NFL Handicapping – Inside The Numbers Week 15

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 15

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 31-19 ATS this season with 25 outright underdog winners posting only weekly underdogs. 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 15 stats of note.

Week 15 NFL favorites went 9-7 SU and 6-9-1 ATS and totals went 5-9-2 over/under and scoring was down for the third straight week and a season low 37.38 points per game. For the season, the average NFL game is averaging a record 46.47 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 15 look ahead lines I noted in my article at TheLines were on Browns, 49ers, Jaguars and Rams. Cleveland got sharp action as underdog and won at Denver, 17-16. The 49ers were also bet down, and San Francisco delivered the outright win as part of our Week 15 Fairway’s Football Forecast. The Jaguars sh*t on themselves again, losing at the gun 16-13 as a 7.5-point favorite against the shorthanded Redskins. And the money poured in on the LA Rams (-13), who were beaten by the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles 30-23.

Road favorites went 3-2 SU and 2-2-1 ATS in Week 15 as money poured in on the Titans to take them from underdog to road favorite in a 17-0 win at NY Giants. As I noted in my article at Forbes.com earlier this month, season-high seven road favorites were on the Week 13 card and they went 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 the Rams, and we had the Bears in their 15-6 drubbing of LA with our weekly underdog picks. Week 15 road favorites went 3-2 SU and 2-2-1 ATS if you include the TItans as road favorite, although Tennessee was an underdog all week until game day.

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 15 for the second straight week.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) had another strong week going 10-3 SU and 8-4-1 ATS in Week 15 rating the NY Jets as a push. For the season, this 30+ yard rushing edge is 73-15 ATS in the last eight weeks and now 122-33 (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  8-2 SU, 5-4-1 ATS in Week 15 and are now 121-23-1 SU and 111-29-5 ATS this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times went just 2-11 SU 2-10-1 ATS in Week 15 and are now 14-111 SU and 21-103 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 week after the Miami Miracle, the Dolphins were hooked by the Vikings 41-17, as Minnesota’s new offensive coordinator called 40 running plays and the Vikings responded with 220 rushing yards, nearly eliminating Miami from the final AFC wild card spot while the Vikings still hold the No. 2 wild card in the NFC with two weeks remaining.

Week 15 rushing leaders included the Ravens (242 rush yards /49 – again), Vikings (220/40), Titans (215/45), Falcons (215/27), Colts (178/39), Bengals (171/41), Steelers (158/25) and Saints (155/32).

The power of running the ball can perhaps be best illustrated this way. Thus far through 15 weeks, teams that rush the ball at least 30 times in a game when their opponent does not are 121-23-1 SU and 111-29-5 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 while now holding the starting position. Note however that the Ravens have played five of the worst rushing defenses in the league with Jackson as the starting quarterback, and now play a top-10 Chargers defense on the road in Week 16.

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 15 Falcons (435/6.7), Vikings (418/6.6), Chargers (407/6.1), Steelers (376.6.2) and Eagles (367/6.8).

Inefficient offensive teams in Week 15 included the Jaguars (192/3.9), Dolphins (193/3.6), Cardinals (253/3.9), Packers (232/4.9), Broncos (270/3.9) and Panthers (247/4.3).

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

NFL scoring is having a record season averaging 46.47 points per game. The  Chiefs, Saints, Rams are averaging at least 32 points per game, and the Chargers next at 28 PPG. 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