I am an active member of an extremely large community that couldn’t be more excited that football season is upon us. I know training camps have yet to begin and OTAs are wrapping up, but as a fantasy football enthusiast slash analyst slash writer I’m now entering the sweet spot of both the real and fake season. If you’re reading this, you likely love football, fantasy football and hopefully winning, and that’s where I want to help. My intention is to break down every position for both traditional fantasy participation as well as daily fantasy football, but I want to touch on one concerning over under projections from Vegas. The goal is to enlighten, and I’ve wondered for years whether how closely we can tie fantasy football results to a team’s actual won/loss record from week to week and ultimately by season’s end. We all know Vegas isn’t serving up these lines based on a random roulette spin. It’s quite the opposite, and mounds of data go into these projections, but is there an edge to be gained by unpacking player performance.
So let’s take a look at the best team in the NFL first. The New England Patriots are favored in every game this season, so their over under should be set at 16 right? You would think, but it’s important to know, that Vegas goes through each game before the season starts, but after the schedule comes out, and assigns that team a probability of winning each game and the Patriots average a 78% chance of winning each game. Obviously the percentages are higher when they play the Jets vs. the Steelers. Either way those percentages represent fractions of each game, and when totaled together the sum is somewhere around 12.5 games. A number I’m taking the over on. This team is too deep, even at the QB position to let a major injury derail them. Take that bet right now.
So which players impact these totals or overall lines. This is what I’m most interested in when assessing value in fantasy. Last time the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and Gronk got injured the line didn’t move one bit. This tells me that Gronk, who was an exceptional playmaker at that point, was not recognized by Vegas as a player that was significant to impact the outcome of the game in any way. I mean not even half a point for Gronk. Without Brady the line moves 3-4 points. Fast forward to this season and Vegas says that should Brady get injured and Jimmy Garoppolo take over, their total over under would only slip one game tops. That’s amazing and speaks to Brady’s perceived value both in fantasy and real life. In fact over 1/3 of the teams in the league would see a positive movement in their lines if Jimmy G was their QB. Not earthshaking movements, but movements nonetheless. Vegas values Garoppolo more than players like Andy Dalton, and whomever the Browns, Broncos and Jets decide to roll with. Sounds like a good insurance stash in fantasy to me.
OTHER EYE CATCHING O/U LINES
With Houston at 8.5 and Indianapolis at 9.0 if you think for one second that Houston wins the division, you have to take the over. That defense gets to play the Jags and the Titans twice, plus get J.J. Watt back on defense. This isn’t a slam dunk, but it should be noted how much Vegas, and rightfully so, values QB play with Luck vs. Savage calling the shots.
The Jets are underdogs in almost every game this season, but still expected to win five games and I’m taking the under on that one. No one knows who their QB is going to be, not even the Jets do, and if they did know, he still wouldn’t have anyone to throw it to. This team got worse in the off-season, and five wins is too generous.
Arizona at 8 is a harsh assessment from Vegas, and I think this team crushes that. They are back and healthy on defense with minimal. Here’s where the fantasy numbers kick in. They have the best RB in the game in David Johnson. A veteran QB, and a dependable receiving core. Both John Brown and J.J. Nelson will have improved numbers. The defense will be at capacity and healthy. David Johnson’s absence moves lines, and so does Carson Palmer so as long as those two are healthy I’m counting the Cardinal in every game. They get two meetings against both the Rams and the 49ers… so if you think that roster can’t go 5-7 in their remaining 12 games than you should stay away. Last year was a let down, and this team will be back with a vengeance.