Understanding the NFL’s Unpredictability

October 20, 2016 NFL Football

Understanding the NFL’s Unpredictability Fans and sportsbooks alike know that the NFL is one of the most unpredictable professional sports league within the US. One of the reasons that football can be so unpredictable is the small sample size which fans, or critics, have to base their predictions on. For example, sports like baseball and basketball – hell even hockey, play 80+ games a season (an MLB season even consists of 162 contests). Therefore, over the course of the season, fans have ample opportunities to watch and evaluate their teams. Flukes, whether they are positive or negative, get drowned out in the ongoing attempts athletes must continually make to try and play at their best. While on the other side, the NFL season only consists of 16 games. Granted, the league would be hard-pressed to try and fit more games into the season, due to the physicality of the sport.

So with such a small sample size to choose from, things that may qualify as a fluke in another professional sport league are categorized as the norm within the NFL. Just look at the Carolina Panthers, last year’s NFC Champions and the team that houses the reigning MVP. The Panthers find themselves at 1-5 and while it’s true that that record is pitiable, it’s also true that the Panthers have been competitive. Three of the Panthers’ games have been decided by a field goal or less, meaning that each and every one of those games could have gone the other way. This is often the case in the NFL, which is why fans who bet on NFL games frequently hear players say ‘we just have to find a way to win’. In a sport with so many variables, when two good teams meet each other, the outcome could go either way. With a small sample size, and contests that are best described as tossups, you get the unpredictable sport of football. 
 
So, within the last 4 weeks, which team has been consistently beating their opponents by a decisive margin? If you had to guess I’d bet you’d get it wrong. The answer? The Buffalo Bills. The Bills have won their last 4 games by two or more possessions, which just goes to show you how unbelievably unpredictable the NFL truly is. Now, will the sportsbooks take the Bills impressive streak into account when they throw the lines together for their next game? 
 
Week 7 – Sunday, October 23rd 
 
Buffalo Bills -3 (-105) 44 (-110) -150
Miami Dolphins +3 (-115) 44 (-110) +130
 
The sportsbooks have spoken and they have chosen the Bills as the favorite over the Dolphins. Honestly, it’s not that hard of a prediction considering the Dolphins are 2-4, but hey, they did upset the Steelers this past weekend. The Dolphins have a weak offensive unit that ranks in the bottom of the NFL in every statistic. So it doesn’t seem like Miami will be enjoying too much success against Rex Ryan’s squad.
 
The Bills defense ranks in the top half of the NFL yardage wise, but they have the 5th best average for points allowed per game. On top of that, the Bills have the best rushing offense in the entire NFL. A great running game lets you dictate the tempo of the football game, and there’s no doubt it has played a huge part in Buffalo’s recent success. Can the Bills keep the hot streak going? Or will the NFL prove unpredictable once again?