Lets take a look at NFL week 4 point spreads and a betting strategy using a popular handicapping technique based on yards per play rankings. More often than not teams that have positive yards per play differential tend to come out on top so looking at a team's offensive yards per play and defensive yards can be a good yard stick and predictor of performance moving forward.
The following table shows current Yards Per Play Rankings coming into NFL week 4. These are worked out by subtracting a team's defensive yards per play from their offensive number giving the net differential, when positive a team's offense is gaining more yardage than the defense is allowing. As you can see the Tennessee Titans (1.6), Dallas Cowboys (1.5), Pittsburgh Steelers (1.2) and Baltimore Ravens (1.1) all lead the way with the best differentials while the Seattle Seahawks (-1.3), San Francisco 49ers (-1.2), St. Louis Rams (-1.2), Indianapolis Colts (-1.1) and Kansas City Chiefs (-1.1) are all planted at the bottom of the rankings.
|Rankings After Week 3 - 2011 Regular Season|
Using NFL Yards Per Play Rankings
How can you use these rankings? They can be used to evaluate a match up between any two teams, with a crude method of setting a NFL point spread line using NFL yardage differentials, where 0.15 yards per play is equivalent to 1 point. Using the table lets put that formula to practice for a few of this weeks NFL games.
Looking at the Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints we see that the Jaguars after 3 weeks have gained 4.3 offensive yards per play while allowing 5 for a differential of -.7 while the Saints gained 6.3 and allowed 5.8 for +.5. The Saints net differential is 1.2 better than the Jaguars which divided by 0.15 would indicate that the Saints on a neutral field would be favored by 8 points. The opening NFL Point Spread for this game was in fact Jaguars (+8) which has since moved to (+7).
Taking another game from this week, we see the Arizona Cardinals with a net (+.5) Y/P v the Eli Manning led New York Giants (+.2) giving the Cardinal a (+.3) differential which divided by 0.15 suggests the Cardinals as 2 point favorites on a neutral field. The line opened with major Sportsbooks offering the Arizona Cardinals as (+3) home underdogs, that number has since moved down 2 points to have them at (+1).
Of course there are many other handicapping methods and stats that can be integrated with this simple yards per play method such as allowances for home field advantage and strength of schedule. Generally the yards per play stats become more viable as the season progresses with teams having played more opponents of varying strengths.