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The best time of the sports calendar is here, the opening month of the pro football campaign! There are mountains of stats and angles available for sports bettors to digest from this season and years past. Information certainly is a huge key when analyzing games and point spreads. Sometimes it can seem that there is too much info, but it’s essential to understand that stats are only a starting point. They don’t always tell the whole story. In fact, stats can sometimes lie, something to keep in mind when searching for football picks.

Sure, it’s important to ask such questions as, “How many yards passing per game does his team get? How big is this offensive line compared to the opponent? Is a great quarterback going up against a team with slow defensive backs? What’s their home record the last five years, straight up and against the spread?” However, it’s important to learn when to look beyond stats. For example, here are some stats from the 2015 NFL season:

  • The Steelers ranked 11th in points allowed.
  • The Falcons were 7th in total yards.
  • The Bears ranked No. 4 in pass defense.
  • The Steelers ranked No. 5 in rushing defense.
  • The Packers ranked No. 25 in passing yards.
  • The Broncos were 14th in passing offense.
  • Buffalo was No. 12 in scoring offense.
  • The Patriots ranked No. 30 in rushing offense.
  • The Lions were 9th in passing.

Now, all of those 2015 stats are true. However, they don’t always tell the real story about a football team. For instance, the Steelers defense did rank No. 11 in the league in points allowed, but it was not an elite defense. Hats off their coaching staff and players for tightening up in the red zone, but the young Pittsburgh secondary was awful, 30th in yards allowed (272 yards pg).

On offense, the Atlanta Falcons were Top 7 in the league in total yards, but don’t get the impression it was a finely tuned offensive machine. QB Matt Ryan had 21 TDs, and 16 picks and their top back averaged 4.0 yards per carry. They were an erratic offense and the stat that says more about their offensive efficiency was points scored: just 21.2 ppg (21st).

On paper, the Chicago Bears appear to have had an elite secondary, ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Alas, teams didn’t have to pass that often, as the rebuilding defensive line allowed 120.9 yards per game (22nd). They had some dismal defensive performances, too, allowing 48 to Arizona, 37 to the Lions, and 38 to the conservative Vikings.

The Green Bay Packers slipped to No. 23 in totals yards and No. 25 in passing yards, partly because of the loss of top WR Jordy Nelson in the preseason. However, it was not a bad passing attack as QB Aaron Rodgers was outstanding with 31 TDs, and 8 picks.

Conversely, the Denver Broncos ranked much higher than the Packers in throwing the football, No. 14 in the NFL in pass yards. But despite winning the Super Bowl, the Denver passing game was abysmal a lot last fall, with dropped passes from receivers, poor red zone play, and a pair of quarterbacks who combined for 19 TDs, and 23 picks. Yes, Peyton Manning was the Super Bowl-winning QB despite a regular season with 9 TDs and 17 picks. We won’t see anything like that ever again.

Speaking of up-and-down offenses, the Buffalo Bills finished No. 12 in the NFL in scoring. Impressive, but it wasn’t an explosive attack, leading the league in rushing, but 28th in passing. They also had some clunkers on offense, scoring 10 against the Giants, 13 to the Pats, 14 to Tennessee, 16 against Dallas, and 20 to defenseless Philly.

The Patriots were the opposite, finishing the year 30th in rushing because of a banged-up offensive line, and a depleted running back corps and they often bailed on the run completely. But it wasn’t a bad offense, finishing sixth in scoring, and third in scoring. When reporters sometimes question Bill Belichick’s game calling or flaws in the offense he will say, “The object of the offense is to score points.”

The Detroit Lions had a Top 10 passing attack last season behind Matthew Stafford, but that was also by design — they had a terrible offensive line and running backs, finishing dead last in rushing. The more accurate stat is points scored, as Belichick would point out — 18th in the NFL with 22.4 ppg. Successful handicappers dig deep and weigh all their strengths and weaknesses before heading to the betting window.

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