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Breaking Down NFL Margins of Victory

What does Margin of Victory Mean?
The difference between the number of points scored by the winning team and the number of points scored by the losing team.

The Favorite Will Win! Not always.
Often at BTB, we will buy the hook (the .5 points on the spread in NFL and CFB) in order to get that extra leverage on a 3 pt spread. Here we will explain why we do this. A win is a win. However, to us at BTB and all other sports bettors, a single POINT difference in the margin of victory will decide if we cover our spread and win the bet, or lose. We won’t even get into the meaningless field goal or touchdown at the end of the game that throws off the spread and turns into a loss. Maybe I will write an “I Hate Meaningless Points” blog later on. Anyways, before I reminisce over those bets and start crying…how often in the NFL does the final winning margin fall on 3 or 7? Pretty common. The most frequent win margin in the NFL is 3 points, followed by 7 points. We also often fade the point spread favorite (meaning we take the underdog) in the NFL, unless it is the right spot to take the favorite.

Being a computer genius, I did some research:
• 45.55% of NFL regular season games were decided by 7 points or less.
• 22.25% of NFL regular season games were decided by 3 points or less.

So at first glance, the regular Joe bettor would think that those numbers would make you wants to bet the favorite considering 54.45% of games are decided by 7 points or more because “the better team always wins”. Wrong. Ever heard of an upset? Underdogs will win approximately 50% of the games over the course of most regular NFL seasons. Let me break this down a little further for you guys.

Further Breaking Down NFL Margins of Victory:
2002 – 2012 NFL Seasons:
• 1st most common margin of victory (NFL): 3 pts. (15.24%)
• 2nd most common margin of victory (NFL): 7 pts. (9.69%)
• 3rd most common margin of victory (NFL): 10 pts. (6.14%)

What a surprise! Now let’s get really into it and think why it is 3, 7, 10 points. Umm, field goal, touchdown, field goal plus a touchdown! I hope I didn’t lose you there…complex math and analysis.

Some more quick facts:
• 50.13% of games end with a margin of less than 10 points (9 pts. or less).
• 63.19% of games end with a margin of less than 14 (13 pts. or less).

Because some of you guys are visual learners, and I am awesome at excel, and BTB is all about spreadsheets, here are some percentages of margins of victory since the start of the 2002 season. This is the kind of thing you will probably send to all your friends (or you should at least).


Margin of Victory Frequency
1 pt 3.49%
2 pts 3.52%
3 pts 15.24%
4 pts 5.20%
5 pts 2.90%
6 pts 5.51%
7 pts 9.69%
8 pts 3.19%
9 pts 1.39%
10 pts 6.14%
11 pts 2.29%
12 pts 1.44%
13 pts 3.19%
14 pts 4.78%
15 + pts 32.03%

Thanks for reading,
– BTB Dave

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