Last season, Ed Williams and Jeff Baldwin picked against the spread all season long in Rotoworld's award-winning Season Pass. They kicked things off last year with a sneak peak column where they picked over/unders on win totals for six teams each before kickoff, and they're back at it again this season. Once the season starts, Ed and Jeff will compete against each other, giving their top few picks against the spread each week as well as one over/under in the Season Pass. Last season, they nailed seven of their over/under picks and pushed on one. How will they fare this year?
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest in Week 1. It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Here's the link.
Baltimore Ravens – Over/Under 8.5
Ed: The Ravens haven’t won fewer than nine games since a dreadful 2007 campaign. Baltimore is coming off a Super Bowl victory, but I really don’t think John Harbaugh will allow his club to suffer a post-championship hangover. The Ravens lost Anquan Boldin in a trade to the Niners, but I don’t think that will have a huge impact on the offense. Yes, he was a postseason hero for them last year, but he’s one more year older now, and had already lost a step. Torrey Smith will step up and have a monster year. The Dennis Pitta injury is a bigger concern, but Ed Dickson should be a solid safety valve for Joe Flacco, and they still have the dynamic Ray Rice in the backfield. They’ll also get to beat up on the Browns twice a year, and the banged up Steelers could be in for a down year in the AFC North as well. The defense will have issues in the secondary, especially after losing Ed Reed, but Baltimore will find a way to get to at least nine wins this year.
Pick: Over 8.5 wins
Denver Broncos - Over/Under 11.5
Jeff: The Broncos were on a mission to reach the Super Bowl a year ago but were upset at home in the AFC Divisional round against the Ravens. During the offseason, they reloaded on the offensive side of the ball by signing WR Wes Welker and drafting RB Montee Ball. QB Peyton Manning must be ecstatic with these additions to go along with their existing solid receiving corps of WR Demaryius Thomas and WR Eric Decker. It's hard not think this potent offense won't match or exceed their 30 points per game average from a year ago. Defensively, they will be without LB Von Miller for the first six games of the season due to a suspension. While this is a hit to their defense, I think they'll be able to weather the storm until Miller returns. The Broncos also have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this year as their opponents have a .430 winning percentage. Look for Manning to be on a mission this year after a very disappointing performance against the Ravens. The Broncos should have no problem putting up 12-13 wins this year as they'll mirror their regular season total from a year ago.
Pick: Over 11.5 wins
Pittsburgh Steelers – Over/Under 9.5
Ed: I just mentioned that the Steelers could be in for a down year, and I definitely think getting to 10 wins is too much to ask this season. Ben Roethlisberger’s No. 1 deep threat Mike Wallace is now in Miami, rookie starting RB Le'Veon Bell is already injured and out until at least October, red zone target Heath Miller is coming off of a torn ACL, the struggling offensive line has already decided to flip flop their tackles and Troy Polamalu can’t seem to stay healthy anymore. The Steelers will always be tough under head coach Mike Tomlin, but 10 wins is a very tall order. They still have talented receivers in Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but the loss of Bell to start the season is a big blow. On the bright side, it looked like it could be a serious Lisfranc injury, but he’s already shed his walking boot. Pittsburgh will probably be in just about every game they play, but they’ll still fall short of reaching 10 wins.
Pick: Under 9.5 wins
Cincinnati Bengals - Over/Under 8.5
Jeff: The Bengals come off another first round playoff defeat to the Texans. However, I believe this year will be different for them. Their defense is a solid unit which includes All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins. They put a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback, which resulted in 51 sacks a year ago, which was one off the league high. On the offensive side of the ball, this is a critical year for QB Andy Dalton as he needs to lead his team to a playoff victory and possibly a deep playoff run. Dalton will look to his favorite target WR A.J. Green as he has become one of the best receivers in the league. The Bengals upgraded their running attack via the draft as they selected RB Giovani Bernard who is expected to split carries with RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard is an exciting, dynamic player who will bring another dimension to the running and passing game. The Bengals finished last year with 10 wins. I think with another year of experience and the addition of Bernard, this team will only get better.
