NFL Season Win Totals: Biggest Changes from Last Season
NFL season win totals have been out for a while now - long enough that the initial inaccuracies have been bet out of them, and they are where they are likely to sit until the regular season nears. It's a good time, then, to look at where we are at now, and how that compares to where they were at this time last year.
It's a good exercise to do because it points out which teams have a different public perception than they had last year. We can then look at whether the bigger changes are justified and what it means in terms of betting value. It's mostly just another fun exercise to help us pass the time from now until the dawn of real football again.
For the sake of consistency, we are going to use numbers from BetOnline both now and from last year. There are five teams this year that have seen their numbers shift by at least two wins from one season to the next. On one level it's interesting that despite how much rosters change every year, and how so many playoff teams change each year, win totals are surprisingly stable from one season to the next.:
Cleveland Browns - up from 5 last year to 9 now: This one can't be that surprising. Heading into last season, the Browns were viewed as moving in the right direction, but it was viewed as being part of a process that was going to take a while. The Browns are the Browns after all, so if you aren't going to be patient and braced for disappointment then you just haven't been paying attention to the last several decades. But this year the team has not only fallen madly in love with Baker Mayfield, who emerged in a big way as a rookie last year, but they also won the offseason by adding OBJ, winning trades everywhere, and drafting nicely. Frankly, given the general euphoria around this team in so many realms, the surprising part is not that their win total has gone up by four wins this year, but that it only sits at nine wins this year. That feels like a fair enough number, but it feels like books would find buyers at a higher number as well. People love Baker, and right now they love the Browns.
Chicago Bears - up from 5.5 to 9.5: Last year the Bears were among the bigger surprises. They got a huge early boost, when, for reasons that no one will ever understand, the Raiders decided they didn't need the league's most disruptive pass rusher, and Khalil Mack moved to Chicago. On top of that, Mitch Trubisky matured, the team was very well coached by a much-needed new coaching staff with a new perspective, and a strong defense was a real difference-maker. It was a case where the team that bettors were betting on in May when the total was posted was not the team that took the field. This year the number posted is much more indicative of the fact that this team is respected and looked at largely as one that can maintain last year's level of play.
Indianapolis Colts - up from 7.5 to 9.5: The Colts are becoming quite a wise guy team this year. After a rocky coaching search last year, they really got rolling, Andrew Luck was finally healthy and playing very well, and it was a surprisingly pleasing season. Seasons like that can be a big fluke that isn't sustained, but people do not believe that that is the case here. Like the Browns, they had a strong offseason to fill some gaps and improve on paper. And now we have to see if they can live up to those expectations. This team is not going to sneak up on anyone this year if the movement in the odds is an indication.
Kansas City Chiefs - up from 8 to 10: This one shouldn't be a surprise. Patrick Mahomes went from the guy who follows Alex Smith to the guy who is defending his MVP crown in one season. The offense was incredibly potent, and that led to a very special, and somewhat unexpected, season. The offseason wasn't as inspiring for this team as some others - through discipline issues and through general personnel moves that weren't as stellar. So, people think that the team is going to be able to contend with a chance to match last season's performance, but they aren't expecting the team to be significantly improved.
Oakland Raiders - down from 9.5 to 6.5: There is only one team that made a significant step down in their win total, and again it should be no surprise which team it is. Last year people were still buying into the Jon Gruden hype. It was still possible to believe that he was a genius, and expectations were significant. Since then, they have flopped badly on the field last year, lost a series of moronic trades, blown the draft badly, alienated their starting QB, overpaid for a couple of guys, hired a TV analyst to run the team - and it goes on and on. It is still very much possible that Gruden will turn things around and actually pull this off. But it is getting harder to believe. And if you were pessimistic coming in like I was, then you feel much better about that opinion now.
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