Following the NFL schedule release, fans and analysts often try to predict which games will be won and lost by each team. Another key aspect of the schedule release involves sportsbooks setting the predicted number of games any given team should win, using the book’s models.
Over the next few weeks, each of the eight NFL divisions will be previewed on a team-by-team basis. The win total projections below have been taken from the Caesars Sportsbook, via ESPN.
The first division that will be assessed is the NFC North. With two of the teams hiring a new head coach this past offseason coupled the two-time reigning NFL MVP playing there, the division is sure to be filled with excitement.
Green Bay Packers
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 11 wins
2021 Record: 13-4
Last season, the Green Bay Packers won the division while tying for the best record in the NFL. However, Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target and the unanimous top-three receiver in the league is no longer playing at Lambeau Field. Despite drafting Christian Watson in the second round of the Draft and signing Sammy Watkins, the Packers will still have trouble replacing Adams’ impact.
On defense, Green Bay added Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt, two standout Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 Draft. Star cornerback Jaire Alexander also signed a recent $84M contract extension, good for the highest average annual salary for a defensive back. Many of the key contributors on the defense are returning, one of the reasons they should be successful in 2022.
An overlooked impediment to the Packers’ prosperity in 2021 was special teams. It became obvious in their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers with a blocked field goal and a blocked punt, but their performance on special teams throughout the season was woeful.
Green Bay was considered the worst by many analysts, even independent of the heartbreaking playoff defeat. To improve this, Matt LaFleur elected to bring in Rich Bisaccia from the Las Vegas Raiders to serve as special teams coordinator.
The revamped special teams unit combined with the two-time reigning MVP bodes well for the Packers, and they have won 13 games in three consecutive seasons.
Prediction: Over 11 wins
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 9 wins
2021 Record: 8-9
Although they fell short of the playoffs in 2021 by just one game, the Vikings did not have a strong season by most standards. As a result, the Wilf family decided to change the team’s head coach and general manager.
With Kevin O’Connell at the helm, the former offensive coordinator of the Rams, the Minnesota offense will hope to improve upon its near-average rank in points scored last season.
New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah improved his squad’s defense in his first NFL Draft in Minnesota. His first two selections of Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. should strengthen the secondary in a meaningful way.
In the box, Za’Darius Smith was scooped from the NFC North rival Packers. Other intriguing additions Minnesota made include Jordan Hicks and Harrison Phillips, players that Ed Donatell hopes will bolster his defense.
The Caesars Sportsbook’s projection of 9 wins could seem a bit daunting given a new regime coming to Minnesota, but the Vikings have hovered around 9 victories per year for the past decade. The team will likely finish within a game or two of this mark, but their schedule could help bridge the gap to achieve this.
Finding themselves in the right half of the league for their strength of schedule, the Vikings play the NFC East, one of the weaker divisions in recent history. Minnesota also plays some of their more difficult non-division opponents in U.S. Bank Stadium, such as the Cardinals, Cowboys, Patriots, and Colts.
Prediction: Over 9 wins
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 6.5 wins
2021 Record: 6-11
Similar to the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears replaced their top brass this offseason. Former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and former Chiefs Executive Director of Player Personnel Ryan Poles became Chicago’s new head coach and general manager, respectively.
The most polarizing story of the offseason for the Bears was shipping Khalil Mack to Chargers in exchange for draft picks. The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year served a critical role in Chicago, and his pass-rushing ability and run support may be lacking in his absence.
One primary goal of Ryan Poles as he begins his journey with the Bears should be building around 23-year-old quarterback Justin Fields. With many of the young QBs drafted in the past decade, their success is often predicated on the coaching and personnel they are surrounded by.
Last season, former Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson was on the Chicago roster, yet his impact on the field was underwhelming. Failing to surpass 70 receiving yards in any game in 2021, and posting over 35 receiving yards just three times, Robinson did not appear to be aiding Fields’ development.
After signing with the Rams this offseason, Robinson is not in the plans for the future in Chicago. Instead, the team has opted to roll with Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Byron Pringle as their starters.
Many view their receiving core to be a weak spot, so it was surprising to see the team select two defensive backs before taking our 20th-ranked receiver, Velus Jones Jr, with the 71st overall pick.
The Bears also lost impact contributors such as Tashaun Gipson, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, and Tarik Cohen during the offseason. They will have an uphill battle ahead of them in 2022, and much of this pressure falls on the shoulders of the new front office hires and Justin Fields.
Prediction: Under 6.5 wins
Caesars Sportsbook Over/Under Projection: 6 wins
2021 Record: 3-13-1
The first season following the Matthew Stafford era, the last being a winless 2008 campaign, did not go according to the plans of first-year head coach Dan Campbell. Detroit did avoid losing to three playoff teams, the Steelers, Cardinals, and Packers, but they finished with the second-worst record in the NFL.
Allowing the second-most points in the league in 2021, the Detroit defense did add a consensus top-five player in the draft in Aidan Hutchinson. Aaron Glenn’s unit still has a ways to go until becoming among the league’s best, but a pass rusher like Hutchinson and what appears to be a healthy Jeff Okudah will bolster the Detroit defense.
Aside from Hutchinson, the Lions added Jameson Williams, one of the nation’s top receivers from Alabama. Williams will certainly help the Lions’ aerial attack, but he is still recovering from an ACL tear, leaving his status for 2022 unknown.
One of the most notable free-agent signings the team made was acquiring D.J. Chark Jr., but Detroit did not land many larger names in the open market this offseason.
Despite a couple of additions to the roster, the team looks similar to last season. As a result, doubling their win total might be slightly lofty. Detroit also hasn’t reached six wins since 2018.