Three weeks into the 2020 NFL Season and it has been an absolute points fiesta. Let’s get into NFL Betting Trends Week 4! So far this season, Overs have gone 29-19 (60%) and we have seen an average total score of 51 points per game! Home favorites this year have gone 22-11-1 (67%) straight up (SU) and 17-17 against the spread (ATS), while road favorites have gone 11-3 (79%) SU and 7-7 ATS.
To help put that into perspective, I took a look back at how Weeks 1-3 have gone over the past three seasons. In 2017 through 2019, home favorites went 61-34 (64%) SU and 40-52-3 ATS (43%) and road favorites went 27-19-3 (59%) SU and 21-28 (43%) ATS. In that same span, Overs went 71-73 (49%) and the average total score was just under 45 points per game.
We were all over the anticipated scoring bump in the Week 1 edition of Trends Wisely, but I can say for certain that I was definitely not expecting this significant of a scoring increase through three weeks. As many may have assumed, not having fans in home stadiums has really benefitted the better team. Not only are we seeing almost a full touchdown more per game being scored, but favorites have won outright 8% more frequently and covered the spread 7% more often.
Traditionally, Week 4 has been one of my favorite weeks of the NFL season. We have now seen all of these teams play three games, so we have a better understanding of tendencies on offense and defense. Additionally, some of the advanced statistics are now starting to be a little bit more sticky and we can start to use these to help inform our decisions. You may be thinking to yourself that three games is a really small sample size, but I want you to remember that the NFL as a whole is a small sample size. Compared to baseball (162 games) and basketball (82 games) the 16 games that NFL teams play is a very small number. We need to get comfortable with small sample sizes and get smarter with how to use trends and statistics that are jumping off the paper to inform out decisions at the betting window. Time to dig into the data for Week 4!
CAUTION! Your picks shouldn’t be based solely on NFL historical betting trends. There are a multitude of things to consider. Trends are just one variable. However, one variable might be the tie breaker you need to make a bet.
Please reach out to me on Twitter if there’s anything you want a deeper dive on or particular info you would like to see for upcoming weeks. A lot of these that I will be writing about were once gut opinions or ideas of mine that I decided to dig in and #showmethedata on!
Please note: I have removed games that contradict over multiple trends from the “Targets” list
NFL Week 4 Betting Trends
Early Down Success Rate (EDSR) Mismatches
If you aren’t already someone who tries to consume as much Warren Sharp content as possible, I would highly recommend seeking this man out on all the podcasts, websites, and articles that you can. One of Sharp’s most beloved stats is Early Down Success Rate (EDSR) which helps us understand how offenses and defenses are doing when they are not in a reactive situation. Almost every 3rd and 4th down is reactive due to the distance needed for a first down, and many times the 4th quarter is reactive based on the score differential between teams. EDSR eliminates these conditions and only looks at how teams do (offensively and defensively) on 1st and 2nd downs in the first three quarters of a game. I want to start tracking the biggest EDSR mismatches every week, because it will help show us which teams are having intentional success when the playbook is wide open and the game-script is more neutral.
Target Sides (The differentials listed compare the EDSR of the target team to the EDSR of their opponent on the other side of the ball)
SEA -6.5 (Pass Offense +26, Run Offense +13, Pass Defense -8, Run Defense +24)
IND -2.5 (Pass Offense +24, Run Offense -9, Pass Defense +13, Run Defense +16)
GB -7.5 (Pass Offense +8, Run Offense +24, Pass Defense +9, Run Defense -3)
ARI -3.5 (Pass Offense +1, Run Offense +13, Pass Defense +23, Run Defense -4)
Explosive Plays Equal More Points
Unless you are religiously betting unders or taking part in an all-defensive fantasy league, when you tune into NFL action on Sunday mornings you want to see more points scored. Nothing is better than watching your favorite running back rip off a long run or seeing your team’s quarterback connect on a deep-shot touchdown pass. Defined as a rush over 10 yards or a pass over 15 yards, explosive plays are a good stat for us to use to dial in on Totals to bet. Theoretically, if a team is really good at hitting explosive plays on offense and they face a team who gives up a lot of them on defense, that is a recipe for a game where possession is constantly changing. With shorter drives (and more of them ending in scoring plays), this increase in offensive opportunities should help lead to higher scoring games. Every week, I am going to start highlighting the games which have the most explosive upside (and the least explosive options as well).
