NFL Statistics to Help Predict Team Improvement or Decline

The 2024 NFL regular season schedule was released last week, and already bettors have been ramping up their activity in regards to all of the offseason futures wagering options available in the market. Our friends at DraftKings have set their season-win props for all 32 teams as well as game-by-game lines and totals for all 272 scheduled regular season contests. Typically, there aren’t any obvious misses by oddsmakers when it comes to these wagering options, as those would have been immediately attacked hard and modified. With that said, one of the best ways to gain an advantage over the house on these options is to use stats from the prior season that have historically been very reliable for predicting the teams that are due to improve or decline.

If you recall, last week I analyzed the impact that close or blowout wins & losses in one season had on a team’s prospects for the next. This is the follow-up piece to my annual Changeover Systems series. I reminded readers of how powerful this type of analysis can be. For proof, simply look at last season and the drops by teams like the Giants, Vikings, and Raiders, while also analyzing the emergence of the Rams and Browns. Those predictions were made in this same article a year ago.

 

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I have always believed that the NFL is unlike any other sporting league in that teams can make quick definitive turnarounds from year to year, both positively & negatively. First-to-worst and worst-to-first are not unusual terms, and you can see seasons where more than half of the teams that qualify for the playoffs are different from the prior campaign. I personally believe this parity is one of the contributing factors to the league being so popular.

Besides the return to normalcy that these unusual stats might bring on, I personally feel that there are also three “C’s” that can factor into this sudden change as well. The first is Coaching, either by a change to a new guy or from improvement by the current man. The second is Confidence, which can quickly transform after a solid offseason and/or first couple of good regular season games. The third is Cohesion, and this can also be impacted rather quickly with the addition or departure of certain personnel.

Of course, the basis for this article is that there are certain statistical indicators that a team exhibits in one season that can illustrate how close they are to changing the status of those three Cs and, eventually, their fortunes the next season. You will find more of that key data below. Read through these findings, combine them with what we already learned a week ago, any coaching or free agent transactions each team made, as well as their draft results, and then head to the betting window. I will share my own personal conclusions for season win totals when I wrap up my NFL offseason studies in the next week or two.

Systems of teams that had a negative turnover differential the prior season

  • Since 2009, there have been 40 teams that had negative turnover differential and won less than six games against the spread. All BUT TWO of those improved their ATS winning percentage the next season, by an average of 23%. All but six of these teams improved their outright winning percentage as well, by an average of 20%, and 13 of them qualified for the playoffs, including Tampa Bay last season.
    Teams affected for 2024: Atlanta, Carolina, New England
  • Since 2020, there have been 11 teams that endured a turnover differential of -0.6 per game or worse and did not make the playoffs. All but one of those teams improved the next season. The average regular season win improvement was 3.3 wins per season for the other 10 teams. The only one that didn’t was the Bears from 2021 to 2022. The Colts and Raiders qualified on this system last year and improved by five and two regular season wins, respectively.
    Teams affected for 2024: Atlanta, Minnesota, New England, Washington
  • There have been 15 teams since 2009 that had a negative or even turnover differential yet still managed to win double-digit games against the spread. Nine of those teams reached the postseason the next year. For this season, we have two teams that qualified that even reached the postseason despite their lack of turnover luck.
    Teams affected for 2024: Detroit, Las Vegas, LA Rams
  • Of the 29 teams that improved their won-lost percentage by 34% or more from one season to the next since ‘09, all but four had negative or even turnover differentials the prior season. Last year, Houston met the criteria.
    Teams POTENTIALLY affected for 2024: Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Green Bay, Jacksonville, LA Chargers, LA Rams, Las Vegas, Minnesota, New England, NY Jets, Tennessee, Washington

Systems of teams that had a positive turnover differential the prior season

  • Teams that had a positive turnover differential and won 10 or more games against the spread are FADE teams in the next season. Of these 88 teams since 2009, 60 of them had won-lost-records that declined, by an average of 10.8% outright and 11.3% against the spread. Furthermore, of the 79 that reached the playoffs, 33 failed to do so in the follow-up season, including Cincinnati, LA Chargers, and NY Giants last year.
    Teams affected for 2024: Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
  • Only two of the last 13 teams since 2020 that had a turnover differential of better than +0.5 per game improved its record the next season. The average won-lost percentage decline of the other 11 teams was 17.1% (12% ATS), or about 2.9 wins per season. Arizona qualified on this angle going into 2022 and saw the biggest drop from 11-6 to 4-13.
    Teams affected for 2024: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
  • Since 2009, 42 teams with a turnover differential of +5 or better in a season have failed to reach the postseason. Only 13 reached the postseason the next year, and only 16 improved their records. These are typically play-against teams, as failing to reach the playoffs does not provide momentum the next season. This group includes New England from a year ago.
    Teams affected for 2024: Cincinnati, New Orleans, NY Giants
  • Only 11 of the last 43 teams that had a positive turnover differential and were less than .500 against the spread in a season reached the playoffs the next season, and only 17 improved. Four teams qualified on this system a year ago, and only Green Bay improved by one game nonetheless.
    Teams affected for 2024: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, New Orleans
  • Of the 13 teams that declined their ATS won-lost percentage by 31% or more from one season to the next since 2009, all had positive turnover differentials of +4 or better the prior season. This included the Chargers of a year ago.
    Teams POTENTIALLY affected for 2024: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New Orleans, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay

