Week 7 Edition
*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – You may notice that on the link to Football Outsiders’ DVOA page, I will consult another statistic called DAVE. Simply put, DAVE is DVOA, only with preseason projections factored in.
***Note – All betting odds courtesy of Bovada
****Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records to Date
Straight Up: 52-40 (.565) Last Week: 8-7
Spread: 53-35-4 (.598) Last Week: 9-5-1
Over/Under: 45-47 (.489) Last Week: 9-6
Locks: 14-5 (.737) Last Week: 2-1
Best Bets: 44-33 (.571) Last Week: 10-4
New York Giants (3-3) vs Los Angeles Rams (3-3)
Spread: NYG -2.5 Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: NYG (17) > LA (22)
Public Betting: NYG 57%
Key Stat: NFL London games have gone over the projected point total in eight of previous ten matchups
Recent games in London have been high-scoring, perhaps because jet lag negatively effects defenses more than offenses. This is bad news for the Rams, whose defense has been surprisingly average this year (they’re only 27th in defensive drive success rate). New York’s offense, on the other hand, is explosive, and Odell Beckham Jr finally had the breakout game many were anticipating last week against Baltimore. In a game where points could come in bunches, I’ll take the Giants’ offense over Los Angeles’s.
New York 27, Los Angeles 20
Minnesota Vikings (5-0) vs Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
Spread: MIN -3 Over/Under: 39
’16 DVOA: MIN (2) > PHI (7)
Public Betting: MIN 76%
Key Stat: Philadelphia is 16th in offensive efficiency, but has faced the league’s easiest slate of defenses so far
Carson Wentz has been effective despite his recent two-game slide. Yet he hasn’t faced a single top fifteen defense, let alone a unit like Minnesota’s The Eagles may present some value on the spread because I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of evidence that says that top ten teams such as the Eagles are undervalued when they are underdogs. Nonetheless, I still like Minnesota because their defense should have success against an unseasoned quarterback. And I bet Sam Bradford is dying to toss a couple of touchdowns.
Minnesota 21, Philadelphia 16
New Orleans Saints (2-3) vs Kansas City Chiefs (3-2)
Spread: KC -6 Over/Under: 50.5
’16 DVOA: NO (20) < KC (12)
Public Betting: KC 52%
Key Stat: Kansas City’s defense ranks 6th against the pass
Whatever happened to the theory that Drew Brees struggles outside of the Superdome? I still think it has some validity. Just look at his splits this year, albeit in a small sample size. Eleven touchdowns and two interceptions at home against three touchdowns and two interceptions on the road. I bet the Saints’ offense won’t march down the field like they have in recent weeks against a stout Kansas City secondary; and their poor defense won’t get in the way of the Chiefs offense.
*Kansas City 27, New Orleans 17
Washington Redskins (4-2) vs Detroit Lions (3-3)
Spread: DET -1.5 Over/Under: 49
’16 DVOA: WSH (14) > DET (26)
Public Betting: WAS 54%
Key Stat: Detroit is 30th in opponent yards per play and last in defensive efficiency
Aristotle once said, “it’s difficult to consistently win games when your defense can’t stop anybody.” That’s the case in Detroit. They have an above-average offense, but their defense is horrific. Not only that, but they will be without linebacker DeAndre Levy, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and possibly their best pass rusher in Ziggy Ansah as well. Oh, and they’ll also be down Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron on the offensive side of the ball. Moreover, Washington presents value as a DVOA underdog, which has consistently been one of my best betting strategies. I like the ‘Skins to move to 5-2 over the depleted Lions.
Washington 31, Detroit 24
Cleveland Browns (0-6) vs Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
Spread: CIN -10 Over/Under: 45
’16 DVOA: CLE (31) < CIN (24)
Public Betting: CIN 59%
Key Stat: Cincinnati is 8th in yards per drive, but only 29th in points per game
As evidenced by that key stat above, there’s a discrepancy between Cincinnati’s ability to move the ball and their point production. Case in point: They moved right down the field last week against New England, but were ultimately stuff on a fourth-and-goal on the one-yard line. The Bengals should see ascension towards the mean, and it could come as early as this weekend against a weak Browns defense. With that said, Cleveland ranks comparably in both yards per play and opponent yards per play, which means there isn’t as big of a gap between these two teams as you might think.
Cincinnati 30, Cleveland 23
Buffalo Bills (4-2) vs Miami Dolphins (2-4)
Spread: BUF -2.5 Over/Under: 44
’16 DVOA: BUF (3) > MIA (21)
Public Betting: BUF 64%
Key Stat: Ryan Tannehill has a 2-6 record with an average QBR of 31.4 against the Bills
Miami is a home underdog in a divisional game, so I’m tempted to take them to pull the upset. However, Tannehill has been a disaster against Buffalo in his career and Miami should have less success running the ball this week against Buffalo’s 12th ranked run defense. The Bills win their fifth straight.
Buffalo 23, Miami 20
Oakland Raiders (4-2) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Spread: JAC -1.5 Over/Under: 47.5
’16 DVOA: OAK (18) > JAC (25)
Public Betting: OAK 78%
Key Stat: Oakland is last in the NFL in defending the pass (32nd in opponent in yards per pass attempt)
The Raiders are receiving an overwhelming amount of public support. They may be the better team as measured by DVOA, but I think Jacksonville is the pick in this matchup. For starters, Oakland must travel East for a 1:00 game (which sort of means it’s a 10:00 game for the Raiders players). The Jaguars also possess a competent offense with the likes of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns despite their below-average ranking in many offensive categories. Blake Bortles should be able to carve up Oakland.
