Makinen: Studying quality NFL wins/losses of 2022 to predict 2023 prospects

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With the NFL schedule release being all the fervor this week, there will be countless dissecting of it in order to find advantages/disadvantages for all 32 teams. Many people will use this 17-game set as a means for predicting how teams will fare in ’23. For as much as I love looking ahead to the fall and the big games on the schedule, I feel the degree to which a team improves or declines in any given season is determined by other factors, and I prove it through the data that I study each spring. As I continue to ramp up my offseason NFL work, my next few pieces will dig into a subject I call Changeover Systems. I refer to them as such because they are data angles that take records and/or statistics from one season to provide insight as to which teams might be better or worse in the follow-up season.

These Changeover Systems are often extremely predictive. Three years ago, many of these most optimistic systems pointed to the Buccaneers enjoying a breakout 2020 season. All the Bucs did was go on to win a first-ever Super Bowl title. Last year, the predictions were strong all over, with major improvements for teams like Seattle, Minnesota, and the Giants being cited. Teams that were expected to drop, and did, included those same Buccaneers, Las Vegas, and Arizona. All of those proved prophetic, and as you’ll see in a few weeks when I release my 2023 win total wagers and review those from a year ago, I was able to cash in on these predictions, based heavily on the Changeover Systems I will unveil now and in part two next week.

This exercise is sort of a “rite of spring” for me each year, and I go through the list of won/lost and statistical traits that I feel are most important to determine which NFL teams have the best chance of getting better or worse in the coming season and by how much. As I noted earlier, I will do this series in two parts. In this first half, I will analyze the quality and quantity of teams’ won-lost records by various means. Next week, I will dig into a number of key statistical angles that typically lead to significant improvement or decline.

Before digging into the data, however, here’s a quick explanation as to why I feel these findings prove to be so impactful. I have always felt that the NFL is unlike any other sporting league in that teams can make quick definitive turnarounds from year to year, both positively and negatively. First-to-worst and worst-to-first are not unusual terms, and unlike the NBA or NHL, you can see seasons where more than half of the teams that qualify for the playoffs differ from the prior campaign. As such, it benefits the bettor greatly to know the traits that lead to teams improving or declining quickly. What is the typical resume of a team that improves greatly from one season to the next? Those who can find the answers to these questions can take advantage of not only the futures wagers and season win totals available prior to a season, but they can also cash in on the point spreads in the early weeks of the season before those setting the odds can catch up.

Read through the findings over the next couple of weeks and make your own assessments of the teams you feel might not be what we saw from them in 2022. Then factor in the coaching changes, free agent transactions each team made, along with their draft results, and head to the betting window. I will share my own personal conclusions, along with my updated 2023 NFL Power Ratings in the next few weeks.

 

Systems of teams that had an unusually high or low total of close wins the prior season

– In 2019, Seattle’s 10 “close wins” (8 pts or less) were the most by any team in the NFL over the last 31 seasons. In that span, the 33 teams that managed 8+ close wins combined for an average decline of 2.9 wins per season.

Teams affected in 2023: Minnesota, NY Giants

–  The last five seasons have shown a trend against teams that win a lot of close games. In that span, there have been 47 teams that won 6+ games by 8 points or less. Of the 37 prior to last season that did, Only seven have improved the next season, with the other 30 dropping off by 2.7 wins per year.

Teams affected in 2023: Baltimore, Buffalo, Kansas City, LA Chargers, Miami, Minnesota, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay

 

Systems of teams that had an unusually high or low total of close losses the prior season

–  Since ’98, 34 teams have lost 8+ games in “close loss” format, that being one possession or less (8 pts). Their combined average improvement the next season was a hefty 3.56 wins per season with 30 of them improving.

Teams affected in 2023: Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas

–  Including last season, there have been 102 teams since 2008 that went into the next season after having lost at least six games by one score or less (<=8 points). Of these 89 teams prior to 2022, 68 improved their won-lost record the next season, including 34 of them by 4+ wins. The average improvement of the 68 teams was 3.76 wins per season. Of the five teams that qualified for this angle in 2022, four teams improved by 3.75 wins on average over ‘21.

