NFL Net Yards Per Play: Are Bengals Among NFL’s Worst?

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
NFL net yards per play Week 5

While you’re handicapping NFL Week 5 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. The “last three weeks” column captures the teams’ current form. If you see fit, one 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 5 action, the team at the stone bottom of the NYPP rankings is the once-mighty Cincinnati Bengals. We’ll take a look at them and a couple of other teams that stand out one way or the other.

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NFL yards per play Explained

Yards per play — or 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 indicate 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 like EPA, teams may be overvalued in the betting market if their YPP surges positively over a small sample size. You will see that various 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.

Conversely, 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 before Week 5 action. Conventional wisdom says 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 in either direction.

TeamYPPOpponent YPPNet YPPNet Last 3 Weeks
Dolphins85.72.32.2
49ers6.34.51.81.8
Ravens5.33.81.51.7
Lions5.74.51.21.5
Vikings6.251.20.8
Chiefs5.94.911.4
Browns4.43.80.60.5
Rams5.55.10.40.1
Cowboys5.14.70.4-0.4
Eagles5.65.20.40.7
Seahawks5.45.10.30.9
Bills5.95.70.20.6
Texans5.35.20.10.5
Patriots4.74.70-0.3
Cardinals5.75.8-0.1-0.1
Packers4.95-0.1-0.6
Falcons4.64.7-0.1-0.4
Chargers5.85.9-0.10.7
Buccaneers4.95-0.10.6
Titans4.95-0.10
Saints4.44.8-0.4-0.7
Raiders4.95.3-0.40.1
Colts4.85.2-0.4-0.2
Jaguars55.4-0.4-1
Jets4.75.1-0.4-0.8
Commanders4.85.6-0.8-1.1
Steelers4.65.7-1.1-0.8
Panthers4.25.3-1.1-1.2
Broncos5.97-1.1-1.4
Bears56.1-1.1-1
Giants45.6-1.6-1.3
Bengals45.7-1.7-1.6

Standout Teams In NFL yards per play

Before the 2023 season, few would have disputed that the Cincinnati Bengals were a legitimate contender in Super Bowl odds. The idea of playing a closely lined contest against the Arizona Cardinals would have been laughable.

Yet, here we sit, staring at a line of Bengals .

And a look at the net yards per play numbers tells the tale of why. We highlighted the Cardinals last week in this space. And while their defense got flattened by the 49ers, the offense continues to play well. They posted a reasonable 5.4 YPP, well above the 49ers’ season number. At this point, there’s little evidence that the Cardinals are anything but a run-of-the-mill, below-average, or even decent team.

Meanwhile, the Bengals have the worst offense in the NFL by YPP, combined with a below-average defense. Even taking out the Week 1 debacle against an elite Browns defense leaves the Bengals ranked bottom five.

At this point, it’s reasonable to wonder whether they should even be favored over the Cardinals.

Other Teams Of Note

The Houston Texans have begun to put the league on notice that CJ Stroud might be a future star. Looking at the yards per play figures after they passed the well-respected Steelers defense for 6.5 YPP, Houston looks like a solid team—both the offense and the defense rate around the middle of the pack.

Furthermore, look at their “last three weeks” number. Essentially, it’s omitting the opening week ugliness at Baltimore. While it’s easy to point out that every team would look better without their worst game, in Houston’s case, it’s instructive to remember that they opened on the road against a solid defense with a rookie QB.

The +0.5 they have posted since would rank in the top 10.

The Jaguars may have righted the ship with the London win on the opposite tack. But, their season-long YPP numbers still paint a grim picture. The Chiefs and Texans dominated them.

At the same time, they did race out to a big lead against Atlanta. Most likely, they weren’t particularly interested in scoring 30 when it was clear 20 would probably do. So, their offense might be healthier than this number indicates when that and the mistake-filled prior games are factored in.

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