NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 12

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 12

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.

You can read my weekly Fairway’s Football Forecast NFL article on this site, which went 2-0 ATS last week  with two more outright underdog winners on the Browns and Bills, and now 10-3 ATS the last four weeks with ten outright winners and 24-15 ATS (61.5%) for the season with 21 outright underdog winners posting on the weekly underdog picks pages. I provide the weekly Inside the Numbers to better assist us in evaluating teams, stats and performances, and how to use certain stats and parameters to guide you towards more winners.

My NFL history as a point spread prognosticator has been a winning one with recent seasons results and from 2003 through 2010 when I went 371-277 ATS (57.3%) and won 8 consecutive regular seasons as a public handicapper with all plays documented at the Sports MonitorSome top of the leaderboard finishes included 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 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 12 stats of note.

Week 12 NFL favorites went 11-4 SU and 9-6 ATS and totals went 7-8 over/under with average scoring of 47.4 points per game. For the season, the average NFL game is averaging a record 48.04 points per game. That includes the record 105 points scored in Week 11 between the Rams and Chiefs that had a record over/under 64 points posted at the sportsbooks.  The sportsbooks got crushed by the bettors in that game.

The biggest moves on the Week 12 look ahead lines from the Westgate Superbook and FanDuel were on the Cowboys and biggest favorites Saints, Ravens, Patriots and Chargers, who all won and covered double-digit point spreads. The Browns took late money from +3 to close PK, and the sharp bettors including us were correct in that move.

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. Teams with a plus-3 or greater turnover margin in a game are now 32-3 SU and 29-4-2 ATS. In Week 12, the Redskins (3-0), Falcons (4-1) and Steelers (4-0) all suffered turnover troubles in defeat.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) finally had an average week going 7-5 SU and 7-5 ATS in Week 12, making it 46-7 ATS in the last six weeks and are now 95-25 (79%) ATS this season (plus pushes), and historically a 75% ATS profile with no season below 70% since 2000.

Teams that rushed the ball at least 30 times (when their opponent did not) went 8-0 SU/ATS in Week 12 and are now 98-15-1 SU and 89-21 ATS this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times went just 2-7 SU and 1-8 ATS in Week 12 and are now 10-93 SU and 17-86 ATS. Handicapping point of attack play and determining which team will have more success running the ball and controlling the ball, clock and chains will get you more point spread winners.

A great example of how rushing yards advantage and rushing attempts can be more meaningful than passing yards and attempts is Week 12 Pittsburgh at Denver. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 41 of 56 passes for 462 yards, and lost 24-17. Turnovers were a big reason why, as the Steelers also out-gained the Broncos 527-308, but still passing that many times for more than 460 yards was still a loser, and the Steelers ran the ball just 16 times.

Week 12 rushing leaders included the Texans (281 rush yards / 34 carries), Ravens (again with QB Jackson, 242/43), Jaguars (226/39 – lost), Panthers (220/27 lost), Bills (167/35), Saints (150/31), Cowboys (146/34).

The power of running the ball can perhaps be best illustrated this way. Thus far through 12 weeks, teams that rush the ball at least 30 times in a game when their opponent does not are 98-15-1 SU and 89-21-4 ATS. So teams that run the ball at least 30 times when their opponent does not have covered the point spread > 80% of the time.

Remember that when the media members, talking heads or your fantasy football friends tell you how important passing the ball is, and remember to run your way to profits and the cashiers window. At least 30 rushes a game is pure profit, while less than 23 rushing attempts per game is a proven loser.

The quarterback play is clearly most important in the NFL, and QB ratings from starter to backup can impact a betting line at by at least 6 points (see link and chart). Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has added a bigger running threat in his two starts vs. the defensively deficient Raiders and Bengals.

As you become 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 had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in Week 12 victories were the Patriots (498 yards/7.4 yppl), Texans (462/7.5), Vikings (416/6.0), Ravens (416/6.0), Bucs (412/5.9), Cowboys, (404/5.9), Seahawks (397/6.5) and in defeat the Panthers (476/8.4).

 Inefficient offensive teams in Week 12 included the Cardinals (149/3.3), Raiders (249/4.4), Packers (254/5.0) and in victory the Bears (264/4.6).

The league average is above 5.6 yards-per-play; up from past 5.4 yards per play in recent seasons. Here is the best and worst of all teams in offensive yards per play this season. Best – Chiefs (7.0), Chargers (6.8), Rams (6.8). Worst – Cardinals (4.3), Bills (4.4), Jets (5.0).

NFL scoring is having a record season averaging 48.04 points per game. The Saints, Chiefs, Rams and Colts are all averaging at least 29 points per game.  In the last three seasons combined, just 5 teams averaged at least 29 points per game. 2014 was the last season in which there was at least four teams that averaged 29 or more points per game.

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. You can bet on it.

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