The 2021-22 NFL season is almost upon us and our experts at VSiN – Brady Kannon, Shaun King, Bruce Marshall, William Hill, Wes Reynolds, Jonathan Von Tobel and Matt Youmans – have picked their favorite over/unders as part of VSiN’s Pro Football Betting Guide.
Here are their 12 favorite NFL win total bets.
All odds at DraftKings Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.
Atlanta Falcons Over 7.5 (-135)
Hill: We’ve seen this move from 7, and I think it’s the correct move. Sometimes a coaching change is just a change for change’s sake. The hiring of Arthur Smith doesn’t fall under that category, and it could be a badly-needed breath of fresh air for a Falcons team that never seemed to fully recover from the 28-3 collapse a half-decade ago in the Super Bowl. Back-to back 15-point fourth-quarter leads against the Cowboys and Bears in 2020 somehow resulted in two losses. Atlanta blew countless leads and lost eight games by a touchdown or less.
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Not only should some better luck and improved coaching come their way, but the Falcons face a favorable slate of opposing quarterbacks. They see Sam Darnold and Jameis Winston four times combined, along with Zach Wilson, Daniel Jones, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Jared Goff and Mac Jones/Cam Newton. Some positive regression combined with a manageable schedule gives the Falcons a shot to play into January and makes them a strong bet to go Over.
Minnesota Vikings Over 9
Hill: I’m not sure a team was hurt more by the pandemic than the Vikings. They rely on a boisterous home-field advantage, which was nonexistent with no fans last year. They also had a draft class of 15 players, but with no preseason and a reduced training camp, young players suffered by not getting the normal reps to help integrate them into the league. Some late-game meltdowns cost them a trip to the playoffs, as they gave games away to the Seahawks, Cowboys and Titans, while their kicker melted down against the Buccaneers. They also suffered major losses on defense, with Danielle Hunter missing the season, Michael Pierce opting out and Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks missing significant chunks of the season.
The Vikings will have those guys back, and they added some reinforcements via free agency (Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Bashaud Breeland) who should improve the defense. They ranked near the bottom of the league in special teams in 2020, a category that tends not to show much carryover year to year. Mike Zimmer has never missed the playoffs in consecutive years and has a good chance to keep that streak alive with a bounce-back season in ’21.
Tennessee Titans Over 9.5
King: This is my pick to win the Super Bowl, so I definitely like them to win double-digit games. Ryan Tannehill has been fabulous since joining Tennessee and knows his role in this offense. I think he takes the next step this season, and a new offensive coordinator in Todd Downing might be beneficial for everyone. Derrick Henry is a terrific running back, but this offense was becoming a little stale. The offseason acquisition of Julio Jones will make this an even more potent offense (30.7 PPG, fourth in 2020). Tennessee made some nice offseason additions on defense. Bud Dupree, Janoris Jenkins and Caleb Farley should help shore up a unit that was last in the NFL in opposing third-down conversion rate at 52%. The defense won’t be as good as two years ago, but it will be much better than it was last season.
Denver Broncos Over 8.5 (-120)
Kannon: Some books already have this number at 9, so there is an advantageous spot on the Over already. I believe this team will have the best defense in the AFC West. The Broncos can really cover with Patrick Surtain II, Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, and they should have a very good pass rush, which could be even better because of the secondary. The schedule looks very manageable, with games against the Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Eagles, Lions and Bengals. I believe Denver can split within the division and might get two wins over the Raiders. Obviously the big question is at quarterback.
So far, Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock have looked good, and they have a lot of weapons to rely on. If they take care of the ball and keep their team in the game, the defense should be able to do the rest. Finally, Steve Makinen notes that teams that failed to make the playoffs with a turnover differential of -1 or worse per game improve the next season by an average of 4.6 wins. If the Chiefs slip, which I believe they are very capable of doing, you just might see Denver steal this division.
Kansas City Chiefs Under 12.5 (-130)
Kannon: Will the Chiefs go to the Super Bowl three straight seasons? I’m betting they won’t. It is hard enough to go two straight years, but to come off a Super Bowl loss and go a third time seems like too much to ask. Yes, they have the best quarterback in the league and one of the very best coaches, but Patrick Mahomes has been banged up a bit the last two seasons, and if he misses time again this year, this team no longer has a catalyst. Kansas City won 16 games in total last season yet covered the number only seven times. It is likely that not all of those one-score games will go their way this year. The Chiefs were 9-0 SU in one-score games last season, but 0-8-1 in those games ATS.
