NFL Handicapping – Inside the Numbers Week 3

Handicapping and Analyzing Stats – NFL Inside the Numbers Week 3

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, including Week 3’s underdog picks and plays that went 1-1 ATS with an outright ‘Dog winner on Detroit (+7) over New England. Our overall week was 2-2 on sides and same on totals following a strong Week 2 with Underdog plays going 3-1 with top play outright ‘Dog winner on Jacksonville.

Last year we posted a 16-8 ATS record while providing plays on these pages.

I no longer sell selections for other companies, and I’ve turned down numerous offers to provide my expertise and selection services. Instead, I provide other insight, analysis and picks to better inform, educate and assist others. From 2003 through 2010 I went 371-277 ATS (57.3%) and won 8 consecutive regular seasons as documented at the Sports Monitor with two top of the leaderboard finishes 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’ll 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 3 stats of note.

Week 3 NFL favorites went 9-7 SU and 7-9 ATS. Lines move impact ATS stats and sometimes favorite-to-underdog moves. Week 3 scoring averaged 44.5 points per game and for the season games are averaging 46.2 points per 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. The Jets (3-0), Bengals (4-0), Vikings (3-0), Cowboys (3-0 and Buccaneers (4-1) all suffered significant turnover troubles in Week 4 and large negative differentials in SU/ATS defeats. Teams with a plus-3 or greater turnover margin in a game are now 9-0 SU/ATS this season. Teams with exactly a plus-2 turnover margin are 5-0 SU/ATS this season.

Teams that had a meaningful rushing advantage over their opponent (at least 30 yards) went 9-4 ATS in Week 3 and are now 28-8 ATS this season. This is historically for nearly 2 decades a proven 75% ATS situation with no season below 70% ATS. I’ll discuss our rushing guidelines throughout the season, but if you can correctly handicap this situation and advantage in a weekly NFL match-up and it plays out accordingly, you’re well on your way to cashing more tickets and point spread winners.

The Panthers (166 yards per game), 49ers (152) and Broncos (144) lead the league in rushing through 3 games while the Cardinals (58), Vikings (66), Bucs (72), Colts (82) and Saints (82) have the worst rushing attacks by yards gained through 3 weeks. The Redskins, Titans, Browns, Rams and Panthers are all rushing the ball at least 30 times per game. The Cardinals, Vikings, Packers, Bengals, Saints and Colts are rushing the ball 21 times or less per contest.

Christian McCaffery

Six running backs rushed for at least 100 yards in Week 3 action with Panthers RB Christian McCaffery leading the way with 184 yards on 28 carries. Chris Carson of the Seahawks carried a big load in victory with 32 carries for 102 yards. And Carlos Hyde (28/98) carried the Browns to their first victory since 2016. He had 2 more TD runs, and many laughed at me when I drafted him in two fantasy leagues higher than expected. Hyde now has scored in all three Browns games and has 4 TD’s this season.

Week 3 big ground gainers in rushing included the Panthers (230 yards/41 attempts),  49ers (178/29), Rams (171/35), Redskins (166/35), Cowboys (166/19), Lions (159/33) and Bills (128/38). The 49ers and Cowboys lost and San Francisco was a ATS loser for us despite outrushing Kansas City 178-77 and 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season after suffering an ACL injury. Dallas ran the ball just 19 times for more than 8 yards per carry, but Seattle rushed the ball 39 times, another key indicator in point spread success in the NFL. Run the ball at least 30 times per game and win more often; less than 23 times and it’s a proven higher-percentage loser. In week 3, those teams that rushed the ball less than 23 times went 1-11 SU and 3-9 ATS.

Through 3 weeks, teams that rushed the ball at least 30 times when their opponent did not are 19-2 SU and 17-4 ATS (plus a push). Teams that rushed the ball less than 23 times in Week 3 went 2-10 SU and 3-9 ATS. The Raiders (0-3) found another way to lose despite out-rushing the Dolphins 109-41 with 32 rushing attempts to just 14 for Miami. Incredibly, the Dolphins had just 39 offensive plays, to 74 for Oakland. The Raiders also had a 38-22 minute time of possession edge. Very unusual result. But impactful turnovers were the difference favoring Miami 2-0.

The quarterback play is clearly most important in the NFL, and the 49er’s losing starter Garoppolo is a huge loss, as it’s effected the Week 3 line at San Diego by 6 to 6.5 points. Rookie quarterbacks are not going to be starting numerous games this week with Baker Mayfield (Browns), Josh Rosen (Cardinals), Josh Allen (Bills) and Sam Darnold (Jets), who is the only starter from opening week.

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.

Todd Gurley

Clearly the NFL has thrown us some significant surprises in the opening 3 weeks with many upsets included two more double digit outright winners last week with the Titans and Bills, who were  17-point ‘Dogs at Minnesota and pulled off the biggest point spread outright victory since 1995.

Teams that struggled to get their ground game going in Week 3 included the Vikings (14 rushing yards/6 attempts!), Dolphins (41/14 – won!), Falcons (48/22), Cardinals (53/18), Texans (59/19), Bucs (63/16), Bengals (66/13) and Colts (68/13). These teams went 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS.

Teams that had strong offensive showings and efficient yards per play (yppl) in victory were the Saints (534 yards/6.9 yppl), Rams (521/7.2), Lions (414/5.9), Steelers (413/6.6), Redskins (386/7.0) and Dolphins (373/9.6.

 Inefficient offensive teams included the Colts (209/3.7), Patriots (209/4.4), Cardinals (221/4.6), Jaguars (236/4.2), Jets (268/4.3) and Vikings (292/4.5 – junk yards.

The league average is approximately 5.4 yards-per-play.

The Broncos did not turn the ball over in defeat, but 13 penalties for 120 yards impacted their performance and result. Same for the 49ers (14/147) and Packers (11/115) in defeat.

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