NFL 2022 Season Total Wins Preview
It’s finally here (nearly). After seven long months, the NFL has returned to rescue us wonderful Americans (and everyone else around the globe who loves Hail Marys and hard hits) from the doldrums of “non-football times.” The dark days have passed, and it is time for a great tradition: Making money by gambling on the gridiron!
To say that it’s hard to predict how teams will do at the beginning of the season is an understatement. Obviously, you’ll have some teams that you just know will surpass their projected win totals, as well as others who are perennial playoff favorites. But in today’s NFL, those teams are becoming fewer and fewer. The league’s very unpredictable now, and with so much roster movement, it takes detailed analysis to forecast how the season’s going to play out. Will Matthew Stafford and the Rams repeat as Super Bowl Champions? How will Russell Wilson’s move to the Denver Broncos shake up the AFC West, which is already loaded with gunslingers? What follows is my best guess to these and other questions—as well as where to put your money on win totals for this season.
For clarity, I’ve broken the league up into four tiers, based on Vegas lines for win totals, team rosters, past achievement, and present trajectory.
Tier 1: Bills, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Rams
Tier 2: Bengals, Titans, Packers, Raiders, Chargers, Cardinals, 49ers, Cowboys
Tier 3: Patriots, Steelers, Dolphins, Browns, Ravens, Colts, Broncos, Eagles, Vikings, Saints
Tier 4: Jets, Jaguars, Seahawks, Texans, Commanders, Giants, Falcons, Panthers, Bears, Lions
Tier 1 is composed of the true Super Bowl contenders, which is understandably a short list. Tier 2 is made up of eight teams almost certain to make the playoffs, barring significant injuries. Tier 3 is composed of ten teams who are on the prowl for a playoff spot. Two or three of them will actually make it, which will make for fierce competition at the end of the year. And finally, we have Tier 4—ten teams that have hope for the future, but frankly won’t make much noise this season. In other words, the “Y’All Should Tank” tier!
Let’s begin at the bottom and work our way up. All 10 teams in Tier 4 picked early in this year’s draft and are at least one more season away from legitimately competing for a playoff spot. Now, this is definitely not to say that there won’t be promising signs from these teams—or potential to find value when placing bets. For instance, the New York Jets have a win-loss line of 5.5 (-165/+145). They’ll hit the over on that this season, given that QB Zach Wilson has a year of experience under his belt, and that the team picked up impact players in the draft, including first-rounders CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson and DE Jermaine Johnson.
The other New York team is a different case. The New York Giants have a win-loss bet line set at 7 (+105/-125). I’m leaning towards the under here for the same reason I believe the Jets will hit the over: they’ll both end the year with 6-11 records. That said, the Giants are at a crossroads this season. Quarterback Daniel Jones won’t have his contract renewed, while the front office added terrific prospects like OT Evan Neal and DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. I don’t anticipate the Giants getting close to the playoffs this year, and in the short term the franchise could continue to pick in the top ten in the draft.
The Jaguars (6.5 wins, +110/-130), the Texans (4.5, +100/-120), the Falcons (5, +120/-140), the Lions (6.5, -115/+105) and the Panthers (6, +105/-125) are all going to be grouped together. Each of these five teams, I think, will hit the under on their win-loss projections. The Jaguars, despite having a lot of draft capital, are still simply too young and inexperienced to compete. Although they’ve upgraded QB Trevor Lawrence’s offensive line protection, they won’t start winning until they give him more targets.
The Texans are still a few years away from making any noise because their roster is not up to par. In fact, they are probably this year’s best bet not to win a single game, though that’s unlikely. The Falcons have a new quarterback in Desmond Ridder, who shows tons of promise. The problem is that, with the exceptions of TE Kyle Pitts and WR Drake London, there aren’t any players on the roster that stand out as Day 1 contributors. Above all, they need to address their porous defense. The Lions and the Panthers can both hope for better futures because of recent acquisitions (the Lions drafted DE Aidan Hutchinson and WR Jameson Williams, among others, and the Panthers picked up QB Baker Mayfield, who has a chip on his shoulder after leaving Cleveland so acrimoniously), but they’re not in a position to challenge for a playoff spot yet.
