NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 11

NFL Week 11 Handicapping and Analyzing Stats

The Bookmakers took another big hit with the Browns and 49ers getting buried again in week 11. Cleveland continue to be the lead story here, as this historically bad team fell to 0-11 with another brutal offensive performance. Cleveland totaled just 209 yards at 3.4 yards per play in a 24-9 home loss to rival Pittsburgh. The sports books continue to take a pounding as bettors can’t wait to bet against the Browns (2-9 ATS) and the 49ers. San Francisco (1-10/2-9 ATS) also failed to cover again in a 30-17 home loss to the Patriots. The 49ers are also among the very worst teams we have seen over the last 20 years.

Those two teams are historically bad, and they boast the two worst defenses in the league allowing 410 YPG (6.1 YPPL) and 431 YPG (6.0 YPPL). On offense, the Browns and 49ers rank No. 29 and 30 in the league averaging 310 YPG at 5.2 and 4.9 YPPL.

Close Calls and Point Spread Plays of the Week

The Saints trailed 23-3 in the fourth quarter at Carolina Thursday night, but QB Drew Brees brought New Orleans (+3.5) back to get the money late in a 23-20 Panthers win. The Lions (-6) kicked a FG in the closing seconds to get the front door cover over the turnover prone Jaguars in a 26-19 win. The banged-up Bears (+7) hung tough in a 22-16 loss to the Giants while the Cowboys (-7) continued to roll with their ninth straight win and cover in a 27-17 win over Baltimore. Favorite bettors went berserk when the Steelers (-8.5) stripped Browns QB McCown at the goal line and recovered the fumble in the end zone for a TD with just over 3 minutes remaining to bury the Browns and sports books again, 24-9. The Dolphins (+1) won their fifth straight games when they got two TDs in the final four minutes including a score in the closing seconds to steal a 14-10 win at Los Angeles. And on Monday night, the Raiders(-6) found a way to win again, and steal a point spread cover with a late TD to beat Houston 27-20 in Mexico City despite a 124-30 rushing deficit.

Evaluating the Box Scores and Stats

I’ve been tracking and loading box score data into spread sheets and have kept a proprietary database of statistical information for over a dozen years. I review weekly box scores, stats, game recaps and more after watching many NFL games. I utilize relevant rushing numbers, statistical guidelines and situations as just part of the process to assist me in football betting and providing more point spread winners. I try to isolate match-up advantages at the line of scrimmage in determining both rushing success and stopping the run. Same with passing game potential, as a team that picks up the pace and passes more may be able to tear apart an opponent’s secondary without relying on the running game as much. What I’ve learned and relied on over the years is that despite some moderate gains in passing yards and attempts in recent years along with rules changes to allow more scoring, the game is still often won or lost at the line of scrimmage. The ability to control the line of scrimmage and have running game success and/or to stop the run affects the game in many ways, both offensively and defensively.

It didn’t help the Texans this week, as Houston’s game plan played out near perfectly with a big time of possession edge as Houston controlled the ball, clock and chains. The Texans held the Raiders to just 81 yards in the first half and would rush the ball 33 times for 124 yards to just 30 rushing yards on 20 carries for the Raiders. Those kind of numbers result in a point spread win a majority of the time, let alone a victory on the score board. But playing at high altitude, the Texans defense wilted late as the Raiders went to the air and QB Carr showed why he’s an MVP candidate this season. Along with some questionable calls by both the officials and Houston coach O’Brien, it turned into a head-scratching defeat for the Texans.

Beating the NFL over the long-term involves an understanding of the match-ups, situations and stats, and how to apply them for success. Let’s look at some additional stats and ATS notes from week 11 and use some of this moving forward in isolating match-up advantages.

NFL Inside the Numbers Week 11

In week 11, NFL favorites went 11-3 SU and 9-5 ATS. Home underdogs were bad going 0-3 SU/ATS, but that’s because the Browns and 49ers were punching bags again. Home ‘Dogs are now 25-21 ATS with a pair of pushes. In the lowest scoring week of the season (41.5 PPG), totals were just 3-11 over/under. There were 12 missed PAT kicks, which set a weekly NFL record.

Running to Point Spread Profit

Teams that rushed the ball for 150 or more yards in week 11 (when their opponent did not) went 4-0 SU/ATS, and are now 31-10 SU and 36-6 ATS with two pushes. The Bills pounded the ground for 183 yards in a mini-upset at Cincinnati 16-12 while the Patriots (171), Seahawks (152) and Redskins (151) all rushed the ball 30 times in spread covering victories as favorites.

Week after week the results show that running game success is often more relevant and important versus passing game prowess. Clearly a top QB and passing attack is important, and we factor that into our match-up analysis every week along with the stats and situations. But look at the weekly box scores and stats and you’ll see that teams that pass the ball at least 45 times are very often on the losing end and most often ATS.

