Course No. NFL 104
One of the most important things to a daily fantasy sports player is understanding basic and advanced Vegas odds. The entire job of oddsmakers in Vegas is to predict the outcome and scoring of games as accurately as possible, so they are doing a ton of the legwork for us when trying to figure out how games are going to go, as well as who the winners, losers and high scorers are going to be. Leveraging this information into your lineups and using it to make decisions can save you a ton of time and make you a lot of money in the long run.
The spread on any given NFL game will tell you the team that is expected to win and also how many points they are expected to win by. Both of these things can give you a ton of information in this very simple number. The negative side of the line is always the projected winner. Generally game spreads give an edge to the home team when the game is expected to be close, but this of course varies on a game-to-game basis. Generally, any spread over a touchdown is considered a large one. Large spreads can be very helpful in predicting fantasy success and teams that win by a large margin tend to run more and you'll want to target running backs on those teams for extra carries, while teams that lose by a large margin tend to the throw a lot more. However, picking the losing side of a spread is far less consistent because there are simply a lot more ways to lose a game than there are to win one. Game flow obviously has a big impact on all of these numbers, but just knowing the spread and giving yourself a solid baseline for who's expected to win the game and by how much is simply invaluable knowledge as you begin to create DFS lineups.
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The scoring total can be just as important, if not more important than the spread for fantasy purposes. Points scored in the NFL directly translate to points scored by players in that game. Sure, things like field goals, defensive and special teams touchdowns and more can and will count in that total, but the majority of the scoring is going to come from the offenses. The basic premise here is you want to have more players from high scoring games and less players from low scoring ones. The league average scoring total tends to be around 45 each year, so we consider anything above 50 a high scoring game and anything below 40 a low scoring one. Most totals will fall between that 41-50 range, so you'll really want to take a close look at the ones above that and really do your best to avoid the ones below it. For instance, a 56 point total would mean there could be as many as eight potential touchdowns in that game, compared to a 40 point total, that would leave that number around five. Three touchdowns in a game is a massive difference for the highest scoring players on the respective teams' offenses.
Putting it Together
Now, let's use both of these numbers in conjunction to give us an even better feel for the game flow of these games. An example will probably work best here as it's hard to discuss in generalities. Let's say we have this scenario
Baltimore @ Dallas
Spread: Dallas -10.5
The two things you can quickly gather from these numbers are that it's going to be a high scoring game, which Dallas is expected to win pretty handily. These are great observations, but let's dig a little deeper and a bit more mathematically to find out some more exact numbers. You can calculate the expected point total for each team pretty easily, just given these numbers.
The easiest formula to do this is (Total-Spread)/2 then add the spread back to the favored team, but not the underdog.
Baltimore: (51.5-10.5)/2 = 20.5 Projected Points
Dallas: (51.5-10.5)/2 = 31 Projected Points
Now we can see that Dallas is expected to score well over four touchdowns, while Baltimore isn't even expected a full three. Now despite that total, it's pretty obvious that Baltimore isn't a team we want to be targeting here. They may a throw a bit more because they are down, but their lack of offense overall could be the reason they are losing. It'll require more research into their offensive trends, but at least we have a solid general overview. Dallas, on the other hand, is a team that we definitely want to target. We'll need to see what players generally play well for them in wins as well as how they run their offense in them, but we know two important things that we didn't before we looked at these Vegas numbers, they are both expected to win and score a ton of points, which is a great first step in our research.