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NFL schedule: Each NFC team's win total projection for 2023 season

With the release of the 2023 NFL schedule, we can now project win totals for every team in the league.

As I did for the AFC, I've used projected 53-man rosters to simulate all 272 regular-season games 100,000 times, yielding the projected win totals for every team in the NFC. (I went into greater detail about my methodology in the AFC file.) The top seven teams below are my projected playoff participants in the NFC.

The lines below provided by Caesars Sportsbook & Casino are current as of 3:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 11 unless otherwise noted below.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have a good chance to rack up wins in the early portion of the season -- in 58.1% of simulations, their record heading into the Week 10 bye is 7-2. After that, though, they face the toughest five-game stretch on their schedule: at Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, at Cowboys, at Seahawks. Weeks 11-15 will really tell us a lot about this team.

San Francisco 49ers

Yes, the Niners must start the season on the road, with their home opener not coming until Week 3 (vs. Giants) -- but the travel in Weeks 6-10 (at Browns, at Vikings, vs. Bengals, Week 9 bye, at Jaguars) and then in Week 13 (at Eagles) actually impacts their win total the most. Having to take those two trips to the Midwest in Weeks 6 and 7 slightly decreases San Francisco's chances of beating Cincinnati in Santa Clara in Week 8. 

Detroit Lions

The start of the season is pretty brutal for the Lions, with the Kickoff Game (at the Chiefs) followed by a home matchup against the Seahawks, showdowns with a pair of potentially frisky up-and-comers (Falcons in Week 3; Panthers in Week 5) and a trip to Baltimore to face the Ravens in Week 7. After the Week 9 bye, however, things get a lot more manageable, with five of their final nine games being against divisional opponents in various states of flux. In the decade that I've been doing these projections, this is the first time I've had the Lions atop the NFC North.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas' toughest four-game stretch is in Weeks 13-16 (Seahawks, Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins), narrowly edging out Weeks 5-9 (at 49ers, at Chargers, Week 7 bye, Rams, at Eagles). If the Cowboys are going to overtake the Eagles to win the NFC East, they're likely going to do it by getting through those eight games with at least four wins -- ideally including at least one against Philadelphia.

New Orleans Saints

Getting to face a pair of inexperienced quarterbacks (the Panthers' Bryce Young, presuming he starts, in Week 2 and the Packers' Jordan Love in Week 3) early in the season increases the Saints' odds of winning those games -- it takes time for novice QBs to settle in. Interestingly, the Saints have a 45.4% chance to reach 10 wins, which reflects how many NFC South showdowns project as 50-50 games. The Falcons, Saints and Panthers are all volatile!

Seattle Seahawks

Here's the most difficult stretch for the Seahawks:

  • Week 13: at Cowboys
  • Week 14: at 49ers
  • Week 15: Eagles
  • Week 16: at Titans

It doesn't help that their bye (Week 5) will be far in the rearview by this point, or that this part of the schedule is preceded by a pivotal NFC West matchup (vs. 49ers in Week 12, on Thanksgiving Day).

Atlanta Falcons

Every year, there's a team that jumps from the cellar to playoff contention. The more I dig into the NFC South, the more I think the division will produce that team -- and the Falcons have a strong chance to play the role. Their win projection in their home game against the Panthers (Week 1) shifted more after the release of the schedule than that of any team's win projection in any other single game. Atlanta's roster has gotten stronger, thanks to smart signings and draft picks, and the run-oriented offense is well-positioned to rack up first downs on the ground, potentially forcing Carolina rookie Bryce Young to throw more to keep up. Things will be different by the time these teams' Week 15 rematch rolls around, but in Week 1, the Panthers will still be breaking in Young (presuming he starts) and adjusting to the many changes they made this offseason.

Check out this early-season gauntlet:

  • Week 2: at Eagles
  • Week 3: Chargers
  • Week 4: at Panthers
  • Week 5: Chiefs
  • Week 6: at Bears
  • Week 7: 49ers

What a doozy of a start. And it doesn't even include any games against the Lions. The fact that both of those division contests fall in the final three weeks of the campaign (in Detroit in Week 16 and in Minnesota in Week 18) means the NFC North could very well be decided in the regular-season finale.

Chicago Bears

Like the Falcons, the Bears received a boost in their chances to win in Week 1 when we learned they'd be facing an untested QB (the Packers' Jordan Love). This is not to slight Love, but the data proves experience matters -- and the season-opener in Chicago will be just the second NFL start of Love's career.

New York Giants

Interestingly, every one of the Giants' road games is grouped together in sequences of two or three contests, including the last two in their most challenging portion of the season:

  • Week 3: at 49ers
  • Week 4: Seahawks
  • Week 5: at Dolphins
  • Week 6: at Bills

Look for Bryce Young to really take a step forward after the Panthers' Week 7 bye. If Carolina is to make a move toward playoff contention, this is when it will happen, with Young and the rest of the team potentially beginning to mesh in Year 1 of the Frank Reich era.

Los Angeles Rams

The most imposing half of the Rams' schedule is the first, including the following games:

  • Week 1: at Seahawks
  • Week 2: 49ers
  • Week 3: at Bengals
  • Week 5: Eagles
  • Week 7: Steelers
  • Week 8: at Cowboys

The toughest non-divisional opponent that stands out after the Week 10 bye is Baltimore (away) in Week 14. The above matchups against Seattle, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Philly should also provide an early indication of how well Los Angeles' offensive line -- a key to the season -- will hold up.

The Cardinals are a great Week 1 draw for Washington. Presuming Kyler Murray hasn't recovered from the ACL tear he suffered late last season, Washington quarterback Sam Howell -- a 2022 fifth-round pick who appears to have a strong chance to start -- will face less pressure to keep up with Arizona's offense, enabling him to get comfortable.

Quarterback Jordan Love's trajectory is tricky to project, given his limited NFL track record. I should be able to forecast his development more accurately by November -- just when the Packers begin the hardest four-game stretch on their calendar:

  • Week 10: at Steelers
  • Week 11: Chargers
  • Week 12: at Lions
  • Week 13: Chiefs

Week 3's home contest against the Eagles presents a challenge, but the Week 5 bye could provide Tampa with a chance to reset early in the post-Tom Brady era. Looming after that is the Bucs' most daunting four-game swing: at the Bills in Week 8, at the Texans in Week 9, vs. the Titans in Week 10 and at the Niners in Week 11.

Quarterback Kyler Murray's seemingly likely absence while recovering from an ACL tear will have a significant impact on a Cardinals team that has otherwise restocked the cupboard with talent in a smart and disciplined way. That being said, these games would make for a difficult start to the season even if Murray were 100 percent healthy:

  • Weeks 3-6: Cowboys, at 49ers, Bengals, at Rams
  • Weeks 7-8: at Seahawks, Ravens.

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter.

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