Of these ten teams, I believe the Bears (6.5, +105/-125) and the Commanders (8, -110/-110) are the best of the bunch. Both teams made significant moves in the offseason and feature players who have made noticeable improvements—namely WR Darnell Mooney for the Bears and RB Antonio Gibson for the Commanders. For these reasons, they have a chance to be in the hunt for playoff spots, but they’re both on the outside looking in.
There’s one team we haven’t talked about, and that’s the Seattle Seahawks (5.5, -140/+120). The Seahawks drafted some interesting players, like OT Charles Cross and DE Boye Mafe, but they lost their captain, QB Russell Wilson, who will be calling signals in Denver. The team will certainly be a rudderless ship this year. I’m not saying that quarterback Drew Lock won’t be able to inspire the team to a few wins, but there simply won’t be enough cohesion, especially not with the departure of Bobby Wagner, longtime captain of the defense. I’d take the under.
On to Tier 3! The “In the Hunt” tier, where all nine teams are going to compete for three playoff spots. The question is, which three can pull it off? Of the teams, I think the best placed to succeed are the Ravens (9.5, -150/+130), the Eagles (9.5, -120/+100) and the Colts (10, -105/-115). So, two birds and a horse!
Seriously though, I think the other seven teams in the group won’t make it. For five of them, the Patriots (8.5, -115/-105), the Vikings (9, -115/-105), the Saints (8, -135/+115), the Browns (N/A because of the uncertain Deshaun Watson situation), and the Dolphins (9, +105/-125), it simply boils down to being too good to tank the season, but not good enough to guarantee a trip to the playoffs. The Browns’ situation is arguably the worst: it’s completely out of control, and there’s no way the team will compete for anything with so much controversy and dysfunction running throughout the franchise.
The Patriots and the Dolphins will falter because both have younger, more inexperienced leaders at the QB position in Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa, respectively. Both teams are getting better though and made significant strides last season. Next year, they’ll be getting into those last three playoff spots, but for now, neither the Patriots nor the Dolphins will win more than 8 games.
The Saints and the Vikings also have quarterback troubles, which always spells doom from the start. Between Jameis Winston (Saints) and Kirk Cousins (Vikings), neither inspire a lot of confidence. Jameis Winston was supposed to be a bridge between the retiring Drew Brees and whoever his true successor would be, but because of poor management and bad decisions, he’s still there—complete with his penchant for throwing incompletions and interceptions. Meanwhile, Cousins was supposed to be the franchise quarterback in Minnesota, but they quickly realized that he didn’t have that kind of ability. So, the Vikings have been stuck in limbo with a quarterback that isn’t bad enough, but isn’t good enough either. I’d take the under on both of those teams’ win totals.
The Steelers (7, -120/+100) are an interesting case. They have a solid team up and down the roster, but the one question mark is the biggest one: if rookie QB Kenny Pickett can command the field and the huddle. I’d bet the over on the win total, but I don’t know if they make the playoffs this year. The tenth and final team is the Denver Broncos. With a win total of 10 (-120/+100), it seems like they should be in the playoffs, but I have my doubts. Their new quarterback, as I mentioned above, is Russell Wilson. Obviously, he is a great leader, but I don’t think he’ll be able to inspire the same kind of magic he did repeatedly in Seattle. The differences between the offensive schemes in Seattle and Denver will be too great for Wilson to master quickly enough to lead the Broncos to a playoff-worthy record—or to win 10 games.
You could call Tier 2 the “Just Don’t Mess This Up” tier. The eight teams in this group are, in my eyes, shoo-ins for playoff spots, though I don’t expect them to challenge for a ring. For me, the best of this batch are the Raiders (8.5, -120/+100) and the Chargers (10, -135/+115). I fully expect the Raiders to far surpass the above win total, led by the college connection between QB Derek Carr and WR Davante Adams, so hammering the over should be a given. As for the Chargers, I believe they’ll hit the over as well, and I’m eager to see just how good their defense—with OLB Joey Bosa, OLB Khalil Mack and a healthy S Derwin James—will be.
