2022 NFL win total projections, AFC: Bills top conference; Ravens win AFC North

The 2022 NFL regular-season schedule is set! We now know that the season starts at SoFi Stadium, with the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams taking on the Buffalo Bills. Tom Brady and the Bucs will host Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 3, and then Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 4. In Week 6, we get a rematch of the game that fueled a change to the OT rules, when Buffalo visits Kansas City. A.J. Brown and his new team, the Eagles, host his old team, the Titans, in Week 13. And I personally am very, very excited for the Lions to welcome the Bills to Detroit on Thanksgiving.

In our second season with 272 games on the schedule, and with the NFL heading into its third campaign with a 14-team playoff field, we've started to experience more contests with postseason consequences. While we've long known the identity of each team's opponents, the actual sequencing of the schedules has an impact on projected win totals. Having to make multiple cross-country trips (or adding an international one), for example, could influence a team's win probability in given weeks. Facing elite QBs in back-to-back weeks has had a substantial impact over the past five seasons, as defenses have seen a statistically relevant dip in first-quarter production. In fact, in that same time span, the order of games played has shifted season win totals by as many as 0.72 wins. This season, free-agent movement made the AFC West the most difficult division in football, with razor-thin margins -- and the order of the schedule, specifically, changed the whole division's win totals by 1.6 games.

Here's how to read these win projections: Using the projected 53-man rosters as of today, I ran 75,000 simulations for all 272 regular-season games. (A quick note: Barring injuries, which are typically the biggest source of uncertainty, I have made roster projections using the best information available. I do not feel exceptionally confident in the QB forecasts for Cleveland, Seattle or San Francisco, which means you should check back for the updated versions of these in August. However, because trying to account for multiple scenarios is impossibly complex, these projections presume Deshaun Watson, Drew Lock and Trey Lance will be starters this season.) These simulations yielded a projected win total for each team, which, thanks to the multitude of factors involved, is not always a round number. The top seven teams in each conference are my projected playoff participants.

Remember, these simulations account for many contextualized data points that have been proven to correlate to wins and losses based on historical, actually played football games; personnel is the most important, but other key factors include play-caller tendencies and in-game situations. I re-run these simulations should any player change teams, suffer an injury or otherwise be made unavailable, thus changing the complexion of his team. The more important the player involved, the more the win totals shift -- including opponents' probabilities. Should a high-impact player (or two) change status, we can track how those moves shift everything. Again, this all suggest that you check back in August -- and that it's kind of fun to track everything from May until Super Bowl LVII!

Below, you'll see win projections for the AFC, with projected division winners and wild-card teams noted. Click here to see win projections for the NFC.

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The lines below provided by Caesars are current as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 12 unless otherwise noted below.

Wins
11.6
Buffalo Bills
AFC EAST CHAMPIONS
  • Win Total: over 11.5 (-125)
  • Make Playoffs: -600
  • Win Division: -180
  • Win Conference: +360
  • Win Super Bowl: +700


Of the top-tier teams (more than 10 wins projected), the Bills have the most favorable schedule from Thanksgiving through the end of the season. The game at Cincinnati is still there in Week 17; however, in those seven games from Week 12 and on, the Bengals clash is the only one with a close win probability.


Buffalo Bills' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Wins
10.6
Kansas City Chiefs
AFC WEST CHAMPIONS
  • Win Total: over 10.5 (-130)
  • Make Playoffs: -240
  • Win Division: +160
  • Win Conference: +500
  • Win Super Bowl: +900


Kansas City made a lot of changes this offseason, from revamping the receiving corps to adding new faces in the secondary. Steve Spagnuolo-led defenses have historically taken up to four games together as a unit before settling into their identity. While the Chiefs benefit from opening their season against a Cardinals team without DeAndre Hopkins, their next six games before the Week 8 bye will be grueling. They'll need to make the most of the preseason and Week 1 to get everyone on the same page as quickly as possible.


Kansas City Chiefs' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Wins
10.4
Los Angeles Chargers
  • Win Total: over 10.0 (-105)
  • Make Playoffs: -160
  • Win Division: +250
  • Win Conference: +850
  • Win Super Bowl: +1600


Of the four super-challenging AFC West schedules, the Chargers own the most favorable slate, thanks to having the fewest headache-inducing three-plus-game stretches. Excluding division opponents, their hardest stretch occurs in Weeks 14-17, when they host Miami and Tennessee, then travel to Indy, before returning home to face the Rams. While this will undoubtedly be a challenging period, it’s about 0.3 games more favorable than any other AFC West team’s toughest four-game sequence -- again, excluding division opponents (if there’s a division game in between, the sequence could cover more than four weeks).


