Is the NFL the Easiest Sport to Beat?

Joe Gavazzi

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 12:27 PM GMT

We compare the NFL to other sports to determine if it can provide the greatest profit potential and if it truly is the easiest sport to beat and why.

Each year in the NFL, 32 teams play a 16-game schedule. That affords us 256 opportunities on side plays in NFL action. That number of course pales in comparison to the college football schedule, which now finds nearly 130 teams playing at least 12 games a year, affording us approximately 800 opportunities in CFB. The numbers grow ever larger in basketball. NBA finds 30 teams playing an 82-game schedule for over 1,200 opportunities at a point spread winner. In NCAA Basketball it is even more mind boggling, with 250 teams playing an average of 30 games, giving us approximately 3,800 opportunities to pick a winner. 

With a greater volume of games in each of those sports providing many more opportunities for point spread success, why would one consider that the NFL is the easiest sport to beat? Note that I did not say the sport in which the most PROFIT is provided. Rather, there is substantial evidence that the NFL offers good reason to provide the greatest profit potential.

Every year in every sport, I track the AFP (away from the point spread) results of each game played. The numbers I provide below may be a bit mind boggling to you, considering that there is the least scoring in the NFL (46 PPG), compared to approximately 56 PPG in CFB, 140 PPG in CBKB, and 192 PPG in an average NBA game. Yet the numbers below offer ample reason for the NFL being the easiest sport to beat. I will present the numbers in a brief chart which rounds the AFP numbers to the nearest whole number. The chart will show by sport the average AFP (away from the point spread) per game result in recent seasons. 

 

Sport

Average AFP per game

NFL

11 PPG

CFB

10 PPG

NBA

9 PPG

CBKB

8 PPG

 

 

My original theory was that the more points in the game, such as basketball vs. football, would have resulted in a higher AFP. But with scoring coming mostly by 3’s and 6’s in football (rather than 2’s and 3’s in basketball) it provides a greater average margin of victory. 

Those of you who are interested in a breakdown of margin of victory-perhaps for use in teasers-will note the following breakdown of AFP margin. 

43% of all NFL games are decided by 0-7 points from opening line
27% of all NFL games are decided 71/2-14 points from opening line
30% of all NFL games are decided by more than 14 points from opening line

With an 11.0 AFP per game margin of victory, a case can be made that the NFL is the easiest sport to beat. But that would assume that you’ve never watched a recovered fumble be returned for a touchdown, or a pick 6 be returned the length of the field for a 14 point swing. Turnovers are clearly the wild card that affects the NFL AFP.