Kansas City’s schedule is very difficult, especially in the first half. It is a possibility -- though a slight one -- that the Chiefs could go 1-6 out of the gate with games against the Browns, Ravens, Chargers, Bills, Washington and Titans. Turnover differential has been positive for the Chiefs in three straight seasons at + 8, + 9 and + 6. This could very easily go the other direction in 2021. I see plenty of signs that this team will stay Under 12.5 wins.
Philadelphia Eagles Under 6.5 (+ 120)
Marshall: The best argument for an Eagles Over recommendation is the six games they play in the suspect NFC East, in which no team finished above .500 last season. But we doubt the East will be as feckless this campaign as last, when the Eagles still couldn’t clear four wins. After that debacle, coach Doug Pederson was out. Enter 39-year-old Nick Sirianni, most recently Indy’s offensive coordinator and the new leader of a mostly under-40 staff that is short on experience.
That description also applies to likely starting QB Jalen Hurts, who had only a brief December audition that played to mixed reviews as a rookie in 2020. He must replace the departed Carson Wentz. Hurts seems a risky option, but I’m not sure that the ancient Joe Flacco is a better alternative. Thus, Heisman-winning rookie WR DeVonta Smith might not get featured as much as hoped in an offense that needs a lot of revamping after ranking near the bottom of the league a year ago. The defensive front seven is aging, and the secondary has potential issues, especially opposite Darius Slay at cornerback. With so many questions even before considering how Sirianni will handle the inevitable venom from fans, getting to seven wins seems a tall order.
Carolina Panthers Over 7.5 (-115)
Youmans: The Panthers might still be a year away, but second-year coach Matt Rhule’s rebuild looks promising. New quarterback Sam Darnold’s development will be pivotal to this win total. Set up for failure with the Jets, Darnold is set up for success in offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s creative system that will highlight a talented group of playmakers.
Christian McCaffrey, the highest-paid running back in the league, returns from injury after his 2020 season lasted only three games. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are dynamic wideouts, with rookie Terrace Marshall, a second-round pick from LSU, emerging as the No. 3 receiver. Tight end Tommy Tremble, a third-round pick from Notre Dame, was another nice addition. Darnold remains a question mark, of course, and the offensive line needs to develop as well. Rebuilding quickly is what Rhule does best, and he has had two good classes to improve the defense and overall depth on the roster.
A soft early schedule that lines up three of the NFL’s weakest teams in the first five weeks should help launch the Panthers toward eight or nine wins and a surprise playoff appearance. Carolina opens by hosting the Jets and Saints. Look for a 3-2 or 4-1 start after road games against the Texans and Cowboys and a Week 5 home game against the Eagles. New Orleans appears to be on the decline in the NFC South, and Atlanta is nothing special. The Panthers are on the rise in the division.
Reynolds: Matt Rhule has been a rebuilder everywhere he has been. In three seasons at Temple, he took the Owls from 2-10 to 6-6 to 10-4 before departing for Baylor. In Waco, Rhule inherited a mess from Art Briles and took the Bears from 1-11 to 7-6 to 11-3. That history of improvement should translate to Carolina in 2021.
The change of scenery can only do new quarterback Sam Darnold some good, and he has more pieces around him in Charlotte. Running back Christian McCaffrey is the big piece. Injuries limited him to three games in 2020, but he has set several NFL records in just four years and has yet to have a full season in Rhule’s system. DJ Moore, Robby Anderson (who played for Rhule at Temple and had a career season last year) and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. form a formidable receiving trio.
This also might be the season when the rebuilding of the defense materializes through the draft and free agency. Brian Burns and Derrick Brown were high first-round picks on the defensive line. Haason Reddick, who also played for Rhule at Temple, joins on a one-year deal after having a career-high 12.5 sacks. Safety Jeremy Chinn, a 2020 third-rounder, finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting to Washington’s Chase Young. Rookie first-rounder Jaycee Horn should start immediately at corner. The Panthers open with four of six games at home and play only six teams with winning records.
Las Vegas Raiders Over 7 (-115)
Youmans: The new 17-game schedule that has all AFC teams playing nine home games this season should really benefit the Raiders, who finally get to experience a true home-field advantage with electric crowds in Las Vegas. An important aspect to this play is the number — bet Over 7 at DraftKings instead of the 7.5 posted at several other books. The Raiders would have to be a complete bust and finish 6-11 to lose this bet. On the way to an 8-8 finish last season, the Raiders went 2-6 at home and 6-2 on the road.
Whether you believe in head coach Jon Gruden or not, this offense has enough firepower to put the team in position to win eight games or get over .500. Las Vegas totaled 71 points in a split with Kansas City last year. Derek Carr, who finished with 27 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, gets a lot of undeserved criticism. Running back Josh Jacobs has topped 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Darren Waller is an elite tight end. Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow lead a deep group of receivers. The obvious concerns are a new-look offensive line and just about the entire defense, but DE Yannick Ngakoue should be a tremendous addition to the pass rush.
The schedule isn’t easy, but Las Vegas does get home games against the Bears, Bengals and Eagles before Thanksgiving. The Raiders will be tough to beat on their home field and should finish no worse than 7-10.
Washington Football Team Under 8.5 (EVEN)
Reynolds: The Washington Football Team won a battle of attrition in 2020 to earn the NFC East title and become just the third team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record. It also became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs after starting 2-7. The NFC East looks wide open again, and many are optimistic regarding the WFT with the addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. The optimism is logical, considering the WFT started four QBs last season -- Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke -- and still won the division. Perhaps “Fitzmagic” can be a stabilizing force, but he is also 38 and on his ninth team in his 17th season. The defense was fourth in the league in points allowed last season and has one of the best defensive lines in the game with all four starters under 25.
But despite having the first two games at home, the schedule is substantially more difficult with trips to Buffalo, Green Bay and Denver. In addition, Washington hosts both Super Bowl LV participants, the Bucs and Chiefs. Assuming good health for Dak Prescott, Dallas should be more of a factor in 2021, and the Giants added some help on offense for Daniel Jones. This may be a case of expectations that are too much and too soon.
Baltimore Ravens Under 11 (-120)
Von Tobel: Since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback in 2018, Baltimore is 30-7 in games he has played. Jackson is responsible for 87 touchdowns, and he took home an MVP award. However, he took a step back in 2020, and concerns have arisen that this is a sign of things to come for a player who took the league by storm.
Jackson has regressed as a passer, going from a 85.3 PFF passing grade to 76.9 last season, and his turnover-worthy play rate doubled to 3.6%. The biggest change for Jackson was when passing without play-action. During his MVP season, he posted a 2.87 TD-to-INT ratio, but last season he threw nine fewer touchdowns on those attempts with a 2.0 ratio, and his yards per attempt dropped to 6.8. If Baltimore is going to challenge for the Super Bowl, he needs to make strides in more traditional drop-back passing situations.
However, some problems are already popping up in the receivers room. WR Rashod Bateman underwent surgery in early August and will likely miss the start of the season, while WR Marquise Brown is dealing with a hamstring injury that could linger into the regular season as well. The best receiving option is tight end Mark Andrews, but a lack of depth plagues the Ravens at wide receiver. On the line, tackle is mostly secure with Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva, but Stanley is coming off a serious ankle injury and Villanueva is switching to right tackle. The interior is a question, as center Bradley Bozeman and right guard Kevin Zeitler are average linemen at best. These problems make it more likely this unit will continue sliding down the efficiency leaderboard.
The defense was the most consistent aspect of this team in 2020, and it is still set up for success with a strong secondary. Last year Baltimore was graded as the league’s seventh-best coverage team by PFF. Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters are phenomenal coverage corners. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott graded out as top-30 coverage safeties in the league last year. That elite level of pass coverage allows the Ravens’ mediocre group of pass-rushers to get home. Baltimore led the league by a wide margin in blitz rate last year, sending five or more rushers 44.1% of the time. Coordinator Don Martindale does this by design, as the Ravens have no true dominant pass-rushers, which is why Justin Houston was a late addition. Should the secondary stay healthy, a question given its injury history, bettors should expect similar output this season.
The Ravens have the 12th-hardest schedule by projected opponent win total, and the back half of the slate is an absolute beast. Eight of Baltimore’s final 10 opponents are projected to win eight or more games. From Week 12 to the end of the season, the Ravens have all four divisional games against Cleveland and Pittsburgh plus home games against the Packers and Rams. Taking everything into account, not only is it hard to make a case for 12 wins, but it is impossible to justify laying a price that implies a 54.5% probability that it happens.
Cincinnati Bengals Under 7
Von Tobel: How Joe Burrow recovers from a serious knee injury is all that matters for Cincinnati. Burrow was solid in his rookie season, ranking second among first-year QBs in passing by PFF standards. He thrived in clean pockets, completing 74.8% of his passes for 7.5 yards per attempt, with 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. However, under pressure was another matter: Burrow posted an atrocious 45.1 PFF passer grade when under pressure, averaged 4.2 yards per attempt and completed just 37.3% of his passes.