Los Angeles Chargers' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Wins
10
Indianapolis Colts
AFC SOUTH CHAMPIONS
  • Win Total: over 9.5 (-120)
  • Make Playoffs: -160
  • Win Division: +100
  • Win Conference: +1300
  • Win Super Bowl: +2500


The Colts could very easily be a 12-plus-win team. Before you come after me on Twitter, keep in mind: Win projections aren't built by adding up 1s and 0s for each game before they're played; they tally up fractions of wins beforehand, then add those fractions together to get the final total. Should Matt Ryan be able to fully integrate and reach his potential with his new team in the first four games, then the team's upside is great. If Indy can get past the Chiefs in Week 3 (admittedly not an easy task) and Broncos in Week 5 (at Denver), the Colts could find themselves the last unbeaten team in 2022.


Indianapolis Colts' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Wins
9.2
Baltimore Ravens
AFC NORTH CHAMPIONS
  • Win Total: under 9.5 (-110)
  • Make Playoffs: -140
  • Win Division: +220
  • Win Conference: +1200
  • Win Super Bowl: +2200


It’s good to be a Ravens fan right now. Should Baltimore add an above-average (not even elite) receiver (or two) to its roster, the team's outlook gets even better. The Ravens' toughest non-divisional opponents are well-spaced (vs. Bills, Week 4; at Bucs, Week 8; vs. Broncos, Week 13), while four of their final five games are against AFC North foes -- including the Steelers twice.


Baltimore Ravens' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Wins
9.2
Denver Broncos
WILD CARD
  • Win Total: under 10.0 (-110)
  • Make Playoffs: -170
  • Win Division: +250
  • Win Conference: +850
  • Win Super Bowl: +1600


My models are slightly more bearish on the Broncos than many other prognostications, in large part due to the overall difficulty of the division and the fact that they must face the Chiefs late in the season (Weeks 14 and 17), typically when we see Kansas City come into form. That said, the front of their schedule gives Denver the chance to be the last unbeaten this year (even with a Week 4 matchup at Las Vegas). While it's most probable that the Broncos are 5-3 heading into their Week 9 bye, they go 8-0 in 10.1 percent of my model's simulations. FYI: This doesn't mean they will only win 4.2 more games after their bye; rather, that they are strongly favored (which I define as a win probability greater than 57 percent) in four of their first eight games (vs. the Seahawks, Texans, Jets and Jaguars) and have better than 71 percent odds of winning at least one more game before their bye.


Denver Broncos' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Wins
9.1
Cincinnati Bengals
  • Win Total: under 9.5 (-110)
  • Make Playoffs: -145
  • Win Division: +220
  • Win Conference: +1200
  • Win Super Bowl: +2200


The single most descriptive word for this schedule: punishing. After their Week 10 bye, the Bengals travel to Tennessee (Week 12), host Kansas City (Week 13), play at Tampa Bay (Week 15) and welcome Buffalo (Week 17), in addition to seeing each division opponent once more and making a trip to Foxborough. It will be crucial for the Bengals to nail the early wins in order to sustain during this tough finish, ahead of what could be the most competitive conference playoffs we’ve seen in at least the 10 seasons my data covers.


Cincinnati Bengals' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: over 8.5 (+105)
  • Make Playoffs: +190
  • Win Division: +675
  • Win Conference: +2500
  • Win Super Bowl: +5000


The Raiders' O-line is a big source of concern this season. The unit faces a very tough test out of the gates in the Chargers, who added a familiar face in Khalil Mack to an already Bosa'd-up defensive front. The Raiders, playing in the toughest division in football, could see their season come down to how they fare in Weeks 13-17 (Round 2 vs. the Bolts, at Rams, vs. Patriots, at Steelers, vs. 49ers) due to the gauntlet of pressure generators they'll see in sequential weeks.


