News & Analysis

Biggest line movements related to 2020 NFL season win totals

One of the best ways to get an early gauge on team expectations from the betting market is to review changes in win totals as the offseason progresses. As we head into training camp, without a subsequent preseason, we can get a reasonable picture of a team's current standing within the betting market based on how much their numbers have moved since the initial release.

Let's group the teams into three categories: those that have stayed close to the original price throughout the offseason, those that have seen a decent amount of movement related to the vig, and those that have seen movement off their initial number. From there, we can see how close in agreement our simulation is to the current line for each team as we grow closer to the 2020 NFL season. 

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Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals started with a 6.5 win total juiced to the over one week after the Super Bowl but have settled into 7 as their consensus line since before the draft. This is the perfect price according to our simulation, with the Cardinals needing to win more than two division games to have any chance at the over on their win total.

Despite a quality division schedule, Arizona has the 10th-easiest schedule, according to our opponent ELO rankings. The Cardinals are better than even money to finish fourth in the division and, despite flashy off-season acquisitions, need Kyler Murray to be a breakout star if they want to realize their 28% implied probability of getting into the playoffs. 

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have maintained their ranking as the team with the second-best win total expectation throughout the offseason. After initially opening at 11 wins with balanced juice, they have gained the hook to 11.5 but also added juice to make the over an even-money proposition.

It may not take another MVP-caliber season from Lamar Jackson for the Ravens to realize their win total expectation — according to our ELO rankings, they have the easiest schedule by opponent ELO in the NFL. The Ravens should run away with the AFC North, as our simulation finds consensus with betting markets, giving them an implied probability of 70% to repeat as division champions. 

Buffalo Bills

After opening at an 8.5 win total, the Bills spent the better part of three months at a 9 win total and were favorites to win the AFC East. Things changed quickly once the Patriots signed of Cam Newton, dropping the Bills to a 40% implied probability of winning the division and pushing their win total back to the opening 8.5 line.

Oct 27, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) drops back to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at New Era Field. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Our current expectations for Josh Allen are below the general consensus, making our simulation heavily value the downside. We also have the Patriots as mispriced, which makes the AFC East the toughest division to project for 2020. Oftentimes, it's best to take a risk-off approach with so much uncertainty in a given situation. 

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have been locked into a 5.5 win total line since the first week of the offseason. Granted, while it was obvious at that point who would be the No. 1 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, it is still impressive to see that even the juice associated with their line has barely moved off the initial number.

Our simulation is higher on the Bengals chances than all implied probabilities related to their bets. How good Joe Burrow can be in the NFL remains to be seen, but with the talent available in this receiving room, he should have ample opportunity early to prove his staying power in Cincinnati. 

Cleveland Browns

The plausible range of outcomes for the 2020 Browns feels quite wide with a new coaching regime and general manager, and no one still knowing quite what to make of Baker Mayfield. Despite the turnover, the Browns held steady after opening at an 8 win total before bumping up to 8.5 before the draft. They have remained there ever since with the juice distributed evenly on both sides of this bet.

They are constantly pegged as an 8-8 team, which is why we haven’t seen any real movement with their win total line. Our simulation agrees with this number, but an expectation that the Browns outperform their current projections is feasible given that they have the sixth-easiest strength of schedule, according to our current ELO rankings. 

Denver Broncos

PFF has tempered expectations for Drew Lock, who is seemingly the hottest offseason quarterback in 2020. Crowning him as the next great Broncos quarterback this early appears to be setting him up for disaster. Bettors have been cautiously more pessimistic than the general public after seeing the Broncos' win total open at 8. That number dropped to 7.5 almost immediately and has held steady ever since.

Denver plays the Chiefs twice and has the second-most difficult strength of schedule, according to our ELO rankings in 2020. Our simulation is lower than the consensus betting markets, mainly due to our discrepancy in how we view Drew Lock compared to the general public. It could come back to bite us, but fading this team in 2020 feels like the measured approach based on public perception. 

Detroit Lions

We move from potentially our biggest fade of 2020 to the team we have been backing the most. Detroit has held completely steady since its opening win total of 6.5 shaded heavily to the over was released. The only real movement we have seen on the Lions' odds is their “to win division” price dropping down to +600 from +900. Our simulation is still in on the over 6.5 win total, projecting the Lions to win more than 7.5 games in the majority of simulations.

