NFL Intelligence Index: The Patriots are smart, football fans are dumb

Kerry Byrne

The intellectual dynasty New England Patriots continue to hold the top spot on the Intelligence Index, the smartest team in football. New England also remains the best bet in football, proving yet again that winning in the NFL (and winning money on the NFL) is a matter of brains over brawn. 

The smart Patriots are also proving (yet again) that football fans are dumb. D-U-M-B USDA-certified stupid.

At the very least, fans around the country are so filled with Patriots hate that they willingly throw away good money each week betting against Bill Belichick’s Evil Empire when they could make money each week betting on yet another inevitable New England ATS victory.

To understand why football fans are dumb, you need to know a bit about the Intelligence Index. It’s simply our tried-and-true formula for separating smart, efficient, well-coached teams from dumb, inefficient, poorly-coached teams. It works, well ... brilliantly. 

(See the entire list below, from No. 1 New England to No. 32 class clown Cleveland.)


SMART TEAMS = SMART MONEY

The Intelligence Index has proven over the years that smart teams not only win games, they win games against the spread (ATS). Conversely, dumb teams not only lose games, they lose games against the spread. We see proof year after year and 2017 is no exception: 

  • The 5 smartest teams in the NFL are 38-21-1 ATS (.644)
  • The 5 dumbest teams in the NFL are 20-38-2 ATS (.345) 
  • The 6 dumbest teams in the NFL are 23-46-3 (.333)

Those numbers are consistent with historic results. The smartest teams generally win about two thirds of their games against the spread; dumb teams generally lose about two-thirds of their games against the spread.

When a smart team faces a dumb team, you have what we call a Mental Mismatch – and a great chance win money on NFL games.

Our 14 Mental Mismatches this year have produced an outstanding 11-3 (.786)  record against the spread since we re-launched the picks for the 2017 season in Week 8 (you need about a half season of data before the Intelligence Index becomes effective).

The reason the Intelligence Index is so effective is quite simple: almost all football fans flounder around each year barely making money on the NFL because they simply don’t understand the factors that win and lose pro football games. Fans fixate on the physical qualities of two opponents and ignore their more important mental qualities.

For example, Team A has a great running back and Team B has a poor run defense; or Team X has a shutdown cornerback and Team Y is weak at wide receiver. That’s how most fans size up football teams. And that strategy is, well, dumb. 

The reality at the pro level though is that even good and bad teams are nearly equal in talent. So pro games are not won and lost by a difference in physical talent. They're instead won and lost by a difference in the intellectual attributes of each team (efficiency in all phases of the game) that the Pigskin Public fails to consider when analyzing the action. But we track these differences each week with the Intelligence Index.

When it comes time to finding value in life, whether it’s in the stock market, real estate or picking NFL games, you need to zig when others zag. The Intelligence Index is your zig stat in a world of meaningless zag numbers. 

 

SO HERE’S WHY FOOTBALL FANS ARE DUMB

The Patriots last year went 13-3 ATS in the regular season, the best record in football, then a perfect 3-0 ATS in the playoffs.

They continue to tear up the league this year with an 8-4 record ATS, the third best ATS record in the NFL behind only the surprising Eagles and Vikings (9-3 each).

So New England owns a mind-blowing 24-7 record ATS over the last two seasons. That's a .774 winning percentage ATS, for those of you keeping score at home.

If anything, when a team performs that well against the spread over the course of a season, it’s usually an upstart team that nobody saw having a breakout season – the 2017 Eagles (9-3 ATS), Vikings (9-3 ATS) and Rams (8-4 ATS) for example.

Perennial powerhouse teams like the Patriots are not supposed to perform well against the spread, certainly not at a .774 clip ATS over the course of two seasons. But the Patriots own the NFL market right now. Which proves to us that fans around the country are just plain flat out stupid. 

The Patriots have dominated the NFL now for the better part of two decades. They’re the defending Super Bowl champs led by arguably the greatest coach in history and by the greatest quarterback in history. They’ve won and won and won at a clip unmatched in the history of North American sports.

If anything, the Patriots should be grossly overvauled by the betting marketplace. Fans around the country should be throwing everything they own on New England, which would have the effect of driving up the point spread, making it increasingly harder for the Patriots to cover.

But fans aren’t throwing everything at the Patriots, despite the fact they’re the smartest bet in football week after week.

Quite the contrary, fans are consistently betting against the Patriots, suppressing the line and making it increasingly easy for the Patriots to cover week after week – as that remarkable NFL-best .774 record ATS over the past two years has proven.

In other words, football fans are dumb – or so filled with hate for the Patriots that they’d rather LOSE money betting against them than WIN money betting on them.

