2022 NFL Win Total Over/Under Picks for 8 Declining Teams, Including Cowboys, Raiders, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Ezekiel Elliott (left), Dak Prescott (right)
We're under a week until the 2022 NFL season kicks off, so let's kick this season preview into high gear.
Every year as we head into the new season, I force myself to separate all 32 teams into buckets of eight. Yesterday, we started with the first bucket: The eight teams I expect to finish at the bottom and contend for the No. 1 pick. Eight more teams get tabbed as true Super Bowl contenders, and eight more are bucketed as improving teams.
Today, we're going to hurt some feelings, previewing the eight teams trending in the wrong direction. These are teams expected to be playoff or even Super Bowl contenders, but I see them plummeting toward a disappointing season. We'll talk about why.
Remember, this season preview series is decidedly not a Power Rankings. Some of these teams might still be good, maybe make the playoffs or even win a game! We'll focus on why these squads could still underperform expectations and then decide whether to bet, lean or pass on the over/under win total.
You'll also see offensive and defensive unit rankings for each team, plus other bets worth considering. A quick refresher on position and unit 1-to-32 rankings, if you missed them:
Check out the entire four-part season preview:
- The 8 Worst Teams
- The 8 Teams Taking a Step Backward
- The 8 Sleepers Trending Up
- The 8 Super Bowl Contenders
Pittsburgh Steelers Over/Under 7.5 Wins
The Steelers have been in decline for a while now. You probably know about the vaunted Mike Tomlin streak — no finishes under .500 in 15 years as head coach — but do you know how close he's gotten the last few years? Pittsburgh went was 9-7-1 in 2021, 8-8 in 2019 and 9-6-1 in 2018. The Steelers were a couple coin flips from finishing below .500 in three of four years.
It's easy to look at laundry and credit Pittsburgh for an always great defense and just enough offense. But both of those might be too optimistic in 2022. The Steelers have the worst cornerbacks of any presumed good defense and look more good than great on that side of things, as great as T.J. Watt is.
And the offense could be bad. The O-line is one of the worst in the league and was masked by Ben Roethlisberger's insanely quick throw time. Whether it's Mitchell Trubisky or eventually rookie Kenny Pickett, that could swing heavily the other way and handicap this offense, which further hurts the defense.
If you believe in the black and gold, the +1000 division odds do look playable. Pittsburgh has a soft opening schedule so a nice start is in play.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
New Orleans Saints Over/Under 8.5 Wins
New Orleans, on the other hand, might be the exact sort of profile you're giving the Steelers credit for. The Saints have a ferocious defense — ranked top-eight in DVOA five consecutive seasons and top-three the last two years — with a deep D-line and outstanding secondary. In a weak division and conference, the Saints could ride an elite defense and just enough offense to victory.
Still, it's hard to overlook the overall trajectory of this team. Over the last two years, the Saints have lost surefire Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Sean Payton along with stud LT Terron Armstead, Trey Hendrickson and Malcolm Jenkins. Michael Thomas has barely played, Alvin Kamara has fallen off and a stalwart offensive line has cratered.
The Saints are undeniably headed in the wrong direction. Is that defense great enough to hold off the decline for one more year? It's a very soft division, and if the defense is elite, a +350 bet to win the NFC South could have great value.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
Las Vegas Raiders Over/Under 8.5 Wins
Like usual, the Raiders are all pizzazz after a flashy offseason. Vegas stole the headlines with splash moves for Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, adding a star on each side of the ball and bringing in Josh McDaniels to lead the charge. It sounds pretty good, until you dig a little deeper.
The problems start in the trenches. The Raiders may have the worst combination of offensive and defensive lines in the NFL, an especially big problem magnified by playing in a loaded division. There's also zero depth on on the team thanks to the old regime's draft failures, and the roster is trying too hard to chase the Rams' strategy of stars-and-scrubs in a game where 53 men win.
The Raiders outperfomed Pythagorean expectations by over three wins last year, somehow winning 10 games with a -65 point differential. No other 10-win team since 1989 has even finished -35, per Bill Barnwell. The Raiders made the playoffs but ranked outside the top 20 in DVOA, SRS and most other all-in-one metrics. True to Vegas form, they lucked into favorable opponent timing and also went 4-0 in coin-flip overtime games.
The AFC West is being billed as a wild four-horse race, but I project the Raiders almost three full wins fewer than every other team in the division, a mammoth gap. Rather than playing the under, I'll just play Las Vegas to finish last in the division at a robust +120, my favorite exotic on the board.
Win Total Verdict: Lean under 8.5
Cleveland Browns Over/Under 8.5 Wins
Are the Browns improving or declining? What exactly is this franchise, and do they even know the answer to that after the disastrous Deshaun Watson trade? Watson is suspended 11 games, which means Cleveland will roll out Jacoby Brissett and hope the journeyman backup can keep the team afloat.
Cleveland could have one of the best pass defenses in the league, with a deep, talented secondary and a ferocious edge duo in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. The run game should be stout with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and a great O-line. It's the other half of each unit that's the problem.
The passing attack will be anemic with Brissett and poor receivers, and the Browns' run defense could be a disaster. The opening six weeks are winnable, especially if their defense lives up to billing, but the extra five weeks Watson is suspended could prove fatal.
