NFL Handicapping – Inside The Numbers Week 16

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 16

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 34-19 ATS (64%) this season with 26 outright underdog winners posting only weekly underdogs following the Raiders Monday night win as underdog to complete a 3-0 week. 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 16 stats of note.

Week 16 NFL favorites went 12-4 SU and 5-9-2 ATS and totals went 6-9-1 over/under and scoring averaged 45.44 points per game. For the season, the average NFL game is averaging 46.40 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.

I provide the weekly look ahead lines to anticipate and compare lines and market moves, and week 17 is tricky with some teams having already clinched a playoff spot or division title and likely resting some starters, similar to a preseason game. That’s why the Giants are favored by 6-points over the Cowboys among others.

Road favorites came alive in Week 16 going 5-2 SU/ATS, but we stayed away from all home ‘Dogs except the Raiders which won.

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. With more seemingly at stake for some favorites on the road and some dead teams playing at home without firepower (Cardinals, Lions), it was a week to watch and not wager on as many home underdogs.

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 remain 35-3 SU and 32-4-2 ATS as for the third straight week there was no game with a 3 turnover differential.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) had another strong week going 9-2 SU/ATS in Week 16. For the season, this 30+ yard rushing edge is 82-17 ATS in the last nine weeks and now 131-35 (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  6-1 SU/ATS ATS in Week 16 and are now 127-24-1 SU and 117-30-5 ATS this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times went just 2-6 SU/ATS in Week 16 and are now 16-117 SU and 23-109 ATS. Note there were three games where both teams failed to run the ball at least 23 times which are not figured into the stats. 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, and then Miami returned home last week and lost as a favorite to the last place Jaguars. The Dolphins, Broncos and Cardinals are examples of dead teams and offer little to like even in the final week with little incentive on either side.

Week 16 rushing leaders included the Patriots (273 rush yards, 47 attempts), Rams (269/41), Seahawks (210/43), Falcons (194/21), Redskins (161/34), Ravens (159/35). Those teams went 6-0  SU and 5-1 ATS with the Patriots allowing a very late back-door touchdown by the Bills in a 24-12 win. We had the Bills, and were fortunate as the rushing numbers clearly supported a Patriots win and cover. Buffalo had also gone 44-straight drives against the Patriots this season without a touchdown until the late touchdown against the soft, prevent defense let Bills backers in the back door.

The power of running the ball can perhaps be best illustrated this way. Thus far through 16 weeks, teams that rush the ball at least 30 times in a game when their opponent does not are 127-24-1 SU and 117-30-5 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, but in Week 16 Jackson and the Ravens proved strong again in a solid 22-10 road victory against the Chargers. Baltimore proved the strength in point of attack play again, rushing for 159 yards on 35 carries to just 51/16 for the Chargers, who had much to play for tied for the AFC West lead. The Ravens would not be having this strong, sustained success without their top-tier defense, but the point of running the ball effectively and often while controlling the ball, clock and chains is really proving to be a winning formula for the Ravens, even without a proven passer yet in Jackson.

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 16 Eagles (519/7.1), Falcons (427/8.9), Packers (540/6.8 – OT), Browns (493/7.5), Rams (461/6.9), Seahawks (464/6.2).

Inefficient offensive teams in Week 16 included the Dolphins (183/4.3), Chargers (198/3.5), Bengals (209/4.5), Lions (223/3.2), Cowboys (232/4.6 – won).

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 (6.4), Rams (6.4). Worst – Cardinals (4.4), Bills (4.6), Jaguars (4.9), Jets (5.0).

NFL scoring is having a record season averaging 46.40 points per game. The  Chiefs, Saints, Rams are averaging at least 32 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