2022 NFL preview: Our 15 favorite season win total bets

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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The VSiN pro football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 32 teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.

Here are our experts' 15 favorite over/under wagers:

Baltimore Ravens Alt Win Total Over 10.5 (+ 135)

Adam Burke: The Over 9.5 at -160 is an option, but the Ravens are the best team in the AFC North. They ranked 32nd in Adjusted Games Lost per Football Outsiders with 191.2. That was 33 more than any other team in the NFL. They lost running backs and defensive backs early and then lost Lamar Jackson later in the season. While Baltimore went from 8-3 to 8-9, a severely banged-up roster with a backup quarterback lost those six games by 1, 2, 1, 20, 1 and 3 points, with four of those losses against playoff teams, including the two Super Bowl participants.

The Browns clearly have their issues with Deshaun Watson’s suspension. Many project the Bengals to fall back a bit. The Steelers may be in line for their first losing season under Mike Tomlin. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Baltimore goes 5-1 or 4-2 in the division. The AFC East and NFC South are the divisions the Ravens drew on the schedule, but they also added Jacksonville and the Giants on the road along with Denver at home with their last-place schedule. While all three are improved, so, too, are the Ravens.

This team should be the AFC North champion and 11 or 12 wins should accomplish that feat, along with going Over this alternate win total.

Chicago Bears Under 6.5 (-190)

Matt Youmans: If there’s hope for Chicago, it comes with a coaching change. Matt Nagy, far from an offensive wizard, is out and Matt Eberflus is in after serving as the Colts’ defensive coordinator for four years. A scarecrow propped up on the sideline would be an upgrade from Nagy. Still, Eberflus is taking over a rebuilding job after the Bears finished 6-11 in Nagy’s final season. Chicago ranked 27th in scoring offense (18.3 ppg) and 22nd in scoring defense (23.9 ppg). Eberflus eventually will build a better defense, but the Robert Quinn-led front lost some juice with the departures of Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack. If second-year quarterback Justin Fields turns into a dynamic playmaker, he’ll have to do so behind a below-average line and with a thin receiving corps. The Bears have had to deal with training camp drama with two key players — offensive tackle Teven Jenkins and linebacker Roquan Smith — and most of the news has been negative.

I project the Bears to be favored in no more than five games and would be surprised if they can top five wins. This appears to be the worst team in the NFC North and among the worst in the league. The price to play Under has gone up from where I bet it (-140) in early August, but it’s a play that should be a winner.

Brady Kannon: Back in June when I was doing research, I couldn’t find five wins on the Bears schedule, let alone six or seven, and seven is where this prop opened.

In their favor, Chicago does have one of the easier schedules in the NFL with a very good rest advantage. They host the Texans, visit the Giants and host the Commanders. They also travel to the Falcons and Jets in back-to-back weeks. Of course, they get the Lions twice too. Let's say they win four of those games. Can they win three more against the 49ers, Patriots, Cowboys, Dolphins, Bills, Eagles, Packers (twice) and Vikings (twice)?

The defense loses Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks up front. The offense loses wide receiver Allen Robinson. The offensive line allowed a league-high 58 sacks last year and did not improve this offseason. In Week 1 of the preseason, the scene looked similar to last season when the starters were on the field, with Justin Fields running for his life behind a porous offensive line and very weak options to throw the ball to.

New coach Matt Eberflus takes the reins this year. He is the former defensive coordinator with the Colts, whose defenses were good but not great under Eberflus. The Bears’ first two draft picks this year went to the defensive side of the ball. They drafted offensive linemen but not until Rounds 5, 6 and 7. This team is grossly void of talent and it’s hard to tell in what direction they are trying to go. Fields still doesn't have any protection up front, his receiving corps got weaker and the defensive line figures to produce very little pressure. I don’t know when things will improve in Chicago, but I'm betting it will not be in 2022.

I know of two bettors who I respect who played the Bears to have the least amount of wins of any team in the NFL this season. Let's see if we can get home with them capturing less than seven.

Jonathan Von Tobel: Chicago did absolutely nothing to help Justin Fields in the offseason and the rookie quarterback is going to be hung out to dry behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. To make matters worse, Fields’ only real offensive weapon is Darnell Mooney. This looks like it could be one of the worst offenses in the league when all is said and done.