Teams that rushed the ball at least 29 times went 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS in week 11. For the season, teams that rush the ball at least 29 times in a game (when their opponent does not) are 84-11-2 ATS (88%). The Buccaneers (+7) pulled the upset of the week pounding the ball on the ground 34 times for 116 yards to win at Kansas City 19-17.

Determine who is going to run the ball more often and with success against an opponent and you’re well on your way to more point spread success. Note however that it’s not that easy, but if you dig into the stats, project match-up advantages and identify edges, you’ll be rewarded in the running game more often and improve your ability to handicap and identify advantages in games and match-ups.

Teams that out-rushed their opponent by at least 30 yards went 7-3 ATS in week 11. That stat guideline is now 81-32 (72%) ATS this season. Determine who will outrush their opponent by this margin, run the ball more often and control the ball, clock and chains and you’ll cash more point spread winners. This is proven year after year with nearly 75% ATS success and no season below 70% since 2000. I have the box scores and data base to prove it.

Big ground gainers in week 11

(Yards/Attempts with straight-up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) results).

Team Rush Yds Attempts SU/ATS
Bills 181 34 W/W
Patriots 171 30 W/W
Seanawks 152 30 W/W
Redskins 151 30 W/W
Steelers 146 28 W/W
Cardinals 135 28 L/L
Texans 124 33 L/L
Bucs 116 34 W/W

Teams that failed to get their ground game going in week 11:

Team Rush Yards Attempts SU/ATS
Lions 14 21 W/W
Browns 33 13 L/L
Raiders 30 20 W/W
Panthers 50 27 W/L
Chiefs 62 21 L/L

Efficient Offenses and Yards Per Play

Teams that had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in week 11: The NFL average for yards per play is approx. 5.5

Team Total Yards Yards Per Play SU/ATS
Redskins 515 6.3 W/W
Patriots 444 6.3 W/W
Bucs 442 6.1 W/W
Seahawks 439 7.1 W/W
Cowboys 417 6.2 W/W

Struggling Offenses

Some poor offensive performances in week 11 included:

Team Total Yards Yards Per Play SU/ATS
Browns 209 3.4 L/L
Panthers 223 3.6 W/W
Vikings 217 4.1 W/W
Rams 227 3.8 L/L
Dolphins 240 4.2 W/W
Lions 277 4.9 W/W
Jagaurs 285 4.6 L/L
49ers 299 4.8 L/L
Bengals 300 4.2 L/L

Turnover Troubles and Penalty Problems

Historically, teams that suffer a minus three (-3) or greater turnover differential in a game have little chance to win and cover (7% ATS). Last season, on nearly 40 occurrences and games with a 3 or greater turnover differential, the team on the short end of the turnovers won and covered just one time each. In week 11 there were no games with this turnover margin differential.

Teams that are plus (+3) or greater in the turnover column in a game are 24-3 SU and 26-1 ATS this season. Teams that are exactly plus-2 in TO margin went 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in week 11 and are now 29-5 SU and 29-5 ATS. Turnovers are most telling statistic in the NFL when it comes to point spread success. Yet fumbles are random and cannot be determined in handicapping the games. So instead of being hard on yourself in a defeat with a bigger turnover differential, just move on and evaluate the upcoming games and try to find match-up advantages that can help you get on the right side of more games while locating value in the betting line.

The Titans rallied from a 21-0 deficit at Indianapolis but came up just short while suffering 11 penalties for 109 yards. The Ravens couldn’t overcome 12 penalties for 136 yards at Dallas.

Last week’s rushing projections were pretty good as we noted the Titans and Cardinals would out-rush their opponents and they both did by 21 and 63 yards, yet both failed to win or cover.

Week 12 rushing projections and edges

This weeks early looks show rushing and in the trenches edges to the Bills at home over the Jaguars. Buffalo runs the ball 30 times per game for 157 YPG (T1 with Dallas) at a league-best 5.3 YPR. The Jaguars run defense is below average allowing 113 rushing YPG. The Jaguars run the ball just 21 times per game for 87 YPG. The Bills also run the ball 47% of their plays (No. 2), while the Jaguars run the ball a league-low 33% of the time. This match-ups is very one-sided at the point of attack favoring the Bills, and if the projections play out, Buffalo has better than a 75% chance to cover the point spread (-7). The Titans have an edge over the Bears in rushing and the point of attack, and Chicago will start a new QB this week in Matt Barkley. We’ll evaluate more match-ups and injuries as the week progresses.

We’ll review more NFL stats and information each week as we continue to evaluate the results, match-ups and work to become even more proficient in point spread prognosis.

Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay