My favorite work for the past 15 years has been doing NFL preseason work. Accurate season start projections for every team are crucial. I also get to run my full season NFL simulator and play against the market. This year I used the new awesomely public Unabated NFL Simulator. I am happy to share my work with Unabated subscribers.
Setting Up The Sim
I have chosen Advanced Mode to run my simulations. Unabated mode looks cool, but there is a lever for QB injury chances and importance in the Advanced version. That’s good enough for me.
Next I chose to start with uploading my own ratings. I like to run all of my vacuum projections complete to the end before even considering the market. That way I do not guess how much I was influenced on individual projections. I want to know what zero market influence looks like and start there. I have learned that the simulator’s power ratings are based on a mean football point, on offense and defense. About 3% of win percentage. I took my projections and normalized them to this type of input. Here is how my initial power ratings looked:
Now it is time to go back through and figure out where I differ from the market and how much credit to give it. I used the Advanced Market Based Ratings (as of 8/20) and took the default settings. Here is how they looked:
Reconciling Team-by-Team Against The Market
Matt (Team/Offense/Defense): 3.00/2.00/1.00
Market (Team/Offense/Defense): 0.73/1.26/-0.53
I have the Cardinal offense improved from last year, maybe more so than the market. I think theres improvement to be had. Keeping my number.
Have I over-rated the JJ Watt and Malcolm Butler additions? Butler over Patrick Peterson is a major upgrade. 5 defensive draft picks add depth. Very good def co. Sticking with my guns on this one.
Well, maybe I have over done it here. I am not a big Arthur Smith fan. Matt Ryan gets worse every year. Shitty offensive line. Two good receivers then a bunch of real shit. Christian Blake and Russell Gage are currently starters. But I guess I have to pull this back at least a little bit.
I see very few good players on Atlantas defensive roster and Dean Pees has not fielded a good defense in years. Guess I am not that far off market here. I’m going to leave the Defense rating.
I expect the offensive line to be better than last year, and Jackson has a lot of room for improvement. Defenses did play better strategy vs this offense last year, so I will bump this a down slightly.
Basically the same excellent defense as last year. But I might not be giving enough uncertainty towards average here. Small bump toward market.
This is almost the same team as last year. Going to roll with my numbers here.
I am just guessing with Carolina’s offense. I like Darnold and I like Joe Brady and I like McCaffrey (who doesn’t?). But they have a very poor offensive line. Defensively they added a couple players, but man Snow was bad last year. He has had so much success in college that he could definitely improve. I am just going to leave my numbers as they are fairly close to the market numbers.
I think Fields is the steal of the draft, but when do they start him? He might also need a year or 2 to quicken his release. Poor offensive line, which handcuffed coaching last year when Foles was on the field. Will do the same with Dalton, who does not move well anymore. But if Fields is ready and gets to play, watch out. Looking back I see I made my projections with more of an eye on week 1 and assumed Dalton. I am going to change this to just lower than market number.
The defense loses a couple players, gets older, and loses a good coach. Looks like the market has knocked them more than me. I will go in between.
Burrow is underrated here. A great stable of receivers as well with a 2nd year system. I will bet market catches up quick here and will go with my offensive number.
Defense I’m about right on. Good coaching, not such good players.
If Baker Mayfield continues to improve (and he can) this team can be the next Patriots. Great organizational moves and now great coaching. While both Van Pelt and Woods will get HC jobs soon, it all starts with Stefanski. I feel like these market numbers are tweaked a little due to bad totals. Guessing the market has the offense better than this and the defense worse. This was certainly the case last year. This offense was great last year despite some injuries and its easy to see why. Two top 10 RBs, two top 15 WRs, and possibly the best offensive line in football.
Defensively they suffered a lot of injuries last year. Perhaps I have them too low. Clowney is a nice addition, and the secondary is very young and missed a lot of games last year.
This was a top 5 offense before the injuries started. I suppose the market has questions about Dak returning from injury, and if the old injured stud linemen can return to their former levels of play. Dallas might also figure out to play Pollard more. I am betting on Dak, and not because he is my favorite player. Or maybe that is why.
The defense gets a new coach, but not really new players. The market has them back at average. I am not seeing that and will leave it be.
Good coach, two below average quarterback options. If you took the best qualities of Lock and Bridgewater and melded them into 1 player that would work. But we are (hopefully) many years from that, and so Denver is stuck between an Elway and a Steakhouse.
