, I wrote about how taking a look back at EXACTLY what happened throughout the course of the 2015 season can help bettors create more accurate opening power ratings for the 32 NFL teams for the upcoming 2016 campaign. Instead of looking at aggregate numbers compiled at the end of the season, my methodology here is to track strength of schedule based on power ratings on the week the games were played.
Taking the time to do that accurately gives bettors a much better idea of how a team came to accumulate their final record. Did they underachieve because their schedule was tougher than it looked? The Giants and Cowboys stood out here. Did they overachieve because their schedule was weaker than it looked? The Cardinals and the Jets stood out in that regard.
Once last year’s numbers are compiled and filed, it’s time to do the same thing for the upcoming campaign – creating more accurate numbers than you can commonly find. This week, I’ll focus on the 2016 NFL strength of schedule as they relate to season win totals. Once again, my goal is to differentiate between the mainstream numbers and the meaningful ones.
Google "2016 NFL Strength of Schedule" and you’ll find countless charts exactly like this one.
|2016-16 NFL Strength of Schedule|
2015-16 Opponents' W-L
2015-16 Opponents' Win Pct.
San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Jets
New England Patriots
San Diego Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
New York Giants
Green Bay Packers
The standard mainstream formula is simple. Take every opponent’s wins from last year and every opponent’s losses, add them up and voila, you’re done. Those numbers show that the teams from the NFC North, AFC North and NFC East face the easiest schedules in the NFL with the AFC South teams not far behind. On the hard side, teams from the AFC East, NFC South and NFC West face the toughest slates, based on those mainstream metrics.
This information is widely available and quoted everywhere. Yet an end-of-the-season analysis, year after year, will show that trying to use the mainstream numbers for any type of serious betting is an exercise in futility – they’re consistently wrong, from top to bottom.
Should Dallas really be priced as a 4-12 team, when they are lined at O/U 9 wins this year? What about Carolina, off a 15-1 season, but priced as a 10.5 win team here in 2016? The Jets won ten games last year, this year, they are lined as a 7.5 win team. The injury riddled Ravens went 5-11 in 2015, but in 2016, they are lined as an 8-8 team, not the bottom feeder they were at the end of last season. Denver, Jacksonville, New England, Tennessee and Washington are all lined with at least a two win differential between last year’s final record and this year’s bettable win total.
This is good news for savvy bettors. The win-loss record of last year’s teams means very little in reality when it comes to projecting three things. First, how good those teams actually were to earn those varying records. Second, how tough a schedule those teams faced to earn that win-loss record. And third, how good those teams will actually be in 2016, as opposed to how good they were last year.
The standard advanced metric methodology is not based on last year’s, win-loss records. Rather, they’re based on the projected strength and weaknesses of each team in 2016, based on THIS YEAR’s current Over/Under win totals as set by the betting marketplace. The juice (vig) is factored into the equation as well, using the standard wiseguy formula of 50 cents of juice equating to approximately half of a win. I’ve been using this method for more than a decade, and it’s still working extremely well on a yearly basis.
The NFL season win marketplace is a long, long way from maturity, and significant differences exist between the lines from one sportsbook to the next. That being said, the early numbers show some massive differences between the projected strength of schedules based on last year’s numbers compared to the more accurate methodology described above. Most importantly, these early numbers give us a much better idea of which teams are actually going to face a much tougher than average slate this year, and which teams are going to have a relatively easy slate of opponents here in 2016.
The wiseguy formula shows the 49ers, Rams, Redskins, Jets and Falcons will face the toughest schedules in 2016. The Redskins, in particular, don’t show a particularly tough schedule when looking at mainstream numbers. That same wiseguy formula shows the very weakest opposing schedules upcoming for the Giants, Cowboys, Panthers, Steelers and Packers. Here, Carolina stands out as a team with a 'weaker than it looks at first glance' type schedule, with Pittsburgh also somewhat misrepresented.
The win total betting marketplace numbers aren’t static – they’ll move throughout the spring and summer months as more and more bettors get involved. Look for an update here in my Wiseguy Report after the MLB All-Star Break as we look to see if any additional strength of schedule misrepresentations show up over the next few months.
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