Podcast: Matthew Holt on how sportsbooks use football analytics

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I talk with Matthew Holt, the Chief Operating Officer at CG Technologies and the guy who sets the opening lines in Nevada. Among other topics, we discuss:

  • How sportsbooks use analytics to set market values
  • How much gathering injury data has changed the past 12 years
  • The markets that Matthew suggests for finding value
  • The subjective adjustments that sportsbooks and bettors must make to the numbers
  • The crazy odds for the New York Jets under 4.5 wins this NFL preseason

Matthew was a joy to talk with and even offered his help to anyone interested in getting into the sports world.

After the interview, I discuss my predicted total in Texas Tech at West Virginia and the pass defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Listen at 36:02.

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Podcast: Joe Fortenbaugh on The Sharp 600, NFL in 2017

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I talk with Joe Fortenbaugh, host of The Sharp 600 podcast and football betting expert. Among other topics, we discuss:

  • The amazing way in which Joe broke into the sports world. A must listen whether you want to follow in his footsteps or land a date after getting a number. Listen at 2:20.
  • How the new podcast The Sharp 600 came about. 600 refers to the number of second of each show.
  • Joe’s take on how analytics has become a part of sports media and betting.
  • The NFL team that has most surprised Joe early this season

Joe also had an awesome book recommendation that reminds us to keep things in perspective.

After the interview, I do my own segment on NFL pass rankings by adjusted yards per play. This includes a discussion of how I develop a total points prediction for Jacksonville at Pittsburgh this weekend.

You can read about my NFL pass rankings here, or listen at 28:51.

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NFL pass rankings by adjusted yards per attempt, 2017

Which teams have surprised early this NFL season? What can we say after 4 weeks of data?

The Power Rank looks at NFL offense and defense through their pass statistics. My research has found that passing rules the NFL while rushing hardly matters.

Here, I give the NFL rankings for pass offense and defense by yards per attempt adjusted for strength of schedule. Beware the small sample size of only 4 games, but these results do give us an early peak into the 2017 NFL season.

First, let’s look at pass offense.

NFL Pass Offense Rankings

The number gives an expected yards gained per pass attempt against an average NFL defense.

1. Los Angeles Rams, 8.82
2. Atlanta, 7.77
3. New England, 7.68
4. Washington, 7.23
5. Tampa Bay, 7.22
6. Minnesota, 7.04
7. Philadelphia, 6.95
8. Los Angeles Chargers, 6.87
9. Tennessee, 6.76
10. New Orleans, 6.69
11. Buffalo, 6.60
12. Kansas City, 6.52
13. Denver, 6.49
14. New York Giants, 6.45
15. New York Jets, 6.43
16. Dallas, 6.19
17. Green Bay, 6.14
18. Oakland, 6.08
19. Arizona, 5.94
20. Pittsburgh, 5.60
21. Carolina, 5.47
22. Detroit, 5.35
23. Indianapolis, 5.29
24. Seattle, 5.18
25. San Francisco, 5.14
26. Cincinnati, 5.14
27. Cleveland, 5.04
28. Chicago, 5.04
29. Jacksonville, 4.88
30. Baltimore, 4.77
31. Miami, 4.67
32. Houston, 4.39

The Rams as the top team immediately jumps out.

Last season, the Rams trotted out Jared Goff, the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft, at quarterback and watched him embarrass himself and the franchise. The Rams finished dead last in these pass offense rankings.

In the off season, the Rams got help for Goff. They traded for explosive receiver Sammy Waktins from Buffalo and signed tackle Andrew Whitworth from Cincinnati for enhanced protection.

In addition, you might have expected Goff to improve. On The Football Analytics Show, Kevin Cole explained how draft position is the primary variable for explaining NFL QB success. The Rams and other teams liked Goff for a reason before the draft.

But a move from last to first in pass offense is startling. Let’s see if the Rams can keep it up.

Now let’s check out the NFL pass defense rankings.

NFL Pass Defense Rankings

The number gives an expected yards allowed per attempt against an average NFL offense.

1. Pittsburgh, 4.25
2. Buffalo, 4.61
3. Dallas, 4.69
4. Carolina, 4.71
5. Jacksonville, 5.13
6. Kansas City, 5.20
7. Washington, 5.30
8. Denver, 5.31
9. Detroit, 5.49
10. Cincinnati, 5.53
11. Seattle, 5.60
12. New York Giants, 5.70
13. Oakland, 5.85
14. Atlanta, 5.88
15. Philadelphia, 5.88
16. Chicago, 5.92
17. Los Angeles Chargers, 6.08
18. Houston, 6.15
19. San Francisco, 6.23
20. Los Angeles Rams, 6.24
21. Arizona, 6.29
22. New York Jets, 6.29
23. Green Bay, 6.30
24. Minnesota, 6.40
25. Miami, 6.93
26. Baltimore, 7.04
27. New Orleans, 7.17
28. Tampa Bay, 7.44
29. Indianapolis, 7.55
30. Tennessee, 7.95
31. Cleveland, 8.13
32. New England, 8.63

Pittsburgh leads the NFL in pass defense, a surprise for a unit that has ranked 13th by these same numbers the past two seasons.

The Steelers picked up cornerback Joe Haden for 3 years, $27 million, a hefty contract for a player that had just been released by Cleveland. At the other corner, they’re starting Artie Burns, a rookie from Miami. So far, so good.

These pass offense and defense numbers drive my NFL predictions for totals. The Steelers look like an under team with this defense and an offense that was supposed to be elite but checks in at 20th in my pass offense rankings.

My numbers predict 38.3 points for their game with Jacksonville this weekend. This is probably low, since the Steelers defense most likely regresses to the mean while the offense improves during the remainder of the season.

However, there might be some value in the under.

Finally, in the biggest surprise early this NFL season, New England is dead last in pass defense. This unit figured to be a strength this preseason, as they signed Stephon Gilmore to a 4 year, $65 million contract to play cornerback opposite Malcolm Butler.

However, Gilmore has been awful and started the second half of the Carolina game on the bench. The Patriots have started 2-2 largely because of this pass defense.

Members of The Power Rank get access to these pass defense rankings each week as well as predictions for spreads and totals for all college and pro football games. To learn more, click here.

Podcast: Rufus Peabody on College Football, NFL predictions

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Rufus Peabody, professional sports bettor and creator of Massey-Peabody football analytics, joins me. Rufus is one of the sharpest young minds working in sports analytics, and we discuss the following:

  • The technique Massey-Peabody uses to balance preseason expectations with incoming data for the current season.
  • The reason Rufus is down on Oklahoma State’s offense
  • How his game grades see USC this season
  • How bad Alabama beat up Vanderbilt, and the odds the Crimson Tide win the national title
  • The number of points the Los Angeles Rams have moved up in Massey-Peabody

After the interview, I do my own segment on the college football totals predictions available for members of The Power Rank. Listen at 33:00.

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Podcast: Drew Martin on Predicting College Football for Small Schools

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I welcome Drew Martin from Sports Book Review. He’s also my co-host on the new show Man vs Machine, where we contrast his football based approach to handicapping with my numbers.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • Why he decided to leave JP Morgan to enter the sports world
  • How being a first team all county QB at a Florida high school helps his handicapping
  • His process for studying teams from the Sun Belt, Conference USA and the MAC
  • How the show Man vs Machine originated
  • The Florida team Drew thinks will have value in the markets

After the interview, I do my own segment on small sample size, and how it might affect the NFL games you want to watch in Week 2. Listen at 22:30.

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