Carolina Panthers 2019 – Rising Tendency

Carolina Panthers 2019: Rising Tendency
Carolina Panthers 2019: Rising Tendency

Regression was Inevitable for the Carolina Panthers

Last year, the Carolina Panthers were set up for one of the biggest regression seasons in years as they had significantly overperformed in 2018. They started the season 6-2 and were on an 11-3 run in close games which had to regress. They closed the season on a 1-7 run with an 0-5 stretch in close games. It didn’t help that Cam Newton played with a banged up shoulder throughout the season. At some point, he wasn’t able to throw a 20-yard pass anymore.

The Panthers defense was as bad as advertised, finishing the season 22nd in DVOA; 24th against the pass. However, their passing offense surprised me – positively. Even though Cam Newton played with a hurt shoulder and missed the last two games against ATL and NO, Carolina finished 11th in DVOA, 19th in passing. Newton himself – probably because of the injury – wasn’t that violent as a runner, but he still finished 20th in QBR (out of 33, 200+ passes) and 16th in EPA per dropback (out of 39, 150+ passes). Against my prediction, OC Norv Turner shaped the offense towards its strengths. He also showed some smart situational play-calling like an above average pass rate on early downs. That’s the most significant driver for their potential future success in 2019.

The Panthers have some positive regression going for them. They went 7-9 but had 7.8 Pythagorean wins. Their turnover margin was a neutral 0.1, but they had a record of 3-7 in close games, tied with three other teams for the worst differential. They were injury-riddled, finishing with 103.8 adjusted games lost, the 6th-highest number in the league and 22.9 over average. Carolina should get luckier in close games and more healthy overall – starting with Cam Newton.

Bounce-Back Year for Cam Newton and the Offense?

Throughout his career, Cam Newton has been an elite runner and an above average passer. His running ability declined after 2014, along with some injuries. Since 2009, 77 quarterbacks attempted at least 500 passes in the NFL. Cam Newton ranks 26th in EPA per dropback (0.043). That is Baker Mayfield level of 2018 and ranks exactly behind Alex Smith who enjoyed five years with Andy Reid and never played extended stretches with a hurt shoulder. You can win games with Cam Newton – build around him! All reports indicate that he will be healthy going into 2019. At age 30, he got some time left to be a multi-weapon – it could be a bounce-back year.

Carolina Panthers Offensive Depth Chart Projection
Carolina Panthers Offensive Depth Chart Projection

When watching Panthers pre-season games, I always thought that Taylor Moton should get a starting gig, especially over Daryl Williams. The latter had one “good” season during which he got a lot of extra help by chips. Moton started in place of the injured Williams and didn’t disappoint. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 12th-best pass blocking tackle last season. If I’m the Panthers, I would pencil in Moton at left tackle and let rookie Greg Little play at right tackle. Make Daryl Williams the swing tackle. Center Matt Paradis is one of the better players at his position, same for right guard Trai Turner. Greg Van Roten remains the weakest spot. All in all, this unit looks improved from last season.

Improvement Across the Board

Running back Christian McCaffrey is a beast as a receiver, but he should see targets even more while Carolina should pound him less on longer downs. WR Curtis Samuel was injury-plagued but occasionally flashed whereas last year’s first-round pick DJ Moore created a lot of efficiency targets. Former Patriot Chris Hogan brings a lot of experience and should contribute as the third option in the passing game. Over the past three seasons at New England, he posted a combined stat line of 107-1651-12 while missing seven games in 2017. There could be worse options for the third slot. Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright should play complementary roles. It’s uncertain how much gas veteran tight end Greg Olsen has left in the tank, but at least he will enter the season back healthy.

This team preview will hopefully provide you with a lot of information. But it doesn’t replace your weekly handicapping/pricing process. It’s your job to price all 32 NFL teams and situations accurately weekly. 

Norv Turner got creative in the run game, running a lot of options and sweeps. The Panthers finished 2nd in offensive rush DVOA but unfortunately, running the ball only gets you as far as the passing game. Efficient quarterback runs are a cheat code though, as Cam Newton has shown over his career. With him being healthy, we should expect some damage via the ground game again. Newton has averaged around 0.43 EPA per rush over the first four seasons of his career, only 0.18 last year. With an improved receiving corps, an improved offensive line and Cam Newton healthy, the Panthers should cause some havoc for opposing offenses. The passing game can open up the run game involving Newton.

The Defense Has Two Faces

Carolina is switching their base defense from 4-3 to 3-4. In today’s NFL, that isn’t much of an issue, because teams spend only about 20-25 percent in their “base” defense. It could be less next year. Nowadays,  nickel (5 DBs) should be called base. IF – and it might not be small if – the Panthers can establish a quality pass rush out of their edge rush rotation, they could have a decent front seven.

With the addition of DT Gerald McCoy, Carolina features one of the better interior starting duos, along with Kawann Short. The latter had a down year, but with the addition of McCoy, Short might not face as many double teams. Nose tackle Dontari Poe will play his natural position on base downs. End Mario Addison is coming off three straight seasons with 9+ sacks but hasn’t graded well on a play-by-play basis.

Carolina Panthers Defensive Depth Chart Projection
Carolina Panthers Defensive Depth Chart Projection

Rookie Brian Burns joins the NFL with one of the best athletic profiles for an edge rusher in a long time, and he gets premature praise for his explosiveness. Veteran Bruce Irvin, who didn’t find his groove at Oakland and Atlanta last year, should be the third pass rusher in the rotation. Having him as an occasional pass rusher could make him more valuable.

However, Addison, Burns, and Irvin are going to decide whether this front seven is going to be average or good. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is still top-3 at his position. With the departure of Thomas Davis to the Bolts, Shaq Thompson needs to take his game to the next level. If Ron Rivera, who will be calling plays in 2019, can get a decent pass rush out of his new-look front and gets creative with blitzes, this front seven could be nasty. It better be. Because the secondary remains a big problem. Aside from safety Eric Reid, there aren’t guys you can bank on to be useful in coverage. Ross Cockrell missed all of 2018, S Rashaan Gaulden and CB Donte Jackson will go into their second years. CB James Bradberry remains a liability in coverage, according to target data.

Schedule Analysis

According to the current Pinnacle regular season win totals (06/25), Carolina will face the 10th-hardest schedule next year. Mostly due to their competitive division, they will play the 6th-hardest schedule according to 2018 offensive pass EPA. Their technical program is no slouch, either. They will travel the 8th-most miles with games at San Francisco, Arizona, and London. Their second-half schedule is robust, with games vs. New Orleans (2x), Atlanta (2x), at Green Bay, at Indianapolis and vs. Seattle. Intriguing situational spots:

  • Week 6 vs. TB: Carolina will travel to London after a home game against the Jags whereas the Bucs will be on their third straight roadie after playing at Los Angeles and New Orleans. It’s complete bullshit by the NFL, but be aware: this will be priced into the line. You better pray for the Panthers to be on a losing streak.
  • Week 13 vs. WAS: this one screams LETDOWN SPOT with an inflated price. The Panthers have a sandwich game between road games at Atlanta and New Orleans.

2019 Prediction – Rising Tendency

With Cam Newton back healthy, the 2019 outlook is promising. The Carolina Panthers are healthy (for now) and will enter the season with an improved offensive line and receiving corps. Their secondary remains a question mark and will mostly be dependent on the offense scoring enough points. If Newton – for whatever reason – isn’t as healthy as it seems, and rookie Will Grier will start, their season could take a swing. Grier was Matt Waldman’s highest ranked quarterback entering the draft, though. The critical problem is the schedule with a competitive AFC South and lots of travel miles. If this isn’t going to be a successful season for Carolina, Ron Rivera might find himself unemployed next January.

However, this team is set up to march back into the playoffs, and I believe they are a 9-7 team on paper. I can see them as one of the new faces in the playoff picture. I lean towards the Over on their win total of 7.5 (-120 at Pinnacle), and I agree with the market movement thus far. But Cam Newton’s shoulder still provides some uncertainty, despite the reports – that’s why I’m staying away from futures for now.

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A Guessing Game – NFL Mock Draft 2019

It is draft SZN! It is the Super Bowl of the off-season, one of the best weeks of the year. NFL mock drafts are fun. Readers and football fans disagree on 80 percent plus of the mock though. They are also extremely inaccurate as roughly 75 to 85 percent of the exact picks are wrong on average. Last year, Evan Silva from Rotoworld had the best mock draft as tracked by the Huddle Report. He nailed 28 prospects in the first rounds and hit on ten player-team pairings. That alone should tell you how hard it is to predict the NFL draft.

I created a first-round NFL mock draft without trades. But I am not a draft guru by any means. I read a lot of great content from the sharpest minds in the industry – such as Dane Brugler, Josh Norris or the guys from Pro Football Focus, to name a few. I tried to combine all the information on draft prospects with team needs, philosophies and draft buzz. For some folks out there, a mock draft might be a waste of time. However, thinking about how the draft pans out makes you study these 32 NFL teams even more than you do already. And that was worth it.

With the current state of the NFL and the direction this league is heading to, I expect a run for quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Even though this defensive line class is touted as one of the best in years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see four signal-callers go off the board in round one and maybe three in the top-10.

1. Arizona Cardinals – QB Kyler Murray QB, Oklahoma

The new coaching staff gets its signal-caller of the future. There are legitimate reasons for the Cards to stick to Josh Rosen. But the writing is on the wall, and I cannot refuse, either. Alternative: EDGE Nick Bosa.

2. San Francisco 49ers – EDGE Nick Bosa, Ohio State

Everything else than a trade-down or the younger Bosa-brother would shock me. Bosa is a blue-chip player and one of the consensus two best defensive players in this draft. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can pair Bosa with recently-acquired Dee Ford. Alternative: DT Quinnen Williams.

3. New York Jets – OT Jonah Williams, Alabama

I truly believe the Jets will find a way to trade down and draft a tackle. This team gave up three second-round picks for franchise quarterback Sam Darnold and installed an offensive-minded coaching staff to develop this guy. Now they are going to spend their 3rd pick on a defensive lineman? I don’t get that.  After failing to sign a center in free agency, the Jets desperately need to improve this porous offensive line. The (consensus) best tackle would have a higher impact on this team than a Josh Allen or Quinnen Williams. Alternative:  EDGE Josh Allen.

4. Oakland Raiders – QB Drew Lock, Missouri

Predicting where all these QBs land is a complete guessing game in this NFL mock draft. I think that Jon Gruden wants to draft a young replacement for Derek Carr and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him picking one here. Jon Gruden coached Drew Lock at the Senior Bowl, and there was some buzz that he “loves” Lock.  Alternative: EDGE Josh Allen.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky

The Bucs get a dangerous pass-rusher who can fill multiple roles in DC Todd Bowles’ blitz-heavy scheme. Alternative: LB Devin Bush.

6. New York Giants – DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama

“Big guys allow you to compete” is a famous quote by Giants GM Dave Gettleman. Rumors are that Jones is the best QB on the Giants’ board. It would fit the work of GM Dave Gettleman – a prototype signal-caller who can sit and learn behind Eli “He still has it” Manning. But that’s also the reason why I believe that Gettleman would take Quinnen Williams over a quarterback. And Williams only falls because other teams trade up for a signal-caller. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the G-Men trade up for a QB, either. Alternative: QB Dwayne Haskins.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida

The defense is good; now it is time to help new starting quarterback Nick Foles and OC John DeFilippo. Taylor makes the most sense as he can play RT opposite of Cam Robinson. After picking Dante Fowler, Jalen Ramsey, and Taven Bryan, the Jaguars draft their fourth first-round guy out of Florida since 2015. Alternative: TE T.J. Hockenson.

8. Detroit Lions – TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

Lions HC Matt Patricia puts a high emphasis on running the ball. Furthermore, he was an eight-year eye witness of the impact Rob Gronkowski had on the Patriots offense. Hockenson is a receiving threat, and he acts like a sixth offensive lineman in the run game – the perfect fit for the Lions. He also had a visit with them. Alternative: DT Ed Oliver.

9. Buffalo Bills – DT Ed Oliver, Houston

In my first version, I had DK Metcalf in this spot. I think Buffalo’s number one priority should be to help Josh Allen.  However, I am trusting the reports that indicate the Bills want to boost their defensive line. Alternative: WR D.K. Metcalf.

10. Denver Broncos – CB Byron Murphy, Washington

I could pencil in a QB for Denver. Although they might draft one, I believe that John Elway trusts Joe Flacco as their starting quarterback for the next couple years. They might select a QB in the later rounds to sit and “learn” behind Flacco. Since 2018, the Broncos lost Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris wants to get a new contract. Byron Murphy makes perfect sense to me: an excellent off-coverage cornerback according to draft gurus, who can play the Kyle-Fuller-role in Vic Fangio’s system. Alternative: LB Devin Bush.

11. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Andre Dillard, Washington State

The Bengals have one of the better skill position groups in the league and an average offensive line. RT is the weakest spot in their offense, and they cannot approach September with Bobby Hart plugged in at right tackle. With Dillard, they provide Andy Dalton with a good supporting cast and new HC Zac Taylor with a functioning offense. Alternative: CB Greedy Williams.

12. Green Bay Packers – LB Devin Bush, Michigan

The Packers could double-down on their pass rush after acquiring Preston & Za’Darius Smith in free agency. Brian Burns would fit the type of player DC Mike Pettine preferred over the years. However, LB is the weakest spot on their defense. They could take Devin Bush who covers a lot of ground. Alternative: EDGE Brian Burns.

13. Miami Dolphins – EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State

Dolphins might look to trade down or take a quarterback. But I got a feeling they would rather gain more assets and not trade up to take the second or third signal-caller on the board. Burns could instantly upgrade their pass rush, and he fills a position of need. Alternative: CB Greedy Williams.

14. Atlanta Falcons – DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson

The Falcons want to add talent to their defensive line to improve the pass rush. Dan Quinn also publicly said that a priority would be to improve the run defense. Wilkins alongside Grady Jarrett looks to be a great marriage through the eyes of the Falcons. Alternative: iOL Garett Bradbury.

15. Washington Redskins – QB Daniel Jones, Duke

Alex Smith might not play again, at least for the Redskins. Case Keenum is not the solution which makes me believe the Skins are going to trade up to draft a QB. It’s just guessing-work, but they might like Jones who had a top-30 visit with them. Alternative: QB Dwayne Haskins.

16. Carolina Panthers – CB Greedy Williams, LSU

There is a lot of talk about pass rush and pass protection for the Panthers which makes sense. However, their pass defense was atrocious last year, and their secondary was a major reason. Williams should be an instant upgrade. Alternative: OG/OT Cody Ford.

17. New York Giants – QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

The Giants need a successor for Eli Manning, but no one can look behind the mind of Dave Gettleman. Brett Kollmann explained why Haskins is a great fit for the G-Men, and the latter had dinner with Eli Manning. Does that mean anything? Probably not, but it’s some buzz worth keeping in mind. They might be looking at Jones and Haskins and settle with the latter. Alternative: EDGE Montez Sweat.

18. Minnesota Vikings – iOL Garrett Bradbury, NC State

No-brainer. Bradbury is exactly what the Vikings should be looking for in Gary Kubiak’s outside-zone scheme. Alternative: OG/OT Cody Ford.

19. Tennessee Titans – OG/OT Cody Ford, Oklahoma

The Titans have two premium tackles, a decent center and signed Rodger Saffold as their new LG. If they can find a quality player for the RG position, this offensive line can be top-10 material easily. Alternative: TE Noah Fant.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Devin White, LSU

Kevin Colbert has a recent history of drafting athletic defensive players in the first round. With the ongoing absence of Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh needs a guy who can cover sideline to sideline. Alternative: WR D.K. Metcalf.

21. Seattle Seahawks – EDGE Montez Sweat, Miss State

Considering Sweat gets cleared, this is the perfect landing spot. Seattle just traded away DE Frank Clark and are left without a real edge rush. Alternative: OT Kaleb McGary.

22. Baltimore Ravens – WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

The best WR on the Ravens depth chart is Willie Snead – enough said. The Ravens need to provide Lamar Jackson with outside weapons. Alternative: iOL Chris Lindstrom.

23. Houston Texans – OT Kaleb McGary, Washington

The Texans desperately need to improve their offensive line, and it starts at tackle. Alternative: OT Dalton Risner.

24. Oakland Raiders – RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama

I assume that Jon Gruden wants to fix the offense first and provide a young QB with as much talent as possible. Though I have the opinion that you shouldn’t draft a running back in the first round. With Marshawn Lynch retiring or at least not coming back to the Oakland, Gruden might look at Jacobs. Alternative: EDGE Clelin Ferrell.

25. Philadelphia Eagles – iOL Chris Lindstrom, Boston College

Philly doesn’t have a lot of holes, but they can address their left guard spot. With a hit on an interior lineman, the Eagles offensive line could be on a top-5 level once again. Alternative: DT Jerry Tillery.

26. Indianapolis Colts – DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

The Colts defense looked decent last year, but they played the easiest schedule in the league. To counter the inevitable regression, they boost their defensive line. Alternative: S Darnell Savage.

27. Oakland Raiders – TE Noah Fant, Iowa

If the Raiders take a young QB, Jon Gruden might want to clean up the one side of the ball. With Brown, Williams, Nelson, Fant, and Jacobs, Oakland would have some intriguing talent at their skill positions. Alternative: EDGE Clelin Ferrell.

28. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Greg Little, Ole Miss

The Bolts have a great roster, but they need some help at DT and RT. Alternative: OT/OG Dalton Risner.

29. Seattle Seahawks – S Darnell Savage, Maryland

John Schneider and Pete Carroll might spend their second first-round pick on defense, too. There is some buzz that Savage will be the first safety off the board. His profile seems to match well with what Pete Carroll does on defense – a box safety with coverage skills. Alternative: S Nasir Adderley.

30. Green Bay Packers – OT/OG Dalton Risner, Kansas State

The Packers need to upgrade their interior line, and RT Bryan Bulaga has one year left on his contract. According to draft gurus, Risner can play at tackle, but also inside. He could play guard and kick outside as the successor for Bulaga. Alternative: WR Marquise Brown.

31. Los Angeles Rams – iOL Elgton Jenkins, Miss State

With the departure of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan, the Rams have a glaring need along their interior offensive line. Also, Jared Goff is one of the worst quarterbacks under pressure. An offensive lineman seems like a no-brainer to me. Alternative: iOL Eric McCoy.

32. New England Patriots – DT Jeffery Simmons, Miss State

The Patriots don’t have a lot of needs, and Bill Belichick could take a shot at Simmons. The latter will most likely start the season on PUP or IR, but New England has the luxury to wait for him. Alternative: EDGE Clelin Ferrell.




NFL Win Totals – Recap of 2018 Pinnacle Numbers

It’s schedule SZN! It is the time of the year when most bookmakers release their NFL win totals for the upcoming season. Predicting future records in sports is as hard as it gets. Teams may change drastically from one season to another. Regression to the mean, positively or negatively, plays a significant role, too. However, year in year out bettors across the world try to predict future wins by placing their hard earned money on season win totals.

Roughly two weeks before the 2018 NFL season, I posted the implied strength of schedule based on Pinnacle win totals. The published number by the bookmaker doesn’t always represent the exact win total. Due to the juice, the numbers usually shade towards either side. For instance, the Arizona Cardinals sat at 5.5 wins odds of -193 in favor of the over. This price tag equals 6.3 wins. It’s the normalized win total.

NFL Win Totals from Pinnacle and the corresponding results and SOS implication
2018 NFL RSW from Pinnacle (08/20) and corresponding results plus numbers

During the off-season, public opinions on NFL teams are widely positive. Every organization is better than the year before, addressed its weaknesses during free agency, and every veteran is in the shape of my life. Beat writers are supposed to be biased and to cover their teams in a positive manner.

The betting markets tend to judge NFL teams more positively than negatively, too. With 16 games on their schedule, NFL teams can win a collective 256 games per season. The sum of the normalized win totals from Pinnacle last year was 260.7. That’s 4.7 more wins than it’s mathematically possible. Twenty-two win totals shaded towards the over. However, the Over/Under was 13-17-2 last season. If you had bet the Over blindly 32 times for $100 as the base amount, your result would have netted -$820 on the year (-19.8% ROI). In contrast, if you had bet all 32 Unders blindly, your profit would have been +$620 (+17.7% ROI). Distribution-wise, you would expect the Over/Under to be around 50/50 over time. But with the heavy shade towards the over side, it’s not truly a winning proposition to bet overs blindly.

Last season, the difference between actual wins and Pinnacle’s normalized win totals was 2.1 per average. The betting markets predicted 13 win totals to be within 1.5 wins of the actual team record. Ten times they fell outside the range of 2.5 wins. The correlation between Pinnacle win totals and the real team wins was 0.27 (R^2).

Win Totals and Strength of Schedule

With the schedule release, many football fans and media outlets try to predict the future strength of schedule (SOS) based on team wins from the season before. Here’s a friendly reminder: don’t do this! There is no predictive nature. It doesn’t matter how many games a team wins in the season before. Predicting future SOS is hard. Based on our team projections we can calculate a rough estimate, but it cannot be perfect. If Deshaun Watson got hurt in week one in 2018, it would have changed the SOS landscape entirely. The SOS for teams like the Colts or Jaguars would change because the Texans were suddenly much weaker than predicted before the season.

As mentioned before, the correlation between Pinnacle win totals and actual team wins was 0.27 in 2018. However, the relationship between 2017 wins and 2018 wins was just 0.12. The calculated SOS based on 2017 wins correlated 0.02 with the actual 2018 SOS. It’s simply noise. Wins from the season before have no predictive value for the victories the next season.

Expected Scoring versus Actual Scoring in 2017

The NFL is a league with a small sample size. During the regular season, teams only play 16 games. A crucial fumble and a tipped interception can make the difference between finishing 8-8 or 10-6 and playing significant Football in January. Some teams have terrible luck on one side of the ball which can be a recurring theme throughout the whole season. Just take a look at Matt Ryan in 2017 – he had a stunning amount of six tipped interceptions. Take away the one against Miami and they win their division. The Falcons ranked 3rd in net yards per pass, but only 12th in passer rating. Questionable play-calling by Steve Sarkisian – especially in the red zone – led to a much worse scoring efficiency than their yardage efficiency let’s assume. Some teams can also be highly efficient on a per-play basis, but struggle to finish drives.

We have already found out that the run game has almost no impact on scoring. If a team is interested in scoring a lot of points, it better be good at passing. Pass efficiency metrics like net yards per pass (NYPPA) or pass DVOA by Football Outsiders explain 64% to 75% of the variance in offensive scoring since 2011. By that, we can create linear functions and calculate the expected value (y) depending on the input (x). For instance: when a team averages 6.5 net yards per pass, it is expected to score 22.1 offensive points per game – based on the data going back to 2011. I created linear functions for four different pass efficiency metrics: NYPPA, pass DVOA, Adjusted Net Yards per Play (ANY/p) and Passer Rating. I calculated how many offensive points per game each team should have scored based on those four metrics. By averaging those four PPG numbers, you get the final Expected Points. Then I compared it to Actual Points per game to calculate the differentials for each team. Same goes for the defense and for scoring differentials.

Some might be wondering why I take metrics like passer rating or ANY/p, which include touchdowns and interceptions to indicate scoring efficiency already. Well, we are coming back to the small sample size and certain plays deciding games. It’s a difference whether you score a touchdown to win a game or in garbage time when you are up by 21 points. It’s a difference whether you throw a tipped interception early in the game when you can still recover, or on your final drive. To me it’s always interesting to look at both, yards-based and scoring-based efficiency metrics. An offense can march downfield with three long passes but run it into the end zone from the one-yard line. Yards per play look good, passer rating suffers from not getting a passing touchdown. To cut a long story short, here are Expected Points versus Actual Points for NFL offenses in 2017:

Expected Scoring vs Actual Scoring NFL Offenses 2017

It reads like this: Based on pass efficiency metrics, the Falcons were expected to score 24.1 offensive points per game but actually scored only 20.8. The difference of -3.3 PPG ranked 29th or 4th-worst. Regression, tipped interceptions and Steve Sarkisian. The Chargers were the most unfortunate offense. They should have scored 5.1 PPG more than they actually did: terrible red zone play and the worst kicking game in the league. They hit just 20 of 30 field goals, worst percentage among all 32 teams. The Ravens were the most fortunate offense, scoring 3.6 PPG more than they should have. Their defense created 34 turnovers against an easy schedule and a lot of backup quarterbacks which led to short scoring drives.

Now let’s take a look at the defenses:

Expected Scoring vs Actual Scoring NFL Defenses 2017

The Patriots were an enigma. Their defense was one of the worse on a per-play basis, but they were highly efficient in terms of yards per point. Remember the long Bills drive that resulted in a tipped interception by Tyrod Taylor at the goal line? The Redskins defense was also highly interesting. Based on pass efficiency, they were the 10th-best scoring defense but they conceded the 9th-most points. I haven’t digged into that but I remember them giving up tons of big plays through the air that outweighed the consistent good plays.

With expected points per game for both the offense and defense, we can now calculate the expected scoring differential and compare it to the actual differential:

Expected Scoring Differential vs Actual Scoring Differential NFL 2017

It turns out, the Patriots were the most fortunate team last year whereas the Redskins were at the bottom. They should have had a scoring differential of +3.0 but they actually had -1.4, a difference of -4.4 on the year. The Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles finished fourth.

Looking at expected versus actual points is very interesting. It can give you a clue about which team under- or overperformed over the sample size of 16 games. No matter how efficient the Redskins are in 2018, they will probably not underperform by 2.8 points per game on defense again. They might give up 22.1 defensive points per game again, but their efficiency will probably point towards 22.1 PPG or more. That’s how regression works.


Football Guy Dave Gettleman is Blinded by the Run Game

In December 2017, the New York Giants decided to make significant changes after becoming a dumpster fire. They hired Dave Gettleman to be their new general manager.

Among Football fan bases there is a general perception that the people who run Football teams, run them because they are competent or qualified to do so. “They must have a plan” or “Trust the process” are sentences you hear very often when managers or coaches make questionable decisions. There are always people who are bad or good at their jobs. Just because they have a particular job, it doesn’t mean they are good at it. The NFL is the biggest and most famous sports league in the world. Just because of that it doesn’t say that every employee is qualified enough to have a job. If every employee in the NFL would be qualified for his job and would be doing a good job, we would have had an extremely high parity with most teams fluctuating around 8-8.

We notice the same phenomenon in all the companies in our world. There are always people who get hired or promoted for the wrong reasons. People often get hired or promoted because of good connections or because “they have been there before.” In the NFL or any other industry, there are always teams or companies who hire the right people who make more smart decisions than bad ones. And there are always teams or companies who hire the wrong people who make more bad decisions than smart ones. But it should always be about hiring the “right” people and getting rid of the “wrong” ones. Many companies wouldn’t go broke if they made smart decisions consistently. Many companies are “just there.” They would be able to reach their full potential if they made smarter decisions consistently.

Gettleman’s emphasis on running the Football

John Mara, co-owner of the Giants, decided to hire ex-Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman to be the new Giants GM. Gettleman has been the Giants’ Pro personnel director from 1999 – 2011 and has been the Senior pro personnel analyst before eventually becoming the Panthers GM in 2013. So he has connections and has been there before. When it comes to building rosters, Gettleman has a personal philosophy. Here is a quote from an article that summed up his first presser with the Giants:

“Gettleman said he’s “old-fashioned”. He acknowledged that offenses and defenses have evolved, but he believes every team must run the ball, stop the run and rush the passer to win. He said Tom Coughlin once told him “big men allow you to compete.” “We’re going to get back to that”, Gettleman said.

While I agree that pass rush is important, it’s a pretty interesting quote, because we have a lot of proof that running has minimal impact on scoring, passing and things like play-action. You win a lot of games and score a lot of points by being good at passing. Gettleman doesn’t realize that or ignores it and isn’t able to adjust to today’s NFL. His 2007 Giants were running the ball quite efficiently, but it didn’t help them win a Super Bowl when Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs ran for 3.8 YPC in the big game. They beat the mighty Patriots because they were able to hold one of the best passing offenses ever to 14 points and generated a much better pass efficiency on offense. His 2011 Giants ranked 32nd in yards per run and still won the Super Bowl because they peaked in pass efficiency throughout the playoffs.

When Gettleman joined the Panthers, he followed his philosophy strictly. He has put a high emphasis on the run game and stopping the run, basically ignoring that he had a pretty good QB. The perception of Cam Newton has generally been shallow over the past couple of years. He wouldn’t be a good passer, and he would have bad accuracy. While he has misplayed during his shoulder injury, the general perception couldn’t be more wrong. Newton is quite an accurate passer with a great arm who can fit passes into tight windows even with pressure in his face.

Completion percentage isn’t everything. Newton has often been a victim of his offensive “weapons” and the offensive scheme of Mike Shula. Since 2013, the Panthers’ offensive line has never been good in pass protection, and the WR corps has been questionable at best. Gettleman also never prioritized spending money at the cornerback position. He likes to pick them in the later rounds of the draft. He let Josh Norman go after his All-Pro season and threw three darts after cornerbacks in the draft.

The Panthers peaked in pass efficiency

With Gettleman as the general manager, the Panthers had their very best season in 2015 when they made the Super Bowl, and everything came together. But it didn’t have much to do with running the ball. The pass offense peaked, and the defense created tons of turnovers. They also had a straightforward fourth-place schedule that year. Here are their total pass efficiency rankings from 2015:

Passer Rating differential: +25.5 (#2)

Pass DVOA differential: +0.42 (#4)

ANY/p differential: +2.7 (#2)

NYPPA differential: +1.3 (#3)

That season, the Panthers dominated their competition through the air, gained huge leads and ran the clock down in the second half while converting a lot of short downs. RB Jonathan Stewart (242 carries) had 4.1 yards per rush which ranked 26th in the league. His success rate (#33) and DVOA (#33) ranked even worse. Cam Newton was responsible for much of the rush efficiency. Ironically, the worst matchup the Panthers had against the Broncos in the Super Bowl was right tackle Mike Remmers’ pass-blocking against Von Miller. Passing matters and it mattered when the franchises Dave Gettleman was on made the Super Bowl. It’s not that the Panthers didn’t have success during the Gettleman era, but at the end, they have been “just there” and never reached their full potential.

The Giants draft was peak Gettleman

Back to 2018. In his first draft with the Giants, Dave Gettleman peaked. It was like a parody draft of someone who ignorantly believes in the running game. Like people who believe in the flat earth theory. Well, that’s who Gettleman is. With the second overall pick, the Giants had the rare chance to draft Eli Manning’s successor and the next franchise quarterback. They could also have traded down the pick to acquire more darts to fill a roster with holes. But Dave Gettleman took a running back because that’s what he wants to do. He wants to run the ball.

We have learned that the running game is mostly irrelevant. We have learned that the running-back position doesn’t have a lot of value. It’s proven. It’s analytics. Here is what Dave Gettleman said about that after drafting Barkley:

Jonathan Stewart the forgotten man?

Jonathan Stewart had his best season in 2011 when he averaged 5.4 yards per rush. Since then, he ranks 37th out of 43 qualifying running backs with at least 500 carries over that span. And remember the success rate in the great 2015 season. Gettleman not only ignores analytics, but he also doesn’t even look at the most straightforward numbers. He has also used gestures to mock analytics guys. Three months after Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson admitted that the Eagles put a heavy emphasis on analytics, Gettleman mocked those guys.

In the second round, Gettleman picked OG Will Hernandez, a big mauler out of UTEP. In the third round, he took OLB Lorenzo Carter, a pass rusher and BJ Hill, a big run-stopping defensive lineman. In RJ McIntosh he drafted another run-stopper. Run the ball, defend the run and get to the passer – nobody can say he doesn’t follow his philosophy. In free agency, he traded for Alec Ogletree who struggles in coverage but can rush the passer on blitzes. He also let two starting cornerbacks – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ross Cockrell – go without replacing them. According to Football Outsiders, Cockrell was by far the most efficient cornerback last year and filled in nicely for Janoris Jenkins. But Gettleman doesn’t believe in numbers.

Quo Vadis, New York Giants?

The Giants are paying Barkley the fourth-highest average salary per year on that position. Head coach Pat Shurmur was a great play-caller in 2017, but I wonder how much influence Gettleman and Shula have on the offense. Gettleman wants to run the ball. To justify the pick, we could expect Barkley to get force-fed on the ground a la Adrian Peterson. But to defend the pick, Barkley better sees 10+ targets per game and helps to improve the pass efficiency. But that’s not what Gettleman’s particular goal was by picking him. The Giants might not pull in the top-3 again over the next two years. If Eli Manning continues to decline, it might still be enough to win five or more games. If they want to move on from Eli, who will be the next franchise quarterback? At least they have their franchise running back locked in for at least four years.

The Run Game is Largely Irrelevant as it was in the 1980s

For decades, the NFL has been influenced by general managers and coaches who grew up with Football in the 1970s and 1980s. Those guys have a certain expectation of Football – ground-and-pound. They think old-fashioned and rarely want to have to do anything with modern approaches like analytics. In former times the run game has been dominant, and that has set the mind of many people. That’s why you hear sentences like “they need to establish the run game” so often. But has the run game been useful back in the 1980s? Furthermore, how relevant is it nowadays? What’s the importance of the passing game? This article will clarify this with an analytical approach.

If you take a look at the Super Bowl winners of the 80s and 90s, you will notice that many teams get to the same denominator called pass efficiency – whether it’s been an elite offensive, defensive or combined pass efficiency. MVPs like Joe Montana, Phil Simms, Richard Dent, Mark Rypien, Jerry Rice, John Elway, Steve Young – all those players had something to do with the pass.

Bill Walsh was Three Steps Ahead

The legendary coach and founder of the West Coast Offense, Bill Walsh, had then already realized that passing the ball can be much more useful than running it. His 1981 49ers team that won the Super Bowl had the fewest yards per rush in the league at 3.5. They went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. When almost everyone still believed in the run game as the standard to succeed in the NFL, Bill Walsh and his West Coast offense were rocking the NFL, and only a few teams covered up. John Madden once said about Bill Walsh:

Bill’s legacy is going to be that he changed the offense. Offense before Bill Walsh was run, run defense, establish the run. Run on first down, run on second down, and if that doesn’t work, pass on third down. Bill Walsh passed on first down, passed on second down and used that to set up the run.

Even though the run game was dominant back in that time, it doesn’t mean it was more effective than passing – as Bill Walsh understood.

In statistics, you can calculate the correlation between two variables. For instance, the more horsepower a car has, the faster it can drive and the quicker it can accelerate. Therefore, the correlation would be high. You calculate the basic correlation R and also R-squared. R^2 is the coefficient of determination which describes how strong the connectivity is. You can use both numbers, but the ranges of significance are different. R can range from -1 to +1, depending on negative or positive correlation. R^2 ranges from 0 to 1. As a rule of thumb: measurable or “weak” correlation starts with an R^2 minimum of 0.25, significant correlation starts at 0.5. For R it’s 0.5 and 0.75, or -0.5 and -0.75.

