It is year 7 of posting picks on this blog. Last season was the worst year I have had and the second losing season as we finished 44-48-1. 2020 is like no other year and this NFL season will be a really interesting one as we will need to figure out how many of the truisms we believe in actually hold up in this strange Covid year. Let’s get to work.
Game 1: Cle +7.5 @ Bal
Bet% Cle 38% Bal 62%
The Ravens were the runaway stars of the 2019 regular season while Cleveland was maybe the team that disappointed their preseason projections the most.
I like the theory that we are often a year early on teams that are anointed to take a big leap forward. That was true with the 49ers and I can see it being true for the Browns. The Browns were perhaps the worst coached team in the NFL last year and having a credible, professional head coach with a plan that fits his personnel, especially on offense should be major upgrade.
Thanksgiving Week in the NFL is an interesting one because we have the full day of games on Thursday and then because so many people are off and at home watching games we see a lot of money on games and larger bet% splits because there is so much public money in market. We hit on our one Turkey Day pick with Washington +7 and hope to continue our hot streak with this week’s cards. I have a feeling there will be a lot of work Sunday morning and some additional picks not listed because if the public money shows up Sat night and Sunday morning we might see some additional value.
The Bengals had as bad a week as you can have last week, not only did they lose at home to the Bills effectively ending any hopes of making the playoffs, they also lost AJ Green for the foreseeable future and Geo Bernard for the season. We saw the Bengals last week struggle on offense vs the Bills who are good on defense but basically league average, Bengals were shut out in the 2nd half and averaged just 4.2 yards per play for the game.
The Ravens are a much better defense than the Bills especially vs the run. I expect the Bengals want to lean heavily on Jeremy Hill in this game with no AJ Green and Bernard and the Ravens are the #1 run defense by DVOA and yards per att. Bengals passing game will rely heavily on the TE Eifert, remember they started the season without their #2 and #3 WRs from the last few years Jones and Sanu and neither Lefel of Boyd has made an impact this season. Add to all this that the Bengal’s offensive line has been one of the worst all year, currently 26th in adjusted sack rate.
The Ravens offense has been a problem all year, they’re 30th in offensive DVOA and the offense is averaging just 18.1 points per game despite not having faced many elite defenses. I’m not sure either team hits 20 in this game and think we are most likely to see a score somewhere around 17-13. (more…)
Every week is different, there are weeks where games jump out right away, there are weeks where nothing looks good until the weekend. This week as I scanned the card early nothing jumped out and by the time I did like a few games we saw some big line movements, especially in the totals. We are in the part of the season where weather begins to play a larger part and Sharps will start hitting unders early in the week either anticipating winter conditions or simply getting some insurance just in case. Something I will start doing as well on Sunday Nights. To get around the line drives I am playing a teaser card on unders and I anticipate I will be playing a lot more unders.
Week 10: 5-2
Game 1: Ari @ Min Under 40
Bet% Over 39% Under 61%
When looking at playing unders one of the things that I think gives the best chances if there is a mis-match between the defensive lines and offensive lines and it is rare we see a game where both sides have an advantage like we see in this game.
The Vikings issues on the offensive line have been well documented and it should get even worse because they lost starting T Jake Long for the season this week. The fact that it will get appreciably worse because they lost a player that was a street FA and arguably not even a replacement level player tells you everything. According to DVOA, Vikings are 31st in run blocking, 22 in pass blocking and 26th in overall sack percentage giving up sacks on 7% of pass plays but in the last 3 games that number shoots up to 9.92%.
Meanwhile the Cards pass rush has been really good, they are 12th in adjusted sack rate,7th in total sack % and #1 in my pressure rankings which include QB hits and hurries. Arizona is 4th in defensive DVOA and 3rd vs the pass, since Vikings only chance to move the ball is in air as they are not just last in rushing but are historically bad averaging only 2.7 yards per rush.
On flip side we have seen the Vikings defence slip a little during this 4 game losing streak, after 5 weeks they were 2nd in Defensive DVOA, they are now 6th but to put that slide into perspective, over the season the opp passer rating is 74.6 but over last 3 weeks it has been 99.3, same with yards per pass att which is at 5.8 for season but 7.2 for last 3 weeks. Now I think there are 2 reasons for this, 1 is fatigue, the Vikings offense doesn’t stay on field and as a result Vikings defense has played a lot more snaps. The second is injuries, Vikings have had key players like Eric Kendricks, Zavier Woods miss games.
Vikings defense should be healthy in this game and they have a very good matchup against the Cards offensive line as the Cards line is 24th in adjusted sack rate.
I also like the home road splits for this under, the Vikings at home have an opp passer rating of 68.6 vs 80.2 on road and we know Carson Palmer has his issues on the road. Palmer has a passer rating on road of 73.1 on road compared to 85.6 at home and has 5 interceptions in just 2 road games.
