Best NFL Win Totals To Bet Using NFL Strength of Schedule
The NFL schedule has expanded to 17 games, and win totals on the NFL futures markets have been updated across most online sportsbooks. Bettors will be pressed to keep that extra game in mind when looking at some of the totals being posted.
The 17th game will be an interconference affair, with the AFC getting the extra home contest this year.
A few sportsbooks, including PointsBet, had team-win odds up earlier based on a 16-game schedule. Those wagers have been voided. Most of the notable NFL free-agency signings have been completed. The Dolphins, 49ers and Eagles subsequently shook up the first-round draft order with a pair of deals last week. The NFL draft awaits. It will take place starting on April 29.
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What are the data points bettors can look at when trying to price some early value on win totals? Perhaps the clearest is “strength of the schedule.” And while we won’t know the exact dates of any games for a couple of weeks, we do know each team’s opponents.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the toughest strength of schedule in 2021 with their opponents compiling a 155-115-2 (.571) record last season. The Philadelphia Eagles have the softest winning percentage strength of schedule at .430.
Here is the updated strength of schedule based on the 2021 NFL 17-game season, with each team’s combined opponent record, opponent winning percentage and projected 2021 win totals at PointsBet:
|Rank||Team||Opp. Record||Opp. Pct.||O/U 2021 Wins|
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6 NFL Win Totals To Bet Based on Strength of Schedule
Where is the value among these numbers? Here are six win over/under bets to make right now before the NFL Draft using their regular-season strength of schedule and win totals as data points.
New England Patriots Over 9 Wins (-140)
2020 RECORD: 7-9 (3rd AFC East)
2021 SOS & OPPONENT WINNING %: T19 (.489)
THE BUZZ: In the wake of Tom Brady’s departure, the Patriot Way took a wrong turn in 2020. However, Bill Belichick guaranteed $137.5 million to eight players in the first two days of the legal tampering period. The team added depth at the receiver, tight end, defensive line and secondary positions. QB Cam Newton will be hard-pressed not to win 10 games with this new offensive lineup. The Jimmy Garoppolo rumors persist, as well. The Patriots defense is bolstered by the return of Dont’a Hightower (COVID-19 opt-out) and Kyle Van Noy, who signed after being cut by Miami.
Baltimore Ravens Under 11 Wins (-110)
2020 RECORD: 11-5 (2nd AFC North)
2021 SOS & OPPONENT WINNING %: 2 (.563)
THE BUZZ: The Ravens won 11 games this past season and really did not make any substantial additions in the free-agency period except for WR Sammy Watkins on a one-year deal. That gives Lamar Jackson a legit WR threat. Meanwhile, the AFC North has a new potential contender in Cleveland. Betting the Ravens over here means you’re banking on 12-5 season in the always-tough AFC North. Outside the division, Baltimore hosts the Chiefs, Packers, Colts and Rams — all playoff teams this past season. A 4-4 run against these teams is not unrealistic. That means Baltimore could only afford to lose one other game in the division (Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati) and/or during visits to Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago and Miami. Take the under here.
Chicago Bears Over 7 Wins (-110)
2020 RECORD: 8-8 (2nd NFC North)
2021 SOS & OPPONENT WINNING %: 3 (.550)
THE BUZZ: The Bears reached the playoffs last season but were generally considered a disappointment. The Mitch Trubisky Error is over. The Bears tried to land Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. They eventually signed Andy Dalton to a one-year deal. The Red Rifle is slated to be Chicago’s starting QB this season. Dalton will be Trubisky’s equal at worst. The Bears franchised WR Allen Robinson but are cap-limited and any moves will now be centered around the draft. Their defense should be solid. An 8-9 finish is not too much to ask given those four games against Detroit and Minnesota, out-of-division home games against the Bengals, Giants and Cardinals, and an extra road game at Las Vegas.
Kansas City Chiefs Under 12 Wins (-110)
2020 RECORD: 14-2 (1st AFC West)
2021 SOS & OPPONENT WINNING %: 11 (.511)
THE BUZZ: QB Patrick Mahomes has averaged 12.3 wins over 16 games during his NFL career. An extra game can’t hurt that. However, the Chiefs were thrashed in the Super Bowl. Teams that have lost a Super Bowl to Tom Brady usually slip the following season. The Chiefs since rebuilt their offensive line around former Patriot Joe Thuney and brought in Michael Burton at fullback. Meanwhile, Mahomes still has Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill as targets. So, how can they lose six games? The Chiefs swept the AFC West last season, but the Chargers and Raiders could each steal one of those games this year. The Chiefs host Buffalo, and their extra home game is against Green Bay. On the road, they visit Baltimore and Tennessee outside the division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Over 11.5 Wins (-110)
2020 RECORD: 11-5 (2nd NFC East)
2021 SOS & OPPONENT WINNING %: 29 (.465)
THE BUZZ: How is it that the defending Super Bowl champions have among the softest schedules in the NFL? Funny things happen when your quarterback is Tom Brady. Now among the top GMs in the league, Brady helped the Bucs reassemble their entire 22-man starting lineup from last season to run it back in 2021. That is the first time a defending Super Bowl champion has done this in the free-agency era. A 12-5 record is not a tough ask given both the weak Bucs’ schedule and the fact that Tampa Bay has won eight straight, including the postseason. Tampa Bay visits New England this season. Expect Armageddon.
Miami Dolphins Over 9 Wins (-121)
2020 RECORD: 10-6 (2nd AFC East)
2021 SOS & OPPONENT WINNING %: 27 (.550)
THE BUZZ: The Dolphins won 10 games last season bouncing between Tua Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Miami is all-in on Tagovailoa this season and proved it by dealing out of the No. 3 spot in the draft. Now picking at No. 6, the Dolphins will have one more exceptional offensive option for Tagovailoa, most likely a wide receiver. The Dolphins also have the No. 18 pick in the first round, plus a solid core on both sides of the ball returning. And Coach Brian Flores has one more season of experience. We like Miami to possibly win the division. Anything less than a 10-7 finish would be a disappointment.
4 Keys When Betting NFL Win/Loss Totals
Do The Math
The numbers and language can be deceiving. "Over" 10 wins means just that. "Over." There are no ties. When a team’s win total is “10” – you’re really betting that said team either going to win either 9 or fewer games, or 11 or more games. If the number hits on 10, it's a push. When the total is along the lines of 9.5 or 10.5, you’re may be getting a better deal depending on your sentiment, but you are eliminating the possibility of a push.
Home & Away Matters
Strength of schedule is a good marker, but home-field advantage will matter again in 2021 as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expects teams to be playing in front of full stadiums. Check out the home and away games out of each team’s division. This year, the AFC has an extra home game due to the 17-game schedule. Some teams have their toughest out-of-division opponents at home, which helps to offset the extra strength in the schedule.
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Consider the Under
It’s always tough to bet the under, since you’re rooting for something not to happen — either in terms of points being scored or a win. But injuries are a fixture in the NFL. With the 17-game season, players and teams will be dealing with additional ailments to big-time players. Betting the under gives you that cushion. And remember, the DNA of the NFL is built upon parity. The league is structured for everyone to go 8-9 or 9-8. It’s just that teams don’t always cooperate.
Wagers May Be Limited
Betting limits are smaller on props like win totals. But these sorts of wagers give you a long-term play for a lower price. They are offered with the casual bettor in mind, so they will be influenced by public sentiment and breaking news. That means much of the value is offered on the front end.