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NFL schedule: Each NFC team's win total projection for 2024 season

The 2024 NFL regular season schedule has been released! For the second year in a row, the season kicks off at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, with the back-to-back Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Baltimore Ravens in a rematch of the AFC Championship Game. In Week 7, we'll get a rematch of Super Bowl LVIII, with the Chiefs visiting the 49ers. We'll see Russell Wilson head back to Denver in Week 2 and Kirk Cousins travel to Minneapolis in Week 14. We'll also see the top two picks from the 2024 NFL Draft -- Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels -- square off, when the Bears visit the nation's capital to face the Commanders in Week 8. Oh, and in Week 5, the Texans and Stefon Diggs will host the Buffalo Bills. There are so many intriguing storylines and so much to look forward to -- I can't wait!

In our fourth season with 272 games on the schedule, and with the NFL heading into its fifth campaign with a 14-team playoff field, we continue to see an uptick in contests that have postseason consequences. While we've long known the identity of each team's opponents (and, in most cases, the location of each game), the actual sequencing of the schedules has an impact on projected win totals. For example, having to make multiple cross-country trips (or adding an international one ... or even staying abroad for a week) could influence a team's win probability. Facing elite QBs in back-to-back weeks has had a substantial impact over the past seven 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 0.70 wins.

Here's how to read these win projections: Using the projected 53-man rosters as of May 14, I ran 150,000 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. It's May, for goodness' sake, so you should check back for the updated versions of these win-total projections just before the season starts.) 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 football games that were actually played; 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 suggests that you check back in September -- and that it's kind of fun to track everything from May until Super Bowl LIX!

The lines below provided by Caesars Sportsbook & Casino are current as of 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 15 unless otherwise noted below.

San Francisco 49ers

No surprise here, with the reigning NFC champions topping this list. The 49ers are returning a large percentage of their offensive players -- and they added surplus value to the receiving corps in first-round pick Ricky Pearsall. Keep hating on Brock Purdy if you must, but the man just led the league in yards per attempt (9.6), passer rating (113.0), QBR (72.8) and expected points added (115.6, per Next Gen Stats). Defensively, the Niners reshuffled the deck up front around Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave, while spending two of their top four draft picks on defensive backs. One tricky part of the schedule: Following the Week 9 bye, San Francisco faces three road tilts against 2023 Divisional Round teams (Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Buffalo) in a four-game span, with the lone home contest coming against rival Seattle.

Philadelphia Eagles

Sure wouldn't mind hitting São Paulo in Week 1 for the Friday night contest between Philadelphia and Green Bay. Can someone convince my boss that I need to be there? Eagles fans certainly enjoyed the high-profile signing of Saquon Barkley, but don't forget about the new faces on the other side of the ball: veterans Bryce Huff and Devin White, as well as two of my top three cornerback prospects from this year's draft in Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean. And of course, versatile cover man C.J. Gardner-Johnson is back in the fold. According to my calculations at the moment, the Eagles have one back-to-back where they're not favored in either game: the two-week road trip to face the Rams and Ravens as the calendar flips from November to December. However, they are within striking distance in each contest (less than 3.0 percentage points), so this could easily shift before the season starts -- especially consider Philly has a mini bye immediately preceding that stretch, thanks to a Thursday night home game in Week 11.

Detroit Lions

The football world just feels right when the Lions are set to host the Bears on Thanksgiving. And this year, with No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams potentially hitting his stride right about then, make sure to plan your meal around this game, too. That's right: Any tradition of feasting during the Lions game on Turkey Day is OVER. Detroit did a lot to address its secondary, which ranked 27th in passing yards per game allowed (247.4) and 31st in passing yards per attempt allowed (7.8). The whole team will be tested in December, with home games versus the Packers and Bills followed by a pair of roadies against the Bears and 49ers.

Atlanta Falcons

I know we've talked a lot about the quarterback room in Atlanta, but I want to remind everyone that running back Bijan Robinson just finished 10th in the NFL with 1,463 scrimmage yards as a rookie. Just isolating rushing yards, my early projections show the second-year pro tops 1,100 in 55 percent of simulations. Take note, fantasy fiends! As for the schedule, the start is hard, with home games against Pittsburgh and Kansas City sandwiched around a trip to Philadelphia. My biggest concern with the Falcons -- not only for those three games but the season as a whole -- is their pass rush. That could be a serious limiting factor for this team.

Green Bay Packers

According to my models, drafting versatile blocker Jordan Morgan added more wins than any other selection could have when Green Bay came on the clock for the first time at Pick No. 25. The talented offensive lineman will further bolster an aerial attack that already saw Jordan Love throw 32 touchdown passes in his first season as a starter and help improve ground opportunities for a group that ranked third-worst in rushing yards over expected against stacked boxes last season (-49). The schedule gets thorny for the Pack around Thanksgiving, with a pair of home games against San Francisco and Miami immediately followed by road trips to Detroit and Seattle.

Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Stafford and the Rams open in Detroit, which really kicks off a juicy season of quarterbacks returning to their previous homes. That said, given how well freshly PAID signal-caller Jared Goff has played in the Motor City, the Lions very well could miss Jonah Jackson more in this matchup, following the guard's free-agent departure to Los Angeles. The Rams have a pretty favorable setup over the first 11 weeks, in terms of opponent styles and the general cadence of the schedule. Things get dicey after that, though, as a late-November game against the Eagles precedes a high-mileage month of December where the Rams will traverse the country to face the Saints, 49ers and Jets, with a home contest against the Bills in the midst of it all. That stretch figures to create some drama.

