These “Square Over” NFL Teams try to help Unders Bettors

We’ve heard what Kiper Jr, McShay and Mayock have to say about the 2012 NFL Draft.  But what is of most interest to NFL bettors is how these newly drafted players will impact their bankroll this fall.  Instead of projecting team wins and losses, let’s examine the wager w/ more advantages and often overlooked:  the total.

Last NFL season was a season in which offense reigned, particularly when compared to defenses.  And particularly when you look at some of the best teams in the league.  The only team w/ more wins than Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots was the Green Bay Packers, and these two teams ranked #31 and #32 respectively in total defense.  Even Super Bowl Champion New York Giants allowed the 6th most yards and the 8th most points.

It is not ironic that the teams who yielded the most yardage in the NFL also produced the most “Over” bets in the 2nd half of the season.  From weeks 9 onward, here are the 4 NFL teams who produced the most “Over” bets:

Green Bay – 7 Overs, 2 Unders
New England – 7 Overs, 2 Unders
Oakland – 7 Overs, 2 Unders
Tampa Bay – 6 Overs, 3 Unders

And these 4 “Over” teams finished the season ranked #29-#32 in yards allowed, having arguably 4 of the weakest defenses in the league.

Vegas linesmakers could not set a total high enough, and game after game went over.  In fact, these teams went on streaks of 9-2, 7-1, 6-2 and 7-2 Overs-Unders to close the season. That’s a combined 29-7 (81%)!  Square bettors could just blindly take Packers and Patriots OVERs to end the season and hit 16 of 19 (84%) of their bets.  Sharper sports bettors would routinely fade these inflated totals, and take the UNDER, looking to cash along with the house.  But Vegas linesmakers could not set the total high enough and the square over bets continued to cash.

Can we expect these teams to be “Over” machines in 2012 due to their miserable defenses? Not if their front offices have anything to do with it. Let’s examine these team’s and their draft choices, as well as two intriguing teams who vastly underperformed last season: Philadelphia and Indianapolis, and see where they went w/ their draft picks.

Green Bay – It wasn’t just that their defense allowed the most yardage, or that their team produced the most overs to close the season, what ultimately undid the Packers was that no team in the NFL allowed more 4th quarter points in 2011 than Green Bay. And in the playoffs, the Giants put up 17 2nd half points – all in the 4th quarter, to upset the Packers.

Green Bay used their first 6 draft picks to draft defensive players, including multiple trades UP the board to select these defensive players. And they needed to – they gave up 7 more ppg from weeks 7 onward, and after splitting totals (3 overs, 3 unders) in their first 6 games, despite their avg lined total being raised from 47.5 to 49, they had 9 overs and 2 unders to close the season.

New England – New England closed the season from weeks 10-17 with 7 overs and just 1 under. Their defense actually didn’t allow that many points (only 20 ppg during that stretch), their offense simply scored 36 ppg on an avg total of 48.5.

Bill Belichick used their first 6 draft picks (just like Green Bay) on defensive players, and just like Green Bay, this included multiple unprecedented trades UP the board to grab them. The Patriots also added the most Free Agents of any team in the NFL, bringing on defensive players such as Will Allen (CB) from Miami, Jonathan Fanene (DE) from Cincinnati and Steve Gregory (S) from San Diego.

The Patriots realized something that the Packers did as well: teams will use the offseason to scheme against their dominant offenses. Eventually, defenses will come along with the proper “big nickel” personnel as a base defense, who are flexible enough to have big safeties on the field who can match up w/ Finley or Gronkowski, and stay in the game as a hybrid LB to provide run support on run downs. And at some point, instead of simply outscoring teams, the Patriots and the Packers will have to provide defensive stops. So they both used this draft to move up the board and amass a cadre of young defensive studs to provide the bedrock of their defense for years to come.

Tampa Bay – After starting the season off with 4 overs and 4 unders, the Bucs surrendered 37 ppg from weeks 10-17 (an increase of 13 ppg) and allowed 6 overs.

The Buccaneers used 4 of their first 5 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. And in FA they added Eric Wright at CB from Detroit and Amobi Okoye at DT from Chicago. Tampa Bay lost multiple defensive starters to the IR list in 2010, of note S Cody Grimm, DT Gerald McCoy and CB Aqib Talib.

Oakland – Oakland’s defense allowed 28 ppg from weeks 9 thru 17, 5th worst in the league. But after starting the season with 3 overs and 4 unders, the Raiders gave up 7 overs to just 2 unders to close the season. Their defense simply fell apart in the 2nd half of football games: They gave up 16 ppg in the 2nd half of games, the worst in the NFL.

The Raiders did not have a deep draft, no picks prior to the 3rd round, but they used 4 of their 6 draft picks on defensive players. They also were moderately active in FA, with key CB acquisitions of Shawntae Spencer (San Francisco) and Ron Bartell (St. Louis) in addition to LB Philip Wheeler (Indianapolis), DE Dave Tollefson (NY Giants) and CB Pat Lee (Green Bay).

These 4 teams focused intently on improving their defense, primarily thru the draft but also thru Free Agency. And it is safe to say that they are hoping to avoid a ranking of “Bottom 4″ defenses in the NFL in 2012.

In addition, I wanted to note two other teams draft selections:

Philadelphia – The Eagles had 7 overs and 8 unders (1 push) in 2011, but what stood out the most was their defense switching to the “Wide 9″ and attempting to play this style in a shortened offseason and without the proper personnel. So the Eagles went out and used 4 of their first 5 draft picks, including 3 in rounds 1 thru 2, on defensive players. This included a trade UP the board to grab Fletcher Cox at #12 overall.

The amazing thing about the Eagles is that their defensive efficiency was actually 12th best in the league, and most statistical categories over the year they were average to above average. But they had the 2nd most inconsistent defense, performing all over the place from one game to the next (i.e. they held Dallas to 7 and the next week gave up 30 to Chicago. Then they held NY Giants to 10 and followed up by allowing 38 to New England). This season they are “all in” on the “Wide 9″ and are bringing in the personnel to match.

Indianapolis – The Colts are one of the most interesting teams of 2011 in my opinion from a totals perspective. Obviously they were a terrible team. But they were a team the oddsmakers could not figure out. The Colts started the season with 6 overs and 1 under. Then, from weeks 8-17 they recorded just 1 over and 7 unders (1 push). Their defense actually allowed 9 fewer ppg to close the season, but that was in large part because they played some offensively challenged teams.

That said, in 2012 they brought in a new head coach (Chuck Pagano) and are switching to a 3-4. And despite losing key defensive players including LB Gary Brackett, DE Jamaal Anderson, S Melvin Bullit, DE Tyler Brayton and CB Jacob Lacey, the Colts used their first 4 draft picks on offense, and just 2 of their 10 picks on the defensive side of the ball. Perhaps Pagano is trusting that his 3 defensive Free Agent signings from the Ravens (DT Cory Redding, DT Brandon McKinney and S Tom Zbikowski) will be enough but from the looks of their roster, the Colts 2012 offense will be better but their defensive will need to be seriously “coached up” to keep games close.