Las Vegas Raiders' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: over 8.5 (-135)
  • Make Playoffs: +140
  • Win Division: +400
  • Win Conference: +1500
  • Win Super Bowl: +3000


The Dolphins are contenders we don’t discuss enough. They could become the talk of the league, though, depending on how they hold up during two rough spots in their schedule: Weeks 2-4, when they play at Baltimore, vs. Buffalo and at Cincinnati; and Weeks 13-16, when they play three straight on the road (San Francisco, L.A. Chargers, Buffalo) before hosting Green Bay on Christmas Day. It seems the Dolphins will have to weather both of these sequences to make the playoffs, but if they only weather one, the math shows the second set of games is more impactful.


Miami Dolphins' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: over 8.5 (-135)
  • Make Playoffs: +140
  • Win Division: +400
  • Win Conference: +2000
  • Win Super Bowl: +4000


The Pats and their new TBD offensive play-caller will get tested early, with trips to Miami, Pittsburgh and Green Bay over the first four weeks. Oh, and they host the Ravens' new-look defense in Week 3. Their schedule does include a small reprieve (in terms of some time off) between Weeks 13 and 14, with 10 rest days between their Thursday night game against Buffalo and their Monday night contest in Arizona.


New England Patriots' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: under 9.5 (-125)
  • Make Playoffs: -130
  • Win Division: +130
  • Win Conference: +1500
  • Win Super Bowl: +3000


The Titans' first-place schedule is considerably tougher without A.J. Brown. Just look at this four-game stretch from Weeks 9 through 13: at Chiefs, vs. Broncos, at Packers (on a short week), vs. Bengals, at Eagles. And that run doesn't even include their matchups against the Bills (Week 2), Chargers (Week 15) or Cowboys (Week 17).


Tennessee Titans' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: over 7.5 (+105)
  • Make Playoffs: +310
  • Win Division: +1000
  • Win Conference: +4000
  • Win Super Bowl: +6000


The Steelers' defense accounts for 58 percent of their win total, which is the highest for any team with at least seven wins forecast. There is a lot more uncertainty on offense, particularly at the QB position, but also along the O-line, which can get overshadowed.


Pittsburgh Steelers' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: under 9.5 (-115)
  • Make Playoffs: -150
  • Win Division: +170
  • Win Conference: +1000
  • Win Super Bowl: +1800


The eight-win projection is based on what we currently know about Deshaun Watson's availability for the 2022 season. Should anything major change with his status, obviously the Browns' win total would be greatly impacted. The Browns have one of the tougher slates after their Week 9 bye, with six of their final nine games on the road, including tilts at Miami (Week 10), Buffalo (Week 11) and Cincinnati (Week 14). Have to think new addition Amari Cooper will be leaned on during this stretch.


Cleveland Browns' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: over 5.5 (-160)
  • Make Playoffs: +650
  • Win Division: +2200
  • Win Conference: +800
  • Win Super Bowl: +15000


The Jets have one of the hardest fourth-place schedules in my 10-season sample, and it doesn't take a data scientist to know it. Just look at what they're up against before their Week 10 bye:


  • Week 1: Ravens
  • Week 2: at Browns
  • Week 3: Bengals
  • Week 4: at Steelers
  • Week 5: Dolphins
  • Week 6: at Packers
  • Week 7: at Broncos
  • Week 8: Patriots
  • Week 9: Bills


If they played the second half of their schedule first, their win total would be higher. But the order of their opponents takes a toll on their total.


New York Jets' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: under 6.5 (-125)
  • Make Playoffs: +400
  • Win Division: +700
  • Win Conference: +6000
  • Win Super Bowl: +12500


Three of the Jags' first four games are against teams my model projects to win nine-plus games this season. After that tough start, they face another challenging stretch about a month later, taking on Denver (Week 8 in England), Las Vegas (Week 9) and Kansas City (Week 10) before their Week 11 bye ... which they will likely use to prep for a home game against the Ravens in Week 12.


Jacksonville Jaguars' complete 2022 NFL schedule

  • Win Total: under 4.5 (-110)
  • Make Playoffs: +1000
  • Win Division: +3500
  • Win Conference: +10000
  • Win Super Bowl: +25000


With AJ Brown’s departure from Tennessee, the Texans added 0.21 and 0.19 wins in their two games against the Titans. Lovie Smith is known for his defensive prowess, but his Texans will have their hands full from Week 12 to 15, when they visit Miami, host Cleveland, play at Dallas and then welcome Patrick Mahomes & Co. to town.


Houston Texans' complete 2022 NFL schedule

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter.

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