Week 24
February 19, 2019

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Volume of Opportunity: How Vegas Can Help Influence Fantasy Football Decisions

Posted by d-Rx on 11/03/16

by   The Archer


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In fantasy football, everybody is looking for an edge. Everything is examined from the wind speed, to turf type, and even the temperature at time of kick-off.  We try to be as scientific as possible in the world of sports prediction. I am reminded of the Casino line: “Nicky’s methods of betting weren’t scientific, but they worked. When he won, he collected. When he lost, he told the bookies to go fuck themselves”. Well, few of us can make predictions like Sam Rothstein, or even swing a baseball bat like Joe Pesci. But, we all want an edge, some added insight. Well, Vegas can certainly give you that leg up in the fantasy football world. We often reference an implied team total or a spread. But perhaps you are not really sure why, or worse yet, what to do with that information. There are just a few key things to start with: the spread, the over under, and the implied team totals. The bottom line is this: Vegas can give you an advantage when making your fantasy football decisions, because it can give you an indication about the volume of opportunity.


So, let’s just start with the spread. The spread is essentially the difference between the two final scores of each team. If team A is favored by 3 points, that means team B is expected to lose by 3 points. Team A is listed as -3, and team B is listed as +3. So if you happen to be betting with the spread, before the ball is even kicked off, the score is team A = 0 and team B = 3. I start paying attention to the spread when it is say 6 points or greater. The higher the spread, the more a certain team is favored to win. Last year, there were 67 instances of a spread being 7 points or more. That is 3.94 each week, and that includes weeks 16 and 17 which saw a higher number than normal. Of the 67 instances where the spread was at least 7 points or more, there were 29 times when that spread reached double digits, or just 1.7 per week on average. So this is a way to really narrow the focus of quality fantasy plays in a given week by simply looking at how much a specific team is favored over their opponent.


To continue with this line of thinking, a high spread really suggests game script. Game script will allow you to identify the play-calling in a given game and thus, which positions will have the greatest volume of opportunity. So, let’s say Atlanta is 10 point favorites over Cleveland (sorry Browns fans). What does that tell you? How can you use that for fantasy purposes? Well, Atlanta should have a positive game script. If the game goes accordingly, Atlanta will be up, chances are fairly early. They will look to run and play D like most teams do when they have the lead. Running the ball means the clock keeps moving, and when you are up, coaches want the game to end to secure the win. So, the higher the spread, the more likely the favored team’s running backs will be used. If you add an opposing defenses performance against the rush, then you really start to have something. Guess what, this is what Billicheck does. There is this believe that surrounds him that suggests a mystery, an unpredictable quality to ‘Wild Bill’. But the fact is, if the Patriots have a positive game-script, that is to say, they are heavy favorites, AND the opposing D struggles against RBs, then it is a safe bet it will be a Blount game in that the Patriot’s ground game should get plenty of action.


In contrast, let’s just say a team is heavy underdogs. Well, then chances are, while the other team is running the ball offensively, the under dog will need to pass in order to stay in the game. So, that is referred to a s a negative game-script and chances are, the QB and the pass catchers will be decent fantasy plays. Look, the bottom line, we are chasing opportunity. If a team is heavy favorites, there will be more opportunity for the favored team to use their running backs.. If they are underdogs, there should be a greater volume of usage for the pass catchers. While TDs are hard to predict, it stands to reason if a player is given more opportunities, they will have a higher chance to score, and that is what you are doing when you use the spread to influence your fantasy decisions. You are identifying which positions will get the most usage, and thus, have a greater probability to score.


Now, let’s turn from identifying a position with the use of the spread, to determining which offenses are most likely to score TDs in a given week. Obviously, if there is an over/under above 50, that means there should be plenty of scoring opportunity. But we need to go farther than that. Here is where you want to look at implied team totals. This is tossed out quite a bit in fantasy circles. Yet, I have been asked several times where to find this. Sure there are certain sites you can pay for, or a few hidden gems that post this. But really, you just need to know the formula and do a little math.


In order to find a team’s implied team total, you divide the over/under in half, then add half the spread to the favored team and subtract half the spread from the underdogs and you have the implied team total.  For example, let us just use the previous Atlanta vs. Cleveland scenario. If the over under is 44 and the spread favors the Falcons by 10 points, then you just break the 44 in half. That leaves 22. Then you add half the spread (5 points) to Atlanta, so they have an implied team total of 27 points. On the other hand, you take half the over/under, again, 22 points and then deduct half the spread, 5 points. So, the Browns have an implied team total in this situation of 17 points.


So, traditionally, an implied team total of 24 or above is when I will start paying attention, the higher you go, the better of course. In a given week, 28 might be tops, but implied team totals of 30 are not unheard of. On the Pyro Light podcast, I will generally bring it up if it is 26 or higher.


So, back to our original scenario, Atlanta versus the Browns. At first glance, if you just look at the 50 point over/under, it could be misleading. Ideally you want the implied team total. Now, what really sticks out is the Falcons (27) and the Browns only (17). So, if we put it all together, we know Atlanta should have plenty of opportunity to score TDs, nearly 4 in fact. Plus, they are heavy favorites, so now we are cooking with gas. We believe Atlanta will score a great deal, and will likely face a positive game-script. Thus, I want ownership of Atlanta running backs in this situation. We know from the implied team total, that there should be plenty of touchdowns. We narrow it down even further by adding the predictive game-script and say that those touchdowns will most likely come from the running back positions. Again, we are chasing opportunity to score. In this situation, we identified the Atlanta running backs as having the greatest likelihood of scoring.


In conclusion, this is an imperfect science of course. We are trying to make predictions about future events with imperfect, changing information. But, to me, it boils down to the volume of opportunity. I want chances to score, I want my players touching the ball as often as possible. Ironically, there is little correlation between a QB and attempts however. But for the other fantasy relevant positions, it is a numbers game. I look for a spread of perhaps 6 and above and an implied team total of 26 or above. I am not suggestions Vegas is the end all be all. But, it is one of several stats I use heavily in determining fantasy plays in a given week, it is a tool in the tool-chest, one of many. But, Vegas is a glittering city in the desert for a reason. They know what they are doing, so if I can use that to fashion a starting line-up, by God I am going to do it. I want to use as many quality indicators as possible, so I can prevent my fantasy team from sleeping with the fishes like Luca Brasi.




Luca Brasi from the The Godfather


By: @PyromaniacMo


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