Red Zone Conversion percentage is one of those basic-box score stats that has been around for so long, it’s easy to overlook it in today’s 12-15 page NFL Gamebooks. It’s a deceptively simple, yet powerful statistic–teams that consistently convert Red Zone drives into touchdowns are the same teams that win games, and cover spreads. Teams with strong rushing attacks and tall, athletic receivers usually do well in the Red Zone, while teams that have trouble pounding the ball up the middle and don’t have the corners of the end-zone staked out are doomed to fail.
The fact that a high RZC% has a direct correlation with both SU and ATS wins should come as no surprise to even the casual fan. What is more interesting; however, is that RZC% also serves as an excellent tool in the prediction of future outcomes when used appropriately.
The power of RZC% as a handicapping tool truly becomes apparent when we compare how well one team has performed in the Red Zone while on offense, season-to-date, against the percentage that their upcoming opponent has surrendered scores in the Red Zone over the same time period. I actually analyze match-ups of opposing offensive and defensive units in many different areas and for many situations to determine if one team has an advantage (AD for short) over the other that can be significant enough to affect the end result versus the spread.
Before we can determine which team may or may not have an advantage, we need to know the league average for the statistic in question. In this case, the league average for converting drives that enter the Red Zone into touchdowns is roughly 50%. If Team A were to have a RZC% For (Offense) of 55%, and Team B was to have a RZC% Against (Defense) of 60%, this would effectively give Team A a RZC%F AD of +15%. The formula would be:
(Team A’s RZC%F – League Average) – (League Average – Team B’s RZC%A)
Which gives us: (55 – 50) – (50 – 60) = +15%.
When we combine Team A’s better-than-average results in the Red Zone (+5%), plus, Team B’s worse-than-average ability to defend in the Red Zone (-10%), Team A ends up with a distinct advantage that they may be able to exploit if the two were to meet head-to-head.
And that is where System #25 fits in. The premise is this: Since 2002, teams that have a RZC%F AD of > 7.5 are an awesome 506-436 (53.7%) ATS! Not impressed? Let’s put things into monetary terms–if you had wagered $110 to win back $100 on each game, you would have netted a tidy profit of $2,640 based on the results of this one statistic alone, over the past 5 seasons.
Add in the 2nd Primary condition for this system–that the team in question must have an Above Average Rushing Game Rating (this is ROF + RDE)–and the winning percentage for this system jumps to 57.7% (277-203) against the spread over the past 5 years.
The 3rd Primary condition for this system involves looking at how often the current opponent of the team in question surrenders a first-down in Short-Yardage situations on 3rd and 4th down (S3C%A). This applies to all 3rd-4th down plays with 2 or less yards-to-go. When we remove all opponents that have a worse-than-average (greater than 65%) S3C%A, the record for this system jumps to an incredible 176-89 (66.4%) ATS.
The 4th and final ‘Building Block’ for this system involves a versatile stat that I have found useful in many of the systems I use: KRYF, which is short for Kick-Off Return Yardage Average For. KRYF is an important handicapping tool and will be the focus of a System Spotlight article in the near future. With regards to this particular system, if we specify that the team in question has a higher KRYF than their opponent, the record improves to 115-44 ATS.
There are 3 different Secondary conditions (i.e., tighteners) that round out this system. Secondary conditions normally exclude only a small percentage of games from the system pool. One example would be to ‘Exclude all Monday Night Games’, or, in the case of this particular system–games in Week 17 are not included when many of the high-level teams involved are resting players.
Excluding games in Week 17 makes sense for this system, but, one needs to be careful when including too many Secondary conditions and things can get out of hand very quickly in this regard. It’s important that Secondary conditions fit into the context of the main logic, or building blocks of the system itself. Tightening this particular system by removing games in Week 9 only, or teams that had exactly 2 pre-season wins, are examples of out-of-context conditions that will only serve to falsely inflate the win percentage and reduce the systems potential for matching its past success in future games.
Here is the full summary for System #25 and all the related stats surrounding it.
(Notes: ASM stands for Average Spread Margin and TDIS% is the percentage of teams in the league that have been involved in this system at one time or another).
System #25 Summary
Primary Conditions (Building Blocks)
1) Red Zone Conversion% Against Advantage (RZC%F AD) > 7.5
2) Above Average Rushing Game Rating (AAVG RG).
3) Opponent S3C%A < 65 (OP S3C%A). 4) Season Kick-Off Return Yardage Avg (KRYF) > Opponents KRYF.
Secondary Conditions (Tighteners)
1) Exclude Week 17
2) Exclude Favs of >= 7 pts
3) Opponent Lineman Tackle % on Defense (OP LNT%F) is >= 18%.
Top Teams: SD(18);KC(11);PIT(7);BAL(6)
Overall (Since ’02): 86-14 ATS
2006 Season: 10-2 ATS
2005 Season: 19-2 ATS
2004 Season: 26-6 ATS
Last 3 Results (Pick in Brackets)
2006 WK19–NE 24 SD 21 (NE +4.5) W
2006 WK16–DEN 24 CIN 23 (DEN -3) L
2006 WK14–NYG 27 CAR 13 (NYG +3) W