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Two weeks ago
Sep 5, 2017

Yards per play betting in the NFL

How to use yards per play rankings to your advantage

Learn about handicap discrepancies and finding value in NFL betting

Yards per play betting in the NFL

Bettors should learn to evolve their football betting strategy to get ahead of bookmakers in the NFL. One way of doing this is to pay close attention to schedule changes and to use yards per play rankings to exploit discrepancies in handicap markets. This article explains how to do just that.

The NFL has always seen a gulf in quality between the best and worst franchises. Since the scheduling rule changes in 2002 dictated that only two games per year would be based on a team’s record from the preceding year, the number of mismatched fixtures has increased, resulting in the bad teams losing regularly, and the good teams winning more often.

So what does this mean for NFL betting? This article sets out to explain how to use yards per play rankings from previous seasons to your advantage in regular season betting.

Using yards per play rankings to your advantage

With the emergence of big mismatches, there are now more profitable opportunities to change your football betting strategy and do what is often unthinkable – back the quality team as large favourites.

One way to evaluate a team is to look at its offensive yards gained per play and the defensive yards allowed per play. As you would expect, the teams that gain more yards than they allow, tend to win more than they lose.

Similarly to a spread betting strategy, this rule isn’t exclusively accurate. It is, however, as good a predictor of future performance as past head-to-head results.

The table below shows yardage data from last season in the NFL for each franchise. Calculating the yardage difference between offensive and defensive yards per play (Y/P) for each team, will give you a solid base for predicting results.

NFL Yards per play rankings

NFL Yards per play rankings

Team

Offensive yard per play

Defensive yards per play

Net yards per play

Atlanta Falcons

6.7

5.6

+1.1

New England Patriots

5.9

5.2

+0.7

Seattle Seahawks

5.6

5.0

+0.6

Washington Redskins

6.4

5.8

+0.6

Arizona Cardinals

5.4

4.8

+0.6

Dallas Cowboys

6.0

5.5

+0.5

Chicago Bears

5.9

5.5

+0.4

Denver Broncos

5.1

4.7

+0.4

Pittsburgh Steelers

5.8

5.5

+0.3

Miami Dolphins

5.8

5.6

+0.2

San Diego Chargers

5.6

5.4

+0.2

New Orleans Saints

6.2

6.0

+0.2

Tennessee Titans

5.7

5.5

+0.2

Jacksonville Jaguars

5.1

5.0

+0.1

New York Giants

5.2

5.1

+0.1

Cincinnati Bengals

5.4

5.4

0.0

Kansas City Chiefs

5.5

5.5

0.0

Buffalo Bills

5.6

5.6

0.0

Baltimore Ravens

5.2

5.2

0.0

Minnesota Vikings

5.0

5.1

-0.1

Green Bay Packers

5.7

5.9

-0.2

New York Jets

5.3

5.5

-0.2

Carolina Panthers

5.2

5.6

-0.4

Indianapolis Colts

5.6

6.0

-0.4

Detroit Lions

5.5

5.9

-0.4

Houston Texans

4.7

5.1

-0.4

Oakland Raiders

5.7

6.1

-0.4

Philidelphia Eagles

5.0

5.6

-0.6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5.4

6.0

-0.6

Los Angeles Rams

4.4

5.2

-0.8

Cleveland Browns

5.1

5.9

-0.8

San Francisco 49ers

4.9

5.9

-1.0

By looking at the table it is clear to see that the five worst teams in terms of yardage per play differential in 2016 were the San Francisco 49ers (-1.0), Cleveland Browns (-0.8), Los Angeles Rams (-0.8), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-0.6) and Philidelphia Eagles (-0.6) - unsurprisingly, none of these teams qualified for the playoffs.

In comparison, the three teams at the top yardage per play differential rankings - the Atlanta Falcons (1.1), New England Patriots (0.7), Seattle Seahawks (0.6) - all won their divisions and qualified for the playoffs. The Washington Redskins (0.6) and Arizona Cardinals (0.6) can count themselves unlucky after not qualifying for the playoffs.

NFL betting odds can often fail to reflect the difference between the elite teams and the teams that struggle and when they do so, bettors can take advantage.

While the results are not surprising, a yardage differential can be used to analyse matches between two teams. There is a simple rule that is used by sharp bettors that enables them to use the NFL yardage differential to calculate a betting advantage – each 0.15 yards per play is worth 1 point on the handicap market.

Using yards per play to calculate handicap discrepancies

By using the stats from last season that have been details above, we can examine the NFC East divisional match in week 1 between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins.

Looking at the table from last year, we can see that the Redskins had a yards per play differential of +0.6, while the Eagles' net differential was -0.6. The difference between the two franchises was 1.2, so dividing this number by 0.15 suggests the Reskins should be an 8 point favourite on a neutral field.

However, the Redskins, with home field advantage (an apparent 2 point advantage), are actually offered at +1.5 and the Eagles, playing on the road, are offered at -1.5. The yardage per play calculation would therefore suggest the two sides are not as closely matched as the handicap odds offered with Pinnacle.

With this said, as with all tools for evaluating teams, this football betting strategy is best used in conjunction with other handicapping methods. It is also vital to gather as much knowledge on betting variables to accompany your yards per play calculations such as regular season results, squad rosters, and which players are sidelined through injury.

These betting variables coupled with the yards per play calculation will give you the best chance to work out any NFL handicap discrepancies.

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Benjamin studied English with Creative Writing (BA) before pursuing a career that combined his love of sport and fascination with betting. An avid fan of numerous sports, his writing now covers anything from in-depth major sporting event previews, to examining betting trends and techniques.

By Benjamin Cronin

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