Betting

Five NFL Teams With Shifting Expectations in 2022

teams with shifting expectations

My goal in every piece of content that I write is to provide you with valuable insights that can help you make well-informed decisions that result in better bets. With that in mind, I have a confession regarding win totals: outside of rare instances, I make my win total bets somewhere between the day that opening lines are first released in late March and a few days after the schedule is released in mid-May. I operate in this fashion because I target options that I expect to beat their closing line, and those opportunities are often found early.

I will kick off this series by discussing five teams whose win total has changed since these lines opened. The first four teams are options I either bet on or strongly considered this spring. But the fifth represents a rare occurrence that has me considering a summer win-total wager for the first time in years. 

Seattle Seahawks

Opening Win Total: 6.5

Current Win Total: 5.5

Schedule Difficulty: Hard

The under on Seattle’s opening 6.5-game win total was my first bet on the 2022 season. The foundation of that stance was built on Seattle’s course-altering transition from franchise centerpiece Russell Wilson to the mediocre duo of Geno Smith and Drew Lock. The prospect of the Seahawks acquiring Baker Mayfield wasn’t concerning enough for me to pass on this option. Even now, I’d be surprised if the 49ers traded Jimmy Garoppolo to their division rivals in Seattle. A bet on Seattle’s under begins as a bet against the Seahawks’ volatile quarterback options.

Defense

Seattle didn’t add any true needle-moving talent this offseason to a porous defense. They surrendered the second most passing yards while recording the eighth fewest sacks last season, per Sports Info Solutions. On top of that, Seattle lost yet another franchise icon on defense in linebacker Bobby Wagner, who the defending champion Rams viewed as valuable enough to sign to a five-year, $50 million deal.

The Seahawks have put together several scrappy, overachieving defensive efforts over the last several seasons. But from a pure talent standpoint, Seattle lacks anything resembling a dominant defense while having an abysmal quarterback situation. Seattle is a rebuilding team in the first year of that transition; those are situations I like to bet against whenever it’s reasonable to do so.

Schedule

The last major factor that pushed me towards a bet on Seattle’s under was their schedule. The Seahawks get six divisional games against three teams that made the playoffs last year. They also face off against the absolutely loaded AFC West this season. Right away, that gives Seattle ten matchups against playoff-caliber teams. Road trips to Tampa Bay and New Orleans collectively give the Seahawks twelve games where we can reasonably expect them to be the underdog and at least eleven against playoff-caliber opponents. Seattle’s most manageable matchups are home games versus the Falcons, Panthers, Giants, and Jets; they also get an early-season trip to Detroit. Even if the Seahawks win all five of those contests, which I’m comfortable betting against, they’d still have to win two games as an underdog against a quality opponent to exceed the original 6.5-game win total.

Ultimately, I bet on a rebuilding team with a brutal schedule, starting Geno Smith or Drew Lock on opening day, to not meet original expectations. While Seattle is in a position where they could significantly improve their situation next offseason, their opening win total this year had nowhere to go but down unless they acquired a significant replacement for Russell Wilson at quarterback. They haven’t done that, at least not yet.

Today, the value on this line is gone, so I could not bet on the 5.5 number from a discipline standpoint. But if I were forced to choose, I would still take the under on Seattle in this scenario; how I view the Seahawks today is extraordinarily similar to how I saw them when I bet against the 6.5 line months ago.

Philadelphia Eagles

Opening Win Total: 8.5

Current Win Total: 9.5

Schedule Difficulty: Easy

The second and third bets I made on the 2022 season both involved the Eagles, with a wager on Philadelphia exceeding 8.5 wins and another on the Eagles to win the NFC East at +350 odds (which is now in the +165 range). As with my Seahawks bet, I made these wagers because I expected them to beat their closing lines. Here’s why:

Schedule

The Eagles have several aspects that I find appealing regarding over considerations. Firstly, they are in a very winnable division;  the primary threat in said division (Dallas) bled significant talent this offseason. Philadelphia will also benefit from one of the most manageable schedules in the league. Based on how I measure strength of schedule, the Eagles have the easiest schedule this season, as they face the fewest quality opponents. Last year, it was Dallas that met these conditions; this year, it’s Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has won nine or more games in four of the last five seasons, including a Wild Card appearance last year. This already solid team was armed with three first-round picks, so improvement should be expected. The Eagles have been one of the more well-run front offices for the entirety of my life. While I wasn’t anticipating a trade for A.J. Brown specifically, I did expect the Eagles to continue making logical team-building decisions.

Offseason Improvements

The Eagles routinely go out of their way to invest in line play on both sides of the ball, and they were in obvious need of upgrades at wide receiver and cornerback this offseason. As expected, the Eagles prioritized improving their weaknesses with the trade for Brown and the signing of veteran cornerback James Bradberry. Not to be lost in the shuffle was the signing of versatile linebacker Haason Reddick and the drafting of monstrous defensive tackle Jordan Davis to continue adding talent to their defensive front.

