NFL POWER RATINGS PRIMER
Most successful sports handicappers use a quantitative standard for assessing the game.
In order to do that, it is imperative to use power ratings, also known as 'power rankings,' to identify the point differential between opposing teams. By comparing two teams’ power ratings and accounting for home field advantage, the bettor can objectively determine what the point spread should be and take advantage of any difference in the actual line.
Early in the year, especially heading into Week 1, power ratings have to account for team’s retirements, player acquisitions and departures, coaching changes, injuries, etc. without much evidence to create their opinion. How the new pieces fit together in practice are largely told via the beat writers’ Twitter accounts.
What makes things even more convoluted is that most practices are closed off to the public and many even for the reporters themselves. Listening to a coach’s press conference can often shed some light on how a team or player is doing, sure, but how much of that information can be attributed to the truth versus the proverbial coach’s speak? As the year progresses, power ratings become more reliable because there are more data points to fine-tune a team’s rating. This is why we're now at ground zero. Regardless of the difficulty to create, having power ratings is a must to properly handicap the NFL. Below is the first edition of our Betting Predators 2022 NFL Power Ratings. To create the power rated line, take the difference between each team and factor in home field advantage. It is important to remember that power ratings are fluid and should just be the starting point of a handicap when considering a bet. It is also important to note, at this point in the year, power ratings can be extremely temperamental. If a player gets injured, signed, traded, or cut, it can have far reaching implications. Look no further than the Deshaun Watson situation. If Deshaun does not get suspended for Week 1, the Browns power ratings will go through the roof. There are other players that are considering sitting out because of contract negotiations, cluster injuries to position groups, or disappointing/breakout preseason performances.
POWER RATINGS & THE FUTURE MARKET
When examining the futures market, you can leverage your Power Ratings to determine win percentage. Below you will see what my power ratings give each team based upon every power rated line for their regular season schedule (PR Win Total). Unabated has an NFL Season Simulator feature that allows you to run 10,000 simulations based on your power ratings. Included in the simulation is HFA, QB injury percentage, and the value of the starting quarterback over the backup. I have added their projected win percentage, as well (UNABATED). After averaging the Power Rated Win Total and the Unabated Win Total (AVG W TOTAL), I compared it to the BetOnline market price and highlighted the differences in the final column (DIFFERENCE). Teams highlighted in red show a negative discrepancy, while green identifies where I am above market. Without fail, the sportsbooks inflate team win totals each and every year. According to the chart below, the market is higher on 22 of the 32 NFL teams than I was in 2021, for example.
Power ratings adjust quite quickly during the regular season. With only Tuesday and Wednesday free of football, sports bettors need to update team’s valuations on the fly. Conversely, in the offseason, there is plenty of time to dissect every minutia of a football team. Football centric handicappers have ample opportunity to do just that. Sharps tweak their power ratings weekly, if not daily, during the summer. When the lines post for Week 1, they are ready to attack. There have already been major week 1 line moves for games that are still over a month away. For instance, Carolina was +4.5 week 1. In anticipation of an inevitable Deshaun Watson suspension, many sharp bettors pounded +3 or better. With the current line of Carolina +1, these bettors were rewarded for their early action. If you missed out on the early flurry of action, it doesn’t mean you are out of luck. However, the closer we get to Week 1, the tighter the lines become. With that in mind, let's take a look at the NFL Week 1 Power Rating discrepancies below. As a reminder, check out my weekly betting content throughout each NFL regular season, where I highlight the discrepancies between my power ratings and the sports book's lines, and where I see value. Here's an example from previous seasons to show a simple visual of how we examine each set of market data:
Comparing power ratings between years can be a healthy exercise for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it allows us to quantify positive and negative change during the offseason. It is important to note that there are a plethora of factors that can substantially impact a team’s power rating, particularly at the end of the regular season. Perhaps none more damning than the Week 18 New York Giants, a team that finds themselves to have the greatest gain from a few seasons ago. Although the Giants still find themselves considerably below average this season, their increase is based upon last season’s unmitigated disaster. Between a bevy of injuries, embarrassing coaching/play-calling, and a mismanaged roster, by end of the season the Giants had all but surrendered the season, going as far as calling quarterback sneaks on 2nd and 3rd and long. In the offseason, the Giants fired nearly everyone and hired a pair of former Buffalo Bills personnel to stop the bleeding. With GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Dabol running the show, there is optimism in East Rutherford. But their rise in the rankings should be viewed more as an indictment on last year’s team more than an indication on this year’s.
By Steve Rieder
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