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NFL Win Probabilities and Chances of Going Over/Under Win Totals

Updated August 21st, 2020
Published July 28, 2020

Each spring, sportsbooks give bettors a gift when they release the opening lines for every week of the upcoming NFL season. The gift is not the ability to place a bet on a Week 13 game you think presents value, but rather the pieces of a (complex) puzzle that when put together properly, give you a detailed picture of what sportsbooks are expecting from each team this season.

Using these opening NFL lines, I’ve already put together SBD’s NFL Power Rankings, which is based on an ATS +/- for all teams from Weeks 1-16. I’ve gone one step – or maybe 87 steps – further with these opening spreads, though.

We’re going to Tarantino this one. Let me give you the end result quickly, and then we’ll take our time in walking back through how we got here.

Best Over/Under Bets on 2020 NFL Win Totals

Teams to Bet OVER on Win Total Win Total Over Probability Teams to Bet UNDER on Win Total Win Total Under Probability
Indianapolis Colts 8.5 67.4% Las Vegas Raiders 7.5 73.1%
Minnesota Vikings 8.5 63.1% Denver Broncos 7.5 62.7%
Kansas City Chiefs 11.5 61.8% Atlanta Falcons 7.5 61.2%
Green Bay Packers 8.5 61.7% Cleveland Browns 8.5 60.5%
San Francisco 49ers 10.5 60.1% Miami Dolphins 6.5 60.5%

It’s no coincidence that three of the five best under bets for the 2020 NFL season all rank in the top six for toughest schedules based on our proper NFL SOS model. Our top over bet also enjoys the easiest strength of schedule this season.

Based on our SBD Win Probability calculation, which we’ll get into later, the Colts are most likely to finish 9-7, given a 20.27% chance, and have a 19.75% chance to go 10-6. Their win total only sits at 8.5. You can see in the image above that their peak happens to the right of their win total, signaling a much better chance to go over their win total.

The Raiders are most likely to finish the season 6-10, given a 20.46% chance. This is a full 1.5 games under their 7.5 win total, which is a very high for a team who is only favored in three games. And looking to those three games, they’re no more than a 2.5-point favorite in any of them.

The image above shows their peak coming well to the left of their win total, signaling a much better chance to go under their win total this season.

So now that you know our best bets, let me tell you how I ended up here. I’m calling this SBD’s Win Prob calculation.

What Is SBD’s Win Probability Calculation?

As I said earlier, I started with the opening lines for every game of the 2020 NFL season. These are the truest odds you can get your hands on. Money has not influenced them yet and it’s the closest thing you’ll find to the sportsbooks’ true perception of each team – they are still considering the public perception of each team, but they don’t have as good of a read on the public before money comes in.

And while there will be teams who surprise us every season, sportsbooks have a track record of being pretty accurate in how they view teams.

I knew my ATS +/- (or SBD NFL Power Ranking) would help with Super Bowl and playoff futures. But I wasn’t able to find a ton of great win total trends or correlations from that calculation. So I started thinking about what I could do with these spreads to help with win totals.

And then it hit me! I realized I could use these opening lines to poke holes in the 2020 NFL win totals that have been influenced by money and public perception.

Here was my thought process:

  1. Convert the spreads to implied probabilities to simply win the game;
  2. Calculate every win-loss combination for a 16-game season – did you know there are 65,536? There may only be one way to win 16 games, and 16 different ways to go 15-1 (depending which game you lose), but there are 12,870 different ways to go 8-8;
  3. Going one team at a time, input their probabilities to win or lose each game of the season;
  4. Add together all win-loss combinations that result in the same number of wins.

After doing that work, I now had the probability for each team to win zero through 16 games this season.

Full disclosure, I see two very minor flaws with this: (a) I did not factor in the probability of a game ending in a tie; and (b) while many of these spreads will be different from what we see at their more traditional opening (a week prior to the game), Week 17’s spreads will likely be much different than what we have now.

But I don’t see either of these having much of an effect on the teams whose SBD Win Prob is way out of line with their win total at sportsbooks – we’ve seen eight ties in the NFL since 2012, which comes out to one per season, and if any of your over/under bets don’t have anything to play for in Week 17, it probably means your bet has already been graded.

SBD’s Win Probability Data

The image above shows the possible records in a 16-game season across the top, from 0-16 all the way to 16-0. Each cell indicates the probability of that team winning that number of games. I’ve filled all cells with a probability greater than 20% in green.

