The Model Speaks: NFL 2021 Futures Value Cheat Sheet

THE MODEL SPEAKS NFL 2021 Futures Value Cheat Sheet

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. I publish this article to provide you with value in the futures market.

The main takeaway from this week’s article is that there is still lots of value available on solid teams especially the Chargers. See, “Current Value in the Futures Market,” below.

Here is a graph displaying the model’s expected win totals, playoff odds, division odds, conference odds, and Super Bowl odds.   

You can also find the same information in the chart below:

TeamDivisionProj. WinsTo Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin ConferenceWin Super Bowl
BuccaneersNFC South12.8993.50%78.00%27.00%16.00%
CardinalsNFC West12.7992.50%60.00%24.50%9.00%
BillsAFC East12.6797.00%93.00%32.00%15.00%
ChargersAFC West11.5887.00%56.50%16.50%7.00%
RamsNFC West11.5784.00%30.50%13.00%7.00%
RavensAFC North11.3783.50%52.50%19.00%8.50%
CowboysNFC East11.2087.50%81.00%11.50%6.00%
PackersNFC North10.8579.50%70.00%9.50%4.50%
BrownsAFC North10.2370.50%31.50%8.50%5.50%
ChiefsAFC West9.8564.50%22.50%7.00%5.50%
SaintsNFC South9.5049.50%13.00%3.50%2.50%
TitansAFC South9.1873.00%67.50%4.00%2.00%
BroncosAFC West8.7139.00%10.50%2.00%0.90%
49ersNFC West8.6031.50%3.50%1.30%1.00%
RaidersAFC West8.5541.00%10.00%3.45%1.75%
BengalsAFC North8.5343.00%12.50%3.50%1.35%
SeahawksNFC West8.4837.00%6.00%2.85%2.00%
PanthersNFC South8.3431.50%7.50%1.80%0.75%
BearsNFC North7.9627.00%15.00%0.80%0.75%
ColtsAFC South7.8840.00%28.00%1.60%0.85%
PatriotsAFC East7.5224.50%5.00%0.80%0.35%
EaglesNFC East7.5019.50%8.50%0.65%0.20%
FalconsNFC South7.4417.00%2.00%Close to 00.60%
VikingsNFC North7.4027.50%15.50%1.15%0.85%
SteelersAFC North6.9717.00%3.50%0.65%0.20%
WashingtonNFC East6.8316.00%8.50%0.60%0.20%
DolphinsAFC East6.6511.50%1.50%Close to 0Close to 0
GiantsNFC East5.376.00%2.00%Close to 0Close to 0
JetsAFC East5.133.00%0.65%Close to 0Close to 0
TexansAFC South4.294.00%3.50%Close to 0Close to 0
JaguarsAFC South3.711.95%1.85%Close to 0Close to 0
LionsNFC North2.950.15%Close to 0Close to 0Close to 0

Current Value in the Futures Market

The table below 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 (Make Playoffs, Win Division, Win Conference, and Win Super Bowl), there is value on any bolded number. 

You can use this chart to make decisions about which futures with value appeal to you. For example, Fan Duel currently lists the Cardinals at -at +500 to win the NFC. The model believes the fair market price is +308.16. That pricing represents nearly an 8% edge. Again, every position highlighted in green has a positive expected value, but that does not mean you should take every highlighted side.

You will notice there is still value on many of the best teams including the Chargers.

TeamDivisionProj. WinsTo Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin ConferenceWin Super Bowl
BuccaneersNFC South12.89-1,438.46-354.55270.37525.00
CardinalsNFC West12.79-1,233.33-150.00308.161,011.11
BillsAFC East12.67-3,233.33-1,328.57212.50566.67
ChargersAFC West11.58-669.23-129.89506.061,328.57
RamsNFC West11.57-525.00227.87669.231,328.57
RavensAFC North11.37-506.06-110.53426.321,076.47
CowboysNFC East11.20-700.00-426.32769.571,566.67
PackersNFC North10.85-387.80-233.33952.632,122.22
BrownsAFC North10.23-238.98217.461,076.471,718.18
ChiefsAFC West9.85-181.69344.441,328.571,718.18
SaintsNFC South9.50102.02669.232,757.143,900.00
TitansAFC South9.18-270.37-207.692,400.004,900.00
BroncosAFC West8.71156.41852.384,900.0011,011.11
49ersNFC West8.60217.462,757.147,592.319,900.00
RaidersAFC West8.55143.90900.002,798.555,614.29
BengalsAFC North8.53132.56700.002,757.147,307.41
SeahawksNFC West8.48170.271,566.673,408.774,900.00
PanthersNFC South8.34217.461,233.335,455.5613,233.33
BearsNFC North7.96270.37566.6712,400.0013,233.33
ColtsAFC South7.88150.00257.146,150.0011,664.71
PatriotsAFC East7.52308.161,900.0012,400.0028,471.43
EaglesNFC East7.50412.821,076.4715,284.6249,900.00
FalconsNFC South7.44488.244,900.00Close to 016,566.67
VikingsNFC North7.40263.64545.168,595.6511,664.71
SteelersAFC North6.97488.242,757.1415,284.6249,900.00
WashingtonNFC East6.83525.001,076.4716,566.6749,900.00
DolphinsAFC East6.65769.576,566.67Close to 0Close to 0
GiantsNFC East5.371,566.674,900.00Close to 0Close to 0
JetsAFC East5.133,233.3315,284.62Close to 0Close to 0
TexansAFC South4.292,400.002,757.14Close to 0Close to 0
JaguarsAFC South3.715,028.215,305.41Close to 0Close to 0
LionsNFC North2.9566,566.67Close to 0Close to 0Close to 0

Of course, many long dogs will have a positive expectation. Use this chart and your discretion to determine which value is worth taking. 

