NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 13

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 13

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 is 27-18 ATS this season with 22 outright underdog winners posting only weekly underdog. 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 13 stats of note.

Week 13 NFL favorites went 9-7 SU and 6-9-1 ATS and totals went 6-10 over/under and scoring was down for the week at 42.9 points per game. For the season, the average NFL game is averaging a record 47.58 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, and two more in Week 13 which had the highest posted totals as the Chiefs beat the Raiders 40-33 and Chargers rallied to beat the Steelers 33-30 with both games flying over the total.

The biggest moves on the Week 13 look ahead lines I noted in my article at TheLines were on Broncos, who were favored on the road at Cincinnati. Denver won and covered. As I noted in my article at Forbes.com, a season-high seven road favorites were on the Week 13 card, but those favorites went just 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS. We cashed in on the Cowboys, but did not have as strong a week as expected going 3-3 ATS in our weekly underdog picks and predictions.

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 35-3 SU and 32-4-2 ATS. In Week 13, the Panthers (4-1), Browns (4-0) and 49ers (3-0) all suffered turnover troubles in defeat.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) had another strong week going 9-2 SU and 10-1 ATS in Week 13, making it 55-9 ATS in the last seven weeks and are now 104-27 (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 7-3 SU, 7-2-1 ATS in Week 13 (Bills rated push), and are now 105-17-1 SU and 96-23-4 ATS this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times went just 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS in Week 13 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 few notable Week 13 results included the Bills out-rushing the Dolphins 198-60 and Buffal0 (415/6.3) out-gaining Miami (175-3.5) in defeat. Most bettors won on Buffalo, who was +5.5 mid-week, +4.5 Friday, and some pushed and late bettors may have even lost. +4/+3.5 by Sunday. The Cardinals and their league-worst offense turned to the running game for 182 rushing yards to upset the Packers as a 14-point underdog, and Green Bay fired coach Mike McCarthy following the defeat. Long tenure, division titles, playoff wins, and Super Bowl victory. Yet other far less accomplished head coaches continue on, including Marvin Lewis who is still searching for his first playoff win in 16 years. Go figure.

A great example of how rushing yards advantage and rushing attempts can be more meaningful than passing yards and attempts is Week 13 – Ravens 49 rushes again topping 40+ attempts with running QB Jackson. The Browns, Panthers and 49ers all passed at least 41 times in defeat and struggled to get the ground game going. All three teams had a least a minus-3 turnover differential which was costly in game planning and defeat, and all three teams had been rushing the ball well and more often entering the week. So another example of how it can be difficult to determine which teams will have success running the ball (and determining turnovers), but try and locate poor run defenses and stop units overall (like Cincinnati) and stronger running teams like Denver in that match-up, which played out strong in Denver’s road win.

The Ravens, Cowboys, Texans and Eagles also dominated time of possession with at least 37 minutes controlling the ball, clock and chains in victory.

Week 13 rushing leaders included the  Broncos (218 rush yards /34 carries), Ravens (again with QB Jackson, 207/49), Bills (198/31 – lost), Texans (187/39), Cardinals (182/29), Panthers (168/19), Steelers (168/29), Patriots (160/39), Nets (156/33), Rams (149/29), Giants (141/29), Eagles (130/33) and KC and Oakland game with Chiefs (174/30) and Raiders (171/28).

The power of running the ball can perhaps be best illustrated this way. Thus far through 13 weeks, teams that rush the ball at least 30 times in a game when their opponent does not are 105-17-1 SU and 96-23-4 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 13 victories were the Chiefs (469 yards/6.9 yppl), Patriots (471/6.6), Eagles (436/6.1), Chargers (371/6.2), Broncos (361/6.3), Seahawks (338/6.8) and in defeat the 49ers (452/6.1), Panthers (444/6.8 – for 2nd straight week), Raiders (442/6.4), Bills (415/6.3).

 Inefficient offensive teams in Week 13 included the Falcons (131/2.9), Saints (176/3.6), Dolphins (175/3.5 – won), Jaguars (211/3.9 – won), Colts (265/3.7).

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 (6.7). Worst – Cardinals (4.4), Bills (4.5), Jets (4.9).

NFL scoring is having a record season averaging 47.58 points per game. The  Chiefs, Rams, Saints, Steelers, Bears and Chargers are all averaging at least 28 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