These days, there are an awful lot of statistics out there when it comes to the NFL. The analytics movement that has taken over baseball and basketball in recent years is now beginning to engulf the NFL, too.
Utilizing the numbers to your advantage is one way to turn yourself into a profitable football bettor. The vast majority of people that place bets online or at land-based casinos don’t take advantage of stats. If you use them the right way, these NFL betting stats can help you improve your overall bottom line. Winning sports bettors look for every possible way to get an edge on the house. Those that set the odds typically know what they’re doing, but there is still an edge to be found if you know where to look. One way to do just that is to dive into the numbers on a week-in, week-out basis.
You may not see positive results right away, but having a consistent process is hugely important when it comes to becoming a profitable sports bettor. If you use the following key NFL betting stats correctly, you will start to see more favorable results as the sample size grows.
1. Team Offensive Yards Per Carry
Football is a team sport more than anything else. Having a great running back is nice, but largely useless without a competent offensive line. Any team with a solid running game and a poor passing game is also likely to struggle as the season progresses in the rushing department, because the threat of the pass is something that typically opens up the run game.
That’s why looking at an individual player’s yards per carry can be misleading. There are an awful lot of factors that make an offense a successful one. In recent years, we’ve seen NFL teams begin to devalue individual running backs, in general. Team rushing stats are, generally, more useful than individual totals.
Tracking rushing stats by team also helps you factor in the ability of the offensive line on running plays. The best offensive lines make every back on the team better and are better prepared to have success if a running back is injured. Teams missing their starting running backs can still enjoy plenty of success on the ground if the O-line is good enough.
2. Team Offensive Yards Per Pass Attempt
Just like tracking the yards per carry for the team, tracking the yards per pass attempt for each team gives a better picture of the effectiveness of a team’s passing game. This key NFL betting stat is one way to compare the collection of the quarterback, receivers, and offensive line from team to team.
A team that shows it’s capable of gaining chunks of yardage via the ground game will also typically find the passing game easier to come by. If opposing defenses have to keep their eyes in the backfield and respect the running game, that makes them more prone to getting beaten over the top through the air.
Do not forget to include the yards lost by sacks when you calculate this number. You want an overall gauge of success, and sacks are important. The 2021 Bengals are a good example. This was a stellar offensive team in the passing game, but their inability to protect Joe Burrow was often their downfall.
3. Team Defensive Yards Per Carry Allowed
These next two NFL betting stats don’t take rocket scientists to figure out. A team with a notoriously lackluster running game playing against a team that doesn’t give up many yards per carry will only increase the pressure on the offense’s passing attack. If that offense can’t run the football against a run-stuffing defense, they’re going to have to take an incredibly one-dimensional approach to play-calling, which plays right into the defense’s hands.
When the defense needs to try and pack the box to help stop the run, it makes it harder to defend against the passing game, particularly play-action.
It’s difficult to predict the specific influence of one or two defensive players on the run game. Individual defensive player stats are often noisy, anyway. When you track the defensive unit as a whole, however, you can get a much clearer picture. The best run-stopper on the defense isn’t necessarily the player that leads the team in tackles, so don’t try to glean too much from one player’s numbers.
Offensive coaches usually scheme to double-team and run plays away from the best defensive players, anyway. This doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the best players, but it will open up additional opportunities for others to step up and make plays.
4. Team Defensive Yards Per Pass Attempt Allowed
Tracking the defensive yards per pass attempt allowed is a way for you to compare a defense to an offense and how each team matches up with their next opponent. Just like when you track the statistics for the pass offense, make sure you factor in sacks when you track the passing defense statistics.
Teams that consistently get to opposing quarterbacks tend to fare well in terms of limiting opposing passing attacks. It’s hard to pass the ball when your QB is constantly being driven into the ground.
While an opposing defense may have a shutdown corner capable of stifling the offense’s star receiver, one measly cornerback doesn’t make an entire defense. That’s another reason it’s worth looking at team stats as opposed to the numbers for any single defender.
5. Percentage of Punts Inside the 20
Who cares about punters? Punts may be the most boring plays in any NFL game, but taking a gander at the numbers can actually prove beneficial to you as a football bettor. Keeping tabs on the percentage of punts that land inside the 20-yard-line can come in handy.
A punter with a higher average of punts inside the 20 is more valuable than one with longer average yards per punt. It’s a tired cliche, but football is truly a game of field position. The longer an offense needs to travel to score, the higher the chance of a mistake. Worse field position to begin a drive also lengthens the odds of any offense to find the end zone, as well.
