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Expect Win-Total Regression From Last Season’s Best NFL Teams

  • In 2017, the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles all won 13 games.
  • Since 2003, 33 teams have won 13 or more games and none of them improved their record the following season.

The New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings all won 13 games in 2017, and NFL bettors should expect them to regress this season.

This was the first time since 2011 that four teams won 13 or more games in the same season and just the third time it happened since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002.

In the previous two instances (2007 and 2011), each team failed to match the previous season’s win total. In fact, on average those teams won 9.9 games the next year, a decrease of three wins.

The NFL and regression go hand in hand. Teams that finish one year with a winning record tend to regress to the mean (8-8 record).

The same is true for losing teams. After pulling data from Bet Labs from 2003 to 2017, here is what history can tell us about each NFL team’s chances of improving or declining in 2018 based on last year’s record:

The Pats, Eagles, Steelers and Vikings are likely to take a step back. Since 2003, 33 teams have won 13 or more games. None of those squads improved their records the following year, and on average those teams won 9.6 games.

At the bottom of the league, the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns won four or fewer games.

Since 2003, 71 teams have finished a season with a 4-12 record or worse. The next season, those same teams won 6.7 games on average.


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All teams, including the best and worst squads in the NFL tend to regress toward 8-8.

The oddsmakers know this and have posted win totals lower than the 2017 records for the Patriots, Eagles, Steelers and Vikings and higher for the Colts, Texans, Giants and Browns.

There is no guarantee that a team such as the Pats won’t finish with the best record in football and the Browns could get the first pick in the draft again, but regression is king in the NFL.

Look for the best teams to fall back to the pack and the league’s worst to take a step forward.

Credit:

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

Follow John Ewing on Twitter
@johnewing
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