NFL Odds: Should Strength of Schedule Matter to Football Bettors?

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 1:59 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 1:59 PM UTC

One of the most overrated aspects coming into any professional football season is the NFL strength of schedule. The mechanism of how it is supposed to be tabulated is the biggest problem.

Let me explain. Going into last year, every team in the NFC South had what was considered an easier than normal schedule. This was in part predicated on the prior year, when Carolina won the division with a 7-8-1 record, meaning every team in the division was below .500. Facing each other six times, that is 37.5 percent of the entire schedule, a good chunk of the action.

It turned out that Carolina's four-game winning streak to win the division was a springboard to last year when they were 15-1 and went to the Super Bowl.

With the traditional method of figuring strength of schedule (SOS from this point forward) based on last year's result, this leads to inherit flaws. For example, all teams playing Carolina, especially those in the NFC South. Atlanta, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay all have artificially tougher SOS because they will face a team that was 15-1 twice. A more logical way to consider the SOS in this instance for the Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers, is to go to Bookmaker and there you will find the Panthers Over/Under win is 10.5 for 2016.

This is not to say teams exceed or underperform against these NFL odds every year, but it is a far more accurate assessment than basing new circumstances on previous results.

Staying with the NFC South, this year they play the AFC West. That means each squad will face the defending Super Bowl champions in Denver. The Broncos even with an aging Peyton Manning were 12-4 in the regular season. But going from the hunter to the hunted and without a proven top level quarterback, does anyone really consider the Broncos an elite team coming into the season?

Sportsbooks certainly do not, having Denver at O/U 9.5 for win total and Intertops placing coach Gary Kubiak squad fourth in the AFC for futures odds. Yet based on last year, all the teams in the NFC South have more difficult SOS.


Consider This Thinking Instead
Two elements that have more weight involve one before the season and the other is during the year.

First, identify hot spots of potential trouble for teams or weaknesses they exploit based on scheduling. Here is an example of what I am talking about. San Francisco is on a third head coach in three years. They have seen dramatic talent drop off and are implementing completely new offensive and defensive schemes. After their Monday night opener against the Los Angeles Rams, on a short week they travel cross-country to Carolina, followed by another away game at Seattle, come back home to take on Dallas and Arizona (on a Thursday night, thus four days between games) and in Week 6 make another West to East journey to Buffalo. Do you forecast any wins or more than two covers for NFL picks?

With so much emphasis on the preseason SOS, if you are football bettor (which I am assuming you are since you are reading this article), it is far wiser to follow any team's SOS - During The Season - as this relates to present events. This can be used as a betting tool to determine how a team might perform is future games. Once October arrives, look at each team's schedule for that month, make notes on those that could struggle or persevere and repeat the exercise in November and December.

The oddsmakers might be trying to outwit you, but they also supply information which you can utilize against them.

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