Proliferation of Passing Affecting NFL Betting Totals

Fairway evaluates the early season success of NFL quarterbacks and explores passing game stats as betting totals on NFL games rise.

Record Setting Passing Performances and QB Roughing the Passer Penalties Headline Early Season Results

The proliferation of passing stats and coverage of the quarterback continue to make headlines in the NFL as Week 4 and the final weekend of September football approaches. Roughing the passer penalties are impacting the NFL spreads, totals and game results, and more passing records were set in Week 3.

NFL passing records Drew BreesThe beauty of Saints QB Drew Brees was on display again as he scored the winning touchdown in overtime to beat division rival Atlanta, 43-37. That game had everything the NFL, broadcast networks, fans, bettors and fantasy football players wanted – star power, offense, entertainment, suspense and a competitive contest to the very end, with a look inside the numbers showing great efficiency, quarterback play and proficiency, and incredibly not a single turnover. The late 7-yard TD run in regulation by Brees sent the game to overtime, and the Saints rally and victory meant millions of dollars changing hands and more of it to the bettors, as the sportsbooks took one of their biggest hits of the weekend with New Orleans taking money from a 3-point underdog to +1.5 at kickoff. Brees passed for 396 yards and had 5 total touchdowns against the Falcons in victory. He became the NFL’s all-time leader in pass completions in the 2nd quarter with his 6,301st pass completion; breaking Brett Favre’s record. Brees did it in 251 games while Favre took 302 games. Brees will break another NFL record in October when he surpasses Peyton Manning’s career passing yards record of 71,940.

Manning also owns single season passing records of 5,477 passing yards and 55 TD passes during the 2013 season, and holds the career passing touchdown record of 539. He was also an Associated Press 5-time Most Valuable Player. Patriots QB Tom Brady, 41, led the league in passing last season, but is off to a very slow start this year (25th in passing yards). Brady the Patriots had a poor performance Sunday night against Detroit (+7) in our Fairway Forecast, as we cashed in on the big 'Dog with the Lions 26-10 victory. 

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has tossed a record 13 TD passes in 3 games this season to start his career, and undrafted fantasy football QB Ryan Fitzpatrick set an NFL record Monday night in defeat by passing for at least 400 yards in 3 consecutive games.

A whopping total of 10 quarterbacks this season have passed for at least 895 yards through 3 games, or essentially at least 300 yards per game led by Ryan Fitzpatrick (1,230/11.08 yards per pass), Ben Roethlisberger (1,140/8.20) and Drew Brees (1,078/8.36). Last season 8 quarterbacks passed for at least 4,000 yards led by Tom Brady’s 4,577 yards (7.88 yards per pass). Drew Brees and Alex Smith both passed for more than 4,000 yards and were the only two quarterbacks to average at least 8.0 yards per pass.

"The betting totals are being impacted . . ."

So, while you can see the passing stats accumulated by Mahomes, Fitzpatrick, Roethlisberger, Brees and others are unsustainable, it still shows how strong the passing stats have been through 3 games. Also, eight teams are passing the ball at least 66% of their plays this season led by the Vikings and QB Kirk Cousins, who have passed 72% of their offensive snaps. Last season, not a single team passed the ball on more than 65% of their offensive plays. In 2016 only the Ravens passed the ball at least 65% of the time, and in 2015 just three teams, the Lions, Jaguars and Patriots passed on at least 65% of their plays. Just 1 team in 2014 and 3 teams in 2013 passed at least 65% of their plays.  

With four more roughing the passer penalties in Monday’s 30-27 Steelers win over the Buccaneers, a record 34 roughing the passer penalties have been called through three weeks. That’s another record, more than doubling the total of each of the past two seasons. In 2017, roughing the passer penalties averaged 6.7 per week. This year it’s more than 11 per week. A bigger concern than the amount of roughing the passer calls is the inconsistency of the calls, and confusion on clarity of the rule which has created chaos.

But it appears those roughing the passer penalties and 15-yard infractions are providing better field position and more scoring, and teams are passing the ball at a record pace through 3 games.

Keep that in mind as you evaluate the match-ups, stats, quarterback play and proficiency along with point of attack play and the ability to run the ball and control the ball, clock and chains. The betting totals are being impacted, and this week we see seven games with posted totals greater than 47 points. There were 5 closing totals greater than 47 in Week 3, just three in Week 2 and four such posted totals greater than 47 points in Week 1.

The linemaker and sportsbooks are adjusting, and you need to adjust your game plan and strategies to have an edge as well. You can bet on it.

Sign-up for the OSGA Newsletter!

Every week get news and updates, exclusive offers and betting tips delivered right to you email inbox.