Defensively they have very good players and very good coaches, to which they add Von Miller and Patrick Surtain. They’ve been consistently good with these players and coaches. Not sure how anyone is saying this unit is worse than Green Bay.
Looks like my dumpster fire guess was close here. Goff has elite accuracy and release qualities, but man it is downhill from there. I expected to see more new players on defense based on the overall talent level and management overhaul.
Very close to last year’s offense. I see the market has regressed way more than me. I guess it always does. Rodgers is older, and from the outside it did not look like anyone locked him in a gym during the offseason. But man he has some good players and coaches around him. I probably did not regress defense enough.
A Thanksgiving game in Detroit would have been fitting. What are the chances Watson plays for this team? My guess was zero and I guess market agrees. Moving on.
Obvious question here with Wentz. But Wentz sucks. He made a few good plays as a rookie while he dogged the easy ones. The Eagles paid him $108 million guaranteed. Then he lost his job first to Foles and then to Jalen Hurts. The green uniform was not the problem. Two interesting young players, both with different deficiencies. I will bet one of them steps up enough that the Colts take a shot with them. It is not like there are other good choices out there.
I probably improved this defense too much.
I am probably the only football fan in America who does not believe in Trevor Lawrence. But as long as I am willing to put my money where my mouth is (and I do tend to operate this way), I will say it. He threw a very pretty ball for three years for the best offense around him in college football. He played his best game in the national championship. Everything else I saw was good not great. I would definitely draft him late in the 2nd round. Urban Meyer quit his last couple jobs because he could not take the pressure of the unreasonable expectations. He will not have those expectations in Jacksonville.
Defensively this team dumped every reasonable player for two years, then they were terrible last year. They have no real improvements.
Every year the market starts this offense too low. They are doing it again.
This offense was very good last year, and return all but three of their OL. Incognito and Leatherwood should be fine replacements for two. The other is a Center. However, most of the very good was scheme and play calling. Gruden is a football genius. The more you run a successful play, the more different looks you get from the defense. Eventually one of these looks stops your play. The entire league then sees it on film and your genius play becomes a little less good. So I need a lot more regression here.
Defensively, Johnathan Abram is back as the worst player in football leading the worst unit. The Raiders did draft a few here, and have a lot of young players with room to improve, but man.
Los Angeles Chargers
Very unconfident across the board here. I was not as impressed with Herbert as most, and I would have kept last year’s coaching staff. However, I do also really like the new staff. Lots of their key players have had recurring stay-on-the-field problems on both sides of the ball.
Los Angeles Rams
Stafford is a top 5 QB, and Rams could have improved offensive line play. Surprised the market does not like this unit more. Defensively, they lose their coach but still have many other coaches. I hear they did not let Staley burn the playbooks. When a good coach leaves one team for another it is not zero sum. He leaves nine other coaches behind who know what they did that worked last year. And he can teach nine new coaches. Possible I do not have enough regression here, however.
Offense was not very good last year with Tua. He will have to improve a ton to get them to average. Can he? Possibly. Really not a lot of good players around him though.
I think this defense is better than average, led by an excellent secondary. Since I have the offense way below market, I am just going to leave my defensive number be.
This was the worst front 7 last year, and I do not see a lot of improvement. I know Zimmer has fielded a lot of good defenses over the years. But those defenses always had something this one does not – good players.
Good coaching hid some terrible QB and WR play last year. Can it again? Market says yes. At least they went out and got a whole lot of different suspect receivers this year.
Like many players have in the past, Taysom Hill begins his MVP season with his first task: Win the starting position. It will be all downhill from there. Another defense I did not regress enough.
New York Giants
I see the market has more faith in Daniel Jones than I do. Perhaps I am wrong here. I am not confident about Jones, but they do get Barkley back and signed Golladay.
New York Jets
Another quarterback I am not a believer in. Great athlete but the degree of difficulty last year was historically low, and when he was pressured in 2019 it did not go well. Poor footwork in the pocket (for a 1st round). I think Wilson is in for a steep learning curve at NFL speed. Also interesting that the Jets have no backup plan here. And no backup quarterback. I might not have given good coaches enough credit here.
