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Pro Football Stats: Read Between the Lines
by Jim Feist - 09/08/2013
The best time of the sports calendar is here, the opening month of the pro football campaign! There are mountains of stats and angles available for sports bettors to digest from this season and years past. Information certainly is a huge key when analyzing games and point spreads. Sometimes it can seem that there is too much info, but it's essential to understand that stats are only a starting point. They don't always tell the whole story. In fact, stats can sometimes lie, something to keep in mind when searching for football picks.
Sure, it's important to ask such questions as, "How many yards passing per game does his team get? How big is this offensive line compared to the opponent? Is a great quarterback going up against a team with slow defensive backs? What's their home record the last five years, straight up and against the spread?" However, it's important to learn when to look beyond stats. For example, here are some stats from the 2012 NFL season:
*The Chiefs were 5th in rushing.
*The Eagles were 13th in passing offense.
*Detroit was No. 17 in scoring offense.
*The Broncos were No. 2 in totals yards allowed.
*The Bears ranked No. 10 in rushing offense.
*The Raiders were 8th in passing on offense.
*Arizona ranked 5th in pass defense.
*The Eagles ranked 9th in pass defense.
*The Jets ranked No. 8 in total yards allowed.
Now, all of those 2012 stats are true. However, they don't tell the real story about a football team's strengths, either. For instance, the Raiders had impressive passing yards and total offense, but were they really a good offensive team when you watched them? QBs Carson Palmer (22 TDs, 14 INTs) was average and has clearly lost a step because of age and injuries. If he was so good why did they send him to Arizona in the offseason?
The Oakland defense was terrible, 20th against the pass, 18th against the run with no pass rush, so the passing offense but up yards because they were behind often in a 4-12 campaign. Overall, it is hard picture the Raiders as a Top 10 offense in anything despite what the overall stats might suggest.
Stat-wise Kansas City was great at rushing the football only because they couldn't do anything else on offense. They ranked dead last in passing and points, a mind boggling 13.2 ppg in 2012.
Denver ranked second in the NFL in total defense, but that was a bit misleading as they had an easy schedule. They only lost four games, but gave up 27 in a loss at Atlanta, a 31-21 loss at New England, a 31-25 home loss to Houston and then the playoff collapse to the Ravens giving up 38 points, so how good was this defense really? Denver is on a 7-2-1 run over the total after going 11-5-1 over.
Chicago ranked 10th in rushing offense, but that was a bit misleading, too. They changed their offensive strategy in 2012 determined to run the football because a weak offensive line had got QB Jay Cutler killed in 2011.The Bears could also be patient and rely on the ground game more because the defense was so stout, keeping them in games. You can forget about that style in 2013 with new Coach Mark Trestman, a pass-happy guy out of the CFL. He twice coordinated the No. 1 NFL passing offense (49ers in 1995, Raiders in 2002).
The Lions were a disappointing 17th in scoring last year, but they had no problems moving the football, ranked third in the NFL in total yards. QB Matt Stafford (20 TDs, 17 INTs, 4,967 yards) had plenty of yards but few TDs. Remember that in 2011 he had 41 TDs, 16, and 5,038 yards passing on the fifth ranked offense that averaged 29.6 ppg (fourth). Will the real Lions' offense please stand up?
On defense, it's difficult to believe that the Eagles had the No. 9 ranked pass defense but they did. The run defense was terrible (23rd) and they allowed 27.8 ppg -- only the Jags, Saints and Titans gave up more points.
At least the Philly passing game was solid, ranked 13th in the NFL. Well, no…Three QBs combined for 18 TDs and 15 picks and they were sacked 48 times behind an awful offensive line.
The circus that was Rex Ryan and the NY Jets ended up ranked No. 8 in yards allowed, No. 2 in passing yards allowed despite missing star CB Darrelle Revis. Pretty solid defense, right? Again, misleading stats as the Jets couldn't stop the run allowing 133.6 yards per game (26th) and with the offense so anemic opponents didn't have to go uptempo and put up yards or points. They could sit back and wait for the Jets to turn it over and give them great field position.
Successful handicappers dig deep and weigh all the strengths and weaknesses before heading to the betting window. All of which is needed when searching for winning football picks each week.