Remember when the NFL season win totals were released last summer? So many teams and wagers looked tempting. A few even looked easy. With the regular season now complete, it’s time to go back and look at which teams were the biggest surprises and disappointments of 2019, and to see if there are lessons we gamblers can learn from this most unusual season.

NFL win totals
The final week of the NFL regular season threw a monkey wrench into the final win totals of several teams. Here’s a closer look at who exceeded and who fell short of projections. (Image: USA Today)

All of the NFL’s 2019 regular-season games are now complete. This means bettors who wagered on season-win totals can cash their tickets in, or in some cases, tear them up. Here’s a look at which teams were surprises, and which were disappointments.

Biggest Surprise Teams

Team                    Projected Wins     Actual Wins     Result

Baltimore                             8                       14              +6 wins
San Francisco                     8                       13              +5 wins
Green Bay                           9                       13              +4 wins
Buffalo                                 6                       10              +4 wins
Seattle                                8.5                     11              +2.5 wins

Most Disappointing Teams

Which teams had the biggest disparity of projected wins versus actual wins? Here’s are the worst performers:

Team                    Projected Wins     Actual Wins     Result

LA Chargers                        10                       5              -5 wins
Detroit                                  7                        3               -4 wins
Cincinnati                             6                        2               -4 wins
Cleveland                             9                       6                -3 wins
Washington                          6                       3                -3 wins
Carolina                               8                        5                -3 wins
Indianapolis                        9.5                      7                -2.5 wins
Jacksonville                         8                        6                -2 wins

What About Contrarianism?

For many years, it was possible to make a guaranteed profit simply by betting all the teams on the board before the season started. Although the profit was small, the bet couldn’t lose. The guaranteed wager was to bet every team on the board to go under its projected win total. No handicapping. No opinions. Just bet them all under.

The reasoning behind this strategy was that sportsbooks used to inflate the win totals overall, sometimes by as many as a dozen games. Oddsmakers reasoned that since most gamblers want to bet on their team to win, and thus go over the win total, the numbers were skewed to reflect that reality.

The way of posting numbers made sense. After all, most gamblers who bet season win totals and other futures bet on hometown teams, and want them to do well. Hence, by betting on every single team to go under, with 12 “more wins” projected in the cumulative total of the entire board than were available, the savvy gambler was able to ensure a small profit.

Those days are long gone. Season win totals are still slightly skewed toward overs, but the vig (or juice) on win totals now makes the strategy unprofitable.

Nonetheless, there remains some interest in being contrarian on win projections.

What would happen if we bet every team projected at 8.5 wins or more to go under? And, what would happen if we bet every team projected at 7.5 wins or less to go over? Since the NFL is grounded in parity — in other words, a league packed with 7-, 8-, and 9-win teams — it might be advisable to fade public perception.

Let’s see what happened.

Betting Projected 8.5 Wins-or-More Teams to Go Under ($100 on Each)

  • New England (11) — 12 wins — Lost $140
  • New Orleans (10.5) — 13 wins — Lost $100
  • LA Rams (10.5) — 9 wins — Won $100
  • Kansas City (10.5) — 12 wins — Lost $100
  • LA Chargers (10) — 5 wins — Won $100
  • Chicago (9.5) — 8 wins — Won $100
  • Indianapolis* (9.5) — 7 wins — Won $100
  • Philadelphia (9.5) — 9 wins — Won $100
  • Cleveland (9) — 6 wins — Won $100
  • Green Bay (9) — 13 wins. — Lost $100
  • Minnesota (9) — 10 wins — Lost $110
  • Pittsburgh (9) — 8 wins — Won $100
  • Atlanta (8.5) — 7 wins — Won $100
  • Dallas (8.5) — 8 wins — Won $100
  • Houston (8.5) — 10 wins — Lost $100
  • Seattle (8.5) — 11 wins — Lost $100
  • Tennessee (8.5) — 9 wins — Lost $115

*This total dropped to 6.5 and 7 shortly before the season began

Results: 9 wins / 8 losses — Net Win $35

Betting Projected 7.5 Wins-or-Less Teams to Go Over ($100 on Each)

  • Denver (7) — 7 wins — Push
  • Detroit (7) — 3 wins — Lost $115
  • NY Jets (7) — 7 wins — Push
  • Buffalo (6.5) — 10 wins — Won $100
  • Cincinnati (6) — 2 wins — Lost $115
  • NY Giants (6) — 4 wins — Lost $110
  • Oakland (6) — 7 wins — Won $100
  • Tampa Bay (6) — 7 wins — Won $100
  • Washington (6) — 3 wins — Lost $110
  • Arizona (5) — 5 wins — Push
  • Miami (4.5) — 5 wins — Won $110

Results:  4 wins / 4 losses / 2 pushes — Net minus $40

Carolina, Jacksonville, Baltimore, and San Francisco were all projected at 8 wins, so those four teams weren’t included in the results posted above.

As you can see, the contrarian approach didn’t produce a profit this season, but it didn’t lose much, either (just five dollars!). Based on these results, it’s probably worth keeping in mind, at least for another season or two.

A Final Word

Speaking of the future, I know the regular season is just ended, but I can’t wait to look ahead to 2020. Check back with me in May when I’ll be here to examine the new season totals when they’re released. In the meantime, look for my playoff betting strategies coming soon.

Note: For the purposes of this article, the writer used regular-season win totals dated as of August 15, 2019, which were then the consensus of Las Vegas sportsbooks. 


Nolan Dalla can be reached at: nolandalla@gmail.com

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