Early Season NFL Trends: Separating Stats That Count From the Pretenders

Separating Stats That Count From the Pretenders
By David A. Lane Predictem.com

Any fisherman knows that when it comes to using fish finders, there are important differences among the available models that perhaps one should know about going in. Most importantly, and this is just a layman’s opinion, would seem to be finding the one that most accurately represents the fish it was engineered to find instead of a bunch of false echoes. Looking at tons of trend related stats can be very a very similar experience to using the ‘inexpensive’ model when it comes to betting on football in that a lot of the blips on the screen turn out to be illusions.

So which stats are ones that help cash more tickets? If we had a definitive answer, obviously most of us would be playing golf in paradise right now. However, a quick look at the stats thus far surely points towards taking a team that has a stingy defense.

Through three weeks of the season, four of the top five defensive teams in the league just so happen to be four of the top five teams against the spread. The teams- Tennessee Titans (3-0 ATS), Baltimore Ravens (2-0 ATS), Philadelphia Eagles (3-0 ATS), and the Buffalo Bills (2-1) are joined in the top five by the number one offensive team- the Dallas Cowboys (2-1 ATS) - who also happen to crack the top ten in defense coming in at tenth. That seems very telling but why is it so?

Good defense charges up the offense, especially when one gets a ton of sacks like the Eagles did Sunday nine times against Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, all of the top five teams ATS, including the Ravens who have played only twice, are also in the top 10 in sacks. This illustrates how hurrying and pressuring the opposing quarterback creates opportunities that lead to both victories and covers.

Another key to looking for the right team to wager on it is to peruse through the points allowed team stats. As a team, all four of these - Titans (9.7), Ravens (10), Eagles (16.7), and Bills (16.3) - are among the top eight in points allowed per game. When it comes to points, finding a team that allows the fewest will obviously help make up differences in point spreads.

It seems also obvious that stuffing another team’s offense consistently leads to a quarterback making mistakes that lead to turnovers. All four of our sample teams are amongst the best in net takeaways- only Buffalo is at par (zero), its young offense having given away the ball as much as they’ve taken it away- with Tennessee leading the way at + 3 (by the way, the Cowboys are next to last with -3). Taking the ball away is demoralizing and almost always swings momentum towards your team and also leads to W’s.

Perhaps that’s why three of our top four ATS teams: Titans, Eagles, and Bills are amongst the best in scoring average per game. The Ravens who are short a game are the only team who didn’t make the list. Costly turnovers seem to lead to opportunistic offense’s who frequently cash in shortly after the opposing team gives the ball up- cashing in quickly on the other team’s letdown of emotion.

Another stat which I find telling is time of possession. Two things happen if you have the ball more often than the other team: obviously your offense has more chances to score and their defense gets worn down faster. In this instance, all four teams have had the ball for more time than their opponents (longer than 30 minutes) with the Ravens leading the league with 37:02. If the opposing offense has the ball only 22:58 of a possible 60 minutes, not only is that a positive reflection on your defense, but they’re not going to have much of a chance to beat you straight up or ATS.

One of the most striking stats is that only one of these teams quarterbacks- the Eagles Donovan McNabb (102.8 passer rating)- finds his way into the top ten. Although great quarterbacks can surely make a difference in this league (see Tom Brady), these sample teams generally rely on good game management from their QB yet still succeed. This only leads one to believe that perhaps the position is a bit overrated at least from a wagering angle.

When it comes to gambling on NFL football, unfortunately, bad information like a bad reading on the fish finder can mislead the bettor and negatively affect his results. Look for results that matter and, no, I just don’t mean pick the home dogs every time (home dogs are a lowly 4-9 ATS thus far!). It is clear that defense leads to cashing in tickets- be it paper or electronic- there’s no denying that, however, after finding the fish you still must find the right kind of bait or lure that works for you. Similarly, one must still make the right types of wagers as well to profit from this information. No one ever said this was going to be easy!