Below is the data in a more focused view, rounded to the nearest tenth and excluding the probabilities for zero to three and 14 to 16 wins, since no team is favored to win that few/many.

Simplified View of SBD’s Win Prob Data

Team 4-12 5-11 6-10 7-9 8-8 9-7 10-6 11-5 12-4 13-3
Arizona Cardinals 5.6% 11.7% 17.9% 20.8% 18.6% 12.7% 6.7% 2.6% 0.8% 0.2%
Atlanta Falcons 6.1% 12.5% 18.8% 21.2% 18.2% 11.9% 5.8% 2.2% 0.6% 0.1%
Baltimore Ravens 0% 0% 0.2% 0.8% 2.9% 7.5% 14.7% 21.5% 23% 17.4%
Buffalo Bills 1.1% 3.4% 7.8% 13.8% 19% 20.2% 16.7% 10.5% 5% 1.7%
Carolina Panthers 18.3% 22.2% 19.8% 13.3% 6.7% 2.6% 0.7% 0.2% 0% 0%
Chicago Bears 2.9% 7% 12.9% 18.3% 20.1% 17.2% 11.5% 5.9% 2.3% 0.7%
Cincinnati Bengals 18.4% 22.1% 19.7% 13.2% 6.7% 2.6% 0.8% 0.2% 0% 0%
Cleveland Browns 2.3% 6.2% 12.2% 18.3% 20.8% 18.2% 12.1% 6.1% 2.3% 0.6%
Dallas Cowboys 0.3% 1.2% 3.6% 8.3% 14.7% 20% 20.8% 16.4% 9.6% 4%
Denver Broncos 6.8% 13.1% 18.9% 20.7% 17.5% 11.3% 5.6% 2.1% 0.6% 0.1%
Detroit Lions 7.4% 13.7% 19.1% 20.3% 16.8% 10.8% 5.4% 2.1% 0.6% 0.1%
Green Bay Packers 0.6% 2.2% 5.8% 11.7% 18% 21.1% 18.8% 12.6% 6.3% 2.2%
Houston Texans 4% 9.2% 15.6% 20.2% 20% 15.2% 8.8% 3.9% 1.3% 0.3%
Indianapolis Colts 0.4% 1.6% 4.6% 9.8% 16% 20.3% 19.8% 14.7% 8.2% 3.3%
Jacksonville Jaguars 22.3% 22.2% 16.2% 8.8% 3.6% 1.1% 0.2% 0% 0% 0%
Kansas City Chiefs 0% 0% 0.1% 0.4% 1.6% 5% 11.5% 19.6% 24.2% 21%
Las Vegas Raiders 10.3% 16.7% 20.5% 19.2% 14% 7.9% 3.5% 1.2% 0.3% 0.1%
Los Angeles Chargers 3% 7.6% 14.3% 20% 21.1% 16.8% 10% 4.4% 1.4% 0.3%
Los Angeles Rams 1.4% 4.1% 9.2% 15.5% 20.2% 20.1% 15.3% 8.8% 3.8% 1.2%
Miami Dolphins 12.4% 18.7% 21.2% 18.2% 12% 6.1% 2.4% 0.7% 0.2% 0%
Minnesota Vikings 0.6% 2% 5.5% 11.2% 17.5% 20.9% 19.1% 13.2% 6.8% 2.5%
New England Patriots 1.5% 4.4% 9.6% 16% 20.3% 19.8% 14.8% 8.4% 3.5% 1.1%
New Orleans Saints 0.1% 0.3% 1.2% 3.5% 8.1% 14.5% 20% 21.2% 16.8% 9.7%
New York Giants 13.8% 19.8% 21.2% 17.2% 10.7% 5.1% 1.9% 0.5% 0.1% 0%
New York Jets 11.4% 18% 21.2% 18.9% 12.9% 6.7% 2.7% 0.8% 0.2% 0%
Philadelphia Eagles 0.6% 2.1% 5.6% 11.3% 17.4% 20.7% 18.9% 13.1% 6.8% 2.6%
Pittsburgh Steelers 0.4% 1.7% 4.7% 10% 16.4% 20.6% 19.8% 14.5% 7.9% 3.1%
San Francisco 49ers 0% 0.1% 0.6% 2.2% 5.9% 12.1% 18.9% 22.2% 19.3% 12%
Seattle Seahawks 0.4% 1.4% 4.1% 9.1% 15.4% 20.1% 20.3% 15.5% 8.9% 3.6%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0.6% 2% 5.3% 10.6% 16.6% 20.2% 19.1% 13.9% 7.6% 3%
Tennessee Titans 1.2% 3.8% 8.7% 15.1% 19.9% 20.3% 15.8% 9.3% 4.1% 1.3%
Washington 22.85% 21.15% 14.47% 7.46% 2.93% 0.88% 0.2% 0.03% 0% 0%

There are currently four teams whose win totals do not have hooks attached, so they’re just whole numbers. This opens up the possibility of a push and severely limits the probability of them going over or under their win total.

