Sannes' Win Total Projections: The Betting Fallout of the Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz Trades
At the end of each NFL season, I'm ready for a break. The whole fall is a massive grind, and you need some time away to rejuvenate.
Then they pull some sick offseason stunts, and I'm right back in, baby.
Over the past two days, we've seen Russell Wilson traded to the Denver Broncos and Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders. Not only does this make Twitter an absolute delight, but it also has massive implications on the betting markets.
We saw this in the form of the Broncos' Super Bowl odds shortening to +1200 at FanDuel Sportsbook in response to the Wilson trade. But how much of that is sportsbooks getting in front of people trying to pounce on fresh news, and how much of it is legitimate movement that reflects the team's new talent level?
As with last year, I've got my own power rankings cooked up for 2022, and I'll be updating them throughout the offseason to reflect personnel changes and more. The power rankings revolve heavily around numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) model, specifically the opponent-adjusted, team-level numbers.
There's always a heavy amount of guesswork involved with projecting how quarterbacks will fare in new schemes with different surrounding talent. But betting markets don't get to chill out until we get actual on-field data. So let's dig into the numbers and see if we can find any actionable takeaways.
Wilson to the Broncos
Clearly, Wilson to Denver is a big upgrade from what the Broncos had last year. But is it enough to justify having the fifth-shortest Super Bowl odds?
That part's a tough sell for me, based on what my numbers are saying. Adding Wilson to the Broncos' roster moved them from 19th in my power rankings up to 10th. That's a significant move, and it absolutely puts them in the tier of teams that could realistically win it all.
The only problem is that they're ranked third in the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs rank second while the Los Angeles Chargers are seventh. That Chargers number should lead to some booing and vegetable tossing given they missed the playoffs last year, but they ranked seventh in schedule-adjusted passing efficiency and figure to return all their key pieces. It's hard to make them look bad in my numbers even if I try.
The Chargers being where they are is one thing; the key takeaway for me, though, is that I have no interest in the Broncos at +1200 with where things stand now. They also seem overvalued in the AFC West market at +230 while the Chargers may be undervalued at +360. I don't want to tie down bankroll for 10 months on a futures bet with questionable value, so I won't be firing there, either, but that would be the one spot where the markets could be softest.
It's worth noting, though, that things could change. The Broncos have an estimated $26 million in cap space, according to Spotrac, and Von Miller has been hinting at a potential reunion. They've still got room to push their way up the ladder. I just think you'd be better off waiting for enthusiasm to die down first in hopes of getting a better number down the line.
Wentz to Washington
Based on the Twitter reaction to the Wentz trade, you'd think Washington had acquired Tom Savage or a member of the Muppets to play quarterback. Wentz is flawed, but he's at least better than that.
The issue is that he doesn't seem to move the needle nearly as much as Washington needs to be a contender.
Before the trade, Washington was 22nd in my power rankings. Slotting Wentz in as the starter, they move up to 19th. They're still in quarterback purgatory.
The reason I can't be too bullish is that it's hard to see this offense suddenly unlocking Wentz's upside. Guys like Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas are fun, but with guard Brandon Scherff set to hit free agency, it's not an elite supporting cast.
Basically, the Commanders will need their defense to return to 2020 levels if they want to be real players, even in a weakened NFC. That could happen as they improved down the stretch and figure to get Chase Young back from injury. But having all hopes tied to something as volatile as defense is generally a bad bet to make, allowing me to remain low on Washington even while being higher on this trade than the public seems to be.
Where the Seahawks and Colts Sit
I don't want to go too far into dissecting the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts as they could flip the script and use their new-found draft capital to corral another quarterback within a week. We can at least take a peek at the numbers, though.
My model actually liked the Seahawks quite a bit before the Wilson trade. The offense hummed when Wilson's finger was healthy in 2021, and they weren't outlierishly bad on defense. So, even taking Wilson out of the picture and temporarily plugging in Drew Lock as starter, they're still a respectable 20th.
That'll change quickly, though, if they move either Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf. The Bobby Wagner release indicates they could be entering rebuild mode, and removing Lockett or Metcalf would mean the new quarterback would be in a much worse environment than the current one. So although they're not bottom-dwellers yet, that's not a permanent sentiment.
As for the Colts, they dipped from 17th before the Wentz trade to 26th after. That's mostly because Sam Ehlinger would be their starter, so I can't realistically put them any higher than that.
Again, this is simply a placeholder. The Colts don't have a first-round pick, so the odds they do something at quarterback either in free agency or via trade seem very high. Whether the replacement will be an upgrade over Wentz is the part that's up in the air. At least for now, though, they're the seventh worst team in the league... but still second best in the AFC South.