Of all of the daily fantasy sports you can play on DraftKings, I think football is the one through which team success is most accurately reflected on the individual level. Whereas an NBA player can produce elite fantasy numbers even if his team doesn’t score a lot of points (through rebounds, blocks, or whatever) or an MLB player can go 4-for-4 even when his offense scores just one run, NFL players rarely post top-tier numbers when their offenses don’t perform well as a whole.
Because of that, I think that offensive points are a good proxy for total fantasy production. That’s one reason the Vegas lines are an accurate indication of fantasy football production. When a team is projected to score 31 points, for example, they’re probably going to score more offensive touchdowns (and also likely more yards to put them in position to score) than a team Vegas has projected to score 21 points.
Vegas lines have even more value once we start to understand market share dynamics. If the Cowboys are projected to score 28 points, we can estimate with pretty decent accuracy how many yards they should have, as well as how many yards/touchdowns each individual player should have based on their share of those stats in the past. So if Tony Romo is responsible for 50 percent of the Cowboys’ points, we can effectively project him at two touchdowns when Vegas thinks the team will score 28 points.
With that said, I think there’s a lot of value in studying team numbers in the NFL. More so than in any other sport, good offenses are a reflection of productive fantasy assets.
Team Scoring in the NFL Playoffs
I actually haven’t seen too much data on differences in NFL playoff scoring versus the regular season, so I decided to do some research. Here’s a look at home and away scoring in the regular season and postseason since 2000.
Overall, road teams have been basically exactly the same, while home teams have scored more points (9.7 percent more, actually). That’s a significant number, although I’m not sure it’s very actionable. Remember, not only do playoff teams have better overall offenses than the average NFL team, but there’s also a selection bias; teams playing at home in the playoffs are usually better than road teams because they earned that right to have a home playoff game with a superior regular season. So not only do they get the benefit of playing at home, but there’s also a bigger gap, too; the average home playoff team has won by 4.6 points, compared to just 2.5 points for home teams during the regular season.
I decided to extend this research further to see how scoring might change in a couple different scenarios. The first is temperature. I’ve explained in the past that passing efficiency decreases a bit as the temperature drops, particularly when it’s below freezing. Wind speed is a more important factor in predicting passing efficiency, but there is indeed a relationship with passing, too.
I figured that the decreases passing success would extend to overall scoring, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not in the playoffs.
Since 2000, scoring has been basically the same whether the temperature is above or below freezing (it has actually been slightly higher overall when below 32 degrees). That’s really surprising to me, but perhaps evidence that teams are doing something differently in cold playoff games than in the regular season (like passing the ball more overall).
Finally, I also looked at how division rivals match up in the playoffs. We often hear that intra-division games are low-scoring because the defenses have so much familiarity with the opposing offenses, but is that true?
Since 2000, intra-division playoff games have seen just slightly less scoring than other playoff games. The biggest difference is for home teams (away teams in division games have actually scored more in the playoffs than non-intra-division road teams). Overall, division rivals have combined to score only 43.8 points per game in the playoffs—around 3.7 percent fewer than in all playoff games as a whole.