Handicapping Offensive Lines in Football

Today, the ScoreMetrics Lab takes a look at some advanced concepts in handicapping NFL games in the form of assessing offensive lines.

It’s quite a common mistake that when handicappers assess matchups in the NFL, they end up putting too little weight on the offensive lines of teams. The skill positions and the statistics of players in those positions get the most attention, and it’s obviously harder to assess offensive lines since they lack similar, easy-to-understand stats.

But successful handicappers must be able to judge the effect of an offensive line. Below are some of the key techniques for evaluating the performance of the big guys up front.

Yards and red zone yards per carry

Yards per carry are a good place to start when evaluating offensive lines. The statistic measures the average amount of yards that the ball was carried for during a rushing attempt, and it’s calculated by dividing the number of yards with the number of attempts.

When assessing the offensive line, one needs to remember to take out the carries and rushing yards by wide receivers when calculating yards per carry. Wide receivers might get rushing attempts from time to time and this could distort the offensive line statistics you’re trying to calculate.

Calculating this statistic for all teams gives you a good comparable table.

Red zone yards per carry is useful for evaluating whether or not a team is able to perform as well in the red zone (where it’s more difficult to operate because defensive players are closer to the scrimmage line) compared to their overall yards per carry.

Some teams are able to carry the ball more in the red zone than in the open field. It’s useful to identify these teams and see which ones are able to perform well on rushing attempts in the red zone.

Sacks and hurries per passing attempt

Novice handicappers might simply just look at sacks allowed to assess whether or not the offensive line is successful in protecting their quarterback. But in itself, this stat isn’t very useful in evaluating the offensive line.

Instead, one should be looking at the sack percentage per passing attempt for a more comparable look into the offensive line’s performance.

While this statistic might not be readily available, it’s very easy to calculate. All you need is the total number of pass attempts and the total number of sacks for the team. Divide the sacks with the passes and convert that to a percentage, and you have your number. Do this for every team, and you have your rankings.

Let’s look at an example and say that a team has had a total of 350 passing attempts, and they’ve given up 38 sacks. To calculate the percentage, you divide 38 by 350 and end up with 0.109, which makes for a 10.9% of passes ending up in sacks.

There’s a similar story to be told with hurries. The raw number of hurries for a team is not very insightful for assessing the offensive line, but hurries per passing attempt give a good picture for us.

While hurries aren’t as impactful as sacks, they still have a clear effect on the game. When quarterbacks don’t have enough time to throw passes, the chances or interceptions go up and the chances of completion go down.

Calculating the percentage of hurries per passing attempt for a team follows the same formula as with sacks per passing attempt. Let’s take the same example team from above that had 350 passing attempts, and let’s assume that they were hurried 50 times. Dividing 50 by 350 makes 0.143, or 14.3%.

While sacks and hurries per passing attempt are also reliant on the quarterback’s abilities, they are still useful statistics when comparing the offensive lines of teams against each other.


With the techniques listed above, you’re able to start including the offensive line when handicapping football games. Doing more work than the average person in the sports betting market often leads to profits, and this is one thing that you can add to your arsenal.

And in the big picture, combining these sorts of techniques and adding them to be a part of your investment hypothesis might lead to finding extremely profitable sports investment systems.

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