2019 NFL Win Totals, Public Perception and Over/Unders
2019 NFL Win Totals, Public Perception and Over/Unders
Betting on NFL Win Totals or Over/Unders is a tried and true American pastime. Even those who do not play fantasy football or watch the NFL all that closely can get their consciousness permeated by the Las Vegas Win Totals for their local NFL teams. Our lines are being drawn from the Fanduel Sportsbook (where you can get an exclusive bonus through signing up RotoExperts' links) but more important than just the win totals are the prices that the totals are being offered at after being open for a few months. It is not rocket science to know that the public is likely to disagree with a few of the lines put out by the Fanduel Sportsbook and our very own Arturo Galletti at SportsGrid used the over/under prices (i.e -150 vs. +150 for the market price on a win total). In this space, I will examine a few of the lines with the widest public perception delta's to see if action on either side of a few NFL win totals are bettable three months out from the start of the season.
First, we need to begin by addressing a pretty stupid thing that many "bettors" believe: Simply "fading the public" is not a viable betting strategy. It doesn't beat the rake, it does not provide some secret to winning sports bets and it is not a winning formula in and of itself. However, there are general clues that can be taken from public betting moves and more importantly, if the modeling that you (or in this case, we) are using disagrees with the way the line is moving, more value is created. The spreadsheet graph that Arturo put together should be able to aid us in betting 2019 NFL Win Totals by showing where a price has diverged too far from an accurate projection of the 2019 NFL season.
Los Angeles Chargers OVER 9.5 Wins
The Chargers are one of the most interesting teams in the NFL because despite almost always being one of the best five teams in terms of advanced analytics, it doesn't always translate into wins. The Rivers-lead Chargers have won more than 10 games only twice in the last decade. A fair amount of that blame can be squarely placed on the shoulders of the hapless Mike McCoy and doesn't seem to be the case under Anthony Lynn. The bottom half of the AFC West is fairly weak with the Broncos rebuilding and the Raiders doing... whatever the Raiders are doing. In 2018, the Chargers were the third-best team in Football Outsiders DVOA, third in total yards per play on offense, and sixth in points scored. Their primary competition, the Kansas City Chiefs, got significantly worse over the offseason. The Chiefs lost a few key defensive contributors, likely Tyreek Hill and were likely due for a bit of offensive regression regardless of personnel. If the Chargers win this division, as the evidence suggests, they are likely to go over this total. Leaving money locked up in futures is always a tricky equation because the expected value of the bet you are placing needs to be greater than the expected value of how that same money would be wagered on single-day or smaller timeframe events over the course of the futures bet but the Chargers OVER is one of the cases where you can feel good about leaving the money locked up.
Baltimore Ravens OVER 8.5 Wins
The public being anti-Ravens is sort of interesting to me. There is some general love for the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers are always a public team but the Ravens are a good football team. They scored almost the same amount of points in 2018 as the high-flying Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sixth in total team DVOA on Football Outsiders, and third in defensive DVOA. There is definitely a little bit of a risk in betting a team whose strength is on defense because defensive performance year over year on defense is not extremely sticky. However, the Raven's offense projects to be better in 2019 than it was in 2018. They have added younger wide receivers, won't be counting on rookie tight ends, and theoretically expect a better passing performance from Lamar Jackson. Even if Jackson is similar to the quarterback he was last season, he is still a value at the position due to his rushing ability. Quarterback rushes are somewhere in between a pass and a running back run in terms of EPA added and Jackson being so good at them is a legit boon for Baltimore. Considering Ben Roethlisberger's age, the state of the Cincinnati Bengals, and the relative uncertainty about how the Browns will perform in 2019, the Ravens OVER is one of my favorite bets on the NFL win totals market.
Miami Dolphins UNDER 4.5 Wins
The Dolphins do not want to win more than four games in 2019, we know this to be true. They have started to move on from large chunks of their veteran talent, brought in Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick to their quarterback room and are effectively hitting the 'reset' button as a franchise. The organization is showing no desire to hide the fact that they are tanking in 2019. Teams like the Dolphins are really interesting for futures purposes. There is so much noise in a single NFL season that a team that doesn't even want to win games could actually win over 4.5 games if the ball just bounced their way an inordinate amount of times. The Dolphins were involved in one such improbable win last year. However, we are in the business of trying to make intelligent decisions with available information. The information we have says that a bad team from 2018 is going to try and be even worse in 2019 while playing in a division with the greatest franchise in pro football and two other teams that have made significant strides in improving for 2019. That information would suggest to us that taking the UNDER on Miami's very-low win total is a profitable move.
Kansas City Chiefs UNDER 10.5 Wins
Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in football, Andy Reid is one of the best play-callers in the game and it still might not matter for the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are in the middle of a massive defensive makeover that includes only one player left from their 2015 roster. Justin Houston and Dee Ford are fairly sizable losses, though the addition of Frank Clark and Tyran Mathieu are nothing to sneeze at. Kansas City's defense was poor in 2018 and is not likely to be much more than marginally better in 2019. The real issue with betting the over on 10.5 wins for the Chiefs is two-fold. They play a tough schedule, including 2018 playoff teams with the Colts, Texans, Ravens, Patriots and the Bears. The second is that, like all historically great offenses, they are likely in for some negative regression. Per Mike Clay from ESPN+, "f the 30 offenses that scored 50-plus touchdowns in a season over the past decade, only three increased their total the next season. All three were Patriots teams (2011, 2012, 2016). The average drop of everyone else was 13.3 touchdowns." Mahomes can be the same player, maybe even better, but the nature of the way the game of football works, the Chiefs are exceedingly likely to score fewer points in 2019 than they did in 2018. With at best a league average defense, no Tyreek Hill, a returning-from-injury Travis Kelce and a first-place schedule, the Chiefs seem quite unlikely to hit their over on 10.5 wins. It never feels good to be short in the NFL win totals market on what might be the best offense in the league but in this case, it is the right call.
Detriot Lions UNDER 6.5 Wins
When you get a chance to short a team that is playing like they want to win the SuperBowl in 1944, you definitely need to short that team. The Lions want to #EstablishTheRun , control time of possession and in general, be the worst sort of football team there is. Their wide receiver corps is threadbare after Kenny Golladay and there is some talk that Marvin Jones might find himself not on the roster at some point. At that point, the pass-catching options for the Lions would be Golladay, Danny Amendola, rookie T.J Hockenson, Brandon Powell, Tommy Lee Lewis, and Andy Jones. The 2019 Lions are not going to be able to efficiently throw the football and to make matters worse, they do not seem to care. They will be running the ball and attempting to defend the pass with Darius Slay as their only plus option in the secondary. This is a bad team in one of the toughest division in football. The Lions finished 25th in points scored and 21st in points allowed last season and have made no dramatic additions to their personnel that would suggest a change. What is worse is that Matt Patricia and the organization hired failed play-caller Darrell Bevell to run the ball EVEN MORE. Of all of these bets, I feel the best about taking the under for the Lions 2019 NFL win totals market and would maybe even take the under on six wins. A bad organization hires bad coaches who identify bad players and uses those players sub-optimally and we can profit.
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