We saw this same phenomenon back during the heyday of the Colts-Patriots rivalry. Beloved Peyton Manning’s Colts were consistently favored; but hated Tom Brady and the Patriots were consistently better and consistently beat the Colts both outright and against the spread – the Pigskin Public once again gleefully throwing away good money betting against the Patriots.

Fans are dumb for two reasons: they don't understand the efficiency factors that win and lose NFL games and they're so filled with spite that they throw away money betting against the best bet in sports. 

 

THE INTELLIGENCE INDEX EXPLAINED

Intelligence is simply the difference between defensive efficiency, or what we call Bendability (yards surrendered for each point allowed), and offensive efficiency, or what we call Scoreability (yards needed for each point scored). 

A high Bendability number is good. It means teams need to do a lot of work to score against you. They spin their wheels with minimal impact on the scoreboard. A low Scoreability number is good. It means you score points with minimal effort. The difference between the two numbers gives us an incredible gauge of a team's overall efficiency in all phases of the game. 

As the Intelligence Index proves year after year, games are won by smart, efficient well-coached teams and games are lost by dumb, inefficient, poorly coached teams. 

Generally speaking, smart teams efficiently convert yards into points on offense and make opponents work hard for points on defense. Smart teams tend to win the turnover battle, play well in the red zone, produce in all phases of special teams and commit few penalties – all the little factors that separate winners from losers in the NFL. Situational football, you might call it. 

We saw a classic example of the importance of team efficiency in New England’s 23-3 win over Buffalo last week.

The hugely inefficient Bills mustered just 3 points off of 268 yards of offense – a dismal average of 89.3 Yards Per Point Scored against the league’s most bendable defense.

If the Patriots had played that inefficiently on offense, their 435 yards of offense on Sunday would have produced just 4.9 points.


NEW ENGLAND (-11) vs. MIAMI TOP MENTAL MISMATCH OF WEEK 14

New England, No. 1 on the Intelligence Index, offers the biggest Mental Mismatch of Week 14, visiting Miami on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins are No. 23 on the Intelligence Index.

We generally don’t like double-digit favorites in the NFL, especially on the road. But as we’ve just explained, the Intelligence Index, and the Patriots, have both been money-making machines for many years.


2017 INTELLIGENCE INDEX (through Week 13)

TEAM

BEND

SCORE

INTELLIGENCE

RECORD

ATS

1

New England

20.22

14.24

+5.98

10-2

8-4

2

Baltimore

18.04

12.36

+5.68

7-5

6-5-1

3

LA Rams

18.04

12.39

+5.65

9-3

8-4

4

Jacksonville

19.04

14.27

+4.77

8-4

7-5

5

Philadelphia

16.36

12.8

+3.56

10-2

9-3

6

LA Chargers

18.99

16.26

+2.73

6-6

6-5-1

7

Seattle

17.36

14.84

+2.52

8-4

5-6-1

8

New Orleans

16.3

13.89

+2.41

9-3

7-5

9

Kansas City

16.74

14.58

+2.16

6-6

6-6

10

Cincinnati

16.84

15.39

+1.45

5-7

7-5

11

Minnesota

17

15.6

+1.4

10-2

9-3

12

Detroit

14.04

12.88

+1.16

6-6

5-6-1

13

Green Bay

15.15

14.23

+0.92

6-6

6-6

14

Pittsburgh

16.6

15.7

+0.90

10-2

6-6

15

Dallas

14.48

13.79

+0.69

6-6

6-6

16

Carolina

15

14.66

+0.34

8-4

7-5

17

N.Y. Jets

14.73

14.84

-0.11

5-7

7-4-1

18

Atlanta

15.79

15.99

-0.20

7-5

5-7

19

Buffalo

15.33

15.67

-0.34

6-6

6-5-1

20

Tennessee

13.98

14.64

-0.66

8-4

5-6-1

21

Houston

13.22

14.15

-0.93

4-8

7-5

22

Oakland

14.94

16.12

-1.18

6-6

4-7-1

23

Miami

14.02

16.21

-2.19

5-7

4-6-2

24

Chicago

14.97

17.32

-2.35

3-9

6-5-1

25

Washington

13

15.43

-2.43

5-7

5-7

26

N.Y. Giants

16.12

18.62

-2.5

2-10

5-7

27

Tampa Bay

15.59

18.19

-2.6

4-8

3-8-1

28

Indianapolis

13.82

17.33

-3.51

3-9

6-6

29

San Francisco

14.31

19.44

-5.13

2-10

6-6

30

Arizona

12.79

17.97

-5.18

5-7

3-8-1

31

Denver

11.26

18.38

-7.12

3-9

2-9-1

32

Cleveland

12.75

21.04

-8.29

0-12

3-9

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