Target Totals (The differentials listed compare the Explosive Play rate for the offense compared to the opponent’s defense)
ATL/GB o56.5 (GB Pass +24, GB Run +18, ATL Pass +16)
BUF/LV o53 (BUF Run +17, LV Pass +16)
JAC/CIN u49.5 (CIN Pass -27, CIN Run -22, JAC Pass -19)
Pace of Play
We already covered up above why team’s tendencies in neutral game scripts are important to consider, so the next two statistics that I want to share with you both relate to pace. When it comes to pace, the two things to consider are seconds per play, which tells us how quickly teams are breaking the huddle and snapping the ball in order to increase pace, and overall play count which helps us compare expected offensive opportunities. Comparing how teams rank in these two pace categories with the Vegas totals can help determine some spots to target.
DET/NO u54 (4th highest total, 10th in sec/play, 11th in plays/gm)
SF/PHI o46 (11th highest total, 8th in sec/play, 1st in plays/gm)
West Coast Teams heading out East
Last week, we talked about how bad the Raiders have been when they head East and play in a 10:00am PST kickoff game. This week, we find ourselves with three more west coast teams traveling East as the Chargers head to Tampa Bay, the Cardinals face Carolina, and the Seahawks have a matchup with Miami. Before you run to bet against these teams, I want to drop a little west coast bias on you. When teams from the NFC/AFC West travel East (oftentimes their first big roadtrip of the year) bookmakers have tended to open the lines a little bit softer on them. The assumption is that the long travel will be working against them. It’s 2020 now people and the travel is luxurious, teams are all around smarter how they deal with their health, and we really shouldn’t worry about this too much anymore. Since 2010, these two divisions have gone 14-7 straight up (SU) and 14-7 against the spread (ATS) in Week 4 when playing in the CST or EST time zones. Let’s ride with two high flying west coast offenses this week.
Target Sides: ARI -3.5, SEA -6.5
Underdog Movement off the Lookahead Line
If you have been reading this every week, you should be well versed in reviewing lookahead lines by now. If you need a refresher, make sure to go check out the Week 2 article. Here’s a recap of what I am tracking and how it did last week. We are dealing with small sample sizes again, but remember what I said in the introduction of this week’s article, the NFL is a small sample size.
Line Movement towards the Underdogs – When the line moved more than 1.5 points towards an underdog they are only 1-5 SU and 3-3 ATS, but overs have been 6-0 this year.
Target Totals: None at this point (Keep your eye on DET/NO o54 if the line drops to Saints -3.5 or lower, ARI/CAR o51 if the line drops to ARI -3 or lower)
Favorite Swapped Sides – This happened for the first time last week, as the Vikings opened as a 1 point favorite, but closed as a 3 point underdog. Obviously, they lost on a fourth quarter long field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, but they covered the spread and hit the over.
Target Sides: DEN +1.5 (opened as -2.5 favorites)
Line Movement towards the Favorites – When the line moved more than 1.5 points towards a favorite, they are a chalky 5-1 SU, but only 3-3 ATS. Unders in these games have gone 4-2. This is a spot that we should be continue to target underdogs.
Target Sides: LAC +7 (opened as +5 underdogs), NYG +12.5 (opened as +10 underdogs), PHI +7 (opened as +3.5 underdogs)
That wraps up the Week 4 edition of Trend Wisely. Good luck this week, I hope to see some winning ticket screenshots!
Record to date on Target Sides/Totals
OVERALL: 30-24-1 (55.6%)
Week 1: 15-8-1 (65%)
Week 2: 10-10 (50%)
Week 3: 5-6 (45%)