Teams affected in 2023: Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, New Orleans, NY Jets, Seattle, Tennessee

 

Systems of teams that had an unusually high or low total of blowout wins the prior season

–  In 2022, Buffalo became the first team since the ’98 Broncos to record at least nine double-digit wins in a season and improve its won-lost record the next year. The average win decline of the 30 teams in between that did it was -3.97.

Team affected in 2023: San Francisco

– Over the last 26 seasons, there have been 46 teams that have recorded at least five blowout wins (20+ points) in a season.  Of the 45 prior to last season, only six were able to improve their won-lost record the next season. The other 39 combined for an average win decline of –3.39.

Team affected in 2023: San Francisco

–  There have been nine teams over the last 28 seasons that won 6 or more games, none by double-digit margins. Las Vegas of 2020 became the first of those teams to improve the next year, but combined, the teams have an average decline of 2.0 wins per season.

Teams affected in 2023: None

–   Ironically, teams that won five or less games, none by double-digit margins, have shown significant improvement in the follow-up campaign. In fact, since 2007, there have been 27 such teams, and 25 of them improved the next season by an average of 3.78 wins per season. The Jets qualified on this last season and won three more games than they did in ‘21.

Teams affected in 2023: Denver, Houston, Indianapolis

 

Systems of teams that had an unusually high or low total of blowout losses the prior season

–  There have been 22 teams since ’01 that have gone 7-9 or worse and suffered zero blowout losses. These teams are natural candidates for improvement, and 20 of the 22 teams did just that, by an average of 3.0 wins per season, including Seattle, who went from 7-10 in ’21 to 9-8 last season.

Teams affected in 2023: Atlanta, New Orleans, NY Jets – ironically, two of these three teams added veteran quarterbacks this offseason, which I wrote about a few weeks ago and suggested as being another potential reason for improvement.

–   As another key sign of how teams can quickly improve from a dreadful season. Over the last 23 seasons, there have been 38 teams that have lost at least nine games in a season by double-digit margins. Of those, 32 improved the next season and by an average of 4.03 wins per year, including Jacksonville and the Giants a year ago.

Teams affected in 2023: Unfortunately, none

–  Since ’00, there have been 21 double-digit win teams that suffered at least four of their losses by double-digit margins. More than half of those teams dropped dramatically the next season by at least three wins and by an average of 4.8 wins per season.

Teams affected in 2023: Minnesota

 

Systems of teams based on their playoff results from the prior season

–   Only three of the last 29 teams that lost in the Super Bowl improved their won-lost record in the follow-up season, with an average win decline of 3.36 per season. Those that had 7+ double-digit wins in that prior Super Bowl losing season declined by 4.0 wins on average.

Team affected in 2023: Philadelphia (only had six double-digit wins, however)

–  Alternatively, the last 30 teams that won the Super Bowl were far better off in maintaining success, with only a 1.3 win dropoff per season, boasting an average won-lost record of 10.7-5.3. Only three of those 30 teams finished under .500 the next season, including the Rams last year, who went 5-12.

Team affected in 2023: Kansas City

–  None of the 36 teams in the last 30 years that won 13 games or more and didn’t make the Super Bowl improved their won-lost record the follow-up season and only four equaled that prior win total. The average win decline was 3.78 per season!

Teams affected in 2023: Buffalo, Minnesota, San Francisco

 

Systems of teams whose won-lost records are trending

–  All 10 teams since 2000 that had won fewer games than the prior season in three straight seasons have improved their won-lost record by an average of 4.8 wins per season!

Teams affected in 2023: New Orleans – (13-12-9-7)

–  Since 2002, only one of the 17 teams that had recorded improved records in three straight seasons continued that trend. The average drop for the declining group was 4.5 wins per season, with an average season win total of 6.4.

Team affected in 2023: Cincinnati, LA Chargers

–   All 14 teams since 2005 that won 7+ games fewer than the prior season rebounded to improve their won-lost record in the follow-up campaign by an average of 4.5 wins per season!

Team affected in 2023: Arizona, LA Rams

–  Only two of the last 32 teams since ’06 that won 6+ more games than the prior season improved in the follow-up campaign, with an average season win drop of 3.09.

Teams affected in 2023: Detroit, Jacksonville

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Steve Makinen
As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.