Perfecting NFL Picks: Using Net Turnover Margin When Betting ATS

Joe Gavazzi

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 12:00 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015 12:00 PM UTC

Make sharper NFL picks by understanding the factors which most impact the outcome of the game. Here we will focus on the correlation between turnover margins and covering ATS.

Each week in the NFL season, sports handicappers religiously follow the same pattern.  You begin by analyzing the statistical data for the game, which leads you to fundamental conclusions.  You then query your situational information results to find out which high-percentage situations apply to each game.  From your favorite sports handicapping newsletters, you then assemble a list of technical trends that apply to each contest.  Injury reports are reviewed to find critical players who may not make post for the Sunday game.  Finally, you tune into your favorite NFL shows to get the input from the talking heads. 

Throughout the course of the week, you are gradually honing your selections.  First eliminating 4 games in which you have no interest, then, at last throwing out 7 of your remaining 12 games, using prudent game selection management to leave with you with your final 5 selections for NFL action that week.  Armed with that knowledge, you begin to scan the NFL odds, noting where the sharp books have shaded a SIDE and where there is the best value from the OUTS at which you play.  By Sunday morning, you are ready to pull the trigger on these 5 perfectly handicapped selections.  There is little doubt in your mind that these picks, over which you have agonized over the entire week, will go 5-0 ATS.  You visualize walking into work Monday morning, a rich man!  The thought even crosses your mind, “maybe I will quit my job and become a full-time NFL handicapper.  This is so EASY!” 

Sure enough, Sunday rolls around and when the final whistle is blown at the conclusion of the Sunday evening game, you have gone 5-0 ATS.  Most of your games weren’t even close.  Two of your teams dominated at the point of attack, as you had predicted.  One of your teams, an underdog, won a hard fought, low-scoring battle with the underdog points being the reason for your win.   And then, there were your two laughers … blow out victories, keyed by the opposition throwing 4 INTs and your final game, where your team returned both a punt and a fumble for a TD.   Now, you are seriously thinking about quitting your job and can’t wait to get started handicapping the card for next week.

You take off the day from handicapping on Monday and enjoy the MNF game resting on your laurels.  You are buoyed by the fact that your preferred MNF SIDE won easily, keyed by a 14 point swing with a pick 6.  You can’t wait to start your handicapping Tuesday night.    

Flash forward to the next NFL Sunday afternoon.  You have bragged to your friends all week that you went 5-0 ATS last Sunday, have used the same formula this week and are ready for another sweep.  The 6-pack is chilled, the chips are open and the bowl of dip awaits you!  Then, it happens!  Not only does last Sunday’s 5-0 ATS Sunday, turn into this week’s 0-5 ATS disaster, but these 5 games are of the most gut-wrenching variety of losses, you have ever seen.  Every handicapping tendency that you isolated was right on.  But, in game after game, the dreaded TO was the ATS difference!  

Searching for what went wrong in the games; you went back and isolated the net TO margin in each game.  Among the myriad of poor coaching decisions, bad calls by the refs, dropped passes, kick returns, fumble recoveries, interceptions and key penalties, everything turned against you.  In every contest, your team had a net TO margin of -2 or more.

Now, there are no thoughts of quitting your job.  In fact, overtime or a second job is a reality because you increased your wagers in the late games, and then made your biggest wager of the night on the Sunday Night game, which was actually your weakest play.  

If you haven’t’ lived through consecutive weekends like this in the NFL, then, you simplay haven't been wagering on football long enough.  In one of my 8 part articles, “Get Out of Your Head,” you find out you have violated every concept that I warned you about.  You had unrealistic expectations of winning that led to disappointment and a downward spiral of negative emotions that led you to chasing your losers.  

As you have now learned, the proper way to approach each Sunday is with the trust and faith that you have done your handicapping homework and the hope that there will be more winners than losers.  When you experience that 0-5 ATS Sunday, you will understand this to be the case with the realization that ‘Turnovers are random and cannot be predicted.”  As a result, they are a natural part of the betting process known as Random variance.   To ease your mind, consider the following 3 facts.

1.      Any team with a +3 or more net TO margin in a given game in the NFL will cover over 90% of the time.

2.      Any team with a +2 net TO margin in a given game in the NFL will cover almost 80% of the time.

3.      Any team with a net TO margin of +1 in a given game in the NFL will cover almost 65% of the time.

It’s ok to handicap your heart out prior to the games.  But, you must approach these contests with the reality of the above 3 facts are part of the Random Variance that will inevitably influence your results.

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