NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 6

NFL Week 6 Handicapping and Analyzing Stats

It was a strange week from a statistical perspective as you’ll see below in some of my analysis and charts. There were some huge rushing results with expected win/covers, but some very poor running games by teams that got the money late like the Browns, Giants and Saints. And the New York Giants became the first team this season to have a minus (-3) or greater turnover margin and get the point spread cover (1-16 ATS this year). And it was just the second time this season (2-15 SU) that a team won the game with that negative turnover margin (-3 or greater), and ironically it was the Giants who did it in week 2 against the Saints as well.

Close Calls and Point Spread Plays of the Week

The Browns back-doored the Titans with a pair of TD’s in the final 2:07 to get the money in a 28-26 defeat. Tennessee controlled the proceedings with over 400 yards offense at 7.1 yards per play and a 137-40 rushing edge with 31-15 rushing attempts; another huge indicator to point spread success. The Giants got the front-door win and half-point cover with the long 66 yard catch and run by WR Odell Beckham in New York’s 27-23 win over Baltimore. The Giants had just 38 rushing yards and overcame the 3-turnover margin to pull a rare win and point spread cover. Houston looked five-feet under trailing Indianapolis by two TD’s in the final three minutes before a stunning comeback to tie the Colts and then win in overtime 26-23 for the point spread push Sunday night. We were lucky, although the stats were the most even of any game in week 6 with both teams rushing for nearly 160 yards and finishing with nearly 400 total yards each and 6.0 yards per play. Drew Brees was spectacular for the Saints again, as New Orleans racked up 523 yards with just 63 rushing to beat the Panthers at the gun, 41-38. That completed an early home ‘Dog run of 4-0 SU/ATS with the Saints, Redskins, Dolphins and Chargers from Thursday night all winning as home underdogs.

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 (see the Saints and QB Brees in week 6). 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.

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 take a look at some of the stats of note from week 5, and use some of this moving forward in isolating match-up advantages.

NFL Inside the Numbers Week 6

In week 6, NFL favorites went 9-6 straight up (SU) and 5-8-2 against the spread (ATS). Some close calls each week with line moves, so there is some subjective data. The Raiders were -1 or pk until the weekend when the Chiefs became a very short favorite and won. Home underdogs went 4-1 SU/ATS in week 6 and are now 19-10-1 ATS this year. Totals went 9-6 over/under. For the season, betting favorites have had just one winning week overall, and that was 8-7 in week 4.

Running to Point Spread Profit

Teams that rushed the ball for 150 or more yards in week 6 went 6-0 SU/ATS, as the Colts (161) vs Texans (158) is not included since both teams rushed for at least 150 yards. Teams that reach that 150 rushing yard mark in a game (when their opponent does not) are now 19-7 SU and 22-4 ATS this season.

Dallas used their league-leading rushing attack to pound the Packers in Green Bay, 30-16

Dallas used their league-leading rushing attack to pound the Packers in Green Bay, 30-16

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 it’s more imperative to have a QB like Drew Brees when you cannot run the ball well and have to rely on the passing game (say instead of Fitzpatrick, Taylor, Gabbert/Kaepernick for example).

Teams that rushed the ball at least 29 times went 8-2 SU/ and 7-2-1 ATS with the Titans and Colts (push) suffering very late game meltdowns to cost their betting backers in week 6. For the season, teams that rush the ball at least 29 times in a game (when their opponent does not) are 47-7-2 ATS. 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, as clearly the Eagles looked like they had a solid advantage at the line of scrimmage last week at Washington, as the Redskins entered with the league’s worst run defense (151 YPG at 5.1 YPR) while Philadelphia was top-6 in rushing. Final stats were dominant in favor of the Redskins which included 230 rushing yards for Washington and nearly 500 total yards while the Eagles were grounded with 94 rushing yards and 239 total yards in a 27-20 defeat.

