NFL Picks: Factoring in Head Coaching When Betting Football

Jason Lake

Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:09 PM GMT

Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 12:09 PM GMT

There are seven football teams this year with new head coaches. These teams records and odds are most likely to change & your NFL picks have to keep up. 

No matter how great you might be at betting on sports, if you think you can get 60 percent of your NFL picks right on a consistent basis, you're probably dreaming. Dumb luck plays a far bigger role in football (and sports in general) than most people can even fathom; in 2010, stats guru Brian Burke calculated the variance over a 16-game season to be 41-percent attributable to randomness, and 59 percent to ability.

That was five years ago. Advantages are growing ever smaller in the NFL, as teams get better at overcoming the obstacles that get thrown in their way – including travel, health, and contract issues. Fortunately for us, there should still be enough exploitable advantages out there to make betting on football profitable in the long run. And the numbers tell us we need to be paying close attention to the coaching staffs.

Stay the Course
Just over a year ago, Danny Tuccitto at Intentional Rounding was working on some statistical stuff regarding Pythagorean Wins and head-coaching eras, meaning teams with the same head coach from one season to the next. Tuccitto determined that 36 percent of the variance in a team's Pythagorean Wins could be explained by coaching-related factors.

Conceptually, this helps guide our attention toward the head coaches when we're making our NFL picks. We can expect less variance from teams with well established head coaches, which in turn gives us more confidence in betting on the NFL's more successful regimes. Take Bill Belichick, for example. He's 191-149-8 ATS (56.2 percent) in regular-season and playoff games since becoming a head coach in 1991, and Belichick's New England Patriots have been double-digit wins SU and at least break-even ATS every regular season since 2003, no matter how often I predict their demise.

Change You Can Believe In
The other side of the coin is that teams who are changing head coaches can expect the most variance in their Pythagorean records – which makes sense. Volatility is where the growth is in the marketplace, if you're quick and accurate enough to buy low and sell high, so let's take a moment to note the seven NFL teams who have switched their head coaches for 2015:

Chicago Bears (Marc Trestman to John Fox)
Oakland Raiders (Dennis Allen to Jack Del Rio)
Denver Broncos (John Fox to Gary Kubiak)
Buffalo Bills (Doug Marrone to Rex Ryan)
New York Jets (Rex Ryan to Todd Bowles)
Atlanta Falcons (Mike Smith to Dan Quinn)
San Francisco 49ers (Jim Harbaugh to Mike Tomsula)

The last three new head coaches on this list are rookies at the NFL level, so it'll be more difficult to project those teams – although Niners supporters should be very worried about losing Harbaugh, who went 40-29-3 ATS (58.0 percent) in his four years at the wheel. Meanwhile, the Bears are probably upgrading their situation by replacing Trestman (11-19-2 ATS) with Fox (115-103-4 ATS). Simple, yes, but don't let that throw off your NFL picks this year.

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