NFL

NFL Betting: 4 Win Total Bets You Need to Make

Today is a great day. Football is finally back, and what better way to celebrate than to place some win total bets just before the season gets into full swing.

There are a lot of data points to look at when deciding which win total bets to make. I’ll highlight a couple and dive into what we can learn.

First, I used numberFire’s win projections and compared them to the win totals at FanDuel Sportsbook. Point differential is often used as a part of the win-total calculus, but sometimes this can be a bit misleading. One can argue that keeping the score close for much of the game deserves to be a factor. However, a single fluky interception or fumble can provide a 14-point swing in the final score.

To adjust for this, I used ply-by-play data from 2011 to 2020 to calculate a point differential weighted average over the course of a game -- think of it as the average height of the point differential "area under the curve." I then built quick regression models to correlate what I’m calling time-adjusted point differential to raw point differential as well as how these values correlate to that season’s and the following season’s wins. For those interested, the R-squared between raw and time-adjusted point differential was approximately 0.87, and each had an R-squared of approximately 0.16 (so admittedly not great!) with next season’s win total.

The 2020 season leaders in this metric were the Baltimore Ravens at 6.8 points and the Buffalo Bills at 6.1 points. In short, a raw point differential of zero correlates to a time-adjusted point differential of zero, and every time-adjusted point increases the raw point differential by 28.2 points, on average.

Take the Over

Philadelphia Eagles (6.5 Wins | -150)

numberFire has the Eagles projected to win 7.9 games, which is 1.4 games more than their win total line on FanDuel Sportsbook.

You're paying for that with -150 odds, but the Eagles have the third -easiest schedule based on total numberFire opponent wins due to a weak division and matchups against other teams that finished last in their respective divisions.

Over the summer, some of us may have forgotten how bad former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz played. For the 2020 season, he posted an overall Net Expected Points (NEP) of -45.77, which was a league-worst mark across all skill positions, and a Passing NEP of -62.6 (again, league worst) on 437 pass attempts. Wentz was really bad for a lot of the season. If Jalen Hurts is just average, the Eagles should cover this easily.

Atlanta Falcons (7.5 | -120)

The Falcons' raw point differential of -18 from last year is more in line with a 7.5-win team, and the time-adjusted point differential metric likes them even more, putting Atlanta at 9.6 wins when regressing each of these metrics against season wins. Teams with this time-adjusted point differential are estimated to win 9.3 games the following season. (I scaled this up to adjust for the 17-game schedule.)

The New Orleans Saints may be more beatable sans Drew Brees, and the Carolina Panthers are a pretty big unknown at this point. Replacing Julio Jones is tough for Atlanta, but Kyle Pitts is a matchup nightmare. With some improved coaching from first-year skipper Arthur Smith, Atlanta should be able to top their FanDuel win total.

Take the Under

Seattle Seahawks (10.0 | -120)

Our model projects a Seahawks win total of 8.8 -- well below the current line of 10.0 wins. And at -120 odds, you’re not paying a huge premium for the pretty big discrepancy.

Seattle plays in arguably the toughest division in the NFC and maybe the entire league. The sum of NFC West total wins in FanDuel Sportsbook is 39.5, highest in the league.

The Seahawks started hot in the Let Russ Cook era last year, but over the last five weeks of the season, their offense sputtered, ranking in the bottom-13 in both Passing and Rushing NEP over that time. When you pair that with a defense we project to be the ninth-worst, it's not hard to envision this team winning fewer than 10 games.

Washington Football Team (8.5 | -105)

The Football Team’s raw point differential of +6 points in 2020 may imply they were around an eight-win team last season, but when looking at time-adjusted point differential, we see a much different story as their time-adjusted point differential was -3.53. This is in line with a team that has a raw point differential of -99.8 and represents a five-win team (in a 16-game season).

Yes, there is Ryan Fitzpatrick in DC now and some added talent to the offense, but that offense was not good a year ago -- especially over the last five weeks, when they were dead last in both NEP and Success Rate. The defense will be legit -- third-best by our projections -- but Fitzmagic will need to really elevate the offense for WFT to get to nine-plus wins.

Honorable Mentions

Las Vegas Raiders - Under 7.0 Wins (-110): There's a pretty big gap between 7.0 wins and numberFire's win projection of 6.1. Plus, the Raiders have the league's toughest schedule based on total numberFire projected opponent wins.

Cleveland Browns - Over 10.5 Wins (-115): Don’t let the Browns' -11 point differential from 2020 scare you off. Over the second half of the season, their time-adjusted point differential was +3.7, which was sixth-best over that span (just above the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).