NFL Net Yards Per Play: Are The Cardinals Decent?

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
NFL net yards per play

While you’re handicapping NFL Week 4 odds, you may be in search of a new tool to apply to your step-by-step process. If so, NFL yards per play (YPP) is one that should be near the top of your checklist. Net yards per play — the difference between offensive and defensive performance on a per-play basis — gives a solid look at a team’s overall strength.

This report will be updated following each week of action and contains each team’s yards per play results on offense and defense, respectively. Eventually, we’ll add a “last three weeks” column to capture a snapshot of the current form. If you see fit, one of them could be worth investing in for futures. You’ll want to look for undervalued teams, ones whose per-play strength isn’t reflected in their final scores, due to luck or other factors.

Ahead of NFL Week 4 action, one team that stands out is the expected basement-dwelling Arizona Cardinals. Through three weeks the Cardinals have a middling record and middling to solid NFL yards per play figures. Could this team actually be halfway decent?

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NFL yards per play Explained

Yards per play — also referred to as YPP — is a handy metric for NFL bettors since it eliminates unpredictable variables, including turnovers, botched kicks, and scores via special teams. Ignoring randomness is a critical part of handicapping any sport. Therefore, yards per play on both sides of the ball helps provide an indication of where a team is in the short term. Generally speaking, you will rarely find a below .500 team in the upper echelon of these rankings.

But just like EPA, teams may be overvalued in the betting market if their YPP surges in a positive direction over a small sample size. You will see that a variety of units — offensively, defensively, or both — benefited from playing weak competition in their first affair of the 2023 campaign. In turn, their output could be mis-contextualized.

On the flip side, a team outperforming expectations against a presumably elite opponent is likely a sign of a positive trajectory.

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NFL Yards Per Play: Offense, Defense And Net

Here are the current yards per play numbers prior to Week 4 action. Conventional wisdom says that dividing the net yards per play difference by 0.15 gives an approximate spread between two teams.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the more or fewer plays a team runs/defends, these numbers could wind up skewed a bit in either direction.

TeamYPPOpponent YPPNet YPP

Standout Teams In NFL yards per play

In many cases, NFL upsets are driven primarily by turnovers. Handing the other team the ball is a great way to cancel out even a sizable YPP edge.

That wasn’t the case whatsoever in the Cardinals’ Week 4 victory over the Cowboys. Arizona gained a whopping 7.5 YPP against the vaunted Cowboys defense while only allowing 5.5. They deserved every bit of their 12-point win.

Add that to the Cardinals’ first two weeks of efforts, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see this team as the clear-cut worst in the NFL. Recall that the Cardinals had odds around +250 to record the league’s fewest wins. The closest “competition” was around +700.

Sitting eighth in NFL net yards per play, it’s probably time for bettors to take the Cardinals seriously as a legitimate NFL team and not a mere clown show counting the days until they pick No. 1 overall.

Most likely, the Cardinals’ competence won’t have any bearing betting on NFL futures. Winning the division or making the playoffs still seems farfetched. But, week-to-week handicappers must acknowledge that fading the Cardinals does not mean free money.

We should also note that by NFL yards per play metrics, both the Ravens and Browns stand out. The total in that game sits at .

In both cases, the teams’ defenses have driven their strong YPP numbers. The Browns have allowed the fewest in the NFL by a large margin, while the Ravens rank second. Which offense can post just a mediocre day could drive the result of their Week 4 matchup.

Note that the Ravens actually outgained the Colts by a decent amount despite the upset loss, going from 5.1 YPP to 3.9. Turnovers sank them, as Lamar Jackson and Kenyan Drake each lost fumbles. Baltimore also gave up one possession with a fourth-down failure.

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