Sack-A-Palooza 2017: Bad Offensive Line Play Is Leading To More Under-Cashing

Sacks-Lead-to-Unders

Jordan Sharp

Saturday, September 23, 2017 2:49 PM GMT

Saturday, Sep. 23, 2017 2:49 PM GMT

I’m sure you’ve watched this NFL season asking yourself could it get any uglier? So far the under is 20-10-1 through the first two weeks of the season. Bad offensive line and quarterback play seems to be the reason why.

A lot of teams are dealing with injuries to their starting o-lineman, and with defenses just getting faster, more agile and quicker up front, this has placed a challenge on offensive lineman in the league.

However, bad quarterback play has also proven to be a factor. A team giving up a sack is on the quarterback almost as much as the offensive line over the course of a season. However, we may not have many quarterbacks left by Week 16 and 17 if this year continues on the course set through the first two weeks.

QB-Hunting

Quarterbacks have been getting smashed through the first two weeks of the season, and it seems to have correlated with totals staying under. For instance, through the first two weeks of the season, there have been 162 sacks, which is the more than any time in the 10 prior seasons.

In 2013, there were 158 sacks combined in Weeks 1 and 2, which was also the last time we had more than 1250 sacks in an entire season. Check out the table below for a more detailed version of what is going on this season with QBs getting taken down behind the line of scrimmage.

 

 

Weeks 1 & 2 Sacks

Weekly Average

Sacks Season Total

2017

162

81.0

N/A

2016

136

65.8

1,118

2015

135

69.8

1.187

2014

138

71.3

1,212

2013

158

76.2

1,295

2012

145

68.8

1,169

2011

151

69.9

1,188

2010

132

66.4

1,129

2009

126

64.6

1,101

2008

141

60.9

1,036

2007

135

64.8

1,102

 

With a total of 162 sacks through the first two weeks, there are now 481 games left in the NFL regular season. In 2017, the league is currently on pace to record more than 2,675 sacks.

Now, this would be unprecedented in the NFL, and it likely won’t get even close to that high. I do expect some averaging out over the next several weeks. However, there is a chance that we keep seeing high sack totals, and the numbers are there to back it up so far this season.

Quarterback Hits

When I noticed how many sacks there have been so far this season, the next thing I wanted to look at was QB hits. You can view them on NFL.com to do some of your own research on this, but once again the numbers don’t lie.

There have been 346 QB hits through just 31 total games in 2017, which is an average of 10.8 per game. That’s nearly 11 times per game that two quarterbacks are getting hit or sacked. In 2016, there were a total of just 2,793 quarterback hits, an average of 5.4 per game.

We’re currently on pace for quarterbacks getting hit over 5,500 times, or more than 150 times a piece this season if they play all 16 games.  

Once again I reiterate, does this seem sustainable? Does this look like it will get better over the course of the season? We have already seen some horrific offense from six to eight teams this season, and mediocre offense from another dozen.

If this doesn’t change, we may be in for one ugly and painful (literally for the quarterbacks) season. However, we can also make money off it.

Sack and Total Betting

Let’s assume that the sack and QB hitting will continue for at least the short term. There are a few things you can do. I wish I could go back and look at the sportsbooks’ sack totals from the last two weeks, but by the looks of things, you’d probably be rolling in it if you were to have bet the over on combined sacks over Weeks 1 and 2.

However, going forward, it seems like the magic number is going to be 6 sacks. If you see a sack total for a game coming up around that, not only should you bet the sack total to go over, but also you should hit the full game under if the other metrics line up.

Through 2 weeks in 2017, if a game has six or more combined sacks, the under is 10-3.  I went back and looked at the two other years with high sack totals in Weeks 1 and 2 from our table above, which were 2013 and 2011. Those two weeks the under went a combined 12-9-2 in games where both teams racked up six or more sacks.

Considering what we’ve watched and might continue to watch offensive line and quarterback play, this trend doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. If you see a game with a total in the mid-40s and a sack total of 6 or more, you now know a good way to handle it.

However, I would be remiss if  I didn’t mention that so far this is a very small sample size. Teams could get their offense and protections schemes down better over the next month and all this could be for nothing. So, we’ll be updating this throughout the year to look at whether the sack and QB hits keep correlating into bad football and lower scores.

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