Arizona Cardinals OVER 7.5 Wins (-150)
This is an Arizona Cardinals team that finished with 10 wins last season, but still could not crack the playoffs because of how tough their division is. Because the NFC West is so tough and the Cardinals must play each team in the division twice they have the 9th hardest schedule in the NFL for the 2014 season.
However, the tough schedule should not prevent them from finishing at least .500 and making the OVER 7.5 a winner. Of the Cardinals 10 wins last season three came against playoff teams. They played seven total games against eventual playoff teams last season. This season they play 8 games against teams that went to the playoffs in 2013. Of those eight games against playoff teams, five of them are at home.
Of the five home games the Cardinals should be able to win at least three or four of those games. The Cardinals are already favored in the home opener against one of those teams, the San Diego Chargers. They should also be favored over Kansas City and Philadelphia. They will most likely be underdogs to the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. However, I don’t see them Cardinals going 0-4 against those two teams on the season, so I expect them to grab a win in one of those games. Heck, this Cardinal team did the nearly impossible and beat the Seahawks in Seattle last season. So of the Cardinals 8 games against playoff teams I expect them to get 4 wins.
The four additional will wins will be easy to find out of these eight games: a home and home with St. Louis, at Atlanta, at New York Giants, at Dallas Cowboys, home against Detroit, home against Washington and at Oakland. They should win the home games against Detroit, Washington and St. Louis. That leaves them needing one win in four road games to get to eight wins. They probably won’t win at Atlanta. But it won’t be too hard to beat the Cowboys, Giants or Raiders, giving them eight wins. They could probably take of those three games and finish with nine wins.
The schedule may be tough but I think Vegas over reacted to that fact when setting this total. The fact is the Cardinals return Carson Palmer who has now had a full year to work with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Andre Ellington is ready to step in to the role as the Cardinals feature back and he is not only a threat to run but catch the ball out of the backfield as well. The defense may take a step back, but they still return many key pieces from a very successful 2013 campaign. They allowed only 20 points per game last season. They had the top ranked run defense last season and a pass defense that ranked in the top half of the league.
Don’t let the tough schedule fool you; eight or nine wins is very likely for the Cardinals in 2014.
Philadelphia Eagles OVER 9 Wins (-140)
The Philadelphia Eagles enter the 2014 season flying high off a quick turnaround from 4-12 in 2012 to being a 10-6 and making the playoffs in 2013. They should only continue to improve in year two under Chip Kelly.
The NFC East is a weak division. The Giants have looked terrible this preseason and were not very good last year. The Redskins are continuing to struggle with Robert Griffin III under center and the Cowboys already bad defense suffered an insurmountable loss when they lost Sean Lee for the season. The Eagles should have no problem going at least 4-2, perhaps even 5-1 in the division.
Overall the Eagles have the 13th easiest schedule in the NFL this season. In addition to four or five wins in the division the Eagles will easily find five other wins on their schedule to make over 9 wins a winning bet!
They should start the season no worse than 4-2 heading into their bye week. After the bye they have road games at Arizona and Houston. At worst the Eagles will split those two games, making them 5-3. They then have a 3 game at home against Carolina, at Green Bay and home against Tennessee. They should take two of three there improving to 7-4. There last five games are tough: two against Dallas, at home against Seattle and road games against the Redskins and Giants. They will lose a few of those games, but it will still give them a 10-6 record at worst, make them NFC East Champions again and send them back to the playoffs in 2014.
Nick Foles will obviously not be as good this season as he was last season when he threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. But he does have a lot of talent around him. LeSean McCoy will lead the offense and running back. The Eagles have also brought in Darren Sproles, who will still get plenty of touches and add some wrinkles to the high flying Chip Kelly offense. At tight end in addition to Brent Celek, Zack Ertz is entering season number two and should start to break out as he gets more looks in 2014. There were some question marks at wide receiver after the Eagles let DeSean Jackson go, but Jeremy Maclin has made it through the preseason healthy and appears ready to lead in 2014 and Riley Cooper has shown no signs that his performance last year was a fluke.
The defense has allowed some points this preseason, but defense is not what this team is all about. The defense has improved from last year and will get enough big stops and force turnovers like they did last year to keep other teams out of the end zone.