The lines for NFL season win total over/unders are now largely set after the first week of preseason. There might be an injury-related fluctuation here or there, but for the most part, the line totals now are where the bookmakers expect the teams to land.
Betting on season win totals is an exercise in patience, but it can be quite rewarding too. Not every line is worth pursuing, but there are a few that stand out as worthwhile investments.
Here is where my money would flow on NFL season win total over/unders for 2021.
All lines are from BetOnline and are current as of August 18th
Arizona Cardinals 8.5 OVER
Buying into the Cardinals requires a leap of faith or two in a couple of variables that could certainly go either way. Are the new additions (Rodney Hudson, A.J. Green, J.J. Watt, rookies Zaven Collins and Rondale Moore) going to elevate the holes on the roster that they should, and is Kliff Kingsbury the right coach to get the most out of Kyler Murray, Isaiah Simmons and Budda Baker?
I’m iffy on Kliffy (sorry, I had to…), but the frontline talents are hard to ignore. Murray should perk up in his third season, and having Green to pair with DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and the dynamic Moore gives Murray and the offense so many dangerous weapons. Hudson’s signing sailed under the national radar, but adding arguably the best center in the league for pennies on the dollar should be one of the five best moves of the offseason around the league.
Cleveland Browns 10.5 OVER
The 2020 Browns went 11-5 and did so with a rookie head coach, myriad roster shuffling due to COVID-19 outbreaks, several key injuries and a makeshift defense that has been upgraded at almost every position. The arrow in Cleveland is pointing way up. It’s very difficult to fathom a team with so many legit stars and one of the brightest young coaches and GMs in Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry winning fewer games in 2020, especially when adding in an extra opportunity with the 17th game. Oh yeah, they also added the best safety on the market in John Johnson to plug the biggest hole on the defense. Going from Andrew Sendejo to John Johnson as the field general in the secondary is like going from Super 8 to the Ritz Carlton.
If this roster was in Dallas or San Francisco, the over/under line would be no less than 12.5, no question about it. But it’s Cleveland and there will always be skepticism -- much of it deserved from years of infinite disappointment. Take advantage of the watered-down expectations based on a bad franchise history and trust what 2020 and the roster tell you. This is a 12-5 or 13-4 team and arguably the best roster 1 thru 53 in the entire NFL.
Dallas Cowboys 9 UNDER
Dallas went 6-10 a year ago. While some of that lack of success is certainly tied to Dak Prescott’s gruesome injury, it’s also important to note they went 2-3 when he started and the teams they beat both finished with worse records than Dallas did. That Cowboys defense was wretched.
Adding Micah Parsons will help the pass rush, but their defensive front four remains one of the weakest in the NFL. The secondary has enough questions too. I just don’t see how they win four more games than they did a year ago with this defense, even if Dak is healthy and his ample supply of weapons meets their considerable potential. Having Mike McCarthy as the head coach doesn’t help the cause for the over here. They do have a manageable schedule, at least on paper, which makes them the least confident bet listed here.
Houston Texans 4 UNDER
It’s difficult to predict a team to finish 3-14 or worse. So many things have to come together just right, or wrong as may be the case here, to lose more than three times as many games as a team wins. Alas, the Texans check those boxes:
- Rookie head coach, and one that nobody else has ever considered hiring to that role
- QB issues that are beyond Deshaun Watson’s legal issues
- No real playmakers on offense
- No real playmakers on defense, though Justin Reid and the secondary might be decent
- Void created by top talents (Hopkins, Watt, Watson, McKinney) leaving and being replaced by journeymen
That ignores the front office situation, where the team is being run by a Bill Belichick protege and a charlatan motivational preacher. The players are keenly aware their ship is being captained with feckless ineptitude not seen in major pro sports since the Ted Stepien-era Cleveland Cavaliers. I expect the play on the field will reflect it. They’ll win two on the basis of other teams overlooking them. Hard to see that happening five times to make the over...
Los Angeles Rams 10.5 UNDER
The sizzle factor of upgrading from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford is legit. The Rams went 10-6 with Goff, and it was clear that the loss of confidence in the QB from coach Sean McVay limited the team. The Rams are often touted as a viable Super Bowl contender for adding Stafford.
I think that ignores the other moves the Rams made this offseason. Their best safety, John Johnson, is now in Cleveland. Their very good slot corner, Troy Hill, went with Johnson. The second-best defensive lineman, Michael Brockers, is in Detroit. Their third-best DL, Morgan Fox, is in Carolina. Prominent WR Josh Reynolds is in Tennessee. The Rams replaced those significant losses with 34-year-old DeSean Jackson and internal promotion of players you’ve probably never heard of, not even in college. Factor in Stafford’s recent but very real back problems -- he broke his back in both 2018 and 2019 -- as an underlying worry and the under is an easy buy here.
Minnesota Vikings 9 OVER
The Vikings defense collapsed in 2020, especially up front. Losing star pass rusher Danielle Hunter for the season did not get enough notoriety. Top free agent signee Michael Pierce opted out. It ruined Mike Zimmer’s defense. The Vikings started 1-5, giving up 32 points per game and creating just five takeaways in that span.
Hunter and Pierce are back. Just for good measure, the Vikings added Sheldon Richardson and Dalvin Tomlinson, too. There are significant losses on the back end to offset, notably standout safety Anthony Harris, but revitalizing the pass rush should help a lot. They benefit from playing opposite what should remain a top-10 offense.
Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, a healthy Adam Thielen, a better line than it appears on paper and some promising young supporting cast, that’s an impressive offense in Minnesota. Kirk Cousins (rightly) gets mocked for not being great, but in the last three seasons with the Vikings he’s averaged over 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs per year with a completion rate of a very nice 69 percent. All of that production is stable. If the defense gives them anything at all, this is a team that wins 10-12 games with their favorable schedule. Remember, they finished 6-4 after the terrible start.
New York Giants 7 UNDER
The talent on this Giants team is eminently capable of winning the NFC East and finishing with a winning record. It would take a lot of good fortune on the health front and Daniel Jones emerging as a more consistent quarterback, but those are plausible outcomes.
What’s not plausible is seeing Joe Judge coach this team to its potential. His crass imitation of abysmal Lions failure Matt Patricia is difficult to watch. Three players have already retired rather than dealing with his rigid, overbearing pomposity. There was a full-team brawl, and they take their anger with them, inciting several skirmishes in joint practices with the Browns this very week. They could overcome the coaching, they really could; the defensive front four and back five should be very good, and Saquon Barkley at full speed is a fun shot in the arm to the offense. But the players appear already checked out on Judge in the same way I watched Patricia lose a talented Lions roster before they ever took the field a year ago. I’ll take that risk on the under, but fully knowing this Giants roster is capable of winning 10.
Washington Football Team 8.5 OVER
Washington captured the NFC East last year almost entirely on the back of a top-5 overall defense. It’s a defense that’s good at everything. They stop the run, they stop the pass, they create takeaways, they smother in the red zone, everything that a great defense needs to do.
Now they’ve upgraded the offense, and it goes beyond the change at QB. But the new quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is also a dramatic upgrade. Adding in Curtis Samuel to balance the receiving corps opposite young star Terry McLaurin, with rookie Dyami Brown sprinkled in, makes this a Football Team offense that can prevail on days when the great defense isn’t at its best. Their schedule worked out great for a returning first-place team, too. I’ll be stunned if this Football Team doesn’t win at least 9 games for Ron Rivera.
I’m not confident enough to put my money on any of these, but I have a few leans on some totals too:
Bills OVER 11
Colts UNDER 9
Saints UNDER 9
Titans OVER 9
Be smart with your gambling investments. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.