Seeing the Futures: Feel Bold? Why You Shouldn't Take the Over if Your Team Has a Double-Digit Win Total

Cameron Smith

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Breaking news: Las Vegas oddsmakers are typically pretty good about prognosticating how many games your favorite NFL team will win. And, when they do think you're team will win 10 or more games, it's not wise to overestimate your team's season to come.

As broken down in great detail by the Action Network, teams that are handed double-digit win totals in the futures market rarely, if ever, hit the over. How rarely? Let Action's Evan Abrams take it away:

Only 43 of the 104 teams with double-digit win totals over the past 20 years have exceeded their number. The most alarming aspect of that 40.2% is the fact that those 104 teams have gone under their win total by almost three-quarters of a full win (-0.74).

So, the data tells you all you need to know. And then there's the Patriots.

As Abrams notes, the Patriots account for a significant part of that 40 percent; New England is 9-3-2 (over-under-push) in the 14 seasons in which the Vegas books have handed them a double-digit win total. Not only are the Patriots often headed for the over, they've traditionally over-achieved by more than a full win per season (1.1) when they do.

With nine of the 43 teams hitting the over, New England accounts for nearly 21 percent of the teams to hit the over when entering with a double-digit win total expectation.

So, even with the Patriots entering 2019 with an 11 in the win total column, they may be the safest bet on the board among teams with a double-digit.

The others? The Chiefs, Rams and Saints all enter with a 10.5 expected win number.

All three of those teams finished with more wins in 2018. None of them should be considered a shoo-in to follow in those footsteps in 2019.

Consider the final Quality Stats Power Rankings spot for each of those four teams:

— The Chiefs, at No. 5, achieved all that was expected and more in 2018. But it's not a stretch to say that quarterback Patrick Mahomes' meteoric rise has now inflated the team's expectations beyond what's reasonable. In addition to a full year of defensive game planning aimed at slowing Mahomes, KC is also inaugurating an entirely new defensive system, with a shifted defensive front from a team that struggled to stop the run (27th in Defensive Rusher Rating). Is it really fair to expect the Chiefs to keep up their pace with all that change and additional challenge opposite them? Probably not.

— The Saints enter with an expected win total above 10 for the fourth time since Drew Brees became their starting quarterback. As Action noted, in their previous such campaigns, they've won just a single playoff game. That doesn't bode well. Then there's the Saints' abject inability to defend the pass; New Orleans ranked 27th in our Defensive Passer Rating, and they've added two defensive backs ... but both came via the NFL Draft, and neither was picked before the fourth round. It's almost as if the Saints have decided they can compensate for their weakness defending the pass and are just going to live with it. That's a risky strategy, and when combined with the loss of longtime running back Mark Ingram (they brought in former Vikings back Latavius Murray as a replacement), there's just enough moving pieces to make one pause and wonder if they can really recapture the magic they had bottled in 2018.

— The Rams have topped 10 wins for two consecutive seasons under wunderkind coach Sean McVay, and there's no overt reason to doubt that they could do it again, at least according to conventional wisdom. Then there's the loss of depth on the offensive line (guard Rodger Saffold and starting center John Sullivan both checked out), so it's highly likely the team will face a transition period up front, which could lead to more pressure on quarterback Jared Goff. It's safe to say he didn't excel under those conditions in the Super Bowl against the Patriots (look for other teams to prepare copious double looks on defense to confuse Goff as the Pats did in February). One could argue that the expected departure of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh won't hurt too much in the regular season, but Suh came into his own in the playoffs and helped fellow defensive tackle Aaron Donald significantly by taking some of the attention away from him up front. Perhaps most importantly, the Rams fared well in all the Quality Stats, including a top-five spot in the Power Rankings. The stats don't lie, and they may have the most balanced team among the four handed expected win totals of 10.5 or more.

With all those factors and warning signs factored in, the Rams are still the clear safe pick, behind the Patriots, as a potential team to top their expected 10.5 wins. Still, given past track records and the changes on each roster, there's enough to instill significant doubt in any of these teams' ability to reach 11 wins and beyond.

And that, in turn, should probably be enough to keep most bettors away from a wager at this stage in the offseason. Things can change, as can the over/unders, but now just isn't the time for non-Patriots fans to place down money hoping for better returns come the playoffs.


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