NFL win-loss projections for the 2023 season

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Projecting the 2023 NFL Schedule

The NFL schedule for the 2023 season was released a few weeks ago, and as always, there was a ton of instant reaction. This is a popular time for bettors to hit up the books and their season win total props. I like to wait a couple of weeks for the dust to settle after the announcement to finalize my power ratings and run them against the schedule, seeing how each team’s slate projects out regarding wins and losses. As bettors, we’re looking for every edge we can, and by analyzing every game, we can potentially find things that odds makers setting the season-win total props may have missed or overvalued.

 

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Once again, this year’s NFL schedule features 17 games for each team. I am still having trouble getting used to this odd number. I know it has caused issues the last couple of seasons for bettors, who were thrown for a loop when analyzing the season-win props. However, running power ratings against every game helps eliminate that confusion.

Bettors can get in on the season-win wagers at any of their favorite establishments right now, but for this particular piece, we will be comparing my projections against the numbers set by our friends over at DraftKings. If you’re a savvy bettor that prides yourself on shopping around and jumping on the best number available, you will be able to find differences up to 0.5 wins or more, or variations on money lines associated with the prop at other locales. Interestingly, for the first time that I can recall, DK is offering tiered options on their win total props. For instance, if a team’s set -110/-110 number is 8.5 wins, you can also bet them at 4.5, 6.5, 10.5, etc.

In this exercise, I have simulated the 2023 schedules for each team using their actual opponents and my latest power ratings, including the team-specific home and road field ratings. I should note that my current NFL home-field advantage ratings settled at about 1.8 points at the conclusion of last season, and I have kept them at this point heading into 2023. You’ll see the standings on the chart below, followed by a team-by-team list of the opponents and projected point spreads. Use these numbers to bet the season win totals or any “games of the year” that have been released by books.

I officially updated my power ratings early this week. You will see that besides the big jump for the Jets and the drop by Green Bay due to the Aaron Rodgers move, for the most part, the other big adjustments made were to the teams at the opposite ends of the spectrum in what would be considered normalcy adjustments. I’ve learned from my own oddsmaking experience there is no greater reset button in the NFL than an offseason that wipes the slate clean from the prior year, both positively and negatively. That said, there are obvious talent differences among the teams that must be accounted for.

For my power ratings, I tend to follow the betting markets first and foremost until teams accumulate statistics. I do make adjustments from the betting markets based on certain factors. For one, if you consider the recent strengths of the last four Super Bowl Champion teams, they generally shared a handful of different personnel grouping strengths, and I value them in this particular order:

1) Quarterback Play

2) Ability to pressure opposing passer

3) Defensive back play, shutting down receivers and creating turnovers

4) Protecting the quarterback on offense

5) Skill/volume of offensive playmakers.

When analyzing the results of the schedule simulation, bettors should be able to make their own personal adjustments to the numbers based upon things like how hard the slate is at the outset, grouped road/home games, game difficulty at home or on the road, and placement of the bye week in the schedule. These are all key variables that can lend to a team having a better or worse season than the oddsmakers project. Also, are there any key player situations that need to be accounted for, such as suspensions for guys like Saints RB Alvin Kamara? None of this type of news at this point compares to last year, where the Browns played their first 12 games without QB Deshaun Watson.

I’ve also included all of the pre-set neutral games on the schedule. The teams affected are:

2023 neutral games: (official home team listed second)

Atlanta vs. Jacksonville (London)

Jacksonville vs. Buffalo (London)

Baltimore vs. Tennessee (London)

Miami vs. Kansas City (Frankfurt)

Indianapolis vs. New England (Frankfurt)

Here are a few highlights of the study and some of my own observations based upon the season win totals offered by DraftKings Sportsbook as of May 24th. Hopefully, you’ve been following along with my weekly pieces over the last month in PSW as I’ve focused on teams expected to improve or decline in 2023 based on some of their statistical characteristics of last year. You’ll find a separate piece in this week’s issue where I wrap up my NFL offseason work with a group of my favorite season-win total betting choices. Naturally, this week’s schedule piece also played into those predictions.

