2021 NFL season win totals: Over/under picks for all 32 teams
By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
NFL win totals were announced last week, meaning it's time for me to judge them.
To steal from "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," I’ll be grading these win totals by porridge temperature: too hot, too cold, or just right. (And remember: It's a 17-game schedule for the first time, folks.)
Let's start temperature testing, with win totals courtesy of FOX Bet.
Buffalo is the model NFL franchise at building its team around the quarterback and the identity of its coaching staff. The Bills continue to bolster the offense with smart signings, like Emmanuel Sanders, while also extending core players like Daryl Williams and Matt Milano. While I think Josh Allen takes a small step back this season, only the Kansas City Chiefs are better in the AFC.
The Patriots went 7-9 last season with a bad roster and poor quarterback play in the last two months of the season. Cam Newton was a different player after returning from his COVID-19 absence and had no weapons on offense. The Patriots went big in free agency to make up for their inability to draft and develop certain positions. Considering their record last season, the improvement of Newton, and the talent added, I do believe they make a push for the playoffs.
The Dolphins won football games last season because of their defense, special teams and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Well, Fitz is gone and defensive regression is real. The Dolphins aren’t going to win games in the manner they did last season and I’m not confident enough in Tua Tagovailoa’s abilities to feel great about them being a playoff team now. The Fins win eight or nine games.
For starters, I’m not sold on Zach Wilson being the savior he’s advertised to be, assuming he is the selection at No. 2. Also, the Jets have a new coaching staff and as of now, still need to build up the roster. To win more than six games, they probably need at least two wins in the division. I don’t see it.
... I think. It’s all about Carson Wentz. Can Frank Reich turn him from below average to just average? Average quarterback play in this division, with this roster, should get the Colts to at least 10 wins.
I’d lean under here but the division isn’t very strong. I’m worried about the Titans losing offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to the Atlanta Falcons. Smith transformed the offense, and more importantly, quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Titans did attempt to improve their defense, as it was a hot mess last season, but I’ll believe in the improvement when I see it.
A coach new to the NFL in Urban Meyer, paired with a rookie quarterback and no offseason program, plus a roster in rebuild mode (even if it's not that bad a roster) means I lean slightly under here.
This number is all about Deshaun Watson and A) the Texans' ability to trade him and B) his off-the-field legal issues. If A happens, which I doubted even before the legal concerns, then they will not win five games. But if A doesn’t happen, and B doesn’t lead to a prolonged time away from the team, Watson is good enough to win over five games in a 17-game schedule. This is a win total I’d stay away from.
The Ravens might not be the best playoff team, but they win regular-season games. They are well-coached and their tough offensive scheme is tough to defend. And they continue to have a chip on their shoulder. Give me the Ravens with 12 wins or more.
I’m not as high on the Browns this season as last. I think we’ve seen quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, who are extremely schemed up, struggle year to year. If things aren’t working well for the Browns offense, Mayfield isn’t the guy to take over and win the game. However, I do like how the Browns have built the roster and I do believe they are right around nine or 10 wins.
The Steelers are one of the toughest teams to figure out for 2021. Mike Tomlin has yet to finish a season under .500, even without Big Ben in 2019. Last season, the Steelers started on fire but fizzled out down the stretch, with Ben looking his age. He’s back this season and history would tell us that it’s unlikely he becomes "young" again. So an aging QB, plus a team that seems to always play well enough to land above .500, should be around nine wins.
If the Bengals draft a wide receiver with the fifth pick, I’m taking their under for win total. That tells me they don’t understand how to build their roster to protect Joe Burrow. The first season off an ACL injury can be up and down for a quarterback, and Cincinnati plays in a tough division. I don't think we should expect much from the Bengals this season unless Burrow outperforms his recovery.
The Chiefs are still the kings of the AFC and with a left tackle in the draft, they will be set for next season. Remember, they still have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and losing the Super Bowl will wake them up. They sleep-walked through parts of last regular season and still won 14 of 15 games when Mahomes started.
