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2021 NFC Over/Unders: Will Packers, other NFC North teams hit Vegas’ expectations?

Why is the Packers’ number so low?

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Earlier this week, we broke down the Over/Under win total numbers for the AFC teams in 2021. In part two of the preview we have the NFC, and we try to answer whether Vegas is kind of down on Green Bay.

All win totals are from Caesar’s Sportsbook. Note that this should not be interpreted as gambling advice.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys
2021 Win Total: 9.5
2020 Record: 6-10
2020 Point Differential: -78
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 4-4

The Cowboys’ 2020 season ended early, when Dak Prescott suffered a brutal fractured leg. When Dak is healthy, and assuming he can produce to the level of pre-injury Dak, the Cowboys offense has plenty of weapons. There are a few things that make me bearish on the Cowboys offense though. The obvious one is Dak. The injury was brutal and if his mobility is more limited or he can’t drive his throws in the same way, that will be a big problem. The second is Mike McCarthy, who is probably just a terrible coach. The Cowboys replaced the unqualified Mike Nolan with the “did not produce a single good defense in Atlanta” Dan Quinn, so I’m not sure there’s a ton of hope on the defensive side of the ball. There are too many red flags here to make me go over.

Verdict: Under

Washington Football Team
2021 Win Total: 8
2020 Record: 7-9
2020 Point Differential: +6
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 3-5

This number seems far too low to me. I don’t think people quite appreciate just how awful Washington’s quarterback situation last year was. The only team with a worse EPA-per-dropback last year was the Adam Gase-led New York Jets. Alex Smith was physically incapable of throwing the ball more than a few yards downfield, and Dwayne Haskins was so bad he is now the third quarterback in Pittsburgh behind Mason Rudolph. Smith and Haskins were two of the three worst quarterbacks in the entire league.

They have now been replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan Fitzpatrick is decent! He’s high-variance and probably not much more than decent on aggregate, but decent! He was sixth in EPA-per-dropback last year. He also adds a very different dynamic. Whereas last year, the offense had to play in a phone booth, Fitzpatrick’s willingness to push the ball down the field opens up a new dynamic for weapons like Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and Curtis Samuel. The offensive line is far from great, but adding Charles Leno for nothing was a big win. The defense only has to be remotely close to their 2020 version for this team to win the division.

Verdict: Over

New York Giants
2021 Win Total: 7
2020 Record: 6-10
2020 Point Differential: -77
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 5-4

The New York Giants are bad. Daniel Jones is going to fumble the ball a ton behind a very bad offensive line. Their ability to get to six wins last year was almost entirely buoyed by a historically awful NFC East, as four of their six came vs NFC East, while another was against a Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati. The division isn’t good, but the return of Dak Prescott and an actual quarterback in Washington should take away those layups. Posting such a starkly negative point differential with that easy of a schedule is difficult. The Giants have a solid trio of wide receivers, but I’m not sure Jones will have enough time to utilize them. The putrid line play also limits what Saquon Barkley can offer. The defense has a few players, but as an overall unit, there isn’t enough there to carry what will likely be a bottom-five offense.

Verdict: Under

Philadelphia Eagles
2021 Win Totals: 7
2020 Record: 4-11-1
2020 Point Differential: -84
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 3-5

This has to be the most confusing total in the NFL. I know far more about the Eagles than other NFL teams due to my brother-in-law being a diehard Eagles fan and let me tell you: This team is not trying to win games in 2021. Their cap situation was a catastrophe this off-season. You think the Saints had it rough? Go look at all the hoops the Eagles jumped through just to field 53 players. Coordinators around the NFL were turning down the Eagles for interviews because this situation is so hopeless for the next two years.

There are real NFL players here, but most of the good ones are either old or injury-prone, so the cliff may be coming for them. There are a couple of young pieces, most notably Devonta Smith, that are intriguing. Jalen Hurts was seen as an upgrade from Carson Wentz last season, but it was only marginally so. He still ranked 29th in EPA-per-dropback and lapped the field as the worst quarterback by CPOE. Hurts provides some level of floor with his ability as a runner, but this passing game is going to struggle.