Week 5 ended our mini 2 week slide and put on the right side but this was a week where it should have been so much better. Both the Bears- Colts and Washington-Ravens games had every opportunity to go our way and it’s almost miraculous that they didn’t. Very frustrating finishes but I feel confident that I was on the right side of most of the games on this week’s card. Which is something.
Week 5 Results: 4-3
What Went Right:
Stafford and Jim Bob: As an Eagles fan I thought this was a tough spot for the Eagles and early on Stafford and the offense had lots of success scoring Tds on both of their first drives. The Eagles played really well in the 2nd half, but then at the end of the game we saw the turnover margin anomaly of the Eagles regress all at once with a Ryan Mathews fumble and then Wentz interception on final play. Turnovers happen and so do losses on the road. Eagles are still good and the Lions offense is also really good.
Shady Mccoy: The Bills run game continued to roll, the pass game was M.I.A with 124 yards but Mccoy rushed for 150 yards on just 18 carries and allowed the offense to take control. As discussed the Bills defense isn’t great but the Rams weren’t capable of taking advantage. Keenum threw 2 interceptions and while Gurley did score a TD he still only averaged 3.1 yards per touch
Week 4 was the second straight losing 2-3 week. losing weeks are going to happen but you want to obviously minimise the severity of them but more importantly you don’t want to have them impact the following week. Sometimes after losing it’s hard to fire on a lot of games and you can get conservative or move away from good bets because you lost similar ones the previous week. Shot memories can be helpful in betting. I liked a lot of games this weekend, the card may end up being the largest in terms of games played so far but yo gotta just go with it. It’s a long season, week 5 is no time to run and hide.
Last Week 2-3
NFL 2016: 12-8-1
2015: 63 – 37 – 3
Game 1: Was @ Bal -3.5
Bet%; Was 52% Bal 48%
Washington is coming off of 2 straight wins and appears to be back on track after a 0-2 start, while the Ravens lost their first game of the year to the Raiders. With the Ravens at home, this line essentially makes them 0.5 favorites on a neutral field but I don’t see them that close.
In my ratings I have Baltimore as #10 and Washington at 17, I think by the end of the year both may drop a few spots but the gap feels about right. Baltimore is 4th in defensive DVOA, and 1st vs the run. Last week, Washington had their best run game of the year averaging 5.6 yards per rush which meant they didn’t have to just rely on Cousins and the pass game.
Even though Washington ended up winning both of their last 2 games they were in position to lose both and probably would have had it not been for some very timely turnovers from the Giants and Browns. Both Giants and Browns turned the ball over 3 times and Washington was +4 in TOs in those games.
The Ravens are coming off of a very tough loss where they allowed the Raiders to drive down with 2 mins left and score a GW TD. Ravens outgained Raiders 412-261, ran almost 30 more plays then them and probably deserved a better fate.
On the injury front, Washington was particularly hit hard last week with players leaving, it looks like Kerrigan and starting G Lauvao will play but may not be 100%.
Game 2: Chi +5 @ Ind
Bet% Chi 47% IND 53%
This one just feels like too many points for Chicago in what is a very tough spot for the Colts and in fact in DVOA rankings Chicago ranks a little higher than the Colts based on only this season (23rd to 27th).
Lets start off with the schedule side for the Colts. Indy becomes one of the only teams I can remember to not get a bye the week after playing in London. Maybe it doesn’t have a major impact Sunday but it has to be somewhat of a disadvantage and I think it is unlikely they had a regular week of practice because of it.
The Colts are 1-3 and they will definitely need this win if they want to make the playoffs so there is that ‘desperation’ risk but I’m just not sure that it is enough to think they can cover a number like this coming off of a cross continental trip.
I found this week’s games to be very difficult to get a beat on. All of the lines feel like they are right on and I don’t see a lot of value this week.
I think there is an impulse to think that once the playoffs start you should have a strong opinion on every game but I found myself going back and forth on every one of these wild card games. I plan on being very selective in the playoffs but I do think there may be some opportunities with in-game bets whether live or 2nd half bets or other exotics.
*Futures – Back in week 12 I bet futures on the Steelers and the Seahawks to win their conferences and win the Superbowl so I will obviously also be tracking those
2015 Reg Season ATS: 57-35-3
Game 1: Pit @ Cin Under 45.5
Bet%: Over 65% Under 35%
When these 2 teams played in Week 14, the total closed at 49 and the game finished over with a total of 53 yet this game opened up at 46 and has been dropping despite 65% of the bets on the over.
