NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 14

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 14

Throughout the NFL season, I 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 numbers, statistical guidelines and situations to better assist me in sports investing and providing point spread winners.

Week 14 featured some big blowouts including our 20* Top Play Big Bertha on the Jacksonville Jaguars as they crushed the Colts 51-16. Top teams New England rolled on the road 27-6 at Houston while Carolina remained undefeated at 12-0 as they shot down the non-flying Falcons 38-0. Another key injury this week as Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is

Here are some Week 14 stats of note.

Favorites went 10-6 SU and 8-8 ATS while totals finished 4-12 over/under with scoring average of 44 points per game. Home underdogs are 28-44 SU and 36-36 ATS this season after the Rams and Eagles won outright as short home ‘Dogs while the Texans and Dolphins failed to deliver.  Some notable stats showed the Texans with just seven first downs and 189 yards total offense at home against the Patriots while the Raiders won on the road at Denver as big ‘Dog despite just eight first downs and 126 total yards offense and team season low 2.3 yards per play.  Those two teams had just 27 and 34 rushing yards. It’s notable that the Browns won for just the third time this season, but note Cleveland rushed for 230 yards. Same too for the Packers, as head coach Mike McCarthy took over play calling duties again and focused on running the football. Green Bay rushed a week-high 44 times for 230 yards in a 28-7 crushing of the Cowboys to take over first place in the NFC North.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy & FB John Kuhn lead running game resurgence

Packers RB Eddie Lacy & FB John Kuhn lead running game resurgence

So how important is the running game while being able to control the line of scrimmage and the ball, clock and chains? Note the comments and quotes out of Green Bay after order was restored following their 28-7 victory over Dallas in the rain. The Packers flip the script and leaned on the running game rushing the ball 42 times for 230 yards (2 kneel downs) and had fullback James Kuhn on the field for over 40 snaps using his blocking regularly out of the pistol formation. Green Bay would run a no-huddle out of various formations using the fullback in blocking with bunched wide receiver sets and quick rhythm passing. Head coach Mike McCarthy took hold of the reigns taking over play calling duties and the Packers had nearly 38 minutes of ball possession while wearing down the opponent with a running game. Dallas held their previous two opponents under 300 yards.

“When you can be efficient running the football and set up some manageable situations you have some more opportunities to have some clean pockets,” Rodgers said. “We ran some passes from under center, which we hadn’t done in a while. All of that kind of starts with the run game.”

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 +3 or more in the turnover column in a game are a long-term 93% winning ATS situation. The Vikings (3-0) and Falcons (4-0) suffered a 3 or greater turnover differential in week 14 losses, and teams that are minus (-3) or greater in the turnover column in a game are now 1-33 SU and ATS this season.

Clients have paid me for over a decade for my expertise and ability to proficiently project point spread winners because I not only understand point of attack play and rushing guidelines used for success, but because it’s also important to understand situations and make adjustments to changes, personnel, match-ups, injuries, weather and more.

Week 14 big ground gainers in rushing included the Packers (230/42), Browns (230/41), Rams 203/29), NY Jets (183/34), Jaguars (154/29), Bills (152/32), Chiefs (150/25), Panthers (142/32) and Seahawks (123/36).  Note we had the Bills as a solid play, and while the handicap played out as planned with a solid rushing, total yards and yards per play edge of 6.0 ro 4.8, Buffalo failed to win or cover thanks to 15 more penalties as they approach the all-time single season record for penalties.

The Titans (24/13- whoa!), Ravens (28/14), Chargers (44/18), Falcons (54/16), Bengals (64/16), 49ers (71/17) and Broncos (34/21 and Raiders (27/23) in their defensive duel all struggled to get their running game going.

But the point of all this is that rushing stats and point of attack play often trumps passing prowess a majority of the time. When you have a few top-tier quarterbacks that can overcome a poor ground game or use it as a short passing attack (Brady), sometimes a lack of a running game can work. A dominant defense helps. But regardless of all the talking heads telling you that teams must have a passing game to succeed in the NFL, I’ll point you to my weekly articles and stats that suggest otherwise and that perception is not reality in the pass/run success argument of the NFL. We have the adjust to the rules and changes in the game allowing for more passing game success and now more scoring in recent seasons, but the game is still about blocking, tackling, running and catching and the team that controls the line of scrimmage, establishes a running game (or more attempts) and minimizes turnovers is often the team that comes out on top.

Teams that had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in week 14 victories were the Browns (481 yards/6.5 yards per play), NY Jets (439/6.2), Panthers (424/7.0), NY Giants (428/6.8), Seahawks (424/6.1), Cardinals (393/6.0) and Jaguars (380/6.1). Inefficient offensive teams included the Texans (189/3.6), 49ers (221/4.1), Falcons (230/3.7), Chargers (280/4.2), and Raiders (126/2.3 whoa!) in victory. The Titans and Cowboys both had less than 275 yards offense but had limited possession time under 24 minutes. The league average is approximately 5.4 yards-per-play.

Last week’s rushing projections in this space were spot on with seven of the eight teams mentioned out-rushing their opponents by margin. Unfortunately for us, two teams that failed to cover ATS were on our card with the Bills and Bucs.

I’ll be back to update Week 15 rushing projections. 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. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay