Week 12 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 – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
****Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records to Date
Straight Up: 94-65-2 (.590)
Last Week: 11-3
Spread: 89-64-8 (.578)
Last Week: 8-5-1
Over/Under: 87-74 (.540)
Last Week: 7-7
Locks: 22-5 (.815)
Last Week: 3-0
Best Bets: 81-64 (.559)
Last Week: 6-8
Minnesota Vikings (6-4) vs Detroit Lions (6-4)
Spread: DET -2.5 Over/Under: 41.5
’16 DVOA: MIN (13) > DET (27)
Public Betting: DET 58%
Key Stat: Minnesota leads the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt (5.6)
The battle for first place in the NFC North shouldn’t play out any differently than the last encounter between these two. The Lions prevailed in that previous meeting 22-16 in a game dominated by both defenses and predicated on long-possessions, as Detroit and Minnesota each had scoring drives over seven minutes long.
While I expect another low-scoring game, I don’t necessarily think Detroit will win even though they’re at home in this matchup. Minnesota not only has value as a divisional underdog, but they’re the much higher ranked team according to DVOA and possess a defense equipped to stifle the Lions. The problem for the Vikings, however, is that they’re dealing with a few significant injuries. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has already been ruled out and integral defense players like safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Eric Hendricks are questionable. Moreover, receiver Stefon Diggs–their most explosive offensive weapon–is questionable as well; and number three corner Terrance Newman is listed as doubtful. Simply put, there’s too much uncertainty for me to pick the Vikings.
Detroit 16, Minnesota 14
Best Bet: Detroit vs Minnesota UNDER 41.5
Washington Redskins (6-3-1) vs Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
Spread: DAL -7 Over/Under: 51.5
’16 DVOA: WSH (7) < DAL (4)
Public Betting: DAL 50%
Key Stat: The Redskins and Cowboys rank first and second respectively in offensive yards per drive
No doubt about it: Dallas has been one of the NFL’s most impressive teams this year. They’ve been so outstanding, particularly of late, that now everyone is actually overrating the Cowboys, at least in terms of this matchup. Let’s look at the numbers: Dallas’ net yards per play differential, which can be found simply by subtracting their defensive yards per play from their offensive yards per play, is +0.4 (6.2 – 5.8). That’s a strong figure, but Washington’s is a tad higher (6.4 – 5.8 = +0.6).
Moreover, if we look at the two NFC East foes’ differentials from the last three weeks, the Redskins’ figure is even stronger. Washington’s averaged 6.8 yards per play offensively and have only given up 5.6 yards per clip, which is good for a +1.2 differential. Dallas, on the other hand, has been great offensively (6.4 per play), but very suspect on the other side of the ball (6.4 yards per play as well).
Sharp spread bettors–the guys that do this for a living–value net yards per play in order to assess teams. In short, this means the Redskins are undervalued against the Cowboys with the spread, mainly because their offense is good enough to take advantage of a shaky Dallas defense. They’re certainly capable of pulling off the outright upset, too. After all, Dallas needed a late-score to beat them in Week 2; and if it weren’t for an egregious Kirk Cousins red-zone interception, the Cowboys may not have even had a chance to win the game at all.
On this Thanksgiving, I’m going to be thankful for the upsets that make the NFL awesome.
Washington 27, Dallas 24
*Best Bet: WASHINGTON +7
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) vs Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
Spread: PIT -8.5 Over/Under: 47.5
’16 DVOA: PIT (10) > IND (26)
Public Betting: PIT 74%
Key Stat: The Colts are 6-3 without Andrew Luck since 2012
It’s safe to pencil in Pittsburgh to win this game in the wake of Andrew Luck’s absence. Even though the Steelers haven’t played well of late–they’re averaging just 5.3 yards per play offensively in their last three games, and that’s with Ben Roethlisberger back healthy–they’ll face an Indianapolis defense ranked dead last in yards allowed per drive. Plus…it sort of helps that Scott Tolzien is starting in place of Luck.
With that said, I don’t think the Steelers are a sure bet to cover, mainly because a) the difference between these two sides in terms of net yards per play isn’t huge when factoring in some improvement on the Indy defense and b) I don’t like to rule out home underdogs in a primetime game.
*Pittsburgh 27, Indianapolis 16
Best Bet: Pittsburgh vs Indianapolis UNDER 47.5