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Keeping It Simple In The NFL
by Scott Spreitzer - 11/11/2007
Let me ask you a basic question. Whenever an NFL offense gets the ball,
what are they trying to do?
Are they trying to accumulate a high yards-per-rush or high
yards-per-pass? Is the quarterback worrying about his passer rating?
The most basic answer to that question is that the offense is trying to
score a touchdown. Sometimes they have to settle for a field goal.
Often, they donâ€™t get any points at all. But with the rare exception of
when a team with a lead is just running out the clock, football offenses are
on the field trying to get the ball in the end zone.
You handicap pro football. Do you know how the best and worst offenses
are at scoring touchdowns? If I took out the obvious teams like New
England, Indianapolis, and Dallas, could you give me the next five or
six teams in the rankings? Do you know off the top of your head which
teams are worst at scoring touchdowns?
Want to take a guess at how much money youâ€™ve lost this year betting
on the worst touchdown teams against the best touchdown teams just because
you thought you were getting line value?!
I think one of the biggest mistakes that wagerers make here in Las
Vegas (even professionals) is that theyâ€™re so focused on â€œtaking the
pointsâ€쳌 that they often take teams who canâ€™t score touchdowns. Iâ€™m all for
finding value in the line. Just make sure youâ€™re investing in a team
that can get some points on the board!
To help you get a sense of how important this is, Iâ€™ve ranked NFL
offenses by touchdowns-per-game heading into week 10 of the season.
This excludes defensive and special teamsâ€™ scores. So, this is limited to
what OFFENSES are doing in their attempts to find the end zone.
Youâ€™ll see some stark differences from top to bottom. But, youâ€™ll
also see why parity is still such an important part of this league, and why
taking the points IS the right approach in certain kinds of matchups.
BEST TOUCHDOWN TEAMS (TDs per game)
New England: 4.6
NY Giants: 2.6
San Diego: 2.6
New Orleans: 2.5
Green Bay: 2.3
You hear a lot of stat analysts talking about how New England is doing
things that just havenâ€™t been done before in the NFL. This chart
helps you see how much better they are than the rest of the league at scoring
touchdowns. Anybody averaging three per game is doing a fantastic job.
Only five teams have made it past 2.6 per game. New England is at 4.6
per game! Theyâ€™re averaging more than two TDs per game more than a
few teams who are in the top ten.
Tampa Bay: 2.0
Hereâ€™s what I mean about parity. Weâ€™ve got a large hunk of teams
here who are within a fraction of 2.0 per game. Thatâ€™s about a third of
the league right there in this middle hunk. And, the high end isnâ€™t
really all that far behind the back end of the first group. The bottom of this
section isnâ€™t that far above the best of the worst. Once you throw
out the extremes, most of the league is bunched very close together in this
key stat. Thatâ€™s why it makes so much sense to focus on underdogs.
The wagering public, and even most oddsmakers donâ€™t realize how evenly
matched teams are at the single most important skill in the game. When
these teams are playing each other, every game is basically a coin
flip. Youâ€™ll see in a moment that less than a full touchdown separates that
back end of the best group and the top end of the worst group. The
pubic incorrectly thinks thereâ€™s a BIG difference between best and worst on
the offensive side of the ball. Thatâ€™s only true when youâ€™re talking about the
VERY best and the VERY worst.
Kansas City: 1.5
NY Jets: 1.4
San Francisco: 1.3
St. Louis: 0.9
You know how bad these offenses have been playing if youâ€™ve been
trying to pick winners this year. If you love these teams, itâ€™s because you
bet a lot of Unders! This group has been consistently overmatched when
trying to play the elite teams, particularly at the bottom. To win in
this group, youâ€™ve got to have a great defense. Tennessee has been
able to do that. Few others have.
I hope youâ€™ll study this data before making selections in the coming
week. If you can, try to keep the numbers updated as the season
progresses. I think youâ€™ll start finding true value underdogs every
week by focusing on the teams in the middle. And, this will help you resist
the urge to take the worst dogs against the best favorites just because
you see so many points flashing in front of you. I personally know
several longtime winners who are kicking themselves because they kept
going against New England and Dallas in the first half of the season.
If they had paid more attention to touchdowns per game, they might have
turned those losses into passes.
As Benjamin Franklin meant to say, "a bet saved is a bet earned!"