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What the Stats Don't Tell You

NFL Betting: What the Stats Don't Tell You

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

It is important to rely on your own observations when assessing a team. Stats are useful. There is no doubt about that. But when dealing with the prospect of needing to beat the spread, there are items of high concern that are not captured by statistical analysis. Stats tell us "how much" when sometimes we need to know "how." Not how much yards a guy has, but how a team plays in certain situations. Not how many touchdowns a quarterback throws for, but how an offense plays with the lead.

A lot of coaches adopt different philosophies for various game situations. You have some squads that will just beat on teams incessantly--all game long. Now if one of those teams is at -9, you would be more inclined to take them, as opposed to a team that tries not to lose once they get a lead.

Say you have the Falcons at home giving up 8.5 points. In the 4th quarter, the score is 21-17. Atlanta has the ball with 9 minutes left. Now you're in a bit of a spot. Atlanta will now be trying to eat up clock. Whatever urgency you might have for them to score will not be reflected by the team. And a field goal doesn't help you. For them to be gunning for a touchdown would be contrary to the tactics of their coach.

Look for a more offensive team when laying big points--teams that are always trying to score. You want a team like the Patriots. Or the Packers. If the game is close, they won't go into a shell. On the other hand, you have guys like Norv Turner--head coach of the Chargers. If you have San Diego at home laying 9 points--you're already in trouble. With 1:45 left in the first half and the Chargers almost at mid-field, you'd like to see a push for a field goal at least. Well, if they have a lead, forget about it. Turner will try to run the clock out. So it's important to know how coaches act when betting on the NFL.

It goes both ways. You don't want to lay big points on a team that waits for the ceiling to collapse when playing with a lead. But a resourceful team like that might be a good team to take points with. Understanding the different nuances within each coaching style can save you a lot of grief.

With players, you get a stat line and you know that doesn't tell the whole story. There are things you would like to know that simply are not captured with stats. Does a running back come through in the short yardage situation when everything is on the line? Can a QB find a way to convert on third down? Does a receiver get slippery hands at the most inopportune times?

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To a large extent, the element of "clutch" can't be shown in statistics. But as you bet on NFL games, you will see that it is a critical element that can determine whether or not spreads get covered. Often times, a game will be a stand-off for three quarters and change, leaving the result still up in he air late in the game. It can come down to just a play or two late. And in those scenarios, you want a team that has players with clutch. You want players who have an advanced vision of the game.

If those elements are not in place, you will get snake-bitten. Say a team is almost in field goal position, which would enable you to cover the spread. Then an offensive lineman gets a false start penalty, which ends up killing the drive. Or the team you bet on just stopped the opponent in a key 3rd down stop. The game is locked up, but wait! Some boneheaded linebacker takes a swipe at someone resulting in a personal foul and a fresh set of downs. Some of these things are unforeseeable, but there are things like poise and clutch, which could wind up being what decides how a team performs against the spread.

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