Pro Football Stats: Read Between the Lines

Written by Vegas Top Cappers | September 12, 2012

This article was written by Jim Feist.  Make sure you check out Jim’s free picks and premium picks each day.

The best time of the sports calendar is here, the opening week 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 2011 NFL season:

*The Raiders were 11th in passing offense.
*The Titans were 12th in passing offense
*The Jaguars were No. 6 in total defense.
*The Browns were 10th in total defense.
*The Browns ranked No. 5 in points allowed.
*The Titans were 8th in points allowed.
*The Raiders were No. 9 in total offense.
*The Rams ranked 7th in pass defense.

Now, all of those 2011 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? The rotated QBs Carson Palmer and Jason Campbell and they combined for 19 TDs and 20 interceptions. Throw in Kyle Boller and the Oakland QBs combined for 20 touchdowns and 23 picks — not exactly the kind of offensive numbers that strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators.

They put up some yards at times but were not good at finding the end zone, ranked in the middle of the pack (16th) in points scored. They were a turnover prone offense and a team as a whole that was sloppy: The Raiders committed 283 infractions in 2011, which led the NFL by a wide margin. Overall, it is hard to rank the Raiders as a Top 10 offense despite what the overall stats might suggest.
Tennessee was good at putting up passing yards but that’s mainly because the ground game was a disaster for most of 2011 with RB Chris Johnson holding out then getting off to a slow start. Tennessee finished 31st in rushing and QB Matt Hassellbeck threw an unimpressive 18 TDs and 14 picks, so it isn’t a big shock they are going with young QB Jake Locker this year.

While the Jacksonville Jaguars were sixth in total defense it didn’t result in a lot of wins, which cost the head coach his job. In fairness they were not a bad defense, but a closer look finds that the offense was so bad opposing teams could get up 10-0 and sit on the football. Jacksonville also played a lot of bad offenses and when they stepped up against some better offenses, the result were ugly with the Chargers beating them 38-14, the Falcons 41-14, and even the Jets had a 32-3 laugher. By the way, the Jags were 11-5 under total.

The Cleveland Browns show up as an outstanding defensive team in 2011 based on the above numbers, but can we really say that? A closer look shows that the Browns were one of the worst teams defensively in the NFL at stopping the run, allowing 147.4 yards rushing per game, third worst. So there’s your answer: teams could pound the center of the line, chew up yards and take time off the clock and beat the Browns with regularity. That would help the Browns’ pass defense and points allowed stats, but it really mask’s the major problems they had on defense.

We’ve seen this before, too: Five years ago Cleveland was No. 13 against the pass, but anyone watching the Browns saw a very poor defense. They were 25th against the run, so teams could wear them down on the ground, making the passing game just as effective. The Browns allowed 238 points that year, one of the poorest marks in the league. The same thing happened with the Rams last season, too, statistically a good pass defense but a run defense that was second worst in the league giving up 152 yards per contest.
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.