That 2022 NFL schedule release set off a chain of events culminating in DraftKings offering spreads for almost every game of the 2022 NFL regular season through week 18. Last year Westgate blessed us with spreads and totals for every regular season game, which enabled us Reverse engineered betting market power rankings to see how bookmakers rated each team before the start of the season. This is the best and most accurate way to rank teams into power ranks, and gives us a framework to assess both offensive and defensive team strength.
Unfortunately, Westgate didn’t take the same approach this year, so we’ll have to settle for using spreads and league average totals to derive power rankings from the betting market. We’ll also have to wait for spreads on games involving the Cleveland Browns as Deshaun Watson’s legal position continues to evolve.
Without totals, some of the top defensive units are demoted with this particular approach, expecting these teams to be slightly underrated in this type of power ranking right now. As more totals leak out and as Week 1 approaches, these power rankings will become more accurate.
BETTING MARKET IMPLIED POWER RANKINGS
The Power Rankings provide relatively clear levels of market assessment of each NFL team’s prospects in 2022.
Looking at it on a conference level and week by week shows the relative uncertainty the betting market carries as we approach the second half of the season. The uncertainty baked into the extremes will dissipate as the season progresses, but it’s the most accurate and defensible approach to take right now.
Using a few hints from the betting market, we can try to gauge how the order of games might affect a team’s tally in 2022 and highlight the most difficult parts of each franchise’s schedule. We do this by calculating a moving average of each opponent’s pre-season ELO ranking and factoring in the rest differential and net travel distance.
Below is a boxplot of each team’s opposing ELO for each 2022 regular season game, sorted by the team’s mean ELO ranking. The box shows the team’s first quartile opponent’s ELO, median opponent’s ELO, and third quartile opponent’s ELO.
For a top-level view, this gives an initial idea of the strength of each team’s schedule in 2022. It shows how difficult certain schedules will be and how they may impact results in the year win overall market.
Let’s take a closer look at each team’s market-implied power ranking by assigning a spread score above an average team in a neutral field. We can then examine the most difficult stretches, along with some points as to why it affects whether that team is over or under their current winning total, and how best to address betting teams against the spread to start the 2022 NFL season.
1. BUFFALO Arithmetic
- Spread points above average: 4.99
- Opponent ELO ranking: 5
- Most Difficult Schedule Extension: Weeks 4-7
Buffalo is the current division of the NFL and boasts the shortest odds of winning the Super Bowl and the best market-driven power ranking at the start of the season. The Bills have a difficult schedule, with their toughest stretch beginning with a second straight road game against the Baltimore Ravens, followed by a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and a trip to Kansas City before returning home to play the Green Bay Packers to play. The Bills came close to making the conference championship game last year, but the betting market is forecasting them as the team to beat in 2022.
2. CHIEFS OF KANSAS CITY
- Spread points above average: 4.43
- Opponent’s ELO ranking: 1
- Most Difficult Schedule Extension: Weeks 4-7
Kansas City could have been slightly worse this offseason after falling short of its Lombardi Trophy goals for the second straight year. 2022 could be similar as the Chiefs take on the toughest schedule based on current ELO rankings.
They start with three away games in the first four weeks, including a Week 4 tilt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after playing games in all three major US time zones. They get back-to-back home games against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Buffalo Bills, but this Monday night division game makes for a short week against the top-ranked team in football. They then travel to San Francisco before saying their final goodbyes in week 8.
Given the schedules of AFC West’s other contenders, waiting for Kansas City could offer the best price if you’re looking to play the team to win the division in 2022.
3. LOS ANGELES RAMS
- Spread points above average: 4.14
- Opponent ELO ranking: 9
- Most Difficult Schedule Extension: Weeks 8-12
The defending Super Bowl champions enter a lackluster NFC conference as the top team. The Rams’ division remains relatively difficult, and their midseason stretch against the San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals and road games against the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs are their toughest test this season. Last season was a really good one for the Rams as they put in top performances in a number of key positions. They’ll need similar luck in 2022 if they want to repeat themselves as Super Bowl champions.
4. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
- Spread points above average: 4.12
- Opponent ELO ranking: 31
- Most Difficult Schedule Extension: Weeks 1-4
Nobody runs better than Tom Brady. The Buccaneers’ schedule is a godsend and the main reason Brady couldn’t stay in retirement for more than a month. It’s positioned so well that Tampa Bay emerges as a favorite from the NFC, despite sitting fourth in that power rankings. They’re the team most likely to get home field advantage in the playoffs, at 24.25% according to PFF’s season simulation. Their opening sequence of games allows for hiccups as the rest of the schedule has little clout.
5. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
- Spread points above average: 4.01
- Opponent ELO ranking: 15
- Most Difficult Schedule: Weeks 15-18
The Chargers are easily making the biggest leap in the eyes of oddsmakers, going from not making the playoffs in 2021 to a top-five team in 2022. Their divisional odds rose 12.6 percentage points of implied probability this offseason in what appears to be the public’s favorite team to retire in the futures market. An opening week win as a -4 favorite over the Raiders could set them off 4-1, but Los Angeles’ closing sequence also sets up well for another late-season meltdown.
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