1. NFL win totals are here!
Vegas released its initial win totals for the 2017 NFL season. The highest at the outset was the Patriots at 11. The Browns brought up the rear at 4. The public jumped all over the Pats and the line has since moved to 11.5. The only other teams with double-digit O/Us were the Seahawks (10.5) and Packers (10).
After another year of “winning” the offseason, the Jaguars’ over (5.5) has also seen a lot of action. With Doug Marrone now in charge and the defense replete with budding stars, there’s reason to like the Jags. There’s also one massive reason to stay away, and his name is Blake Bortles. The turnover-prone pivot hasn’t surpassed five wins in this first three seasons. The ground game should be better with Leonard Fournette taking the reins in the backfield and the o-line beefed up. But this isn’t going to be the 2016 Cowboys. The Jags will still need Bortles to be at least a mid-tier QB if they’re going to be competitive, and he’s been trending in the opposite direction.
Speaking of those 2016 Cowboys, Vegas seems to think their 13-3 record was something of a mirage, setting their 2017 O/U at 9.5. Could the team regress this season? Yes. The offensive line and secondary lost some pieces; the Giants and Eagles will both be tough outs in the NFC East; and Dak Prescott is still incredibly inexperienced (see RGIII as an example of a standout rookie QB who went backwards after a phenomenal first season).
Could the team be even better this season? Yes. The O-line is still going to be a force; the pass rush should be improved; and Prescott could be even better in his second year, especially with a healthy Dez Bryant. This team wasn’t eking out wins last year; they were dominating, as evidenced by their +115 point-differential. I will be shocked if they don’t reach double-digit wins and take their second straight division title. I don’t care that no team has repeated as NFC East champs since the 2003-2004 Eagles.
In sum, stay away from Jacksonville (5.5) and jump on the Dallas over (9.5).
2. Cavs, Raptors meet again
A couple lower seeds provided a push in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but at the end of the day, the top four teams emerged in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics took a 1-0 lead on Washington yesterday, while the Cavaliers and Raptors kick of their best-of-seven tonight at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland (7:00 PM ET). The Cavs enter as 6.5-point favorites.
LeBron and company have shown they have another gear that no one in the East can really match. Finding that gear seems to be getting harder and harder, though. Cleveland eked out home wins against the Pacers in the first two games of round one, then took four-point and five-point games on the road to close it out, going 1-2-1 against the spread. The Raptors, meanwhile, lost two of three to the Bucks (going 0-3 ATS) before storming back with three straight wins (both SU and ATS) to advance.
The Raptors let a 25-point lead slip away on the road in Game 6, before re-finding their rhythm and closing it out, 92-89. This team suffers from some of the worst offensive lulls I’ve ever seen. But don’t expect a repeat of the 2016 Eastern Conference finals, when they were run out of Quicken Loans Arena in three straight (115-84; 108-89; 116-78). This is a different Toronto team, one that can shut you down with its defense. The deadline additions of Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker have been huge at that end of the floor.
I don’t expect Toronto to win Game 1 on the road. They’re still a pretty terrible road team in the playoffs. I do expect the defense to keep this series a lot closer than last year, however, especially with the Cavs’ motor sputtering when it tries to find fifth gear.