Steve’s top four teams expected to win more games than prop:

1. INDIANAPOLIS – DraftKings: 6.5, Steve’s Projection: 7.5, Difference: +1.0

2. DALLAS – DraftKings: 9.5, Steve’s Projection: 10.4, Difference: +0.9

T-3. GREEN BAY – DraftKings: 7.5, Steve’s Projection: 8.2, Difference: +0.7

T-3. LA Rams – DraftKings: 6.5, Steve’s Projection: 7.2, Difference: +0.7

Of note, last year three teams had a +0.7 win difference projected (Minnesota, Seattle, NY Giants) and all three easily surpassed their win props.

Steve’s top three teams expected to win less games than prop:

1. CLEVELAND – DraftKings: 9.5, Steve’s Projection: 8.2, Difference: -1.3

2. LA CHARGERS – DraftKings: 9.5, Steve’s Projection: 8.4, Difference: -1.1

3. CINCINNATI – DraftKings: 11.5, Steve’s Projection: 10.8, Difference: -0.7

–  According to my figures, Washington plays the league’s toughest schedule, at least as it stands now based on opponent/home/road breakdown. The Commanders ranked just ahead of the Jets and Chargers in that regard. Not only will they have to face their tough NFC East Division foes, but they also get the deep AFC East in non-divisional games, plus games versus San Francisco and Seattle. If it’s any consolation, the Chiefs faced the toughest schedule in this column a year ago and went on to a Super Bowl title.

–  The league’s easiest schedule belongs to the Saints, a team looking to make a leap in the NFC after acquiring QB Derek Carr in the offseason. A primary reason for the schedule softness is that New Orleans is in the weak NFC South Division. At this point, my power ratings have the Saints favored in 12 of 17 games, and the biggest underdog line they face is +2.5 points at Minnesota in November. This could be a nice bounce-back season for a team loaded with offensive weaponry. For the record, the next easiest schedules on paper belong to the Falcons and Colts.

–  Kansas City (11.5) is projected to win the most games of any team in the NFL, followed by Philadelphia (11.1), San Francisco (10.9) & and the Bengals (10.8). There are two other teams among the double-digit win projections. The other projected division winners include Buffalo (10.5), Jacksonville (10.0), Detroit (9.0), and New Orleans (9.0).

–  Last year, there were four teams projected to win less than six (6.0) games: Atlanta (5.6), Chicago (5.5), NY Jets (5.5) and Houston (4.8). This year there is just one: Arizona (5.1). Of course, the Cardinals will start the season with a new head coach, Jonathan Gannon.

–  Assuming the projections play out accurately, the AFC’s top-seeded team for the playoffs would be Kansas City. The #2 Cincinnati would take on #7 Miami in the expanded playoff format. Also in the wildcard playoff round, the #4 Jaguars would host #5 Baltimore and Buffalo would face the Jets in the #3-#6 matchup. For the NFC, the top seed would be Philadelphia once again, while the wildcard matchups would be New Orleans-Dallas, Detroit-Atlanta, and San Francisco-Seattle for a second straight year.

–  The largest point spread at the season’s outset is expected to be a New Year’s Eve game featuring the Cardinals at Philadelphia, with the Eagles shown as 14.8-point favorites. There are 11 other games showing double-digit lines, with the majority featuring the Eagles, 49ers, or Bengals at home. Notably, there were 36 games projected to have double-digit point spreads last year, so the parity seems to have been enhanced greatly over a year’s time.

–  Of the 267 matchups played at host stadiums, 85 show point spreads designating road favorites, down from 103 in ‘22. The 49ers and Chiefs share the distinction of being projected as road favorites the most times for the 2022 season, appearing as such in eight road games each. On the opposite side of the spectrum are the most frequent home underdogs, the Cardinals, expected to be in that role eight times.

–  It should be noted that before the 2021 season, using this same exercise, I was able to correctly pick five of the seven eventual NFC playoff teams and four of seven AFC teams. Last year I was correct on four of seven AFC teams and five of seven NFC teams.  If I’m able to predict about nine of 14 playoff teams once again, that would leave room for five teams not counted in as of now. As a betting man, my best guess for which teams those would be would include the Chargers, Denver, Green Bay, and Carolina.

Other interesting scheduling tidbits: