Skip to Main Content
Loading Scores

Watch VSiN better than ever: Download our new app for Apple and Android devices

Unlocking the mystery to NFL's key numbers

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Discussion Day! Our Wednesday tutorial looks at NFL key numbers, plus some hidden “judging” analytics from the GGG-Canelo scorecards.

Sports Betting: Key Numbers in the NFL
You likely know that “3” and “7” are key numbers when betting football, particularly in the NFL which has less scoring variance than the colleges. But you might not be aware how important those numbers are compared to others. Honestly, NOBODY knows for sure right now. The league moved extra points further back, creating the possibility that missed PAT’s would take some games off those key numbers and push them elsewhere. There won’t be a big enough sample size for years to truly pinpoint values. 

We can approximate from past history, then adjust if needed.

A final victory margin of 3 should happen about 14-15% of the time
A final victory margin of 7 should happen about 9-10% of the time
A final victory margin of 10 should happen about 6-7% of the time
A final victory margin of 6 should happen about 5-6% of the time
A final victory margin of 4 should happen about 4-5% of the time
Final victory margins of 1, 2, 5, and 8 should happen about 3-4% of the time
A final victory margin of 9 should happen about 1-2% of the time

Don’t worry about trying to middle a nine! 

You can see how the 3 looms large over the rest of the field…and how 3 and 7 in combination dwarf the others. That’s why those are the two most important numbers to professional wagerers. 

A quick reminder that the real-world impact on your bets is less than those numbers suggest. ALL TEAMS, regardless of price will win by three about 14-15% of the time. Sometimes it’s an underdog winning by the trey, or a big favorite.

You’ll often hear Vinny Magliulo and the other oddsmaking experts in the VSiN fold talk about how “the public bets teams, the pros bet numbers.” We can use the power of the three to make that point for you. 

Imagine, for the sake of example, that the range of likelihoods in a game looks like this:

3-point Favorite wins by 4 or more 45% of the time
3-point Favorite wins by exactly three 9% of the time
3-point Underdog loses by 2 or fewer, or wins outright: 46% of the time

If Las Vegas has posted the game right on the three…there’s no meaningful edge. Bettors should just leave the game alone. But if the number nudges down to -2.5…suddenly that favorite is 54% to 46% to win. Were the line to nudge higher to -3.5…now it’s the dog that’s 55% to 45% to win.

Sharps make their living hoping for a success rate in the 53-54% range over a large sampling of picks. If an interviewer asked them “who they liked” in that game. Most would rightly say something like “I like the favorite at -2.5 and the dog at plus 3.5.” That’s not a smart-aleck response. That’s the right answer based on the math. Sharps try to make accurate assessments of the percentages in play, then bet based on the numbers. 

It’s not that they DON’T look at the teams involved. They know the skill sets…and who’s having trouble protecting the quarterback…and which skill position players are out with an injury…and how weather might impact the particular scoring approaches. But they turn those assessments into either “a number” they can compare to the market price, or a scatter-gram range representing where the final scoreboard margin is most likely to land. 

That might sound foreign to you because you’re so focused on thinking about which team is going to crush the other one. It probably wouldn’t hurt your handicapping to think more about key numbers and the “range” of possibilities that are in play. 

You’ll also note that Basic Strategy for two-team teasers involves the power of percentages with key numbers. Moving a favorite of -8.5 down to -2.5 (or a dog in the other direction) creates a high percentage target area that modern sports books must get creative guarding against. 

Boxing Fallout: Hidden analytics in the GGG/Canelo scorecards
We weren’t going to talk about the fight. There aren’t a lot of relevant stathead things to study in advance of a major bout. You can’t be sure that the bout is going to be judged fairly anyway! Then, after the fact, the punching stats are well-publicized but don’t do much beyond confirming what viewers already experienced.

But, in the case of the scorecards of this past Saturday’s controversial Las Vegas bout between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, we found something to talk about! With all the uproar about questionable scoring, few have noticed the “consensus” quietly pointed to the true winner. 

