Look past stats

Sep 9, 2008 6:53 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | After one week of pro football there are mountains of stats and angles available for sports bettors to digest from this season and years past.

Its important to learn when to look beyond stats. For example, here are some stats from the 2007 NFL season:

The Bucs ranked 17th defensively against the run.

The Titans were No. 5 in rushing.

The Chiefs were No. 4 against the pass.

The Panthers had the No. 14 rushing offense.

The Bears were 15th in passing.

The Dolphins ranked fifth against the pass.

Those stats dont tell the real story about a football teams strengths. For instance, the Dolphins statistically may have ranked No. 5 against the pass, but they were not a good defensive team while going 1-15. They ranked dead last at stopping the run and 23rd overall defensively.

The Chiefs, Broncos and Jets fall into that same angle, ranked above-average against the pass, but with terrible run defenses. The Chiefs, Broncos, Jets and Dolphins defensively ranked 28, 29, 30 and 32 against the run, respectively.

In 2005, the Packers were tops defensively against the pass yet allowed 22 passing touchdowns, which was 10th worst in the NFL. Their run defense was 23rd, so overall the defense had more deficiencies than strengths.

The 2007 Chicago Bears ranked in the middle of the pack at passing the football (15th), but that was misleading. Chicago had a revolving door at QB with Brian Griese, Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, who combined for 17 TDs and 21 INTs. The Bears ranked 30th in rushing and their 27th overall offensive ranking was more accurate.

In 2007 the Carolina Panthers ranked 14th in rushing. The fact was the Panthers had all kinds of injuries to their starting QBs, even losing Jake Delhomme for the season in Week 3. Carolina was handicapped and finished 29th in total offense.

In 2005, the Cardinals may have had the No. 1 passing offense, but that was because they had the worst running game. The Titans were No. 5 in rushing last season, but near the bottom in passing. Last year, the Buccaneers ranked 17th defensively against the run but were No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 in total defense.

Sometimes coaches can implement strategies designed to disguise weaknesses. The Giants didnt have a great secondary last fall, but the defensive schemes were able to mask that on the way to the Super Bowl, along with a dominant defensive front.

The last four years the Steelers ranked 28th, 24th, 4th and 22nd in passing offense, yet three of those "poor" passing stats are deceptive. The Steelers are primarily a power-running team. The stats may suggest a poor passing team, but the reality is quite different.

Information certainly is a key when analyzing games and point spreads, but its essential to understand that stats are only a starting point. They dont always tell the whole story. Stats can at times lie.