To review, the already solid Eagles significantly improved their roster this offseason. Plus, they have one of the most advantageous schedules in the league, while playing in a very winnable division. That’s why their win total and division odds have moved significantly in my favor since the lines initially opened.

Jalen Hurts

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is the crucial variable for an otherwise strong Eagles roster. Hurts has been among the most unique quarterback evaluations I’ve ever encountered. When he was at Alabama, I had no interest in him as a future NFL prospect. When he transferred to Oklahoma, he was an entirely different guy, as he transformed himself into a significantly better passer. I’ve never quite seen anything else like it. When Hurts took over late in his rookie year in 2020, he was inconsistent. But he showed flashes of being the passer that he was at Oklahoma. Last season, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni and his staff, to their credit, shifted towards being a more run-heavy team as the season progressed, primarily due to Hurts’ inconsistencies in the air.

If Hurts can be a more consistent thrower of the football this season, the sky is the limit for this Eagles team. We know that this coaching staff is willing to adapt their offense to the team’s talent when needed, which makes me more confident in the Eagles floor this coming season than I was last year. If forced to choose, I would still take the Eagles over at 9.5 wins. However, from a discipline standpoint, I could not bet on this option at 9.5 wins as the value is already gone.

New York Jets

Opening Win Total: 5

Current Win Total: 5.5

Schedule Difficulty: Hard

The Jets have been the team I’ve wanted to be high on since the end of the 2021 season. New York entered last year with a young core that improved as the season progressed, despite several of their best players missing significant time. After upsetting both the Titans and Bengals earlier in the year, the Jets finished the 2021 season strong. In the final four weeks, New York gave the white-hot Dolphins a competitive game, beat the Jaguars, took Tom Brady’s Buccaneers to the brink, and gave the Bills a tough first half in Buffalo to close out the year. Those are encouraging conditions for a young, rebuilding team – especially one armed with four top-40 draft picks and significant cap room to continue building the roster during the coming offseason.

Youth Movement

Two years ago, the Jets had one of the most talent-poor rosters in recent memory. Now, all of a sudden, New York has an offensive line with interesting potential, a promising running back duo, a pair of solid tight ends, and a talented wide receiver group that goes four deep. The most encouraging part is that most of the Jets’ offensive starters are in their early 20s; those that have breached 30 are all linemen. The Jets have also overhauled their secondary this offseason, which was realistically the biggest need for this team. If “Sauce” Gardner can play up to his draft slot as a rookie, the Jets have a realistic chance of being a middle-of-the-pack defense.

Now, if the Jets are going to improve this year, that starts with Zach Wilson being a much more consistent quarterback. Wilson was thrown into a challenging situation last season, where he lost his left tackle on opening day, and both Corey Davis and Elijah Moore missed over a month’s worth of games. Wilson had his own injury issues, causing him to miss four contests during his rookie campaign. I’m not ready to write Wilson off just yet, but the reality is this Jets’ offense can be dangerous if Wilson plays well this season, and the jury is still very much out on the second-year quarterback.

While I’m still on the fence about both Wilson’s present and future as an NFL quarterback, the Jets’ schedule has been the factor that’s tempered my desired enthusiasm on New York this season. The Jets face a quality opponent just about every game through Week 14. But those first nine games heading into their Week 10 bye could realistically result in a 2-7 type of start.

Late Movement

An interesting aspect of the Jets’ win total is that the line has moved from five wins to 5.5. But the juice on the over has remained in the -160 range at a number of sportsbooks for a few weeks without pushing the line up to six games. In fact, the Jets’ over is the highest juiced option at a few of the sportsbooks I checked for this article. When I notice things like this, I routinely ask myself the question “why?”

In this instance, the uncertainty surrounding Zach Wilson’s ability to be a consistently effective quarterback paired with the Jets’ murderers-row of quality opponents to start the season creates two very realistic paths for New York to get off to a slow start. It seems that sportsbooks do not want to move the Jets line to six, even though it’s relatively clear that current action is continuing to drive the number in that direction.

I’ve said this a few times about the Jets since win totals opened in March: if the Jets were in the NFC South, I’d be intrigued by them as a long shot to sneak into the Wild Card. However, they are in the loaded AFC, while being the only team in their division with a sub .500-win total. I’d consider betting the under on the Jets if the line reached six, given their demanding schedule. As it is now, if forced to choose, I’d lean towards the under at 5.5 at plus money based on the schedule and quarterback uncertainty, even though I genuinely love what they’ve done with their roster over the past two offseasons.

