Vegas has just released the first of the 2021-2022 NFL win total over unders for NFL Teams. Remember, the NFL recently expanded to add a 17th game, so teams have an additional shot to win a game, which would explain the total being a little higher for some teams than you might guess. Still, most people tend to think their team is headed over. If you don’t believe me, they polled ESPN.com writers (who you would assume would be objective) and almost all of them had their teams going over the expected line. I am going to take a look at each number and declare over/under or push. Beyond that, I am going to require that I have an even number of overs and unders, just to make sure we aren’t being overly optimistic. Let’s start with some freebies. These teams I am very confident about.
Houston Texans 5 wins: UNDER
This team is in total disarray. With no major talent coming in with free agency or the draft, and an army of talent departing, they are actually a little worse than they were last year, when they finished under 5. Also, Deshaun Watson is in limbo, and has promised not to play there again. They have a new coach and another pandemic off-season will limit practice time. I am not at all optimistic that this team will win more than 2 games, even though they have Jacksonville twice.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11.5 wins: OVER
This is asking a lot, because the win total is already high (and they didn’t get that many last year), but they retained literally all 22 starters and have improved some backup spots. They have the 29th easiest strength of schedule. Perennial challengers, the Saints, lost Drew Brees. The Falcons and the Panthers are not demonstrably better. I think it is reasonable to expect with an extra game that they will cover this.
Cincinnati Bengals 6.5 wins: UNDER
The Bengals could get better this offseason and still not make this number. They are going to be facing the 6th hardest strength of schedule headed into the season. All the other teams in their division have playoff aspirations. It is not clear how much of the season Joe Burrow will be available for. They added some talent in free agency, but also lost corresponding pieces in most cases. I still don’t like their coach. They might sneak up to 7, but I think 5-6 is more realistic.
Washington Football Team 8 wins: OVER
This team got better as the year went on last year. Now with a season in the books, a decent QB on the roster and a rapidly improving defense, I think the WFT can get a winning record in what is otherwise a fairly soft division. I think this is the best team in the division, and I think they will manage to get into the playoffs with a winning record this time.
Chicago Bears 7.5 wins: UNDER
This team is somehow downgrading at QB after running Mitch Trusbisky out there for most of last season. Their defense is weaker after letting pro-bowler Kyle Fuller go. This team rode a soft schedule to 9 wins last year, and it feels an awful lot like regression is coming. They have the 3rd hardest schedule coming up.
Pittsburgh Steelers 9 wins: UNDER
This team is headed in the wrong direction. Under Mike Tomlin, they have never had a losing record, however the Bengals, Browns and Ravens are all getting better, while age is making the Steelers worse. They lost some pieces in the offseason without any major replacements. Roethlisberger looked terrible at the end of last season, and the offensive line is falling apart. I don’t think they make it past 8 wins this year, especially since they are expected to have the hardest schedule in 2021-2022.
Indianapolis Colts: 10 wins: OVER
I think the Colts have been wise and careful building their team. I think Wentz will be better now that he is back behind a good offensive line and with a good coach in Frank Reich. I think the defense will still be very good. I think the Titans, Texans and Jags are all mediocre to bad. I don’t see any way they don’t make it to 10.
Dallas Cowboys 9.5 wins: UNDER
I have no idea why people think this team will be a winning team next year. Their offense is tremendous, but they have done nothing to address the defense. Worse, teams like New York, Washington and Philadelphia will all probably improve next year. I think the Cowboys will certainly be better, but asking for 10 wins out of their defense is a lot. I also don’t think Mike McCarthy is a good coach, and I probably never will.
Buffalo Bills 10.5 wins: OVER
The Bills were borderline dominant at times last season, and they have done nothing but continue to add quality pieces. With an extra game, I feel very confident with them hitting 11, even with the rest of the division getting better. Plus, their strength of schedule for 2021 will only be in the mid 20s.
Seattle Seahawks 10 wins: UNDER
It’s tough to bet against Russell Wilson, but this team has been in disarray of late. Internal squabbles, a broken defense, and a weak offensive line have lead to weakening of what was once an elite team in the NFC. Also, the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals keep getting better. They could easily end up being last in this division, and they won’t do that with 10 wins.
Miami Dolphins 9 wins: OVER
Just like the Bills, they have a soft strength of schedule (27th). They are improving significantly via the draft, and they started the youngest roster in the NFL last season. There is no reason to believe they can’t match last season with the extra game to work with. I think 10 wins is very doable.