The Bears do have the fourth-easiest schedule in the league by win-total projections, but their roster is devoid of talent and that goes for the defense as well, where Chicago could have a bottom-five secondary. Not only am I comfortable going Under 6.5 with Youmans and Kannon, but I would also recommend a small play on the Bears to finish with the worst record at 12-1 odds or better.

Denver Broncos Over 10 (-110)

Steve Makinen: How much difference can the acquisition of one key player in an offseason make? We are about to find out for the Broncos, whose change to Russell Wilson at the key quarterback position figures to be the biggest move for the franchise since they turned to Peyton Manning prior to the 2012 season. All Manning did over the course of the next three seasons was lead Denver to a 38-10 regular-season record and a Super Bowl title. Like Manning, Wilson brings a championship pedigree and offensive boost to a team that has relied on its defense of late. This team was 7-6 at one point last year and lost its last four games, three of them by five points or less. They scored just 15 PPG during that skid and would have benefited tremendously from having Wilson. For the season they scored just 19.7 PPG. They allowed just 18.9, and that leads me to a great system that projects improvement this season, without even taking into account the Wilson addition: Since 2000, there have been 61 teams that somehow won less than 42% of their games despite allowing 23 points per game or less. In the follow-up season, 43 of these teams, or 70.5%, improved in the win column, and the average improvement of that group was 3.65 wins per year! Throw in Wilson, and maybe that improvement bumps up to five or six wins.

Houston Texans Over 4.5 (+ 100)

Makinen: Houston changes coaches for a second straight season and, after a 4-13 record a year ago, opts to go with a veteran coach in Lovie Smith. The Texans are pegged by DraftKings as being the worst team in football, expected to have the league’s worst record at the end of the 2022 season. Do I agree that this is the worst team in football? Although I can see why people might think so, I will disagree, if for no other reason than the fact that quarterback David Mills not only demonstrated competency at the position in his rookie year but also showed signs of being very good at times. His 16-10 TD-INT ratio was quite respectable for a four-win team, and take away a four-interception outing in his second career start versus Buffalo, and that ratio goes to 16-6. He had big games against the Patriots, Rams and Titans to close the regular season. In fact, in the final four games, Houston put up 25.8 PPG. Anywhere close to that in 2022 and this team could be around .500 in what I consider a weakened division. Bottom line: I expect this team to be better than the oddsmakers do. 

Indianapolis Colts Over 10 (-105) 

Paul Howard: The Colts should have made the playoffs last year and many think they upgraded big time with Matt Ryan replacing Carson Wentz. A great running game and offensive line will help Ryan, along with an underrated defense. It feels like 4-0 or 3-1 against Jacksonville and Houston, but the big move that will also help is Tennessee taking a huge step back. Ryan Tannehill was so bad in the playoff loss last year that he sought out therapy. A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are gone at wideout and their replacements are Robert Woods (coming off an injury) and Treylon Burks (rookie). If this team gets off to a slow start, Malik Willis could also take over at QB.

Kansas City Chiefs Under 10.5 (+ 100)

Makinen: I have to admit, I was stunned watching Kansas City’s second-half implosion in the AFC title game, and to this day, I don’t feel QB Patrick Mahomes is taking enough criticism for the role he played in it. Toward the end of the game, he looked legitimately shook. Now, heading into the 2022 season, he has been stripped of perhaps the team’s biggest difference-maker over the last six years in WR Tyreek Hill. He was the kind of player opposing defensive coordinators had to scheme for every play of the game. His loss, and it’s importance on what this offense has been able to do, is being undersold if you ask me. He made Mahomes look better by opening the field. I think every other K.C. offensive option is going to suffer somewhat in his absence. Let’s not forget the Chiefs also lost defensive playmaker Tyrann Mathieu. Andy Reid’s team will face a major challenge from a division that is arguably the best in football. The Chargers’ and Broncos’ gains will be the Chiefs’ loss in my opinion. Plus, the schedule to open the season is one of the most difficult eight-game starts I have ever seen, at least on paper.

