NFL Handicapping: Stats You Need To Know

If you’re using the same information to handicap NFL football games as everyone else then you’re going to come to a lot of the same conclusions and fall int a lot of the same traps as everyone else as well. The nice thing about NFL handicapping is that there is so much information out there and so may people doing some really serious thinking about the game that with a little desire and research you can access some really phenomenal stats that will help you understand the game better, identify strengths and weaknesses quicker, and generally become a better bettor. Trying to figure out new stats can be very intimidating, though, because they can seem complicated and hard to understand. To ease you into your search for new stats here’s a look at four that are pretty easy to figure out, yet are very powerful:

Yards per pass attempt – YPPA is simply the number of passing yards a quarterback has over a given period – typically a game or a season – divided by the number of passing attempts over that same period. Simple. Despite that simplicity, though, it’s a surprisingly powerful and informative stat. The reason is that passing success over the long term isn’t just the function of a quarterbacks ability to throw the ball and the receivers ability to catch it. To have a good passing game the team also needs to have a strong offensive line to protect the passer and give him time, a strong running game to keep the defense guessing, and effective and dynamic coaching and playcalling so that the offense doesn’t become predictable. YPPA, then, is a good, quick measure of the general health of an offense. It’s remarkable how well this generalization works – a QB with a YPPA better than 7.00 is playing pretty well, while one below 7.00 tells us that there are issues. You can use that to quickly get a sense of how a game went if you weren’t able to watch it, or how a quarterback you don’t follow closely is doing. The more games over 7.00 a player has, the better he is doing. YPPA is also useful to track improvement – if the YPPA is climbing then the offense is getting more efficient. Sometimes you are forced to assess a team quickly, and YPPA is a good way to get a thumbnail sketch of what is going on when NFL betting.

First half point differential – Here’s an amazing fact – in the 10 years between 1998 and 2007 the team that was leading at the half won more than three quarters of all games something you will want to consider when making NFL picks. The reason for that makes sense – a team with the lead can calmly implement their gameplan and control the pace by running the ball and using a deliberate offense, while the trailing team needs to take risks and be more aggressive, and that can lead to problems. I’m obviously not saying that you should wait until halftime to make your bets. What this does mean, though, is that teams that are consistently good at getting the early lead in games are going to be teams that win more than their share of games.

First half passing ratio – In may ways this is a way of coming to the same conclusion as the last stat. What you are looking for here is that a team is passing on at least 55 percent of their plays in the first half. If they are running more than 45 percent of the time then they aren’t establishing the pass – perhaps because they know they can’t – and they aren’t likely going to score as many points. The fewer first half points they score, the less likely they are to have a lead at the half, and the less likely they are to win. The ratio in the second half is far less significant, but if a team is consistently passing on fewer than 55 percent of their plays in the first half I would be willing to bet that they aren’t going to be a successful team on the season.

Negative pass plays percentage  – This is a stat that lets you get a quick sense of how effective a team is at pressuring a quarterback. Sacks are overrated in the NFL, but the undeniable fact is that the more pressure an offense faces from a defense, the less likely it is going to be able to be effective at doing everything it wants to do. To calculate the NPP% you just add together the number of sacks and interceptions a defense gets in a game, and divide it by the number of passing attempts the offense made. If a team gets two sacks and an interception in a game in 30 pass attempts then the NPP% would be 10.0. NPP% can be used to track improvement or decline in a defense, or to give a general comparison of the strengths of two defenses. The two worst scoring defenses in the league – Detroit and St. Louis – had the second and third worst NPP% in the league, and five of the six NFC teams were in the top nine in the NFL in NPP%.

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