I really liked the Hurts draft pick last year, partially because of my Wentz views. Can Hurts be a good quarterback? Yes. He has the tools. He is improving and he can run the football. But he is not right now, and will be playing behind an old injury-prone OL. Defensively the Eagles also scuttled most of their veteran talent. As they should have. But this year should hurt and the market is not quite onto that.
Matt Canada is back with something to prove. I expect the Steeler offense to have the largest coaching upgrade in the NFL. Canada is a master of creating chances for long runs, and Najee Harris should be just the player to take advantage. Ben has lost weight. Maybe he can run some too (kidding). But I could see Chase Claypool involved in the run game. Offensive line has some old guys to replace, but Banner Dotson and Trai Turner are all underrated.
Some very good players on defense. I do not agree with the amount of regression in the market number.
Really tough team. Trey Lance a great draft pick and great prospect. If he is ready day one that’s a big boost. So many injuries last year on both sides of the ball.
They might really pass this year I think. As much as I like Shottenheimer, I believe Carrol forced him to play conservative. I believe the deal to get Russ back and happy was to hire a pass-first coach who will be given the right to pass.
I may have gotten carried away here with lack of regression. Since they return almost every player, it is easy to just give them last years numbers. But that is not how it works. The further away from league median a team performs, the better chance they perform worse the following year when they return the same players and coaches. Still think this team is underrated vs current market, but I definitely went too far.
Was Tennessee’s offensive success the past couple years due to players or coaches? How much? We are going to find out. Improvement of players with better offensive line. But lost their coach. I am firmly in the camp of players in this case, and think this offense will be very good again. Very hard defense. They were very bad last year, but really made an effort to get better and might get addition by subtraction with loss of Pees, who I routinely watched put them in the wrong personnel last year.
I am a little higher on the offense than the market. Mostly I think the market is not realizing just how bad the quarterback play was last year. Alex Smith is out of football and Haskins will be soon. I am way higher on this defense though. Best defensive line with good coaching. Perhaps not quite enough regression.
Here are my new numbers with market regression factored in:
Download Matt’s Regressed Simulator Settings
Unabated NFL Simulator Results And Analysis
After all this prep work, it’s finally time to simulate! Here are the results:
I see a button labeled “View In Futures.” Let’s click it!
Well, this sure makes it easy:
As I believe Circa Sports is the only book listed here to offer ‘no’ prices, we’ll just stick with yes bets. Here are the teams we like to win the Super Bowl:
New Orleans – Huge upside here. MVP caliber QB, great coach. Yes, the current receiver situation is worrisome, but they will get Thomas back at some point. 50-1 at Circa looks mighty juicy.
Pittsburgh – Biggest coaching upgrade, sleeper MVP candidate with Harris (has a rookie ever won?). Underrated offensive line. Loads of defensive talent. 45-1 at Circa Sports.
LA Chargers – I am very surprised here. I am not completely sold on Herbert. But a lot of good new additions, injuries have held them back, and big upside in defensive coaching. Uncertainty is so important when betting long shots, and this team has uncertainty and upside in spades. 45-1 currently at Circa Sports.
LA Rams – An all LA Super Bowl? If Stafford is as good as I think he is, this team has nice upside. Possibly the best 2 defensive players in football. 16-1 at Circa Sports
All Prices from Circa
Arizona over 8.5 -110
Atlanta under 7.5 +110
Baltimore under 11 -115
Note here that these are my favorite type of bets, and where the Unabated simulator really shines. When judging from the market implied game odds, I was high on this team. After running the simulator, I am low. Uncertainty and QB availability (love me some Lamar, but he seems much better at catching the Covid than catching the vax) very much in favor of under here. Load the money cannon!
Cincinnati over 6.5 +110
Cleveland under 10.5 -110
Another one where I love the team and still betting under the very big number. Toughest division in football a big factor here, and the Unabated simulator takes that into account where other market factors can not.
Houston over 4 +100
Sneaky one here. Going 3-14 is hard, and again the Unabated simulator shines. NFL quality QB and coaching, and Davis Mills (if he is forced in) is my favorite low draft pick QB.
Indianapolis under 9.5 -135
Is this really the number? Very good bet even at much worse.
Miami under 9 +104
Minnesota under 9 -110
Maybe this is actually the best one. Another QB availability issue, and very poor players outside of their great four offensive skills.
New England under 9.5 +105
New Orleans over 9 +120
NY Giants under 7.5 -135
Pittsburgh over 8.5 +125
Seattle under 10 -125