- Dave Tuley, ESPN Insider
LAS VEGAS -- The betting public's appetite for anything NFL-related never ceases to amaze me.
The schedule was released on April 18, and within 24 hours the lines were posted for Week 1. On May 4, Cantor Gaming put up its lines for Weeks 2 through 16 (and I went through those looking for best bets less than two weeks ago) and the LVH SuperBook released its division odds on May 6.
And now the books have posted the most popular NFL "future" bet of them all: the over/under season win totals.
The generic "Vegas" is often given credit for being where these numbers open, but the Atlantis in Reno was actually the first to post these on May 9. Cantor was the first to put them up in Vegas this past Friday, with the LVH countering on Sunday (you can compare the openers in this forum thread at my ViewFromVegas.com website).
The reason for the popularity of these bets is easy to see. In the old days, if you wanted to make a future-book bet on a team, you would have to pick them to win the Super Bowl. Well, what if you thought a team was going to exceed expectations but wasn't good enough to contend for the title? Enter the over/under season win totals. There never used to be a future bet where you could go against a team if you thought they were really going to suck. Now, you can bet that team to finish under its season win total and have your opinion rewarded.
The mistake that most novice bettors (and just about every wiseguy will admit they did it this way when they first looked at this wager) is going through a team's schedule and saying "that's a win, that's a win, that's a loss, that's a win." No game is 100 percent a win or a loss. Instead, what a lot of wiseguys do is go through the schedule, attach a moneyline to each game, come up with the win percentage for each game and add all those up (like The Sports Boss did with his own figures in Chad Millman's blog today). Others will look at last year's records and figure out how many games were decided by luck or other factors to get a truer baseline for each team and then adjust for coaching changes, free-agent moves, the draft, etc.
Let's take a look at each team's over/under win totals, using the LVH since they're the most representative of where the market is settling, and I'll give my "take" on each team -- marking my best bets with an asterisk (*) -- and passing where I feel the number is spot-on. Let's go division by division and in order of each team's projected wins:
New England Patriots
2012 record: 12-4
2013 over/under: 11.5 (over +115/under -135)
Their recent postseason failings aside, the Patriots know how to rack up wins in the regular season. Even with this high number, it's hard to see them at anything less than 8-2 heading into back-to-back games against the Broncos and Texans in Weeks 12 and 13. Wes Welker will be missed, but Tom Brady will spread the ball around just fine. Tuley's Take: Over 11.5
2012 record: 7-9
2013 over/under: 7.5 (over -135/under +115)