If you are like me and took a preseason futures side on Tenessee to win the division, and now are wishing you had not. This will probably be the last time to buy low on the Colts. Their price will increase drastically after this weekend. 

Before placing any future sides, be sure to incorporate the strength of the schedule chart below. It is not enough to simply believe that a particular team is good and will have success, you must measure their expected future success against their remaining strength of schedule.  

For example, suppose you see that the chart above has value on the Bengals’ chances of making the playoffs. When you check the chart below you will see that the Bengals have played the third easiest schedule in the league through five games. They will face the second most difficult schedule for the rest of the season. 

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. 

You can use this graph in conjunction with the chart above to make informed decisions in the Futures Market. You can see from the bets above that the Raiders have more value, precisely because their remaining strength of schedule is high. Whereas the Vikings have a comparatively easier schedule the rest of the season. 

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. 

Here is an example of the value this chart provides. Arizona and the Rams appear to be the class of the NFC West. The Cardinals are in first place in the West and beat the Rams head to head. However, the Rams schedule to date ranks as the sixth-most difficult schedule in the league. The Rams’ remaining schedule ranks as the eighth easiest remaining schedule. 

Futures Update

In the season previews I wrote for each division in the preseason, I suggested 44 futures bets. With four games completed. Last week the futures outlook to a bit of a hit, but that is natural for the outlooks to swing wildly after single performances. We still have 12 weeks remaining, but here is a snapshot of where they stand.  

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. 

TEAMSIDEWageredPays OutWin ProbabilityExpected Return
AFC West Preview
Chiefs & PackersWin Divisions, +13512.3536.50%0.86
ChargersOver 9.5 Wins, +11012.1175.00%1.58
ChargersFinish Second, +12512.2539.30%0.88
DenverOver 8.5 Wins, -1101.12.151.00%1.07
A. SamuelDROY1417.69%3.15
AFC South Preview
TitansWin the Division, -1101.12.165.00%1.37
ColtsUnder 9 Wins, -1101.12.153.00%1.11
HoustonWorst Record in the League, +2001323.00%0.69
Texans & DetroitFinish Last in their Divisions, +1001264.00%1.28
AFC North Preview
ClevelandWin the Division, +15512.5531.50%0.80
Pittsburgh6-8 Wins, +16012.655.00%1.43
BaltimoreFinish Second, +18012.831.50%0.88
PittsburghFinish 3rd, +12012.233.00%0.73
BeckhamOver 6 Touchdowns, +100123.00%0.06
AFC East Preview
BillsWin the Division, -1501.52.593.00%2.33
PatriotsWin over 3.5 Division Games, +17512.7515.00%0.41
WaddleOver 750 Yards +1001251.00%1.02
M. JonesOROY11320.00%2.60
TuaOver 3899.5 Yards -1121.122.123.00%0.06
NFC West Preview
Gerald EverettOver 4 TD Receptions1.252.2535.00%0.79
49ersOver 10.5 Wins1.12.16.00%0.13
RamsOver 10.5 Wins1.12.149.41%1.04
M. StaffordMVP12111.11%2.33
49ers, Rams, & SeattleMake Playoffs, +31114.1112.00%0.49
NFC North Preview
MinnesotaMinnesota to Finish Second, +15012.558.82%1.47
ChicagoChicago to Finish Third, +13512.3535.00%0.82
Minnesota & ChicagoThe Two Selections Above Parlayed (where possible), +48515.8520.59%1.20
GB,MN,CHI,DETAll Four Teams Exact Finish Parlay, +130011416.88%2.36
Green BayOver 10 Wins, -1201.22.252.00%1.14
ChicagoUnder 7.5 Wins, -1101.12.149.41%1.04
DetroitUnder 4.5 – 1101.12.139.22%0.82
NFC South Preview
A. KamaraOver 70.5 Receptions -1201.22.225.00%0.55
K. PittsOver 775 Yards -1121.122.1236.00%0.76
K. PittsOver 6 Touchdowns -1101.12.13.00%0.06
A. KamaraOver 1500 Scrimmage Yards -1251.252.2539.00%0.88
K. PittsOROY1114.76%0.52
AtlantaOver 7.5 Wins -1101.12.130.00%0.63
Atlantato Finish Second, +25013.55.00%0.18
NFC East Preview
WashingtonUnder 8.5 wins1.12.149.41%1.04
New YorkUnder 7 wins, with a push more likely than an over1.12.149.41%1.04
D. PrescottComeback Player of the Year +18012.873.00%2.04
Washingtonto finish Second, +22013.262.00%1.98
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