NFL

NFL Betting: 3 Teams to Target to Finish With the Best Record in 2021

What do simulations, schedule previews, and historical precedent say about the most likely teams to finish atop the NFL standings in 2021?

Dominant NFL teams are always fun to watch.

Whether they light up the scoreboard or put constant pressure on the opposing quarterback, there's just something about watching a team that has it all going right for them as they rack up wins in the record column.

Entering each year, it's easy to assume last year's elite will remain elite, but that doesn't mean they are the best bets to finish with the best record this season.

Which teams are, then?

To find out, I simulated out the NFL season a few thousand times to see where value exists in the Team With Best Regular Season Record market at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Team Best Record
Odds
Team Best Record
Odds
Kansas City Chiefs +450 Tampa Bay Buccaneers +600
Buffalo Bills +1000 Green Bay Packers +1000
San Francisco 49ers +1200 Baltimore Ravens +1300
Los Angeles Rams +1600 Cleveland Browns +1600
Seattle Seahawks +1700 Tennessee Titans +2400
Dallas Cowboys +2500 Indianapolis Colts +2500
Los Angeles Chargers +2700 Miami Dolphins +3200
New Orleans Saints +3200 Denver Broncos +3700
New England Patriots +3800 Atlanta Falcons +4600
Minnesota Vikings +4900 Arizona Cardinals +5000
Washington Football Team +5000 Pittsburgh Steelers +6500
Chicago Bears +7000 New York Giants +10000
Philadelphia Eagles +12000 Carolina Panthers +13000
Jacksonville Jaguars +17000 Las Vegas Raiders +18000
Cincinnati Bengals +22000 Detroit Lions +25000
Houston Texans +25000 New York Jets +25000


Of course, I need to cover how the simulations were derived.

I did a few things to estimate each team's expected point differentials. There is equal weight on aggregate bookmaker odds, historical precedent based on preseason power rankings, and my manual projections for each team's offense and defense.

Doing this lets me, yes, simulate the season out based on perceived team strength but also uncover a few key things such as expected spreads. That shows me which teams should be set up with the most easy wins this season.

Does a team have a ton of tight games within three points either way? They might be a little too volatile to bank on for the absolute most wins of the year.

We should note that 19 teams since 2012 have finished with either the best record or tied for the best record, so we should expect some dead heat on these numbers. In five of the past nine seasons, we've had at least a two-way tie for the top record.

Of these 19 teams, all had a preseason win total projection of at least 8.0 wins, and 11 of the 19 had a double-digit win total projection. The average for the whole sample was 10.0 wins.

Similarly, of these 19 teams, 17 of them had Super Bowl odds of +4000 or shorter entering the season, and the median Super Bowl odds of teams with the eventual best record was +1000.

This means that the best teams at the end of the regular season are generally the best teams entering the season. That's not shocking, but that's also why I won't be looking for total long shots here.

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+600)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs are the two outliers at the top, and they rate out pretty similarly overall.

My model has the Chiefs as touchdown favorites in 14 of their 17 games and playing in only one game within 3 points. The Bucs also have a single coin-flip game and 13 instances of being favored by at least 6 points.

Those should lead to easy wins and minimal volatility in closer games.

What really separates them is just the odds. The Bucs are +600 to finish with the best record, and the Chiefs are +450.

Also, Tampa Bay's division -- the NFC South -- combines for the fifth-lowest Super Bowl odds once we remove the Bucs from the equation. The AFC West ranks eighth without the Chiefs.

There's enough here to prioritize the Buccaneers, who slightly edge out the Chiefs in our initial power rankings at numberFire.

Buffalo Bills (+1000)

The Buffalo Bills fit nicely in that median Super Bowl odds among eventual best-record holders right at +1200, and there's a lot of great data in their schedule that really no teams outside of the Chiefs and Buccaneers can claim.

Buffalo's division, the AFC East, has the 10th-lowest Super Bowl odds among competitors, and Buffalo actually is rating out as touchdown favorites in 11 of 17 games, the only team other than the top two to do so in at least 8 games.

Buffalo also sits fifth in road schedule expected point differential and second at home.

Frankly, the biggest concern here is that the Bills have to travel to play the Chiefs and Buccaneers, two games in which they are obviously underdogs.

If they handle their business outside of those games, Buffalo has a pretty easy path to the top of the standings.

Green Bay Packers (+1000)

The Green Bay Packers don't have the most games as touchdown favorites (seven), but they also don't have any games where they are blowout risks, and only three of their games are actually rating out within three points either way (home against the Los Angeles Rams, at the Baltimore Ravens, and at the San Francisco 49ers).

This won't be reflected in the actual spreads you might come across, but based on the preseason expectations for the Packers compared to the rest of the league, that's how they're getting valued in my simulations.

And they should rack up a lot of easy wins, as the NFC North without the Packers combines for the lowest Super Bowl odds among any division without a single team.

Like the Bills, they're also +1200 to win the Super Bowl, so they check a lot of the boxes we should want to see on a best record bet.

Honorable Mentions
Kansas City Chiefs (+450) - The most likely team in the sims to finish as the best squad but just a short number.
Baltimore Ravens (+1300) - A value in the simulations but five coin-flip games within three points either way pushed them out of the top three.
Dallas Cowboys (+2500) - Easily the most justifiable "long shot" but only four games as big favorites and actually two as underdogs; weak division and better-than-average road schedule.