It may technically be the offseason, but that doesn’t mean the NFL can be ignored. The NFL Draft begins April 29, and rosters are beginning to be finalized. The other major update is that sportsbooks have released NFL win totals, which provides an opportunity to take positions on teams that are over or undervalued in the NFL betting picks market. These lines can, and will, change in a hurry so grabbing value early is a great way to get ahead of the game before the season kicks off.
Using OddsShopper, we are able to take a look across the industry to see where books have lined each teams win total for the upcoming season. Awesemo gathered a handful of experts to get their takes on which team totals seem too high, which seem too low and who has the most at stake in the upcoming draft. Let’s dive in and see what the first thoughts are for this year’s NFL win totals.
What NFL Team Will Fail to Reach Its Projected Win Total?
Ben: Pittsburgh Steelers Under 9 Wins (-125 William Hill)
Even with an extra game, I don’t see Pittsburgh having a successful 2021 campaign. They fell apart late last year and were dismantled by the Browns in the playoffs. With Ben Roethlisberger still under center and a brutal schedule, this team could really struggle, especially if injuries pop up. I don’t see many ways they can hold it together in a tough AFC North, and I will call for a sub-.500 record for the Steelers this season.
Kyle Dvorchak: Carolina Panthers Under 7.5 Wins (-106 DraftKings)
No team lost more by acquiring players this offseason than the Panthers. Their two biggest signings in free agency were guard Pat Elflein and tackle Cameron Erving. Elflein was cut by the Vikings during the season and finished 2020 as the second-worst guard by pass blocking grade, per PFF. Erving was outside the top 50 among offensive tackles in pass blocking grade. Then they paid actual draft capital and U.S. dollars for Sam Darnold. Since Darnold joined the league three years ago, no quarterback (minimum 1,000 attempts) has a lower air yard per attempt, touchdown rate or completion percentage. The Panthers went 5-11 last year, and it’s hard to see much of this offseason as an improvement on that team. If Darnold continues to struggle in his new home of Charlotte, this team will be significantly worse in 2021.
Matt Savoca: San Francisco 49ers Under 10.5 Wins (-149 PointsBet)
The 49ers have been one of the most heavily discussed franchises this offseason, especially after their blockbuster trade to move up to the third overall pick. Presumably, they will take their top choice between quarterbacks Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance. However, the win total of 10.5 — tied for second highest in the NFC — is asking a lot from a team who, with their offseason transactions, have effectively admitted they’re a quarterback away from taking the next step as a team.
The NFC West should be one of the most competitive divisions in the entire league, with Arizona signing marquee veterans J.J. Watt to help anchor the defensive line, and A.J. Green to boost their young offensive nucleus, and the Rams upgrading at quarterback from Jared Goff (24th in EPA per play since 2018) to Matthew Stafford (18th). Meanwhile, the division-leading Seahawks (Russell Wilson drama aside) are as tough an out as ever, having finished the 2020 season ranked 11th in net EPA and seventh in quarterback-adjusted ELO rankings. The 49ers’ win total gives way too much credit to coach Kyle Shanahan and his theoretical ability to improve a middling offense with a rookie quarterback (while enduring a likely quarterback-controversy). He will then have to replicate or exceed the success of 2019, which was largely fueled by a world-class defense unit that just lost their highly respected coordinator, Robert Saleh.
Matt Gajewski: Pittsburgh Steelers Under 9 Wins (-125 William Hill)
Playing in the difficult AFC North, the Steelers find themselves in one of the deeper divisions in football. Baltimore is committed to Lamar Jackson and have two first-round picks and another two in the third round to bolster their roster. Cleveland ascended to 11-5 last year and now returns Odell Beckham from injury, along with most of their starters. Even Cincinnati has a chance to improve in year 2 under Joe Burrow, plus the fifth overall pick. Meanwhile Pittsburgh has moved the other direction. Roethlisberger is now a year older, and the team continues to commit to a run game behind an offensive line that has now lost most of the star players from the Le’Veon Bell years. The current win total should be lower given Pittsburgh’s multiple questions on defense and their aging quarterback.
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What NFL Team Will Exceed Its Projected Win Total?
Ben Rasa: Buffalo Bills Over 10.5 Wins (-120 PointsBet)
The Bills finally took a leap forward last year, reaching the AFC Championship game. Expectations are now sky high for Josh Allen and Buffalo, who could have one of the best offenses in the league. The core returns, the schedule is reasonable, and the AFC East still provides six winnable games every year. The Bills are live to secure the top seed in the AFC this season.
Kyle Dvorchak: Washington Football Team Over 8 Wins (-120 William Hill)
The Washington Football Team made the one change that is guaranteed to show up in the box scores this fall: They upgraded at quarterback. Washington went from Kyle Allen, Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins to Ryan Fitzpatrick. That former trio of passers led them to finish 30th in yards per pass attempt last year and 25th in yards passing per game. They had a stellar defense and a solid ground game but couldn’t hang with any offense that could put three scores on them.
