If you were paying attention to NFL betting markets last Sunday, you know that the New Orleans Saints were attracting a lot of interest on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. Professional wagerers saw great value at +3. Many were betting the Saints to win the game outright (which they would ultimately accomplish 43-37 in an overtime shootout).
In fact, the most important market influences have been giving New Orleans respect all season. New Orleans closed as a double-digit favorite over Tampa Bay in the season opener, just below that the following week vs. Cleveland. This Sunday, the Saints are laying either -3 with extra 12/10 vigorish, or -3.5 in New York against the Giants depending on where you shop. Using a standard three points for home field advantage, that would equate to about -6 or -6.5 at a neutral site, and -9 or -9.5 at the Superdome.
To decipher how those influences “see” the NFL, VSiN likes to construct a weekly estimate of “market” Power Ratings. It’s only an estimate.
To build a full scale, we start with 80-81 as the rough baseline for “playoff contender,” and 85 as an approximation for “serious championship contender.” We take the point spreads from each game on the schedule, adjust three points to account for home field, then arrange teams for a full 32-team “neutral field” reading.
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We already know that “the market” sees the Saints as about 6-7 points better than the Giants on a neutral field. We’ll go with a seven-point differential because current betting action suggests New Orleans would get hit hard at -3 with the standard 11/10 vigorish. The market itself is telling us a six-point differential would be too low.
Where should we put that “couplet” on our scale? Given the respect Drew Brees and company have received all season, we went with 85 and 78. Here’s our full scale this week…
VSiN’s Estimated “Market” Power Ratings
- 88: LA Rams
- 86: Kansas City, Philadelphia
- 85: New Orleans
- 84: Minnesota
- 83: New England, Atlanta, Pittsburgh
- 82: Jacksonville, Baltimore, LA Chargers, Green Bay
- 80: Cincinnati, Houston, Carolina
- 79: Miami, Tennessee, Indy, Chicago, Tampa Bay
- 78: Cleveland, Denver, Washington, Dallas, NY Giants, Detroit, Seattle
- 77: NY Jets, Oakland
- 75: Buffalo, San Francisco (with Beathard)
- 71: Arizona
Maybe we have New Orleans too high at 85. But, if we drop the Saints to 84, we’d then have to drop the Giants to 77. That doesn’t feel right. Coming off a win at Houston, the Giants seem superior to the Jets (off a loss at Cleveland) and Raiders (0-3 start). What about bumping them both up and using 86 and 79? Are the Saints THAT good compared to the rest of the league? Maybe. But, they didn’t really impress vs. the Bucs and Browns, and the Giants were 0-2 before the win in Houston. Using 85 and 78 seems like the best approximation.
I want to emphasize that this isn’t necessarily how we would rate the teams. This is our interpretation of how “the market” is currently rating teams. If you accept that a liquid, well-informed betting market represents “the sum of all models,” then a good-faith market estimate should give you a better read than online computer ratings or network punditry.
We strongly recommend that new bettors try building a scale on their own each week. It’s a great exercise because it forces you to get out of your own head and focus on what’s happening in the market. Hopefully you’ll develop the skill to spot misreads before they correct. Last season’s market had too much faith in Cleveland during the regular season, too little in Philadelphia “with Foles” in the playoffs.
Of course, on the side, you can develop your own personal ratings for how YOU see the league. Maybe you think Patrick Mahomes is going to cool off, meaning Kansas City is currently overrated in the marketplace. Maybe you think New England is just off to another of its slow starts, and is really an 86 or an 87 biding its time. San Francisco with C.J. Beathard at quarterback? Your guess might be as good as anybody’s. Where do YOU think the Niners should be?
When it comes time to put your money on the counter, it’s you vs. the market. Know your enemy so you can spot weaknesses and defeat it. We’ll pop in with our estimated “market” Power Ratings through the 2018 season so you can compare your assessments to yours. The exercise will certainly help you develop an understanding (and respect) for the markets. And, who knows … we just might be charting the New Orleans Saints’ path to the Super Bowl.