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Predicting NFL season win totals

By Steve Makinen  () 


The 2021 NFL schedule was released last week and, as always, provoked a ton of instant reaction. When I see the schedule released, I break it down from a power rating standpoint, seeing how each team’s slate projects in terms of wins and losses. As bettors, we’re looking for every edge we can, and by analyzing every game, we can potentially find things that oddsmakers setting the season win total props might have missed or overvalued.

This year’s schedule is unique in that a 17th game was added. This probably threw you for a brief loop as you started looking at the season win props, since on average they were half a win higher per team. This quickly cleared up in my mind after I ran my power rating numbers. 

Bettors can pretty much get in on the season win wagers at any of their favorite establishments right now, but in this piece, we will compare my projections against the numbers set at DraftKings. If you’re a savvy bettor who prides yourself on shopping for and jumping on the best number available, you will be able to find differences up to 0.5 wins or variations on moneylines associated with the prop at other locales. 

I have simulated the 2021 schedules for each team using their opponents and my latest power ratings, including team-specific home and road field ratings. After dropping the home-field advantage ratings by 1.0 points last season due to the lack of fans, I have reinstated half of that for the coming season. I gave each game an expected point spread, from which I extracted the chances for a team to win each game. I then totaled them into a projected season standings. Those standings are followed by a team-by-team list of the opponents and projected point spreads. Use these numbers to bet the season win totals or the games of the year that many books have released.

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