Win totals are always a tricky future bet to pursue. It only takes a few key injuries before a team’s season could fall apart. That being said, there’s still plenty of money to be made based on the information we have at hand.
Between now and the start of the season there aren’t many things that are going to shake up rosters. We’ve already completed the draft and most free agents have already found their new homes.
Now’s the time to start taking a collective look at all of the transactions a team has made over the course of the season and see how well that can translate to win totals. Strength of schedule plays a role, but it’s one piece of a large puzzle with so many offseason changes made around the league. Last year’s 12-4 team could easily become an 8-8 squad with a few key retirements or free agent departures.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest glaring win totals in the NFC that could be worth pursuing.
Carolina Panthers (7.5 Wins) – OVER
This line started at 8.5, but a decent number of books have it available for 7.5. I’m pursuing those specific outlets to hit the OVER on 7.5 wins for the Panthers this season. I’m a big believer in what Norv Turner was able to do with this offense, as they opened the first half of the season with a 6-2 record. A mid-season shoulder injury to Cam Newton (first listed on the injury report in Week 8) that progressively got worse played a major part in them losing seven of their last eight games. Nine of his 13 interceptions came in the final six weeks of his play and his averaged depth of target dropped from 7.9 down to 7.2.
The Panthers enter this season not only with a healthy Newton, but also with a revamped defensive front that’s set to create multiple looks against the defense. The additions of Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, and first round pick, Brian Burns should help a defensive pass rush that finished bottom-six in sacks last year. Coming out in multiple fronts will keep opposing offenses constantly changing protections and blocking assignments, hopefully providing some confusing snaps for the defense to capitalize on with either a sack or turnover.
This team went 7-9 last year with a quarterback that struggled immensely in the second half of the season. If Newton can stay healthy — and he’s currently right on track in his rehab according to minicamp reports — the Panthers should smash this 7.5 win total with ease.
Chicago Bears (9.5 Wins) – UNDER
Another line that’s shifted from it’s debut, we saw this line for the Bears start at 8.5, but now most places have it available for 9.5 or 9. Mitchell Trubisky still has more questions than answers at this point in his career. His accuracy numbers — despite being loaded with receiving talent — remain a concern. He finished last year 33rd out of 38 qualifying in PFF’s Adjusted Completion rate, which takes out throwaways, spikes, batted balls, etc. Trubisky also has had a difficult time when trailing late in games (final four minutes) with a 50.1 QB Rating. When pressured, Trubisky’s accuracy dropped to third-worst of all quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks, at just 58.0%. In a game like football where so much is dictated by the performance of the quarterback, it’s tough for me to see Trubisky continuously put Chicago in situations to succeed, unless we see a massive step forward this year.
The Bears also had a significant number of starters walk this offseason. Running back Jordan Howard was traded to the Eagles. Bryce Callahan joined former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in Denver. The Bears will also face Adrian Amos twice now with him in a Packers uniform. Chicago will be employing a new defense under Chuck Pagano. The last time Pagano was in that role was nearly a decade ago in 2011.
The Bears’ 2019 schedule is also a rather challenging one. They have the fifth-toughest schedule base on last year’s combined opponents win percentage (.52) and have some particularly daunting road games — at Denver against Vic Fangio, at London against the new-look Raiders, at Philadelphia who eliminated them from the postseason last year, at the Rams who led the NFC in wins last season, and then three divisional road matches which are always a tough battle in the NFC North. Led by an inexperienced quarterback that continues to have accuracy concerns, it’s tough to argue that Chicago can come anywhere close to repeating last season’s 12-4 record. I’m taking the UNDER on 9.5 wins.
Green Bay Packers (9.5 Wins) – OVER
Seeking out double-digit wins isn’t generally a thing I’m eager to do. It’s difficult to win in the National Football League and it’s even more difficult to have all your core players stay healthy for 16 games. I’m still taking the Packers OVER here with them easily winning the division. I’ve been enamored with the moves this team has made his offseason. The long overdue firing of Mike McCarthy and his stale offense in favor of incorporating Matt LaFleur’s concepts should bring new life to this Packers squad. Aaron Rodgers still has plenty left in the tank to lead this team to a deep postseason run, and with his young receivers gaining another year of experience, things are looking up for the Packers offense in 2019.
Secondly, the Packers attacked the defense as a priority this offseason. They added Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, and first rounder Rashan Gary to help bolster their pass rush. They spent another first round pick on safety Darnell Savage Jr. to pair with free agent acquistion Amos at safety. Their linebackers in the middle — Blake Martinez and Oren Burks — gained another year of experience and has been a position that’s notably stood out in minicamp so far. The new GM Brian Gutekunst put an immediate stamp on this team with his offseason acquisitions in his first year. A reloaded defense to pair with an experienced offense that is led by Rodgers makes this the team to beat in the NFC North.
As such, you shouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that I listed in my bold predictions that the Packers are my favorite to not only take home the division, but to also win the NFC. Excluding Rodgers’ first year as a starting quarterback, the Packers have had double-digit wins in seven of the eight seasons where he’s played at least 15 games. I’m taking the OVER here at 9.5 wins and also throwing some bones on Green Bay taking home the Lombardi trophy in 2019.