The point of the title there is that you can’t assume a team that performed a certain way in the past will do so again this year just because they’re wearing the same jerseys. Take a team’s defense for example: Everyone wants to believe a top 3 defense will put up the same numbers to help them win that they did the year before, but the reality is that players are older, some leave or retire, and plugging the holes of team chemistry isn’t as easy as matching the same body frame of the guy who just left. Let’s take a look at a few “quality” defenses to see what I mean, and how knowing a defense’s vulnerabilities can help you as you make your gambling selections each week.
Do the Bears still have it? You’d think these guys have been around forever, especially Urlacher, but their average age is an eye-opening 27.6, and nine out of the 11 starters are younger than 30. Those are great numbers to have. So they all might be a year older, but they’re still pretty damn young.
Known names like Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown (if he’s healthy), Tommie Harris (only 26!), Ogunleye, Vasher and Tillman all return. The leadership is still there with Urlacher, but he and Ogunleye have to step it up if they hope to remain the cornerstones of this defensive effort. It’d be nice to see Urlacher back in the pro-bowl to rejuvenate a gambler’s confidence in the team.
The Bears defense, though, should be good for giving up only 12-14 points a game, and will save at least two from the cowboy offense you expect Cutler to unleash.
In the AFC, when you hear the word defense, you think Ravens and nobody else. Yeah, yeah Pittsburgh’s been mentioned and the Patriots for a couple years were top dogs, but nobody has shown the consistency, talent and results over the last 6 years or so like Baltimore. So how about this year? What Ray Lewis hasn’t been delivering with sacks, he still makes up for with emotion and tackles. As long as he’s lining up for the birds, they’re a defense you don’t want to mess with. Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs add veteran support to a still-strong core defense.
You shouldn’t expect either of these two teams to lose a step, which is more than I can say for the Vikings and Dolphins. As flashy as the QB and WR can be, when it comes down to it your safest play is to bet the defense.