In past articles, we outlined a variety of tools used by professionals to dig deeper into statistics that can give you a betting edge. For instance you can read about using Fangraphs.com betting splits for Major League Baseball here (https://www.predictionmachine.com/using-season-splits-for-mlb-betting/) and utilizing the Bart Torvik Ratings for College Basketball here (https://www.predictionmachine.com/what-are-the-bart-torvik-ratings/).
There are a myriad of similar tools NFL bettors can use in conjunction with Prediction Machine’s recommendations. As a bettor it’s important your information comes from a variety of different sources. Pretend for a moment you’re trying to replicate an important meal to impress dinner guests. Wouldn’t the quality and accuracy of the meal be better if you were able to interview multiple world class chefs to get their perspectives, instead of just one? More data is ALWAYS better, assuming the data is clean and relevant.
Below are two easy-to-use tools you can use while handicapping NFL games.
DVOA rankings, found at FTNFantasy.com (they were formerly housed by Football Outsiders), give a glimpse of how teams do in a variety of categories. What makes the data unique is that it takes schedule strength into consideration. For instance, if two teams each put up identical passing stats, but one team did it vs. awful defenses and the other team did it vs. strong defenses, the team that performed best vs. better competition is ranked higher.
DVOA isn’t perfect and generally I trust the data more the deeper we get in the season, but it’s a fantastic starting point to consider while handicapping games to identify mismatches. For instance, if one team is really good at running the ball and their opponent has a poor DVOA ranking vs. the run, this is a matchup to exploit. Or, DVOA can show how a team’s strength might be mitigated by another team’s strength. DVOA provides special teams rankings as well as other helpful features including how a defense does vs. WR1s, WR2s, WR3s, and TEs (Fantasy football owners, take note).
If you like to bet totals, the “Pace” category is helpful and gives you insight into each team’s tempo by ranking teams by seconds/play in the first half and in the second half. Slow tempo teams combined with poor rush defenses can me a nice ingredients for going under a total.
Pro Football Focus Ratings
At PFF.com, Pro Football Focus provides team grades and player grades that can help you understand an NFL team a lot better.
The individual player grades are especially useful when diagnosing how much injuries will impact a particular team. For instance, if you learn that a team will be without two starting offensive linemen, you can quickly see how well those linemen have been playing and how their backups have been performing. Some teams like the 2023 Detroit Lions have deep offensive lines and can overcome injuries, while others like the 2023 New York Giants have bare cupboards.
Keep in mind, these player grades aren’t the gospel and they have a lot of critics. At the end of the day, the grades are based on one organization’s interpretation of data, and with several different people grading, it’s fair to question the consistency of the data. However, the grades are a solid starting point to see if you need to investigate a player further and for offensive lineman stats like hurries allowed, sacks allowed, and hits allowed are also provided.
In its premium stats section, PFF.com also provides team grades for categories like Pass Blocking, Pass Rush, Run Blocking, etc. As described above with DVOA rankings, this tool can be utilized to identify mismatches. I especially enjoy comparing a team’s pass blocking rating with their opponent’s pass rush rating.
Remember, while you’re cooking up your next slate of bets, check out PFF.com and FTNFantasy.com to see what the numbers have to say.