The NFL win projections have been posted in Las Vegas as of last week, with legal bettors on the Strip having the option to go Over or Under. The Kansas City Chiefs are on the board right in the middle at 8. What side of the line would you choose and does this tell us anything about what informed opinion thinks of the Chiefs’ 2012 prospects?
It tells us that the betting markets aren’t sure what to make of KC. A dead-even number, this early in the process, suggests a willingness by the sportsbooks to essentially let the betting public set what the number will be by August when more money starts coming down on NFL futures. If there’s a strong early move on the Chiefs, look for this number to move to 8.5 closer to the start of the season. A move against will push it a half-win the other way. Since 8-8 right now stands as a push (meaning no money changes hands between the bettor and the book), a shift of a half-win either way is very significant.
Beyond the politics of the betting process, how do you see this playing out? I’m an optimist on Kansas City and think they’ll win ten games, so I don’t have any hesitation in thinking Over. They need to play .500 ball within a competitive division, go 3-1 against the NFC South (write off a road trip at New Orleans, win on the road at Tampa, sweep home dates with Atlanta and Carolina), split against the AFC North (I’m thinking split home games with Baltimore & Cincinnati, win at Cleveland, lose at Pittsburgh), beat both Buffalo on the road and Indianapolis at home. That gets the Chiefs to 10-6 and if you like the Over, you’ve got a game to spare.
If you’re a pessimist, you can argue the case that the road games at Buffalo & Tampa are tougher than meets the eye and that a split is more realistic, and that beating either the Ravens or Bengals at home is unlikely, given that both were playoff teams a year ago. You might argue that while the Chiefs could win two of three AFC West home games, they’re not going to win one on the road and that comes out to 2-4, rather than 3-3. Just making these shifts in the optimistic projection drops you to 7-9.
Both of these scenarios are realistic, but another reason I like the Over, is that it’s very difficult—short of complete collapse—to come up with a scenario where Kansas City would drop as low as 6-10, while we’ve outlined the path to 10-6. Therefore, the bettor who gives both the optimist and the pessimist equal weight would conclude that there’s more room for error on the Over side of the line.
Other win projections in the AFC West…
Denver Broncos: 9.5—I’m surprised the number is this low. I think it’s realistic, given the uncertainty of Peyton Manning’s neck, but given the optimistic numbers that have appeared for Denver in things like Super Bowl odds, I didn’t expect that Las Vegas would cede 10-6 to Over players.
San Diego Chargers: 9–This is what might be called a tight number. San Diego’s got the talent and they had a good draft. They also lack discipline and lose games they shouldn’t. It’s hard to call them a .500 team and go Under, and asking them to win 10 for you is a roll of the dice.
Oakland Raiders: 7—Not much respect for the Silver-n-Black here. I can certainly see them going .500, and it’s hard for me to see them going 6-10. I’d have no problem taking the Over on this one.
In general, I thought the AFC West was underrated in the early projections—the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens showed up at 10, which I think is overly optimistic given both teams’ age and the New England Patriots posted at 12. I could see the Pats coming in a half-win lower so you could win on 12, but needing 13 wins is a lot to ask of any team this early in the offseason.