Los Angeles Chargers Over 10 (-140)

Makinen: I have come to rely on one of my transitional systems more than others, and it revolves around prolific offensive teams not making the playoffs. There have been 12 teams that have scored 27+ PPG in the last 21 seasons and did not make the playoffs. The combined record of those teams in the follow-up season was 119-74, good for 61.7% and an average of 9.9 wins per season. Only three of those teams did not make the playoffs, and two others, the 2009 Saints and 2020 Buccaneers, went on to win the Super Bowl. The Chargers qualify for this system as well as another one that involves outscoring opponents while having a negative turnover differential. In 2021, the Chargers suffered from bad luck, rookie coaching decisions and injury woes. In my estimation, all three of those factors have a chance of completely turning around this season. Justin Herbert has developed into one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, a dynamic playmaker who led the Chargers on a six-game run at the end of the season in which they topped the 28-point mark in every game, averaging 33.5 PPG! This team also boasts a nice defensive front and some playmakers on the back end. In my opinion, the Chargers and Broncos take over the tough AFC West this season.

Los Angeles Rams Under 10.5 (-125)

Burke: The uncertainty surrounding Matthew Stafford’s elbow plays into this play, but there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of the Rams this season. They played 21 games last season, which takes a toll on a team that stayed healthier than most last season. The Rams had the fifth-fewest Adjusted Games Lost per Football Outsiders. They were also second in that department in 2020. For a team that has played a ton of football the last two seasons, that seems unsustainable in 2022.

The schedule is also very challenging. The Rams play 10 of their 17 games against teams that made the playoffs last season, along with games against teams such as the Saints, Broncos and Chargers that look much improved. That leaves the two games against Seattle, a Week 2 game against Atlanta and a visit from Carolina in Week 6 as the only games with a win probability high enough to call a very likely victory. The Rams will be tasked with winning a lot of close games against quality opposition. For a team that lacks depth at some key positions, the Super Bowl hangover may be very real.

An alternate win total of Rams Under 9.5 (+ 185) may not be a bad investment either.

Miami Dolphins Over 9 (+ 100)

Burke: A lot has changed in South Florida this season, but this does not look like a worse team than the one that went 9-8 last season. Miami’s path to 9-8 began with a 1-7 start, so the Dolphins played great down the stretch. Tua Tagovailoa had 10 interceptions last season, but he also created a lot more explosive plays in this offense than Jacoby Brissett did, and now Tua has Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson Jr. to catch passes.

This was an offense that managed just 4.8 yards per play last season, yet still managed to post a winning record. Mike McDaniel was a good hire from a very strong coaching tree and the efficiency with the football should improve, which should help to offset any decrease in production from the defense.

This is also a fade of the Patriots and Jets. While the Jets look better on paper, a leap from Zach Wilson is far from certain and the Patriots have all kinds of questions on both sides of the ball and on the sidelines. Miami has two very winnable, non-division road games against Detroit and Chicago to give a bit of a buffer in advance of a brutal December schedule. The most likely outcome is probably 9-8, but it is easier to see this team overperforming rather than underperforming. 

Minnesota Vikings Over 9 (-130)

Michael Lombardi: I realize each year is a new year. As Mike Ditka once famously said, “You live in the past, you die in the past.” Therefore, I will proceed with some caution as I attempt to illustrate why the Vikings are a nice option for betting the Over 9 on their win total. First and foremost, the Vikings offense is good — really good — and can become better this year with new coach Kevin O’Connell. Yes, I understand Kirk Cousins isn’t a great leader, or an endearing teammate, but he produces great passing numbers and, most importantly, he protects the ball — the Vikings led the league in the least amount of interceptions by a team. With improvements on their offensive line and a healthy Dalvin Cook behind Cousins, along with two excellent receivers, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings will not be an easy team to slow down. 

Even with Mike Zimmer running the team from a defensive perspective, insisting on running the ball, the Vikings were still a hard offense to slow down. Their core issue in 2021 was the defense, particularly their inability to play well on first and second down. The Vikings were the fourth-best third down team in football last year but 30th in yards and first downs allowed. Teams never had to worry about third down, as they played Canadian football (first downs in two downs) all year. With new coordinator Ed Donatell and a healthy Danielle Hunter, this will change. 