When we look at the differences obviously the injuries are big, Andy Daulton was hurt in that Week 14 game and as a result we have AJ McCarron starting for the Bengals this week. For the Steelers, they will be without DeAngelo Williams this week and will start undrafted Fitzgerald Trousant who has a total of 18 carries this year for 42 yards.
The Steelers have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, but minus a credible run defense we should see the 6th rank Bengals Pass defense be able to slow down the Steelers. In week 14 the Bengals held Pittsburgh to 6.6 yards per pass att, in week 8 they held them to just 5 yards per pass att. *It should be noted that Week 8 game was Big Ben’s first game back from injury.
On the flip side, the weakness of the Steelers defense is their secondary, Steelers have given up 7.2 yards per pass att (24th) but I don’t see McCarron really being able to or even given the opportunity to take advantage. Below we see the way that McCarron has been used over the last 3 games and also how much the Bengals have used the run.
While the Steelers pass defense is a weakness, I do not believe that Marvin Lewis and Hugh Jackson will feel comfortable using their back up QB as the focal point of their attack, they haven’t done it over the last 3 weeks and I don’t think they will here.
The Bengals run game averaged only 3.8 yards per rush but as we see above that didn’t stop the Bengals from using a run heavy offense with McCarron at QB. The Steelers run defense was very good over the season giving up only 3.8 yards per rush so I don’t see the Bengals offense having a very efficient game.
I do expect this game to be very close, so as long as it is close I don’t think we will see the Bengals take a lot of chances but rather try to shorten the game with the run and steal it late.
Game 2: GB +1 @ Wash
Bet% GB 50% Wash 50%
Washington is clearly the hotter team right now, they won their last 4 games of the season, 5 of the last 6 and finished 12th in Weighted DVOA (15th overall). The Packers lost their last 2 games, including the division showdown in week 17 vs the Vikings, lost 3 of their last 6 games overall and finished 19th in Weighted DVOA (10th Overall).
Complicating matters is the level of competition Washington played in their recent run. On the season, Washington beat 1 team that was .500 or better, the 8-8 Buffalo Bills. They played 3 teams that finished above .500, (NYJ,CAR, NE) they went 0-3 and lost by an average margin of 20 points
In the end I am going with GB because I think the matchup favours them and my hope is that the playoffs offer a bit of a reset for GB.
In a matchup of strength vs strength we have the WSH pass offense vs GB pass defense. Washington is led by their passing game, on the season they rank 6th in Avg Passer rating and 9th in yards per pass att (7.2) and both those numbers have trended up the last 6 weeks. Pass defense is the strength of the Packers defense, they rank 7th in avg opponent passer rating (81.3) and have been better than that in the last month. Washington is a very 1 dimensional offense as their run game produced only 3.6 yards per rush good for 29th overall so if the Packers pass defense can hold for they should be able to control the game.
The Packers pass offense has been well below levels we are used to seeing them play at, they are 30th in yards per pass attempt (6.1) but over the season they still rank 12th in passer rating.
The last 2 weeks the Packers pass game struggled vs the Vikings and Cardinals but both those pass defenses rank much higher than the 22nd ranked pass defense of Washington and both those teams can pressure the QB they rank 6th and 7th in total pressures. The Packers have struggled vs pass pressure all year, but Washington only ranks 23rd in pressure plays so Rodgers should have an opportunity to make plays vs the Washington secondary.
I know Washington is the hot team and the Packers looked terrible closing out the season but the Packers Pass defense is the strength of the team and Rodgers is facing a weak pass defense that doesn’t get a lot of pressure. This felt like the best value on the board.
On Thursday Night Football I took the New York Jets who covered the +10, on the same night I saw Nas performing Illmatic live in it’s entirety something I’ve been waiting for 20 years to see. I also have the NY Giants this week and think they can win straight up. Week 7 …..NY State of Mind
Game 2 NYG+6.5 @ Dal
Bet%NYG 45 Dal 55
This game is the ultimate bounceback / let down game.
The 3-1 Cowboys have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, led by the leagues #1 rushing attack at 165 yards per game, Dallas has quickly changed the perception of this team. That being said this might be a good spot to go against them. Dallas is coming off of a very big prime time win vs the Saints and next week plays the super bowl champ Seahawks, so this could be a let down game for them. Hou also brings a much better defense than any of the 3 teams that Dallas has beaten so far, the Texans are ranked 12 in Defensive DVOA while the Titans, Rams and Saints were ranked 20,30,32 respectively.
6.5 points seems like a lot in his game, while Dallas is at home there should be plenty of support for Houston in the Jerry dome which lessons the home field advantage. The Dallas defense while not the historically bad unit some expected is still playing very poorly giving up 6.5 yards per play and 7.4 yards per pass, both up from last year, so Houston should be able to move the ball this week.