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The 2014 NFL season kicks off this week and we’ve got it fully covered at BetdaqNFL. Be sure to check back with us in the coming days for in-depth previews of all sixteen Week 1 games. In the meantime, here’s a team-by-team look at the AFC to whet your appetite:

*ATS=against the spread

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

2013 Record/Rankings: 6-10 (8-8 ATS)  Offense: 19th overall (2nd rush, 28th pass)  Defense: 10th overall (28th rush, 4th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 200/1

2014 Outlook: Would it shock me if the Bills finished 9-7 and challenged for a Wild Card berth this season? No, it wouldn’t shock me. However, it’s tough to get too excited about this team after watching them fall on their collective faces year after year, despite occasionally having squads that looked good “on paper.” It’s even more difficult for me to get behind the Bills when I consider their quarterback situation, as I am not an E.J. Manuel believer (yet).

However, this team has some good-looking pieces. They’re going to run the ball effectively, which should make things easier for Manuel, and they have a defensive line that can change games with their ability to disrupt the passer. If you’re a Buffalo believer I recommend going hard early, as 4 of their first 5 games are very winnable and the value may dissipate a bit if they get off to a good start. As for me, I’m going to take a “wait and see” approach. Show me, E.J.

Miami Dolphins

2013 Record/Rankings: 8-8 (9-7 ATS)  Offense: 27th overall (26th rush, 20th pass)  Defense: 21st overall (24th rush, 16th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 80/1

2014 Outlook: The Dolphins have some obvious issues, most notably on the offensive line. Joe Philbin was hired two years ago based on his offensive expertise, having worked closely with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but in two years there hasn’t been much in the way of tangible progress. That, combined with the ugliness surrounding the Richie Incognito situation (the dreaded “Distraction”), has soured many people on this team. Most pundits seem to think the Dolphins are going to have a terrible year, which means the betting public has been hammered with “this team is awful” one-liners throughout training camp and the preseason.

Which means… there may be some value here. I don’t expect Miami to challenge New England in the AFC East but I don’t think they’re as bad as the so-called “experts” are saying, either. They’re going to be solid defensively and they have enough skill-position talent to make significant strides on offense. It all comes down to what you think of Ryan Tannehill— is he closer to Andrew Luck or Christian Ponder? I’m a Tannehill believer, but I concede that it’s just about “now or never” time for him. Most folks seem to be betting on “never”, but don’t be surprised if it’s “now”. This is a decent team with low expectations. Bettors, take note.

New England Patriots

2013 Record/Rankings: 13-5 (9-9 ATS)  Offense: 7th overall (10th rush, 8th pass)  Defense: 22nd overall (25th rush, 18th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 8/1

2014 Outlook: The Patriots are the gold standard for success in today’s NFL and they have another loaded team this season. Problem is, this team isn’t sneaking up on anybody. Oddsmakers have caught up with the Pats; they were 9-9 ATS last year despite going 13-5 overall, a pattern that has been basically unchanged for the past 3 years (15-4 overall, 10-9 ATS in 2011; 13-5 overall, 10-8 ATS in 2012).

Does that mean we should avoid backing Belichick’s boys? Certainly not. As a matter of fact, it’s been 12 years (!) since the Patriots last had a losing ‘ATS’ season. This team may not exceed bettors’ expectations regularly (because expectations are so high…), but they don’t underperform, either. I like the Pats this year and will look hard at backing them in early-season road games against Miami, Minnesota, and Kansas City.

New York Jets

2013 Record/Rankings: 8-8 (9-6-1 ATS)  Offense: 25th overall (6th rush, 31st pass)  Defense: 11th overall (3rd rush, 22nd pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 80/1

2014 Outlook: While the Jets were better than many expected them to be last year (myself included), they didn’t necessarily plant the seeds for long-term hope. The defense was good, yes, but the offense continues to be an absolute disaster. Rookie quarterbacks seldom shine in the NFL, but Geno Smith’s year— 21 interceptions and a league-worst 66.5 quarterback rating— was a horror show. It’s difficult to throw your money at a team whose quarterback is essentially a gaping, open wound.

That being said, the Jets ran the ball well last season and the addition of Chris Johnson gives them a big-play dimension that they lacked in 2013. Adequate quarterback play may be all they need to morph into a playoff contender, so… Michael Vick?