The Bengals (10, +105/-125), the Titans (9, -105/-115), the Cardinals (8.5, -105/-115), and the 49ers (10, +100/-120) all seem to be playoff locks, but they won’t advance far. I think the Bengals will suffer the classic “Super Bowl hangover,” despite QB Joe Burrow’s cool reputation and fiery arm. Even so, given the state of their division, I’d take the over. The Titans have a fantastic head coach in Mike Vrabel and they drafted a ready-made quarterback in Malik Willis, who might be starting games by the end of the year if Ryan Tannehill can’t keep him on the sideline. And that’s before mentioning The Destroyer, running back Derrick Henry, who will carry them past 9 games. The Cardinals have Kyler Murray, who’ll win them enough regular season games to make it to January, but I don’t think he’s developed the clutch factor that’s needed in playoff football. Finally, the 49ers have Nick Bosa as the headliner of an incredible defense that could win games on its own. However, QB Trey Lance, the projected starter, got a recent compliment from Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, who said that Lance would be “a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.” If so, the Niners offense should tear up the league, and help the team to more than 10 wins.
The Packers (11, -110/-110) and the Cowboys (10, -110/-110) both have good chances of getting to the playoffs. However, I think that both teams are most liable to have problems once they get there. For the Packers, the defensive unit is super strong, to the point where a Top 10 season performance is feasible. However, the offense is severely lacking, particularly at the wide receiver slot. Also, and also for this reason, I believe QB Aaron Rodgers will have a down year. As for the Cowboys, they will likely make it to the playoffs as well, but the Cowboys are perennial failures in the playoffs, having only won three playoff games since the mid-90s. Even though they’re good on paper, no one should be scared of them when the games really matter. You can take the over on their win total, but don’t pick them to win the Super Bowl or get far in the playoffs. It won’t happen.
Here it is…Tier 1—the “Go Ahead and Buy Your Tickets to Glendale, AZ” tier. There’s only four teams in this group: the Bills (11.5, -140/+120), the Chiefs (10, -110/-110), the Bucs (11.5, +100/-120) and the Rams (10.5, -105/-115), and each one is a powerhouse. The Buffalo Bills have gone from bottom of the AFC East as recently as five seasons ago to the top of the league. Josh Allen’s performance at the quarterback position is arguably as good as that of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as we saw last year in the teams’ legendary 2-minute exchange of 3 touchdowns and a field goal. Plus, his connections with WR Stefon Diggs, TE Dawson Knox, and my X-Factor, WR Gabriel Davis, are almost intuitive. Take the over.
Speaking of the Chiefs, even with wide receiver Tyreek Hill leaving, the Chiefs have reloaded seamlessly with talent from the draft in WR Skyy Moore and WR Justyn Ross, as well as bringing in players like WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling and, my favorite, WR Josh Gordon, whose career has been decimated by useless marijuana-related suspensions. With all this firepower, Mahomes should find a way to win more than 10 games. The Buccaneers, led by Tom Brady, are more than just their nearly 45-year-old talisman. Obviously, the offense clicks effortlessly, but the real story of the Bucs is their defense, led by linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David. I’d take the over, and I expect to see them in at least the NFC Championship Game.
I’ve left the best for last: the Los Angeles Rams, the defending Super Bowl champions. They reached the pinnacle last year, but usually teams have a down year after championship success. However, the Rams might just defend their title, since the team has actually improved over last year’s squad. For instance, the team signed Bobby Wagner, perhaps one of the greatest middle linebackers of the 21st Century. Even though he’s older now, his experience and defensive acumen will be priceless. And adding Allen Robinson, a terrific wide receiver who was criminally misused in Chicago, gives the Rams another receiving weapon, which will come in handy in case Odell Beckham Jr. decides against re-signing. Hit the over—and bet them to beat the Bills in the Super Bowl.
There’s so much to be excited about coming into the NFL season, and there’s a multitude of opportunities to make some serious profits off of the league. So dig in to the depth charts and team schedules, pick wins and losses, and place your bets. There’s value to be found everywhere. So be bold and gamble responsibly.