The Run Game in the 1980s

I went through the seasons from 1980 – 1987 without the strike season of 1982 and collected total points scored, yards per carry (YPC) and net yards per pass attempt (NYPPA). NYPPA extends simple yards per pass by sacks and yards lost from sacks. No scoring-based numbers, just yards gained per play. All numbers are from Pro Football Reference. Here are the correlation numbers for total scoring for the period from 1980 to 1987, seven years of data with n=197:

MetricR (Total Points)R^2 (Total points)
Yards per Carry0.140.02

An R^2 of 0.55 represents a significant correlation for the passing game, and it is much more significant than the running game. As a matter of fact, the correlation of the running game is non-existent. You will notice the correlations much better visually in the following point graphs:

Correlation: Net Yards per Pass Attempt vs. Total Points
Correlation: Yards Per Carry vs. Total Points

You notice that the correlation for yards per rush isn’t existing. The numbers spread a whole lot more than for net yards per pass attempt. Statistically, it’s irrelevant. Back in the 80s, the passing game was much more effective towards scoring than the run game. The average Net Yards Per Pass was 5.9, the average Yards Per Carry was 4.0. This results in a difference of 1.9 yards per play.

The Run Game for Super Bowl Teams in the 1980s

In the 1980s there have been ten Super Bowl matchups with – logically – 20 different teams. Here is how those teams ranked in net yards per pass and yards per run during the respective regular seasons:

 NYPPA offenseYPC offenseNYPPA defenseYPC defense
Average Rank6.8512.156.9513.1
Top-10 Finishes148169
Bottom-10 Finishes0316

During the 1980s, 14 Super Bowl teams ranked in the top-10 in NYPPA on offense and 16 listed in the top-10 on defense. Only two Super Bowl champions ranked in the top-10 in YPC while ranking lower in NYPPA. As a conclusion, passing mattered in the 1980s.

Bill Walsh is quoted with the following statement:

I do not believe in necessarily establishing a run or establishing a passing game. I believe more in fully dimensional football where you are establishing your offense.

That statement describes how smart Bill Walsh was. Coaches like Chuck Pagano think that they must run the ball a certain amount of times, no matter how good the opposing run defense or how good the own run efficiency is. On the other side, coaches like Bill Belichick only run when they can. In the 2014 AFC divisional round, the Patriots faced the Ravens and their stout run defense. The Pats passed the ball 51 times and gave their running backs only seven carries. They knew they couldn’t run, so they didn’t try to in the first place. That’s understanding how the game works and what efficiency means. The Pats won 35-31.

Passing efficiency in the modern NFL era

Over the past three decades, the pass has been becoming more and more efficient. A little numbers example: from 2011 to 2017, teams have gained 2.5 yards more per pass than per run. That fact alone should open some eyes. In a game that is won by gaining yards efficiently which should lead to scoring, a pass play gains 2.5 more yards than a run play on an average down.

You get a lead through the air, and you secure it on the ground. You run when you win, not win when you run – that sentence is written at the beginning of the Football Outsiders Almanac, and that is entirely true. Since 1990, 71.9% of the winning teams have more rush yards than their opponent. That’s because those teams were leading by an average of 4.5 points at the half and 6.2 points after the third quarter. They had an average of 9.8 rush attempts more than their opponents because they were milking the clock in the second half.

The interesting part comes into play when we take away the number of attempts and look at yards per play. All 7,098 winning teams since 1990 had 4.1 yards per carry whereas the losing side had 4.02. That’s a difference of 0.08 yards which is zero. But those winning teams had an average of 7.25 yards per pass whereas the losing team had 5.8 YPA – a difference of 1.45 yards! Since 2011 it is 7.5 yards per pass to 6.05 and 4.18 yards per carry to 4.19. Losing teams had 0.01 yards more per carry! Another mind-blowing fact: Since 2011, when teams have more than 6.0 yards per carry, and their opponents have 4.0 or less, they went 56-84 (40%).

Deep dive into the numbers

Over the past two decades, we were able to collect and process data more efficiently. For pass efficiency, I use metrics like Pass DVOA (Football Outsiders), Passer Rating (Teamrankings), ANY/p (Pro Football Reference) and NYPPA (Pro Football Reference), the one we used for the 1980s data. For rushing purposes, I use yards per carry and rush DVOA. Rush DVOA is down-and-distance based: DVOA measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent. For points scored I use offensive points per game (Teamrankings). The data goes from 2011 to 2017, because I wanted to use the data after the significant rule changes for the passing game in 2010. Each number applies to a team’s full season (n=225). Here are the correlation values of the passing & rushing metrics against offensive points per game:

MetricR (Offensive Scoring)R^2 (Offensive Scoring))
Pass DVOA0.850.72
Passer Rating0.830.69
Rush DVOA0.500.25
Yards per Carry0.220.05

As you can see, R^2 for passing efficiency metrics ranges from 0.64 to 0.75 whereas the correlation of yards per run is non-existing. Rush DVOA has a slight relationship towards scoring, and it barely makes the measurable range. But at 0.25 it is almost insignificant. Statistically, it is just a lot more significant than mere yards per rush.

Yards per Carry has to Die

Running can be very valuable in short yardage situations, but you don’t need a superior run offense to convert a 2nd& 2. ANY/p has the best correlation to scoring because it weighs in touchdowns and interceptions. Pass DVOA, which doesn’t weigh in drive results like touchdowns and interceptions as heavily, also shows a remarkable correlation, whereas rush DVOA spreads much more. See the following point charts:

Correlation: Pass DVOA vs. Offensive Scoring
Correlation: Rush DVOA vs. Offensive Scoring

Here is ANY/p:

Correlation: ANY/p vs. Offensive Scoring

It gets way more apparent when looking at yards per carry, which has zero relationship with scoring. Yards per carry shouldn’t be used at all when talking about Football:

Correlation: Yards Per Carry vs. Offensive Scoring

The charts are speaking for themselves. Let’s take a look at the defensive side of the ball. Here are the correlation values for the metrics above, but against defensive scoring:

MetricR (Defensive Scoring)R^2 (Defensive Scoring)
Pass DVOA0.700.49
Passer Rating0.700.49
Rush DVOA0.420.18
Yards per Carry0.090.01

The scheme is the same; the correlation is not as high as on the offensive side. Run defense is mostly irrelevant, and yards per carry shouldn’t be used.

The Impact of LaDainian Tomlinson

LaDainian Tomlinson was one heck of an RB. He went 5th overall in the 2001 draft. Over the first three seasons, he averaged 1,512 rushing yards, 12.3 rushing TDs and 4.5 yards per run. Impressive numbers, but his team went 16-32 over that span because they ranked 11th, 21st and 22nd in NYPPA while throwing 54 touchdowns to 53 interceptions. In his fourth season, the Chargers went 12-4 and made the playoffs, because Drew Brees had his first good passing season as a pro. The 2011 New York Giants ranked dead-last in yards per run, but they won the Super Bowl because they peaked in pass efficiency during the playoffs. The 2017 Browns ranked top-5 in run defense and top-12 in the run offense – they didn’t win a single game because they couldn’t pass the ball efficiently nor defend the pass.

