NFL Win Totals & Schedule-Adjusted Forecasting for 2023

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With DraftKings Sportsbook posting their futures win totals recently, 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.

Over the next month, Matthew Betz and myself will be sharing some of our initial projections of these 2023 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 & Betting Podcast and the DFS Pass, part of the Ultimate Draft Kit+.

What are Schedule Adjusted Win Projections?

You can 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
  • Optimism– ‘After how they finished, there’s no way to go but up…
  • Spite– ‘After what they did last year, there’s no way the repeat that…
  • 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 divisional matchups, home/away, and a running five-year win rate based on their schedule strength.

These projections were calculated before the DraftKings Sportsbook released their totals this past weekend and they reflect totals rounded up or down to 0.1-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 201 of the 272 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 future predictions.

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For example, the annual NFC East divisional matchup of the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team takes place both in Lincoln Financial Field (PA) and FedEx Field (MD), and while the public may think Philadelphia is clearly a better team in 2023, it doesn’t mean the Commanders have no shot to win either game. You might say the Commanders 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.

Rewind the clock back to Week 10 last year when the Commanders (led by Taylor Heinicke) won in Philly.  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, PHI has a 58.7 percent at home versus WSH in my projections for 2023.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

2023 Win Totals & Schedule-Adjusted Forecasts

Do not take schedule-adjusted win projections as gospel nor as exact win totals at the end of March. The markets will move after the NFL Draft and as bettors spot weak lines.

Teams Schedule Adj. Win Proj. DK Sportsbook
Arizona Cardinals 5.3 5.5
Atlanta Falcons 8.1 7.5
Baltimore Ravens 8.3 8.5
Buffalo Bills 10.9 10.5
Carolina Panthers 6.9 7.5
Chicago Bears 7.5 7.5
Cincinnati Bengals 10.8 11.5
Cleveland Browns 9.0 9.5
Dallas Cowboys 9.3 9.5
Denver Broncos 8.1 8.5
Detroit Lions 9.2 9.5
Green Bay Packers 7.9 7.5
Houston Texans 5.9 5.5
Indianapolis Colts 6.7 6.5
Jacksonville Jaguars 9.8 10.5
Kansas City Chiefs 10.8 11.5
Las Vegas Raiders 7.4 7.5
Los Angeles Chargers 9.2 9.5
Los Angeles Rams 7.9 7.5
Miami Dolphins 9.8 9.5
Minnesota Vikings 8.8 8.5
New England Patriots 7.5 7.5
New Orleans Saints 8.8 9.5
New York Giants 8.5 8.5
New York Jets 8.5 9.5
Philadelphia Eagles 10.6 10.5
Pittsburgh Steelers 8.6 8.5
San Francisco 49ers 11.0 11.5
Seattle Seahawks 8.7 8.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6.9 6.5
Tennessee Titans 8.1 7.5
Washington Football Team 7.2 7.5

A couple of things to consider:

  • These projections are an initial run.
  • Laying big numbers (above 11 wins) is hard based on using win probabilities.
  • Win totals are about considering the downside and asking yourself “how could things break wrong/right?”

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