History of Betting Double-Digit NFL Win Totals: Is There Any Value on Overs?
Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
- What does history tell us about betting the over on double-digit NFL win totals?
- Evan Abrams studied the 176 teams to have a double-digit regular-season win total in the Wild-Card era (since 1990) to find out.
Welcome to year two of the 17-game schedule in the NFL! Last year the league ended the 43-year history of the 16-game schedule and added an extra game. One of the biggest impacts of the rule? Win totals.
Since 1990, there have been about 5.5 teams with double-digit win totals per season. In the first year of a 17-game schedule, eight teams were listed with a double-digit win total.
This season, there are also eight teams listed with a double-digit win total:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11.5): In his career, Tom Brady-led teams are 16-3-2 to the over on their preseason win total (14-3-2 with the Patriots and 2-0 with the Bucs).
- Buffalo Bills (11.5): The Bills went under their win total for the first time since 2016 last year (after four straight overs between 2017-20).
- Los Angeles Rams (10.5): The Rams have eclipsed their win total in consecutive seasons. They haven’t gone over their preseason win total in three consecutive seasons in the Wild-Card era (since 1990).
- Los Angeles Chargers (10.5): The Chargers win total was set at 9.5 wins last season. In Week 18 against the Raiders, L.A. had nine wins, and you know the rest. Entering 2022, the Chargers have gone under their win total in three straight seasons.
- Kansas City Chiefs (10.5): The Chiefs went under their win total for the first time in eight years last year, a streak from 2013-20.
- Green Bay Packers (10.5): In fourteen seasons with Aaron Rodgers as their starting QB, the Packers are an even 7-7 on their win total over. Though recently, the Packers have gone over in three straight seasons.
- Denver Broncos (10.5): The Broncos have a win total listed at 10.5 this year, their first double-digit win total since 2015, which was also the last season Denver went over its win total. The under is 5-0-1 on the Broncos win total since 2016.
- Dallas Cowboys (10.5): The Cowboys have a double-digit win total for just the second time since 2010… and the results haven’t been pretty.
Cowboys with Double-Digit Win Total – Since last Super Bowl Win (1995):
2020: 10 — 6 wins (Under)
2010: 10 — 6 wins (Under)
2008: 10.5 — 9 wins (Under)
1997: 10.5 — 6 wins (Under)
1996: 10.5 — 10 wins (Under)
But for any bettor considering taking the over on any of these eight win totals, there’s a cautionary tale about the history of doing so.
Here’s what my study of the 176 NFL teams to have a double-digit win total during the Wild-Card era (since 1990) revealed.
Note: All win total data via Sports Odds History
The History of Double-Digit NFL Win Totals
It’s proven extremely difficult for a team to exceed expectations when its win total has been set so high.
Since 1990, only 70 of the 176 teams with double-digit win totals over the past 32 years have exceeded their number. The most alarming aspect of that 42.2% is the fact that those teams have gone under their win total by a full two-thirds of a win (-0.66).
Finding Value on Double-Digit NFL Win Totals
Oddsmakers know what they are doing. When setting win totals in the preseason, there is a difference between “expectations” and “great expectations.”
There have been 56 teams with a win total of 11 or more since 1990, which averages out to about 1.8 teams per season. Those 56 teams are 28-25-3 (52.8%)to the over in that span, including 14-9-2 (60.9%) to the over in the last fifteen years.
The advantage comes with teams valued at the 10 and 10.5 mark. The 120 teams with such win totals are 71-42-7 (62.8%) to the under, going under the win total by almost a full win (-0.93).
The 17-Game Schedule Impact
In 2021, the NFL began its journey into the 17-game schedule.
To fully understand the impact of adding an extra game to the schedule and how that affects win totals, let’s look at the results of the last few years for all 32 teams.
Total Market Wins
In 2021, if you added up every preseason win total, the total wins in the market equaled 277 wins — the sport itself had 272 regular season games.
Between 2018 and 2020, with a 16-game schedule, the average total wins in the preseason market was 260.8 (with it being its highest in 2020 at 262.5) — the sport itself had 256 regular season games.
For reference, in 2022, all the current preseason win totals add up to 272 wins as of now, five fewer than in 2021. One of the potential reasons for that decline? Win total unders went 17-11-4 (60.7%) last year, going under on average by 0.19 wins per team.
This is not a complete shock. Since 2018, all four seasons have seen more teams go under than over, with each year showing a negative win differential compared to the market.
How to Bet the Outliers
With the extra game on the schedule, one interesting trend from 2021 we will be tracking in 2022 is how outlier win totals perform.
The Good Teams
Last year, we had eight double-digit win totals. Those teams combined to go under their win total by an average of 0.19 wins, with four overs and four unders, but overall, it was a tight market.
Between 2018 and 2020, we had 17 teams listed with a double-digit win total. Those teams went under their win total by an average of 0.82 wins in a market that leaned much more to the under.
The Bad Teams
At the bottom of the barrel, it showed similar results. There were 11 win totals listed below eight last season, and those teams went 7-3-1 to the under, going under by an average of 0.55 wins per team.
Between 2018 and 2020, we had 40 teams listed with a win total below eight. Those teams went under their win total by an average of 0.69 wins in a market that leaned more to the under (but a smaller gap).
Over the last four seasons, teams with a win total below eight are a combined 30-17-4 (63.8%) to the under, including 16-7-1 (69.6%) in the last two years.
The Top of the Class
Since 1990, no team has had more double-digit win total seasons than the Patriots (17); the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers are right behind them with 16 each.
The Patriots have had a double-digit win total 15 times under Bill Belichick (including 2019). They’re 10-3-2 to the over in the Belichick era, going over their win total by more than a full win per year (+1.1).
When looking at which of the 176 teams with a double-digit win total over the past three decades exceeded expectations the most, you have to point to the obvious: the 2007 Patriots. They went 16-0 that regular season to go over their win total by 4.5 games — the largest margin since 1990.
The Bottom Of The Class
In the Wild-Card era, only two franchises have yet to enter a season with a double-digit win total: Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions.
Ironically enough, in the 32 years since 1990, both the Bengals and the Lions have an identical 19 unders and 13 overs in that span.
When it comes to the worst single-season, there’s really only one team that’s earned the scarlet letter: the 2013 Houston Texans.
The Texans won 12 games in 2012 for the first time in franchise history, also making the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time — things were looking up in Houston.
Houston won its first two games in 2013 against the Chargers and Titans … then the wheels came off.
The Texans lost out, becoming the first team in NFL history to start 2-0 and lose 14 consecutive games within the same season. They finished eight games below their win total — the largest margin in the Wild-Card era.
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