-- With the NFL down to its final four, 28 of the league's 32 teams are already thinking about next season. That also means 28 of the league's 32 fan bases are focusing on the offseason to come and what to expect from their team in 2018.
Of course, it's too early to have a strong sense about what each team's roster construction will look like. We don't know who will retire, where players will end up in free agency or who will end up drafting who when. All of that is true, but it doesn't make guessing or projecting any less fun.
So let's do that. I'm going to run through each team and project what I think their over/under will be in Las Vegas for the 2018 season. To do this, I'm using their performance from the 2017 season (and years past), applying whatever I learned from living in Las Vegas for a year and talking to bookmakers during my time at Grantland and making various assumptions about what each team will do during the offseason. These aren't the numbers I would project for each organization in 2018, but instead my guess as to what the actual lines might be come April.
For the uninitiated, an over/under bet on a team's win total is a bet on whether a team will finish with more wins than the listed total. The Patriots, for example, were posted with a 12.5-win total in 2017. An over bet would have required them to win 13 games, which they successfully accomplished. An under bet would have won if the Patriots had won 12 or fewer games.
Games that end in a tie count as losses.
If a team matches its over/under (as the Titans did by going 9-7 with a nine-win over/under), the bettor is returned whatever he/she bet without any profit or loss.
The typical bet is -110, meaning bettors?need to bet $110 on either side of the over/under to win $100. That will be the default line for the bets listed below, but a few bets will have juice weighted toward one side of the line or the other. The 2017 Patriots, for example, were listed as even money over 12.5 wins and -120 on the under. That means a $120 bet on the over would have paid $120, while a $120 bet on the under would only have paid $100 if it won.
Let's get to the teams, in order from lowest projected over/under to highest. You won't be surprised with where we start or end.
Click on the links below to go directly to your team.
The Browns' total for 2017 was 4.5 wins, and you know how that one went. Why would they go up again at 4.5 wins for 2018, then? Sheer regression toward the mean. Most teams as bad as the Browns -- although clearly not all -- bounce back some after seasons as bad as the one we saw from Cleveland in 2017. The Browns will almost surely make an upgrade at quarterback this offseason, including the possibility of acquiring a veteran and drafting a passer with the first overall pick. I suspect this one would still probably require some juice on the under.
New York Jets
As bad as the Browns were, they weren't the team that headed into 2017 with the lowest expected over/under total. The Jets eventually fell all the way to a 3.5-win expectation, and while they made it to four wins by Week 9, Todd Bowles' team won just one of its final seven games as the schedule stiffened. Gang Green exceeded expectations, but their quarterback situation still consists of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, whose existence the Jets actively disavow. Unless the Jets make a major upgrade under center, they're still going to have one of the league's worst projections.
A bet on the Colts is a bet for or against Andrew Luck, who seems no nearer a return than he did at this time last year. If the rumors are true and Indy brings in Josh McDaniels, they'll be gaining a coach with a brilliant offensive mind; but years of bad drafts have left the Colts a ways away from competing in a suddenly difficult AFC South. Concrete news on Luck would shift this line by a win in either direction.
New York Giants
The most popular organizations in the league -- teams such as the Cowboys, Giants and Steelers -- often will have inflated totals in Vegas because the books know that their fans are more likely to bet the over. If the Giants had the same talent but wore the Bills' uniforms, they would hit the board at 5.5 wins. Big Blue only posted 4.1 Pythagorean wins this past season, and while they probably won't suffer as many injuries as they did during a snakebit 2017 campaign, it's unclear who will actually be playing quarterback in 2018. If new general manager Dave Gettleman uses the second overall pick on a passer, the Giants will probably be using 2018 to rebuild and retool.
The Bucs underachieved in 2017, in part because they went 3-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including four such losses to playoff teams. Numbers suggest the Bucs should improve, but it's difficult to see a high ceiling for Tampa Bay when it is bringing back frustrating coach Dirk Koetter and is still stuck in a division with three stacked teams in Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. A healthy season from
The Bears will be a sleeper pick in plenty of places, and indeed, people who didn't catch onto the 2017 Rams until it was too late will look at Chicago as the team most similarly constructed to Los Angeles. It could very easily work out that way, but it would be aggressive to look at
It's almost impossible to project the Cardinals, given that they don't have a head coach or an obvious choice at quarterback. If general manager Steve Keim opts to go for a veteran and trades for
Everyone suspects the Broncos are going to make an addition at quarterback, but it's not yet clear whether their decision will dramatically move the needle. The Broncos' defense hasn't declined as much as the raw totals suggest; it fell from fourth to 22nd in points allowed but was still the 10th-best defense by DVOA after leading the league in 2016. But Denver could?cut
You suspect the Dolphins might want to chalk up 2017 as a lost season after
Arguably the most injury-hit team in football, Jay Gruden's team will hope to get more games -- if not full seasons -- out of impact contributors such as?
While the Bills shocked the world and made it to the playoffs at 9-7, their Pythagorean expectation was for a 6.4-win team, suggesting they're extremely likely to decline in 2018. If they decide to turn the quarterback position over to
Cincinnati's motto for 2018 might as well be "Run It Back," given that it re-signed coach Marvin Lewis and will return most of its starters from 2017. Most teams would look at how badly they got their offensive line choices wrong and go into free agency to try to invest in replacements. But with the Bengals treating the market as if it were lava, Cincinnati is going to have to hope for a healthier season and further development from would-be contributors such as?
The second-most difficult number on this board was Oakland. Do you believe in Jon Gruden and a talented core that went 12-4 as recently as 2016? Or do you see a Raiders team that went 6-10 with the Pythagorean expectation of a 6.0-win team last season and one that hasn't topped 8.7 expected wins under
San Francisco 49ers
And this was the toughest number to peg, if only because the Niners looked like a totally different animal while going 5-0 under
The Titans won a playoff game and still managed to fire Mike Mularkey, which might have been the best possible outcome for Tennessee fans. It's possible that
The Lions were actually a better team in 2017 than they were in 2016, according to both point differential and DVOA, but their record suffered by virtue of falling from 8-5 in one-score games to 3-4, which brought an end to Jim Caldwell's time as coach. Patriots defensive coordinator
Nobody doubts how brilliant
Los Angeles Chargers
The league's most perennially frustrating team did just enough to get into playoff contention, only for the Bills to keep the Chargers from the postseason with a win in Week 17. Los Angeles's biggest problem -- kicker -- is fixable this offseason, but this might be the best version of the Chargers we'll see for a while. Outside of
New England's opponent in the AFC Championship Game could hit the board with a higher total if it upgrades at quarterback. This line assumes the Jaguars come back with
The Falcons brought back virtually their entire personnel core, but they didn't get remotely similar results with a revamped staff of assistants; after outscoring teams by 8.4 points per game in 2016, they only topped their opposition by an average of 2.4 points in 2017. They only hit 10 wins by virtue of a pair of breathless last-second victories in September, including a drop in the end zone by the Bears in Week 1 and the
Nine wins weren't enough to get the 2017 Ravens into the playoffs, with a 1-4 record in games decided by seven points or less keeping out the league's seventh-best team by DVOA. Baltimore's 10.4-win Pythagorean expectation suggests it is likely to improve in 2018, but can a defense still stocked with post-peak players force 34 takeaways again? The Ravens also caught an easy schedule in 2017 with the AFC South and an
The Panthers enter an uncertain offseason as Jerry Richardson prepares to sell the team, which might impact their ability to upgrade during the spring. It would be nice to bring back
No number is more likely to be inflated in Vegas than that of America's Team. The Cowboys should get a full season from
The Chiefs have posted winning records in each of their five seasons with coach Andy Reid, which would make this nine-win line conservative if it weren't for the likelihood of
Los Angeles Rams
If your friend tells you that they knew the Rams were going to break out in 2017, keep in mind that their Vegas over/under before Week 1 was at six wins with heavy juice (-160) on the under. Very few people saw this year's 11-5 breakout coming, and while the Rams are returning many of their big names, their secondary will be a question mark if they can't resign
The Vikings are one win away from a home Super Bowl, have $60 million in cap space waiting for this offseason and should return the core of a team that won 13 games. So why would their win total be at 9.5 wins? It's because of the quarterback position, as all three of the passers on the roster are due to become unrestricted free agents this offseason, with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur likely leaving town for a head-coaching gig. The Vikings have the financial flexibility to do whatever they want, so they could franchise
New Orleans Saints
The Saints' defense came to life in 2017, and young stars such as? Marshon Lattimore and Sheldon Rankins should continue to improve in 2018, but it's hard to believe it will remain a top-10 unit. Teams that improve as much as the Saints did -- they jumped from 31st to eighth in defensive DVOA -- often decline the following season. It's difficult to imagine Alvin Kamara being as productive as he was on a per-touch basis next season, and Drew Brees will be 39 years old. Age gets every quarterback eventually, and Brees threw shorter passes and relied more heavily on his receivers in 2017 than ever before. The Saints should still be good, but there's certainly risk here.
The Seahawks we saw roll off five consecutive double-digit win seasons from 2012 to 2016 might not resemble the team we see in 2018. Even getting beyond
Green Bay Packers
Likewise, will the Packers change their slow-and-steady philosophy after replacing general manager Ted Thompson with Brian Gutekunst? They'll probably get more than seven games out of
The Eagles should be able to return 19 of 22 starters after re-signing
Will the Steelers bring back
New England Patriots
And there are the Patriots, who are on another level entirely. Consider that the Patriots have won 12 or more games for the eighth consecutive season, which is an NFL record. The Colts won 12-plus games seven times from 2003 to 2009, and no?other team has done it any longer than four seasons in a row. The scary thing is that the Patriots might even be better next year, given that they'll return Julian Edelman and might only end up losing Malcolm Butler, who has struggled this season.
Tom Brady?is in uncharted territory as a quarterback playing well into his 40s, and the bottom could drop out, but the Jimmy Garoppolo trade tells you what coach Bill Belichick thinks about Brady's future. Until Brady or Belichick leave the building in Foxborough, it's difficult to put the Patriots any lower than 12 wins.