Author's Note: Two stats that I will be referencing throughout this weekly matchups column are Yards Per Point (YPP). and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). The goal of YPP is for an offense or defense to make the most of their opportunities when it comes to scoring points, but there are some important things that YPP doesn’t account for that DVOA does. In fact, DVOA accounts for everything YPP does plus important factors like turnovers, field position (where your drive starts) and special teams.
These stats not only play a big part in scoring/preventing points, but they also play a big part in winning/covering spreads. With these statistics, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. A quick primer on YPP and its importance in our handicapping: One of, if not THE most powerful measuring statistics in football, to measure how great an offense or defense is (or isn’t), in my opinion, is Yards Per Point (YPP). Yards Per Point is effective because it measures how many yards an offense gains before they score a point. A different stat that is regularly used by handicappers isYards Per Play, which only takes into account how many yards an offense gains and not its scoring. Gaining yards is a good thing to measure, sure, but in this world, we need to score points, and it does us no favors if a team gains yards without producing those points.
This is where YPP will come into play for us. For an offense, the lower the YPP is, the better. Between 10-13 is a very good YPP number for an NFL offense, while 14-15 is average and 16 or lower I consider to be below average for an NFL offense. For defenses, the higher the YPP number is, the better. A defense with a high YPP doesn’t give up a lot of points for the yards that are gained against them. Throughout our weekly matchups column I will reference this stat quite often here.
Rams (+4) @ Seahawks
I like this spot that the Los Angeles Rams are in here, and I believe they’re catching a ton of value for this NFC West Wild Card Weekend matchup. When these two teams met during the regular season, for their two games the average line was around "+/- 2," but this line opened at Rams +4.5 (down to 4 at most shops currently) and there’s no solid explanation for it in my opinion. Even in the game that the Seattle Seahawks won, the Rams out-gained them by 42 yards, and both the yards per play and yards per carry for each team was very similar. The difference in the game was the pivotal Seahawks interception of Jared Goff. The Rams have been the better overall team in both of their matchups - and on both sides of the ball - and they're getting more points than what the average line has been for their two previous matchups.
Another key factor working for the Rams here is that in the playoffs you simply have to be able to stop opposing teams on offense, and there hasn’t been any defense in the league that has been better than that of Los Angeles. The Rams are number one in the NFL in total yards allowed, holding teams to under 300 yards per game, as well number one in defending the pass and overall points allowed. Los Angeles is also giving up less than 20 points per game this season and rank third overall in defending the run. They’re slightly above league average in forcing turnovers too, which speaks even higher volumes of this defense because they’re shutting down opposing offensive attacks without depending on taking the ball away.
The Rams are also expected to get key guys back for this game that were out last week due to COVID-19 protocols and/or injuries. Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Andrew Whitworth and Taylor Rapp are all expected to play in this game, and the Rams should be that much better on both sides of the ball because of it. With Kupp back on the field with Robert Woods, in addition to Whitworth back at left tackle, Goff should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of a Seahawks pass defense that ranked 31st this season overall and has given up 285 yards per game through the air. The streak that the Seahawks defense showed signs of improvement came against offenses like the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Washington Football Team, and now they’ll have to deal with a Rams offense that’ll have almost all of their key players available to play and fully healthy. Personally, as a San Francisco 49ers fan, it hurts to back the Rams here, but this spot is simply too good to pass up. I’ll take the points and even look to play the money line on Los Angeles in this Saturday afternoon showdown between NFC West rivals.
Like: Rams +4