Identifying punters that consistently pin their opponents deep in their own territory can make a big difference in your betting results over the course of a season. This is a key NFL betting stat the vast majority of wagerers will simply ignore.
6. Team Turnover Differentials
Turnovers are often the difference between winning and losing. That’s why the team that commits fewer turnovers in any game usually has a better chance to emerge victorious.
While an interception will go on the ledger of a quarterback, turnovers are truly a team statistic. A quarterback might throw the ball where it’s supposed to go, but if a receiver runs the wrong route, it can still result in an interception. You’ll hear an announcer say that interception wasn’t on a QB, which is often true.
On the defensive side of the ball, a turnover can be created by the defensive line pressuring the quarterback into a hurried throw, for example. Or, if the pass coverage is good enough, the QB may take an ill-advised chance by throwing directly into that tight coverage.
Some teams are better about protecting the football than others. Some defenses are also more proficient in forcing those critical mistakes. By tracking this, you can use it to help swing your evaluations one way or the other in games with tight point spreads.
7. Offensive Punt Return Average
I mentioned previously how important field position is in a given game.
That’s why it’s useful for teams to have capable athletes in the kick return game capable of flipping field position in their favor. While the NFL’s new safety rules have lessened the overall impact of the kick return game, we do still see a few big returns every now and then. You need to be tracking the average starting field position for each offense and defense, to begin with. Using punt return average as a tiebreaker can help you make informed betting decisions.
You also need to be sure to identify who will return punts if the main returner is injured. Returning kicks is not easy.
This NFL betting stat also helps you see which teams do a better job of pressuring opposing punters and racking up blocks and deflections.
8. Defensive Punt Return Average
Defensive punt return average tells you which teams do the best job on punt coverage.
Punters with good hangtime numbers also give their teammates enough time to get down the field and put clamps on the return game. You should track average hang times by punter, but it’s only one part of the equation.
And because it’s only one part of the equation, tracking the average punt return against the team is also useful.
9. Average Offensive Starting Field Position
The NFL’s best defensive teams typically get off the field pretty quickly. Because they make life difficult on opposing offenses, these defenses aren’t very susceptible to chunk plays or yielding long drives. Obviously, that’s something that can come in handy in the field position game, too.
Teams that are able to start with a better field position on average than their opponent have a better chance to score, which leads to a better chance to win. The only way to use this key NFL betting stat is when evaluating games is if you track it for every team.
10. Average Defensive Starting Field Position
The reason you track the average defensive starting field position is the same reason you track the offensive starting position. Teams that can force their opponents into suboptimal starting field positions generally make scoring more difficult.
A bad defense still gives up more points than a good one, but when you compare two defenses of the same skill level, the one that starts with a better field position will usually fare better and give their team a greater chance to win a game.
11. Time of Possession
Winning the turnover battle is typically a good indicator of a team’s chance to win.
Combining time of possession with other key NFL betting stats is the best course of action. A team with a high-octane passing game might have a lower time of possession than one with a reliable ground game. It’s worth noting, of course, that alone doesn’t make the run-first team the better offensive club.
One thing that time of possession does help you with is evaluating defenses in upcoming games. Defenses that have to spend more time on the field tend to get tired and make more mistakes late in games. It’s really that simple.
A defense that spends 8 out of the last 10 minutes of the game on the field when they’re up by 20 or more can skew the time-of-possession numbers. If you don’t know why the numbers are created, it leads to mistakes when you evaluate games. That’s why context is hugely important with this metric.
12. Completion Percentage
You need to track the completion percentage for both the offense and defense on short, medium, and long-pass plays. It’s also important to identify short-pass plays that turn into long gains as short plays.
The box score may show a 50-yard pass play, but if the quarterback made a 5-yard completion and the receiver broke it for a long run, it’s not the same as throwing the ball 50 yards. A team that runs a dink-and-dunk offense can still strike for a big play, even if the play design itself didn’t necessarily lend itself to that result. It’s common sense to know that average completion percentages are higher for shorter throws, but you need to identify teams that can’t complete long passes. In general, teams that struggle to throw the ball deep down the field have a more difficult time putting points on the board.
Teams that have to move up and down the field 5 and 10 yards at a time have more opportunities to make mistakes. On the defensive side of the ball, you need to learn which teams are more likely to give up long plays than others. Obviously, those teams are more likely to get gouged for chunk plays and give up points in bunches.
