Welcome to Bet Labs 2017 NFL preview series where we will look at all eight of the league’s divisions. As part of the preview, we will highlight each team’s chances of winning their respective division and take a look at their season win total.
To create our projections we simulated the 2017 NFL season 10,000 times using team projections and adjusting for Strength of Schedule.
2016 Record: 10-5-1
Home Games: IND, HOU, WAS, ATL, PHI
Away Games: GB, TEN, NYG, JAX, DAL
Seattle flirted with trading Richard Sherman in the offseason but the Legion of Boom will run it back once more. The Seahawks finished last year 9th in weighted DVOA and were top two against the run and should be formidable once again. Earl Thomas expects to be back to 100% after missing a chunk of last season with a broken leg and the team spent four picks to add depth to the secondary.
The offensive line remains the team’s biggest problem. Seattle was 26th in running blocking but more importantly 25th in pass protection. Injuries to Russell Wilson (ankle, knee) slowed the team down offensively last year (18th in points/game).
General manager John Schneider acquired linemen Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi before drafting LSU product Ethan Pocic. The unit has a chance to be average which would be an upgrade. Keeping Russell Wilson upright is key if the team is to win another division title.
Assuming the defense keeps pounding and the team gets a healthy season from Wilson and Jimmy Graham, Seattle is the clear favorite to win the NFC West. The Seahawks win the division 76.5% of the time in 10,000 simulations.
The oddsmakers have set the Seahawks season win total at 10.5. The most likely record for Pete Carroll’s team is 11-5. There is a 55.4% chance the team wins 11 or more games in 2017, giving slight value to the OVER (-120).
2016 Record: 7-8-1
Home Games: DAL, TB, JAX, TEN, NYG
Away Games: DET, IND, PHI, HOU, WAS
The Cardinals had Super Bowl aspirations entering 2016 a year after winning 13 games and reaching the NFC championship game. Injuries to Carson Palmer and the offensive line derailed the season. Palmer is back this year after contemplating retirement. This is likely the last run for the quarterback and the Cardinals as they are currently constructed.
If Palmer can look more like the guy from 2015 (35 TDs, 11 INTs) and the team successfully replaces five defensive starters they lost to free agency, the team could give the Seahawks a challenge in the division. The team’s margin for error is thin as the underlying statistics suggest Arizona is a .500 team, not a true contender.
There is a 20% chance the team finishes 8-8 (most likely record). There is a 56.4% chance the Cards win 9 or more games. With a season win total of 8 games there is value betting the OVER (-115).
2017 NFL Season
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Los Angeles Rams
2016 Record: 4-12
Home Games: IND, WAS, HOU, NO, PHI
Away Games: DAL, JAX, NYG, MIN, TEN
Jeff Fisher said the Rams weren’t going 7-9 or 8-8 again last year, and after a 3-1 start it looked like he might actually be right. Then the wheels came off and L.A.’s team went 1-11 in their last 12 games. The Rams missed the playoffs for a 12th straight year, the 3rd longest active streak in the NFL. They also had a losing record for a 13th straight year, which is the longest streak in the league.
The only good thing that can be said about Jared Goff’s rookie season is that it’s over. The No. 1 overall pick finished last in FootballOutsider’s DYAR ranking among qualified quarterbacks. The team finished last in total points and yards.
The poor season wasn’t all Goff’s fault. After a stellar rookie season (1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns), Todd Gurley managed just 3.2 yards per carry. The defense that was top eight against the run and pass in 2015 finished 16th in DVOA.
New coach Sean McVay will win more games than Fisher did last season but it isn’t anything to get excited about. The Rams’ most likely record in 2017 is 6-10 (21.4% chance). The oddsmakers have also set the team’s season win total at 6 games but juiced the UNDER heavily. There is a 47.8% chance that the team wins 7 or more games giving value to the OVER (+135).
San Francisco 49ers
2016 Record: 2-14
Home Games: CAR, DAL, NYG, TEN, JAX
Away Games: IND, WAS, PHI, CHI, HOU
Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke are out. Kyle Shanahan (the teams 4th coach in four years) and general manager John Lynch are in, each signed six-year deals. The duo will have a chance to rebuild the 49ers without fear of a quick exit. That is good news for the organization long term but means little for the upcoming season.
The roster that won two games last year and finished 23rd in offensive and 28th in defensive DVOA lacks talent. The Niners are slated for another finish at the bottom of the division.
The bookmakers have the team’s win total at 4.5 games. The most likely record for San Francisco is 5-11 (22.4% chance). We like the OVER (-120) as there is a 62.1% chance the team wins 5 or more games.
NFC West Division Odds
Seattle is a heavy favorite to win the NFC West. If the Seahawks stumble the team most likely to benefit is Arizona. The two teams combine to win the division 96.2% of the time in 10,000 simulations. There is value on Russell Wilson and crew at -265 odds.
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Check back next week when we preview the AFC West.