Now that early point spreads have settled for Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season, handicappers can estimate “market” Power Ratings for all 32 teams.
What’s the point of creating “market” power ratings? If you’re hoping to make money as a sports bettor this coming season, it’s you against the market. Knowing how the market evaluates teams gives you a chance to find potential weak spots to attack. Point spreads reflect how teams are “rated.” Bettors should spend the summer trying to find teams that might be overrated or underrated in market terms.
To start, we want to build a neutral-field league scale entering the new campaign. If personnel developments (free-agent signings, trades, injuries) force changes in Week 1 point spreads at sportsbooks, we’ll adjust accordingly.
One key component to building market-based power ratings: We waited for early betting to shape sportsbook openers. If you only use openers, then you’re creating “oddsmaker” power ratings rather than market ratings. Settled lines reflect the combined sentiment of oddsmakers and early smart money.
Each line was adjusted the standard three points to take out home-field advantage. For example, the Las Vegas Raiders are pick-em in their season opener on the road against the Carolina Panthers. That means the Raiders would rate 3 points better on a neutral field. We must make sure the Silver and Black goes 3 points higher on our scale.
Let’s break ratings up by conference so you can visualize playoff and championship potential. We’ll start with the AFC, home of the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
AFC: Chiefs 88, Ravens 87, Steelers 83, Colts 82, Browns 81, Patriots 80, Titans 80, Broncos 80, Bills 80, Texans 80, Chargers 80, Raiders 78, Jets 78, Dolphins 76, Bengals 73, Jaguars 72.
It’s no surprise that Kansas City and Baltimore are at the top of the heap. Many bettors were wondering how far New England would fall with the loss of Tom Brady. You probably know the Patriots are -6.5 at home vs. Miami to start the season. That would mean -3.5 on a neutral field. Market influences see the Pats as only 3-4 points better than a rebuilding rival that went 5-11 last season, and is only projected to win six games according to current “Regular Season Win” totals. That’s not a drop to irrelevance for New England, but basically wild-card level performance.
There’s obviously some margin for error this far in advance. Maybe the Pats should be 81, and the Dolphins 77. Maybe 79 and 75 better captures the market. We’ll know when additional games are played. For now, it’s clear that the Patriots aren’t seen as championship material. A league superpower wouldn’t be just -6.5 at home vs. Miami.
Should the Indianapolis Colts have a slight edge over the AFC’s “parity pack?” They’re -7 at Jacksonville, which means 10 points better than the Jags. If we drop Indy to 80, that means putting Jacksonville at 70. We’ll let the Jags prove they’re that bad before assuming it to be true.
NFC: 49ers 86, Saints 86, Cowboys 85, Buccaneers 84, Seahawks 83, Vikings 83, Packers 82, Eagles 82, Cardinals 82, Rams 80, Falcons 79, Bears 78, Giants 76, Lions 76, Panthers 75, Redskins 73.
Now, the rest of the Brady saga. How much did Tampa Bay improve by acquiring the aging future Hall-of-Famer? The Bucs are a very respectable 4.5 on the road at Super Bowl threat New Orleans. That would be about one or two on a neutral field. Unless the market is anticipating a collapse from the Saints, it believes the Bucs will be a legitimate contender.
There’s a clear trouble spot in the NFC West involving the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. The Cards are getting a lot of respect at 7 in their opener at San Francisco (they were 10 at that site last November). We know the Niners are great, and the Cards are priced only four points worse than great. The Rams are 2.5 at home vs. Dallas. Very likely that Los Angeles is getting limited home field respect in its first ever game at a new stadium. If you believe that’s virtually a neutral field game, you can bump the Rams up to 82 in your personal ratings.
Through the summer, we’ll talk more about the uses of power ratings. They are handy for evaluating schedule strengths. Handicappers using combined won-lost records from last season could get false reads because of personnel adjustments (Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger is better than without, for example). They also allow you to project a point spread for any possible matchup. Important if you’re looking to bet “Regular Season Win” totals.
You probably have some time on your hands. Make your own ratings and see how they compare to the market.