Dallas Cowboys

When drafting your fantasy team, don't forget that Dak Prescott led the league with 36 touchdown passes last season. The heightened criticism around that particular position on that particular team could turn Dak into a fantasy steal, and I will continue to stress the important of NOT OVERDRAFTING THE QUARTERBACK POSITION. That said, the Cowboys passer has a rough Week 1 assignment, traveling to Cleveland to face an extremely stingy Browns defense. But don't lose the faith! From a team perspective, the make-or-break portion of the season could be a seven-week, six-game stretch that spans from early October into mid-November: at Pittsburgh (SNF), vs. Detroit, BYE, at San Francisco (SNF), at Atlanta, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Houston (MNF).

Seattle Seahawks

I think the Seahawks are being a bit undervalued, both generally speaking and within my model. As far as the schedule goes, they open the season with a pair of winnable games: vs. Denver, at New England. And in looking at every team's hardest four-game stretch, according to my calculations, the 'Hawks actually rank 26th -- i.e., they have the seventh-easiest quartet. If this team is to exceed expectations, though, it will need vast improvement in run defense. Seattle ranked dead last in first downs allowed on the ground (144) and rushing yards over expected allowed (422). Can new head coach Mike Macdonald flip the script? Well, the first-round selection of DT Byron Murphy II certainly helped the cause.

Chicago Bears

Last season, Chicago's defense tied for the league lead in interceptions with 22. And that was with an injury-riddled secondary. Not only could the Bears be even stingier when it comes to defending the pass, but their own aerial attack could take off with the additions of quarterback Caleb Williams, wide receivers Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze and versatile back D'Andre Swift. Chicago sits just outside of the playoff picture in this exercise, and there is one reason for that: I need camp to help understand if the line is good enough to smooth Williams' transition to the NFL. I'm not asking for perfection -- just decency.

The four-game stretch that figures to have the most influence on the 2024 Buccaneers' fate sits right in the middle of the season. From mid-October to mid-November, Tampa Bay will run this gauntlet: vs. Baltimore (MNF), vs. Atlanta, at Kansas City (MNF), vs. San Francisco. The three-time reigning NFC South champions lost some high-profile defenders this offseason (Devin White, Shaq Barrett, Carlton Davis), and former offensive coordinator Dave Canales is now the head man in Carolina, so it could take a few games for everyone to begin rowing in the same direction.

Chase Young and Willie Gay Jr. shift the defensive forecast for a team that finished in the bottom five in sacks and pressures (per Pro Football Reference's count). Following a Week 1 divisional matchup against the Panthers, the Saints immediately encounter their toughest four-game stretch of the season, with three contests coming on the road: at Dallas, vs. Philadelphia, at Atlanta, at Kansas City (MNF).

Like New Orleans, Minnesota will abruptly face its most challenging four-game stretch of the year one week after the season kicks off. In the final three weeks of September, the Vikings will host the 49ers and Texans, then hit the rode for a Lambeau Field showdown with the Packers. In the opening week of October, Minnesota heads to London for its international tilt against the Jets. And having mentioned the Pack a minute ago ... The Vikings' acquisition of Aaron Jones from their division rivals was big value add to Kevin O'Connell's entire offense, not just the ground game. Last season, Jones had a receiving EPA of +7.2, which ranked 10th among RBs.

Commanders fans should be excited about a number of shrewd moves and draft picks, but I particularly loved what the new regime did at the linebacker position. Free-agent additions Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu both ranked in the top 15 in defensive stops last season. I expect these two veteran studs to help this rebuilding team get through some early schedule challenges. Washington faces its toughest four-game stretch of the season in Weeks 3 through 6: at Cincinnati (MNF), at Arizona, vs. Cleveland, at Baltimore.

My models forecast No. 4 overall pick Marvin Harrison Jr. will lead the rookie class with more than 1,050 receiving yards. Now, this projection partially stems from this roster's questions on the other side of the ball, which could cause the Cardinals to play catch-up. While Arizona beefed up the defense in free agency (SEE: Sean Murphy-Bunting, Justin Jones, Bilal Nichols) and the draft (first-round pick Darius Robinson and second-rounder Max Melton), the unit's still starting from a point where it ranked 31st in scoring D last season. And Cards fans need to give this growing group some time, as Arizona opens the season with five of its first six games coming against 2023 playoff participants -- a challenging stretch that includes road trips to Buffalo, San Francisco and Green Bay.

New York Giants

Another thing that just feels right: The Giants having a really nasty defensive front. Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux showed their teeth last season, and the inspired trade for Brian Burns makes me think of Big Blue's Super Bowl teams, from the recent vintage all the way back to the time when Lawrence Taylor lurked in the Meadowlands. The offensive front is more of a question, though, and the unit will be tested early and often. From Week 3 through Week 8, New York faces a six-game stretch against talented teams that present a number of imposing pass rushers: at Cleveland, vs. Dallas (TNF), at Seattle, vs. Cincinnati (SNF), vs. Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh (MNF).

The Panthers clearly -- and rightfully -- set out to help Bryce Young this offseason. In free agency, they shelled out more than $150 million on a pair of guards, Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis. Makes plenty of sense, considering last year's No. 1 overall pick took the second-most sacks (62) of any quarterback in 2023 and generally struggled to produce offense. Carolina also traded for a veteran receiver who can separate (Diontae Johnson) and then drafted explosive playmakers at wideout (Xavier Legette), running back (Jonathan Brooks) and tight end (Ja'Tavion Sanders). The hardest four-game stretch for the Panthers takes place in Weeks 12 through 15: vs. Kansas City, vs. Tampa Bay, at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas. The good news is that comes directly after their bye in Week 11.

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