For part 2 of our early season betting preview I look at teams that I think we will get value betting against, teams where I believe the perception of how good they are is greater than what I expect from them this year.
Again like in part 1, the point is not that we bet against these teams blindly but these are teams that I think will underperform their expectations and therefore offer more value in betting against them than on them.
Also like the previous post there will be a lot of discussion of luck or randomness, the fact that a team had good luck doesn’t mean they weren’t also a very good team it just means the added benefit of luck overstates their quality.
- Carolina Panthers
Its hard to have a better season than the Panthers had last year. Obviously losing in the Superbowl takes some of the shine off the season but really it shouldn’t, the Panthers had a remarkable season on both sides of the ball.
In what was a breakout year for both Cam Newton and the Panthers defense led by Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman, the Panthers mauled teams with a league high 32.88 rush atts per game and had the #1 scoring offense.
What was interesting about the Panthers last year is through the first 6 weeks, even though they were undefeated a lot of the key analytics didn’t reflect it, they were outside of the top 10 in DVOA through week 6 and outside of the top 10 in most passing stats.
The one place they were in 1st start to finish besides the standings is in toxic differential. Toxic differential is basically your turnover differential plus your explosive play (pass plays of 25 yards+, rushing plays of 10+ yards) differential. The Panthers finished with the best turnover margin and the 2nd best big play differential.
Early Season Betting: Bet Against
There is no question the Panthers are an elite team and I still expect them to win the NFC South this year but it is basically impossible for them to perform at the level they did last year because last year everything went right for them.
We start with the fact that their record last year outperformed their score differential more than any other team in the league as their Pythagorean Wins came in at 12.1. Essentially this means they outperformed their expected results by 2.9 wins. Only 1 other team in the league had a difference of more than 2 and that was the Broncos.
We discussed the Toxic ratio and while the big play differential maybe repeatable, it is absolutely unlikely that the Panthers enjoy the type of turnover differential in 2016 that they did in 2015. Carolina was +20 in turnovers, KC was next best at +14 which is just insane, think about the fact that Carolina was at +6 better than 2nd place team and exactly half of the league finished between +5 and -5. In 2014 the Panthers were +3 in turnovers and I think it is very reasonable to think they will swing back to a similar number which alone means their results will regress.
The Panthers also enjoyed some of the best luck in terms of injuries in 2015, in Football Outsiders Adjusted Games Lost metric the Panthers were the 4th healthiest team in 2015 and the 6th healthiest in 2014. Maybe they have great doctors and trainers but I would be surprised to see that trend continue in ’16.
Finally, the Panthers were great in close games which I guess is no surprise when you finish 15-1, Carolina was 7-1 in one score games.
Finally there will be major impact early from the fact that Carolina is expected to start rookie corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in place of Josh Norman who was rated as the top cornerback in the league by PFF. Sometimes we can as fans overrate player departures but the gap here seems to be enormous and even if they become quality NFL starters it probably will take most of the season to get there. (more…)