2022 NFL Win Total Picks for 8 of the Worst Teams This Season, Including the Cardinals, Bears, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Kliff Kingsbury (left), Kyler Murray (right)
The 2022 NFL season is just one week away, so let's preview the campaign and collect our bearings as we ready for 18 weeks of football goodness.
Each year, heading into the new season, I separate all 32 teams into four buckets of eight. Which eight squads can truly contend for the Super Bowl? Which are aren't there yet but are trending up? Which are headed in the wrong direction?
Today, we'll start with the last bucket of eight: The teams at the bottom. These are the teams with little hope of a playoff berth this season, let alone a run to the Super Bowl. They're the teams who will ultimately end up competing for the No. 1 draft pick.
This preview series is decidedly not a power rankings. First, though, we're going through eight teams toward the bottom of the win total rankings that I think will be fighting more for the No. 1 pick than the Vince Lombardi Trophy, deciding whether to bet, lean or pass on the over/under season total. Along the way, you'll find 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
Houston Texans Over/Under 4.5 Wins
The Texans swept the lowly Jaguars last season en route to a whopping four win-season and somehow made us forget just how awful this team is.
Look up and down Houston's roster and it's genuinely difficult to find anything that would be considered a strength or even league average. In my team-by-team position rankings model, teams turn red when they're in the danger zone (near the bottom of the league). The Texans are red at QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, EDGE, LB, S and coaching. For those of you keeping track at home, that's … pretty much the entire team.
The Texans are in the middle of a long rebuild and mostly running it back with last year's team, now with past-prime head coach Lovie Smith. The upside on this team rests on QB Davis Mills and RB Dameon Pierce outperforming draft expectations, but don't confuse surprising with good. Smith could raise this team's floor to vaguely competent in a bad division, but that might actually be a worse scenario than bottoming out and securing a top pick next April.
Still, 4.5 is a crazy low win total in an unpredictable league. Even if we give the Texans just a 25% chance of winning each game, that's still 4.25 wins. I project Houston at 5.4 wins because the NFL is tough to predict and upsets happen. If you expect Houston to win four or fewer games, you're better off playing the Texans to have the worst record at +350.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
Atlanta Falcons Over/Under 5 Wins
The Falcons leaned into the rebuild with the Matt Ryan trade, and you have to believe we'll see rookie QB Desmond Ridder sooner than letter in place of veteran Marcus Mariota. Two quarterbacks that can create on the move should amplify Arthur Smith's scheme, and TE Kyle Pitts and rookie WR Drake London give an anemic offense some weapons to work with.
Atlanta is not without talent. Pitts, London, and LT Jake Matthews are building blocks on offense, and the Falcons have one of the better corner combos in the league in A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward. There's some direction here, but it's still a work in progress.
But don't think for a second this was a legitimate seven-win team last season. The Falcons’ -146 point differential (their average loss was by 18 PPG) was the worst for any seven- or even six-win team in NFL history. This year's team should be better in theory, but the win total probably won't show it.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
Seattle Seahawks Over/Under 5.5 Wins
The Seahawks are rebuilding, too, and they might be further behind the Falcons in the process. Seattle has a pair of good receivers and safeties and that's about it, and some of those guys will probably move on before there's a version of this team that matters again.
The Seahawks had one of the more depressing QB battles in recent memory between Geno Smith and Drew Lock, one of those contests where everyone loses. Seattle doesn't just have the 32nd-best player at the most important position in sports. No, that would be too kind. Even top-40 might be.
Seattle is among the league's worst at corner and edge, a devastating combo in the modern NFL, especially for a team that remains forever run-heavy under head coach Pete Carroll. And unlike the Texans and Falcons, Seattle's real death knell is it plays in a tough division with three playoff hopefuls.
I project Seattle at 4.6 wins, 0.75 fewer than any other team. That makes this an easy under, and it means I'll look to bet aggressively against a team that has every incentive to tank down the stretch. Seattle is +200 to go under 4.5, +400 under 3.5 and +750 to post the league's worst record.
Win Total Verdict: Bet under 5.5
New York Jets Over/Under 5.5 Wins
Enough doom and gloom. Jets fans have real reason for hope.
The Jets may not be good yet, but they look closer to average than credited for. Remember how the rosters model turned red for Houston? It turns green for strengths and stays white for neutral. The Jets are mostly white. They're one of only three teams with no green strength, but also the only team in the bottom 10 with three or fewer red weaknesses.
The Jets have done a well-rounded job building out their roster. Rookies Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson add juice offensively, and Elijah Moore is ready to break out in his sophomore season. The defense added a ton of talent. Sauce Gardner is a transformative talent at corner, and the return of last year's big free agent Carl Lawson from injury will be huge. Last year's Jets defense was terrible but had little chance since they led the league in games lost to injury.
Squint a bit and you see some real reason for hope. The Jets leapt from bottom-five to 15th in rushing DVOA despite little talent at RB, a testament to offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur's schemes. The offense overall ranked 30th in DVOA on rookie Zach Wilson plays, but 13th in 300-plus plays without him.
So how far can the Jets go? That will come down to the development of Wilson and Robert Saleh's coaching staff. Wilson was nothing short of horrendous as a rookie. If he can be just bad instead of terrible, the Jets can hang. If he progresses to league average, New York could get out of the division cellar. If Wilson and Saleh are good, the Jets could be a shock playoff contender.
Expect something in the middle of that range of outcomes.
Win Total Verdict: Lean Over 5.5
Chicago Bears Over/Under 6 Wins
The Bears are in no man's land. Chicago invested heavily trading up for Justin Fields last year but hasn't given him a chance, with a decrepit roster and poor coaching schemes. Matt Eberflus represents a change at head coach, but the key name is probably new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who was the Packers' quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator. Still, it's fair to wonder: Is this staff even invested in Fields' future?