Pick: Over 8.5 wins
Jacksonville Jaguars – Over 5
Ed: It may be risky taking a Blaine Gabbert-led team in an over, but five wins really should be attainable. Maurice Jones-Drew is back for Jacksonville this year, and I think he’ll be back with a vengeance as he plays for a new contract. The Jags also likely don’t have plans to re-sign him next year, so they won’t mind giving him all the carries he can handle and then some. Cecil Shorts emerged last season as a receiving threat, and the Jags have vowed to get tight end Marcedes Lewis more involved in the passing game this season. Justin Blackmon will be out for four games due to suspension, but playing alongside Shorts will give the Jags a nice 1-2 punch in the receiving game. And while Gabbert has been the butt of plenty of jokes since coming into the league, he’s shown some signs of improvement this offseason and will be playing to keep his job. The offensive line was also bolstered by No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel. They get to face the AFC West which features the lowly Raiders and the Chiefs and Chargers who both struggled mightily last year. They also get to face the Browns out of the AFC North and the Bills from the AFC East. The Titans could struggle again this year in their own division, and the Colts could easily be in line for a regression after last season’s surprise run to the playoffs. Patching together six wins or at least five for a push should be very doable.
Pick: Over 5 wins
Chicago Bears - Over/Under 8.5
Jeff: The Bears come off a disappointing year where they failed to make the playoffs even though they won 10 games. New head coach Marc Trestman will look to turn things around and get this team back to the playoffs. The main focus this year will be to get RB Matt Forte more involved in the offense. When Forte doesn't have the ball in his hands, QB Jay Cutler will look to All Pro WR Brandon Marshall as he is primed for another stellar season. The addition of TE Martellus Bennett should help in the passing game along with the running game as he is a solid blocking tight end. The Bears' offensive line isn't the strongest group, so expect to see a lot of short to mid-range pass plays. Defensively, the Bears are led by DE Julius Peppers and LB Lance Briggs. They are an opportunistic group that thrives on creating turnovers. They led the league last year in interceptions, defensive touchdowns and finished second in forced fumbles. There is no reason why this group can't put up similar results this year. I expect the Bears to have a better season this year as they will get back into the playoffs.
Pick: Over 8.5 wins
Green Bay Packers – Over/Under 10.5
Ed: Green Bay tallied 11 wins last season, and I expect them to do at least the same again this year. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, and the Packers’ aerial attack is virtually impossible to contain. They no longer have Greg Jennings, but they were just fine without him last year when he was hurt. Jordy Nelson is coming off of an injury, but even if he takes some time to round into shape, Rodgers still has James Jones and Randall Cobb at his disposal. And while TE Jermichael Finley has disappointed the last couple of seasons, there have been glowing reports about him coming out of the preseason. To make matters worse for the rest of the NFL, the Packers were able to draft Eddy Lacy to take over as the starting running back. His addition could keep defenses even more off balance than they already were, which is a scary thought. There’s also plenty of talent on the defensive side of things with B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams to name a few. They also will draw the NFC East division this year, which doesn’t seem to boast a single elite team.
Pick: Over 10.5 wins
Oakland Raiders - Over/Under 5
Jeff: The Raiders come off a four win season which included losing eight out of their last nine games. I think it is safe to say this team didn't get better in the offseason. QB Carson Palmer has moved on to Arizona which leaves a big question mark at quarterback. Currently, it's looking like Terrelle Pryor may get the opportunity to start at QB to open the season. Other than RB Darren McFadden, this team doesn't have many other offensive weapons. Also, given McFadden's inability to stay healthy throughout his career, this team could be in even more trouble if he goes down. One would think opposing defenses will stack the box to stop McFadden and make whoever is at quarterback beat them. In addition, the loss of arguably their best offensive lineman Jared Veldheer to a partially torn tricep for approximately 9-10 games is a big loss to their line. This team is simply lacking the overall talent needed to compete in this league on both sides of the ball. I think they will be hard pressed to match their win total from a year ago at four.
