NFL All-Star - Lesson 01 - Predicting Scores and Game Flow

I love to utilize the Vegas lines and odds in daily fantasy football. One of the biggest leaps I made as a player was to incorporate the lines into my research. They’re an extremely powerful tool with awesome predictive ability.

WHY VEGAS ODDS ARE VALUABLE

The first thing we need to understand about the Vegas lines is that they’re accurate. There’s a prevailing opinion that Vegas sets lines solely to balance action, and while I think there is an element to that once lines are set, their goal with the initial line is usually to be as accurate as possible.

The reason for that is because Vegas can get crushed by sharps if they set an inaccurate line. It’s much easier for them to just make sure it’s as accurate as possible—which will limit their short-term risk and guarantee long-term profits—than it is to try to predict public opinion and set a line that they believe will balance bets. Take a look at how lines move in the opposite direction as public betting money to see that Vegas, first and foremost, cares about being right over balancing action.

They don’t get it right all the time, but they do a better job than us.

The other thing to keep in mind about using the Vegas lines—the one that I think is the most overlooked—is that it is an incredibly efficient way to perform research. With one quick glance, you can gain all sorts of meaningful insights about a game. Even if you could replicate the lines that are built by Vegas’ sharps and their algorithms, why would you want to? Take the information for free.

VEGAS AND PASSING

There’s little doubt that offenses that score more points generally have better quarterbacks than those that don’t light up the scoreboard. However, the correlation between the Vegas lines and quarterback fantasy scoring is perhaps not as strong as you might think.

So what’s going on here? I think it has to do with game flow. If a quarterback does well early in a game, chances are his team will be winning, causing the offense to run the ball more later in the game. Thus, there’s an inverse relationship between quarterback efficiency and opportunity; in many situations, the better a quarterback performs, the fewer opportunities he’ll get. The opposite is true, too; when a quarterback throws poorly and his team gets down, he can often make up for reduced efficiency with bulk attempts. Thus, quarterback fantasy production “evens out,” in a way.

It’s important to understand how certain teams call plays in various situations, though. Some teams will continue to air it out even when up 21 points in the fourth quarterback, for example, and those are generally the quarterbacks you want to target because they combine an elite ceiling with a high floor.

VEGAS AND RUSHING

On the flip side, rushing success is more closely linked to team projected points.

Again, this is due to game scripts; a team that gets up early often runs the ball late. And since running back is a position that’s so dependent on opportunities for production, those carries matter a whole lot.

This is all situation-specific, of course. A running back like Ezekiel Elliott who doesn’t catch that many passes is often very dependent on Dallas holding a lead for him to produce. Compare that to someone like David Johnson, who can contribute as a receiver regardless of the score.

PLAYER PROPS

Player props are also an excellent source of information for daily fantasy owners. Props are Vegas’ best guess for a player’s production; basically their projection for him in fantasy. Vegas projects basically every relevant football player each week, although the lines typically aren’t released until Sunday morning.

Still, I spend the morning studying those props to gain an edge. I particularly like the touchdown props, which give me an idea of which players are most likely to get into the end zone. You can trust Vegas’ props for the same reason you can trust the over/under and moneylines; they have a whole lot of money riding on their predictions, so they’re very incentivized to get them right.

USING VEGAS TO PREDICT OWNERSHIP

Finally, I also like to use Vegas data to help me predict ownership. One way to do that is to simply look for the highest projected game of the week. When the Patriots match up with the Colts, for example, there will often be a very high projected total and the game gets a ton of publicity. Further, more and more daily fantasy players are beginning to use the Vegas lines, and thus that top game often sees players with very high tournament ownership.

I like to take a “best-of-the-rest” approach, looking at games projected in the second tier that maybe have an abnormally high chance of turning into shootouts. The actual point spread is important for that, too; when a team is heavily favored, they often don’t have a ton of upside, usually possessing a more narrow range of outcomes, because shootouts are unlikely. When there is a high projected total and a tight spread, that’s ideal for fantasy scoring purposes.

 


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Bales) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.