NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 3

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 3

Throughout the NFL season, I go inside the numbers and review weekly box scores, stats, game recaps and more after watching many of the NFL games. For over a decade, I have kept a proprietary database of statistical information and utilized relevant rushing numbersstatistical guidelines and situations to better assist me in sports investing and providing point spread winners.  Week 3 was one for the underdogs, who went 12-4 ATS with 8 outright winners!  Our Fairway Football Forecast focusing on underdogs should have done much better than 2-2, although both winners were underdogs. But strong starts have been more common for us and we’re winning overall in the early NFL season. Recall my record-breaking Week 2 from the 2009 season when picked and forecast a perfect 10-0 ATS Sunday in NFL point spread prognosis. Check out my weekly picks and plays along with the $1,000 Pro Football Challenge.

While I’m not in this year’s Las Vegas SuperContest. know that I’ve had some strong starts and overall NFL seasons throughout my handicapping career. My start in 2015 included 16-3-1 ATS after four weeks and 29-10-1 after 8 weeks on our way to another top-6% finish out of more than 1,700 entries in the SuperContest. I broke onto the scene in 2003 with a record-breaking debut season, going 52-28 (65%) ATS. Numerous strong winning seasons, which also included 2010 with a 44-22 (66%) season. At that time, I was fully documented at the Sports Monitor of Oklahoma City.

Each week I’ll provide various insights into NFL handicapping, and the weekly Inside the Numbers article will analyze stats and ways to utilize them and how rushing guidelines and handicapping point-of-attack play can put the percentages in your favor when wagering.

Here are some Week 3 stats of note.

Week 3 NFL favorites went 8-8 SU and 4-12 ATS (Vikings graded as underdog). For the season favorites are 19-28 ATS and totals are now 22-23 over/under after a high-scoring week with games averaging 50 points per game (PPG) and totals goig 11-5 over/under. Both weeks 1 and 2 saw scoring at a very low 40 PPG. Throughout the season there will be close calls on sides and totals, and while you can’t control the market or moves, you can become skilled at anticipating line moves and trying to get your bets in accordingly.

Beating the NFL over the long-term involves an understanding of the match-ups, situations and stats, and how to apply them for success. Good fortune in the turnover column helps too. After all, teams that are +3 or more in the turnover column in a game are a long-term 93% winning ATS situation. A very rare situation in Week 3 happened when the Atlanta Falcons survived an overturned TD on the final play at Detroit to win and cover, despite a minus-3 turnover differential.  The other teams suffering a negative TO margin of 3 or greater all lost SU/ATS and included the Ravens (3-0), Panthers (3-0), Chargers (3-0) and Bucs (3-0). Teams with a +3 or greater TO differential in a NFL game are now 9-1 SU/ATS this season.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) went 10-3 SU and 11-2 ATS in Week 3. This stat is the strongest start to a season in recent memory, and these positive rushing teams are now 30-4 SU and 31-3 ATS. We’ll discuss our rushing guidelines throughout the season, but if you can correctly handicap this situation and advantage in a weekly NFL match-up and it plays out accordingly, you’re well on your way to cashing more tickets and point spread winners. For over a decade, teams that out-rush their opponent by at least 30 yards in a NFL game cover the point spread nearly 75% of the time. There has not been a season since 2000 when this has been below 70% on average.

Here are your week 3 stat leaders across the board. The leading rushers in week 3 were Kareem Hunt (172 yards at 10.1 YPR) of the Chiefs, Jordan Howard (140) of the Bears, DeMarco Murray (115) of the Titans and Todd Gurley (113) of the Rams.


The quarterback play is clearly most important in the NFL, but significant turnover differential (2 or more, and 3 or more is fatal) is what most impacts games and results. Tough to handicap that or poor officials calls of course, but if you get better at understanding and recognizing point of attack play and which teams will have success rushing the football and/or stopping the run, you’ll become more proficient and the point spread winners will follow. Many other factors come into play in evaluating games and match-ups, including the quarterback play. But the ability to understand situations and make adjustments to changes, personnel, match-ups, injuries, weather and put all the stat profiles together will allow you to become better at handicapping the games.

Week 3 big ground gainers in rushing included the Bears (222 yards/39 attempts), who had 20 yards rushing in Week 2, Titans (195/35), Eagles (193/39), Chiefs (189/25), Jaguars (167/35), Falcons (151/28) and Saints (149/27). Note the number of rushing attempts with many at least 30 times – another key indicator to point spread success. In fact through 3 weeks this season, teams that run the ball 30 or more times in a game (when their opponent does not) are 27-3 SU and 26-4 ATS. Control the ball, clock and chains, and you’ll open up the passing lanes, be more balanced on offense, and wear down more defenses.

Teams that struggled to get their ground game going included the Buccaneers (26 rushing yards/9 attempts), Dolphins (30/15), Raiders (32/13), Giants (49/17), Cardinals (49/21), Patriots (59/20), Packers (64/17), Seahawks (69/22) and Steelers (70/17). These teams went 1-7 ATS.

Teams that had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in victory were the Vikings (494 yards/7.0 yppl), Redskins (472/7.3), Titans (420/6.3), Rams (418/7.0) and Jaguars (411/6.0).

 Inefficient offensive teams included the Raiders (128/2.7), Ravens (186/3.4), Dolphins (225/3.6), Bills (272/4.4), Steelers (282/4.8) and Panthers (289/4.9).

The league average is approximately 5.4 to 5.5 yards-per-play, but lower thus far this season.

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