From concussion research controversies to Tom Brady's appeal, it's already been a busy week for the NFL. Off-field issues are taking center stage, but the regular season win totals have also been released, which has helped distract from the other gloomy news.
Speaking of Brady and his Patriots, while his four-game suspension is once again in question, New England's regular season total is still posted. The number is set at 10.5 and while Brady's potential absence looms large, it would still be quite a rarity to see the team finish under that number. They've won at least 12 games in each of the last six years and have hit or surpassed 11 wins in 11 of the last 13 seasons.
10.5 is the highest number on the board but the Patriots aren't the only team faced with that total. The Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks are as well. Some bettors will feel that the Panthers are the one team that doesn't fit the group. While the other four teams have pedigree, Carolina mostly bubbled up out of nowhere last season. They had one heck of a dominant regular season, though, leading the league in points scored while winning 15 of their 16 games. They did have a 12-win season in 2013 but they've been .500 or worse in seven of their last 10 seasons.
The Seahawks have hit double-digit wins in each of their last four seasons but only managed 10 last year. The offense has seen plenty of change this offseason with Marshawn Lynch's retirement and a fully renovated offensive line. However, the defense is still top-notch and if they can approach the performance of the unit that led the league in points-per-game allowed (17.3) last season, they'll push for 11 wins.
A lot of bettors will be bullish on the Packers, who are coming off a challenging season. Their offense looked broken at times, but with a healthy Jordy Nelson along a slimmed down Eddie Lacy, they should again look like the explosive unit with which we're familiar. With Aaron Rodgers under center and the league's easiest strength of schedule, they'll be in the neighborhood of 11 wins.
Speaking of strength of schedule, the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers are facing the toughest. The Falcons face a total of 7.5, but will play three of the four teams that played in the conference championship games, as well as road games at the two teams that met in the Super Bowl (Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers).
Meanwhile the 49ers, who are starting off the Chip Kelly era, will face a tough slate. They've got four dates with the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals - two teams that combined for 23 wins last season - they'll also face three of the four AFC and NFC Championship Game contestants, and they'll also see the New England Patriots. Combined with the fact that they're in full-on rebuilding mode, it's easy to see why they're facing a short total of just 5.5.
If you're wondering who is expected to be the worst team in the NFL this season, it's the Cleveland Browns. They're facing a total of just 4.5. As per usual, they have a new head coach (Hue Jackson) and they're still looking for a solution at quarterback. Playing in a division with three potential playoff teams won't help matters.