I heavily bet the futures market in the NFL. It is the primary way I try to counter the high degree of variance in a seventeen-game season. Now that we have three weeks of data to work with I want to introduce a new weekly column that I will release every Friday, The Futures Value Cheat Sheet. What follows in the chart below is what the model finds to be the correct price for certain futures bets on every team. You can use this chart to find the fair value for whatever futures side you like, and then compare it to your book’s line. This way you will have a sense of how much you are overpaying, or how much value you are receiving.
Current Value in the Futures Market
The purpose of this chart is not to tell you to bet on one side or another. The model believes only that if we played this season an infinite number of times, you would ultimately break even on any of the sides that follow. To the extent that you can find a better line, you will profit. These numbers and sides will vary dramatically each week.
This first table compares the model’s fair Market prices to readily available prices in the futures market for every team in the NFL. With respect to the primary columns (Win Division, Win Conference, and Win Super Bowl), any number highlighted in green indicates there is value on the bet.
You can use this chart to make decisions about which futures with value appeal to you. For example, Fan Duel currently lists the Bills at +950 to win the Super Bowl. The model believes the correct price is +733.33. That results in an edge of 2.48%. Again, every position highlighted in green has a positive expected value.
Of course, many long dogs will have a positive expectation. Use this chart and your discretion to determine which value is worth taking. The model is high on the Browns, Raiders, Chargers, Seahawks, and Rams. All of whom have value.
If a cell reads “#DIV/0!,” ignore it. It is not an error. Instead, the probability is so low that I discount it entirely. Also note, the table does not automatically check for value in the first two columns, so you will have to check those manually against the numbers offered in your book.
Strength of Schedule
We all know the strength of the schedule is critical in assessing each team’s performance. It is tremendously valuable for predicting future performance as well. The following chart compares the strength of schedule each team has faced to date and their remaining strength of schedule. A team that has played an easy schedule and will face a challenging schedule can be expected to perform worse as the season progresses. Conversely, a team with a difficult schedule behind them and a relatively easy schedule remaining is expected to perform better as the season progresses.
When reading the chart that follows, teams want to be on the far right side. Those teams have the easier remaining schedules and the most significant difference in the quality of competition from the games they have played and the remaining games.
The model expects Carolina, Denver, NY Giants, Washington, etc., to perform worse as the season progresses. Conversely, it expects Miami, Indianapolis, Chicago, NY Jets, Tennessee, etc., to perform much better. This is critical when trying to evaluate a team’s performance. Carolina, for example, has played the 31st easiest schedule. From this point forward, they will play the 4th most difficult schedule. That matters and should be considered before placing money on them. This results in a net swing of -27 (31 points, plus or minus, would be the highest possible swing for any team).
In the season previews I wrote for each division in the preseason, I suggested 44 futures bets. With three games completed, we can begin checking in on their viability. What follows is a link to the article where the wagers were suggested, each wager, the amount wagered, the total amount returned if successful, the likelihood that the bet prevails (based on currently available odds), and the return on investment.
To calculate the current expected ROI, I simply multiplied the total payout by the current win probability. Thus, if a wager had a total payout of 2 units and a current win probability of 33%, the expected return would be .66 units.
As you will see from the table, I placed 44 wagers at a total price of 44.74 units. My current expected return is 59.24 units. That results in an expected ROI of 32.4% and a 14.5 unit profit.
|TEAM||SIDE||Wagered||Pays Out||Win Probability||Expected Return|
|Chiefs & Packers||Win Divisions, +135||1||2.35||6.58%||0.15|
|Chargers||Over 9.5 Wins, +110||1||2.11||37.24%||0.79|
|Chargers||Finish Second, +125||1||2.25||10.00%||0.23|
|Denver||Over 8.5 Wins, -110||1.1||2.1||63.00%||1.32|
|AFC West Preview|
|Titans||Win the Division, -110||1.1||2.1||81.82%||1.72|
|Colts||Under 9 Wins, -110||1.1||2.1||37.06%||0.78|
|Houston||Worst Record in the League, +200||1||3||10.00%||0.30|
|Texans & Detroit||Finish Last in their Divisions, +100||1||2||35.29%||0.71|
|AFC South Preview|
|Cleveland||Win the Division, +155||1||2.55||45.45%||1.16|
|Pittsburgh||6-8 Wins, +160||1||2.6||45.88%||1.19|
|Baltimore||Finish Second, +180||1||2.8||49.41%||1.38|
|Pittsburgh||Finish 3rd, +120||1||2.2||38.82%||0.85|
|Beckham||Over 6 Touchdowns, +100||1||2||10.00%||0.20|
|AFC North Preview|
|Bills||Win the Division, -150||1.5||2.5||80.00%||2.00|
|Patriots||Win over 3.5 Division Games, +175||1||2.75||10.00%||0.28|
|Waddle||Over 750 Yards +100||1||2||35.29%||0.71|
|Tua||Over 3899.5 Yards -112||1.12||2.12||5.00%||0.11|
|AFC East Preview|
|Gerald Everett||Over 4 TD Receptions||1.25||2.25||37.00%||0.83|
|49ers||Over 10.5 Wins||1.1||2.1||10.00%||0.21|
|Rams||Over 10.5 Wins||1.1||2.1||37.06%||0.78|
|49ers, Rams, & Seattle||Make Playoffs, +311||1||4.11||7.52%||0.31|
|NFC West Preview|
|Minnesota||Minnesota to Finish Second, +150||1||2.5||44.12%||1.10|
|Chicago||Chicago to Finish Third, +135||1||2.35||41.47%||0.97|
|Minnesota & Chicago||The Two Selections Above Parlayed (where possible), +485||1||5.85||58.50%||3.42|
|GB,MN,CHI,DET||All Four Teams Exact Finish Parlay, +1300||1||14||140.00%||19.60|
|Green Bay||Over 10 Wins, -120||1.2||2.2||52.00%||1.14|
|Chicago||Under 7.5 Wins, -110||1.1||2.1||37.06%||0.78|
|Detroit||Under 4.5 – 110||1.1||2.1||37.06%||0.78|
|NFC North Preview|
|New Orleans||Kamara Over 70.5 Receptions -120||1.2||2.2||38.82%||0.85|
|Atlanta||Kyle Pitts Over 775 Yards -112||1.12||2.12||0.00%||0.00|
|Atlanta||Kyle Pitts Over 6 Touchdowns -110||1.1||2.1||0.00%||0.00|
|New Orleans||Kamara Over 1500 Scrimmage Yards -125||1.25||2.25||19.85%||0.45|
|Atlanta||Atlanta Over 7.5 Wins -110||1.1||2.1||15.00%||0.32|
|Atlanta||Atlanta to Finish Second, +250||1||3.5||5.00%||0.18|
|NFC South Preview|
|Washington||Washington Under 8.5 wins||1.1||2.1||37.06%||0.78|
|New York Giants||Giants Under 7 wins, with a push more likely than an over||1.1||2.1||37.06%||0.78|
|Dallas||Prescott Comeback Player of the Year +180||1||2.8||49.41%||1.38|
|Washington||Washington to finish Second, +220||1||3.2||56.47%||1.81|
|NFC East Preview|