But some teams already are generating a lot of hype. They’ll carry much higher totals than they did in 2010.
Let’s look at their projected totals, which we discussed with prominent Las Vegas oddsmakers:
DETROIT LIONS (2010 total: 5, Record 6-10) -- This total figures to be 7.5 or 8.
The Lions ended on a four-game win streak last season, made a big splash in last month’s draft, and now bettors are pounding them as a trendy long shot to win the Super Bowl.
“We opened them at 75-to-1 and now they’re down to 20-to-1,” MGM Mirage sportsbook manager Jeff Stoneback told Covers.com. “They’re the No. 2 team as far as tickets written, just behind the Packers. We opened Green Bay at 8-to-1 and that’s down to 4-to-1. But No. 2, believe it or not, is the Lions even at 20-to-1.”
Detroit drafted Auburn’s Nick Fairley to pair with Ndamukong Suh on a scary defensive line, Boise State wideout Titus Young to take pressure off Calvin Johnson and powerful Illinois runner Mikel Leshoure to complement ultra-quick Jahvid Best. The entire offensive line returns and if Matthew Stafford stays healthy, this talented group should make the playoffs.
“They were in every game last season and they all seemed to come down to a touchdown or less,” Stoneback said of the Lions, who lost seven games by eight or fewer points. “There were probably four more games they could have won, starting with opening day against the Bears when (Johnson’s) touchdown catch was not ruled a touchdown.
“They’ll have a big jump (in their total),” he concluded. “Probably going to be around 8.”
Oddsmaker Pete Korner, founder of the Sports Club in Las Vegas, told Covers.com that putting an 8 on the Lions “forces the team to win nine and that may be a lofty but not necessarily unattainable number. The Lions defense has some fierce potential.
“If we use an 8, I’d attach a large Over moneyline to it.”
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2010 total: 5.5, Record 10-6) -- This total also will be around 8.
With rising young stars like quarterback Josh Freeman, running back LeGarrette Blount and wideout Mike Williams, and a cocky coach they rally around, the Bucs’ future looks bright. Tampa Bay shocked everyone last year by winning 10 games.
The Buccaneers drafted a fearsome pass rusher who can also stuff the run in Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn. Then they gambled on Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, once considered the possible No. 1 overall pick. If his knee problems are behind him, he’ll be the steal of the draft.
Now there’s growing speculation the Bucs will go after shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha once free agency starts. If there’s a salary cap, Tampa Bay will have more room under it than any other team, according to ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas. He notes the Bucs “can use the lack of a state income tax in Florida, a great natural-grass field, the weather, a team on the rise and coach Raheem Morris (a former defensive backs coach) as selling points.”
Stoneback pointed out the Bucs benefitted from an easy schedule last year. Only one of their victories, the 23-13 win at New Orleans in the season finale, came against a winning team.
This year the Buccaneers host the Colts and visit the Packers in addition to four tough divisional matchups against Atlanta and New Orleans.
Tampa Bay opens at home against Detroit - a game that could be pivotal for bets on both teams’ season win totals.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (2010 total: 6, Record 8-8) – This total will be 8 or 8.5.
The Silver and Black is coming off its first non-losing season since 2002. Oakland swept divisional foes last year (6-0) and gets a favorable schedule this year with just two games in the Eastern time zone. One of those is at woeful Buffalo.
The Raiders just locked up defensive linemen Richard Seymour and John Henderson, corner Stanford Routt and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. And while Nnamdi Asomugha will most likely not return, the team filled needs with its early draft picks: Offensive linemen Stefen Wisniewski and Joseph Barksdale and corner Demarcus Van Dyke, whose 4.28 forty time was the combine’s fastest. Oakland is loaded with speed everywhere.
The Raiders boast one of the league’s top rushing attacks (2,498 yards, 19 TDs last year) with Darren McFadden finally living up to his billing. Hue Jackson, the offensive coordinator promoted to head coach in January, helped Oakland double its scoring to 25.6 points in 2010 - sixth-most in the NFL.
“People bet the Raiders every year, no matter what,” Stoneback said. “We opened them at 40-to-1 (to win it all) and they’ve been bet down to 30-to-1. The (AFC West champion) Chiefs are still at 35-to-1. The Raiders are one of those public teams people like to bet in the futures.”
A Raiders’ season win total of 8 will attract lots of Over action, no matter how high the money line is set.