Systems of teams whose offense/defense production or point differential stats the prior season didn’t accurately reflect their won-lost record

  • Since 2001, there have been 50 NFL teams that managed to win 10+ games despite scoring less than 23 points per game in season. In the follow-up season, only nine of these teams improved, while 38 dropped by an average of 4.3 games in the win column. Baltimore defied this system last year by going from 10-7 to 13-4.
    Teams affected for 2024: Kansas City, Pittsburgh
  • There has been fairly steady season-to-season improvement from the group of teams that have won less than 42% of their regular-season games despite scoring 22+ PPG. Since ’00, only four of the 31 teams were worse the next season, and the average win improvement was about 2.5 per season. Las Vegas qualified on this last year and improved by two games.
    Teams affected for 2024: Unfortunately, none for 2024 as the teams that scored 22+ PPG all won at least 9 games last season
  • Since 2000, there have been 71 teams that somehow won less than 42% of their games despite allowing 23 or less points per game in season. In the follow-up season, 48 of these teams, or 67.6% of them, improved in the win column, and the average improvement of that group was 3.6 wins per year!
    Teams affected for 2024: Atlanta, Chicago, Minnesota, New England, NY Jets, Tennessee
  • There has been consistent season-to-season decline made from the group of teams that have won 10 or more games despite allowing 23+ PPG. Over the last 25 seasons, only three of the 31 teams were better the next season, and the average win dropoff was 2.97 per season.
    Teams affected for 2024: Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia
  • There have been 13 teams that have scored 27+ PPG in the last 22 seasons and did not make the playoffs. The combined record of those teams in the follow-up regular season was 129-81, good for 61.4% and an average of 9.92 wins per season. Only three of those teams did not make the playoffs, and two others, the 2009 Saints & 2020 Buccaneers, went on to win a Super Bowl title. The Chargers last qualified on this system in 2022 and went exactly 10-7, earning a playoff berth.
    Teams affected for 2024: NONE – no one was even close to this
  • If you examine positive point differential with a losing record, only two of the last 18 teams that had this combination worsened their win total the next season. Two recent Super Bowl Champion teams met this criteria, the 2017 Eagles and the 2020 Buccaneers. The average win total for the 16 teams was 9.5, with eight of them winning at least 11 games, and the average win improvement was 2.94 per season. However, New England bucked this trend a year ago, dropping by four wins.
    Teams affected for 2024: Las Vegas

    When considering negative point differential with a .500 or better record, only eight of the L34 teams to achieve this dubious honor went on to a better season the next year, although two of them came last year with the Dolphins & Steelers. The average drop was a minimal -1.62 wins per season, but the margin of making the playoffs for teams like this is already small. Pittsburgh qualifies for this system for a third straight season.
    Teams affected for 2024: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle

Combination systems using statistical traits detailed already

  • There have been nine NFL teams that have gone sub-.500 in a season despite a positive turnover differential and scoring differential. Six of them have turned around the next season and made the playoffs, improving by an average of 3.2 wins per season.
    Teams affected for 2024: NONE – Las Vegas was closest with a -2 TO differential
  • Nine of the last 13 NFL teams that had a negative turnover differential but positive score differential and didn’t make the playoffs did so the next season, including Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay in 2020, as well as the Chargers in 2022.
    Teams affected for 2024: Jacksonville, Las Vegas
  • Only 10 of the last 46 teams that had a positive turnover differential but negative score differential qualified for the playoffs in the next season, although Green Bay did last year. Pittsburgh qualifies for a third straight year.
    Teams affected for 2024: Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, Seattle
  • All but two of the 24 NFL teams since 2009 that had a negative turnover differential and were outscored by more than 10 PPG improved their won-lost record the next season by an average of 24.5%, or 3.9 wins per team. Five of those teams made the playoffs, and 13 of them improved by four or more wins.
    Teams affected for 2023: Carolina, Washington
  • Only nine of the 43 NFL teams since 2009 that had a positive turnover differential and who outscored opponents by more than 8.0 PPG improved their won-lost record the next season. The average won-lost percentage decline was 13.1% (12.5% ATS), or about 2.2 wins per season. This included both the Eagles and 49ers a year ago.
    Teams affected for 2024: Baltimore, Buffalo, Dallas, San Francisco.

I hope this piece helps you zoom in on a few winning NFL season win total wagers you’ve been contemplating. Up next on my annual NFL offseason prep routine will be setting my initial Power Ratings for the season and using them to run against the 2024-25 schedule. I will then wrap up with a release of my own personal season win total wagers.

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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.