3 NFL Win Totals To Bet Now: Packers, Broncos & Washington Football Team
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers
NFL betting analyst Raheem Palmer runs through three 2021 win totals he’s betting now.
Packers Under 10.5 Wins (+118)
The 2020 Green Bay Packers had a dream season.
They finished 13-3 behind Aaron Rodgers’ MVP season, during which he threw for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns with a 121.5 passer rating and 84.4 mark in ESPN’s Total QBR. They had the league’s top scoring offense at 31.8 points per game while ranking first in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, expected points added (EPA) per play and success rate.
While many people believed that the Packers would be prime regression candidates in 2020, the offense improved enough in Year 2 of Matt LaFleur to overcome lowered expectations for a team that finished 2019 with a Pythagorean Expectation of just 7.65 wins.
For those who aren’t familiar with Pythagorean Expectation, it’s a formula devised by Bill James to estimate the percentage of games a baseball team “should” have won based on the number of runs they scored and allowed. This was later adopted to football — typically teams that win more than what their Pythagorean Expectation projects tend to regress the next season while teams that lose more than the projection tend to win more games the following year.
For the second straight year, the Packers over-performed their Pythagorean Expectation as they’ve won 13 games despite having a Pythagorean Expectation of 10.9 wins.
One of the biggest reasons for their success over the past two seasons is their dominance over the NFC North: They’ve gone 11-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of the Vikings in Week 8 of 2020 in a game that high winds impacted the deep passing game. Other than the Patriots for a significant portion of their dynasty and the Chiefs over the past three seasons, there aren’t many teams that have had this level of success in their division.
That said, the NFC North should be better in 2021 with improvements from the Vikings and Bears. And while the Lions aren’t expected to improve based on their win total, the Packers don’t have an easy schedule. Outside of the NFC North, they’ll face the NFC West and the AFC North as well as the Chiefs for their added 17th game, so there’s not a ton of easy wins. In fact, according to my colleague Travis Reed’s model, the Packers have the seventh-toughest strength of schedule — their opponents had a win percentage of .542 with a combined regular-season record of 147-124-1 in 2020.
One of the biggest issues facing the Packers is on the offensive line.
They’ll start the season without left tackle David Bakhtiari, who tore his ACL at the end of last season. They also recently lost center Corey Linsley through free agency. These losses are especially tough considering their slate of opponents feature Khalil Mack (twice), T.J. Watt, Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, Chase Young, Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt.
After losing their starting center and with their star left tackle down, this team will have to avoid any offensive line injuries to overcome a defense that was just 17th in DVOA. The Packers defense also ranked 20th in total success rate — they’ve struggled to stop the run much of the past few seasons, and outside of Jaire Alexander, they don’t have another reliable corner.
Overall, if they experience any regression on offense or Rodgers shows signs of his age at 37, the Packers will take the step back they were predicted to make last season. I’m willing to bet on that.
Washington Over 8 Wins (-134)
It’s hard not to like the Washington Football Team.
When handicapping the NFL, the first thing I like to look at is how a team dominates the trenches — and that’s certainly something Washington does on the defensive side of the ball. Despite boasting a bottom-10 scoring offense, this defense was so dominant in 2020 that it was able to overcome the poor offense and win the NFC East while allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (20.6) and the second-fewest yards (304.6).
Washington was third in defensive success rate, EPA/play and DVOA, including second against the pass and 11th against the run. While defense tends to regress more year-over-year, Washington’s defensive line is among the best in the NFL with Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Da’Ron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, who combined for 48 sacks and were third in pressure percentage (27.5%).
The biggest factor for Washington is how the team can improve on offense.
Based on the Football Team replacing the 2020 quarterback carousel of Dwayne Haskins, the immobile Alex Smith, Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke with Ryan Fitzpatrick or whoever they select in the draft, it’s clear that this unit will be much improved and should score more than 20.9 points per game in 2021. Terry McLaurin is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the league and Antonio Gibson can certainly take the pressure off Fitzpatrick in the run game.
This team slightly underperformed its point differential, but the improvement from replacement-level QBs (Haskins -40.1 DVOA and Smith -39.7) to an average one (Fitzpatrick +7.5%) should make the world of difference.
With the Eagles in rebuilding mode, the Giants’ quarterback and offensive line issues, and the Cowboys’ struggles on defense in addition to the uncertainty of how Dak Prescott will look coming back from injury, the Washington Football Team feels like the most complete team in this division.
Broncos Over 7.5 Wins (+100)
I’m not sure you can find a more unlucky team than the 2020 Denver Broncos.
Although they won as many games as their Pythagorean Expectation projected them to win, they were absolutely decimated by injuries, losing key players on both sides from Von Miller to Courtland Sutton. Head coach Vic Fangio is always going to field a top tier defense, and despite all of the injuries, this defense was still 13th in DVOA and 10th in total success rate.
With a healthy defense in addition to the free-agent signings of defensive end Shelby Harris and cornerback Ronald Darby, I truly don’t see this team giving up 446 points again this season.
The Broncos lost six one-score games in 2020 with a league-worst turnover differential of -16. Although Drew Lock throwing for 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions played a major factor in this team not winning more, it’s clear we should expect to see some positive injury and turnover regression, especially if the Broncos acquire a replacement quarterback through the draft.
They’re loaded with weapons in Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant and Melvin Gordon, so any upgrade over Lock (-16.2 DVOA) should allow the Broncos to have a shot at making the playoffs. I’ll play the over 7.5 wins here.