Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Oct 2009

DVOA and NFL Gambling

So how does everyone use the numbers from Football Outsiders?

I know there are plenty of us using spreadsheets and formulas to try and get an edge. If anyone wants to share any ideas or ways that they use some of the great numbers given to us by Football Outsiders. If you are tired of talking about football gambling with people that that think excel is for accountants then lets come here to discuss our methods and work together.

One of the things that use when looking at a game is:
(Team A Points Scored + Team B Points Allowed) X [Team A Offensive DVOA - (Team B Defensive DVOA + Team B Special Teams DVOA)] then I subtract that result from the same formula with Team B on Offense and Team A on Defense and Special Teams. The result of this equation gives what I call the DVOA line and then compare that line to the Vegas line. I have noticed that using this method tends to give an advantage to the bigger road favorites wich did very well this week but over the long term isn't a way to make a bunch of money.

I always look at Turnover Overs, Time of Possession and something I call Corrected Points. Corrected Points is like Plus/Minus but also takes into account the point spreads. So if a team wins the game by 7 points and they were 7 point underdogs then they would have a Corrected point score of 14 for that game and their oppenent would have a score of -14. I keep a running total for Corrected Points. This gives me a running total of how a team is performing compared to Vegas' expectations.

Last season Atlanta was piling up these Corrected Point Totals and they kept being underdogs as Vegas' and bettors never seemed to give them the credit that they had earned. This season I think that Denver might be getting close this as they have been home underdogs to Dallas and New England, before going on the road to being underdogs at San Diego. This week Denver is an underdog again on the road in Baltimore. I'm not sure how the other numbers for this game come out and it is a west coast team coming east for a 1PM start, which historically haven't been very good investments.

I know that gamblers don't like to shared their secrets and I don't blame anyone that wants to keep there information and methods to themselves but I'd like this to be a place where rational discussion about NFL point spreads can take place. Most gambling forums are just guys calling there locks of the week and degenerate gamblers that are looking to bet blindly on what others post. I will try to take the reigns and be more proactive in my postings and I hope that a solid exchage of ideas leads all of us to be better and more profitable by way of both profit and knowledge.

On a side note, thanks again Football Outsiders for providing a place to talk about football with people that are looking for reasons why things happen instead of the cliche machine that passes for "expert analysis" on most pregame shows.

Posted by: Right Ups on 26 Oct 2009

5 replies , Last at 09 Oct 2012, 2:59pm by thabounceisback

Re: DVOA and NFL Gambling
by johncasey :: Mon, 10/26/2009 - 11:35pm


I'm up for seeing if we can get some interesting substantive discussions going. I'm beginning to understand a bit about nfl betting, though still losing money. Consider myself a number-crunching momentum bettor. Lots of Excel, but not trying to assess result against spread based on off/def/spec team stats. Here's the sort of question that interests me: stuff about bye weeks and how they affect performance. People talk about the effects on post-bye games. How about this: are the awful teams this year playing even worse than normal in their pre-bye games? Basically looking ahead to time off like can happen at the end of a season?

Re: DVOA and NFL Gambling
by Right Ups :: Tue, 10/27/2009 - 3:41pm

johncasey thats a good point about pre-bye games. It might be just human nature. If I was on an bad football team or even just had a job that I didn't enjoy then I would probably spent more time making plans for my bye week instead of puting in that extra time in preparation for the impeding game.

I'm going to look at teams going into the bye week compared to the pre-bye week games. I'm not sure if we can post the actual DVOA numbers for specific games here but I can make some calculations and post the trends.

Also if you have any other gambling questions I'd be happy try and answer them, I have been looking at games for about 15 years but, like all of us, still trying to figure a better and more consistant method.

Re: DVOA and NFL Gambling
by johncasey :: Tue, 10/27/2009 - 8:41pm

Thanks Professor. One question comes to mind at the moment. Where can I find information breaking down the likelihood of possible point differentials for game outcomes? I.e.; what percentage of regular season games are won by 1,2,3,... points?

Re: DVOA and NFL Gambling
by Right Ups :: Thu, 10/29/2009 - 9:14pm

I don't yet have the differentials point by point but I know that 98 games in the last two seasons (07 and 08) have ended with a difference of a field goal or less. This number includes the Philly/Cincy tie from last season. I would need to count this season which I haven't had time to do yet. So you have 98 games out of 512 regular season games during the last two seasons, less than 20%.

One point in handicapping though is we want to predict the games that are going to give us the biggest difference in scores and we want to stay away from the closer games.

Another point to consider is that most games the point spread ends up being irrelevant. In 103 games this season the point spread has only come into play in 15 games, about 14.5%. So if you can pick out the winner in each game you will wind up with the point spread winner 85.5% of the time and any gambler picking 85.5% is going to pile up some serious winnings. Using this logic I have played more money lines this year with underdogs and I only bet on an underdog if I believe that they have a solid chance to win the game outright (Which is also part of Bill Simmons' Playoff manifesto). I know this post might raise more questions than it answers but these are just a few things to think about when you look for plays this week.

I will be posting some plays this week and anyone that wants to can comment or even offer their own thoughts on this weeks lines.

Re: DVOA and NFL Gambling
by thabounceisback :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:59pm

So, I am just starting out trying to build a spreadsheet to just see what could data I could get and how I might consider putting the data into a model to predict winners. I don't have anything valuable yet, but I have been able to set-up a cool web query/vlookup combo tat lets me automatically download data from pro football reference.

If anyone would like to see my spreadsheet or would like to share where/how they get data, I would love to know that kind of thing.

My email is kurt.amend@gmail.com if anyone is interested in comparing notes.

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