The start of another NFL regular season is still more than six weeks away, so there is still plenty of time to place a few wagers on the futures odds for your favorite teams. The odds have been tweaked and re-tweaked throughout the offseason due to reaction from the betting public, but there is still plenty of value in the numbers if you know where to look.
One easy way to try and uncover value is to take a look at a team’s strength of schedule number and compare it to their current odds to win their division, conference, the Super Bowl, and their projected season win totals. While there are some imperfections in the whole ‘strength of schedule’ measurement given that it is based on 2011 results, it can still paint a picture of which teams may have an easier path than others to a winning season and one of the top two seeds in each conference for the playoffs.
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The most glaring aspect of this measurement heading into this NFL season is that Bovada’s top two favorites to win it all this season also have the two easiest schedules, according to the combined win/loss record of their regular-season opponents. The New England Patriots are currently -350 favorites to win the AFC East with the New York Jets next at +600. The Pats are 3/1 favorites to win the AFC and 13/2 second-favorites to win the Super Bowl. New England’s projected win total for the regular season is 12.5. When you add up the 2011 records of its 2012 opponents, the winning percentage is just .453 with 116 wins verses 140 losses. While this number would have little impact on the Patriots’ odds to win the AFC and Super Bowl XLVII, it could have a major impact on winning the AFC East and winning more than 12.5 games.
Turning to this season’s favorite to win it all, the Green Bay Packers at 6/1, there is also some value to be found in the numbers. The Packers are prohibitive favorites to win the NFC North at -250 with Chicago next at +350. Green Bay is a 7/2 favorite to win the NFC and it has a projected win total of 12 games. Using the same formula to determine strength of schedule, the Packers 2012 opponents ended 2011 with a .469 winning percentage, or 120 victories verses 136 losses. Once again, this number adds little value to Green Bay’s odds to win the conference and Super Bowl. However, it does add some solid value for its odds to win its division and win more than 12 games.
Another team that could benefit from a low strength of schedule percentage is the Houston Texans. Last season they stumbled down the stretch due to injuries to some key players, most notably quarterback Matt Schaub. Guys like Schaub, running back Arian Foster, and wide receiver Andre Johnson are back and ready to go. The Texans have been opened at -350 to win the AFC South with Tennessee next at +400. Their projected win total is 9.5 and they are listed as 11/2 second-favorites to win the AFC and fourth-favorites along with Philadelphia at 12/1 to win the Super Bowl. Houston’s strength of schedule is tied with Buffalo for third-lowest in the league at 47.3 percent with their opponents tallying 121 wins verse 135 losses. This paints a solid picture for this team winning their division and at least 10 games.
One word of caution when it comes to strength of schedule measurements is that teams rarely win or lose the exact same amount of games from one year to the next, so what appears to be an easy schedule on paper could turn out to be much more difficult than expected. That being said, the three examples cited above still offer some solid value in their numbers especially when it comes to the ‘over’ on their projected win total.
2012 NFL Strength of Schedule
Team - (Opponents 2011 Winning Percentage, 2012 Super Bowl Odds)
New York Giants – (.547, 18/1)
Denver Broncos – (.543, 16/1)
Cleveland Browns- (.527, 200/1)
Baltimore Ravens – (.523, 18/1)
St. Louis Rams – (.523, 75/1)
Philadelphia Eagles – (.516, 12/1)
Carolina Panthers- (.513, 35/1)
Arizona Cardinals – (.512, 50/1)
Minnesota Vikings- (.512, 150/1)
San Diego Chargers – (.504, 25/1)
New Orleans Saints – (.504, 18/1)
Seattle Seahawk – (.504, 60/1)
Dallas Cowboys – (.504, 18/1)
Cincinnati Bengals – (.500, 40/1)
Indianapolis Colts – (.500, 100/1)
Jacksonville Jaguars – (.500, 200/1)
Pittsburgh Steelers – (.500, 16/1)
Oakland Raider – (.496, 75/1)
Miami Dolphins – (.496, 75/1)
Chicago Bears – (.492, 16/1)
Detroit Lions – (.492, 22/1)
Kansas City Chiefs – (.492, 45/1)
New York Jets – (.492, 28/1)
Atlanta Falcons – (.488, 25/1)
Washington Redskins – (.488, 60/1)
San Francisco 49ers – (.488, 10/1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – (.484, 75/1)
Tennessee Titans – (.480, 50/1)
Houston Texans – (.473, 12/1)
Buffalo Bills – (.473, 50/1)
Green Bay Packers – (.469, 6/1)
New England Patriots – (.453, 13/2)
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