Verdict: Under

NFC North

Green Bay Packers
2021 Win Total: 11
2020 Record: 13-3
2020 Point Differential: +140
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 4-2

The 2020 Packers were the 2019 Packers, just way better. While the 2019 Packers had unreal one-score variance, the 2020 Packers just rarely even played in them at all. Instead, they largely shellacked opponents. With that in mind, plus the fact that Mike Pettine can’t hurt us anymore, the Packers should not be primed for much regression this year. Aaron Rodgers may not be quite as good as last year, when he ran away with the MVP, but his group of weapons is as good as it has been since Jordy Nelson’s ACL injury. After talking with Justis Mosqueda about what he’s seeing on defense so far, I feel at least okay about the defense, even if CB2 is still a real worry. This division isn’t very good outside of Green Bay, and they should be favored in all but maybe three games this season. Give me the over and another division title.

Verdict: Over

Minnesota Vikings
2021 Win Total: 8.5
2020 Record: 7-9
2020 Point Differential: -45
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 6-4

Can we get odds on Mike Zimmer making Kirk Cousins practice without a red jersey this year? The head coach is absolutely fed up with his moronic quarterback’s lack of vaccination and the fact that his team is one of the least vaccinated in the NFL. Not only is Cousins not vaccinated, but rookie quarterback Kellen Mond apparently is not either. In the likely scenario that they both miss a game this year, the Vikings do not have a third quarterback on the depth chart. Sean Mannion would have to be elevated from the practice squad. Given that and the fact that the Vikings defense is a conglomeration of old guys, let me take the under here.

Verdict: Under

Chicago Bears
2021 Win Total: 7.5
2020 Record: 8-8
2020 Point Differential: +2
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 6-5

Remember the 5-1 Chicago Bears? The one entirely reliant on a 5-1 record in one-score games? Good times. After the pixie dust wore off, the Bears were a slog of bleh down the stretch as regression hit them. I like Justin Fields as a prospect, but I don’t think we see him for at least a few weeks. The Bears goal this year isn’t to be good, it’s for Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace to not get fired, so they want to sell some Justin Fields hope in the second half of the season. The Bears defense is aging and Khalil Mack’s 8.6% pressure rate is a far cry from the elite EDGE guy we saw in the middle part of the past decade. The offensive line is a travesty, so keeping Fields from getting David Carr’d might actually be the right thing to do for the future of the franchise.

Verdict: Under

Detroit Lions
2021 Win Total: 5
2020 Record: 5-11
2020 Point Differential: -142
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 4-4

The downgrade from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff is massive. If you look at the past few years, Sean McVay had to hold Goff’s hand with quality offensive weapons to get a reasonable passing game from him. Now instead of McVay, Goff has Dan Campbell and Anthony Lynn running the offense. Now instead of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, he now has perhaps the worst group of wide receivers in modern NFL history. The Lions and Texans are going to compete for the league’s worst offense. The good news is that the defense was the worst in the NFL last year and added no meaningful talent.

Verdict: Under

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 Win Total: 11.5
2020 Record: 11-5
2020 Point Differential: +137
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 3-3

The Buccaneers are clearly the best team in the NFC South and are heavy favorites to take the division. They return almost the entirety of the team that won the Super Bowl. They did have the benefit of being by far the healthiest team in the NFL last year. By adjusted games lost, the difference between them at the #2 team (Los Angeles Rams) was the same as the #2 and the #8 team. Other potential pitfalls are if Brady finally just falls off, but we’ll see if that ever happens. The defense probably won’t be quite as good this year, but this is a talented unit with a very good coordinator.

Verdict: Over

New Orleans Saints
2021 Win Total: 9.5
2020 Record: 12-4
2020 Point Differential: +145
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 5-3

I think there’s a misconception that this is the same team as last year with Jameis Winston replacing Drew Brees, but that’s not the case. Michael Thomas basically Scottie Pippen’d them by waiting to get surgery until right before camp, so the team has zero proven wide receivers. They also lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook. They lost 197 targets from their team last year and among their top four receivers, only running back Alvin Kamara is back. It’s also not like they replaced them with other proven options. The top three wide receivers are Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, and Deonte Harris and the starting tight end is Adam Trautman. On defense, Trey Hendrickson left in free agency, David Onyemata is suspended to start the year, and Janoris Jenkins was a cap casualty. This is NOT the same team as last year, and there’s no guarantee that Winston will be better than Brees.