I don’t feel excellent about this one because we know nothing about what Brandon Staley will do in his first head coaching gig, but Justin Herbert played outstanding as a rookie and the roster is set. They need a left tackle in the draft and have to have a healthy Derwin James.
The Raiders have no idea what they are doing with their team so I’m fading them all season. Plus, Jon Gruden is awful late in the season when things matter the most. I’m out on them.
Who the heck is playing quarterback and why would I trust that person right now? Every offseason we talk about the Broncos as being close to competing for a playoff spot again. I need to see them actually do it before I buy into them.
While it’s fun to mock Kirk Cousins, the Vikings' offense finished the season eighth in DVOA. It was Mike Zimmer’s defense that struggled at times last season. I’ll bet on Zimmer’s defense being better this season, however. The Vikings should win nine games.
There’s no reason to believe the Packers will be worse than last season, other than maybe regression to the mean. Aaron Rodgers should continue to play well in this quarterback-friendly offense, and a change at defensive coordinator should make that unit complement the offense.
The Bears will be better with Andy Dalton, who’s criminally underrated. However, I just don’t get great vibes from the offensive staff in Chicago. They are stubborn and seem unwilling to tailor the offense to their quarterback. Maybe they will work better with Dalton than they did with Mitch Trubisky.
There is no Jared Goff rebirth in Detroit. I don’t like the vibes from Dan Campbell. They have a terrible defensive roster and lost weapons at wide receiver. I'm out on the Lions.
Tampa Bay should be better in its second year with Tom Brady. The Bucs are running back the same crew that got it done last season and with Brady, there will be no Super Bowl hangover. Plus, the New Orleans Saints got worse in the division.
Out on the Saints. While I don’t believe Jameis Winston will be as awful in 2021 as he was in 2019, he’s clearly not Drew Brees. The roster was gutted a bit to get under the cap, and I think they will have a massive Drew Brees hangover.
The Falcons have a talented roster, especially on offense. Arthur Smith fixed Ryan Tannehill, and I think the offense will be awesome with Matt Ryan this season. Defensively, there’s work to do, but it can’t be worse than what former head coach Dan Quinn was doing.
The Panthers will have Sam Darnold under center this season, and with a new franchise and a fresh start with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, I believe he can be better. The Panthers still feel like a stay-away, though.
I’m in on the FitzMagic train this season. Washington is well-coached. This team plays hard and has a talented skill position room to help Fitz. With Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio running the defense together, that unit will continue to be good. The Washington defensive line might be the best in the league.
Call me crazy, but I’m going back to the well with the Cowboys, who I picked to win the NFC last season. Dak Prescott will be healthy, and it’s their second year in this new offense. Defensively, we saw them improve throughout the season last year. If they can add a cornerback at No. 10 in the draft, the defense should improve enough to help the offense win games.
I'm not sold on Daniel Jones. Probably because I hate the Giants, right, "Big Blue" fans? The Giants need a pass rusher and have to develop their offensive line more. I think seven or eight wins is about right for the G-Men this season.
The Eagles are a hot mess. Need I say more? But I’m glad their coach is playing rock-paper-scissors with potential draftees.
If the 49ers draft Mac Jones, I’m out on them. But if they keep Jimmy Garoppolo and draft Justin Fields, I’m in for their over. When Kyle Shanahan had a healthy quarterback in 2019, the Niners made the Super Bowl. Shanahan can flat out coach and they can’t be as injured on defense this season.
The defense will regress but I do think Matt Stafford is an upgrade over Goff. I was down on the Rams heading into 2020 and McVay proved me wrong. I don’t want to be wrong here. I think they hover between 10 and 12 wins.
My boss is a Seahawks fan, and he told me I had to write this. So, I'm listing it as "under" for him. In reality, I think Seattle will win over 9.5 just to torture their fan base into thinking they can win the Super Bowl, only to run the ball 40 times in a playoff loss.
I’m way out on Kliff Kingsbury. Poor game manager and his offense is too predictable. They play in a tough division where Kingsbury is routinely outcoached. I do believe in Kyler Murray but not much else on that roster.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.