Gambling: How DVOA% can help predict matchups in the NFL

Analytics have been becoming more and more popular when it comes to gambling on and analyzing football games. DVOA% is a stat that has caught my eye in the recent history. I think its important to test out theories before I try them, so I decided to research how DVOA% can predict who will cover the spread. This is my work:

For those who don’t know, let me explain to you what DVOA% is.

From Football Outsiders: DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.

DVOA, simply put, measures how teams do on certain parts of the field during certain situations. It’s a measuring device for success. And when I started studying this stat, I asked myself, can this be a main source when picking spreads and overs/unders? So, I decided to test it out.

**DVOA is 1/2 offense, 3/8 defense, and 1/8 special teams, so offense outweighs defense in the formula.

Here is a look at the best DVOA %’s in the league:

Well, if DVOA% can study one thing, it’s certainly wins. Almost every single team in the top 10 has a playoff spot or is fighting for one (The LA Rams are the only team not in a playoff spot). This stat also shows how good Kansas City has been, it just hasn’t amounted to wins every week. So, although not perfect, DVOA% seems like a good stat to use for gambling. Lets take a look at the Week 14, 2019 season board to actually test it out.

I made a graph comparing DVOA% with two teams and then bet the team with the highest DVOA% or the non-favorite if it was close in percentage.

I picked a handful of games that I bet on last weekend (Week 14) using DVOA%. If you notice, every game is covered by the team with the DVOA% to back it up. The Broncos should have covered +8 because they are so close to the Texans in DVOA%.

It gets confusing, with all the numbers I have been seeing. I made a tool to help clear confusion when trying to pick which team to gamble on.


  • Teams with negative DVOA% – bet against
  • Both teams have negative DVOA% – bet the one thats higher, if it’s too close – bet the non-favorite with the points.
  • Higher DVOA% – ALWAYS bet team with higher DVOA% if it’s 5% better or more. Under that – calculate.Bet favorite with spread if not sure.
  • DVOA% within 5% – consider betting non-favorite plus the points. If not sure, take favorite minus the points.
  • Two top 10 teams with similar % – consider using other stats, like team efficiency and player statistics to help your decision. Or go with gut.


Week 15, 2019 Matchup – Titans –3 (8-5) vs. Texans (8-5)

I will use this as an example, as it is a crucial game for two teams that have the same record in the same division. I am going to use DVOA% to predict who will win the matchup.

Let’s check out where Tennessee and Houston place on the DVOA% rankings for Week 14.

Here’s a simple graph to show where each teams ranks. As you can see, Titans (3.5% DVOA) have a .5% better DVOA% than the Texans (-4.0% DVOA). The 2% difference in Offensive DVOA% is telling. The Titans are 6.7% while the Texans are 4.1%.

The Titans offensive success has to be credited to Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. As you can see above, the Titans have had success when their two stars have success. Tannehill has been a mirage of what we saw in Miami in 2018. He is finally looking like the QB that was projected to be a long-time starter. The Titans being top 10 in offensive DVOA at 6.7% has a lot to do with how good Tannehill has been this season.

The Texans high powered offense with Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins has been extremely inconsistent this season. Although they rank 11th in points per game (24.4 PPG), I would tend to rely on Ryan Tannehill and the Titans offense in this game. The Titans have been hot as of late, scoring 37.5 PPG over their last 4 games.

Using my DVOA% research, I predict the Titans will cover at -3.

I will update with results.

Outside the Box – NFL Pick EM podcast up every Friday. I use DVOA% among other tools to predict games. I don’t go in depth into it in this podcast but will in the future.



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