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Using PFF pressure numbers to bet sack player props

Dec 27, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We’re fast approaching the start of the 2021 NFL regular season, which means we're closer to the opportunity to wager on season and game outcomes, as well as team or player props.

Last week, I discussed a method for using turnover-worthy plays to bet interception props for quarterbacks at the game level. This was in response to discussions about process-versus-results ways of viewing player performance. When it comes to rushing the passer, we at PFF developed robust metrics and insights that help us when it comes to handicapping the number of sacks a player or team will earn or give up over the course of a game or season.

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At the individual defender level

In an article from 2018, I showed that, while sacks are much more valuable to a defense than pressures, pressure production at the player level can predict sack rates the following season better than sack production the previous season. In fact, pressure rate at the player level correlates with itself at a rate of r = 0.68 for players with 100 or more pass-rush snaps from one season to the next, and r = 0.53 with sack rate.

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