Look for New York’s season to hinge on the play of America’s favorite dog killer, who I fully expect to replace Smith by October, if not sooner. I have a hunch that Vick, with his running ability and experience, will help this offense. The “transition time”— when Vick replaces Smith on a losing Jets team— may be a good time to invest in this team. Until then, I’d stay away.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

2013 Record/Rankings: 8-8 (7-9 ATS)  Offense: 29th overall (30th rush, 18th pass)  Defense: 12th overall (11th rush, 12th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 40/1

2014 Outlook: The Ravens had a disappointing year by any measure in 2013, missing the postseason and failing to ‘cover’ 9 times in 16 games. It was a disheartening development for bettors who had come to rely on John Harbaugh’s Ravens as a consistent moneymaker— after all, before last year Harbaugh had never had a losing ‘ATS’ season, and his record against the number still stands at a very respectable 58-47-4.

While the team should be better this season— especially on offense— it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to out-perform public perception, which has rightfully changed a bit since the Super Bowl win 18 months ago. The first two games of the season— home games against division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh— will be illuminating. The Ravens are 2-point favorites over the Bengals and they’ll likely be slight favorites over the Steelers as well, but both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are quality teams with defenses that will stymie the new Baltimore offense if Kubiak’s changes aren’t smoothly incorporated. I’m not going to back Baltimore in either one of those games, but if they assert themselves with convincing victories I reserve the right to jump on the bandwagon.

Cincinnati Bengals

2013 Record/Rankings: 11-6 (10-6-1 ATS)  Offense: 10th overall (18th rush, 8th pass)  Defense: 3rd overall (5th rush, 5th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 33/1

2014 Outlook: The Bengals have been an excellent team to back over the past year and a half, going 17-8-1 ATS in their last 26 games. I think there’s an explanation for why they’ve continued to perform so well against the number— they’re a good team, yes, but there’s more to it than that.

People love to bet on traditional winners, and people love to bet on great quarterbacks.

Cincinnati is an outstanding team, but they’re not a traditional winner and they don’t have a great quarterback. Bettors who have witnessed years of futility are a little more skittish about the Andy Dalton-led Bengals than they are about, say, the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers. This will change over time, of course, but there should still be some residual anti-Bengals bias this year, especially after their latest dismal playoff performance. It’s nonsense, though. The evidence is clear: this Cincinnati team can be trusted. That is, until it’s playoff time…

Cleveland Browns

2013 Record/Rankings: 4-12 (6-10 ATS)  Offense: 17th overall (28th rush, 11th pass)  Defense: 9th overall (18th rush, 8th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 200/1

2014 Outlook: Look, Mike Pettine seems like a good coach and new owner Jimmy Haslam clearly cares about building a winner. That’s the good news for Cleveland fans. Unfortunately, the team is going to be terrible again this year. That’s the bad news.

I do think the defense is going to be decent, but I’m having trouble envisioning a scenario in which the offense is going to be successful. The Browns play in a division chock-full of good defenses and they don’t have the offensive personnel to adequately support the quarterback, whoever that may be (my prediction for Brian Hoyer’s reign as the starter: 4 weeks). The potential for disaster is definitely there, so I think I’ll keep my money far away from this team for awhile. Fading them early, before the lines get too ridiculous, may be the way to go.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2013 Record/Rankings: 8-8 (9-7 ATS)  Offense: 20th overall (27th rush, 12th pass)  Defense: 13th overall (21st rush, 9th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 40/1

2014 Outlook: People seem to be suspicious of the Steelers this season, as they’ve suddenly developed a reputation as a team in decline. While the defense has been slowed a bit by age, the offense has no such issues, and I believe this year’s offense will be the best of the Roethlisberger era.

With a potentially elite offense and a Dick LeBeau-coached defense looking at atone for a mediocre season, I expect the Steelers to contend for a postseason berth. While Pittsburgh is traditionally a “public” team, making value tough to come by, the vibe feels a little different as we embark on the 2014 season. Public trust has waned. You know the rule: they zig, you zag.

AFC South

Houston Texans

2013 Record/Rankings: 2-14 (4-12 ATS)  Offense: 11th overall (20th rush 15th pass)  Defense: 7th overall (23rd rush, 3rd pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 50/1

2014 Outlook: The Texans fit the profile of a ‘buy’ team, especially early in the season, and I’m probably going to jump in with both feet. Taking it all into consideration— their horrendous performance last season and its subsequent effect on public perception/expectations, their league-worst -20 turnover differential (a number that’s bound to see some regression to the mean) and the disproportionate effect it had on their record, their talent-laden defense that played better than people realize during last year’s disastrous campaign, a friendly schedule that features 12 teams that missed the playoffs in 2013, a smart, confident coach and a veteran quarterback who is widely dismissed and highly motivated— I think the profit-minded bettor should give this team a long, hard look.

