As we get to the last few weeks it becomes more and more difficult to know what the motivation levels for teams who are basically out of the playoffs will look like. On MNF we saw sharps take a position on the Jets and the line moved from Ind -1 to NYJ -1 on the thinking that they would be motivated for a prime time game. The weren’t. The Colts were the only NFL team that showed up and the game was basically a curb stomp. I expect we will see more of these in the next few weeks so understanding the situational aspect of games becomes more and more important.
Week 13: 3-2
Game 2: NO +3 @ TB
Bet% NO 40% TB 60%
*I bet this game on Thursday and would pay -120, -125 to get that, I think there will be some opportunities on Sunday morning. I do think Saints will win this game but feel much better with the 3 in my pocket.
I was against the Bucs last week in SD and they for the 2rd straight week put up a very impressive win. At some point the travel back and forth across the country has to impact them and that is one of the reason I like the Saints here. I have the Saints as the 10th best team in the league by my metrics and the Bucs 18th, by DVOA the Saints are 15th and Bucs 20th so we are getting some value here since the line has them as even.
One of the reasons I think we are getting value on New Orleans is that historically they have been much worse on the road than home but that has not been the case this year. Saints are 2-3 on the road but ATS they are 4-0-1 or 4-1 depending on your number and it is because the passing game has been pretty consistent in their home/road splits. Saints home/road splits for passer rating (110/100.1) and yards per pass att (8.4/6.6) are much better than past years and it shows in their points per game on offense where they are averaging 31 points at home and 26 on the road, last season the Saints averaged 30 points at home and just 18 on the road.
As mentioned Tampa Bay has been great the last 3 weeks ago but none of those teams have been as good as the Saints on offense and the last time the Bucs played elite and comparable offenses, the Raiders and Falcons put up a combined 73 points in Raymond James stadium.
Game 3: Pit @ Buf Over 45
Bet% Over 44% Under 56%
The Bills surprisingly have been one of the most over teams in the league with 9 of their 12 games going over the total, the reason it feels surprising is they are a team with a poor passing game and the head coach is known for defense. Well the Ryan brothers’ defense has been very good at pass rushing but has not been very good at stopping teams, they are 21st in DVOA and 24th in opp offensive points scored at 22.8. The games in Buffalo have been especially high scoring, the Bills offense has averaged 6.2 yards per rush and30 points per game at home, on the flip side, the defense is giving up 26 points per game at home and all 5 games in Buffalo have gone over.
As surprising as it is to see the Bills as an over team it is equally interesting that the Steelers with their elite offense are 3-9 to the under. I think a lot of the unders for the Steelers have been due to injuries and suspensions, Ben Roethlisberger, Levian Bell both missed significant time and even when Rothlisberger came back it took a few weeks to get going. Last week we saw the emergence of Ladarius Green as a significant part of the passing game and I think because of that and the porous Bills defense I think we will see a big game from the Steelers offense. One thing I like for overs is the ability for big plays and quick scores, the Bills have given up the 3rd most big plays in the run game and with Levian Bell on the other side, he is obviously able to make more of those types f plays than most teams.
As for the Bills offense, Tyrod Taylor has taken a lot of heat the also few weeks and I think we can expect him to try to make more plays this week with both his legs and arm, having a healthy Sammy Watkins back should help. The Steelers defense has been playing really well, they are now 8th in DVOA but when they played a run game comparable to the Bills a few weeks ag vs Dallas, the Cowboys averaged 5.1 yards per game.
Game 4: Atl @ LA Under 45
Bet% Over 54% Under 46%
The Falcons have been the most over team in the league and this bet scares the hell out of me. On the spread this game has been around 5, 5.5 with +80% of bets on the favorite and the sharp side would certainly seem to be the Rams but I just can’t put money on Jeff Fisher and Jared Goff in this spot. That being said if the Rams do cover this game I would expect it to be a game that is lower scoring than most Falcons games.