Jacksonville 27, Oakland 24
Indianapolis Colts (2-4) vs Tennessee Titans (3-3)
Spread: TEN -3 Over/Under: 48
’16 DVOA: IND (27) < TEN (16)
Public Betting: TEN 52%
Key Stat: Tennessee’s defense is in the top ten in both yards per drive and points per drive against
The Titans are quietly the NFL’s most underrated team, and it all starts in the trenches. Tennessee’s offensive line ranks 6th and 3rd in pass and run-blocking respectively, which explains why the Titans are second in the NFL in yards per rush attempt. Look for DeMarco Murray to have a big fantasy day against Indianapolis’s 32nd ranked run defense. Moreover, Tennessee’s defensive line is one of the more disruptive fronts in the league. Their adjusted sack rate ranks 6th in the league, which also bodes well for the Titans in this matchup because Indianapolis has one of the worst offensive lines in football.
I normally like to take underdogs in divisional games. There are simply too many reasons why the Titans will win this football game rather easily.
Tennessee 38, Indianapolis 21
Baltimore Ravens (3-3) vs New York Jets (1-5)
Spread: NYJ -2 Over/Under: 41
’16 DVOA: BAL (15) > NYJ (32)
Public Betting: BAL 74%
Key Stat: The Jets are ranked second in pass-blocking while the Ravens are only 20th in adjusted sack rate
This is the trickiest game to call. Geno Smith will start for the Jets, who are somehow favored in this game despite having the league’s worst DVOA through six weeks. New York is lucky to be facing a depleted Ravens team that will be without the following key players: C.J. Mosley, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Marshall Yanda, and Steve Smith. That’s practically their whole team! Oh, and Joe Flacco has an injured shoulder, too. With nearly 75% of the public backing the Ravens, I’ll go against the grain and back Geno and the Jets, who are desperate for a win after a string of blowout losses.
New York 27, Baltimore 17
San Diego Chargers (2-3) vs Atlanta Falcons (4-2)
Spread: ATL -6 Over/Under: 55
’16 DVOA: SD (13) < ATL (6)
Public Betting: ATL 52%
Key Stat: Atlanta’s offense ranks first in both yards and points per drive
Don’t sleep on San Diego in this game. We know the Chargers have an above-average offense. Yet in recent weeks, they’ve progressed on the defensive side of the ball as well, largely due to the emergence of first-round pick Joey Bosa. Moreover, San Diego currently ranks 9th in pass defense according to Football Outsiders, which leads me to believe they can contain Matt Ryan and company and keep this game close. With that said, I’ll side with the best offense in football through six weeks. They had success moving the ball against elite defenses like Denver and Seattle. They’ll outscore San Diego.
Atlanta 24, San Diego 22
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) vs San Francisco 49ers (1-5)
Spread: SF -1 Over/Under: 45
’16 DVOA: TB (28) > SF (29)
Public Betting: TB 58%
Key Stat: Tampa Bay is only 28th in offensive efficiency, but they’ve faced the 5th toughest slate of defenses
Many people don’t think much of the Buccaneers, as evidenced by the fact that the line has moved so much that they are now underdogs against the 49ers. The 49ers! I think these people are wrong. Tampa Bay’s early offensive “woes” are exaggerated. They’ve struggled mightily against two of the best defenses in the NFL–Arizona and Denver. In those games against two top 5 defenses according to DVOA, the Bucs averaged 3.6 yards per play and had a -8 turnover margin. Sure, that’s terrible; but against everyone else, they’ve averaged 5.5 yards per play and have a +5 turnover margin. Even without Doug Martin once again, Tampa Bay should have success against a below-average San Francisco defense.
Tampa Bay 24, San Francisco 16
New England Patriots (5-1) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
Spread: NE -7 Over/Under: 48
’16 DVOA: NE (5) > PIT (11)
Public Betting: NE 88%
Key Stat: Pittsburgh’s defense is last in the NFL in adjusted sack rate
How are the Steelers going to slow down this New England offense? Pittsburgh is 21st against the pass and they don’t generate pressure. Tom Brady should continue to pick apart a Steelers team he has feasted on in years past. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown could have nice fantasy days, but the Patriots offense will do than enough to lead New England to another convincing win.
*New England 38, Pittsburgh 20
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) vs Arizona Cardinals (3-3)
Spread: ARZ -1 Over/Under: 43
’16 DVOA: SEA (1) > ARZ (8)
Public Betting: SEA 63%
Key Stat: Both defenses rank in the top three in defensive DVOA
Get ready for an epic defensive clash tonight. The Seahawks are once again one of the league’s stingiest teams, but Arizona, who is first in yards per drive against, is a force to reckoned with as well. So which offense will have more success moving the ball? I’ll take Seattle, mainly because I’m not high on Arizona. Carson Palmer doesn’t look like the quarterback we saw last year, and the Cardinals offense has suffered as a result. Their deep, vertical passing game has looked out of sync, and I don’t see them working things out against Seattle’s secondary.
Seattle 23, Arizona 17
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week Seven…
- New York vs Los Angeles OVER 44.5
- NEW YORK (-145) over Los Angeles
- MINNESOTA (-160) over Philadelphia
- KANSAS CITY (-250) over New Orleans
- Teaser: Minnesota vs Philadelphia OVER 33 & New Orleans vs Kansas City UNDER 57
- WASHINGTON (+1.5) over Detroit
- Washington vs Detroit OVER 49
- Cleveland vs Cincinnati OVER 45
- Teaser: BUFFALO (+3.5) over Miami & Buffalo vs Miami UNDER 50
- Oakland vs Jacksonville OVER 47.5
- TENNESSEE (-3) over Indianapolis
- TAMPA BAY (+1) over San Francisco
- NEW ENGLAND (-310) over Pittsburgh
- New England vs Pittsburgh OVER 48
- SEATTLE (+1) over Arizona
- Seattle vs Arizona UNDER 43