For that matter, is team ownership?
Chicago badly needed to give Fields some blocking and pass catchers and didn't really do either. The offensive line is the worst in the league, and Darnell Mooney is more of a WR2 or WR3 than a lead guy. Fields has precious little to work with, and that will make it tough to properly evaluate his progress.
And don't make the mistake of assuming this defense will be solid just because of the jerseys. Chicago jettisoned Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan — and still might move Roquan Smith at some point.
This line has been bet down, but a win total of six is a gift. Chicago has to get to seven wins for us to lose, and just look at the schedule. With the 49ers, Packers, Vikings, Patriots, Cowboys and Dolphins all before the midpoint, Chicago's year could be over before it even gets started.
Win Total Verdict: Bet Under 6
Carolina Panthers Over/Under 6.5 Wins
Unlike some of these teams, the Panthers feel more bad than terrible.
Carolina's defense is dotted with high-potential talents like Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson and Jaycee Horn, while the offense is built around stars Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. Carolina replaced most of its offensive line, building around rookie LT Ikem Ekwonu, and there's reason for optimism up and down the roster.
But are the Panthers what the Giants were a year ago — a talented team with theoretical upside whose core might be rotten?
In this case, the rotten core is the coaching staff and the endless attempts at selling fans on yet another QB reclamation project. This time, it's Baker Mayfield. Coach Matt Rhule was supposed to innovate this offense, and every decision he's made has been puzzling. This is the worst staff in the league and most likely to be fired first (according to the odds) for good reason. Mayfield is talented, but he has yet to find consistency and won't get much scheme help.
However, if Mayfield can be decent, this is the second-best offense in the NFC South and Carolina could flirt with a playoff run in a soft division due to a winnable opening schedule. Just know that any bet on the Panthers is a bet on Mayfield and Rhule.
Win Total Verdict: Pass
New York Giants Over/Under 7.5 Wins
After years of doing it wrong, the Giants are finally doing things the right way. Gone are head coach Joe Judge, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and general manager Dave Gettleman, who built this roster straight out of the 1970s. In their stead are GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, both of whom had great success in Buffalo.
New York is building from the inside out, starting in the trenches. The Giants had a slam-dunk draft, grabbing two guys who were potential No. 1 picks at one point in RT Evan Neal and EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux. The offensive line has been bad for years but finally has its cornerstones in Neal and Andrew Thomas; Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari will be key pass rushers in new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's aggressive scheme.
The Giants have a talented D-line, and the return of a healthy Saquon Barkley could do wonders for their offense. But there are still major questions in the passing game on both sides. The secondary is weak without cornerback James Bradberry. On offense, it's an odd collection of receivers for Daniel Jones — who still has plenty to prove — to work with. Daboll miraculously transformed Josh Allen, but Jones may already be too far gone.
If Jones takes a step, the Giants could surprise. New York has the softest schedule in the league and an easy opening stretch, plus a winnable division. But even Daboll can only do so much. The Giants are building this right, but the next step might be finding their franchise QB.
Win Total Verdict: Lean Under 7.5
Arizona Cardinals Over/Under 8.5 Wins
Surprise! Anyone can tab the Jaguars or Lions for bottom of the league, but I think the Cardinals could shock — in a bad way.
The Cardinals added very little of consequence this offseason. They drastically overpaid for Marquise Brown, but his arrival is more than offset by the loss of Christian Kirk and a third of a season of DeAndre Hopkins due to suspension. Other than that, Arizona is essentially running it back, even after collapsing hard down the stretch and limping out of the playoffs last season.
Vance Joseph's defense has quietly overperformed for years, but Arizona's personnel is aging quickly and now missing its best player in Chandler Jones (gone to the Raiders) and is heavily reliant on turnovers. The offensive line is also on the wrong side of its prime. Either or both areas could fall off. Even if you believe in Kyler Murray, this could quickly devolve into him having to play Superman and do everything for a broken, poorly constructed roster.
Arizona has drafted defensive weapons like Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins but take years learning how to deploy them. Players like Haason Reddick and De'Vondre Campbell develop just in time to leave for other teams. The Cardinals' offense looks like a fantasy football collection of random names who used to be talented at some point. The team just doesn't make sense, and neither does head Kliff Kingsbury and his coaching staff.
Another Kliff Kingsbury regular season in the books!
Let’s update how he’s ended every season as head coach
'14: lost 4 of 5
'15: lost 4 of 6
'16: lost 6 of 8
'17: lost 6 of 8
'18: lost 5 of 5
'19: lost 7 of 9
'20: lost 6 of 9 (1 win by Hail Mary)
‘21: lost 4 of 5
— Matt Mitchell (@olboyunclemitch) January 10, 2022
Kingsbury's teams notoriously collapse late in the year as his squads fail to adjust to adjustments by the opposition, and his offensive schemes remain gimmicky and over-reliant on horizontal movement and stars just doing it on their own. This offense has fallen off the Kliff in the past without Hopkins, so what’s going to happen now with him missing the first six games? The Cards might not even get a chance to collapse this time around.
I'm all the way out on the Cardinals, and I want more than just the under 8.5. Arizona to miss the playoffs at -121 is the better play since it could go over 8.5 and still fall short of the postseason, but I'm looking for more aggressive unders. Arizona under 6.5 is +250 while Kingsbury is +900 to be the first coach fired. If this goes south early with an old, mismatched roster, it could get very ugly in the desert.
Win Total Verdict: Lean Under 8.5