You’ll remember that the judges had it…
Adalaide Byrd: 118-110 for Alvarez
Don Trella: 114-114, a draw
Dave Moretti: 115-113 for Golovkin

Those were in stark contrast to a wide range of national viewers weighted at 116-112 for Golovkin. To the degree there was disagreement, it nudged one round worse than that on the 10-point must scoring system to 115-113. In the 10-point must system, each round winner is awarded 10 points, the loser gets 9 or less, no “draws” allowed in any particular round. Each judge “must” pick a round winner and give him 10 points. It’s probably easier to explain if we convert those points to rounds, as every round went 10-9 to somebody.

Byrd: 10 rounds to 2 for Alvarez
Trella: 6 rounds each for a draw
Moretti: 7 rounds to 5 for Golovkin
Viewing consensus: 8 rounds to 4 for Golovkin

Remember that “consensus” means most common, not unanimous. It wasn’t unanimous that viewers had it 116-112 and 8 rounds to 4 for GGG. That was the most common result amongst media surveys. 

Obviously, judging is open to a wide variety of interpretations. We’re not suggesting the scorecards offer “proof” of a conspiracy. It’s very possible that there was a coincidental clustering of judging styles that happened to prefer the approach of Alvarez. Interesting though, the “consensus within” this controversial coincidental clustering still saw Golovkin winning more rounds!

Round One: Alvarez 3-0 (sweeps all judges’ cards)
Round Two: Alvarez 3-0
Round Three: GGG 2-1
Round Four: GGG 3-0 (Byrd’s first round for GGG)
Round Five: GGG 2-1
Round Six: GGG 2-1
Round Seven: GGG 2-1 (Byrd’s second round for GGG, but Trella had Alvarez!)
Round Eight: GGG 2-1
Round Nine: GGG 2-1

Look at that! Through nine rounds, the “consensus” amongst the judges had it seven rounds for GGG, only two for Canelo. 

Round Ten: Alvarez 3-0
Round 11: Alvarez 3-0
Round 12: Alvarez 3-0

Even using an Alvarez-shaded total containing an extreme outlier, Golovkin won seven of the 12 rounds by consensus of these three judges. That equates to 115-113 on the 10-point must system because there weren’t any “blowout” rounds.

As a collection, THESE judges thought Golovkin won more rounds. So the “remedy” for preventing debacles like this might be something as simple as using a consensus on a round-by-round basis. That won’t prevent “fixes,” because fixers find a way. But, if this was just an honest difference of opinion between judges and most of the rest of the planet, using a round-by-round consensus would have largely erased the impact of the outlier. The “wisdom of the crowds” can work even when the “crowd” is just three and one sees things very differently from the other two.

MLB: With about 10-11 games to go, more than half the Majors already winners or losers against Regular Season Win Totals
As we mentioned last week, Wednesday is an ideal time to check in on how Major League Baseball teams are doing against their market Regular Season Win projections from this past March. We’ve already reached the next to last Wednesday of the 2017 campaign. More than half the league’s bets have already been determined. 

Already Winners:
Arizona
Cleveland
Colorado
Houston
LA Dodgers
Milwaukee 
Minnesota
NY Yankees
San Diego

That’s nine teams already who have cleared their hurdles with a-week-and-a-half to go. We just put them in alphabetical order rather than getting cute. You’ll be watching many of those teams in the playoffs. San Diego was a pleasant surprise among projected cellar-dwellers. 

Within 4.5 wins:
Washington has already pushed, and will cash soon (91 projected wins)
Boston (91.5 projected wins)
LA Angels (79 projected wins)
Kansas City (77 projected wins)
Cincinnati (70 projected wins)

The Nats will make it a third of the league already in the win column very soon. The other four teams have plenty of time to get there…and the Red Sox and Angels will be hyper-motivated until their respective playoff situations are sealed.

Within FIVE to NINE wins:
St. Louis (84 projected wins)
Baltimore (80.5 projected wins)
Tampa Bay (78.5 projected wins)
Miami (76 projected wins)
Oakland (74.5 projected wins)
Atlanta (75 projected wins)

This is an iffy group, with time running out on most. St. Louis is very much in the playoff picture, but didn’t exactly sparkle in must-win games against the Cubs this past weekend. Math hasn’t shut out Baltimore and Tampa Bay yet…but they’re going to need a lot of help to steal a Wildcard. Most of this group is a dog to reach their projected wins.  