This ends the group I feel most confident about. The next group, I would say, I feel pretty good, but not great about. I have a real inclination about these teams, and I am not forcing it.
Los Angeles Chargers 9 wins: OVER
This is a very bold prediction, because the Chargers were not good last year. However, they just let go a man who was certainly the worst coach in the league. Just a simple coaching upgrade is good for a couple wins. They have improved at several other positions and with a little injury regression to the mean, they should be right back in the mix for a playoff spot. Of course, the Chargers fool me every year, so…
Kansas City Chiefs 12 wins: PUSH
It’s tough to hit a push on the head, but I think this is about right for the Chiefs. The health of Mahomes will play a big part in this, but for most of last season, the Chiefs were really struggling to put teams away. They still have missing pieces at the tackle spots, and their defense still has some holes. While I think it is right to have them at 12 wins, they are certainly not a lock to go over, even with an extra game. They also face the 11th hardest schedule, with Denver and San Diego likely to be improved.
Baltimore Ravens 11 wins: UNDER
The Ravens really struggled at times last season and have taken hits to their defense in free agency. They also have not improved at WR, C or other key positions on offense. While a lot of people would expect a possible return to form, the division will be tough and they expect to have the second hardest schedule in the NFL. Lamar Jackson needs to see a tangible improvement in his performance for them get back to 12 wins.
New England 9.5 wins: OVER
I think last year was an incredibly bad year for the Pats, and they were still in the playoff mix until the last 3 weeks. I think with the massive action in free agency and good picks coming in the draft, they will be able to restock, and get back to their winning ways. 10-11 wins seems likely to me for them, even with the tough Dolphins and Bills around.
Las Vegas Raiders 8 wins: UNDER
I just don’t see where this team is going. With the massive degradation of their offensive line offsetting some small gains on defense, this team seems ready to slip behind the Chargers and Broncos to be the worst in the division. Getting to 8 wins will be tough against the 8th most difficult schedule in the NFL. This feels like the year to me that the David Carr era comes to an end. It has been on life support for 2 years now, but barring a miracle, I think the wheels are coming off, and the plug is coming out.
Jacksonville Jaguars 6 wins: OVER
The Jaguars improved the team in free agency, are primed to add a very good QB in the draft. They added a well regarded coach and they play in a very soft division. 2 of these wins could easily be the Texans, after that, you just need to go 4-11. I think they can do it. I certainly don’t like having to believe they go 5-12 in the same division as the Texans. It’s going to be challenging, but there are some good pieces already there, especially on offense.
Denver Broncos 7.5 wins: OVER
Regardless of the problems at quarterback, this team showed improvement as the year went on, was ravaged by injury, and now faces one of the easiest strength of schedules for the upcoming year. I think 8 wins is very doable for this group, that has a very good roster outside of QB. Just regression to the mean on injuries should be good for a couple games.
Cleveland Browns 10 wins: OVER
This team played better and better as the season went on. Their run heavy offense is perfect for the miserable winter weather in the northeast. They improved several positions on defense, and Baker Mayfield has now had a full year in the offense. They had some tough injuries last year that they overcame as well. The thing holding me back from loving this, is that they are in a very tough division and have the 9th toughest schedule.
OK, now we are headed to a dark place. These teams, I don’t feel so good about. I am really not sure what is going to happen, and I am betting on factors outside of reason or logic. These are tough calls.
Green Bay 11 wins: OVER
This makes me nervous, because they opened up a lot of holes on the offensive line around Aaron Rodgers. This number is wholly contingent on Aaron having another MVP level season, and I am not sure he will. He had been on a pretty continuous decline prior to last season. Is this a whole new Aaron? Or was it an aberration. They have the 4th hardest schedule coming up, but I don’t have much confidence in their division mates, Minnesota, Detroit or Chicago.
Los Angeles Rams 10.5: OVER
They had a tremendous defense last year, and a pretty mediocre offense. On paper, adding Matthew Stafford seems like a big improvement. However, it has been years since he stayed healthy through a season, and I saw some of the hits Goff took behind this line last year. I am not convinced he will get through the season. Meanwhile, they face the 10th hardest schedule in a very tough division where all 4 teams think they are making the playoffs. Still, I think they can get to 11 or 12. There are a lot of red flags though.
