Early NFL Vegas Win Totals & Schedule Adjusted Forecasts (Fantasy Football)

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With DraftKings posting their futures win totals on Wednesday, we get our first look at how Vegas views the upcoming season. Whether you are plugged in with a forecasting perspective, NFL rooting interest with your favorite team or you are planning on laying some money on the line this year, here’s your starting place.

This is more of a “first look” at the win totals. It’s like getting a lay of the land and who else is on the dance floor before you hug the wall with your purple & black canned Cherry Coke at your middle school dance. Let’s pause and consider before busting a move. If you want a refresher, I wrote Analyzing Vegas Win Totals & What We Missed in 2020 as an opportunity to look back and gain some takeaways.

Over the next two weeks, Matthew Betz and myself will be sharing some of our initial projections of these 2021 win totals and personal takes on some of these futures so stay tuned! We also will be using part of the summer to discuss win totals, BestBall strategy, and other best practices before running in-season together on the DFS Podcast and the DFS Pass part of the Ultimate Draft Kit+.

What are Schedule Adjusted Win Projections?

You could look at a team’s win totals in a couple of different ways:

  • Feelings– ‘This team just feels like a 10-win team to me’
  • Spite– ‘After what they did last year, there’s no way they…’
  • Bias– ‘I know what this team/player/coach will do’

The reality is all of us carry “priors” into our forecasting abilities and that should be our starting place. No one is completely objective and some of the intuition or previous knowledge and information you carry with you (often undetected) shouldn’t be completely ignored. However, if you’re trying to wager actual money on futures and you’re not looking at the team’s actual schedule, you are trying to play darts without a dartboard. I don’t care how precise you think you are… you need a playing field to work with.

Every year in early May I write an article on the insights of the NFL Schedule release because right now we know who the opponents and where they are playing (home/away) but not when the games occur in terms of the order.

I’ve gone through and looked at all 32 NFL teams and their schedule to assign a win total based on per-game likelihood. In other words, we aren’t looking at a macro-level but game-by-game what could happen based by factoring in historical win rates of home/away and previous year’s win rates.

These projections were calculated before the DraftKings Sportbook released their totals on Wednesday and they reflect totals rounded up or down to 0.5 point increments. The actual math and probabilities of each game range from a 25 percent chance to 75 percent as every team in the NFL have some legitimate, mathematical chance of winning a football game. The majority of games fall in the 40-60 percent range with 402 of the 544 games (73.9%) sitting there. You might say that math doesn’t seem very compelling but any type of edge you think you might have against Vegas is silly. You’re having a killer year if you hit 55+ percent of your futures predictions.

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For example, the annual NFC East divisional matchup of the New York Giants and Washington Football Team takes place both in MetLife Stadium (NJ) and FedEx Field (MD) and while the public may think Washington is clearly a better team (I mean their defense is intimidating) in 2021, it doesn’t mean the Giants have no shot to win either game. You might say the Giants have a 25 percent chance at home and think there’s no way they win on the road. But probability-wise both should hover closer to that median range of 40-to-60.

Heck, Daniel Jones and company swept both games last year, and actually, the Giants have won five in a row now against their rivals. You assign a probability to each game (both home and away) and games historically are even tighter in intradivisional games like this. For a peek into the numbers, NYG has a 52 percent at home and 46 percent on the road versus WSH in my projections.

It is also extremely important to retrain our brains to think based on a 17-game season, a piece of information that wasn’t finalized and official until Tuesday. This will be the biggest adjustment for casual NFL fans who think of win totals and the annual 7-9 Jeff Fisher-isms. One game sounds like a small change but for win totals, a 17-game data set is massively different especially in a system that has remained the same since 1978.

Note: Do not take schedule-adjusted win projections as gospel nor as exact win totals on April 1st. This is a lay of the land and a first look based on the schedule. We still need to find out when these games will happen and I can adjust my forecast again with more information.

2021 Win Totals

Stayed tuned as we walk division-by-division and offer some of our favorite overs and unders for the 2021 season.

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