I fully expect the Vikings to improve on defense and be even better on offense. Playing the NFC and AFC East teams gives them a good chance to win three games (Jets, Commanders, Giants) and win at least two of the other five for five total wins. Then they have two games each against Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay. Figure they can win four of those six, which leaves them needing one more win versus Indy, Arizona or New Orleans to cover the 9. For me that is a realistic bet to make. 

New England Patriots Under 8.5 (+ 100)

Von Tobel: Last season, “The Edge” was dubbed the most pro-Patriots show in the country, New England area included. Youmans and I had preseason win totals on the Pats and rode them on a week-to-week basis, and Matt even had a Super Bowl future on them. However, all that good will is gone this season and I believe the Patriots are due to drop back down the standings.

The defense has suffered some pretty big losses in the offseason, specifically at corner where J.C. Jackson departed in free agency and Malcolm Butler, who was brought out of retirement, was lost to injury for the season. On top of that, their pass rush is weaker with the departure of Kyle Van Noy. Offensively the future is bright with Mac Jones, but no one has any idea what that group will look like now that Josh McDaniels is in Las Vegas and both Joe Judge and Matt Patricia will have a hand in calling plays. Add in the eighth-hardest schedule in the league and all signs point to Under.

New York Giants Under 7 (-110)

Lombardi: No one likes Brian Daboll as a coach more than me. I have great respect for him as an offensive coach, a leader and someone who has been preparing for a head-coaching position for a long time. From offensive success in Buffalo, he crosses the state to get the Giants offense fixed and help Daniel Jones become a viable winning quarterback for years to come. Let’s be candid here: Daboll isn't a miracle worker. When Daboll coordinated the offense in Cleveland for Eric Mangini in 2009 and 2010, he had quarterbacks on par with Jones in terms of skill. From Brady Quinn to Derek Anderson, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy, the Browns’ offense struggled. Two seasons of 5-11 and ranking no higher than 29th in either year in points scored or yards gained. Then he went to Miami under the late Tony Sparano with Matt Moore and Chad Henne under center and ranked 20th in points and 22nd in yards, finishing 6-10. The next season he coordinated the offense for Romeo Crennel in Kansas City with Matt Cassell and Quinn and finished 2-14, 32nd in points and 24th in yards. My point isn’t to discredit Daboll, rather to make a point: He, like all coaches, needs a talented player to become the best coach. And Jones isn't that guy. 

The Giants have won 22 games the last five years and have one of the worst cap situations in the NFL this season. Next season will be the Giants’ fresh start — in the meantime, the 2022 season will be all piecemeal and Band-Aids. What are the Giants’ areas of strength? Their skill players? Saquon Barkley? Maybe, but they need a point guard to lead the attack, someone who can play with a quick mind and make those around him better. That ain’t Jones. To win seven games, although not playoff worthy, is still hard to achieve, especially when the quarterback gives the ball away as Jones does. Improvement for the Giants from my viewpoint would be six wins, not seven, and therefore I love the Under.

Tennessee Titans Under 9 (-115)

Will Hill: Last year, the Titans earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a 12-5 record. Despite the success, the stats tell a less flattering story. The Titans ranked 20th in the league with 5.2 yards per play on offense, while allowing 5.4 yards per play on defense (17th). The focal point of their offense is Derrick Henry, but the star running back will be 29 by year’s end and is perhaps on the back nine of his great career. In both 2019 and 2020, he led the league in carries and amassed over 800 touches in those two seasons, including the postseason. If Henry’s production tails off, it’s fair to wonder where the Titans go to for explosive plays, as wide receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown are no longer on the roster. Despite the mediocre underlying stats, a first-place season means a first-place schedule, and asking the Titans to get to 10 wins against this gauntlet of a slate is asking too much. They have games against the Bills, Packers, Bengals, Cowboys and Chiefs, plus the rest of the loaded AFC West and two games against the Colts.

As always when playing season win totals, injuries have to be considered. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, while not an elite player, is a seemingly irreplaceable one considering backup Malik Willis seems like more of a project than an answer at this point. Tannehill runs more than some may think, averaging over three rush attempts per game last season, which creates the risk of an injury. An aging back in a run-heavy offense, a middling quarterback and a challenging schedule make the Titans unlikely to duplicate their double-digit win season from 2021. While 9.5 was readily available a few weeks ago, the Under is still the play at 9.

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