Sunday, July 22, 2012

Below is my custom strength of schedule (SoS) and a side-by-side comparison with the "traditional" SoS for 2012.  The lists go from toughest at the top to easiest at the bottom.  Teams highlighted in green have a much more favorable schedule compared with the "traditional SoS", while teams with a much tougher schedule compared to the "traditional SoS" are in red


My Custom SoS Traditional SoS
NYG NYG
NO DEN
CLE CLE
CAR STL
BAL BAL
DAL SD
WSH PHI
TB MIN
PHI ARI
OAK CAR
ARI SEA
ATL DAL
DEN NO
PIT JAX
DET CIN
MIN PIT
My Custom SoS Traditional SoS
SEA IND
IND OAK
SD MIA
CIN NYJ
STL KC
SF CHI
CHI DET
TEN WSH
MIA ATL
GB SF
JAX TB
KC TEN
NYJ HOU
HOU BUF
NE GB
BUF NE

Creating your own strength of schedule

2012 NFL strength of schedule
One of the more popular options on the board is the NFL Season Win Totals.  This year they were released earlier than ever and we have already seen some significant line movement.

One of the essential aspects of finding value is looking at each team’s strength of schedule (SoS).  This can easily be found from a national media site like ESPN, but this is where we need to put on our critical thinking hat.

The typical SoS is derived from last season’s win-loss record.  As we all know that isn’t very accurate whatsoever.  Teams go through many changes in the offseason and not all wins and losses from 2011 are created equal.  

What we need to do as savvy bettors is create our own custom power rankings and SoS.

Here are some important factors to come up with your own sets of data.
  • 2011 power rankings

2012 NFL strength of schedule analysis
This can be a lot of work and everyone is going to use slightly different criteria for ranking each team. Personally, I look at as many relevant categories as possible.  This can involve everything from offensive/defensive lines, pass/rush offenses/defenses, special teams, turnover differential, , penalties, injuries, etc.   

One of the things I like to do in this process is evaluate how teams did vs last season’s schedule.

Simply looking at who they faced and what their win/loss record was can be very deceiving.  Facing the Chicago Bears in week 5 with a healthy Jay Cutler is not the same as facing them in week 14 without.  'Tough' vs 'easy' matchups need to be determined on a situational week by week basis in the proper context.  This will go a long way in determining who is potentially being over/undervalued heading in 2012.

If you don’t keep your own power rankings, go ahead and find some from a source you trust. 
  • 2012 power rankings 

Evaluate which teams improved upon their weaknesses and which maintained their strengths.  This involves everything from drafted players, free agency, players coming back from injuries, coaching changes, continuity, etc.  This again is a subjective process, but it should give you a general basis for some preliminary 2012 power rankings.  I just completed my offseason power ratings here.
  • 2012 schedule

2012 NFL custom strength of schedule
Once you have an updated set of power rankings you are comfortable with, you are now in a position to rank the schedule to come up with your own custom SoS.  At this point you can take things one step further and include situational factors such as short weeks, travel, rivalry games, etc.  

In the end you should have all you need to attack the season win totals board.  Customized power rankings and strength of schedule will give you a significant advantage over the average bettor.  By comparison, the SoS that the national media use based off last year's win/loss records are essentially useless and misguided.

Trust your analysis.

In addition, don’t overreact to the early market moves on the season win totals board. It’s always good to know where the early money is going, but that shouldn’t be too influential in your own analysis.

A good example for season win totals is what happened with the Cincinnati Bengals last year.   Almost every “sharp” on the planet poured money on the under and the season win total dropped a full game or more in the process.  The Bengals not only covered the over, but they covered the opening line as well! 

Preparation is key for the new season and the best way to find value is to put in the research before things get started.  The added bonus of betting the early numbers is allowing yourself an exit strategy.   Come the first week of September, you might be in a position to buy off your original picks or identify a middle opportunity.  Trust your own skills and put in the work.