We’ll be providing a betting preview for each NFL division this week leading up to the first set of full games on Sunday. We continue today with the AFC East. Click here for a list of all the major offseason moves by each AFC East team.
The AFC East has been New England’s show since 2003, and all signs point toward that continuing in 2012.
The Patriots have won the division eight of the last nine years, and the only time they failed to do so was in 2008, when Tom Brady went down for the season in Week 1. (Even then, New England still went 11-5 and lost in a tie-breaker with Miami.)
Shoot, they’ve won an average of 12.7 games over that span. Does anyone else have a chance?
The AFC East’s divisional futures odds listed at 5Dimes:
Most value: Can a team listed at -380 possibly carry any value? Not really, but that just means there’s no real value to be found in these odds. New England has such an advantage at quarterback over the rest of the field that betting on any other team just feels like wishful thinking. The Patriots will win this division, but it’s not really worth betting at this price.
Patriots: 12 (over +110)
Jets: 8.5 (over +145)
Bills: 8.5 (over +105)
Dolphins: 6.5 (over +110)
Best bet: At 8.5 wins, you’ve definitely lost a lot of value on the ‘over’ with Buffalo (it opened at 7.5), but it’s still worth a look. The Bills have one of the more generous final seven games you’ll ever see, including two games against Miami and three more versus Indianapolis, Jacksonville and St. Louis. At the very least, you’ll have a shot heading into the closing stretch. It’d be best to look around at sportsbooks other than 5Dimes to see if you can find a number lower than 8.5, but Buffalo is the pick here.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Despite consistently laying a lot of points, New England—one of the most “public” bets in the league—is one of the best ATS teams in the NFL and put together another above-.500 season in 2011. The Patriots are covering at nearly a 60-percent rate over the past six seasons, while all three other AFC East teams are at or near .500.
Here’s a look at each team’s record ATS since 2006 (with last year’s record in parentheses):
Patriots: 55-38-3 (9-7)
Jets: 48-47-1 (6-10)
Dolphins: 44-48-4 (9-6-1)
Bills: 48-45-3 (6-9-1)
The AFC East is matched up with the AFC South and the NFC West, leaving one opponent each from the AFC North and AFC West as the only differences in the schedule.
Here are the two “swing games” on each team’s schedule:
Patriots: at Baltimore, vs. Denver
Jets: at Pittsburgh, vs. San Diego
Bills: vs. Kansas City, at Cleveland (Week 3)
Dolphins: vs. Oakland, at Cincinnati
Analysis: Buffalo is the clear winner here, grabbing a winnable home game against the Chiefs—whom they walloped in Week 1 last season—and a road trip to Cleveland all within the first three weeks. There’s no real difference between the draws for New England and New York. Road trips to Pittsburgh and Baltimore are pretty even, and home games against Denver and San Diego are also comparable. The Patriots’ Week 3 road game at the Ravens could be the only time in 2012 that they’re underdogs.
WHO TO FOLLOW
A Twitter follow list for beat writers covering each team.