Detroit Lions 5 wins: UNDER
I am not sold that the Lions will be quite as bad as some think. I think the regime change was good, and while the coach seems quite crazy, I think he will get these guys back to playing hard and trying to win. The division is tough, but not impossible. Still, there is not a whole lot of talent here. They have the 6th toughest strength of schedule. I don’t think they really want to win that much (on the ownership/GM side). Probably still less than 5.
San Francisco 10 wins: OVER
They are almost certainly going to see an improvement in injury luck, after suffering one of the most injury riddled seasons in recorded history. They also have a fairly mild strength of schedule. Still, their division is loaded, and they will be working in a rookie QB most likely. They lost defensive coordinator Robert Salah and several defensive pieces. It will be hard for them to be a great team. Still, I can’t help but expect improvement.
New Orleans 9.5 wins: UNDER
This team lost a lot this offseason, with numerous holes opened up by releases and retirements. They have 2 QBs ready to jump in and take over, but both come with enormous questions. Sean Payton has proven himself to be a good coach, but you can’t help but wonder if this year is a reboot year for this group, as they look to clear the decks of bad salary cap dollars.
Philadelphia Eagles 7 wins: PUSH
I am not very confident in the Eagles, mostly because I simply don’t think Jalen Hurts is that good. I think he is a good running quarterback, which is important behind this line, but they signaled when they moved down in the draft, that they know they are rebuilding right now. I don’t think Hurts can keep this team in games with his arm, and their defense needs real work. Still, they have the EASIEST strength of schedule of any team, and they are going to get wins.
New York Jets 6 wins: UNDER
This is another tough call. The Jets have a pretty ordinary strength of schedule, but their division is going to be very tough. They will be working in a rookie QB. There is still a total lack of skill across the team. I think Robert Salah will have these guys playing more disciplined however. I think not having Adam Gase is worth a couple wins. But even with that, they are still going to struggle to get to 6 wins. Any injury misfortune and they will be picking near the top again.
New York Giants 7 wins: PUSH
This sounds about right for a team that has improved in the skill positions and defense but has a turnover machine at QB. They aren’t significantly better or worse than the rest of their division, and they have a very easy strength of schedule. Still, even with some better injury luck, I don’t see them putting together a winning record. 6,7, or 8 wins sounds about right to me.
Atlanta Falcons 7 wins: OVER
The Falcons almost always disappoint, but here, I think they can sneak into the conversation for true mediocrity. I think 8-9 is in their grasp. Under a new, better coach, with the third easiest strength of schedule, I think they can rebound. With that said, they had injury LUCK last year and were still terrible. They also might decide to draft a rookie QB, which would take away from another area of improvement and possibly push them into a rebuild.
Carolina Panthers 7.5 wins: UNDER
I still don’t think Carolina has solved their QB issue. I also don’t think their defense is good. I also think they aren’t any better than the Falcons, which means they could be the worst team in the division this year. Asking for 8 wins is a lot for team in that predicament. I think they are still a year away from true mediocrity, although their strength of schedule isn’t too bad.
Arizona Cardinals 8 wins: PUSH
This is quite possibly the hardest team to figure out. Sometimes, last year, they looked amazing. Kyler Murray was unstoppable, their defense was solid and they played with a purpose. Other weeks, it was the total and complete opposite. They added a bunch of names this offseason, but the actual production of those names was lacking last year. Murray will be a year older and wiser, but their division is a nightmare. Every positive has a negative with them. Even their strength of schedule is middle of the pack. Will they be 8-9 or 9-8? I think 8-9
Minnesota Vikings 8.5 wins: UNDER
The Vikings have all the same issues as the Cardinals. They have an strong offense, questionable defense. They are in a division that had multiple playoff teams last year. Unfortunately, they also have the 5th toughest schedule, and they have done little to improve this offseason. Kirk Cousins isn’t getting any younger, and their defense has a lot of unsolved holes. They are also likely headed for an 8-9/9-8 conundrum, and again I say… 8-9.
Tennessee Titans 9.5 wins: UNDER
This team shed a lot of talent in the off-season, including at offensive coordinator. Their defense was extremely bad last year, and while former OC Arthur Smith got a lot out of Ryan Tannehill, losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith is going to hurt their offense. A team that has relied heavily on Derrick Henry is going to be about 80 percent on his shoulders. That’s all the bad news. Here is the good news. 4 games against the Texans and Jaguars. That could EASILY be 4-0. Still, they need to go 6-7 against everyone else, and that will be a challenge for them. They have a schedule on the tougher side despite those easy games.