Simple variables like score, venue and date of each game are the core of most rating systems — these are then input into a calculation to measure past performance. But utilizing historical point spread and total odds — instead of game score — shows how betting markets viewed each team pregame.
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Because 2020 odds are currently available, we can build build market-implied power ratings based on the latest information for each team. By updating our offensive and defensive ratings using this approach, we get a useful look into how the betting market measures each team's strength at the start of this season.
Let’s take a look at where all 32 teams stack up using this method.
The Ravens edge out the Chiefs by the slimmest of margins on the strength of their defense making up enough ground to overcome the Chiefs' league-leading offense. They have the sixth-easiest schedule in this rating system, making their path to the AFC championship clear from the outset. Their implied probability of 23.8% to reach the Super Bowl sits just 1.2% behind the Chiefs' chances. Despite fonder memories for how the Chiefs wrapped up their 2019 season, betting markets have these teams much closer than what the general public currently sees.
Future markets would flip the top two rated teams in this exercise, as the Chiefs are the odds-on favorite in every season-long betting category. Their 11.5 win total either has marked up juice or sits a half game ahead of the Ravens' current price. They sit just outside the top 10 teams for the easiest 2020 schedule. It is hard to not side with Patrick Mahomes after last season’s playoff run despite limited expectations for their defensive performance. Week 3’s Monday night matchup will have significant implications on the ratings for these top two teams and will hopefully serve as a preview for the future matchup in the AFC playoffs.
The first team from the NFC actually has the fourth most-likely odds (10.5% implied probability) of reaching the Super Bowl from this conference. Dallas is always known for a slight lean from betting markets, but 2.5 point road favorites Week 1 followed by touchdown favorites over a quality Falcons team in Week 2 has this ratings system sky high on the Cowboys. The NFC is littered with veteran quarterbacks, but Dak Prescott could be at the center of the best offense in the NFC. If they reach that status, then Dak will be the next entry on a growing list of young quarterbacks who are taking over the NFL at the perfect time to sign a multi-year contract.
If Dallas was a shock at No. 3, then the Vikings feel like a heart attack at four. The Vikings are one of only two defenses that have a positive rating metric in this exercise, which causes them to rise considerably in this process. Minnesota has the seventh most-likely odds of winning the NFC and sits at 58.8% implied probability to make the playoffs. The Vikings move four places from their ELO rankings in this exercise and leapfrog their division-rival Packers in the process. The front-runner for the NFC North will be sorted out early, as the Vikings open their Week 1 schedule as 3.5-point favorites over the Packers. They would be slightly favored if playing on a neutral site, which is a big reason we see them jump so many teams by using this approach.
Fourth in our ELO rankings but fifth in this process, the Saints have one of the five most difficult schedules in the NFL. This is highlighted by their Week 1 matchup as 4-point home favorites against the revamped Buccaneers. They are dinged in this process that takes nothing related to their continuity into context. If the end of last season was any indication, the Saints could face an uphill battle to remain relevant in the NFC.
The 49ers appear to be an afterthought in the NFC, with some projecting a step back after a Super Bowl performance that saw them at one point with a 95% in-game win probability. They are the odds-on favorite to win the NFC championship but aren’t aggressively priced in their early-season action against weaker teams. They have the 12th-easiest strength of schedule according to this rating metric and the third-easiest in the NFC. Not many know what to make of Jimmy Garoppolo, which makes the 49ers one of the toughest teams to handicap in 2020.
Highlighting the lack of mid-tier talent in the AFC, the Patriots check in as the third-best team according to this metric, which fits their odds for winning the AFC. They have the third-easiest strength of schedule and play in the softest division in the NFL. Betting markets haven’t budged despite the Patriots announcing numerous opt outs for players in 2020. Bill Belichick is in a can’t-lose situation in 2020: If the Patriots do better than expected, he looks like a genius; and if they tank away the season, well, then he definitely is a genius.
