NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 1

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 1

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 2 provides great opportunities as often there is an over-reaction to Week 1 results and you may recall my record-breaking Week 2 from the 2009 season when I went a perfect 10-0 ATS on the ten plays I provided. In 2016, I also had my best Week 1 ever, and following a solid winning Week 1 on Sept. 9 this past Sunday which included a 4-0 UNDER the total sweep, we’ve had three straight winning Week 1’s in NFL point spread prognosis. You can read my weekly Fairway’s Football Forecast NFL article on this site, including Week 1’s picks and plays that went 2-2 ATS with an outright ‘Dog winner. Last year we posted a 16-8 ATS record while posting plays.

I no longer sell selections for other companies, and I’ve turned down numerous offers to provide my expertise and selection services. Instead, I provide other insight, analysis and picks to better inform, educate and assist others. From 2003 through 2010 I went 371-277 ATS (57.3%) and won 8 consecutive regular seasons as documented at the Sports Monitor with two top of the leaderboard finishes in 2010 (44-22 ATS) and 2003 (52-28). I’ve participated in the Las Vegas SuperContest, and posted back-to-back 60% ATS seasons.  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.

So 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 1 stats of note.

Week 1 NFL favorites went 10-6 SU and 7-8-1 ATS. Lines move impact ATS stats and sometimes favorite-to-underdog moves. The Steelers and Browns played to a 21-21 tie. The Browns were terrible during their 0-16 season last year with Deshone Kizer at QB, which was a ridiculous move by the Browns clueless coach, and you saw how awful Kizer is again during his relief appearance in Week 1 now playing for Green Bay. We did have the Browns as a winner along with the Under against the Steelers in Week 1.

Throughout the season there will be close calls on sides and totals, and while you can’t control the market or moves, which was significant on the total in the Steelers/Browns game, you can become skilled at anticipating line moves and trying to get your bets in accordingly. We did that on the Browns/Steelers under 46.5 which closed 41.

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 plus (+3) or more in the turnover column in a game are a long-term 93% winning ATS situation. The Steelers (6-1), 49ers (4-1), Lions (5-2) and Raiders (3-0) all suffered significant turnover troubles in Week 1 and large negative differentials in SU/ATS defeats. Two other teams that were on the wrong side of a 2-turnover differential also lost SU/ATS (Saints, Chargers), and both were favorites.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) went 9-1 ATS in Week 1. Last year it also went 9-1 ATS in Week 1. 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 1 stat leaders across the board. The leading rushers in week 1 that rushed for more than 100 yards: James Connor (135/4.4) of the Steelers, Todd Gurley (108/5.4) of the Rams, rookie Saquon Barkley (106/5.9) of the Giants and Isaiah Crowell (102/10.2) of the NY Jets. Connor carried the ball a league -high 31 times.

Week 1 big ground gainers in rushing included the Redskins (182 yards/42 attempts),  Browns (177/28), NY Jets (169/36), Texans (167/34), Steelers (159/35), Panthers (147/32), Broncos (146/32), Rams (140/26), Bears (139/27) and Jaguars (137/28).

The Texans were the only team that lost ATS despite outrushing the Patriots by more than 30 yards.

Another key indicator to monitor and project in your handicapping of a contest is which teams will run the ball more often. Teams that run the ball more are usually controlling the ball, clock and chains. Teams that run the ball at least 30 times in a contest usually fare well. In Week 1, those teams that rushed the ball at least 30 times when their opponent did not went 6-1-1 ATS. A good example of dominance at the point of attack was the Redskins outrushing the Cardinals 182-68 with Washington running the ball 42 times to just 16 for Arizona, who played from behind and had to abandon the running game. The Bucs (112/34) beating of the Saints (43/13) is another example of why rushing the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage is often more meaningful in SU and ATS results than teams that pass for over 400 yards, like the Saints and Chargers did in defeat as favorites.

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 and forecasting the games.

Teams that struggled to get their ground game going in Week 1 included the Lions (39 rushing yards/15 attempts), Saints (43/13), Seahawks (64/16), Cardinals (68/15), Packers (69/18), Falcons (74/18) and Colts (75/22). These teams went 1-6 SU and 0-6-1 ATS.

Teams that had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in victory were the Buccaneers (529 yards/8.5 yppl), Broncos (470/6.5), Redskins (429/5.7) and Chiefs (362/6.6). Other solid offensive performances included the Chargers (541/7.3), Saints (475/8.1), Steelers (472/5.9), Raiders (395/6.2) and NY Jets (349/5.9).

 Inefficient offensive teams included the Bills (153/2.5 ugh) with just 10 first downs, Cardinals (213/4.2), Cowboys (232/4.1) and Eagles (232/3.6), as the defending Super Bowl champs opened the season Thursday with an ugly 18-12 win over the Falcons.

The league average is approximately 5.4 yards-per-play.

Penalties were problematic in Week 1 for the Falcons (15/135), Steelers (12/116), Raiders (11/156), Jaguars (11/119), Eagles (11/101), Browns (11/87) and Bills (10/100).

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