Handicapping Win Totals
July 26, 2014
By Marc Lawrence
2014 NFL Season Win Totals… The New Math
Thinking about investing in the NFL season win totals market this year? If so, my best advice to you is to make your approach with a different mind-set – from a Vegas perspective. In other words out with the old and in with the new.
Strength of Schedule
At first glance, most players will initially look at a team’s projected strength of schedule – the key word here being ‘projected’ – when sizing up a team’s win potential for the year.
The most common formula in determining strength of schedule is adding the win-loss record of each opponent from the previous season.
For instance: Oakland’s foes for the 2014 season combined to go 160-116 last year for a combined win percentage of .560, whereas Indianapolis’ opponents this season were 113-150 during the 2013 campaign.
Hence, by doing the math, the Raiders appear set to take on the league’s most difficult itinerary, with the Colts taking on the softest.
SOS – The New Math
On paper, strength of schedule numbers do not lie. On the field, though, it’s an entirely different story.
A better gauge of calculating each team’s strength of schedule is to look at each team’s opponent for what they are expected to be – not what they were last year.
We do this by weighing each opponent’s estimated season win totals for the upcoming year. The higher the grand total, the more difficult the mission.
These are the season win totals set by the sharpest oddsmakers in the industry. These anticipated win totals much better represent each team’s probability of wins and losses for the season ahead as opposed to the itinerary they faced the previous campaign.
For instance, using the opening season win totals posted by Jay Kornegay of the SuperBook in Las Vegas, Arizona will actually face the most difficult schedule in 2014 with opponents’ overall projected season win totals collectively adding up to 138 victories this season.
On the flip side, Houston brings up the rear, going up against opponents with a Charmin-like 118 collective season wins for the year.
Turning Over a New Page
Make no mistake about it. Avoiding fumbles and other turnovers is the single most predictive measure of success in the NFL.
And when it comes to turnovers in the NFL, returning to the norm is also a common practice for teams that were heavily on one side or the other of the seasonal equation.
Consider: over the last half dozen years, there have been a total of 23 losing teams that finished the season on the plus-side of overall turnovers. Only five of them fell to a worse win-loss record the following season (14 improvements and 4 with identical records).
This year finds Buffalo, St. Louis and Tampa Bay meeting the same criteria.
On the other side of the coin, 17 teams concluded a season with a winning record despite finishing on the minus-side of the turnover ledger. Only four of them managed to improve on their record the next year (10 improvements and 3 with matching records).
This year’s cast of characters staring at a very slippery slope includes Arizona, Green Bay and San Diego.
Losers to Winners and Vice-Versa
In closing, one final thought when pondering the combination of turnovers last year to win totals in the NFL this season.
Looking back over the past six seasons, the top three teams in net plus-turnovers over the course of the regular season declined an average of -2.4 games straight up, and -2.2 games against the spread the following season.
This year finds Seattle (+20), Kansas City (+16) and Indianapolis (+13) as the turnover kings in 2013.
Conversely, the bottom three teams in net minus-turnovers the previous season improved by an average of +2.3 games straight up, and +2.7 games against the spread the following campaign.
The three leading candidates to wear the silver slipper this year are Houston (-20), the N.Y. Giants (-17) and the N.Y. Jets (-14).
So before you take the plunge this NFL season, try acquainting yourself with The New Math. You’ll be glad you did!
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