May 8, 2020 - by Jason Lisk
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons face the toughest schedule by 2020 Win Total projections for opponents (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)
[Update: Since we published this post in May of 2020, some NFL win totals lines at particular sports books have shifted slightly, as they are prone to do. However, as of our last check in mid-July, the general ordering of teams and the broader analysis in this post still applies.]
The 2020 NFL Season Win Totals can give us a view of how the betting markets view the prospects for each team. The NFL draft is in the history books and the 2020 NFL Schedule has been released. We now know most of the biggest roster moves leading into the year, from finding out which impact rookies are going to what team, to where Tom Brady is now playing. While there is plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the NFL season, the predictive markets are starting to come into focus.
We will release our NFL Preseason Rankings as we get closer to the start of the NFL season. You can see a summary of how we come up with those preseason predictive rankings here and see the 2019 final predictive rankings here.
But in the meantime, we can look and see how the betting markets view the teams for the 2020 season.
To do that, we looked at the Over/Under 2020 NFL Season Win Totals at the following sports books:
All totals current as of May 8, 2020.
Here are the teams ranked by the average season win total across all four sportsbooks.
|Rank||Team||DK O/U||FD O/U||LVWG O/U||WH O/U||AVERAGE O/U|
It should be no surprise that the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens, who have reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and had the best record in the AFC, are the two teams atop the list.
After that, NFC teams largely dominate. The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers are just ahead of the New Orleans Saints. Philadelphia, the 2017 Super Bowl winner and defending NFC East champ, comes in next, along with Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have been a trendy, rising team after adding Tom Brady at quarterback, and with the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement. All told, six of the top eight teams by win total are from the NFC.
The New England Patriots have won the AFC East 11 straight times, and 16 of the last 17 years. But as of now, the Patriots and Buffalo Bills are seen as near-equals in the betting market win total projections.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the lowest projected win total across all four sportsbooks, as the organization has been trading away talent recently, and is turning to Gardner Minshew as the full-time starter at quarterback after not addressing the position significantly in the draft or free agency.
We can also use the 2020 NFL Season Win Totals to assess strength of schedule. Going by 2019 opponent records, New England has the most difficult schedule. But that’s not what we see when we instead look at schedules based on how opponents are projected to do in 2020.
|Rank||Team||Conference||Division||SOS (Combined Opp. Wins)|
The Atlanta Falcons actually come out as facing the most difficult schedule in 2020 when we look at win totals. For one, Tampa Bay’s surge to a tie for the 5th-highest win total means that the Falcons face four division games against teams with a win total average above 9.0. Add in games at the Kansas City Chiefs, at the Dallas Cowboys, and at both Green Bay and Minnesota from the NFC North. Meanwhile, they only get three games against the bottom eight teams by average win total (two against Carolina, and versus Detroit).
Partly as a result, Atlanta’s win total projection comes in under 8 wins across all four sportsbooks.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts added Philip Rivers at quarterback this offseason, after one year with Jacoby Brissett following Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement. They also look to benefit from a favorable schedule, and as a result have a slightly higher win projection than the two teams that reached the playoffs from the AFC South a year ago (Houston and Tennessee).
Indianapolis gets the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Jets as a result of being the 3rd place team in the South a year ago. In contrast, Houston (with a 2020 average win projection of 7.50) draws Kansas City and New England. The Colts get a total of five games against teams in the bottom 8 in win total projection. Meanwhile, they face only one team in the top 8: a home game against Baltimore.
Finally, let’s look at the teams where the betting market is most optimistic and pessimistic compared to 2019 results, as reflected in the difference between this year’s season win totals and our final predictive ratings from last year.
These are the teams where the betting market has adjusted upward the most compared to where our rankings had the team at the end of 2019.
The biggest reason here is pretty obvious: a belief that 42-year-old Tom Brady is an upgrade over Jameis Winston at quarterback. The Bucs have a dynamic young offensive core, led by wide receiver Chris Godwin, and also added Brady’s former teammate Rob Gronkowski at tight end via trade, ending Gronkowski’s retirement. It’s also head coach Bruce Arians’ second year in Tampa Bay, following a 7-9 finish in his first campaign.
The Eagles were a disappointment for most of 2019, entering with high expectations as Carson Wentz returned from injury. The Eagles finished near-average at 15th in our power ratings, but have the 7th-highest win total projection.
The biggest hole for the team was at wide receiver. They tried to address this in the first round of the draft by taking Jalen Raegor from TCU. The Eagles also traded with Detroit to acquire Darius Slay at cornerback. The team also notably took Jalen Hurts, the quarterback from Oklahoma, to add more quarterback competition behind Wentz and also potentially to deploy him at multiple positions, similar to how the Saints have used Taysom Hill.
Here’s another one with a fairly obvious explanation: an expectation that Ben Roethlisberger’s return will improve the team. Roethlisberger missed most of the 2019 season after an elbow injury in Week 2. The duo of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges combined to average only 6.3 yards per attempt and throw 18 TD passes versus 17 interceptions. Pittsburgh finished at 19th in our power ratings last season, but have a win projection average of 9.0 wins in 2020, good for a tie for 9th.
Miami still only has a win total projection of 6.0 wins, but given that they were 32nd in our predictive ratings a year ago, having a win total projection better than four other teams represents optimism. The Dolphins finished the year playing better football, drafted QB Tua Tagovailoa in the first round of the NFL Draft, and had the most draft capital entering the 2020 Draft after a series of trades last year.
These are teams where the win totals in the betting markets show the most pessimism compared to 2019 performance.
Sure, Jacksonville wasn’t great last year, finishing 6-10. But they were still 24th in our power ratings. The team didn’t address the quarterback position and is going with Gardner Minshew, who replaced Nick Foles as a rookie and started the majority of games a year ago. The team traded away star cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the middle of last season, and are in a contentious standoff with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue this offseason. The market is clearly expecting the Jaguars’ fortunes to take a significant downturn compared to recent performance.
The Tennessee Titans ended up with the 7th-highest ranking in our predictive rankings a year ago. That probably understated their performance in that the team was significantly better on offense after switching from Marcus Mariota at quarterback, to Ryan Tannehill. They surged to the AFC Championship game with road wins over New England and Baltimore. But belief in Tennessee does not seem to be carrying over, and the market is expecting some regression. They have an average win total projection of 8.5 (15th highest) and the Colts are slight favorites over the Titans to win the AFC South this year.
The Patriots were among the leaders in our predictive power rating all season in 2019, falling to 4th with the playoff loss to Tennessee. This one is all about Tom Brady moving on. The starting quarterback will either be veteran Cam Newton, or second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The betting markets have New England at 9.0 wins for the season. The last time the Patriots failed to hit that mark was in 2000, in Bill Belichick’s first year in New England.
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