For Atlanta, there is a chance they will be without both their starting receivers, Mohammed Sanu is already out and Julio Jones missed practice all week and is questionable. Even if Julio plays, it’s hard to think he will be 100% and also hard to think the Falcons will push him in a game they probably think they can without him. Jake Matthews also missed most of the week with a knee injury and like Julio, even if he plays it’s unlikely that he is 100%.
The Rams are 32nd in offensive DVOA, 32nd in offensive TDs and it’s not likely to get much better with Jared Goff now taking over, last week Goff had a passer rating last week of 43.2 and QBR of 8.9 vs the Patriots who had the 25th ranked pass defense, I expect this game to have a similar score to last week’s Patriots-Rams game which ended 26-10.
Game 5: Bal +7@ NE
Bet% Bal 55% NE 4%
*I locked in the 7 on Friday at -115, this line has moved to -6.5 almost everywhere as of last Saturday. While I think the Ravens can win this game straight up I would only bet if I got the full 7 and I think Monday we will see 7’s pop up again or be able to get to 7 cheaply.
The Ravens were overtaken by the Broncos this week in the Defensive DVOA leaderboard but they remain an elite defense especially vs the run and I think in this week’s game that will be huge. The Patriots will not only be without Gronk in the passing game this week but also without Danny Amendola leaving Brady with Edleman and Malcom Mitchell as his only healthy targets. Against most teams we would see the Patriots lean heavily on their RB’s in a situation like this but I am not sure how much success they will have with their running game vs this Ravens defense. Baltimore is allowing just 3.4 yards per rush att and their DVOA vs the run has been historically great so far this season -39.70%.
Gronk being hurt is a big deal to the Patriots offense, it hasn’t mattered much the last 3 weeks because of the level of opposition they have faced (Rams,49ers,Jets) but without that offense being elite it will be much more difficult to cover up for their defense. The Patriots defense is 19th in DVOA and while I don’t believe last week’s performance by the Ravens offense is real, I do think they will be able to move the ball and score enough against New England on MNF.
Game 6: Min @ Jac Under 39
Bet% Over 30% Under 70%
This is the lowest total on the board, the Vikings are 2-10 to the under this season despite having the lowest totals week after week. Minnesota is averaging just 16.2 points on offense and on the road that number drops to 13.2. On defense the Vikings have got back on form and maybe unsurprisingly the uptick in performance has coincided with the defense getting healthy.
The Jags defense has been getting better and better especially their pass rush. The Jags have moved to 10th in DVOA and over the last 3 weeks have a sack rate of 11.76%, that pass rush should give the weak Viking offensive line a lot of problems.
The Jags will be without Allan Hurns and likely without Chris Ivory and their starting center which should slow their offense. The thing that worries me about this game is that the Vikings games that have gone over went over because they scored on defense and special teams, well nobody gives up defensive scores like Blake Bortles.
Other Games Under Consideration: (Will decide on these Sunday Morning)
Wash @ Phi +2.5
Bet% Was 77% Phi 23%
This is a huge spot for the Eagles and I think if I wasn’t an Eagles fa that has watched every game it would be easier to pull the trigger here. I would love to get 3 and am hoping we see it move there on Sunday but there are a lot of reasons to think the Eagles bounce back here and win this game straight up. On offense the Eagles will get to key parts back, #1 WR Jordan Mathews who missed last week and starting RB Ryan Mathews will both be back here. This is an offense devoid of playmakers so losing 2 above average players has been extra damaging to their offense and has really hurt any chance of success the offense and Carson Wentz might have had.
Doug Pederson called out a number of players this week for their effort and players like Zach Eartz and Fletcher Cox were called out in the local papers. We should expect the Eagles to put out their best effort and we have seen them win in big home games earlier in the year vs Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
Washington is playing their second straight road game and Jordan Reed who is the key to their offense and an Eagles killer has not been able to participate in practice this week. If this goes to 3 I will be on the Eagles