Teams that out-rushed their opponent by at least 30 yards went 6-4 ATS in week 6. However, some very poor rushing results came away as winners with all four teams cashing in as the Giants (38), Saints (63), Browns (40) and Falcons (52) were all ATS winners, Still, that stat guideline is now 44-18 ATS (71%) 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 6

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

Team Rush Yds Attempts SU/ATS
Bills 312 44 W/W
Redskins 230 33 W/W
Dolphins 222 29 W/W
Cowboys 191 37 W/W
Chiefs 183 32 W/W
Colts 161 32 L/P
Texans 158 28 W/P


Teams that failed to get their ground game going:

Team Rush Yards Attempts SU/ATS
NY Jets 33 14 L/L
Giants 38 17 W/W
Browns 40 15 L/W
Falcons 52 18 L/W
Jaguars 54 20 W/W
Saints 63 21 W/W


Efficient Offenses and Yards Per Play

Teams that had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in week 5: The NFL average for yards per play is approximately 5.5.

Team Total Yards Yards Per Play SU/ATS
Saints 523 7.4 W/W
Redskins 493 7.4 W/W
Bills 491 6.5 W/W
Dolphins 474 7.1 W/W
Patriots 437 7.2 W/W
Giants 435 6.8 W/W
Cowboys 424 6.8 W/W
Titans 407 7.1 W/L
Chiefs 406 6.3 W/W
Texans 414 6.1 W/P
Cardinals 396 5.7 W/W


Note how the yards were accumulated each week, passing vs rushing and if a team was playing from behind and forced to abandon their running game in the second half, any overtime yards and injury impacts during a game.

Struggling Offenses

Some poor offensive performances in week 6 included:

Team Total Yards Yards Per Play SU/ATS
NY Jets 230 4.4 L/L
Eagles 239 4.9 L/L
Chargers 265 4.4 W/W
Broncos 304 4.5 L/L
49ers 300 4.9 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. However, for the first time this season, the New York Giants pulled off a surprising and dramatic late win and cover as a 3.5-point favorite, getting a 66-yard Odell Beckham TD in the final 90 seconds to beat Baltimore 27-23. That despite 3 turnover for the Giants and zero for the Ravens. That was the only 3-turnvoer margin differential of the week, and teams that are plus-3 or greater in TO margin in a game are now 15-2 SU and 16-1 ATS this season. Note too that teams that were exactly plus-2 (+2) in turnover margin went 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in week 6 and are now 16-5 SU and 17-4 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 Eagles poor play was also evident with their penalties, mistakes and miscues, as Philadelphia was flagged 13 times for 114 yards. The Broncos had 12 penalties for 102 yards while the Ravens also could not overcome penalty problems in the end with 15 for 111 yards. Nor could the Bears, who despite 36 minutes of possession time and a 389-317 yard edge and no turnovers, blew their lead and home game in a 17-16 defeat to the Jaguars. Chicago had 10 penalties for 87 yards.

The Failures in Laying Road Chalk

The sports books were the biggest winners again in week 6 as the underdogs had another winning week and betting favorites have had just one winning week overall this season. And once again, even with me biting this week with what appeared to be match-up advantages in the running game and point of attack, road favorites proved to be a poor percentage play and bet. The Broncos, Panthers and Eagles were all a field goal favorite and lost outright on the road while the Steelers were laying heavy chalk of more than a touchdown at Miami. Yet the Dolphins were an easy outright home ‘Dog winner. That despite Miami gaining just 200 yards the week prior in an ugly home defeat to Tennessee in which the Dolphins were out-rushed 235-51. It looked easy for the Steelers this week didn’t it? We had a play on Miami, who turned the tables and buried many bettors while also dominating the line of scrimmage with a 222-126 rushing advantage in a breakout performance for RB Jay Ajayi, who rushed for over 200 yards after not hitting 50 in any game this season. Note again that all home underdogs are 19-10-1 ATS this season. Those barking ‘Dogs are usually worth a money line play as that’s another way to build your bank roll and beat the bookmaker.

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 analyst and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful handicappers and professionals. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay