A lot of the big names in free agency are off the board which means that the offshore books are closer to releasing their full slate of futures for the 2011 NFL season. The bookmakers in Vegas were brave this year and already released early lines with lower limits. Don't feel like you need to jump all-in on the lines as they become available to you because there will still be significant value when all the dust finally settles.
NY Giants 9.5
WSH deserves to be at the bottom of the NFC East. Rex Grossman is their QB. They've made some nice additions in free agency, but will it be enough? DAL is poised to have a bounce back year and 9 looks like a good number. They are employing a whole new scheme on defense though so there will be a learning curve. Like DAL, the G-Men haven't done very much in free agency and face an uphill climb. Expecting 10 wins might be wishful-thinking. The cream of the division has definitely risen to the top in free agency. PHI has made dynamic moves including landing the big fish in Asomugha. If Vick can stay healthy it's their division to lose and 11-12 wins isn't out of the question.
New Orleans 10
Tampa Bay 8.5
ATL kicked royal ass last year and made some nice additions in the offseason (WR Jones, DE Edwards). 10.5 presents a tricky number for us. NO had a ton of free agents and have resigned a lot of them including Harper. Sproles replaced Bush. Their schedule is more difficult than last year. It won't be easy to supplant ATL as division champs. My data shows that TB overperformed last year and they haven't done anything in free agency for me to believe they'll ascend even further. They do have a nice young nucleus to build on, but a tough schedule in 2011. CAR had one of the toughest schedules last year and they were rewarded with another tough one this year. Go figure. Having said that I really like what they've done in the offseason. Rivera will have a difficult time acclimating everyone to his system though--including Cam Newton. 4.5 seems a bit low, but given their challenges I understand why Vegas low-balled them.
Green Bay 11.5
11.5 might be a high number for GB, but their schedule isn't any worse than it was last year. They also return a lot of their injured players from 2010. Winning the division shouldn't be a problem. CHI was one of the most fraudulent teams last year. I like the Williams move and trading Olsen made sense given Martz's offensive philosophy. Can they reach 10 wins? I have my doubts. DET is the sheik pick for 2011 and I'm leading the bandwagon. They had a great year last year without Stafford and they've been active in free agency. Their schedule a little tough, but 8 wins is definitely within their reach. The wild card in this division is MIN. Most people are down on Mcnabb, but it's impossible to be worse than the 2010 Favre/Jackson combo. Losing Rice hurt, but they still have enough weapons to keep defenses honest. Don't be surprised if books see a lot of action on the over.
San Francisco 8
St. Louis 7
The wild and whacky NFC West is easily the worst division in football so it shouldn't be a shock that they also have the easiest schedule in the NFC. I was a little surprised that SF was the favorite, but when you look at the 1st 8 games that STL play I can understand the move. The problem for SF is they have a new set of coaches across the board and Alex Smith is still....Alex Smith. SEA have a 2nd straight year of significant roster turnover and no QB to speak of. STL will be lucky if they win 2 of their games in the 1st half of the year, but things get much easier after that (look for some favorable point spreads in the 2nd half). Bradford should make a big leap this year and adding Mikell was a nice move, but tread carefully with them--last season's success was a bit deceiving. ARI added Kolb and a lot of people will instinctively bet the over, but keep this in mind-they were just as bad, if not worse than CAR last season.
I'll have my official season win totals/division winner predictions soon as well as my 2011 strength of schedule for all 32 teams.
UPDATE: NFC Predictions