The upgrade to Fitzpatrick, who will also get to throw to Curtis Samuel on top of Logan Thomas and Terry McLaurin, should put this team close to what Pittsburgh looked like last season except with a better quarterback. Roethlisberger averaged 1.5 fewer yards per attempt than Fitzpatrick last year. Roethlisberger’s team went 12-4. Eight wins in one of the softest divisions in football should be trivial for Washington.
Matt Savoca: Detroit Lions Over 5 Wins (+100 PointsBet)
It is no secret that the Lions have entered a new era, having traded away Stafford, the face of their franchise for the last decade, and allowing star receiver Kenny Golladay, the most prized skill position player in the 2021 free agency class, to leave for the Giants. But despite moving on from those two premiere talents, the Lions believe themselves to be retooling rather than rebuilding and could easily exceed their five-win expectation with Goff or a rookie quarterback they take with the seventh overall pick, at the helm. Though the Packers are the juggernaut of the division and Detroit’s league-worst defense (dead last in EPA allowed per play against both the pass and the run) likely isn’t going to turn into an above-average unit in one season, there’s significantly more parity between the bottom three NFC North teams than the current win totals suggest.
Minnesota (8.5 projected wins) is still a mess defensively, ranking sixth worst in the NFL in EPA allowed per play. And offensively, while his 2020 efficiency numbers were strong, quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks outside the top 20 quarterbacks in EPA per play since 2018. The Bears (seven projected wins) are far from set at quarterback with Andy Dalton at the helm. According to nfleloapp.com, the Lions absolutely seem like a team destined for the land of NFL mediocrity in 2021, but there are a ton of scenarios where they would benefit from the deficiencies surrounding both the Vikings and Bears and outpace their meager five-win projection.
Matt Gajewski: Cincinnati Bengals Over 6.5 Wins (-105 William Hill)
The AFC North is one of the more difficult divisions in football. With that said, bookmakers still aren’t respecting an emerging Cincinnati offense. Last season the Bengals finished 6-10 despite losing Burrow down the stretch. Outside of their division, they also play a last-place schedule with games against the NFC North and AFC West. With Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota and Las Vegas already looking winnable, their last-place schedule also gives them the Jets and Jaguars.
Who Do We Need to Watch During the NFL Draft?
Ben Rasa: Jacksonville Jaguars
This is not because of the Jaguars holding the golden ticket to draft Trevor Lawrence, but because of the additional draft capital. Jacksonville owns multiple picks in the first, second, fourth and fifth rounds of the draft, which means many opportunities to bring in key contributors. If they can add a few impact players around Lawrence, this number could move higher than the 6.5 it currently sits at.
Kyle Dvorchak: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins matched a playmaking defense with a sometimes-good offense in a season that many thought was in the early stage of a rebuild. Because their tank was fast-tracked, they entered this offseason with the talent of a contending team and a war chest of draft picks.
The most likely scenario is that Miami stays at No. 6 and sees four quarterbacks go ahead of them. That means they will be looking at drafting arguably the best tight end prospect in modern football, one of the most productive college receivers of the past 20 years, or a franchise left tackle. After that, Miami will get three more selections in the top 50. The public has been hammering the overs on the up-and-coming teams after various forms of tanking (Cleveland and Arizona). Miami will be the next hot team to bet on by the time the first round is over.
Matt Savoca: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys’ 2020 season went effectively off the rails after Dak Prescott’s brutal season-ending injury, but Prescott proved in just a month of play that the Cowboys’ offense had the capability of keeping them in any ballgame. The defense, however, was a different story, ranking outside the top 20 teams in EPA per play allowed and in the bottom seven of the league against the run. PFF ranked the squad 27th in team defensive grades a season ago. Luckily for Cowboys fans, though, Dallas secured a long-term deal with Prescott and now possesses the seventh-highest draft value in the NFL, according to SharpFootballStats.
While it’s tempting to imagine one of the marquee skill position threats in the 2021 draft pairing with Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup, the savvy thing to do would be to spend a majority of their Day 1 and Day 2 draft capital shoring up the defensive side of the ball. If they do, the Cowboys could outpace their already-lofty projection of 9.5 wins, tied for fifth in the conference. The Cowboys could easily be one of the premier teams in the NFC come season’s end.
Matt Gajewski: Jaguars/Dolphins
Unlike the Jets, the Jaguars already have pieces to help their young signal-callers. The Jaguars retain their entire offensive line. The Dolphins already added Will Fuller to a team that went 10-6 last year. Jacksonville has two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick. They also pick four more times between Rounds 4 and 5. Likewise, Miami picks twice in the first, twice in the second and another time in the third round.
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