13. Offensive Third-Down Conversions
Third-down conversions are one way to track the ability of the offense as a whole. But the danger of looking at just conversions is that you miss the teams that dominate a game and don’t get into third-down situations often.
Obviously, teams that convert more third-down opportunities as a percentage than teams that don’t wind up scoring on a higher percentage of their possessions. As mentioned, keeping the ball is important.
14. Defensive Third-Down Conversions
Forcing opposing offenses into more third-downs is key for any defense. Long third-downs, especially.
But, just like looking at more than just the percentages on offense, you need to know how the defense performs overall. Some defenses give up a lot of yards in the middle of the field, but get better when they get close to their end zone.
They call these “bend but don’t break” defenses for a reason. Sometimes, teams allow lots of yardage but buckle down in the red zone.
They might give up more yards and a higher percentage of third-down conversions, but when they get to the area of the field where the other team can score, they show the ability to get stops on a consistent basis.
15. Extra-Point Conversions
The NFL moved the distance for extra-point conversions back, and it results in more missed extra points. Since the rule change, extra points have gotten quite a bit more dramatic.
In 2014, the final NFL season before the rule change, a whopping 26 NFL teams converted every single one of their extra point attempts.
You need to know which teams and kickers never miss, and the ones that can cost you points over the course of the year. In a close game, botching an XP can be extremely costly.
16. Field Goal Percentages
This is one of the easiest NFL betting stats to track. You can find the percentages for short, middle, and long-range field goal attempts for every kicker in the league. But these numbers alone only tell part of the story, of course.
When you combine the statistics for field goal percentages with other stats like average starting field position, offensive yards per carry, offensive yards per pass attempt, and the defensive numbers in the same categories, you can paint a more complete picture about which teams have the best chance to get into field goal range and cash-in on those chances when they get there.
17. Fourth-Down Success Rates
Most NFL coaches are afraid that making unconventional plays and failing will get them fired. Back in the day, that was probably true. These days, though, more and more coaches are willing to roll the dice in these situations.
There are still some conservative play-callers out there, though. You need to learn which coaches aren’t afraid to go for it on fourth and short, and which teams have the most success when they do. Late-game fourth-down attempts should be tracked separately. Teams are more willing to go for it in do-or-die scenarios.
18. Two-Point Conversion Success Rates
Two-point conversions are often important when you make spread bets. The line isn’t important to the teams or coaches, so they do what they think is going to give them the best chance to win the game.
But just because the coaches use two-point conversion attempts to try to win games doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt or help your chances to win bets.
When you evaluate games that look like they’re going to be close, if you know which teams are more likely to try for two points and which ones have the most success when they do, it can help you decide which side to bet on.
19. Performance of Secondary Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Receivers
The NFL is a violent league. They even made a movie about it starring Will Smith! Unfortunately, tons of injuries will occur over the course of the NFL’s 18-week regular season. Depth is one of the most important traits of any successful NFL team.
If the starting running back goes out in the first quarter, how much does it hurt each team? Some teams have a good backup, but many don’t have anyone with skills close to the starter. The same is true for backup quarterbacks and receivers.
20. Offensive Performance In Different Game Scenarios
When games in the NFL get to a point where one team is up by more than a touchdown, it often changes the performance of each team.
The defense uses a different approach with a big lead than when playing from behind, and offenses do the same. A weak team may rack up extra passing stats over the course of the season because they have to pass more when playing from behind. There’s not much sense in running the football and milking the clock when you’re trailing by three touchdowns in the second quarter, for example. You need to track how each team performs when playing in different game situations.
Some teams are able to come back and compete for a win, and others simply don’t have the juice to do the same.
An offense that can keep coming back and fighting to stay in the game is more valuable than one that seems to give up when they get behind.
21. Defensive Performance In Different Game Scenarios
When you track defensive performance, it’s important to differentiate between how they play during normal parts of the game and how they play when they have a big lead.
A team with a good offense that often gives their defense a big lead will show more yards and points given up by the defense.
But if most of these yards and points are during the garbage time at the end of the game, you need to know so you can evaluate the defense correctly.
If you take note of and keep tabs on the above betting stats, NFL wagering will likely get a lot easier for you in the future.
Looking beyond the surface numbers can be the difference between winning and losing any football bet. It’s easy to track the popular statistics that everyone sees, but if you want to learn how to win when you bet on the NFL, you need to do a little more homework.
These 21 NFL statistics sports bettors should track gives you a list of advanced metrics you can use to make better decisions.