NFL Numbers and Statistics That Matter Most When Placing a Bet

NFL Betting Strategy Course 104

The National Football League is the most popular sport to bet on in the United States. There are all kinds of tips, strategies, and information available to bettors to aid in gaining the greatest edge possible. Just like the handicapping process for other sports and leagues, there are several key statistics and numbers to be aware of when betting on the NFL. This article will provide several examples of each and discuss why they are of significance to the NFL betting process.

Key Numbers in NFL Betting

Every sport has its own set of key numbers to pay specific attention to when shopping the lines and searching for potential wagering options. Key numbers refer to the most common margin(s) of victory. As the scoring systems for different sports differ, so do the key numbers.

By knowing the most common margins of victory in a sport, you can better predict outcomes and ultimately place bets around these numbers. It is worth noting that while they help predict individual game spread and totals bets, key numbers are not useful for other forms of sports betting, such as futures.

The sport of football’s unique scoring system affords a handful of key numbers to use when betting both NFL point spreads and totals.

NFL ATS Betting Numbers to Know

The following shows a list of the probabilities for each margin of victory between 0 and 21 points in NFL games dating back to 2006 according to Wizard of Odds. The major key numbers are expounded upon below.

NFL Scoring Margins Probabilities

Key Number: 3

A team earns 3 points for kicking a field goal, thus making it a number of prime importance for NFL bettors. How many games do we see where it comes down to a last-second field goal to decide the outcome? With the amount of relative parity in the NFL compared to other sports leagues, you are likely to see several close games in a single week and many more across the lifespan of an entire season.

Key Number: 7

The key number of 7 comes into being because it is the number of points a team earns when they score a touchdown (6 points) and then kick an extra point. While 7 is the second most common margin of victory in the NFL, the drop-off from the first key number of 3 is significant.

Key Number: 10

When you add 3 and 7 together, you get 10. This is the third key number to note when betting NFL spreads. Many games see a team already up a touchdown tack on a field goal late to increase their lead to 10. While 10 is the smallest and most common combination number to be aware of, note the slightly higher probabilities for margins that reflect other combination numbers such as 14 (a two-touchdown margin), 17 (two touchdowns plus a field goal) and 21 (three touchdowns).

NFL Totals Betting Numbers to Know

Given that totals wagering deals with higher numbers than ATS bets, it makes sense that the range of key numbers for NFL totals would be greater than those for the spread. According to the same Wizard of Odds research, eight different numbers have proven significant with a lot of NFL game results. The big four are 43, 44, 41, and 37. The second level, if you will, are the numbers 51, 47, 40, and 33. It should be noted that the final scores that might generate any one of these key totals numbers are not limited to any single combination.

NFL Key Numbers Betting Strategies

Being familiar with the key numbers in both NFL ATS and totals betting is helpful, but as a bettor, it is important to know how to translate this knowledge to your handicapping process. The following sections outline strategies for using these key numbers to your advantage.

Look for Key Numbers Amongst the Lines

It is important to always keep an eye out for key numbers showing up amongst NFL betting lines. They can show up as exact key numbers themselves or in the form of a small half-point variation up or down. For example, a common NFL point spread is 2.5, falling just under the key number of 3. Depending on the team you are looking to back ATS in a given game, this small half-point discrepancy, commonly referred to as a “hook”, can make all the difference in whether or not you place a bet, or on the size of the wager. Since nearly 25% of all NFL games end with 3 or 7-point margins, the hooks for these numbers are of particular importance.

Shop for Key Number Betting Opportunities

It is important to remember that bookmakers are aware of the key numbers for the NFL as well. As a result, they are often hesitant to move lines off of a key number. If you notice a point spread sitting firmly on an NFL key number of 3 or 7 at one book, it is worth your while to shop around at other sportsbooks. Doing so can lead to situations like the following. The odds shown are for the same game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Note the difference just off of the key number of three at one sportsbook compared to the other.

Bovada Packers-Vikings Line

DraftKings Packers-Vikings Line

Discrepancies in liability or the analysis of oddsmakers could lead to finding a hook on that same game elsewhere, as in the example above. If the hook is in favor of the side you wish to back, you will have found a much better opportunity than simply accepting the original line.

Key Numbers and Buying Points

One popular way to bet point spreads and totals involves buying points. This option affords bettors the ability to bet an adjusted version of the line on a game with increased juice. Take the following spread for a game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers for example:

Buying Points

Suppose a bettor likes the Steelers, but noticing the listed spread is on the north side of a field goal margin, he/she is hesitant to back them in a divisional rivalry game. By buying a point to adjust the line in the Steelers’ favor, they can now place a bet on Pittsburgh with a new spread of -2.5. The Steelers could now win by a field goal margin of 3 points exactly and you would cash your ticket.


Buying points also comes into play with teaser bets. Different books offer different variations, but the most common type of NFL teaser is the 6-point teaser. This wager enables bettors to adjust the lines a full six points in the direction of their choosing. The catch is that they must tease two lines together and have both results come to fruition to win the bet. Looking for lines that can be teased through the NFL key numbers will help to maximize the teaser feature to the fullest. For more information on teaser bets, CLICK HERE.