No team had a worse offseason than the Packers in 2020. Somehow, they got even thinner at wide receiver after not addressing the position in the draft. Aaron Rodgers is at the very least disgruntled with the lack of weapons surrounding him outside of his No. 1 receiver. Betting markets seem to be buying into the dissension, which is confounded by them having one of the toughest opening stretches in the NFL. Their schedule is the eighth-most difficult overall, so if the wheels come off early it would turn into a long season in Green Bay. Jordan Love season could be closer than we think.
Disagreement exists between the future market prices on the Rams and their initial weekly lines to start the 2020 season. They have the ninth-best odds to win the NFC conference and are plus money on “yes” to make the playoffs. They start the season as less than a field goal home dog to the team we have rated best in the NFC. Both the Cowboys and Rams could be slightly overpriced in this exercise, giving them an inflated rating given their Week 1 lines. This rating is one of the bigger disagreements with our simulation results, which has leaned under on the Rams win total all offseason.
The Seahawks have been thrust into win-now mode with the addition of Jamal Adams 10 days ago. The addition has not caused any adjustments to the Seahawks' future markets. They have a tough opening game against a team that this exercise is lower on, which causes the Seahawks' rating to be depressed slightly. Their Week 2 line against the Patriots would be close to a pick ‘em on a neutral field, which further suppresses their rating in this exercise. Their strength of schedule sits in the middle of the league despite a difficult division. They have one of the best market-implied offensive projections, so if Jamal Adams makes an impact on their defense they should rise up these rankings quickly.
The Colts have quietly emerged as one of the favorites to lead the tier below the Chiefs and Ravens in the AFC. They have a 66.7% implied probability of making the playoffs, but our simulation finds significant disagreement with that price. They have the easiest schedule in the NFL according to our market-implied rating metric and are a touchdown favorite on the road in Week 1, which significantly boosts their rating in this exercise. Their Week 2 line would make them a pick ‘em on a neutral site against the fourth-ranked Vikings. This exercise highlights teams that appear overpriced by betting markets, and no team picks up more value in this exercise than the Colts.
The Eagles fittingly slot in behind the Colts due to their Week 1 matchup against the worst team in the NFL. It is a fair comparison between the Eagles and Colts, which is why this exercise is worthwhile. The Eagles are 6.5-point road favorites to Washington and the Colts are 7-point road favorites to Jacksonville. It is a tossup between Washington and Jacksonville for the worst team in the NFL, so our process rightly identifies the Colts as better in the eyes of the betting market. Our simulation is also lower on the Eagles than consensus betting markets, as both their win total and “no” to make the playoffs provide value at their current price.
The outlook for the 2020 Steelers will be determined solely by the play of Ben Roethlisberger. Their defense has one of the better unit ratings in 2020, but regression from their impressive 2019 play is expected. They are tied for the fourth most likely odds to win the AFC Championship but have just a 7.7% implied probability of actually getting to the Super Bowl. They are helped by the ninth-easiest strength of schedule, which could help them realize their 57.8% implied probability to make the playoffs. Our simulation doesn’t agree, however, making the Steelers one of our bigger fades in 2020.
Most expect the Chargers' defense to carry them in 2020, but our market implied ratings have this unit at 12th in the NFL. It is dicey to expect Tyrod Taylor to lead the Chargers to relevancy, and our simulation agrees, projecting the Chargers for a full win below market expectation. One reason the Chargers sit nicely in this system is that their Week 2 line against the Chiefs projects a measure of strength matching up against the reigning Super Bowl champions. Although the betting market buys into their ability, our simulation sees them as overvalued, which makes them a team for us to fade this season.
The Bucs sit ninth in our ELO rankings but drop significantly in this exercise, as they have the second-most difficult strength of schedule in the NFL. The NFC South is treacherous, as four of the five most difficult schedules come from this division. Outside of their tough opening schedule, another reason why the Bucs are so low in this exercise is that few project their defense to be adequate. This could be a mistake — Todd Bowles loves to be aggressive, which should complement the ability of both Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean, two younger cornerbacks who could easily take a significant leap this season. If Brady gels quickly with his assortment of receiving options, the Bucs will climb rapidly up these rankings.