NFL Betting: 3 Teams to Target to Finish With the Best Record 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.
|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)
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.
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.