Season win over/under tips
that ‘bounce’ right

Aug 24, 2004 2:03 AM

While NFL future bets are often booked with high total hold for the house (but not without potential reward, as seen last year by those who bet the Patriots at 45-1), the season win bets offer a more traditional "over/under" option.

More and more serious players are taking a long look at posted lines knowing that, in spite of tying up money up for many months, the wagers can be excellent value plays. No book is going to be eager to move a number placed on a team’s win/loss outlook by a half-game when it opens the door wide for ”˜middle’ opportunities. Therefore, shopping around for the best price is a key part of the endeavor.

There are lots of approaches to consider in handicapping the whole regular season ahead of time. For this article we will address an idea that is common lingo for the pony backers — "the bounce."

This theory espouses betting against a horse that just ran a big race, especially when it’s a "new top" for the figure players. The accepted wisdom is that the strong effort probably took a lot out of the horse and will no doubt be over-bet by people enamored with the good recent form.

For our purposes we want to examine whether similar effects occur when a team either improves strongly or declines strongly from one year to the next. In the NFL, where you have a short 16-game schedule, a few breaks here or there can alter your record up or down by two or three wins.

The table looks at how a team did in the previous two seasons and charts the season win record from there. If a team was 5-11 two years ago but jumped up to 9-7 last season, that would rate as a +4 change in wins.

These numbers are quite revealing. The optimal conditions for a "bounce" are when a team has shown a dramatic change in performance. The theory goes that the next performance will revert closer to the norm. NFL squads up three or more games the prior year are 30-20 as "under" plays the following season. Teams down three or more were 30-16 as "over" plays.

The bounce theory is confirmed. So, which teams qualify in 2004? Glad you asked, and we have a much larger crop than has been typical of "extreme changers."

Improved by 3+ games (lean to under): Cincinnati, Dallas, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Carolina, Baltimore, Chicago, Minnesota, Seattle.

Declined by —3 games (lean to Over): Oakland, N.Y. Giants, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, San Diego, Cleveland, San Francisco, N.Y. Jets.

Another simple factor we thought would be fun to track a team’s first round draft picks (or lack thereof) on the season win action.

You might think draft picks would be worth relatively minor consideration, but surprisingly

other than the standard case "top pick" scenario, the results are fairly skewed. Teams with no first round picks facing season win lines of seven games or more ended up "under" 17 of 20 instances (85 percent).

Of course, we are dealing with very tiny data sets. The teams to watch in the 2004-05 season are the Titans, Colts, Cowboys, Chiefs and Ravens — all without a first round pick in this most recent draft. Also, all face hefty season win totals!