NFL Handicapping – Inside The Numbers Week 17

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Week 17

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 finished the regular season 35-19 ATS (65%) this season with 26 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 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 17 stats of note.

Week 17 NFL favorites went 12-4 SU and 8-8 ATS and totals went 8-8 over/under and scoring averaged 45.38 points per game. For the season, the average NFL game averaged 46.6 points per game; the second-highest in NFL history behind the 2013 season (46.8). 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.

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 went 0-4 SU/ATS in Week 17 (MIA, OAK, SF, NYJ). For the season, teams that were +3 or greater in the turnover column in a game went 39-3 SU and 36-4-2 ATS.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) went 9-3 SU and 8-4 ATS in Week 17. For the season, this 30+ yard rushing edge in a game finished 139-39 ATS (78%).

Teams that rushed the ball at least 30 times (when their opponent did not) went 13-0 SU and 9-4 ATS in Week 17 and finished the season 140-24-1 SU and 126-34-5 ATS this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times went 0-9 SU and 3-6 ATS in Week 17 and finished the season 16-126 SU and 26-114-2 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.

No Miami Miracle for the Dolphins as they closed the season with a pair of blowout losses and fired their head coach Adam Gase; one of eight head coaches that were fired.

Week 17 rushing leaders included the Ravens (296 rush yards, 47 attempts), Saints (184/27) and Seahawks (182/34), who all failed to cover with both the Saints and Seahawks losing meaningless games. Something to remember in Week 17.  Also, the Bears (169/37), Bills (166/33) and Colts (158/36) had big running days in SU/ATS wins.

The power of running the ball can perhaps be best illustrated this way. For the season through 17 weeks, teams that rush the ball at least 30 times in a game when their opponent does not finished 140-24-1 SU and 126-34-5 ATS. So teams that run the ball at least 30 times when their opponent does covered the point spread 79% 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). And while Ravens QB Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to the No. 1 rushing attack in Baltimore’s final seven games with Jackson as starter, the importance of balance and competent quarterback play is still most important.

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 17 victories included the Chiefs (409/7.6), Falcons (489/6.4), Ravens (463/6.3), Bills (381/6.4), (493/7.5), Rams (461/6.9), Seahawks (464/6.2).

Inefficient offensive teams in Week 17 included the Redskins (89/2.0 – worst of all in NFL season!), Jaguars (119/2.5), Vikings (164/3.2), Packers (175/3.1), Bengals (196/4.3), Cardinals (198/3.1), Dolphins (225/3.7), NY Jets (239/4.3).

The league average yards-per-play was between 5.5 and 5.6; 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 (6.7), Rams (6.3), Buccaneers (6.3). Worst – Cardinals (4.3), Bills (4.7), Jaguars (4.8), Jets (4.9).

NFL scoring averaged 46.30 points per game in 2018; just missing the highest-scoring season in NFL history in 2014 (46.4). The  Chiefs (35.1), Rams (32.8) and Saints (31.5) were the highest scoring teams in the NFL. In the last three seasons combined, just 5 teams averaged at least 29 points per game.

We’ll review more NFL stats and information next season 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