He was under pressure on 32.2% of his drop-backs last season, so the front office signed Riley Reiff to play right tackle across from second-year pro Jonah Williams. Williams was a quality left tackle last season, allowing just three sacks and 20 pressures on 429 pass-blocking snaps. He and Reiff give Burrow some security on the edges. The biggest questions are along the interior. No current interior lineman on the roster graded higher than 63.8 by PFF standards, led by center Trey Hopkins, who is coming off an ACL injury. Cincinnati spent its second-round selection on guard Jackson Carman out of Clemson, but the rookie has struggled so much that fourth-round pick D’Ante Smith could surpass him on the depth chart. It is safe to say Burrow will have below-average line play again, but with quality at both tackle spots, he could get slightly better protection this season.
If the offensive line does creep back to average, the offense could wind up in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency. Burrow was a fantastic intermediate passer, completing 74.2% of his passes from 0 to 19 yards for 11 touchdowns and 7.78 yards per attempt. He needs to improve as a deep passer, as he completed only 18.8% of his passes of 20 or more yards, but he has the weapons to do so. His top target at LSU, Ja’Marr Chase, is now on the team, and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are great receivers. Higgins posted a 95.1 PFF grade on routes 20 or more yards downfield in his rookie season. The path is there for Burrow to lead a more efficient offense in 2021, but a mediocre defense is ultimately what will hold this team back.
The defensive line has some talent but lacks a dominant defender. Trey Hendrickson comes in as this team’s best defensive lineman after four seasons in New Orleans. D.J. Reader is a solid presence along the interior, and Sam Hubbard adds pass-rushing prowess, but there is not much after that. Rookie Joseph Ossai is expected to be a massive contributor to the pass rush, but a wrist injury has the start of his season in doubt. Linebacker is likely the weakest position group, probably leading to another year of poor run defense and inefficient defensive play. The Bengals seem to have no realistic way to make great leaps from the 27th-most efficient defense in the NFL it was last season.
When you factor in a schedule that is the eighth hardest in the NFL by projected opponent win totals, it seems foolhardy to believe the Bengals have a 54.5% chance to win seven or more games.
Miami Dolphins Under 9.5 (-130)
Von Tobel: Like many teams, Miami’s prospects rest squarely on the shoulders of its quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa was less than impressive in 10 games last season, posting a PFF grade of over 70 just twice and getting benched twice. Tagovailoa’s problems were twofold — his play and his offensive line. Tagovailoa was often careless with the football, committing 13 turnover-worthy plays in 326 drop-backs. A full offseason free of limitations due to the pandemic might help the second-year quarterback reduce those negative plays, but the offensive line could get in the way.
VSiN host Michael Lombardi reported in the second week of August that the Dolphins were looking to acquire a quality offensive tackle, a negative sign for a line that was already a massive question mark. Miami did attempt to address the unit in the offseason with the addition of Matt Skura, but the veteran center has found himself with the second team. In his 10 games, opposing defenses pressured Tagovailoa on 29.1% of his drop-backs, and that seems unlikely to improve.
The Dolphins do have some really intriguing weapons at the skill positions. DeVante Parker has caught 135 balls for 1,995 yards over the last two seasons, and Will Fuller comes in as the 11th-highest-graded receiver by PFF. They added Jaylen Waddle with their first pick of the draft, and Mike Gesicki is one of the most reliable tight ends in the game. However, if the line cannot hold up, this offense has a very low ceiling.
Defensively, the Dolphins were dynamic a season ago. They leaped from 32nd in defensive DVOA to 11th, according to Football Outsiders. The catalyst was turnovers. Miami led the league in turnovers forced (29) and interceptions (18) while tying for fourth in fumbles recovered (11). These statistics tend to fluctuate season to season, and it is hard to believe the Dolphins will replicate such production, especially since Xavien Howard was responsible for 10 interceptions. If those turnovers regress to average, this unit’s weaknesses become more apparent.
Pass-rushers Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson are gone, and they were responsible for 10 of Miami’s 41 sacks last season. Andrew Van Ginkel was their highest-graded pass rusher by PFF’s standards, and Emmanuel Ogbah (nine sacks) is still with this team, but Miami has not addressed the lack of a dominant edge rusher. The team drafted Jaelan Phillips, but relying on a rookie to provide a presence along the defensive edge is not a game plan for success. The defensive front also had issues against strong running games. Miami ranked 16th in adjusted line yards per carry allowed (4.41), 19th in second-level yards per carry allowed (0.66) and 26th in defending power situations (71%). Regression is likely coming in turnovers, which means Miami will take a step back.
Miami has a manageable schedule when opponent win totals are factored in (10th easiest), but too many factors are working against this team. Even if Tagovailoa shows some of the ability of his draft-class contemporaries, a bad offensive line and a defense due for regression will likely hold back Miami from achieving double-digit victories.