The Model Speaks: NFL 2021 Futures Value Cheat Sheet (Week 5)

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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.

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

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 highlighted number. 

You can use this chart to make decisions about which futures with value appeal to you. For example, Fan Duel currently lists the Raiders at +146 to make the playoffs. The model thinks the fair market price is -143.30. That is a massive edge, 89 cents on the dollar. Again, every position highlighted (bolded) has a positive expected value, but that does not mean you should take every highlighted side. Books shade these numbers to attract longshot action. 

TeamDivisionProj. WinsTo Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin ConferenceWin Super Bowl
BillsAFC East12.05-1,233.33-440.54300.001,150.00
PatriotsAFC East8.06173.97700.004,155.3219,900.00
DolphinsAFC East6.86566.672,757.1416,566.67Close to 0
JetsAFC East5.84900.003,900.00Close to 0Close to 0
BrownsAFC North10.55-244.83129.89614.292,122.22
RavensAFC North9.64-163.16181.69640.746,566.67
BengalsAFC North8.73143.90506.062,400.009,900.00
SteelersAFC North6.53566.671,900.0016,566.67Close to 0
TitansAFC South8.86-143.90-106.192,757.149,900.00
ColtsAFC South8.16132.56207.695,163.1619,900.00
JaguarsAFC South5.41809.091,233.33Close to 0Close to 0
TexansAFC South5.72809.091,150.00Close to 0Close to 0
ChiefsAFC West10.28-233.33212.50809.093,233.33
RaidersAFC West9.60-143.90284.621,150.003,233.33
ChargersAFC West9.76-143.90270.37852.389,900.00
BroncosAFC West8.74119.78545.162,400.009,900.00
CowboysNFC East10.38-284.62-194.12852.383,900.00
WashingtonNFC East6.86365.12614.2911,664.71Close to 0
EaglesNFC East6.70400.00852.3816,566.67Close to 0
GiantsNFC East6.59488.24852.388,990.9119,900.00
PackersNFC North9.91-244.83-153.16952.633,233.33
VikingsNFC North7.92166.67316.672,976.926,566.67
BearsNFC North7.11308.16589.6611,011.11Close to 0
LionsNFC North4.653,981.6313,233.33Close to 0Close to 0
BuccaneersNFC South11.51-640.74-185.71334.781,566.67
PanthersNFC South8.80117.39545.162,122.229,900.00
SaintsNFC South8.88117.39589.662,400.006,566.67
FalconsNFC South7.08400.001,900.00Close to 019,900.00
RamsNFC West10.99-344.44156.41640.742,757.14
CardinalsNFC West10.09-166.67217.46488.249,900.00
49ersNFC West8.96122.22566.672,757.149,900.00
SeahawksNFC West9.31108.33589.661,718.186,566.67

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 taking the following sides from the chart above:

  • Vikings +215 to make the playoffs
  • Raiders +146 to make the playoffs

You may recall that in this article last week, the model pointed out that there was value on the Bills. That value evaporated in the last seven days. The advantage of all this work is to be ahead of the curve by a day or two.

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. 

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. In contrast, 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. 

Futures Update

In the season previews I wrote for each division in the preseason, I suggested 44 futures bets. With four games completed, 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, +13512.3547.00%1.10
ChargersOver 9.5 Wins, +11012.1150.00%1.06
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, -1101.12.175.00%1.58
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, +15512.5546.51%1.19
Pittsburgh6-8 Wins, +16012.655.00%1.43
BaltimoreFinish Second, +18012.846.51%1.30
PittsburghFinish 3rd, +12012.233.00%0.73
BeckhamOver 6 Touchdowns, +100123.00%0.06
AFC East Preview
BillsWin the Division, -1501.52.583.33%2.08
PatriotsWin over 3.5 Division Games, +17512.7515.00%0.41
WaddleOver 750 Yards +1001257.64%1.15
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, +31114.1125.12%1.03
NFC North Preview
MinnesotaMinnesota to Finish Second, +15012.558.82%1.47
ChicagoChicago to Finish Third, +13512.3555.29%1.30
Minnesota & ChicagoThe Two Selections Above Parlayed (where possible), +48515.8532.53%1.90
GB,MN,CHI,DETAll Four Teams Exact Finish Parlay, +130011426.67%3.73
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
Total44.74191.661590.15%49.36

About the author:

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I write about data and sports. I created my first model in 1997 using nothing more than Excel. Currently, I have data-driven models for the NFL, NBA, and World Cup Soccer.

Mathematics is the music of reason.
— James Joseph Sylvester, English mathematician

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