NFL Betting Statistics to Know

Statistics are under the microscope in sports now more so than ever. There are stats for seemingly every aspect of every sport, and there are even adjusted versions of these stats to give a more accurate picture of a team or player’s performance. Thanks to this increased availability and accuracy, sports bettors have an ample volume of statistics at their disposal to assist in the handicapping process.

Stats are kept in the game of football at various levels, both for collective teams and individual players. The primary unit battles (offense vs. defense), as well as individual player tussles (wide receivers vs. cornerbacks, etc.), can all be measured, gauged, and predicted thanks to statistics and analytics. The following sections discuss several statistics to monitor closely when it comes to betting the NFL.

Yardage Statistics

When it comes to predicting future points scored and allowed by a certain team, it turns out that yardage statistics prove more reliable than previous scoring stats themselves. There are a whole host of yardage statistics that NFL bettors should track diligently, including but not limited to:

Offensive Yards Per Carry

Offensive Yards Per Pass Attempt

Offensive Starting Field Position

Defensive Yards Per Carry Allowed

Defensive Yards Per Pass Attempt Allowed

Defensive Starting Field Position

One other specific statistical area that deals with a team’s yardage gained or allowed is Explosive Play Rate. Looking for offenses that routinely strike for big gains and defenses that are prone to allowing chunk plays can prove particularly advantageous when these units are set to be matched up head to head in a game.

Defensive Points Allowed per 100 Yards

The strength of a team’s defense has proven quite valuable in determining outcomes for both moneyline and spread betting over time. The defensive points allowed per 100 yards statistic is a great indicator of just how tough it is to score on a given defense.

The stat is calculated by first dividing the total number of yards a defense has allowed by 100. The answer is then divided into the total number of points a team has allowed. The resulting single-digit value provides a great statistic by which to compare several teams’ abilities to prevent opponents from scoring. The majority of teams will have DPA/100 ratios between 6.0 and 7.0. A good defense will fall below 6.0 and a bad one will be above 7.0.

Turnover Margin

While there is an undeniable element of luck involved in turnovers, knowing how a team’s turnover margin stacks up relative to their opponent in a given week can help bettors rationalize inflated market lines that differ noticeably from their projections. Because turnovers can propel a team to victory or spell their doom in a given game, they often correlate directly with how the betting public perceives a team the following week.

Pressure Rate

While the battle in the trenches garners little spotlight or fanfare, the front lines are without a doubt the heart and soul of a football game. The pressure rate statistic is the best way to predict whether a future drive will be shut down by a crushing sack, even more so than sack rate. A defense with a strong pressure rate will prove especially effective on pass plays. Knowing which defenses are best at generating pressure, which offensive lines are best at preventing it, and which quarterbacks perform well or poorly under it are all helpful for NFL bettors.

Time of Possession

Time of possession is an important statistic to track on a couple of fronts. On the surface, it speaks to an offense’s ability to control a game. The underlying consequence stemming from this is how rested a team’s defense will be late in games. If the offense is controlling the time of possession, a defense will have a better chance of making plays late in a close game if they haven’t been on the field for extended periods of time. While it is a great way to draw comparisons between teams, making betting decisions based on time of possession alone is ill-advised.

Bettors should also be aware of how the time of possession data can become skewed. For instance, if a team plays several games where they are up by 20 points or more in the second half, they will tend to have a greater time of possession, thanks to both their efforts to bleed the clock and the opposing team’s attempts at preserving time to try and mount a comeback.

Football Outsiders Offensive and Defensive Efficiency

Combing through statistics can be a long and tedious process if you don’t know where to look. One particularly beneficial resource to utilize is the Football Outsiders efficiency rankings. The rankings tables are broken down in an easy-to-follow manner and offer a great way to quickly compare teams’ units against each other. They are adjusted with the company’s own DVOA (defense-adjusted Value Over Average) system.

As you can see from the following image of the defenses table, the overall rankings are broken down further into passing and rushing categories. Strength of schedule is also accounted for at the far-right hand side of the table.

Football Outsiders

Final Thoughts

Key numbers and statistics are both great tools for NFL bettors to use to take their handicapping to the next level. There are strong key numbers to use for both ATS and totals bets. Looking for these numbers and their hooks amongst posted lines can ensure that you get the best value on the bet you intend to make. Buying points is another way to take advantage of the key NFL betting numbers. In the vast sea of NFL statistics, several have proven particularly effective in assisting bettors. Focusing on the specific stats of yardage, team efficiency ratings, turnover margin, pressure rate and time of possession has proven particularly important to NFL handicapping. It is important to remember that key numbers and statistics should not be the only things driving a betting decision. But when working together with other tools and strategies, they can help to make a successful NFL betting venture that much more attainable.

Henry is pursuing a Communication Studies degree and a Psychology minor at SUNY University at Buffalo. He has been a passionate sports fan from a young age and got hisstart writing about Fantasy Football. In an effort to combine an aspect of specialization along with his enjoyment of any and all sports, Henry expanded to cover other Fantasy Sports while also foraying into the Sports Betting sector. He continues to relish every opportunity to learn, grow and network within the industry. He counts the New York Jets, Toronto Raptors, Vegas Golden Knights and San Diego Padres among his team loyalties. In addition to school and sports, Henry is passionate about health and fitness and is currently studying to earn certification as a personal trainer.

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