The 2017 Cowboys had the same rush DVOA (11.9% to 11.5%) in 2017 as they had in 2016. However, they scored fewer points, and the offense as a whole was worse because the passing game wasn’t as efficient as in 2016. Wade Philips has built his defenses towards defending the pass in recent years, and he doesn’t care about the run defense. His units are good. This off-season, the Rams let their worst coverage defender in Alec Ogletree and their worst pass rusher in Connor Barwin go, extended the contracts of their two best coverage guys Lamarcus Joyner and Nickel Robey-Coleman and went after cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Suh can stop the run and rush the passer. I could go on, but you are getting my point – passing matters.

The biggest myths about the run game

So often we listen to commentators, coaches or casual fans talking about how important it is to run the ball, so a team can set up the pass and can also set up play action more efficiently. The truth is, there is no proof of that being true, just the opinion of most people. Here are the correlation numbers for rush DVOA and YPC against the ANY/p metric which weighs passing touchdowns and interceptions. Remember it has a very high correlation to scoring:

MetricR (ANY/p)R^2 (ANY/p)
Rush DVOA0.360.13

The correlation between the run game and ANY/p is non-existent. There is no significant statistical correlation. Here are the charts:

Correlation: Rush DVOA vs. Adjusted Net Yards per Pass
Correlation: Yards Per Carry vs. Adjusted Net Yards per Pass

The Truth about Play-Action

What about play-action? Football Outsiders Premium provides us with play action yards per play going back to 2015. Here is the correlation between the rushing metrics from above and play action yards per play from 2015-2017:

MetricR (PA yards per play)R^2 (PA yards per play)
Rush DVOA-0.070.01

Yes, your eyes aren’t lying: there is zero correlation between the run game and its efficiency and using play-action efficiently — just zero. At the same time, the few percents we are getting are negative. For instance, in 2017, the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins ranked bottom-5 in yards per rush and bottom-5 in rush DVOA. On the contrary, they ranked top-5 in play-action yards per play. The Raiders, Browns, and Packers ranked bottom-3 in play-action yards per play but ranked top-15 in rush DVOA and yards per rush. Using play-action efficiently is all about situational play-calling, creativity, and execution. It doesn’t have anything to do whether you run the ball efficiently or not. As a matter of fact, the pure presence of an RB in the backfield faking a handoff is enough. To visualize it, here is the point graph for the correlation between rush DVOA & play-action yards per play:

Correlation: Rush DVOA vs. Play-Action Yards per Play 

Passing matters, running does not

The passing game is more relevant than ever. But furthermore, it is the most relevant thing in today’s NFL. Running, in general, has no impact on scoring and winning Football games, no matter how stupid that may sound. It is largely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether you run for 3.5 or 5.1 yards per run. But it matters whether you pass for 5.9 or 7.5 yards per pass.

It matters whether your offensive line excels in pass protection, not in run blocking. It matters whether your RB can catch the ball, create after the catch and run some routes, not whether he gets three breakout runs on the season. Recent drafts have shown that you can find a lot of these guys in the third round or later. And it matters whether your WRs create separation and make contested catches instead of blocking for runs. If you cannot pass the ball efficiently, you aren’t going to score many points – that’s a fact.

Teams should still Run the Ball

However, the run can still be beneficial, for instance in short down or goal line situations. According to Football Outsiders research, running the ball on 3rd/4th& 1-2 yards to go is more effective than passing. Moreover, it is also highly active on 2nd& short. But you don’t need to build a strong run game to get one or two yards on the ground. It’s much more about situational play-calling and knowing when to run and when not. Being unpredictable is important. Against good run defenses, you can abandon the run game and still win comfortably. But you can rarely abandon the passing game and win.

The question remains: why don’t teams pass more often? Why don’t all teams build towards the passing game? Why do Chuck Pagano and Mike Mularkey put such a high emphasis on the run game? Because as I said in the first paragraph, they probably don’t know better. Or they are too stubborn. They aren’t analytics guys. Tape guys. They have a certain expectation of Football, and that’s what they want to get on the field. But the good thing is that more and more teams are putting their focus on pass efficiency rather than on improving the run game.

Eddie Squarehead Can Help You Win More Money

Eddie Squarehead lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He works as a Key Account Manager, makes $60k per year and has a wife along with two beautiful children. He also is a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. He hates the Eagles, thinks Eli Manning is vastly overrated and has been mocking his co-workers – who are Redskins fans – all summer long about how bad their team is and has been for the past four years. On the most recent company picnic in August he repeated several times: “Your Skins ain’t gonna win five games this year”. On Sundays he always wears his No. 8 Troy Aikman jersey, does a BBQ and watches the Cowboys games religiously while having a few good beers. Eddie also likes gambling and to bet on NFL games. Before the season started, he told his wife: “If I make some extra bucks this season, Christmas presents will be bigger as usual”.

Between the 4 PM games and Sunday Night Football, Eddie regularly watches the highlights from the day games. It’s week five of the fictional 2017 NFL season and he is watching the Dolphins getting shredded 13-38 on the road at Pittsburgh and Matt Ryan connecting to Julio on a pair of touchdowns in a big 35-10 win over the Bears.

Putting a card together the square way

The next week he puts together a betting card at a local bookie from his gambling bankroll. He bets the Cowboys at -4.5 at home against the Cards, because they are his team and he wants to see them winning. He fades the Giants at Seattle because “Eli Manning is overrated and will get hammered”. He sees the Falcons laying 3.5 points at Miami and his memories tell him how bad the Dolphins and how good the Falcons looked last week when he watched highlights before the Sunday Night Football game. He scans the remaining odds board and sees a home team with a winning record – the Panthers – laying 6.5 points against the 2-3 Redskins. Now his subconscious mind remembers him how strongly he expressed his opinion about the Redskins at work and at the company picnic during the summer. He wants his opinion to turn out as the truth and he wants the Redskins to lose. He grabs the home team at -6.5 because “the Redskins have to lose, they are bad”.

The Sunday didn’t turn out so well for Eddie Squarehead. He went 1-3, only the Giants covered their respective spread. Neither did he watch the recent games of these teams nor did he do any research on the games that would have led to an objective conclusion. He made his decisions subjectively. He bet with emotions, recency bias and general bias. He didn’t analyze the situational spot and home/road efficiency for the Falcons/Dolphins game. He hasn’t recognized that the Redskins have been playing some solid Football and are much better than he thought they would be.

Eddie also didn’t take the time to study the matchup for “his” Cowboys team, because he just wanted to put money on “his” team. The offensive line was without LT Tyron Smith and his backup Byron Bell had an unfair matchup against Arizona’s best pass rusher Chandler Jones. Eddie didn’t even think about these two lining up against each other for the major part of the game, because “our offensive line is elite”. Jones came up with the game-icing strip sack of Dak Prescott.

Continuing what does not work

For the reminder of the NFL season, Eddie would continue his thought process like this. He would bet the Cowboys every week, would look to fade the Skins and build the rest of his cards based on recent results. He wouldn’t take time to reflect on his betting habits. He would continue to think in a box. He would finish the season around 46% and lose a good part of his bankroll. Eddie would tell his friends that “it’s impossible to make money off betting on NFL games”. Eddie’s wife would be a little bit mad in late December, because the Christmas presents weren’t as big or expensive as advertised.

