Doing the math on NFL Season Win Totals

July 24, 2019 12:20 AM

With the sports betting calendar fairly limited in late July, you’re now hearing a lot of predictions for the coming pro football season. Be careful placing too much weight on them. 

Regarding NFL “Regular Season Win Totals,” it’s not uncommon to hear a pundit say something like “if they win all their home games, they’ll only have to win two or three on the road to cash the ticket.” Like, it’s that easy to win all your home games in a parity-packed league.

It’s much harder to go 7-1 or 8-0 at home than many realize. Only five teams managed it last season (New England, Kansas City, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles Rams), three the year before (Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans). None of those were duplicates.

The key here is that too many casual fans and pseudo-experts equate “being favored” with winning the game. Even a team that’s favored by point spreads in seven or eight home games won’t be expected to win that many. 

Imagine a team that’s a 60% favorite to win every home game. Will they go 8-0 because they’re always favored? Believe it or not, that projects to 4.8 wins and 3.2 losses. (Easy math, eight games times .60 is 4.8). 

A team that’s a 70% favorite to win every home game is projected to finish with 5.6 wins and 2.4 losses. Seventy percent is a high number, and we’re nowhere near 7-1 or 8-0 yet. 

Even an 80% favorite in every game would be projected to finish with 6.4 wins and 1.6 losses. At 80% we’re not even “rounding” to 7-1 yet, let alone 8-0. 

A team must be 82% in every game to “round” up to seven wins, 88% for a solid seven. 

How many NFL teams do you believe are 88% to win each of their home games? 

If you’re not used to thinking in percentages, let’s do it with point spreads. In standard point spread to moneyline conversions, a 3-point favorite is about 60% to win the game, a 6-point favorite is about 70%, an 8.5 or 9-point favorite is about 80%, and an 11.5-point favorite is about 88%.

Whenever you hear somebody say they believe an NFL team is going to go 7-1 at home, ask them if they think that team will be about a 10-point favorite in every home game? They’ll probably say “No, that’s crazy.” But…in market terms it’s the same thing. Assuming up front that the team you’re betting will go 7-1 at home is crazy except for super elites (who still have to stay healthy).

Don’t assume your sleeper pick is going to win all of its coin flips. Assessments must reflect real-world math, or you’ll just be gambling on whether or not you get lucky. Sharps bet edges and let luck take care of itself.

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