2017 NFL Season: A look at the odds
If you are a regular reader of MyFantasySportsTalk.com, or viewer of My Fantasy Podcast, you know that Dan Schalk, Orlando Torres, and myself give our NFL picks each week in our Pick’em piece. While going through the season this year I got the sense that it was harder than normal to predict the winners. The parity in the league appeared to be greater this year than past years. So I wanted to find out, just how much did the underdog win this year?
Of course there was New England, who appeared to be the top dog in the NFL all season long, and Pittsburgh who was also a close second in the AFC. Then you had Jacksonville, who to some degree shocked the NFL universe this year with how hard they turned the corner. That was pretty much it on the AFC side, especially once the predictable and inevitable Chiefs slide started in Week 6.
As for the NFC, it was more wide open than Adam Thielen in Week 1. Philadelphia was cruising, but came out of nowhere in Wentz’s sophomore year. And after he went down, no one gave them a chance. Minnesota had the defense but we saw that story play out last season. The Falcons couldn’t get it together after their crushing Super Bowl LI collapse last season. New Orleans unveiled a new secret weapon named Alvin Kamara and surprised some folks. So did the L.A. Rams. But good luck trying to predict all that week in and week out.
So was this truly a year of upsets, was it unique parity, or was it simply mediocre football? I went back and marked the favorites in each NFL Regular Season game (according to ESPN lines), then compared that to who actually won the game. I was strictly looking for who won the game, not if the spread was covered or not. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting numbers that I found…
The favorites were 182-73 in the NFL Regular Season
The underdog won 28.6% of the time this year
In weeks 3-6, there was a 30-30 even split between favorites & dogs winning
New England was the only team to be favored every game
Only one even line all season (Week 7- Den VS LAC)
Pittsburgh was the dog only twice, against KC (win) and New England (loss)
Jacksonville wasn’t a favorite until Week 4
Philadelphia was only favored three times in the first six weeks (Bye Week 10)
Kansas City lost five times as the favorite
Denver lost five times as the favorite
The AFC West lost 16 games as the favorite
Cleveland was favored in one game (-1 VS Indy)
Indianapolis was favored twice all year, won both times (Week 5 VS San Fran & Week 17 VS Hou)
New Orleans didn’t lose as the favorite until Week 17 (Tampa Bay)
Tennessee was the favorite in 12 games
So does 28.6% sound like a high number? It’s close to a third of the time. If you told me the underdog was going to win one out of every three NFL games this season, I would think that was a high number. We would have to go back and compare these numbers to previous seasons to know if that was high, or right in line with a typical NFL season. As I mentioned before, Dan, Orlando, and myself have competed in our Pick’Em Challenge the last two seasons and I do have those numbers to compare. Was it harder for us to predict games this season, compared to last?
|2016 Season||2017 Season|
So our numbers from last year to this year were not that different. They were actually up thanks to some great late weeks by Orlando. And I was up by three games from last year. However, Dan was down by ten games this season. Overall, not enough of a difference to cause one to say wow.
My final thought after reviewing these numbers is maybe it was just mediocre football this season in the NFL. Maybe that contributed to a dip in ratings. There was simply not that many compelling matchups from week to week. There are no elite teams this season, in my opinion. Sure there is New England but this is far from the best New England team we have seen just in the last decade. Philadelphia navigated themselves through the NFC all the way to the Super Bowl with a second year quarterback for the half the season, and a backup QB for the back half of the season, including the playoffs. The NFC was pretty competitive with about six to eight teams, but none of those teams were considered elite. It was also no more of a three horse race in the AFC. Jacksonville may have overachieved with their stellar defense. After all, Blake Bortles was in jeopardy of losing his job at the start of the season, and he lost his number one receiver in Allen Robinson. It was always suppose to be New England and Pittsburgh vying for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. And that’s pretty much how it played out.
Further proof of an unpredictable and possibly just mediocre NFL season is the fact that Philadelphia, the number one seed in the NFC, was the underdog in both home playoffs games they played to reach the Super Bowl. Also, New England opened as a 5.5 favorite to win the Super Bowl. That was the highest opening line in nine years for the Super Bowl. So obviously the outcome is supposed to be a no-brainer.
So if you go by the regular season numbers, the Eagles have a 28.6% chance to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. If you go by the Eagles playoff record so far this season, they have a 100% track record winning as the underdog. And by the way, a ton of money is coming into Vegas with a flood of Eagles bets since the opening line. Before the season started, Philadelphia had 50-1 odds to win it all. If the Eagles can do the unthinkable and knock off the Patriots, I think we can truly say this NFL season was the year of the underdog.
Brandon Reid covers the NFL for MyFantasySportsTalk.com | Follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
He is from Memphis and graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He loves the Memphis Tigers, Grizzlies, Titans, and Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“I promise to bring information, insight, and strong opinion. Let the debate begin.”
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid