By Dan Rivera
My best guess is most, if not all of you have generally been betting NFL futures in some way and are always looking to see if you can find an edge before the season starts. Luckily for us, I found data to show you who actually goes to NFL Playoffs. I have never seen an article telling you who goes by the way either, and it seems like nearly very article has something along the lines of “I like team X to miss the playoffs because I don’t think they will win enough games” or vice versa. To change the structure of how we break this down here for The Betting Predators, I dug into all the teams who made and missed the playoffs going back to 2002 - 2002 was the first year of the four divisions in each conference.
This is a personal approach of mine and how I look at these playoff future bets. Click here to see the full data. It doesn’t fit well in our blog editor and it's also hard to read when you leave the Google sheet. Lastly, when looking at the wins, remember that these are exact wins, not greater than or equal to number X (9 wins is 9 wins, 10 wins is 10 wins, etc.) Let’s start with our first category below, which is pretty simple if you ask me: winning
Win More Games:
To no one’s surprise, you need to win more games to make the playoffs. Looking at all the 7 and 8 win teams since 2002, only 10 teams (14.08%) made the playoffs winning this many games while another 61 (85.92%) missed the playoffs. Of those 10 teams to make the playoffs, 6 won the division while another 4 didn’t. Only 4 times has an 8-win team made playoffs under the 6 team playoff format.
No 7-win team has made the playoffs as a wildcard while not winning their division. Under the new 7-team format, this number has increased to 20 (28.17%) teams making the playoffs with 51 (71.83%) missing. We observed no increase in teams winning their division under this category of 7 or 8 teams. Only 21.54% of 8-win teams have been wild card teams.
The Golden Number:
We do have a cutoff here for teams making playoffs - under the 6 team playoff format, 25 (39.68%) teams made the playoffs with 9 wins while another 38 (60.32%) missed them. Of the 9-win teams, 10 (40%) won the division while the other 15 (60%) didn’t win the division. Not surprised we see a lot of 9-win teams winning their division in this 6-team format but missing out on the playoffs at 9 wins as a wild card. Only 15 times has a 9-win team made the playoffs as a wild card or 28.3% (15/53 is how you get 28.3%).
When we look at the new 7-team format, we again see our cutoff that no one can tell you about. Under the 7-team format, 9-win teams made the playoffs 45 times (71.43%) while missing it 18 times (28.57%).
That is an astounding 31.75% increase in playoffs odds! We do see a significant decrease of 9-win teams winning the division under the new 7-team format, but that is expected as we added another spot. A total of 35 times a team made the playoffs as a 9-win team (or 66.04%, which is a total of 35 out of 53 teams).
In the 2021 season, we now have the 17th game, which means that 9 wins translates to a 56.25% win percentage, which that means you now need to win 10 games (58.82% win percentage). In fact, 9 wins (52.94%) this year is too close to our category above. If you believe a team is going to win 10 games this year, then it's reasonable to say that you have approximately a 70% chance to make the playoffs using the historical numbers and a 66% chance assuming you don’t think those teams win their division (which is probably almost all of you outside of the NFC East or the AFC South).
Even before the new 7-team playoff format, if you won 11 games you were a near lock to make the playoffs. Of the 49 teams to win exactly 11 games, only 1 has ever missed under 6 team format - the New England Patriots missed in 2008 when the Baltimore Ravens beat them for the last spot due to its conference win percentage. When you take it to the 7-team format, no 11 team has ever missed.
In terms of the 11 wins, this now translates to 12-5 under the new 17-game season format. Win 12 games? You’re going to the playoffs. Last year, The Dolphins missing the playoffs at 10-6 meant that they had a 97% chance to actually go to the postseason using historical numbers (94.74% adjusting for teams not winning the division at 10 wins). The Bears making it last year at 8-8 meant that they only had a 21.54% of going to the playoffs since they didn’t win the division. The tables below show a full list of info.
Teams I've Circled:
First off, this is kind of an odd market to bet. A lot of these teams are factored/lined properly as they are either expected to win the division or expected to win/lose a lot of games. Ideally you want teams who are expected to win about 9 games or less, as it is pretty predictable who will win a division for many of them.
One team I did bet, however, is the Vikings to make the playoffs. You can find them +115 on FanDuel or DraftKings for them to make the playoffs currently (shop around, but this is largely consensus). I expect this team to bounce back this year as they get a lot of their defenders back from injury and a possible upgrade of their offensive line. Normally I do 2 units on futures markets because of the time it takes to get paid out, but this is a team who could have COVID issues down the road and forfeit games so I scaled down my bet on them. If you have a fatter bank roll, I also believe the Lions and Texans both offer value still missing the playoffs.
Here, in this case, -1200 implies 92% a team misses the playoffs. But this line should be closer to -2000, if not higher, because I give them a generous 1% chance of making it. Check your house rules and see what they are requiring for any possible forfeits too. Do you see another team to make/miss playoffs? Tweet me @danrivera228 because we do in fact have an average 6 new teams almost every year making the playoffs. The Saints, WFT, Bears, Colts, and Steelers are teams that I wouldn’t be surprised to miss the playoffs for various reasons either.