Based on the SBD Win Prob calculation, here’s each team’s probability to go over/under their respective win total this season.

Over/Under Probabilities Based on SBD Win Prob

Team Win Total Over Probability Under Probability Push Probability
Arizona Cardinals 7 41.5% 37.7% 20.8%
Atlanta Falcons 7.5 38.8% 61.2%
Baltimore Ravens 11.5 52.3% 47.7%
Buffalo Bills 8.5 54.6% 45.4%
Carolina Panthers 5.5 43.3% 56.7%
Chicago Bears 7.5 57.8% 42.2%
Cincinnati Bengals 5.5 43.1% 56.9%
Cleveland Browns 8.5 39.5% 60.5%
Dallas Cowboys 9.5 52.1% 47.9%
Denver Broncos 7.5 37.3% 62.7%
Detroit Lions 6.5 56% 44%
Green Bay Packers 8.5 61.7% 38.3%
Houston Texans 7.5 49.5% 50.5%
Indianapolis Colts 8.5 67.4% 32.6%
Jacksonville Jaguars 4.5 52% 48%
Kansas City Chiefs 11.5 61.8% 38.2%
Las Vegas Raiders 7.5 26.9% 73.1%
Los Angeles Chargers 7.5 54.2% 45.8%
Los Angeles Rams 8.5 49.3% 50.7%
Miami Dolphins 6.5 39.5% 60.5%
Minnesota Vikings 8.5 63.1% 36.9%
New England Patriots 8.5 47.8% 52.2%
New Orleans Saints 10.5 52.5% 47.5%
New York Giants 6 35.5% 43.3% 21.2%
New York Jets 6.5 42.3% 57.7%
Philadelphia Eagles 9.5 42.2% 57.8%
Pittsburgh Steelers 9 46.2% 33.2% 20.6%
San Francisco 49ers 10.5 60.1% 39.9%
Seattle Seahawks 9.5 49.5% 50.5%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9.5 44.7% 55.3%
Tennessee Titans 8.5 50.9% 49.1%
Washington 5 26% 52.9% 21.2%

In the table above, I’ve put any probability above 57% in bold font. We already highlighted our top ten bets at the beginning of this, but there are three more that present value: (1) the Bears going over their 7.5 win total, (2) the Eagles going under their 9.5 win total, and (3) the Jets also going under their 6.5 win total.

The Colts’ win total opened at 7.5 in February. But after trading for DeForest Buckner and signing Philip Rivers to replace Jacoby Brissett under center, it’s been on the rise. It still hasn’t come up enough, though.

Three of Indianapolis’ four toughest games outside of their division – Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota – all come at home, where they’re no more than 2.5-point underdogs, which is basically a coin-flip game. The lone “difficult” road game comes in Pittsburgh in Week 16, where they’re also 2.5-point dogs. I’ve pounced on the over 8.5 while it’s still available.

Two other teams who have seen their win totals dramatically affected by money and public perception are the Vikings and Packers. Both saw their 2020 win totals open at 9.5, but trading away Stefon Diggs and a potential Dalvin Cook holdout has seen Minnesota’s drop to 8.5.

A poor draft and a seemingly souring relationship between franchise pivot Aaron Rodgers and the head coach / management has resulted in Green Bay’s win total also coming all the way down to 8.5.

These are two quality teams who are both most likely to win nine or ten games this season, based on my SBD Win Prob calculation.

Positive public perception around Denver’s exciting draft class, a budding Drew Lock, and a couple free agency splashes has resulted in a bit of an inflated win total of 7.5. The Broncos have the league’s second-toughest schedule, and are most likely to win six or seven games based on my SBD Win Prob calculation. There’s a 62.7% chance they go under that 7.5.

So before you make any more win totals bets this year, be sure to consult those numbers above. Or feel free to tell me which teams will not line up with the data in the comments below.

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