2022 NFL Betting Preview: Analyzing Win Total Discrepancies Between ESPN’s FPI and the Betting Markets

The ESPN analytics department unveiled its Football Power Index for 2022, ranking the 32 NFL teams based on its projection model.

Notably, FPI is no longer influenced by betting markets, which has led to some big discrepancies between the win totals and playoff odds of ESPN and the oddsmakers.

Here are four teams with significant variance, along with my opinion on whether FPI’s projection could foreshadow a smart NFL futures wager. Odds via DraftKings on May 17.

San Francisco 49ers (FPI ranking: No. 24)

2022 win total: 10 (Under -130; Over +110)

FPI projected wins: 8.2

Odds to make playoffs: Yes -225; No +175 

FPI odds to make playoffs: 38.6%

There is a major discrepancy between the oddsmakers’ thoughts on the 49ers and the FPI projections. San Francisco made the NFC Championship Game a season ago and are solid favorites to qualify for the postseason again in 2022.

However, ESPN sees the 49ers as only the 24th-best team in the NFL, behind the Washington Commanders, New York Giants and Detroit Lions.

The crux of the issue is Trey Lance. The FPI projection has him as the starting quarterback and slots him into a group of quarterbacks that include rookie Matt Corral and veteran Joe Flacco. If Lance plays all season and struggles, it’s easy to envision a lower-than-expected win total despite all the talent around him.

However, is it fair to place Lance in that tier of quarterbacks when he was the No. 3 overall pick last season? In the end, I believe the oddsmakers have this one right. 

Lance has a year in the system and should be better than FPI projects. San Francisco has great weapons around him and a fierce defense. And in a worst-case scenario, the 49ers can always keep Jimmy Garoppolo and start him again. It would be a bad sign for the future but would work out just fine for 2022.

Verdict: No betting edge

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Chicago Bears (FPI ranking: No. 32)

2022 win total: 6.5 (Over -120; Under +100)

FPI projected wins: 5.6

Odds to make playoffs: Yes +400; No -550

FPI odds to make playoffs: 12%

The FPI model sees the Bears team as the worst in the NFL, and the reasoning is sound. Wide receiver Allen Robinson and edge rusher Khalil Mack, who were two of the best players on the team, departed this offseason and Chicago didn’t bring in much to replace them.

Justin Fields is entering his second season as the quarterback, and there is a chance that he takes a step forward after getting drafted in the first round in 2021. However, the weapons around him are among the worst in the league and Fields is coming off a forgettable rookie campaign.

The Bears play the Texans, Giants, Commanders, Falcons and Jets once apiece and the Lions twice, so there are winnable games on the schedule. The oddsmakers originally placed Chicago at 7.5 wins and the under was hammered, so now the number is a more reasonable 6.5.

Even so, FPI seems to be on to something here. The Jets, Texans, Jaguars, Falcons and others figure to be bad, but it wouldn’t be a shock for Chicago to finish with the worst record in the NFL.

The tank might be on for the Bears, and following FPI to fade Chicago is a good move. 

Verdict: Betting edge

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Arizona Cardinals (FPI ranking: No. 9)

2022 win total: 8.5 (Over +100; Under -120)

FPI projected wins: 9.2

Betting odds to make playoffs: Yes +125; No -150

FPI odds to make playoffs: 53.9%

The Cardinals looked like shoo-ins to become surprising NFC West winners last season after a 10-2 start, but they crumbled down the stretch. The team was a shell of its former self in the wild card round against the Los Angeles Rams, and now everyone wants to know: Is Arizona going to be the early-season version of itself in 2022, or the late-season disaster?

FPI is optimistic about the Cardinals, in large part due to the presence of Kyler Murray, who was among the leading candidates for league MVP through 13 weeks last season. Arizona is an underdog to make the playoffs according to DraftKings, as eight combined games against the Rams, 49ers, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Broncos and Chargers is daunting.

However, FPI’s optimism about Arizona could be tied to the pessimism about the 49ers, as ESPN doesn’t see those two games as particularly tough. 

The Cardinals did win both games against San Francisco last season, but between the loaded schedule, the six-game suspension for DeAndre Hopkins and the talent regression this offseason, I side with the oddsmakers over FPI on this one.

Verdict: No betting edge

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Cincinnati Bengals (FPI ranking: No. 16)

2022 win total: 10 (Over +110; Under -130)

FPI projected wins: 8.7

Betting odds to make playoffs: Yes -135; No +110

FPI odds to make playoffs: 45.6%

Even though the Bengals made the Super Bowl last season, the betting markets weren’t rushing to crown them kings of the AFC. Cincy is favored to make the playoffs, but not by much, despite improving the roster this offseason.

FPI has gone a step further, placing the Bengals as the 16th-best team in the NFL and giving them a less-than-even shot at making the postseason.

Despite last year’s run, there are legitimate reasons to question Cincy. Joe Burrow was fantastic a season ago, but there were a lot of big plays through the air to Ja’Marr Chase and Co.,  and he must prove that type of efficiency in 2021 can be sustained.

And then there is the division, which will be among the best in the NFL. While the Steelers are expected to be down in 2022, they are far from a pushover, while the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

The Bengals have their work cut out for them to reach double-digit victories this season. The under on their win total of 10 is already the favorite, but if FPI is correct, the -130 odds still represent a good opportunity.

Verdict: Betting edge

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