Sifting out vital stats of pro football

Sep 10, 2013 3:00 AM

The best time of the sports calendar is here, the opening month of the pro football campaign!

There are mountains of stats and angles available for sports bettors to digest from this season and years past. Information certainly is a huge key when analyzing games and point spreads.

Sometimes it can seem like there is too much info, but it’s essential to understand that stats are only a starting point. They don’t always tell the whole story. In fact, stats can sometimes lie, something to keep in mind when searching for football picks.

Sure, it’s important to ask such questions as, “How many yards passing per game does his team get? How big is this offensive line compared to the opponent? Is a great QB going up against a team with slow defensive backs? What’s their home record the last five years, straight up and against the spread?” However, it’s important to learn when to look beyond stats. For example, here are some stats from the 2012 NFL season:

•Kansas City Chiefs were fifth in rushing.

•Philadelphia Eagles were 13th in passing offense.

•Detroit Lions were No. 17 in scoring offense.

•Denver Broncos were No. 2 in total yards allowed.

•Chicago Bears ranked No. 10 in rushing offense.

•Oakland Raiders were eighth in passing on offense.

•Arizona Cardinals ranked fifth in pass defense.

•Philadelphia Eagles ranked ninth in pass defense.

•The NY Jets ranked eighth in total yards allowed.

All of those 2012 stats are true. However, they don’t tell the real story about a football team’s strengths, either. For instance, the Raiders had impressive passing yards and total offense, but were they really a good offensive team when you watched them?

QBs Carson Palmer (22 TDs, 14 INTs) was average and has clearly lost a step because of age and injuries. If he was so good why did they send him to Arizona in the offseason?

The Oakland defense was terrible, 20th against the pass, 18th against the run with no pass rush, so the passing offense was up yards because they were behind often in a 4-12 campaign.

Stat-wise Kansas City was great at rushing the football only because they couldn’t do anything else on offense.

Denver ranked second in the NFL in total defense, but that was a bit misleading as they had an easy schedule. They only lost four games, but gave up 27 at Atlanta, 31 at New England, 31 at home to Houston and 38 to Baltimore in the playoffs. The Broncos are on a 7-2-1 run OVER the total.

Chicago ranked tenth in rushing offense, but that was a bit misleading, too. They changed their offensive strategy in 2012, determined to run the football because a weak offensive line had got QB Jay Cutler killed in 2011. You can forget about that style in 2013 with new Coach Mark Trestman, a pass-happy guy out of the CFL. He twice coordinated the No. 1 NFL passing offense (49ers in 1995, Raiders in 2002).

The Lions were a disappointing 17th in scoring last year, but they had no problems moving the football, ranked third in the NFL in total yards. QB Matt Stafford (20 TDs, 17 INTs, 4,967 yards) had plenty of yards but few TDs. Remember that in 2011 he had 41 TDs, 16 INTs, and 5,038 yards passing.

On defense, it’s difficult to believe the Eagles had the No. 9 ranked pass defense. The run defense was terrible (23rd) and they allowed 27.8 ppg – only the Jags, Saints and Titans gave up more points.

The circus that was Rex Ryan and the NY Jets ended up ranked No. 8 in yards allowed, No. 2 in passing yards allowed, despite missing star CB Darrelle Revis. Misleading stats as the Jets couldn’t stop the run allowing 133.6 yards per game (26th).

Successful handicappers dig deep and weigh all the strengths and weaknesses before heading to the betting window.

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]

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