• Bet the under on Packers' win total: Green Bay's line is set at 7.5 wins, and it's unlikely the team goes over that number with an unproven quarterback and a young roster.
• The 49ers are in a good spot despite QB uncertainty: Although it's unclear who will be under center for the team in Week 1, San Francisco is poised to surpass 11.5 wins.
• Take the under (6.5 wins) for the Commanders: Sam Howell showed promise in his lone start in 2022, but it will likely take more than one season for Washington to start winning a significant number of games.
Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins
It’s tough to win in the NFL with questions at quarterback — after all, it’s the most important position on the field. It also takes time for young players to acclimate to the pro game, which can lead to varied expectations.
It’s not only the rookie passers who will be under a microscope in the coming season but also those who have been around and will be taking the reins for the first time. Some quarterbacks have been waiting in the wings for their chance to shine on the big stage, and now it’s up to them to prove their worth to the league.
With the release of the 2023 schedule and win totals, let's dive into the projections for teams that are going to be riding with a young, inexperienced passer this season.
Note: Odds sourced from FanDuel Sportsbook
Win Total: 7.5 (-122 | +100)
The Aaron Rodgers trade saga was one of the most compelling storylines of the offseason. After two years as the understudy to a back-to-back MVP, Jordan Love takes over as the signal-caller for this Packers offense. Even though Rodgers wasn’t an MVP-caliber player in his final season in Green Bay, he still managed to earn a 75.9 passing grade (10th in NFL). That wasn't enough to drag this team to wins, as the Packers finished the campaign below .500 after tallying 13 wins in each of the past three seasons.
Love will have his work cut out for him. With just one start in his pro career, and only 26 snaps over the past 12 months, Love has much to get acclimated to at the NFL level. He has a mixed bag of career performances thus far, showing promise in some spots and demise in others. In his only career start, in 2021 against Kansas City, Love finished with an abysmal 29.2 PFF passing grade. On the other hand, in limited action this past season, Love played well against great competition, most notably showing out to the tune of an 83.4 passing grade against the league’s top defense in Philly.
Even at his ceiling, Love will have a tough time covering up the holes on this roster like Rodgers did for years. Outside of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, this offense is limited on proven playmakers. A receiving corps of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed doesn’t profile as a group that will strike fear into defenses. Pair that with just one player, David Bakhtiari, earning a 70.0-plus offensive grade on the offensive line, and that should tell you all you need to know about this unit's expectations moving forward.
Key Matchups: Road AFC West Matchups — Week 5 @ LV / Week 7 @ DEN
Wins will be hard to come by for the Packers this season. To match their eight-win performance from last season and surpass this line, they’ll need to be effective in their interconference games against the AFC West. Matching up against the Raiders and Broncos in October will prove to be key spots where Green Bay could steal a road win or two, which will go a long way to adding a much-needed cushion to their record. With four of their first six games being on the road, this seems like an unlikely line to surpass for a team looking at a rebuild.
Pick: Under 7.5 wins (+100)
Win Total: 11.5 (+118 | -144)
An 11.5 total is by far the largest of any of the teams reviewed in this series, and it’s for good reason. Even with questions at quarterback, the 49ers will be one of the strongest teams in football, headed by one of the league’s most respected coaches.
With three potential options at quarterback in Brock Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold, the Niners are expected to hold a competition for the starting job. Purdy, who is still recovering from elbow surgery, is the presumed favorite, given his success this past season (75.1 passing grade in eight career starts). Lance is rumored to be a potential trade target, while Darnold is hopeful another new beginning will help tap into his potential. All options have flaws and merit that head coach Kyle Shanahan will have to decipher. Regardless of who is named the starter, an offense highlighted by the likes of George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel is a strong group that should raise the ceiling of anyone under center.
Shanahan’s offense gets a lot of the credit, but the real backbone of this team is a stout defense headlined by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa (90.6 PFF grade). The Niners finished the season as the third-highest-graded defense (84.8) with the second-best expected points allowed per play figure (-0.091) in the league. A repeat effort from this group will do wonders for taking pressure off of an offense that is sure to have its learning curves.
Key Matchup: Week 5 vs. DAL
The first real test on the Niners’ schedule has to be hosting the Cowboys in Week 5, a rematch of their divisional-round playoff game this past season. The Cowboys were among the strongest groups in the NFC, one that many would consider to be a contender out of the conference, and they will be motivated to beat the team that bounced them from the playoffs. A win here solidifies San Francisco as a real contender and not a team that got lucky with its third-string quarterback.
Pick: Over 11.5 wins (+118)
Win Total: 6.5 (-110 | -110)
The most interesting piece of news surrounding this Commanders team doesn't actually have anything to do with playing football. A new ownership regime takes over for often maligned former owner Dan Snyder, whose departure from the franchise he has owned since 1999 should do much to help correct the dysfunction that was prevalent throughout the organization. That type of change may not have a direct impact on play on the field, but it does help raise the morale within the building and signals that this franchise is moving forward, not backward.
Even considering the expected positive culture shift within the organization, it’s hard to see that being enough to right this ship over the course of one season. This team was middling to mediocre in nearly every offensive and defensive category last season, and Washington did very little to correct it this offseason.
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was brought in to fix the 27th-ranked offense in the NFL (67.6 PFF grade). Led by former fifth-round pick Sam Howell, replacing a combination of Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, this offense will have to find a way to highlight its strengths at receiver and running back while insulating its young passer from expected mistakes. That’s a difficult balance to find, given Howell’s limited experience (25 dropbacks). The hope is Bieniemy can install the creative system that he helped maintain in Kansas City under Andy Reid, but that takes time and patience. To expect them to hit the ground running is ill-conceived.
Key Matchup: Week 4 @ PHI
The only thing worse than being scheduled for the first possible bye week is having the last possible bye week, which is exactly what the Commanders have in store this season with a Week 14 break. That makes every early game on the schedule that much more important, the most important of which is in Week 4 on the road against the Eagles. Oddly enough, the Commanders won this game last season in Philly to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season. A repeat performance would give this team the confidence it needs to ride out the long stretch of games to the bye. That does seem far less likely this time around, as the Eagles have only gotten better since these teams last met.
Pick: Under 6.5 wins (+100)