No wife can endure a gambling husband, unless he is a steady winner. ~Thomas Robert Dewar

Reflection is a very important skill of human beings. Too often in life we fail, because we are stuck into one way or opinion and lack the ability to reflect. It is also in our nature to make the same mistake over and over again. With a lack of reflection we don’t recognize changes and struggle to think outside the box. Naturally, we tend to stick to one opinion which leads to bias and subjective evaluation.

Don’t get me wrong – having and expressing an opinion is very valuable to me and is a big part of someone’s personality. Opinions lead to reactions and discussions. So many times I’ve read an article where the author discusses a topic or breaks something down without actually having an opinion. The result is a boring and neutral article, particularly to not get any followers turn their backs towards them. Having a (strong) opinion is good, but having the ability to put that opinion in question over time and change it based on reflection – this is even more valuable.

Reflection is a big part of sports betting

Reflection is also very important when it comes to sports betting. Recency bias and general bias is what kills your bankroll in the long run. Casual or “average” bettors tend to bet with their emotions far too often. Over the past few years I have been dealing with the same problems over and over again. But recognizing that these problems exist is the first step into the right direction. You can change your habits every day of the year, keep that in mind.

We need to bet without emotions, bias and by thinking outside the box. If you aren’t a bettor who profits consistently, ask yourself: Am I like Eddie Squarehead? Are there any parallels between the thought process of Eddie Squarehead and my own? The next time you cap games of any sports think about Eddie Squarehead and whether or not you need to make some changes on your habits. He will help you make more money in the long run.

Money Management Is The Most Important Aspect Of Sports Betting


One of the most important things when it comes to betting is managing your money. It doesn’t matter how many bets you place per day, week or month. You can have success by placing 10 bets per day but you can also have success by placing 10 bets per month. To each his own, every bettor is different. But every bettor has to deal with one thing if he wants to achieve long-term success: money management.

By managing your money I mean that you need to have a reasonable system in place that you follow consistently. Our success rates usually vary over time, but our system of spending money shouldn’t. Our big goal is to consistently profit money from sports betting. Grow the bankroll, withdraw money and move on with a new, bigger bankroll. The key of money management is to have a system that allows you to grow your bankroll when you are successful but limits your risk when you are not. Losing is part of what we do – we can have bad stretches over weeks or months. If you aren’t thinking long-term and just bet for the quick buck, you don’t need to care about money management and this article probably isn’t interesting for you.

We hear the word bankroll very often. A bankroll is the disposable base amount of money you are willing to spend on betting over a certain time span. To go one step further – your bankroll is also the amount of disposable money you are willing to lose over a certain time span. Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose. That amount doesn’t need to be physical, it can be virtual and you only need to have a certain percentage of your bankroll deposited into your sportsbook accounts. Of that bankroll, you calculate a reasonable amount or percentage you want to spend per bet.

If your bankroll is $1,000, you shouldn’t bet $100 per game when you are invested in 10 games per day. If your bankroll is $20,000, betting $100 per game on ten games per month might be a little bit too low and too stagnant to grow your bankroll. I guess you get my point here. On Gambling Twitter you see guys spreading out daily cards with plays ranging from 1 unit up to even multiple 10U MAX BOMB plays which might add up to 50+ units per day. Aside from the fact that probably no one can explain what distinguishes a 10-unit play from a 4- or 1-unit play, I would guess that many followers struggle to project those “systems” to their own money management strategy.

Many ways lead to Rome and there are a lot of strategies bettors use all over the world, but I’ve made the experience that two certain main strategies are very useful. I will explain them along with examples. Before we get to these, we need to talk about the term “unit”. The term unit pops up everywhere in the gambling world, but it is basically just a measurement system for tracking success. Units are something everyone can identify with and everyone can project his own betting sizes to it. If someone is up 10 units, it can be $10,000 for him but $2,500 for you.

Also units aren’t units, as crazy as it sounds. Units can be dynamic or static and bettors can re-define them again and again whenever they want or need to. It is just – a measurement system. And it is probably more reality for someone who bets for his hobby than for someone who does it professionally. Let’s dig into stategies.

Betting a certain percentage of your bankroll on each game

I will use the NFL season as the example for both strategies. Let’s say you start with a bankroll of $5,000 and you want to bet 3% as a dynamic unit of your moving bankroll on each game. You will start by betting $150 per game, or by the base amount bet, you will bet to win $150. Let’s take the latter one as the example with an average line of -110.

If you are successful, your amount per bet is going to raise per day/week. You would evaluate your profit after each week and calculate a new amount to bet on each game. The big advantages of this system are that you have a good risk management for your losses on the one side and that you are able to increase your profits off a good season or a hot run.

Imagine you bet 7 games per week during the NFL season. Even if you go 0-7, you would lose “only” 23.1% of your bankroll. The probability for it to happen is basically zero, but let’s assume you let that 0-7 week follow another 0-7 performanc. Meaning, you start the season with an ice-cold 0-14 run. You would have lost 40.86% (-$2,043) of your bankroll. However, 90% of the bettors in the world would have gone broke by either a poor money strategy and/or by chasing their losses.

After the base amount of $150 in week 1, you would bet $127 to win $115 in week 2. Your base amount going into the third week would be $89. But if you go on to a 14-0 winning streak, you profit +46.41% (+$2,321) of your bankroll and your base amount would be $220 going into the third week. So the disadvantage would be the fact that it’s tougher to get back to a certain amount off an awful run, this is the contrary aspect to the risk management. Assuming you let the 0-14 run follow a 7-0 week, you would be down -28.45% (-$1,422).

Betting with a static amount over time

Again, you set a bankroll to start the season, let’s assume you also start with $5,000 and decide to bet 3% as a static unit of your starting bankroll on each game, meaning $150 as the risk amount or the base amount on an average line of -110. We go with the base amount again, meaning $165 to win $150 on each game.

Off a 0-14 start, you would lose 46.2% (-$2,310) while your base amount stays the same, the one unit of $150. Off a hot 14-0 run, you would profit +42% (+$2,100) while sticking to your initial unit base amount of $150. With the unit-system you would lose a higher percentage of your bankroll on a losing streak, but it’s easier to get back to even. Assuming you let the 0-14 run follow a 7-0 week, you would be down -25.2% (-$1,260).

Because the static amount doesn’t increase automatically while winning, you could set yourself milestones for when to adjust your static bet amount. For instance, you could set the goal of re-calculating when you are up or down 50% (+-16.67 units) of your initial bankroll. Or at 50% on profit and 25% on losses. That’s on you. You can also use the Kelly criterion.

It’s important to have a money management system in place

The differences between these two systems are the following: With the percentage-system, you would profit more money (4.41% on the 14-0 example) on a winning streak and lose less money (5.34%) on a losing streak. It’s tougher to get back to even or a certain amount off a losing streak. As I said earlier, many ways lead to Rome. People adjust their systems, some more often than others. But the most important point is that you actually have a system in place and follow that system with patience.

Remember, sports betting is a marathon, not a sprint! People always want to make the quick buck, but you have to think long-term. You probably want to do this the next 20 years, don’t you? Work hard, never chase your picks and be happy about each profit you make.