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.
*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.
This week was a really tough week, I can’t remember feeling as disappointed, disillusioned and disheartened as I did after Tuesday night. Yesterday I got the new Tribe album and it was the first time I felt some relief, some joy, some escape. It’s beautiful and perfect. RIP Phife. Thank you Tip, Ali and Jarobi we needed this.
Week 9: 2-2
Game 1: KC @ Car Under 44.5
Bet% Over 60% Under 40%
Both these teams played games last week that went way under, we were on the Panthers-Rams under and I bet against the Chiefs last week. The Chiefs will get Alex Smith and Spencer Ware back in this game but after a week off I expect Andy Reid to be very conservative in this game especially with Jeremy Maclan out this game. Even though Maclan hasn’t been as big a part of the offense this year as everyone expected there is no doubt that he is still a focal point of defenses so with him out the Panthers should be able to squeeze the Chiefs offense.
The Panthers defense struggled mightily early in the year but the last 2 weeks vs Arizona and the Rams it looked a lot closer to last year’s group. By DVOA their defensive line is now a top 10 group vs the pass and run and the Chiefs line hasn’t been particularly good, so this is a good matchup for Panthers defense.
On the flip side, the Panthers offense has issues on the offensive line. Not only will they be without Michael Oher again but they will be without starting center Ryan Kalil who didn’t practice at all this week. The Chiefs have been a much better pass rush team the last month lead by Dee ford who has 7.5 sacks the last 4 weeks.
This feels like a game both teams offensive lines are going to have a hard time holding up, they both rank in the bottom 10 and face defenses that can create pressure. The Chiefs have thrived on turnovers but even in games like last week where they were +4, they still only scored 19. We have seen the Panthers offense struggle in games where Cam gets hit a lot which has been most weeks. Take out the games vs Saints and Falcons and this is an offense that has struggled to score so far especially against teams with pass rush.
This was not a week where I saw a lot of line value based on analytics or numbers and with 6 teams on byes it was probably going to be smaller card anyways. 2 of the sides are schedule/letdown spots and we have another teaser this week were we hope the home teams can just get the win. Coming off our first big winning weeks since week 1 has lifted the overall record to just under 60% which is great to see. The recipe the last few seasons has been to try to avoid the really public plays which I think limits the big losing weeks. Then from there we grind out the weeks and hopefully have a few weeks like last week and week 1 where the ugly games all hit and boost the overall record.
Week 8: 4-1
Game 1: Dal @ Cle +7.5
Bet% Dal 76% Cle 24%
In a game between the #2 DVOA team and the 32nd DVOA team we are going to have an impossible time finding any numbers that support taking the Browns and the points here. They do not exist. This is pick based solely on the schedule and the very likely scenario that the Cowboys will have a let down here.
Last week the Cowboys came off of their bye and played a prime time game vs divisional rival Philadelphia, they struggled for most of the game, trailing 20-13 through 3 quarters in what was Dak Prescott’s least efficient start since the opener before coming back and scoring on their last drive then in OT to steal a huge victory.
Now this week they play the worst team in the league, the winless Browns and beyond that Jerry Jones has basically come out and said that Prescott will be the starter regardless of Romo’s health so that urgency from the QB is also gone. You know the Cowboys have spent the week celebrating not just the win but the idea that even without a complete game they can come back and win. How seriously did they work this week to get ready for the winless Browns? Also they play the Steelers next week so you have to think there is going to be some looking ahead for both the players and coaches to that marquee matchup. (more…)
In the official scorecard for Wildcard Weekend I went 2-0 but with both futures teams (Seattle, Pittsburgh) stealing victory from the grasps of sure defeat it felt very much like 4-0 and a reason to celebrate
2015 Playoffs: 2-0
2015 Reg Season: 57-35-3
Wild Card Weekend Results
Game 1: Pit @ Cin Under 45.5
This game never really was in doubt, the Steelers led 6-0 at half and 9-0 through 3 quarters. The Bengals in the first half managed only one drive of over 10 yards and the majority of their pass attempts and yards came in the 4th Q when they were down and in desperation mode. Even with 41 Attempts, McCarron couldn’t crack 200 passing yards.
