Oddsmakers did a pretty good job setting NFL win total lines.
While many teams have seen their win totals move by a half game, and the odds if you want to bet the over or under have gone up and down, there haven’t been any massive shifts since BetMGM released the win totals for all 32 teams in mid-April. In fact, only one team has moved a full game (for reasons that are pretty obvious).
Oddsmakers don’t like moving NFL win totals a full game, because they can get middled. Which means, if they release a team at 8.5 and eventually move it to 9.5, if the team lands on 9 wins the book loses all over 8.5 bets and all under 9.5 bets. For the sportsbook, that’s bad. Really bad.
So most teams have had just small (though telling) movements, or the odds attached have shifted. We can still study those moves for clues.
One team has had a full game shift in win total
The one team that had its odds shift a full game is the Denver Broncos. When BetMGM released the odds in mid-April, Aaron Rodgers to the Denver Broncos wasn’t a thought in anyone’s head. Then we heard Rodgers was unhappy, the Broncos were a team on his list, there were rumors on draft day that a trade would happen and the win total moved.
The Broncos opened at 7.5. They’re now 8.5 at BetMGM, even though Rodgers hasn’t been traded and there have been no indications the Green Bay Packers will move him. The Packers’ win total was 11 when it opened, and once the Rodgers news broke the line was taken down. It has not been put back up.
If you don’t think Rodgers will be traded, there’s value on the Broncos under. There’s no other reason to bump them up a full game since mid-April. But if Rodgers is traded to Denver, your under bet would immediately look silly.
Other teams have had some interesting movement, even if it’s not a full game.
Which teams have had their win totals change?
You can tell from the line movements which teams bettors are high or low on coming into the season. Here’s the list of teams who have had a half-game shift in win totals since they opened in mid-April:
Arizona Cardinals, 8 to 8.5
Buffalo Bills, 10.5 to 11
Chicago Bears, 7 to 7.5
Cleveland Browns, 10 to 10.5
Dallas Cowboys, 9 to 9.5
Detroit Lions, 5.5 to 5
Houston Texans, 4.5 to 4
Kansas City Chiefs, 12 to 12.5
Las Vegas Raiders, 7.5 to 7
Los Angeles Chargers, 9 to 9.5
Los Angeles Rams, 10 to 10.5
Miami Dolphins, 9 to 9.5
San Francisco 49ers, 10 to 10.5
Seattle Seahawks, 9.5 to 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 11.5 to 12
Washington Football Team, 8 to 8.5
Since that’s half the league, let’s look for teams whose win total has shifted and the odds are above -110 on the new line. Then we get down to two teams:
Browns over 10.5, -120
Texans under 4, -115
The Browns opened at 9.5 at some sportsbooks, so they’ve had the largest shift that has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers. Clearly sportsbooks didn’t anticipate the Browns optimism. They are coming off an 11-5 season, though they did have a negative point differential last season. It’s a talented team, the Browns finally won a playoff game and bettors clearly don’t believe they’ll be taking a step back.
If you got the Texans at under 4.5 wins, you might feel pretty good. Deshaun Watson’s situation hasn’t been settled with training camps about to start. If Watson plays, the Texans could still go under 4.5. If Watson doesn’t play, it would be surprising if the Texans got to 5 wins. That line move isn’t too much of a surprise.
Training camps haven’t started and once the preseason starts, there will be a lot more betting on team win totals. You can anticipate which sides bettors will be taking, based on the early line movements.