Saturday, October 27, 2012

Red Zone Efficiency and the Over/Under (sport, gambling)

As the NFL continues to move toward more and more high-powered passing offenses, it's hard not to get caught up in betting the over. I think that's especially the case for the average public bettor, because big plays and lots of scoring is exciting and a great thing to root for. That being said, whichever side the public tends to favor, the opposite side is probably where most of the value is. So here are two under bets I like this weekend, joined by a common stat.

Big plays are going to happen in the NFL. I'd always wondered over the years why every Andre Johnson highlight seemed to feature him waiting for the ball 5+ yards behind the defense. Once you're beat as a defender, you're beat, and every team is going to have those moments. But the ability to stop the opponents in a confined field of play is something that can noticeably vary from team to team.

SEA@DET Under 42.5

Seattle is the perfect example of a bend-but-don't-break defense that has gone under the total in all but one game this season. Opponents have only been able to score a TD 25% of the time they're in the Red Zone. But you know who else has been great defending in the Red Zone? The Lions. Their opponents' Red Zone % has only been 30% this season. Think about it this way. Even if there were 10 scoring drives between these two teams, it would still only add up to about 3(TDs)x 7(points) + 7(FGs)x 3(points) = 42 total points by those percentages.

ATL@PHI Under 43.5

I liked this under when the line opened at 46, and I still like it here. This is another example of the fantasy football heuristic dominating people's perception. They look at a team like Atlanta, see great fantasy football numbers from Ryan, Jones, White, Gonzalez, and even Turner, and they conclude that this is a high scoring team, especially with so much mention of their no huddle offense. But fantasy points are skewed toward TDs, and I doubt the Falcons will have as much success as they've had, this time against an Eagles defense that has given up only a 35% Red Zone %. Add in the fact that Atlanta is a dome team playing outdoors in rainy weather, and there are too many factors that look to slow down this Falcons offense.

We can look at another interesting trend as well. Except for two games against very bad teams in Kansas City and Carolina, Atlanta has played under the total in all its other games. The Eagles have also played under the total in all but two games, with one going over because of OT, and another going over by half a point.

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