We received our first taste of what win Totals look like in the new world of a 17-game NFL season when PointsBet released them on Friday.
One of the first things any savvy bettor should do when reviewing win Totals is ensure that you’re being dealt a fair shake. This year, there are 32 teams playing 17 games apiece. Since there is one winner and one loser in every game (ties aside), the win Totals a book is dealing should add up very close to 272.
When accounting for juice, the win Totals that PointsBet is dealing add up to 271.5 wins. Many times in the past, when wins should Total only to 256, they totaled in excess of 260. Why would that be? It's because bettors are attracted to betting Overs. They think positive thoughts about how teams can improve and bet far more Overs than Unders in futures markets. As a result, many bookmakers would prey on that weakness and inflate win Totals to further ensure they’d rip off their customers. So the great news is, that’s not happening here and we would point it out, if it were happening.
Comparing 2021 projected win Totals to prior years
PointsBet is forecasting eight teams will hit double-digit wins in 2021: Chiefs, Buccaneers, Ravens, Bills, Packers, Colts, Rams and 49ers. However, when we adjust for juice, we really see that the Browns' “true win Total” of Over 9.5 at -150 is higher than teams like the Rams or 49ers, whose win Total sits at 10 but with juice of +125 and +120 respectively to the Over.
How does eight teams with projected double-digit win Totals compare to previous seasons?
First, you cannot compare to actual wins, because win Totals are never set in line with actual wins. Almost every year, there will be a team with 13 or more wins and a team with two or fewer wins, but books never set season win Totals at 13 or 2. They typically sit much closer to .500.
Last year, there were only five teams with projected double-digit win Totals (and only two of them went Over). In 2019, there were six teams with projected double-digit win Totals (and three went Over).
So, for there to be eight teams in 2021 seems high, but accounting for the 17th game it is to be expected.
Sitting at the low end of the forecast for 2021 are the Texans (4.5 wins) and the Lions (5 wins). No other team has a projected win Total below 6.5.
In fact, 22 of 32 teams have projected win Totals between 6.5 and 9.5 wins.
Beyond evaluating the fairness of these lines and observing the teams that are expected to be the best and worst in 2021, what stands out?
I tend to gravitate to the teams the bookmaker thinks will be better or worse than the prior year.
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Most improved teams
The Jaguars have a projected win Total of 6.5, which would be 5.5 more wins than they actually had in 2020 after winning just one game.
New York Jets
The Jets have a projected win Total of 6.5 (same as it was in 2020) and that would be 4.5 more wins than New York actually had in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers' projected win Total of 10 is actually lower than the 10.5 it was at in 2020. That's 4 more than they actually had on the field last season after losing starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo to injury and managing to win only six games.
The Cowboys' projected win Total of 9.5 is the same as it was in 2020, however, that would be 3.5 more wins than Dallas pulled off last season after losing QB Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury.
There are five other teams expected to improve by 2.5 to 3 wins over their 2020 results, and all of these teams won between 4 and 5 games last year (Falcons, Panthers, Broncos and Eagles). So, the current projection is for all of them to still have losing seasons, but have better overall records in 2021.
Teams that will regress
The Steelers were a 12-win team in 2020, but have a projected win Total of 8.5 games in 2021. That 3.5 win shortfall is the largest in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
After recording 12 wins in 2020, the Saints will be making a change at QB with the retirement of Drew Brees. But even with that, they are forecast to have a performance better than the Steelers, as PointsBet predicts a decline of 3 wins down to 9 wins.
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From there, multiple other teams see declines of between 2 and 3 wins from their 2020 totals, including the Bills, Packers, Seahawks and Chiefs. Unlike the Saints and Steelers, however, all four of these teams are forecast to still have solid seasons. The Chiefs, Packers and Bills are all forecast to win between 10 and 12 games this season, while the Seahawks have a projected win Total of 9.5.
Of the 13 teams that posted double-digit wins in 2020, all but three are forecast to lose more games in 2021. The only three that are forecast with the same wins or more are the Rams (10 wins, same as 2020), the Ravens (11 wins, same as 2020) and the Chiefs (11.5 wins, 0.5 more than in 2020).
Typically, teams that take huge one-year leaps in wins have trouble sustaining that record. This is not always the case, but it does happen frequently. Six teams that improved by at least four wins from 2019 to 2020 (Steelers, Colts, Buccaneers, Washington, Browns and Dolphins) all moved from non-winning marks to making the playoffs. All of those teams, but the Steelers and Washington (8 wins) are projected to stay at 9-plus wins and be playoff relevant teams. In other words, PointsBet sees the Steelers and Washington as having one-hit wonder type seasons in 2020 by making the playoffs, but does anticipate the Colts, Bucs, Browns and Dolphins will sustain the momentum they built.
It will be interesting to track the movement in these win Totals once the NFL draft occurs later this month, but the best news of all is that these odds seem to be fair and should give early NFL bettors a lot to think about in the next five months until the season begins.
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