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Effects of NFL's changeover systems

By Steve Makinen  () 

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Since we are just a couple of weeks from the 2021 NFL draft, I’m beginning a two-part series on what I call changeover systems. These are data angles that take records and statistics from one season and provide insight as to which teams might be better or worse the next season because of them. They are often extremely predictive. For example, Tampa Bay was a glowing example of a potential breakout team at this point last year, and I wrote in March 2020 that “the Bucs were due for a resurgence … even before Tom Brady.” That proved to be prophetic, and I capitalized with a pair of great futures wagers. I hope we’ll find similar results in this year’s homework. 

In the first half of this series, I will analyze the quality and quantity of teams’ won-lost records by various means. Next week I will sift through a number of key statistical angles that typically lead to significant improvement or decline.

Why are these findings so impactful? I have always felt that the NFL is unlike any other league in that teams can make quick positive or negative turnarounds from year to year. Going from first to worst or worst to first is not unusual, and unlike the NBA or NHL, you can see seasons in which more than half the teams that qualify for the playoffs are different from the previous campaign. I believe this parity contributes to the league’s popularity. Although exceptions exist, such as New England’s long run of success, franchises aren’t typically fixed in long eras of winning or losing. Tampa Bay’s emergence last year from non-playoff team to Super Bowl champion stands as proof.

It benefits the bettor greatly to know which traits lead to teams improving or declining quickly. What is the typical resume of a team that improves greatly from one season to the next? Those who can find the answers can take advantage of not only the futures wagers and season win totals before the season but also the point spreads in the early weeks of the season before oddsmakers can catch up.

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