Week 15 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 Entering Week 13
Straight Up: 126-80-2 (.611)
Last Week: 11-5
Spread: 116-83-9 (.579)
Last Week: 10-6
Over/Under: 110-98 (.529)
Last Week: 8-8
Locks: 25-6 (.806)
Last Week: 0-0
Best Bets: 104-78-1 (.571)
Last Week: 6-5
*Note- Thursday Night prediction for Rams/Seahawks was Seattle 23-10; no best bets were placed for this game
*Note- Thursday Night prediction for Dolphins/Jets was Miami 24-20; no best bets were placed for this game
Detroit Lions (9-4) vs New York Giants (9-4)
Spread: NYG -4.5 O/U: 40.5
’16 DVOA: DET (25) < NYG (12)
Public Betting: DET 58%
I’m particularly intrigued by the matchup between New York’s struggling offense and Detroit’s lackluster defense. The Giants are fortunate that Odell Beckham is a beast because their offense is only averaging 4.5 yards per play over their last three games. Where would the G-Men be if he didn’t bail them out of so many games? But fortunately for the Giants, the Lions’ defense they’re about to face continues to struggle. They’re 28th overall in opponent yards per play. Plus, they’ve been even worse of late, allowing a horrific 6.1 yards per play. Eli Manning and company should make enough plays offensively to grind out the win.
New York 23, Detroit 20
Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) vs Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Spread: BAL -5.5 Over/Under: 40.5
’16 DVOA: PHI (10) < BAL (9)
Public Betting: BAL 78%
Philadelphia’s defense has dropped off dramatically in recent weeks. They’re allowing over 6.0 yards per play over their past three games. But they’re playing a Baltimore team that is average offensively. That should be enough to keep them in the game, yet I think it’s too much to ask of Carson Wentz to go on the road and beat a Baltimore team desperate to remain in the playoff hunt.
Baltimore 23, Philadelphia 16
Green Bay Packers (7-6) vs Chicago Bears (3-10)
Spread: GB -5.5 Over/Under: 38.5
’16 DVOA: GB (6) > CHI (20)
Public Betting: GB 82%
Chicago fans are potentially about to experience the coldest game in Bears history. That’s right: It’s expected to be around 1 degree at kickoff. However, from a betting standpoint, the cold weather can’t be the only reason why the spread has moved in favor of the Bears despite over 80% of bettors taking the Packers. I surmise that it’s because the difference in net yards per play over the past three weeks is negligible. Yes, Green Bay has been on a roll. But Chicago has quietly played very competitively against some quality teams recently, even with Matt Barkley under center. The fact that they can use Jordan Howard and their top ten rushing attack should be an advantage in this battle as well. I can’t believe I’m going to do this, but I’m picking Barkley and the Bears to upset the Packers in a game where the team that handles the conditions the best will win.
Chicago 17, Green Bay 14
Indianapolis Colts (6-7) vs Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
Spread: MIN -4.5 Over/Under: 45.5
’16 DVOA: IND (23) < MIN (21)
Public Betting: MIN 52%
The Vikings have been dominant at home this year and their offense has improved in recent weeks. Though they still struggle to protect Sam Bradford, their line shouldn’t have too much trouble blocking a mediocre Indianapolis front seven. Oh, and I suppose it helps that Adrian Peterson will be back from injury this week.
Minnesota 27, Indianapolis 20
Cleveland Browns (0-13) vs Buffalo Bills (6-7)
Spread: BUF -10 Over/Under: 41.5
’16 DVOA: CLE (32) < BUF (16)
Public Betting: BUF 71%
Not only are the Browns likely going to finish 0-16, but they’re on track to finish with potentially the worst record against the spread in NFL history as well. Are we at the point where we just bet against them no matter how high the line is? I think so.
*Buffalo 27, Cleveland 14
Tennessee Titans (7-6) vs Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)
Spread: KC -5.5 Over/Under: 45.5
’16 DVOA: TEN (14) < KC (4)
Public Betting: KC 58%
Frigid conditions expected at Arrowhead today. How does Marcus Mariota–a Hawaii native–fair in these conditions? I bet it won’t go so well. However, I think the Titans might be able to have some success on the ground and keep this one close. Still won’t be enough to top a Chiefs team stout in all areas.
Kansas City 20, Tennessee 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) vs Houston Texans (7-6)
Spread: HOU -4.5 Over/Under: 39.5
’16 DVOA: JAC (27) > HOU (30)
Public Betting: HOU 78%
The Texans are 8-0-1 ATS in their last nine games against AFC South foes. But why has the line moved in favor of Jacksonville despite the majority of bettors backing Houston? Probably because the Texans are 30th in the NFL in DVOA despite their 7-6 record. Sooner or later, the Texans will come back down to Earth. It’s just not likely to happen this week against a turnover-prone Jacksonville offense.
Houston 24, Jacksonville 20
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1)
Spread: PIT -3 Over/Under: 45.5
’16 DVOA: PIT (5) > CIN (18)
Public Betting: PIT 78%
I really like the way Pittsburgh has been playing of late. In fact, they have the league’s best net yards per play differential over the past three weeks. With that said, Cincinnati has been on a hot-streak of their own; and since this is a rivalry game, I’m sure the Bengals will get up for this one. Behind Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers should still manage to find a way to weather the storm.
Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 20
New Orleans Saints (5-8) vs Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1)
Spread: ARZ -3 Over/Under: 50.5
’16 DVOA: NO (17) > ARZ (26)
Public Betting: ARZ 60%
Two things of note. First, Arizona has one of the league’s better pass defenses…just not of late. The Cardinals are allowing the 3rd most yards per attempt through the air over the past month. That’s not good news against Drew Brees and the Saints. However, New Orleans’ offense has performed noticeably worse on the road this year. Just look at their points per game (31.0 at home vs 23.5 on the road) as well as their yards per play split (6.8 at home vs 5.5 on the road). Tough game to call. I’ll go with the home team.
Arizona 24, New Orleans 23
San Francisco 49ers (1-12) vs Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
Spread: ATL -13.5 Over/Under: 51.5
’16 DVOA: SF (28) < ATL (3)
Public Betting: ATL 84%
The Falcons are the NFL’s most overvalued team with the spread this week. For starters, there is recency bias because they are coming off a blowout win over a pathetic Los Angeles team that was predicated on turnover luck. Moreover, San Francisco actually has a superior net yards per play differential over the past three weeks. That doesn’t mean they’ll win the game, but it’s another reason why backing the Falcons -13.5 is foolish. The Falcons aren’t strong enough defensively to keep even a mediocre offense like San Francisco’s in check. Expect the 49ers to hang around.
Atlanta 28, San Francisco 20
Oakland Raiders (10-3) vs San Diego Chargers (5-8)
Spread: OAK -2.5 Over/Under: 49.5
’16 DVOA: OAK (7) > SD (22)
Public Betting: OAK 82%
The Raiders are another overvalued team this week. San Diego is a home underdog in a divisional game: Teams in those situations this year have gone 14-7 against the spread. Moreover, the Chargers also have the superior net yards per play differential both in the last three weeks and over the course of the entire season. I like San Diego to deliver another blow to Oakland’s AFC West hopes.
San Diego 31, Oakland 27
New England Patriots (11-2) vs Denver Broncos (8-5)
Spread: NE -3 Over/Under: 43.5
’16 DVOA: NE (1) > DEN (15)
Public Betting: NE 81%
The Patriots’ offense has continued to play like one of the league’s best even without Rob Gronkowski. But they’ll truly have their hands full against a Denver defense that has given them fits in the past. While many will point to players like Tom Brady and Trevor Siemian being the key players in this game, my focus is on the respective running backs. New England did not have the services of LeGarrette Blount or Dion Lewis when these teams met in last year’s AFC Championship game. Versatile back James White was not as integral a part of the offense, either. If the Patriots are going to have more success against the Broncos’ defense in this meeting, they must look to the ground, where Denver is only 25th against the run according to Football Outsiders.
As for the Broncos, their running game has collapsed in the wake of C.J. Anderson’s season-ending injury. They’re now in the bottom-five of rushing yards per attempt, and only managed a pathetic 2.0 yards per carry last week against Tennessee. The Patriots’ defense has struggled at times this year, but they are stout against the run. In fact, Football Outsiders has them rated as the league’s second-best run defense. If the Broncos can’t get anything going on the ground once again, that could put too much pressure on Trevor Siemian to keep up with Brady and the Pats.
Expect this one to be another close affair. But the Patriots have advantages in two crucial areas and Brady has more offensive weapons–even without Gronk–at his disposal this time around. I like the Pats to move one step closer to securing the AFC’s top seed.
New England 24, Denver 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) vs Dallas Cowboys (11-2)
Spread: DAL -7 Over/Under: 47.5
’16 DVOA: TB (13) < DAL (2)
Public Betting: TB 68%
Dallas has struggled of late, and in comes a hot Tampa Bay team that has been very good on the road. In fact, they’re only one of four teams in the NFL–along with Dallas–to only have one loss or fewer as a visitor this season. This is arguably the biggest stage many of these Buccaneers players have been on in their professional careers; but based on their road success and their improved defensive play, they should be up for the challenge. However, I’m skeptical they can ultimately beat the Cowboys, who likely will be highly motivated after a couple of mediocre offensive performances.
Dallas 27, Tampa Bay 24
Carolina Panthers (5-8) vs Washington Redskins (7-5-1)
Spread: WSH -6.5 Over/Under: 50.5
’16 DVOA: CAR (24) < WSH (8)
Public Betting: CAR 54%
I’ve been high on Washington this entire year, mainly because they possess such a strong net yards per play differential (+0.8). The Redskins’ offense has quietly been a top five offense this year, and I don’t see a weak Carolina secondary providing much resistance to Kirk Cousins in company.
Washington 31, Carolina 20
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week 15…
- Teaser: DETROIT (+11.5) over New York & Detroit vs New York OVER 33.5
- CHICAGO (+5.5) over Green Bay
- Teaser: MINNESOTA (+3.5) over Indianapolis & BUFFALO (-3) over Cleveland
- Tennessee vs Kansas City UNDER 45.5
- Teaser: JACKSONVILLE (+11.5) over Houston & CINCINNATI (+10) over Pittsburgh
- SAN FRANCISCO (+13.5) over Atlanta
- SAN DIEGO (+2.5) over Oakland
- TAMPA BAY (+7) over Dallas