Needing a miracle:
Texas almost has to win out (84.5 projected wins)
Chicago White Sox almost have to win out (70 projected wins)
Chicago Cubs must win out…true for a week! (95.5 wins)

Those three will shortly join the losers group…unless the Cubs keep winning all the way through the final day. 

Already Losers:
Detroit 
NY Mets 
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
San Francisco 
Seattle
Toronto 

A slew of disappointments in that last group. Obvious since they’re locked in as losers with this much time left. 

Most of the drama on the diamond in these final days will involve the playoff picture. Home field is still up for grabs in the American League…along with playoff spots. Many in Las Vegas will be sweating drama that has nothing to do with the playoffs!

NFL: Eagles now -6 Sunday vs. Giants after New York’s awful Monday Night
We built our Tuesday power ratings off an early line of Philadelphia -3.5 over the NY Giants this coming weekend. But after the market got a look at New York’s continued woes without a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., the line has shot up to -6.

We had the Eagles one point clear of the G-men on a neutral field (81 and 80). Now that needs to be three points. Should we make it 82 and 79? The Eagles didn’t do anything to get better, and are already fairly well respected at our estimate of 81. It’s the Giants who are looking like a pretender, down 43-13 on the scoreboard at a composite expectation of pick-em. We’ll move NYG down to 78 and keep the Eagles where they were. That puts us at…

87: New England
84: Atlanta, Pittsburgh 
83: Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, Oakland
82: Seattle
81: Philadelphia, Minnesota (with Bradford), Tennessee, Denver
80: Carolina, Baltimore
79: Tampa Bay, Miami
78: NY Giants, Detroit, Minnesota (with Keenum) 
77: Washington, New Orleans, Arizona, Cincinnati, Houston, LA Chargers
76: LA Rams, Jacksonville 
75: Buffalo
74: Chicago, Cleveland 
71: San Francisco
70: NY Jets, Indianapolis (with Brissett, 69 with Tolzien)

By the way, those are handy for projecting future lines because the market generally moves conservatively. The Giants have looked horrible, but they’re not plus 10 on the road against a good team like the Eagles despite losses of 16 and 14 points. They’re only plus six. You can look at Week Four’s schedule right now and be in the ballpark with these numbers. If you want to map out expectations for potential playoff runs, those will do the job well enough. Not saying they’ll tell you NOW who’s going to be in the playoffs. But, you can create moneyline percentage equivalents to get a sense of expectations against any team’s remaining schedule. 

Looks like 80s going to be the cut-off for “playoff caliber” (12 teams reach the postseason).

A quick note on NFL scoring before we call it a day. Here are the scoreboard sums from low to high for Week 1 and Week 2 in that order. The medians are in parenthesis. Remember that there were only 15 games back in Week 1 because of the hurricane in Florida. 

20-22-26-26-33-36-39-(40)-42-45-47-48-55-58-69
12-21-22-26-34-34-35-(36-36)-47-47-53-56-57-59-65

The median dropped in Week Two. Though there were EIGHT non-offensive touchdowns back in Week 1 (with only 15 games), just FOUR in Week Two with one extra game. That’s 28 points that fall by the wayside…a bit less than two per game on average. 

Book-ending back to our tutorial on key numbers. In low scoring times, 37 is a VERY key number for Over/Unders (it’s the most common sum in the history of the NFL). Also pay attention to 41. You probably already pay attention to 45. Neither 37 nor 41 has shown up yet in 2017…but likely will often if this continues to be a defense-rich season. 

Quick clicks
Subscribe for FREE to VSiN City (and also get the South Point betting sheets)
VSiN’s new Point Spread Weekly is only $99 for the season
Follow us on twitter for news and programming bulletins
Drop us a note with questions or comments

Back Thursday to preview the NFL matchup featuring the Los Angeles Rams at the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams are still -2.5 as of late Tuesday evening.

back to news

screen_grab_of_cover

Get free trial to Point Spread Weekly, VSiN's guide to football betting

This week's 60-page plus issue includes:

  • Brent Musburger on Sunday Night Football’s Super Bowl rematch

  • Matt Youmans picks out 3 key pro and college games to watch

  • Dave Tuley’s Takes on NFL Week 7: Play, Pass (or Pool)

  • Jeff Fogle breaks down MNF from analytics view

Sign up now at vsin.com/subscribe

 

Close