NFL season prop betting: Most wins
We bridged the NFL offseason with our team-by-team looks at what's changed for each franchise and where each team stands in the most significant betting markets, but as we shift our focus to the numerous season-long betting options, we'll save some of those popular bets for later.
Instead of betting Super Bowl or conference champions, the most-wins market measures a team's regular-season strength without having to rely on the one-game bounces of the playoffs.
By its very nature, this is a different market than team win totals. You can predict a team like the Dolphins will exceed their expectation of nine wins, have them clear that total by three wins, and still finish second or worse in league-wide victories.
The 2014 season was the last time that 12 wins were good enough to lead the NFL, and five teams tied with that total in a 16-game season. Last year, the Packers and Buccaneers each had 13 victories in the league's first 17-game season. Who can reach 13 wins or better this year, and what is their likelihood relative to their odds?
Baltimore Ravens +1600
One quasi-cheat sheet for this market is the MVP market. The quarterback for the team that wins the most games will get the lion's share of credit. The signal-callers of the top four teams on the board are all available at significantly better payouts in that market than their teams are here.
Lamar Jackson is 20-1 (4.8% win probability) to win MVP, which leaves a difference of just 1.1% from the Ravens having the best record. Compare that to Josh Allen's MVP (+700) candidacy relative to the Bills' odds for best record and there's an implied win-probability gap of better than 5%, indicating there's value in backing the Ravens as a team (especially since Jackson could lose out in voting to someone whose team posts a similar record).
Given its unbalanced nature, the schedule matters. Baltimore's toughest game - on the road at Tampa Bay - is also its shortest rest spot. While that doesn't bode well for the Ravens' chances of winning that game, it may effectively burn two theoretical losses in one. They're only projected as underdogs in two other games (@CLE, @CIN).
We're getting this price because of what happened to Baltimore last season, but there's reason to believe the Ravens can regain their form from the previous two campaigns (14 and 11 wins). If they do, they'll be live for a decent payout come January.
Minnesota Vikings +4000
With former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell taking over from Mike Zimmer, and ample talent at his disposal, this season should provide Cousins with every opportunity for a big season. Meanwhile, the two games against the Packers present both a perceived obstacle and Minnesota's chance to blow through its ceiling.
The Vikings are just 2-point underdogs in Week 1 to Green Bay and are projected to be 5.5-point underdogs in the return matchup at Lambeau Field - a place where they've had success recently. The Vikings are around 6-1 to sweep Green Bay, but I'd rather have 40-1 on this ticket, especially since their only other role as significant 'dogs comes in Buffalo in Week 10.
With so many quality teams in the AFC, there's reason to believe they'll hand one another more losses than their team power rating would normally suggest. The same could be true in the NFC West, at which point the Vikings would just need a median win-total season (11.5) from Tampa Bay to find themselves atop the league.
The Vikings lost so many games in recent years because of excessive conservatism and being on the wrong end of high-leverage plays. Better in-game coaching and a more aggressive mindset could flip two or more games from losses to wins, even with a mediocre defense.
At 40-1, we want to bet on the unknown as long as there's potential, and that's worth a modest shot on Minnesota.
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.