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Handicapping the NFL

Handicapping the NFL with a Yards Per Point System

While it may be new to some, handicapping the NFL with a yards per point (YPP) system has been around for years. More importantly, it’s something that can (and probably should) be incorporated into your overall NFL betting strategy. Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for years, a YPP system is a great foundation for handicapping the NFL.

What I’ll go over below was actually taken from Allen Moody at About.com. He explains it effortlessly and, by the way, does a great job with everything sports betting.

I have used and implemented this exact system for a number of years (with a few personal changes along the way). If you’re serious about handicapping the NFL and want to be successful, then I highly recommend you take a look.

Now you don’t have to use it exactly since it’s really designed to be a starting point. Over time, you’ll certainly make your own personal tweaks. To make it much easier on yourself though, you’ll want to use an Excel spreadsheet (or something similar) where you can simply input the numbers.

It may take a little time to plug the formulas in at first, but once you get it set up, you’ll have a great foundation for handicapping the NFL. Without further ado, let’s take a look.


NFL Betting With Yards Per Point

In many ways, sports gamblers are a step ahead of the general public when it comes to statistics. Football bettors have used Yards Per Pass Attempt as a measure of rating a team’s passing game for years, long before it became a generally used statistic by everyone.

Sports bettors who wager on college football or basketball have used Average Opponent’s Power Rating for decades, and the stat is now commonly used by the public under the guise of Strength of Schedule.

But there’s another statistic that football bettors have used for years that hasn’t caught on with the public yet and that’s Yards Per Point. YPP is a quick and easy method that lets football bettors access the offensive and defensive strength of a particular team.

It’s important to note that while YPP can be used for college football, its primary use is for the NFL, as there is less of a difference in the relative strength of schedule in the professional game than there is in the college game.


How Yards Per Point Works

To calculate the YPP of any team, you will need several statistics that are readily available; the points the team has scored and allowed, as well as the offensive yards gained and the defensive yards allowed by the team.

To get the team’s offensive Yards Per Point simply divide the offensive yards gained by the number of points scored. (If the statistics available to you are per game, you can simply use those, as it will yield the same result as using season statistics.

In 2007, the New England Patriots averaged 411.2 offensive yards per game and scored 36.8 points per game. To get New England’s offensive Yards Per Point (YPP) take 411.2 and divide by 36.8 to get a total of 11.17. What this means is that the Patriots averaged one point for every 11.17 yards they gained.

On the other hand, a team like the 4-12 Kansas City Chiefs averaged 276.8 yards of offense per game and scored an average of 14.1 points per game. Kansas City’s offensive YPP is then 19.63 (276.8/14.1 = 19.63). Therefore, Kansas City scored an average of one point for every 19.63 yards gained.

Naturally, a low number is best for offense, as the fewer yards the team needs to travel before scoring, the better. Defensive YPP figures are calculated in the same manner, except that yards allowed and points allowed are used.

New England allowed 288.3 yards and 17.1 points per game, so their defensive YPP would be 16.86. Kansas City allowed 319.4 yards per game and surrendered 20.9 points per game and would have a defensive YPP rating of 15.28.


Uses of Yards Per Point

There is really no limit to the uses of YPP calculations. Some bettors will use season statistics, while others will just use statistics from the past four to six weeks. Others, still, will use both.

One of the most popular methods for using YPP is simply taking the yards allowed by each team and dividing by the opposition’s offensive YPP to come up with a quick predicted score.

For example, using our Kansas City and New England statistics from above, we see that the Chiefs allow an average of 319.4 defensive yards per game. Divide that figure by New England’s offensive YPP rating of 11.17 and we get a quick figure of 28.6, which is New England’s predicted score.

New England allowed 288.3 yards per game, which divided by Kansas City’s offensive YPP number of 19.63 would yield a predicted score of 14.7. Therefore, our quick YPP figures make New England 13.9 points better than Kansas City with a predicted total of 43.3 points.


