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Analyzing NFL Boxscores

   by Bryan Leonard - 09/14/2005

There are many different handicapping strategies to look at during football season. Betting angles, trends, statistical matchups, situational handicapping, and many more. There are also tried and true methods, too, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Statistics are the most basic of handicapping analysis. I bring this up after the first weekend of NFL games simply because it was a fascinating Sunday for box scores. There were many revealing factors, as well as highly unusual stats, that cropped up in Sunday’s NFL games. Let’s take a look at some.

Rams/49ers: This is the most bizarre box scores in recent memory. The Rams completely dominated play, with an edge in total yardage of 405-217, and an edge in time of possession of close to two-to-one. If you based a final score on simply the stats of this game, you’d guess the Rams won by about a 28-10 final. Yet, the 49ers not only covered but WON the game, 28-25! Among other things, in the world of handicapping football, this is very revealing about how bad the 49ers still are. They may have gotten a victory for the new coach, but didn’t do much of anything on either side of the ball. Keep this in mind as the 49ers play over the next few weeks. This doesn’t appear to be a good football team right now, despite that undefeated record.

The Giants/Cardinals box score is also very interesting. The Giants blew out Arizona, 42-19. Yet, take a careful scrutiny of the final stats. The Giants only had 275 total yards, with Arizona actually out-gaining them. QB Eli Manning’s numbers aren’t very good (10-of-23, two interceptions) and the Giants pass defense allowed close to 300 yards. New Arizona QB Kurt Warner played well, and young WR Larry Fitzgerald had a monster day with 13 catches for 155 yards. It appears Warner and Fitzgerald have excellent chemistry and could be a strong tandem this season. However, another stat jumps off the page that reveals a lot about the Cardinals: lead-footed Kurt Warner was their leading rusher….with 11 yards!

Yes, the Green Bay offense was as pathetic on the field as the box score suggests. QB Brett Favre was out of sync all game, overthrowing and underthrowing receivers – when he wasn’t running for his life. Which leads to this question: Is the Packers offense that bad, or the Detroit defense that good? Stats can lead to branched questions like this, which will be answered in a few weeks. And speaking of bad offenses, the Bears/Redskins game was as pitiful offensively as the numbers reveal. Assessments of both teams in preseason were that they would be good defensively, but weak offensively. Nothing changed after Week 1, something to keep in mind if you like to play totals.

Finally, the Saints were the feel good story of the weekend (unless you had bet Carolina). New Orleans won’t be playing any home games this season, but came up with a huge win, 23-20, at Carolina. Still, looking at the stats shows that the Saints didn’t play that well. New Orleans averaged just 3.1 yards per rush, and Carolina had 141 rushing yards. And the Saints offense fumbled twice, something that was a problem last season. It’s essential to dissect box scores, but you need to know how to interpret data and how to apply the following week when examining teams and point spreads.

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