What is EPA?


Expected Points Added (EPA) — derived from Ben Baldwin and Sebastian Carl — measures how a team’s expected points were altered on a certain play. Digging a bit deeper, the advanced metric is calculated by the expected points scored based on the down, distance, and field position at the start of a play ⁠— juxtaposed to the end result.

For instance, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers start the game from their own 25-yard line, their expected points would be roughly 1.06. If Tom Brady throws a 15-yard completion to Mike Evans on the first play, making it first-and-10 on their own 40-yard line, their expected points is now 1.88.

Moreover, the EPA of that individual play would be 0.82 (1.88 subtracted by 1.06).

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What is EPA?

Below we will go further into EPA and look at the measurement’s deficiency, along with the best way to utilize it within NFL betting.

Expounding Upon EPA’s “Weakness”

The main observations against the metric is that it doesn’t account for turnovers and, sometimes, unforced variance.

Let’s say Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson mishandles the snap under center, leading to a turnover and a 50-yard return. The opposing defense will generate more EPA on that play than it would have via a two-yard fumble return. Is that justified?

Probably not, especially if you’re evaluating that unit on a single-game basis, as it relates to its next opponent. On top of that, the fumble wasn’t showcasing the defense’s ability to manufacture a turnover to begin with.

Furthermore, the RBDSM model doesn’t adjust for the opponent. But that can theoretically help your process while tying it in within your handicapping, as you’ll read below.

Applying EPA To NFL Betting Markets

For one, you may want to consider fading a team against the spread (ATS) if you see it’s outperforming its EPA (per the market or record-wise), assuming it’s actually overvalued. The Kansas City Chiefs were a prime representation of that through the first eight games of the 2021 season before they adjusted their defensive personnel.

During the first chunk of the campaign, the Chiefs surrendered the league’s fourth-highest Rushing EPA and fifth-highest Dropback EPA, respectively. They went 2-6 ATS within that span — in large part because those spreads were a bit inflated as of a result of their market rating.

However, Kansas City went on to finish above league average in both categories during their final 12 matchups, which included the playoffs, and generated an 8-4 ATS record.

The reverse can be said if a team has underperformed in regards to EPA. Take the Baltimore Ravens. John Harbaugh’s defense yielded the sixth-most EPA per play in 2021, yet much of their struggles can be bridged to an assortment of injuries. In turn, their futures for the ensuing campaign are worth a look if you believe they still possess market value.

Now, does all of that mean that you should blindly bet on EPA regression — one way or the other? Of course not, as team or individual EPA could be simply be justified like any other metric. But it’s certainly a worthy tool to explore when you’re gauging the current state of the betting market.

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States With Legal NFL Betting

When the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018, it allowed for individual states to legalize sports gambling. Starting with New Jersey (the original plaintiff in the PASPA case), additional states quickly moved to legalize and help regulate the industry even further.

NFL betting, along withother professional sports still isn’t federally legal, but residents of the states below can place wagers at legal sportsbooks:

Most other U.S. states have introduced some sort of bill that would legalize sports gambling. Of course, some states are far closer than others to legalizing the industry. Visit our state betting pages at TheLines to get a look at the status in each state.

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