Oct 20, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back to pass during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

They fall right in the middle of the pack in our projected strength of schedule with expectations that the NFC North could be weaker than expected. If they can come away with three division wins, they should easily get over the 6.5 win total the market has continued to price them at. 

Kansas City Chiefs

The reigning Super Bowl champions and the team projected best for the best record in the NFL is on the verge of a dynasty with Patrick Mahomes inked for the next decade. The market has adjusted the juice slightly on the Chiefs' win total, but it has held steady at 11.5 wins since a week after the Super Bowl.

Fade it if you must, but after last season's profitable run, we are severely in the black when betting on the Chiefs. Our simulation falls right in line with market expectations. Given the significant price to be paid to back the Chiefs, they seem, at best, to be a decent bet to win the Super Bowl but look much more profitable to bet on weekly as opposed to any sort of future bet. 

Las Vegas Raiders

After opening at a respectable 7 game win total, the Raiders found some backing in Vegas, sliding out to 7.5 with slightly more juice extended to the downside. They have the third-most difficult strength of schedule, making their chances at exceeding betting market expectations limited, according to our simulation.

Their highest implied probability of division finish is 42% to place last in the AFC West. We slot them ahead of the Chargers but fall in line with the betting market on their win total and chances to make the playoffs. 

New Orleans Saints

Tom Brady joining the NFC South had little effect on the Saints' odds, as they opened with a 10 win total before moving to 10.5 — where they have held steady since the draft. This number is juiced slightly to the under, with our simulation projecting almost a full win less than their current number.

The NFC South has quickly become the best division in football, as we give the Saints the sixth-most difficult strength of schedule. I cannot find any reason to back the Saints, which may make me a year or two early on their inevitable demise. 

New York Jets

The good news for the Jets is that this should finally be the year we figure out exactly what Sam Darnold is capable of. The bad news is that this could definitely be the year we figure out exactly what Darnold is capable of. If he continues to see ghosts in 2020, then the Jets' 6.5 win total feels like a stretch for a team with no semblance of a receiving corps.

If Sam Darnold fails to live up to his lofty draft status, then the Jets' front office will be just as responsible for the team's failures after not providing him with an adequate supporting cast.

Philadelphia Eagles

After Philadelphia opened with a 10-win team projection, the market has adjusted slightly, dropping the team to 9.5 wins with juice shaded to the under. This number has held steady since the draft, but the Eagles continue to drift from the Cowboys for frontrunners of the NFC East.

Our simulation results are significantly lower than betting market odds, making the “under 9.5 wins” bet for the Eagles one of the best still on the board. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

One theme that continues to appear is that bookmakers have had the AFC North well priced throughout this offseason. The Steelers opened with, and currently sit at, a 9 win total after having one of the quickest moves to 9.5 before almost immediately coming back to their original number.

This bet relies heavily on Ben Roethlisberger‘s health and, despite reports he is working out for the first time ever in an offseason, that is still a proposition with too much risk for my appetite. Our simulation tends to agree, pegging the Steelers for just over 7 wins, which makes their current price a quality bet for the under. 

San Francisco 49ers

A return to the Super Bowl is very much in the cards for the 49ers, who have seen next to no movement on their win total numbers since the opening. The NFC West is a compelling division, but the 49ers still have the fourth-easiest strength of schedule in 2020.

January 19, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the first quarter in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

They will need to win at least four division games to have a chance at going over their win total. Our simulation is slightly lower, pegging them for just over 9.5 wins and a near-75% chance to get to the playoffs.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have locked in the core that led them to the AFC Championship Game for the long term. The 2020 campaign will be the first season to provide us information on if that was the right move. The Titans have held steady throughout the offseason, opening and staying at an 8.5 win total with a sprinkle of extra juice on the over.

They have the fifth-easiest strength of schedule, which makes their over 8.5 win total all the more enticing given that our simulation expectation sits closer to 9.5. Although they may not repeat what they did in 2019, they should at least be able to exceed the seemingly humble expectations from the betting market. 

CHANGE IN JUICE

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons could easily be considered the third wheel of teams impacted by the Tom Brady news. After opening at an 8 win total, they have dropped throughout the offseason — currently listed at 7.5 with significant juice associated with their downside. Our simulation falls right in line with the betting market expectation, as the Falcons have the most difficult strength of schedule in the NFL.

They now have just a 10% implied probability of winning the NFC South, but our simulation sees value in that current price, listing their chances closer to 16.5%. It is a longshot bet, but the Falcons have the continuity and talent on offense to compete with the best the NFL has to offer. It is time to sweat out another season riding with the PFFalcons. 

Chicago Bears

Sometimes having two quarterbacks is better than one, but it often means you really have none. That is the case when uncertainty shrouds both quarterbacks on a team that appears ready to compete at every position except the most important one. The Bears opened with an 8 win total but, despite printing 8.5 shortly after the draft, have slid back to their opening line with the juice taking a flip to the under.

Our simulation projects just over 7 wins, making this win total a worthwhile proposition given the current state of the NFC. Even more noteworthy is the rise of the Lions, who have forced bookmakers to price the Bears finishing both third and fourth in this division at the exact same odds. 

Green Bay Packers

The Packers opened with a sky-high win total before bettors quickly bet it down from 9.5 with juice to the upside all the way to 9 wins with juice to the downside. Some of this could be a reflection on their perceived poor draft, as they have held onto the 9 win mark since the draft occurred in late April. The Packers also no longer have the distinction of being favorites in the NFC North, as their implied probability of 37% falls in line with our simulation results.

Backing the Pack in a season that appears to have the possibility to end in turmoil is not a situation I want to have risk associated with. There are better spots than backing the Packers in what is looking more and more like a wide-open NFC North division. 

Los Angeles Chargers

After opening at 7.5 wins, the Chargers dropped the juice but settled at 8 wins since shortly after the draft. This is still a team quarterbacked by either Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert, which means the simulation isn’t close to the consensus betting markets.

Our projection is for the Chargers to finish with 6.5 wins, leading to last place in the AFC West. 

Los Angeles Rams

Despite holding steady at an 8.5 win total, the Rams have pinballed back and forth, swinging juice on both sides of this number. They are currently shaded to the downside and have comparable odds to finish both third and fourth in the NFC West. The key again will be division matchups — if they fail to win three division games, seeing them finish with at least nine wins would be an impressive coaching feat for Sean McVay.

Our confidence in Jared Goff’s ability is severely lacking, so any rogue 9 win total numbers have been bought up quickly, but 8.5 doesn’t offer the same type of value as a 9 with added juice. 

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have picked up a half-game since their opening print of 9 but have lots of vig added to their under. They have the ninth-easiest strength of schedule but have to find four wins in the division to comfortably get over their 9.5 win total.

December 29, 2019; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Our simulation gives the Seahawks a 62.9% chance to make the playoffs, meaning their current implied probability from the betting market offers value. The rule change to seven playoff teams offers the opportunity for certain “make playoff” bets to be mispriced given the lack of historical data.  

SWING IN KEY NUMBER

Carolina Panthers

It’s Teddy time in Carolina, but bettors appear less than enthused about the numerous changes taking place for the Panthers. After opening at a 6.5 win total, the Panthers have dropped a full game down to 5.5 with vig priced into the over.

They find themselves in the toughest division in the NFL and have the fourth-most difficult strength of schedule in 2020. If the Panthers can squeeze out two division wins, they have a clear path to hitting the over on their win total — which our simulation sees value in. 

Dallas Cowboys

Despite no significant acquisitions in free agency, the Cowboys have picked up a half-game on their opening win total and now sit at 9.5 with juice heavily associated with the over. The NFC East is theirs for the taking according to betting markets, which give them better than a 50% implied probability — slightly higher than our simulation results.

The Cowboys have the third-easiest strength of schedule, so despite our simulation being slightly lower than betting markets, they appear to be a  team worth passing on when placing your future bets before the season. 

Houston Texans

The turnover in Houston has caused the Texans' win total to drop from an opening print of 8.5 down to 7.5 with juice still heavy on the under. According to our simulation, that could be a slight overcorrection; our numbers indicate they will finish with exactly eight wins.

