NFL season win totals dropped way back in March (what a time to be alive!) and I went through every single division then, looking at my favorite immediate bets. There's a lot more clarity now after offseason roster moves are largely done, contracts are mostly signed and we know what we're getting ... at least until we don't after the season starts.
There's a pick for every single team, plus a look at our SportsLine projection model simulations, but if I actually believe a team is worth betting on I'll include a note.
You can check out NFC East and NFC West here, NFC North and NFC South are below.
Let's get to it.
Over 9.5 (-125)/Under 9.5 (-110)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 9.1 wins
It is freaking wild for the Detroit Lions to be preseason division favorites in the NFC North and maybe the third (?) best team in the NFC. Then you look at the roster ... and it makes total sense. You could make a galaxy brain argument the Lions have -- if you count the quarterback position -- as good a roster as the 49ers. Jared Goff on the Niners and they're the second favorite to win the Super Bowl behind Kansas City. Detroit has a top-five offensive line, Goff is playing great football, Amon-Ra St.-Brown is the biggest superstar your friends don't realize is a superstar, and the Lions rejiggered their running game to feature a very nice combo of veteran David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs.
Say what you want about using first-round picks on a running back (Gibbs) and a linebacker (Jack Campbell) in terms of analytical value, but both guys are going to be impact players for Detroit in 2023. So will cornerback Brian Branch, who's been flying around during the preseason and might allow Detroit to shift Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to safety, where he really thrived for Philadelphia's defense last year.
The only reason to fade this Lions team is Detroit's history of being terrible. SportsLine's projection model sees the Lions going under as well, winning 9.1 games in the simulations (and making the playoffs 62% of the time while winning the division 44% of the time). How the Lions bounce back at home against Atlanta and Seattle, regardless of what happens in Kansas City, might determine which way this one goes.
Brinson's pick: Lions over 9.5 wins (-125)
Over 8.5 (-125)/Under 8.5 (+105)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 8.0 wins
Easily the strangest Vegas projection in the entire NFL. The Vikings won 13 games last year, Aaron Rodgers left the division, and now Minnesota isn't even the favorite to win the division, not to mention Vegas sees them as a barely .500 team (the juice here implies nine wins is likely, but the 8.5 number is wild).
However, there's reason for skepticism: the Vikings went an unprecedented 11-0 in one-score games last year, the first time a team's done that in NFL history. They lost Dalvin Cook and Za'Darius Smith this offseason, although it's not like the defense was good last year to begin with. Brian Flores coming on board should help if the personnel is enough. Adam Thielen also left, but was replaced by first-round rookie Jordan Addison, and the early returns are positive. Minnesota was also top-five in terms of health last year based on Adjusted Games Lost, and its point differential was that of an 8.4-win team last year, not a 13-win team. I'm inclined to lean into the metrics here and back the under.
Brinson's pick: Vikings under 8.5 wins (+105)
Over 7.5 (-140)/Under 7.5 (+120)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 7.7 wins
The juice is flying up on the Packers win total Jordan Love, so if you like the under on Green Bay, now would be the time to buy, especially with Bill Belichick and the aggressive Patriots preseason defense looming on the horizon in Week 2. If Love struggles, this number could dip a bit (it could also move up if he looks sharp again).by
The general consensus just seems to be turning on the new Packers franchise quarterback. Play-calling could be a concern, as Brady Quinn detailed on a recent edition of the "Pick Six NFL" podcast, with no Rodgers in the fold. But the young weapons, like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, are tied to Love for the future and have shown some growth. The offensive line is very, very solid, if not stout. And if the defense is league average, this team can absolutely win the division. Green Bay +380 to win the NFC North is a pretty solid stab.
Brinson's pick: Packers over 7.5 wins (-140)
Over 7.5 (-130)/Under 7.5 (+110)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 7.1 wins
The hype train rolls on unabated! The Bears made major upgrades this offseason, and those only served to swirl up more interest in Chicago after D.J. Moore and Khalil Herbert scored long touchdowns from Justin Fields in the first two possessions of Week 1. Fields didn't throw the ball down the field, per se, but there's no doubt this Bears team is BETTER.
Just how much better is the question. They added several off-ball linebackers (key for a Matt Eberflus defense) but should still be questionable on that side of the ball. The offensive line was the biggest issue, so adding Nate Davis in free agency and Darnell Wright in the draft create immediate, massive upgrades at two spots. If Fields takes some massive step, then the Bears will blow this number out of the water. I'm still inclined to fade the hype here.
Brinson's pick: Bears under 7.5 wins (+110)
Over 9.5 (-110)/Under 9.5 (-110)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 8.9 wins
All the questions surrounding the Saints offense vanished into thin air with one preseason drive against the Chiefs -- Derek Carr looked sharp, Alvin Kamara looked explosive in the receiving game and Michael Thomas was on the field. All those things are fun, but it's still the preseason.
The Saints are the most solid roster and the safest bet in the NFC South. The offensive line remains fully intact, giving the Saints a chance to protect Carr and run the football. Cameron Jordan keeps piling onto what should ultimately be a Hall of Fame resume. And Carr's never had a good defense before -- the Raiders never gave him a TOP TWENTY defense in his career there.
The Saints should do that, and it's why they're the favorite to win the division. It makes a ton of sense. I just don't totally trust a team that went 7-10 last year and upgraded the QB position -- in my opinion -- more marginally than substantially.
Brinson's pick: Saints under 9.5 wins (-110)
Over 7.5 (-115)/Under 7.5 (-105)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 8.5 wins
The Panthers upgraded the QB position QUITE substantially in 2023, going from a hodgepodge of Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker to first-overall pick Bryce Young. The early returns on Young are fantastic; his maturity, his leadership, his footwork, his ability to go through his progressions -- everything checks out. The early returns on Young's protection ... not so much. The Heisman winner got smoked several times during his first preseason action on less than 10 snaps. It's been a THING with the Panthers, and if it's not corrected Carolina won't be much of a team this year.
I'm inclined to believe it's more about who they played in the preseason and how aggressive the Jets front was in attacking versus a lack of talent for Carolina. Defensively, the Panthers have the personnel to be top half of the league easily. And the coaching staff upgrade here might be the biggest in the entire NFL, which is saying something considering the situation in Denver. I'm very high on Carolina and like them at nearly 4-1 to win the division as well.
Brinson's pick: Panthers over 7.5 wins (-115)
Over 8.5 (-135)/Under 8.5 (+115)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 8.0 wins
Arthur Smith appears to be creating "Tennessee Lite" (imagine an old Miller Lite can but with Smith's face and mustache on it) in Atlanta, which is both intriguing and potentially concerning! The Falcons being a run-heavy team with Bijan Robinson leading the way and Desmond Ridder just finding "ways to win" while throwing to Kyle Pitts and Drake London is something that interests me from an offensive perspective. They re-upped Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary this offseason, so the OL has plenty of continuity.
Defensively, there were a bunch of veteran upgrades -- Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Bud Dupree -- plus a splash signing in Jessie Bates III. If this is a top-half defense (not out of the question) and the offense works the way Smith wants it to, the Falcons are a sneaky team to win a ton of games, owed in large part to the easiest schedule in the NFL.
Brinson's pick: Falcons over 8.5 wins (-135)
Over 6.5 (+100)/Under 6.5 (-120)
- SportsLine Projection Model: 6.6 wins
Everyone is down on the Bucs and the Bucs know it. And I'd love to swing contrarian here, but it's really difficult to get excited about what Tampa Bay is doing. Todd Bowles punting on fourth-and-short with Tom Freaking Brady in a must-win spot last year still lingers with me. What's he gonna do with Baker Mayfield (who has soundly beat out Kyle Trask at this point it appears)? Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are fantastic, but Russell Gage going down only highlights how important depth can be. And what if offensive line attrition causes Baker to be under heavy pressure? Why am I asking so many questions?
Defensively, there's a lot to like here, but we had Devin White trade demand rumblings already this offseason, so it's easy to imagine this train getting off the rails if things start poorly for Tampa.
Brinson's pick: Buccaneers under 6.5 wins (-120)