In recent years, football has had a dramatic increase in statistics and data being used by front offices and coaching departments. Whether it be determining the statistical chances of converting a fourth-down play or a general manager assessing a free agent’s talents, numbers are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s NFL.
The same can be said of sportsbooks and casinos, as they used numbers and statistics to determine the game lines, spreads and more. Understanding advanced statistics can give you an edge over the sportsbooks when placing a bet on a football game.
That leads us to DVOA, which is a commonly-used statistic created by FootballOutsiders.com to analyze a team’s successes and failures.
Subscribe to our newsletter
The best bets and resources to make you more profitable
What is DVOA?
The short answer to this question, as defined by Football Outsiders, is a measure of a team’s efficiency on a play-by-play basis as compared to league averages. DVOA is not limited to just teams but is also used on individual player performances.
DVOA stands for Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. The numerical value of a DVOA statistic is compared to an average. For example, a 20% DVOA for a running back means that player is 20% better than the average player at his position.
There are instances where a team or player has a breakout season that is an outlier when compared to the rest of their career. Understanding DVOA can help determine the probability that the player/team will have a repeat performance the next year for betting purposes.
Say, for example, a running back ends the season with a whopping 20 rushing touchdowns. His DVOA would not be all that high if 15 of those came from first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. This is because, in a first-and-goal scenario, he is mathematically supposed to score.
Instead, the higher grades would likely go to the players who got them down the field (which could still be that running back).
Let’s dive into an example. Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were the No. 1 team in total DVOA at 30.9%. That means they were statistically 31% better than the average NFL team, which for the sake of putting a record to that could be an 8-9 or 9-8 team.
Why is this? Dallas had an incredible group of talented players that vastly exceeded their expectations. Rookie sensation Micah Parsons was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, while second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs had an absurd 11 interceptions.
Dallas also had a near-4,500-yard passing season from quarterback Dak Prescott. His No. 1 target last year, CeeDee Lamb, also had a breakout season with over 1,100 receiving yards.
The point here is the Cowboys had a plethora of key contributions at the league’s most important positions. Unfortunately for Dallas, however, this No. 1 ranking didn’t lead to any playoff success, as they were bounced out of the first round by the No. 6 seed San Francisco 49ers.
DVOA doesn’t always equate to on-the-field success, as evident by the Cowboys’ loss in the wild-card round. However, it does show that Dallas has a ton of high-performing young players, which could help one in assessing the Cowboys’ projections for this upcoming season.
On the contrary, the Cincinnati Bengals offense did not have a particularly high DVOA, although they went all the way to the Super Bowl. They finished 18th in offensive DVOA to end the season, which could be confusing at a glance given the plethora of talent in Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon.
However, porous offensive line play and questionable coaching decisions eventually cost the Bengals their first Super Bowl title. They became one-dimensional against Raheem Morris’ L.A. defense and could not come through in the end.
Could this be something to consider when betting on the Bengals early this season? Or rather, a sports bettor might have used this information to accurately predict a bet heading into Super Bowl week.
How is DVOA Used in Sports Betting?
Understanding a complex statistic like DVOA can drastically help sports betters when projecting the winner of a game.
Taking the Bengals offensive DVOA as an example, perhaps a sports better would decide against betting on them on opening day against the Steelers. Low DVOA is often a measure of long-term sustainability, rather than short-term wins.
Perhaps a team like the Dallas Cowboys are being heavily overlooked due to their home playoff loss (and rather hilarious ending) when in reality their high DVOA mixed with ascending talent is a reason to ignore the Twitter general managers.
DVOA on an individual player level can really give sports bettors an edge in a particular matchup. Say, for example, quarterback Kyler Murray’s DVOA on deep passing is off the charts. His Week 1 opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, might have a low DVOA on defending the deep ball. Might a sports bettor predict the Cardinals spread or moneyline as a result, or perhaps the over?
Numbers do not lie, but they often do not tell the entire story of a team (as noted by the Cowboys). Still, they are important to understand and can give sports bettors the edge, especially if they’re unsure which way a matchup might go.
Understanding statistics like these and utilizing OddsJam’s Positive EV tools are fantastic ways to profit from sports betting!