There has been a lot of discussion on this site about Denver's prospects in 2012. Most of the commentary seems to expect that Denver will compete for the AFC West division and make a run in the playoffs. Some people are calling Denver an instant Super Bowl contender with the signing of Peyton Manning. This post isn't intended to re-ignite the discussion about whether the off-season moves were the right ones to make, but rather, to take a look at what the odds makers in Vegas are saying at this point. Let's take a look at the spreads that were recently put out by Covers.com.I don't know anything about Covers.com, so take this with the usual grain of salt from an unknown source. Here is the link to the website with the breakdown of all the games from Week 1 through Week 16. But I've saved you the time of clicking through all 16 weeks and finding the spread for Denver's games. In case any of you are not familiar with gambling lines, the "spread" is the number of points the favored team must "cover" for you to win your bet. In other words, if Denver is favored to win by 2 1/2 points then Denver must win by 3 or more to cover the spread. If you bet on Denver and Denver wins by 1 or 2 points, you lose the bet. On the other hand, if Denver's opponent is favored by 7 and you bet on Denver, you can still win the bet if Denver loses by 6 points or fewer. If the game ends up exactly on the spread line, then there is no action and the bets are off. The abbreviation "PK" means that the game is expected to be so even that there is no spread for either team. In that case, you win if you bet on the team that wins regardless of the score.
Here are the spreads for this season:
-2 v. Pittsburgh, +2 ½ at Atlanta, PK v. Houston, -7 v. Oakland, +7 at New England, +2 ½ at San Diego, -2 ½ v. New Orleans, PK at Cincinnati, PK at Carolina, -3 ½ v. San Diego, +1 at Kansas City, -8 ½ v. Tampa Bay, -1 ½ at Oakland, +3 ½ at Baltimore, and -8 ½ v. Cleveland.
They don’t list odds for Week 17 (perhaps because there are too many starters resting?) but it’s a home game against Kansas City, and given that Denver is picked to lose to KC by 1 on the road, the spread will likely be -1 or -2 at home.
So what does this all mean? It means that Vegas believes that Denver will play a lot of very close games in 2012. Denver is only picked to win 7 games (8 if my guess about Week 17 v. KC is right). Of those 7 wins, three are projected be by a field goal or less, so Vegas thinks Denver will only win 4 games comfortably (Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay, all at home). On the other hand, Denver is only projected get beaten badly by one team (New England) and looking at last year's results this is easy to understand. In addition, Denver has three "pick 'em" games (against Houston, Cincy and Carolina).
Those huge buildings in Vegas weren't built by people who are in the habit of losing money on sports betting. I think we can expect a lot of very close games. But based on these projections, Denver is not likely to win more than 9 games. I know there are some Kool-Aid Drinkers in LaLa Land who are going to be upset over these projections, but I think we all need to temper our expectations a little bit. Denver has an absolutely brutal schedule, and while I think defending the AFC West title is within reach, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see us finish at 8-8 (again).
Let me know what you think!