No one knows quite what to make of what Bill O’Brien is trying to build down in Houston. Despite his shortcomings as a general manager, Houston still has one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and a plethora of proven deep threats that complement his skill set well. The difficult part will be overcoming the fifth-most difficult strength of schedule. Given the overcorrection from their offseason moves, the Texans are a team that appears to be undervalued by the betting market and offers value given their current expected outcome.   

Indianapolis Colts

Securing a stop-gap quarterback has piqued the interest of the betting market, as the Colts have risen from a 7.5 win total up to 8.5 after briefly touching 9 before settling back down. Given the juice on the current market, any sort of movement could see a 9 print again before the season starts.

If the Colts are simply a quarterback away from playoff relevancy in the AFC, our simulation doesn’t see it. We have them right above 8 wins, and the expectation that they win the AFC South is almost 20 percentage points below their current implied probability. Given this discrepancy, the Colts to not make the playoffs is one of the better remaining bets. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have seen one of the NFL's biggest line movements associated with their win total. After opening at 6.5 wins, they have dropped down to 5 with juice significantly shaded toward the under.

Dec 29, 2019; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) looks to pass during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Our simulation sides with Gardner Minshew‘s string of quality performances in his rookie season were no fluke. Our expectation is that the Jaguars finish with six wins, needing two to come from their division if they want any chance of hitting this over. 

Miami Dolphins

Miami caught a quick bid after an opening print of 5.5 left them tied for the projected worst record in the NFL. They have been offseason risers, briefly touching 6.5 wins before settling in at 6 after the Cam Newton signing.

We are high on the Dolphins in 2020, with most markets assuming Tua Tagovailoa won't live up to the elite college play he showcased when not hurt. Our current simulation sees value on all Dolphins future bets, as they could be a surprise playoff team in 2020. 

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings dropped a full game off their sky-high 9.5 opening line and now sit at 8.5 with juice priced into their over. They have locked in Mike Zimmer to a long-term deal, but our simulation sees that as a potential immediate misstep.

Anyone who locked in under a 9.5 or even 9 win total has to be feeling confident with the Vikings' current state and the overall strength of the NFC North. The Vikings have to win more than three division games to have any chance at making the playoffs in 2020. 

New England Patriots

The team shaken most by offseason moves has seen its win total number fluctuate wildly throughout the offseason. Shortly after the Super Bowl, the Patriots opened at 10.5 wins and were tied for the fourth-most expected wins given their current total. After Tom Brady departed, they dropped a game and a half before rebounding to 9.5 after the signing of Cam Newton.

There is quite a bit of vig associated with their under, but our simulation still sees value to the downside. They are basically untouchable as favorites in the AFC East, but a tempting plus-money bet on not to make the playoffs is at least as appealing as their under win total. 

New York Giants

Expectations for the Giants have dropped in the offseason, as their win total has flipped from 6.5 with heavy vig on the over to an even 6. They have the ninth-most difficult strength of schedule, so unless you are a firm believer in Daniel Jones, this will be a tough task for Saquon Barkley to overcome.

Given our expectation that the Washington Football Team is better than current public perception, there is little upside to wagering on the Giants to exceed expectations in 2020. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers had their win total jump by 2.5 games after signing Tom Brady before it settled back into 9.5. This was the biggest jump we saw in 2020, with our simulation correctly categorizing this as an overreaction. Tampa Bay has the 10th-most difficult strength of schedule and must sweep Carolina while also beating the Falcons and the Saints once if they want a shot at this over.

They are going to be as public of a team as we see in 2020, so simply avoiding any futures bets is the appropriate course of action given the uncertainty of how well Brady fits into Bruce Arians' passing offense.

Washington Football Team

Washington appears to be flying under the radar. At a 5 win total, this is one of the best available bets still on the board. We have quite a bit of disagreement with current betting market expectations, mainly due to our view on Dwayne Haskins.

Most viewed him as a disappointment in his rookie season, but his flashes of quality play were enough to buy in for the 2020 season. Given the talent Terry McLaurin also showed on the outside, Washington could surprise in 2020.

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