Verdict: Under

Carolina Panthers
2021 Win Total: 7.5
2020 Record: 5-11
2020 Point Differential: -52
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 3-8

The one-score game regression is a real possibility with Carolina, but they’ve likely also downgraded at quarterback. Sure, Adam Gase is terrible, but Sam Darnold probably just stinks. Carolina also does not have an excellent offensive line to provide him with protection, and the left side in particular is a mess. There are weapons there, but the combo of offensive line and quarterback probably sink this offense. The defense was below-average last year, but there are a couple of players, particularly Brian Burns, that flash. I think this is pretty clearly the worst team in the division.

Verdict: Under

Atlanta Falcons
2021 Win Total: 7
2020 Record: 4-12
2020 Point Differential: -18
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 2-8

The Falcons are the best positive regression candidate in the NFL. Despite losing Julio Jones, the offense should still have enough for Matt Ryan to be efficient, particularly with Arthur Smith coming in to direct it. Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, and Hayden Hurst, combined with an offensive line that shouldn’t be the disaster it was a few years ago, should get Atlanta to above average on offense. The Falcons defense is going to be awful outside of Grady Jarrett, so there’s a real chance that unit just sinks the team.

Verdict: Over

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams
2021 Win Total: 10.5
2020 Record: 10-6
2020 Point Differential: +76
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 3-4

The upgrade from Goff to Stafford is a big one, but maybe not quite as big as some people believe, at least on the Rams end. Stafford is a fine quarterback, but he’s never been a high-end quarterback for an entire season despite spending most of his career with one of the most dominant wide receivers in league history. The Rams defense likely regresses some this year, partially due to the departures of Brandon Staley and John Johnson III, and partially due to simple regression. They should still be a top-10 unit with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey being game wreckers, and I think they’re deserved favorites in the NFC West. One thing to consider is that they were the second healthiest team in the league last year.

Verdict: Over

Seattle Seahawks
2021 Win Total: 10
2020 Record: 12-4
2020 Point Differential: +88
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 8-3

You’ll never believe this but the Seahawks’ record yet again outperformed their performances. This off-season there was some mild turmoil between the organization and Russell Wilson, but things have been all quiet on that front for some time now. The offense should be good again, assuming the late season scuffles and subsequent off-season adjustments are resolved. The defense is such a far cry from the Legion of Boom group. The cornerback room is thin and they lack production along the front line. Bobby Wagner is still good, but he’s at the age where things can go south. I still trust that Wilson and company can take care of business on offense to get them into the playoffs with relative comfort.

Verdict: Over

San Francisco 49ers
2021 Win Total: 10
2020 Record: 6-10
2020 Point Differential: -14
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 3-4

These are dangerous words I suppose, but does anyone else think the 49ers are getting too much hype this year? The defensive coordinator for their elite defense in 2019 is now in New York, and a few of the key cogs of that defense are no longer there. No team was more decimated by injuries last year than the 49ers, though. By adjusted games lost, they lost five times as much production to injuries as Tampa Bay. One of the big reasons for that was losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who may not even be the starter by the week 6 bye, let alone by season’s end. I think it’s important to note that Jimmy G isn’t all that good, even when healthy, and Trey Lance is a massive project as a passer. They have a strong stable of weapons for those two in Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. I could absolutely see Kyle Shanahan getting this team to eleven wins, but there’s too much potential downside at quarterback, in addition to being in a very strong division, for me to lean that way.

Verdict: Under

Arizona Cardinals
2021 Win Total: 8
2020 Record: 6-10
2020 Point Differential: -14
2020 Record in One-Score Games: 4-5

Despite pushing all the chips in, the Cardinals are still seen as a pretty distant fourth in the NFC West. If this team doesn’t show some real promise, the Kliff Kingsbury experiment is likely over, and justifiably so. His brand of the air-raid has not worked as he has Kyler Murray, he of elite arm talent, throwing the ball behind the line of scrimmage more than anyone else. Despite getting some undeserved MVP hype after the Hail Mary victory against Buffalo, Murray hasn’t been more than average-ish yet. The team feels young because of Murray, but they’ve pushed a lot of money onto veterans like Nuk Hopkins, AJ Green, Rodney Hudson, JJ Watt, and Chandler Jones. If they get injuries or underperformances from any of those guys, this team is not deep enough to withstand it.

Verdict: Under