Understanding Narrative Probability in NFL Futures

Over the weekend on The Handle, Matt Brown and I discussed some NFL Futures and one of the talking points was applying a percentage probability to the outcome needed for a coach or playing to win the award. I’ve gotten a couple of direct messages on X, so I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on the logic behind it.

First and foremost, like with any award that is voted on, you need to understand what it will take for a player or coach to win that award. For the purpose of this article, let’s look at Coach of the Year in the NFL. Over the last two seasons, we have seen a coach who has led his team to the playoffs with significant adversity win the award. Prior to that, it was the coaches of a team that achieved a high seed in their conference that outperformed their pre-season expectations. While it’s impossible to predict the adversity the Browns faced last year with five starting quarterbacks before the season started, every winner since 1990 (when Jimmy Johnson won with a 7-9 Cowboys team) has had one of those two resumes.


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Now that we know what it takes, let’s look at some of the price-to-percentage breakdowns. Andy Reid, the current back-to-back Super Bowl winning coach is 50-1. On the surface, some may look at that like it has value since the Chiefs are likely to be the one or two seed in the AFC, but the narrative around Reid is a tough one to write. For him to win the award, Kansas City would likely have to go 17-0 or 16-1. With the expectation of them winning 12-13 games set by the market, he would need to be perfect. At 50-1, to break even, you would need the Chiefs to win 17 games at least 2% of the time to break even. An undefeated season is really the only slam-dunk narrative for Reid. Even in a 16-win season, it’s possible he loses out to someone like Eberflus if the Bears find a way to win 13 or 14 games. That’s not likely, but it is in the realm of possibility.

How about we move on to DeMeco Ryans and the NFL futures betting market darling Texans? He’s currently sitting at 11-1, tied for the third choice on the board. What is the narrative that Ryans would need to win the COY award? They would have to win the division, as they did last year, and most likely improve by at least three wins based on past winners. So, you must ask yourself, what percentage of the time do the Texans win 13 or more games this season? They have a first-place schedule this year with home games against the Ravens, Lions, Dolphins, and Bills and road tilts against the Chiefs, Jets, Packers, and Cowboys. If they can go 5-3 in those games, and that’s a big if, they would need to go 9-1 in their remaining games. For a Ryans COY bet to be profitable, they would need to win 13 games around 10% of the time. The likelihood is nowhere near that number thus, his odds are too short.

With each award market, make sure you understand the narrative it will take for a player or coach to win the award. If you set a percentage to the probability of that narrative playing out, you can get a better idea of what fair odds would actually be for that player or coach to win and cash your ticket.