NFL

NFL Betting: The 3 Teams Most Likely to Finish With the Worst Record in 2021

Everyone is down on Houston, but other teams should make for better bets to finish with the worst record this season.

Look, it's gotta be somebody.

One of the 32 NFL teams has to wind up with the fewest wins in the NFL. It's just nature. (I mean, sure, there might be more than one team with the worst record in football, but that's not as dramatic.)

Less dramatically, I wanted to figure out which teams make for the best bet based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook to finish with the worst record.

Team Worst Record
Odds
Team Worst Record
Odds
Houston Texans +200 Detroit Lions +400
New York Jets +1000 Cincinnati Bengals +1100
Jacksonville Jaguars +1300 Philadelphia Eagles +1500
Las Vegas Raiders +1600 Carolina Panthers +1800
Denver Broncos +2400 New York Giants +2400
Chicago Bears +3200 Washington Football Team +3700
Atlanta Falcons +5000 Minnesota Vikings +5000
Arizona Cardinals +5500 Pittsburgh Steelers +5500
New Orleans Saints +8500 Tennessee Titans +8500
Miami Dolphins +9000 New England Patriots +9000
Green Bay Packers +10000 Los Angeles Chargers +12000
Dallas Cowboys +15000 Seattle Seahawks +20000
Los Angeles Rams +23000 Baltimore Ravens +25000
Buffalo Bills +25000 Cleveland Browns +25000
Indianapolis Colts +25000 Kansas City Chiefs +25000
San Francisco 49ers +25000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers +25000


So, I simulated out the season a few thousand times.

What data did I use? Good question. I derived each team's expected point differentials using equal parts aggregate bookmaker odds, historical precedent based on preseason power rankings, and my manual projections for each team's offense and defense.

This allowed me to answer questions such as: Which teams have the most "easy" wins on the schedule? Which teams will play a lot of tight games and thus be volatile? Which teams should be considered big underdogs often?

All of those -- not just overall team strength and average schedule strength -- should be accounted for when looking at actual win/loss expectations.

Something of note: of the 12 teams over the past 9 seasons to finish with the worst record (including ties), 10 of them had preseason Super Bowl odds of at least +10000, and 11 of them had win total projections of 8 or lower.

So, yeah, the NFL is volatile, but the worst teams are generally going to be coming from the bucket of worst teams entering the season. We're not honing in on long shots here.

Here are the teams that emerged as betting values, according to the simulations.

Detroit Lions (+400)

Sure, I could have covered the Houston Texans (+200) here, and they are a value to finish with the worst record in the NFL (if we include ties), but the Detroit Lions are listed at twice the odds the Texans are, and the Texans' quarterback situation could get a lot better if Deshaun Watson winds up playing this season.

We know what the Lions are going forward with at quarterback, and that's Jared Goff. Goff, last year, once adjusted for opponent strength played virtually exactly to expectation, based on numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) data.

That's certainly not bad, but it's also not going to raise up the Lions' offense, which is quite thin on skill position assets.

The Lions, according to my expected point differential numbers, are rating out as favorites in zero games and as touchdown-or-larger underdogs in 12 games. Further, their overall schedule ranks ninth-toughest, and only two games are rating out as spreads within three points.

(By the way, all of that last paragraph applies to the Texans, as well.)

The point here is that the Lions shouldn't have many easy wins to pick up, and that is a big factor in why I'm leading off with Detroit.

In fact, numberFire's algorithm expects Detroit to finish with the fewest wins this season.

New York Jets (+1000)

The Zach Wilson era could get off to a slow start for a few reasons, one of which is simply the schedule for the New York Jets.

The Jets are rating out with the eighth-toughest average opponent over the full season, and my numbers have them favored in just a single game this season (at the Texans). There are six games in which the Jets should be considered touchdown-or-greater underdogs and only four games that rate out within three points either way.

That gives them only a small handful of coin-flip games to take advantage of.

The Jets' baseline projection, per numberFire's simulations, puts them within 0.7 wins of the worst median record, and we're getting strong +1000 odds.

Across thousands of my simulations, the Jets finished with or tied for the worst record in the NFL 14.2% of the time, outperforming their +1000 odds (9.1%).

Cincinnati Bengals (+1100)

I love Joe Burrow as much as the next guy -- and Tee Higgins more than the next guy -- but the Bengals do fit the criteria for what typically leads to a league-worst record.

Their Super Bowl odds are +12000, which coincides with the usual range for worst-record teams, their overall schedule rates out as the fifth-toughest in the NFL, and their win total is just 6.5 (with -120 odds on the under).

They do have six games in which the spread should be within three points either way, but they're also touchdown underdogs in six games, per my expected point differentials.

Additionally, they've got PFF's 25th-ranked offensive line entering the season.

One caveat here is that the Bengals do play the Jets, Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars across their 17 games.

Trouncing that caveat, however, is the fact that their nine-game home schedule (Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, and San Francisco 49ers) isn't exactly looking easy.

Honorable Mentions
Philadelphia Eagles (+1500) - Favored in two games but touchdown 'dogs in six; eight games within three points, making them highly volatile.
Las Vegas Raiders (+1800) - Second-toughest overall schedule and eight coin-flip games; bad luck could put them at the bottom of the standings.
Washington Football Team (+3700) - 4th-toughest schedule and 10 coin-flip games that could lead to a volatile record; just 4.2% likely to finish with or tie for the worst record but long odds at 37/1.