Each week, Coach Kevin Kelley will give a coach’s perspective and provide analysis for a few games against the spread throughout the 2022 NFL season.
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (+3)
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs come to Cincinnati to play the Bengals and Joe Burrow. For sure it is two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL but maybe THE two that you would want leading you in a two minute drill. Some might throw Josh Allen in there over but that’s really the only other one you could make an argument for right now. Tua Tagovailoa is having a year but I certainly wouldn’t take him over those guys to save my life with two minutes left on the clock over Mahomes and Burrow. At least I wouldn’t yet.
I think right now Joe Burrow is the best in the league at playing in the pocket. Mahomes is the best at making something from nothing. In the end though, I would take the consistency of Burrow. A case could be made that Mahomes’s offense is better at getting guys open as he is dead even at completing passes above expected at 0%. It means he completes exactly what is expected in that specific situation.
Burrow is better than that completing 1.6% above what he should. Is that a big deal? I believe it is. That means on two passes per 100, he puts the ball in a spot that Mahomes doesn’t where a guy can catch it. That is huge if it’s on a third down, so instead of a punt the drive continues. It is huge on a catch and run that would have been an explosive play since those are such a big determining factor on who wins and loses. And it means that overall accuracy is better which means a ball can be perfect and the catch and run is on instead of being slightly behind where the catch is made but stopped immediately.
I have found a direct correlation between Completion Percentage Above Expectation and teams covering spreads in the NFL. I really should use it more.
We could agree that maybe the Bengals being at home is an advantage. We could also agree that in the playoffs last year, Cincinnati figured something out in the second half against Kansas City. In that 27-24 win for the Bengals, the Chiefs were held to three points by a defense that some questioned. First, they stopped the Chiefs on first and goal inside a minute left in the first half to keep the score at 21-10 at the half and then just put on a clinic, confusing Mahomes at times, being disciplined with their pass rush, and pressuring him into two interceptions.
In Week 17 of last season, the Chiefs had a 28-14 lead with a minute left in the first half and Cincinnati came back and beat them 34-31. If you’ll remember that’s the game that Ja’Marr Chase had 266 yards and three touchdowns.
Overall their offenses are both very good with Kansas City ranked No. 1 in DVOA overall. The Bengals come in at No. 7. What I like is that Bengals come in at No. 5 rushing and that allows them to do some things. It allows for better play-action. It allows them to run the ball when things go a little bad in the pass game and take some pressure off the quarterback. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine make a very good one-two combination in the run and pass game.
The real advantage is on defense. Kansas City is very middle of the road at No. 18 overall, versus the run, and versus the pass. The Bengals come in No. 12, 9, and 15 respectively. What I really like is that Kansas City’s strength on offense, the pass, is also the Bengals strength on defense.
I like the matchup, I like the home game, and I like getting points. Shop around and get three points and play the Bengals. I don’t think you’ll need them.
Miami Dolphins (+4.5) at San Francisco 49ers
I can’t wait to watch this matchup. The Miami defense started off slowly, using a lot of man-to-man and blitzing. The problem was, they weren’t getting enough pressure with that blitz. They have since mixed up coverages better, are blitzing in much better spots, and now they are starting to move up in the world. They still aren’t great coming in as the No. 17 best and No. 25 against the pass, but they are salty against the run at No. 12. That will help them against what I think is one of the better run attacks in the league but it won’t be nearly enough to stop the 49ers.
San Francisco’s passing attack is better than I thought with Deebo Samuel, of course, but Brandon Ayuk is developing into quite a weapon as well. Deebo is the best run after catch receiver in the league and they are not afraid to use him in the running game too. George Kittle is looking like his old self again and along with Samuel, is in the top fourth of the league in yards above expected after they catch the ball which means, they are really good with the ball in their hands and play design is allowing them to do that as well. The addition of Christian McCaffrey to help in both areas has made them really difficult to stop.
The only group that rivals them skills-wise is what the Dolphins will run out. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are what everyone thought they were and more. Hill is a game-changer because defenses have to play him differently. Waddle is one of the tops in yards above expected after catch and has shown a great ability to catch the ball in traffic. Add in two former 49ers in the run game in Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert and we have what are just two fun offenses to watch.
The battle of quarterbacks is clearly in favor of Miami this year as Tua Tagovailoa clearly is better than Jimmy Garoppolo right now. Looking at accuracy by CPOE, Tua is No. 4 in the league right now while Jimmy G ranks in the bottom third. But the design of his offense gets his guys wide open so that helps make up for it a lot.
I think you see where I am going with this. The 49ers defense comes in at No. 5 overall, No. 10 versus the pass and No. 2 versus the run. The Dolphins don’t care about the run and Tua is getting the ball out quickly to some tremendous receivers that can take short passes and make them long or beat you over the top. The Dolphins, while better, are still lower half of the league and won’t have the answers for an offense that seems to only not work when Jimmy G is off.
I know the San Francisco defense has shut out four straight offenses in the second half. But those offenses were the Saints, Cardinals, Chargers, and Rams. The Chargers are the only one you could make any argument for that is very good at all. But with Justin Herbert throwing the ball for so few air yards, I could see that happening more times than just against the 49ers.
Give me the over 45 for this game and I will play with Miami +4.5 as well.
Have a great NFL weekend!