The Bengals defense once again played the Steelers pass game tough holding them to 5.1 yards per pass and picking up 4 sacks. The Steelers did manage to run the ball well, 167 yards on 29 rushes, which helped the under as did he poor weather conditions. Nice to get an easy win.
Game 2: GB +1 @ Wash
This one didn’t start great as Wash got off to a 11 -0 lead which could have been worse had Desean got into the end zone on their 2nd scoring drive where they ended up settling for 3. Once the Packers got into the game they found plenty of opportunities to score vs the 21st ranked DVOA defense of Washington. Washington was 31st in yards per rush against giving up 4.8 per att and the Packers took advantage of that unit. GB rushed for 141 yards on 32 atts and helped keep the game manageable for the Rodgers and their pass game.
Full Wildcard Week Results
Both the Steelers and Seahawks seemed by all accounts to be looking at 1st rd losses until having inexplicable plays go their way late in the games. The Steelers look too banged up to be able to go much further but we may look back at that missed 21 yard FG by in Minnesota as the major break that allowed Seattle to win the SB and cash our futures bet
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.
It is amazing how many times this week we have heard games described as ‘must win’ for the 0-2 teams and while usually the term must win is over used, going 0-3 historically has been a death blow to teams hoping to make playoffs. Since 2007, 5 teams have made the playoffs after going 0-2 but if you change that to 0-3 only 5 teams in history have made the playoffs so clearly the road becomes very difficult. Now there is an important caveat in that usually teams that start 0-2 aren’t very good and not expected to make the playoffs anyways, which makes this year kind of unique as The Seahawks, Colts, Ravens and Eagles all were expected to be serious contenders this year but find themselves 0-2 and teetering on disaster.
The Ravens are the first 0-2 I am looking at this week as they play the 2-0 Bengals. Looking at the schedule this really is must win for the Ravens after they played a very tough opener in Denver, where they lost a 1 score game and then dropped a bad one in Oakland. Now after playing at home this week they have to go back on the road again, this time on a short week and play in Pittsburgh on TNF.
Looking at the first 2 weeks, Joe Flacco and the Ravens passing game has been performing far below their established levels from last season, the Ravens passer rating this season is 75.7 as compared to a rating of 91.last year and early on they have has issues with interceptions with 3, Flacco had 12 in all of 2014.
As for Cincy, they have been very good to start the season but I do think that Daulton has been playing a little above his ability, he has posted a passer rating of 120.3 so far while his career rating is 86. Coming into the season these were 2 very even teams by DVOA, 6th and 8th, but when you factor in home field and the discrepancy in how important this game is to the 2 teams I really like the Ravens in this spot to keep their season alive.
This is a tough pick for me to make because it seems like all the sharps and smart people on Arizona and my numbers point to the Panthers. The Cards went 11-5 and despite poor underlying numbers they kept winning games and it’s hard for me to see them continuing especially with Ryan Lindley.
Arizona had a point differential on the the year of just 11, easily the lowest among teams that won at least 10 games, they finished 23rd in weighted DVOA which is way below their rank in wins. So how has Arizona done it this year? 2 areas that have really helped are turnover margin where they finished +8 which was 5th in the league and they were 2nd in the league in defensive TDs with 4. Not to say those stats are pure luck but they are very difficult to count on long term, especially the turnover margin.
In breaking this game down the last month of the season has these teams going in opposte directions. The Cards had a passer rating on the season of 81.8 which was 25th but over the last 3 games its a dreadful 59. On defense Arizona ranked 23rd or worse in yards/play, yards/pass and yards per rush against and their numbers the last 3 weeks have been worse for all their season defensive numbers. The one stat they have been great at is yards/pt against where they ranked 1st at 19.8 so for whatever reason they give up a lot of yards but keep teams from scoring, can that keep up?
On the Panthers side they have had very few wins over good teams but they have been much better the last 3 weeks especially defensively. Panthers passer rating against over the last 3 weeks was just 62, the yards per play in those games was 4.8 so they are playing their best football on both sides of the game the last month. I’ll take Cam Newton over Lindly here and the hot Panthers
If there is a team that I think is flying most under the radar right now it’s the Detroit Lions and specifically their defense. I have bet the under with them the last few weeks and with them playing the early game in London I will be on the underrated Detroit side again. In honour of being from Detroit and underrated…
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.