If you are familiar with betting the NFL at all, then you are familiar with the concept of key numbers. Because of the scoring system in football, games end with margins of 3 and 7 far more often than other numbers. Here’s a look at that data from 2003-2014:
With this visual aid, you can quickly see why books might be hesitant to move off of numbers like 3 and 7 late in the week.
When betting a sport, building a model, or following a system, it’s important to account for new information that can alter your previous results. In the case of the 2015-16 NFL season, there was one rule change that has to be considered. The extra point was long viewed as a guaranteed afterthought and a good time to go to the fridge and grab another beverage.
Pushing the extra point back 13 yards has seen a dramatic increase in missed extra points. After just 8 missed extra points and a 99.3% league-wide success rate in the 2014 season, kickers missed 71 extra points this season and the success rate fell to 94.2%.
You might be saying “So what?”. 63 more extra points missed over the course of a 256-game regular season only equates to .25 points per game. Well, if you have ever been sweating an NFL game in the 4th quarter, you know very well that every point matters. Here are the margin of victory results for the 2015-16 NFL season:
Here we see that 3 and 7 are still the most likely results. The interesting data to me is how games ending with margins of 7 points decreased while the number games ending with margins of 6 points increased. With more extra points being missed, it makes sense that we are seeing fewer instances of 7-point drives and more instances of 6-point drives. While one season of margin of victory data isn’t enough to make a conclusion, it will be interesting to monitor this trend going forward and see if 6 becomes a bigger key number in the NFL.