Yards Per Point Football Betting Systems

Now, we’ll look at several betting systems using YPP and how football bettors can use these figures to their advantage. The first system came to prominence in the mid 1980s and was known as the Dudley Method.

The system was popularized in the now out-of-print book “The Winner’s Guide to Pro Football Betting,” by Art Glantz and Leigh Cohn. The premise of the system was to use the last four games each team had played to create your predicted point spread on the game.

Lets use a hypothetical game between Minnesota and Detroit. In its past four games, the Vikings have gained 1,345 yards and allowed 1,352 on defense, while scoring 91 points and allowing 78. Detroit has gained 1,291 yards on offense and allowed 1,510. The Lions have scored 86 points, while giving up 111.

  • The first step is to create an Offensive YPP figure for both teams, which are 14.78 (1,345/91) for Minnesota and 15.01 (1291/86) for Detroit.
  • The second step is to create a defensive average for each team, which is merely dividing the total yards allowed by four. For Minnesota, the defensive average is 338 (1352/4), while for Detroit its 377.5(1510/4).
  • Take each team’s defensive average and divide by the opposition’s YPP figure to get a predicted score. Minnesota’s predicted score will be 25.54, which is (377.5/14.78). Detroit’s predicted score will be 22.52 (338/15.01).
  • Subtract 1.5 points from the road team and give the home team an additional 1.5 points for the predicted score. If the Vikings are the home team, our predicted score will be Minnesota 27.04-21.02. If Detroit is home, our predicted score is Minnesota 24.04-24.02.

The one problem with this method is that it doesn’t take a team’s defensive YPP into consideration, but it’s still a useful tool for short-term tendencies. It’s used best in conjunction with another YPP method, such as the next one we’ll look at.


The Total Dudley YPP Method

This system is quite similar to the Dudley Formula, in that it also uses a four-game average, but uses a team’s defensive YPP rating in predicting the outcome of games. We’ll use the same teams and statistics from the earlier example.

  • The first step is to add Minnesota’s offensive yards gained to Detroit’s yards allowed and Minnesota’s points scored to Detroit’s points allowed. This will give us 2,855 (1,345+1,510) and 202 (91+111).
  • The second step is to add Detroit’s yards gained to Minnesota’s yards allowed and Detroit’s points scored to Minnesota’s points allowed. This gives totals of 2,643 (1,291+1,352) and 164 (86+78).
  • The third step is to create an adjusted offensive YPP for both teams. For Minnesota, divide 2,855 by 202 to get 14.13. For Detroit, divide 2,643 by 164 to get 16.12.
  • The fourth step is to change our yardage figures into a per-game average. Simply divide Minnesota’s offensive yardage figure (2,855) by eight to get 356.88, which is Minnesota’s predicted yards gained. Detroit’s expected yards gained of 2,643 divided by eight is 330.38. (Remember we’re using eight because we have both four games of offensive yards and four games of defensive yards.)
  • The final step is to divide Minnesota’s predicted yards of 356.88 by its adjusted offensive YPP of 14.13 to get a predicted score of 25.26. Dividing Detroit’s predicted yards of 330.38 by its adjusted offensive YPP yields a predicted score of 20.49.

As you can see, the Vikings rate nearly two points better with this method and the predicted score is several points less. These are because of the inclusion of Minnesota’s defensive YPP rating, which is well above average.

Most bettors using these, or any YPP system, generally look for a difference of at least five points between the predicted outcome and the point spread before making a play.

Remember, there is no correct way or incorrect way to use YPP numbers. You can use them short-term, as these two systems do, or use season statistics. Both will give the football bettor a different method of looking at the teams playing a particular game.


Conclusion

First of all, another big thank you to Allen Moody for saving me a ton of time from having to re-write this. As you can see, they’re pretty simple calculations that can quickly be completed with a spreadsheet.

As I continue to preach, YPP is a great foundation or starting point for handicapping the NFL. It gives you some pertinent information that is based on hard numbers. Over time, you’ll eventually start to tweak and create your own formulas, but it’s good to have a solid base.

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