by Jim Feist
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 2014 NFL season:
*The Chiefs ranked No. 2 in points allowed. *The Jets were third in rushing offense. *The Broncos ranked No. 2 in rushing defense. *The Falcons were 5th in passing offense. *The Redskins ranked No. 13 in total yards. *Miami was No. 11 in scoring offense. *The Dolphins ranked No. 6 in pass yard allowed. *The Texans were 6th in rushing. *Arizona was No. 24 in totals yards allowed. *The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing defense. *The Colts have ranked 4th and 12th in pass defense the last two years.
Now, all of those 2014 stats are true. However, they don't always tell the real story about a football team. For instance, the Chiefs didn’t allow many points last year, but they didn’t exactly face many elite quarterbacks, either, with games against the Rams, Titans, Jets, Bills, Cardinals and Raiders (twice). They lost by 7 and 13 to Denver allowing 24 and 29 points and caught Tom Brady and the Patriots in September when their offensive line was a mess. They were a very good defense, but probably not in the class of the Bills and Cardinals, and certainly not Seattle.
The Bills, Texans and Jets had great stats when it came to rushing the football mainly because they couldn’t pass it. Out of necessity they went with inexperienced mobile QBs who would often pull it down and run, padding the team’s rush stats. Overall, they weren’t good or balanced offenses. As far as points scored those teams ranked 18th, 14th and 28th.
On the defensive side of the ball the Broncos had a great run defense but it was a bit misleading as teams either attacked their secondary or were so far behind they had to throw the football more. A similar thing applied to the 2013 Eagles, who ranked 10th against the run, but dead last against the pass defensively.
The Falcons were No. 5 in passing the football because their since-fired offensive coordinator ran a pass-happy attack. They are talking about better balance for 2015. It’s a bit surprising to find the 2015 Washington Redskins ranking 13th in total yards, but what really counts is the scoreboard. Did all those yards produce points? Not at all, seventh worst in the NFL with 17.7 ppg.
Green Bay ranked 23rd in run defense but that was a big deceptive, as they struggled in the first half of the season without injured BJ Raji, then moved Clay Matthews to inside linebacker later in the year and the run defense improved significantly, a plan they intend to stick with in 2015.
The Dolphins had the No. 6 ranked pass defense, but, come on, they were not an elite unit. The run defense was gouged for 121 yards per game (24th), so teams didn’t have to pass. They also ranked 20th in points allowed, a better indicator of their defensive efficiency. The Colts, too, have struggled against the run the last two years, so their pass defensive numbers look better than they really should be.
Hard to believe the Arizona Cardinals and their bone-crushing defense only ranked 24th in total yards last season. But if you watched them play they were far better than that stats suggests, forcing turnovers and stifling offenses (18.7 points per game allowed ranked 5th in the NFL). Successful handicappers dig deep and weigh all the strengths and weaknesses before heading to the betting window.