Pick: Under 5 wins
New Orleans Saints – Over/Under 9.5
Ed: Without head coach Sean Payton, the Saints seemed lost at times last season. But now that Bountygate has passed, he’ll be back on the sidelines, and New Orleans should be back in the playoff hunt once again. Drew Brees remains one of the game’s elite QBs, and some might argue he’s the best. Tight end beast Jimmy Graham is all healed from a wrist injury that hindered him last year, and No. 1 WR Marques Colston is back as well. The three-headed running back attack of Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas is back as well, and while the threesome will drive fantasy owners crazy, it’s three more weapons for Brees to work with. Rob Ryan takes over as defensive coordinator, and he definitely has his work cut out for him. The defense was never a strength of the Saints in the first place, but now they’ve also lost OLB Will Smith and Victor Butler and DE Kenyon Coleman to season-ending injuries. This won’t make things any easier for Brees and company, but I still expect them to win plenty of shootout to hit double digit wins. They also drew the AFC East this year, which should lead to easy wins over the Bills, Jets and Dolphins.
Pick: Over 9.5 wins
Pittsburgh Steelers - Over/Under 9.5
Jeff: The Steelers failed to make the playoffs last year as they finished 8-8. QB Ben Roethlisberger will look to get this team back on track offensively and return to the playoffs. However, there will be some hurdles after losing WR Mike Wallace to free agency. WR Antonio Brown will need to step up as he takes over as the No. 1 wide receiver. The biggest question mark in my mind is whether their offensive line can protect Roethlisberger. If they continue having trouble doing so, this will be another frustrating year for Steelers fans. The Steelers were very high on RB Le'Veon Bell after drafting him in the second round, but a sprained foot has him currently sidelined for 4-6 weeks. They will likely go running back by committee until Bell returns. Defensively, they will continue to be a solid group as they have experienced personnel returning. What will make this a tough year for them is playing in the competitive AFC North. A division that has an improved Browns team, the Bengals looking like they are ready to take it to the next level and the reigning Super Bowl champs Ravens, the Steelers will have their work cut out for them. I think the Steelers will finish with 8-9 wins for the year.
Pick: Under 9.5 wins
Detroit Lions – Over/Under 7.5
Ed: The Lions just couldn’t get out of their own way last season and lost their final eight games of the year. There’s just too much talent on this team to believe they’ll have another bad year. I expect Matthew Stafford to have a more efficient year, and Calvin Johnson will continue to show why he’s the best wide receiver in the game. Nate Burleson is listed as the No. 2 receiver, but it’s likely just a matter of time before the talented Ryan Broyles emerges to form one of the most potent WR tandems in the league. The addition of Reggie Bush should also bolster what was an anemic running game and help keep defense honest. The big question will be whether the defense can step up. With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley up front with rookie Ezekial Ansah, getting pressure on the QB shouldn’t be a problem. Stephen Tulloch is back as the middle linebacker, and rookie Darius Slay should help improve a secondary that has been struggling for a while now. It will be tough in the NFC North with teams like the Packers and Bears, but I expect the Lions to hit at least eight wins this season.
Pick: Over 7.5 wins
New York Jets - Over/Under 6.5
Jeff: I hit with the under in wins in this column a season ago with the Jets. I'm taking them to go under again this year. It looks like a shoulder injury to QB Mark Sanchez could open the door for QB Geno Smith to start Week 1. If so, that will put a lot of pressure on the rookie. To make matters worse, the Jets lack the offensive playmakers, which will only compound their shaky quarterback play. RB Chris Ivory who was acquired via trade has missed significant time in training camp due to injury, so he'll be very rusty to start the season. Plus, he has never carried the full workload in his career so there is definitely uncertainty on how he will physically hold up. The defense will need to move forward without CB Darrelle Revis as he signed with the Bucs. They do have a nice nucleus of young players on defense including first round pick CB Dee Milliner. However, their offense will put a lot of pressure on the defense to keep them in games. I don't see this team winning more than six games.
Pick: Under 6.5 wins
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