Cleveland plays the Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Bills and Bucs those last five games with Brissett. It feels like poetic justice that this stretch could be where a promising season goes off the rails.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
New England Patriots Over/Under 8.5 Wins
It's tough to get excited about this Patriots roster. The offensive line is always good under Bill Belichick, but it is being reshaped as roles change and could take some time to gel. The Pats feature Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson at RB and have had a top-eight rushing attack in four of five years. The passing game is more of a question as Mac Jones is still more game manager than star with few weapons to work with.
The defense feels similarly average. New England has great safeties but lost star corner J.C. Jackson and stalwart Kyle Van Noy, and the front seven leaves much to be desired from a talent perspective. Really, a bet on the Patriots is a bet on New England jerseys — or maybe cut-off hoodies. New England lost Josh McDaniels as their offensive coordinator and effectively replaced him with no one. This coaching staff is weirdly thin, so this is all on Belichick.
I don't like the roster or the weird lack of coaching depth, but I'm not sure I'm ready to bet my hard-earned cash against Belichick.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
Tennessee Titans Over/Under 9.5 Wins
The Titans are a prime regression candidate with a rapidly aging roster that shapes up like a team in transition. Tennessee surprised last season with a run at the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but the Titans have gone 13-4 in one-score games the past two seasons and history says those games are coin flips and regress to the mean.
This year's team is mostly running it back with younger players at receiver and corner, and the hope of a rejuvenated and healthy Derrick Henry. It's tough to bet against Henry, but history is not on the side of a big, older RB coming off a major injury, especially with a faltering line. Henry was not good in his winter return, and the offense will crater if he's not himself.
A once feared WR duo of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones has been replaced by Robert Woods and first-round pick Treylon Burks. The Titans also got disastrous defensive news to start the year after losing star pass rusher Harold Landry for the season.
Tennessee is my favorite under on the board. I have the Titans projected at 7.4 wins, more than two below this total, and I like the Titans at +118 to miss the playoffs, too. Tennessee is my projected 12-seed in a loaded conference. I'll even sprinkle the alternate under 5.5 at +700 in case the bottom falls out and the Titans turn to rookie QB Malik Willis midseason to see what they have.
Win Total Verdict: Bet under 9.5
Cincinnati Bengals Over/Under 10 Wins
You already know about the Super Bowl loser hangover, and the Bengals sure looked like a prime candidate for regression as the confetti fell down on the Rams in February. Cincinnati was only a couple plays away from winning it all … it was also just a few plays away from losing any of its three playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl or never qualifying in the first place.
Then the offseason started and the Bengals went out and addressed the exact holes that had held them back. They overhauled the entire right side of a porous offensive line, bringing in C Ted Karras, RG Alex Cappa, and RT La'el Collins to stabilize things. The line improvement is probably overstated at this point, but even near average would be a big step forward. Cincinnati also used its top two draft picks to add to the secondary.
Still, this all comes down to just how great Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase can be. If those two are already top five at their position, that alone could give Cincinnati an elite offense and position the Bengals as something akin to the Peyton Manning-era Colts. If Burrow and Chase regress from outlier deep-ball luck and are more good than great, the Bengals could struggle to meet expectations with a target on their backs and a daunting schedule.
One overlooked trend that could be key: Cincinnati leapt from 19th to 7th in pass frequency from Week 4 forward, and then passed even more in the playoffs. If the coaching staff falls back to its run-heavy tendencies, the Bengals could stall. If they let Burrow cook, the sky is the limit.
Cincinnati is +103 to miss the playoffs. Cincinnati could do that at 10 wins in a loaded AFC, so I'd rather play that risk pushing an under.
Win Total Verdict: Lean under 10
Dallas Cowboys Over/Under 10.5 Wins
The Cowboys remain the most public team in football, and this line is a gift.
Dallas certainly has plenty of talent. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and CeeDee Lamb lead the offense, while Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs headline the defense. The Cowboys are average or better at every position group offensively and, really, up and down the roster other than the D-line.
The big concern is the once-great offensive line. Dallas already lost two starters in the offseason, but losing LT Tyron Smith to injury could be a fatal blow. The Cowboys plummeted from 4.8 to 4.2 yards per carry without Smith last season and 0.13 to 0.03 EPA on passing plays. With Smith, the Cowboys were a top offense. Without him, they've barely been average.
It's hard to see where the Cowboys got better. The line is worse, and the loss of Amari Cooper leaves the receiver room thin. Randy Gregory is a big loss, and the pass defense is due for major regression after this unit posted the highest EPA on turnovers forced of any team in five seasons.
Dallas has just five winning seasons since 2009 and have only gone over this win total twice in that stretch. The opening schedule is tough, and Mike McCarthy's seat could get hot quickly if Dallas stumbles out of the gate, especially with the persisting Sean Payton rumors.
Despite all that, Dallas bafflingly remains the division favorite with an inflated win total. The Cowboys are somehow +240 to miss the playoffs. That implies a 71% chance of making it to the postseason, and that's awfully optimistic for a team one or two more injuries away from collapsing in typical Dallas fashion.
The Cowboys look more mediocre than bad, but the perception of this team doesn't come close to matching reality. I love the under and I'll bet Dallas to miss the playoffs at +240 as well.
Win Total Verdict: Bet under 10.5