Author’s Update

Starting quarterback Zach Wilson suffered a bone bruise and a torn meniscus during the Jets’ preseason matchup with the Eagles. Wilson’s status for opening day remains in doubt, which means that Joe Flacco could be starting against the Ravens when the games begin to count. Flacco taking over would be a good thing for those that took the under on the Jets’ win total, especially if he’s the starter in a winnable game in Cleveland in Week 2. That said, we were already expecting a slow start out of New York given their very difficult early schedule. 

Even if Wilson misses multiple games, his play may still be impacted by the injury once he returns. Dr. Jess Ryan is a little concerned about Wilson’s knee, and whether it can be counted on. She’ll be keeping an eye on whether or not Wilson returns wearing a brace and how comfortable he looks in the pocket. If Wilson’s mobility is limited by the need to wear a brace, that will limit some of his upside.

At this point, the Jets’ win total has not moved down from 5.5 games since Wilson’s injury. We expect this figure to stay put unless Wilson’s injuries result in a lengthier stay on the sidelines. However, the Jets have moved from +5.5 point home dogs to +7 since the prospect of a Joe Flacco opening day start became a possibility.

Chicago Bears

Opening Win Total: 7.5

Current Win Total: 6.5

Schedule Difficulty: Easy

Chicago’s win total was the first to move this season, as it dipped from 7.5 down to seven within the first few days after this line opened. If that line movement didn’t happen that quickly, a bet on Chicago’s under probably would have been among my early season wagers.

Offense

The Bears enter this season led by their talented but inconsistent, dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields. Entering his second season, Fields will be playing behind one of the league’s least reliable offensive lines. He will also be throwing to one of the thinnest wide receiver groups in the sport. Fields has yet to be properly supported from a talent perspective in his short career; therefore, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if he struggled this year. That said, the path to the Bears exceeding expectations this season is built on Fields’ ability to take a leap of sorts this year, despite the imperfect supporting cast on offense.

Defense

The Bears’ defense shipped dynamic pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chargers. Furthermore, lynchpin defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (who missed substantial time last year) is now in Tampa Bay, greatly reducing the upside of the Bears’ once formidable front. We probably shouldn’t bank on Bears’ edge Robert Quinn repeating his 18.5 sack campaign from a season ago either. There have been trade rumors regarding Quinn that haven’t fully subsided since Mack was traded months ago. The Bears’ front four has shifted from a strength to an average-at-best group heading into opening day.

The best player on the Bears, linebacker Roquan Smith, will be moving from middle linebacker to weakside linebacker in the new Bears’ honcho Matt Eberflus’ system. Smith is currently in a contract extension stalemate, lending a little more uncertainty to this volatile Chicago roster. As you can see, the Bears have multiple messes on their hands left by the previous regime.

Schedule

On the bright side, the Bears have one of the more manageable schedules this season. That said, they start off in a pretty brutal fashion; they host the 49ers on opening day before heading to rival Green Bay for Sunday Night Football in Week 2. If the Bears play competitive football in those first two contests while still losing both, Chicago gets two winnable games with Houston at home in Week 3 before heading to the Giants in Week 4. I don’t usually get involved in betting overs on teams in transitionary situations like the Bears are currently in. However, their early schedule is a situation that I’ll be monitoring to see if there is any value to be had.

San Francisco 49ers

Opening Win Total: 10

Current Win Total: 9.5 to 10

Schedule Difficulty: Medium

I’m surprised San Francisco’s over can be had for less today than when this line opened. We can probably chalk that up to the quarterback rumors circulating throughout the offseason. Now that the team has signaled it’s going forward with Trey Lance, we should be treating this offense as if it has a higher ceiling than it did last year.

San Francisco went 10-7 last season, bouncing back after their 3-5 start and ultimately reaching the NFC Championship game – which they narrowly lost to the eventual champion Rams. The 49ers’ offense is well coached, with dynamic skill position players and a solid offensive line, headlined by elite left tackle Trent Williams. Few young quarterbacks find themselves in situations as Lance has; if he can play to his potential while being supported by this contending roster, San Francisco has a legitimate shot at finishing the year on top of the NFC.

The 49ers’ defense was the primary driver behind their push to the NFC Championship game. San Francisco returns a very capable front, led by high-end edge rusher Nick Bosa; plus, acquiring former Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward could be a difference-making move for this already stingy defense.

Schedule

If you’re going to bet on the 49ers, you want to do it before the season starts; their first six games are as follows: at Chicago, vs. Seattle, at Denver, vs. Los Angeles Rams (MNF), at Carolina, and at Atlanta. San Francisco could easily start the season with a 4-2 record or better through that stretch. However, from there, the 49ers’ schedule is just about filled with quality opponents. This most likely led to San Francisco seeing an unexpected dip since their win total opened at ten games. I’m considering placing a bet on San Francisco to beat their 9.5-game win total, though it would be a pass for me at ten games.

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