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The NFL: A Game of Mistakes and How Gamblers Can Take Advantage

Written by:
Tony George
Published on:
Aug/28/2008
Tony George

Last season in the NFL, teams that committed less (forced more) turnovers than their opponent logged an impressive 162-39 (81%) mark on the field, and a 155-41-5 record ATS (79%) (against the pointspread). Very impressive yes, but actually down from the '06 season where the teams went 173-38 SU (straight up) (82%), and 166-40-5 ATS (81%). In 2005, the numbers were 124-44 (74%) SU, and a 131-33 mark (80%) ATS.

In '04 these turnover winners logged a 141-37 (79%) SU mark, and a 143-39-4 (79%) ATS. I'm sure by now you get the picture. Year in and year out, the team that does a better job of taking care of the ball wins and covers about 4 out every 5 games, with their ATS winning % being the slightly higher in the long run, although behind just a bit the last 2 seasons.

These stats illustrate just how evenly matched NFL teams are. Before last season's New England team, you could probably count on both hands (some seasons even one!) the number of NFL teams favored by more than 14 points in any given season. When you factor in that you can score 7 points on one play, that does not leave much margin for error, and these NFL games tend to fall very close the spread.

You may see 50-70 NFL games a year that land more than 14 points from the pointspread. This is much different than in college, where there is not only much bigger pointspreads, but the line is much more sensitive to a difference in talent. For instance, a 7 point NFL favorite is perceived to be a safer bet to win the game then in college (This is accurately reflected in higher NFL money lines) College teams can often overcome a negative turnover margin, especially to win the game straight up. It still helps to win the battle of turnovers, of course, but the ATS success rate for college teams that do so is usually closer to 60% range year in and year out. In the NFL, there is a lot more parity, and a very fine line (turnovers) between winning and losing.

So now that we know how vital turnovers are to success in the NFL, and more importantly to betting the NFL, all we have to do is bet on the team that will win the turnover battle... WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR? Easier said then done, of course, but there are certain points to consider when factoring turnovers into your weekly pointspread war with the NFL line.

1. Respect the numbers- Realize the importance of turnovers, and the fine line you are walking in the NFL in regards to the turnover margins. Limit the number of your NFL plays, and make your plays based on line value, and a return to the norm. The more you play, the more you are subjecting yourself to the mistakes that ultimately decide your fate.

2. Bet on coaches that stress defense and running the ball- Coaches stay in the NFL for a reason. They win. What is the number one predictor of winning and losing in the NFL? A HA...

3. Bet on teams solid on both lines and QB's that make good decisions- Although luck is a huge factor in this battle, more than any other reason turnovers are caused by defensive pressure. Lines that can cause and prevent this pressure, as well as QB's who can handle it are paramount. Defensive coordinators that do a good job of disguising blitzes, against a young quarterbacks make for a winning combination, for instance. A running back that can pick up the blitz against a blitzing defense is very valuable as well.

4. Expect a return to the norm- Realize when a team has had some good luck resulting from turnovers over a stretch and adjust your ranking of the team accordingly. Realize that this luck may not continue. If a team has feasted on a couple of young quarterbacks or beat up offensive lines in a row, or had some lucky special teams bounces, and the next game face a team much more sound in those area, ring the alarm. Also realize that teams that make mistakes will do what they can (strategy or personnel wise) to fix those mistake. BUT AT THE SAME TIME...

5. Stay away from teams that consistently turn the ball over- Their problems usually stem from things we touched on above, but they cannot seem to fix them. Why expect a team that is turning it over 3 times a game, to all of a sudden change when you place your money on them? The numbers tell you what you are up against. Although possibly just unlucky in early games, this bad luck in the past is probably causing them to force things, leading to turnovers. Also, that rotten luck probably stems from some weaknesses discussed in this article.

All in all, realize that the NFL is a game of mistakes. The teams that limit these mistakes have success. The teams that make these mistakes do not. By not realizing this, YOU are making the single biggest mistake that will prohibit you from making money in the NFL

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