2010, but a Front 7 that struggled to stop the run...The D-Line should receive major boosts from rookies Adrian Clayborn, and Da’Quan Bowers, plus this is now the third Training Camp for Morris to really continue to implement his strategies/schemes which should help TB continue to improve Team D (#27 ranked D in Morris’ 2009 debut season, then all the way up to #17 in 2010...#? for 2011?!?!)

The 2011 Bucs schedule opens with 3 of the first 4 games at Raymond James Stadium (Detroit, and a potentially Manning-less Colts team are part of that stretch)...Weeks 6 through 11 look daunting (New Orleans twice, Chicago, Houston, Green Bay, with a BYE in there) but the final 6 games of the season have 4 likely non-Playoff opponents (Carolina twice, Jacksonville, and Tennessee)...The Bucs went just 4-4 at home in 2010 (that # should improve IMO which would give the Bucs a great chance to get OVER the Total of 8)

A T-O-N of young, high-upside, talent on both sides of the ball in Tampa Bay...That talent is being coached up by Morris and as a result I am expecting a step forward from the 2011 Bucs, while the majority seems to be anticipating a step backwards from Morris’ squad

craig.ballard@hotmail.com ... follow me on twitter @CraigBallard77