Football is just around the corner, which means it is time to start placing future bets. NFL win totals are a great place to start. Oddsmakers have released season win totals for every team, and while our simulations agree with most of the odds (25 of 32 teams were within one game), we’ve spotted a few offering bettors value.
To narrow down the bets we like the most, we compared our projections to the oddsmakers’ line.
For example: New England’s win total is listed at 11 (over -160). For us to feel comfortable wagering on the Patriots’ over, they would need to win 12 or more games 61.5% (which is 160/(100+160)) of the time. According to our sims, the Pats are projected to win 12 or more games 66.3% of the time, meaning there is slight value in placing an over bet at -160 odds.
Based on the difference in implied probability and projected chance, 16 of the 32 season win total wagers stand out in our sims. The analysis below digs deep into the two best over and two best under bets available. Last year, using the same analysis, our top four plays went 4-0, winning by 11.5 games, and all of our over/unders with value went 10-2.
Kansas City Chiefs – Over 8.5
- Current odds: -120, Implied Probability: 54.5%
- Chiefs go over win total 70.7% of the time
The Chiefs have one of the best collections of offensive talent in the league. Travis Kelce is the second-best tight end in the NFL behind Rob Gronkowski. Tyreek Hill is a home-run hitter who caught 75 balls for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. The offense is balanced by second-year back Kareem Hunt, who racked up 1,782 yards from scrimmage (third-most in the league) a season ago. At quarterback, the team replaces the dependable Alex Smith with a high-upside player in Patrick Mahomes. There is no guarantee that Mahomes will be a star, but he’ll have every opportunity to succeed in this offense.
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If you bet the over, you’re probably not worried about the offense. But the Chiefs’ defense, ranked 30th in DVOA, was a problem in 2017, allowing 365.1 yards (28th) and 21.2 points (15th) per game. But remember: The team was missing its best player for much of last season after safety Eric Berry went down with a torn Achilles in Week 1.
The presence of Berry has almost single-handedly turned the Chiefs into a top-10 defense. Berry has overcome an ACL injury and a battle with cancer; it is fair to expect that his Achilles injury won’t slow him down this fall. With Berry back in the fold and an explosive offense, the Chiefs are in prime position to win the AFC West for a third consecutive season and go over their win total of 8.5.
Houston Texans – Over 8.5
- Current odds: -150, Implied Probability: 60.0%
- Texans go over win total 75.8% of the time
It’s simple: If quarterback Deshaun Watson is healthy, the over is an easy bet. In the six games Watson started last season, Houston averaged 31 points, which was tops in the NFL. Reports out of camp are that Watson looks like the electric rookie we saw in 2017. The Texans are also expecting J.J. Watt back. Watt has only played in eight games the past two seasons, and even if he is never fully the player he once was, pairing him with Jadeveon Clowney gives the defense a great pass rush.
The underlying numbers support a Houston turnaround as well. The Texans won four games in 2017 but had a Pythagorean win total of 5.7 wins, an indication the team was a bit unlucky. Part of that is explained by a 1-4 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Teams that perform badly in one-score games tend to regress to the mean.
Houston also ranked 28th in turnover differential (-12). Turnovers are another area in which the team should see positive regression, especially if Watson (fewer interceptions) and Watt (more turnovers forced) are healthy.
Other over bets with value: Browns 5.5 (-180), Chargers 9.5 (+100), Eagles 10.5 (+100), 49ers 8.5 (+120) and Titans 8 (-120).
Oakland Raiders – Under 8
- Current odds: -110, Implied Probability: 52.4%
- Raiders go under win total 82.8% of the time
After winning 12 games in 2016, the Raiders managed just six victories in 2017. It was a disappointing season for a team considered among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Derek Carr played in 15 games but was limited by a back injury. The quarterback threw for 3,496 yards and 22 touchdowns, his lowest total since his rookie campaign. With Carr taking a step back, the offense struggled, averaging 18.8 points and 324.1 yards per game, down from 26.0 points and 373.3 yards the previous season.
Many expect Carr to bounce back if he’s healthy, but take a look at Carr’s QBR each season he has been in the league:
34th in 2014
26th in 2015
16th in 2016
22nd in 2017
Even if Carr plays like he did in 2016, we are looking at an average quarterback at best.
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And if you’re expecting Jon Gruden to be a difference-maker, consider that after winning the Super Bowl in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers averaged 7.5 wins over six seasons and went 0-2 in the playoffs. Oakland is expecting more than that from its $100 million coach. Unfortunately, with a mediocre quarterback and a coach who has been on the sidelines for a decade, the Raiders have limited upside. Oakland is the most likely team to go under its win total.
Miami Dolphins – Under 6.5
- Current odds: +115, Implied Probability: 46.5%
- Dolphins go under win total 74.9% of the time
Ryan Tannehill is back! I guess this is an upgrade over Jay Cutler, who led the Fins’ offense to 17.6 points per game last season. But Tannehill’s numbers don’t exactly inspire confidence. He ranked 24th in QBR in 2016 and 27th in 2015. Tannehill won’t have much help on offense, as Miami has jettisoned Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins replaced their two best offensive weapons with 35-year-old Frank Gore and Danny Amendola — who has one 100-yard game over the last two seasons.
If Tannehill isn’t 100% or gets injured again, the team’s backup is Brock Osweiler. The former Bronco threw as many interceptions (five) as touchdowns in 2017. The NFL is a quarterback league, and Miami doesn’t have one, which leads to value on the under.
Other under bets with value: Cardinals 6 (-110), Ravens 8 (+120), Bills 6 (-140), Bears 6.5 (+130), Bengals 6.5 (+130), Cowboys 8.5 (-110) and Giants 7 (+115).