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BETTING

NFL 2023 Regular Season Recap: The Five Betting Lessons We Learned

Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers
A general view as Kareem Hunt #27 of the Cleveland Browns runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nick Cammett/Getty Images/AFP

The 2023 NFL regular season  is in the books. With this, we can look back from a betting perspective and see what happened and try to understand if we will have a carryover into next season.

Defenses Taking Over

After years of sitting back and trying to have as many players in coverage, defensive coordinators have gone on the aggressive. Though sacks are not necessarily higher, pressure on the quarterbacks is, as all defenses deploy ever-increasing ways to force opposing QBs to make quicker-than-desired decisions.

The name of the game is to make the quarterback get rid of the ball and not let him have passing routes develop, which leads to more errant throws and possibly turnovers at the same time.

This type of thinking can disrupt almost any offense, especially those that don’t have a Top 8 signal caller in the NFL, and at the same time, this takes away chunk plays in the passing game and forces offenses to run more plays to move the chains which often result in more field goals than touchdowns.

Lower Scores

This year feels like we have turned back the clock when looking at the totals, with so many oddsmakers and top sportsbooks listing totals of 41 or less this season, which we have not seen this often in decades.

Offenses are trying to combat this with more pre-snap movement to force defenses to show their hand of playing man-to-man or zone or even combinations that a quarterback who has properly done his homework can determine.

But with the accelerated speed at which younger QBs have to process information, decide what to do, and then execute the right way, defensive coordinators feel they presently have a modest edge working in their favor. This is all part of the cat-and-mouse game that offenses had an edge for several years until recently.

Final word, Unders were 146-125-1, the second-best mark for Unders since 1998.

Passing Yards

This is reflected in passing yards at the top end and also in the middle. Listed here are the number of teams that surpassed 260 yards passing in the past five seasons, along with the mean average in those same seasons.

  • 2023 – 1 Team over 260 yards passing with an NFL mean average of 222 yards a game.
  • 2022 – 6 Teams over 260 yards passing with an NFL mean average of 222 yards a game.
  • 2021 – 6 Teams over 260 yards passing with an NFL mean average of 221 yards a game.
  • 2020 – 7 Teams over 260 yards passing with an NFL mean average of 244 yards a game.
  • 2019 – 7 Teams over 260 yards passing with an NFL mean average of 235 yards a game.

This shows fewer teams can push the ball down the field, especially those more skilled at throwing the ball, and that the overall average is slipping league-wide.

Next, we have Yards Per Passing Attempt which supports these facts.

  • 2023 – 6.6 YPPA
  • 2022 – 6.6 YPPA
  • 2021 – 6.8 YPPA
  • 2020 – 6.9 YPPA
  • 2019 – 6.8 YPPA

Though not dramatic, yards per attempt are sinking as quarterbacks are checking down more than ever, and it is also noteworthy that passes have dropped by two per game on average in the past five yards, with that going to more rush attempts.

Coaching Decisions Contributing to Unders

Remember when most head coaches were ultra-conservative and would always take the points with a field goal instead of risking failure on a 4th down that might not convert and they lose possession? Those days are gone, as coaches regularly go on 4th and less than two yards almost anywhere on the field.

This is another factor that plays into lower-scoring outcomes that an oddsmaker cannot measure accurately. Every time a team passes up a field goal to extend a drive and fails, those are lost points. There are a certain number of failed conversions that later tune into points.

This is another reason this season for more unders.

One Thing Never Changes No Matter the Numbers

Whether you are betting underdogs or favorites or somewhere in between, one fact is irrefutable. Pro bettors always talk about the value of underdogs and for good reason, because you get two chances to win, either cover the spread or win outright.

But this year, favorites were 139-127-4 against the spread during the regular season, the third-best ATS mark in two and half decades. As a bettor or handicapper, always the best thing to do is find the right side, wherever it is, and you will make money in any year.

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