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Covers Expert Steve Merril breaks down the best ways to wager on the NFC West this upcoming NFL season:
Arizona Cardinals (2014: 11-5 SU, 11-5 ATS)
Odds to win division: +585
Season win total: 9
Why bet the Cardinals: You have to give credit to the Cardinals for making the playoffs with their third-string quarterback last season. After Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton were lost for the year, inexperienced Ryan Lindley had to guide the Cardinals. He wasn’t good by any means, but head coach Bruce Arians had masterful game plans to get Arizona wins. The Cardinals’ defense only gave up 18.7 points per game, so that unit also deserves a lot of credit. If Palmer stays healthy this season, there are high expectations in Arizona.
Why not bet the Cardinals: A repeat of an 11-5 SU season is stretching it, but there’s no reason the Cardinals can’t have another winning season in 2015. However, if Palmer misses any significant time, it’s highly unlikely the Cardinals can duplicate what they did last year. The Cardinals are overvalued to a degree because of last season’s results, so regression against the pointspread seems quite likely.
Season win total pick: Under 9
San Francisco 49ers (2014: 8-8 SU, 6-9-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +1,325
Season win total: 6
Why bet the 49ers: San Francisco was much worse than its 8-8 SU record last year indicated as its eight losses came by an average of 10.6 points. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s play noticeably declined as the offense only averaged 19.1 points. But those are the very reasons expectations are low coming into this season. The 49ers will hold a lot of value in the pointspread throughout the 2015 season.
Why not bet the 49ers: The 49ers regressed sharply in 2014 and that trend is likely to continue in 2015. Jim Harbaugh bolted for Michigan and is replaced by the inexperienced Jim Tomsula as the new head coach. The offseason has been tumultuous to say the least, and the 49ers appear to be a mishmash team heading into the 2015 season. San Francisco has too many questions to answer and too many holes to fill, so this looks like another disappointing season.
Season win total pick: Over 6
Seattle Seahawks (2014: 12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: -325
Season win total: 11.5
Why bet the Seahawks: There really are no holes on this Seattle team. The Seahawks will once again play a tough schedule, but with no significant question marks on the field, 2015 will be another strong season. The one caveat to the above is injuries. Seattle’s depth has been severely shortened, so all bets are off if the injury bug bites the Seahawks this season.
Why not bet the Seahawks: The Seahawks have the unenvious title of Super Bowl losers coming into the 2015 season. Seattle was on the brink of back-to-back Lombardi Trophies, but a superb defensive play – or a bonehead offensive one – prevented that from happening. Teams in Seattle’s position normally regress and that may happen to the Seahawks as well. A major loss was defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who left to be the head coach in Atlanta. The final win/loss record may not reflect Seattle’s overall talent in 2015.
Season win total pick: Under 11.5
St. Louis Rams (2014: 6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS)
Odds to win division: +825
Season win total: 7.5
Why bet the Rams: Can the St. Louis Rams finally get over the hump and live up to their preseason hype? The answer to that question should be a unanimous “Yes”. St. Louis is ready to win this season, and if the team stays healthy, the Rams will have their first winning season in 12 years. St. Louis has a scary good defense that held seven opponents to 20 points or less last season.
Why not bet the Rams: Head coach Jeff Fisher is in his fourth year with St. Louis and this has to be his make-or-break season. Fisher is stuck in the past though, and it seems as if he doesn’t have a grasp on the current NFL game. The Rams will have Nick Foles under center, and they made an excellent draft of RB Todd Gurley with the No. 10 overall pick. But Foles had success in a set system and Gurley is inexperienced and coming off injury, so the Rams’ offensive success is in the hands of two unproven commodities.
Season win total pick: Over 7.5