NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 14


Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 14

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 29-19 ATS this season with 24 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 14 stats of note.

Week 14 NFL favorites went 9-7 SU and 7-8 ATS and totals went 7-9 over/under and scoring was down for the second straight week at 43.1 points per game. For the season, the average NFL game is averaging a record 47.22 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 14 look ahead lines I noted in my article at TheLines were on Giants, who destroyed the Redskins in Washington 40-16. The Broncos had a majority of the bets at San Francisco, but reverse sharp action came on the 49ers, who built a 20-0 lead and beat the Broncos 20-14.

As I noted in my article at Forbes.com a week ago, a season-high seven road favorites were on the Week 13 card. Those favorites went just 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS. Yet in Week 14, a new season high eight road favorites were on the card, and bettors still didn’t learn their lesson, as many of those road favorites were the most heavily bet teams again. Week 14 road favorites went just 3-5 SU/ATS and five favorites lost outright including New England (-9) at Miami, Pittsburgh (-10) at Oakland, and the high powered LA Rams (-3) at Chicago. We cashed in on the Bears in their 15-6 drubbing of LA, and had a winning week overall and with our weekly underdog picks

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. No teams had a 3 or greater turnover margin in Week 14.  

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) had another strong week going 8-4 SU and 10-2 ATS in Week 14, making it 65-11 ATS in the last eight weeks and are now 114-29 (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 8-4 SU, 10-2 ATS in Week 14 and are now 113-21-1 SU and 106-25-4 ATS this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times went just 2-7 SU/ATS in Week 14 and are now 12-100 SU and 19-93 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 14 results included the Dolphins 34-33 win over the Patriots, now referred to as the Miami Miracle that I wrote about at TheLines.

One week after the Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy, the Vikings fired their offensive coordinator John DeFilippo with more suspect play calling and a lack of running plays and execution on offense. The Vikings (+3.5) cost many bettors Monday night, as the offensive execution and play calling was terrible, failing on 2nd and goal from the 2-yard line on three straight attempts when trailing 6-0 in the fourth quarter. Suspect officiating can cost bettors as well, and especially teaser wagers on the Vikings, as the officials missed the Seattle player breaking the rules on the blocked field goal with less than six minutes remaining that would have given Minnesota a new set of downs to cut into the 6-0 Seattle lead or go ahead and most likely covering the point spread or winning the game. Teasers would have certainly covered.   

However, Seattle’s ground assault was the difference, and I noted in my analysis that the Vikings would be going against the odds if Seattle had the running game advantage as expected. The Seahawks out-rushed the Vikings 214-77 and had 42 rushing attempts to just 21 for the Vikings. Teams with a strong passing game and quarterback can often still make plays to stay competitive, but a team like the Ravens, who now are extra run-heavy will have a tougher time playing from behind with a less-than-capable passer with less field awareness like Lamar Jackson. The Ravens are making it work thanks to a very strong defense as well, but it’s likely not sustainable or effective enough to win a championship.  

Week 14 rushing leaders included the Titans (264 rush yards /32 carries), Giants (227/34), Seahawks (214/42), Ravens (198/39 – again), Bears (194/35), Dolphins (189/21), Bills (176/31 – lost), Cowboys (142/36) and Bengals (144/32 – lost, covered).

The power of running the ball can perhaps be best illustrated this way. Thus far through 14 weeks, teams that rush the ball at least 30 times in a game when their opponent does not are 113-21-1 SU and 106-25-4 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 14 victories were the Cowboys (576 yards/6.2 yppl), Titans (426/7.5), Colts (436/6.6), Chiefs (441/5.3), Browns (348/7.7) and Dolphins (412/9.2 – 7.4 before final play/Miami Miracle, and Dolphins 175/3.5 last week).

Inefficient offensive teams in Week 14 included the Rams (214/3.5), Jaguars (255/3.8), Broncos (274/3.9), Cardinals (279/4.3), Bucs (279/4.3), Vikings (276/4.9 garbage time yards) and Texans (315/4.6)  (265/3.7). In victory but poor offensive showings were the Jets (248/4.7), Bears (294/4.5), Saints (298/4.8), 

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 (6.9), Chargers (6.6), Rams (6.5). Worst – Cardinals (4.4), Bills (4.6), Jets (4.9).

NFL scoring is having a record season averaging 47.22 points per game. The  Chiefs, Saints, Rams, Steelers, Chargers and Patriots 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