Are there endless questions on offense, starting with the quarterback position? Absolutely. Am I someone who has placed my faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick before, only to get burned? Yes, I am. However, I have a strong hunch that Fitz will exceed expectations, and if he doesn’t, the newly-acquired Ryan Mallett could thrive in a familiar system.  Don’t be surprised if we’re hearing the talking heads wax poetic about the evil genius of Bill O’Brien by mid-October.

Indianapolis Colts

2013 Record/Rankings: 12-6 (11-7 ATS)  Offense: 15th overall (21st rush, 17th pass)  Defense: 20th overall (26th rush, 13th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 25/1

2014 Outlook: Heading into the 2014 season, the situation in Indianapolis is pretty clear: the Colts are prohibitive favorites in the weak AFC South and they’re widely viewed as a rising Super Bowl contender. From a bettor’s perspective, the “widely viewed a a Super Bowl contender” part is a bit problematic. The public’s opinion of Indianapolis will be different this season than in the past two, when the Colts mostly played the “plucky upstart” role. This year they’ll be favored more often than not, and despite their success over the past two years they’ve been far from dominant. Are they ready to play the role of favorites?

One thing to keep in mind— the Colts are an excellent home team, especially when they’re facing a quality opponent. In their last 10 home games against teams with a winning percentage of .650 or better they’re a smooth 9-1 against the spread, and this season they’ll have three home games against teams coming off division titles— Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and New England. The Philly game in Week 2 might be a good value spot, especially if the Eagles blow out Jacksonville in Week 1 and the Colts lose big at Denver. Food for thought…

Jacksonville Jaguars

2013 Record/Rankings: 4-12 (5-10-1 ATS)  Offense: 31st overall (31st rush, 27th pass)  Defense: 27th overall (29th rush, 25th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 400/1 (bit of a longshot…)

2014 Outlook: ‘Fade the Jags’ was a profitable strategy last year, as the lowly Jaguars covered just 5 times all season despite being underdogs in every game and— wait for it— double-digit ‘dogs an astounding 8 times. They won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season; their (lack of) worth is common knowledge, which is why Vegas has set their season-long win total number at 4.5, the lowest in the league.

Considering the lack of respect this team is sure to experience on a weekly basis, can sharp bettors find some value here? I think the reflexive answer is “yes”, because, after all, it’s difficult to be as bad as Jacksonville has been for as long as they’ve been. It has to turn around sometime, right? The structure of the NFL encourages parity, yet the Jaguars, like the New England Patriots on the other side of the spectrum, have maintained their place in the league’s hierarchy for several years. And though they seem like they’re ‘due’ for a turnaround, an examination of their personnel, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, leaves me deeply skeptical. Despite all the talk of positivity and progress in Jacksonville, this looks like just another bad team.

Tennessee Titans

2013 Record/Rankings: 7-9 (6-7-3 ATS)  Offense: 22nd overall (14th rush, 21st pass)  Defense: 14th overall (20th rush, 11th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 200/1

2014 Outlook: Ken Whisenhunt is a respected coach whose Arizona teams were great when he had a capable quarterback (Kurt Warner) and terrible when he didn’t. This much I know: Jake Locker is no Kurt Warner. For that matter, neither is Charlie Whitehurst. So…

Look, Whisenhunt and GM Ruston Webster may shape this franchise into a contender, but it isn’t happening this year. The roster lacks both talent and experience, and the only real hope of immediate success lies in the schedule— a schedule that features just one home game against a team that had a winning record in 2013 (Indianapolis). Unfortunately, though, the September slate includes three road games against quality teams (Kansas City, Cincinnati, Indianapolis), so the Titans likely won’t be able to create any early-season momentum.

Fearless prediction: when the Titans and Jags meet on October 12 (Week 6), both teams will be winless. And, rest assured, my money will be invested elsewhere.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

2013 Record/Rankings: 15-4 (11-7-1 ATS)  Offense: 1st overall (15th rush, 1st pass)  Defense: 19th overall (8th rush, 27th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 11/2

2014 Outlook: The Broncos are a great team with a great offense, and it’s generally easy (and smart) to bet on great teams with great offenses. They were 11-7-1 against the spread last year despite being favored in every game but one, and the numbers they were having to cover were getting ridiculous: -26.5, -16, -12.5, and -11.5 were just a few. By season’s end they had been favored by 7.5 points or more 11 times (!), going 6-4-1 ATS in those games. Bottom line: this team knows how to cover big numbers, so bettors shouldn’t be anxious about laying those numbers.

For some reason, though, I have a hunch that things won’t work out perfectly for Denver this season. The NFL’s physical and violent nature often results in unpredictability, making it dangerous to rely too heavily on any team, even when that team features the epitome of reliability in the modern NFL— Peyton Manning. To be clear, I do expect the Broncos to win the AFC West and I certainly don’t advocate a strategy of ‘fading’ them consistently, but I have doubts regarding their ability to live up to the reputation they forged last season, a reputation that will be reflected in this season’s lines (especially early in the year). Don’t be surprised if the 2014 Broncos are a division winner that finishes the year with a losing record against the number.

Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Record/Rankings: 11-6 (9-8 ATS)  Offense: 21st overall (10th rush, 25th pass)  Defense: 24th overall (22nd rush, 26th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 66/1

2014 Outlook: There are many signs that point to a disappointing year in Kansas City. The offensive line is unsettled, the secondary was a mess at the end of last season and didn’t upgrade their personnel, and the team has a monstrously difficult schedule. The fact that they finished with a +18 turnover margin in 2013— the second-best mark in the league— is another alarming indicator, because turnover margin is a stat with a fair amount of luck involved, meaning we can rely on some regression to the mean.

That doesn’t mean you should totally discount the Chiefs this season or look to fade them whenever possible— after all, this is a well-coached group with difference-makers on both sides of the ball— but for handicapping purposes I don’t think it would be wise to view them as a playoff-type team. Defenses will be more prepared for the extra-large helping of Jamaal Charles that they’re sure to receive, while opposing offenses will look to exploit the shaky secondary. Bettors beware: this team will be taking a step back in 2014.

Oakland Raiders

2013 Record/Rankings: 4-12 (7-8-1 ATS)  Offense: 23rd overall (12th rush, 24th pass)  Defense: 22nd overall (13th rush, 28th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 265/1

2014 Outlook: The Raiders have been an abject disaster over the last decade, bungling drafts, free agent signings, coaching hires, and seemingly everything else. When general manager Reggie McKenzie was hired by Mark Davis in 2012 it was supposed to signal the beginning of a new era in Oakland, an era in which the team was run by a professional personnel man instead of the increasingly out-of-touch (and now deceased) Al Davis. Unfortunately, the ‘new plan’ looks pretty much like the old plan, as the Raiders are 8-24 on McKenzie’s watch.

As you can imagine, the prolonged failure has not endeared Oakland to the betting public, which will work to the advantage of the sharp bettor if/when this team turns it around. Will this be the year? Picking the Raiders to have a successful season is akin to supporting a 3rd-party political candidate: you know you’ll probably lose and your reputation might take a hit. So… (holds breath)…(steps off the edge)

Nope, not gonna do it. I do think the Raiders will be an improved team this season, but they’re rolling with rookie Derek Carr at quarterback and their schedule is a beast. The low expectations could make this team a nice value play from time to time, but the big picture is still pretty gloomy.

San Diego Chargers

2013 Record/Rankings: 10-8 (11-6-1 ATS)  Offense: 5th overall (13th rush, 4th pass)  Defense: 23rd overall (12th rush, 29th pass)

BETDAQ Super Bowl odds: 60/1

2014 Outlook: The Chargers surprised everyone in 2013, making the playoffs and compiling an 11-6-1 record against the spread despite a roster that seemed to be in “rebuild” mode. They won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year, but if Rivers completes 70% of his passes again they won’t have to.

This team has an opportunity to get off to a good start this season, as only one of their first 6 opponents made the playoffs in 2013. That may give bettors some false confidence, especially as it relates to the “improvement” of the San Diego secondary, a horrific unit that is badly in need of genuine improvement. Look at their schedule in weeks 3-6: Buffalo, Jacksonville, the Jets, and Oakland. Not exactly a ‘murderer’s row’ of high-flying offenses. Now, I’m not saying that the secondary won’t be improved, I’m just saying that after 6 weeks they may look better than they really are. San Diego may be a “back ‘em early, fade ‘em late” type of team this year.