Last week’s picks went 2-1 with winners coming from Tampa as well as a winning tease with the Chargers and Texans. What I thought would happen with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers did occur as they blasted the Panthers. The one loser came from the Niners which was unfortunate considering they outgained the Saints and produced higher yards per play (4.3 to 4.2) and higher first downs per play (31.8% to 30.3%). This came down to the Niners fumbling two punts in their own territory, with the Saints converting both into touchdowns, and Nick Mullens throwing two interceptions in the red zone. Watching the game, it is really difficult to understand how the Niners didn’t cover a 10-point spread.
Season to date betting trends:
Week 11 Best Bets
Jacksonville Jaguars +10 vs Pittsburgh Steelers & Under 47.5
I have zero matchups here that would lend me to want to take the Jags against the lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL. All I have is 13 years of a sample Mike Tomlin and his Steelers teams have produced in this same exact spot time after time.
Tomlin teams on the road against a sub .500 team are a poor 15-29-1 ats (34%). When you isolate out of division and favored by over 3 points, the Steelers are only 5-13-1 ats (27.7%). The reason that the distinction was made with out-of-division and laying over 3 points is to make the point that the Steelers just don’t get motivated for these types of games or they just fall flat for whatever reason.
Here’s more, the Steelers on the road as double-digit favorites are 1-10 ats and only 7-4 straight up. So somehow the Steelers can only muster a 64% win percentage in games where they have at minimum a pre-game win probability of at least 86% in each of those 11 games. The average margin in these 11 games is only 2.4 points per game. We just saw this exact scenario play out two weeks ago when the Steelers needed a comeback to beat Dallas as 14-point favorites. Add in the fact that the Steelers might be looking ahead to a Thanksgiving night showdown at home against Baltimore, and this is a clear letdown/look-ahead spot.
Part two of this Steelers on the road trend is the fact that an inordinate amount of their games have gone under in recent years. With Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Steelers road games have gone under in 25 of their last 30 games when they’re favored, dating back to early in 2013. As a road favorite, Steelers games have not gone over 47 points in 24 straight games and haven’t gone over 45 points in 18 straight! When you isolate only road games outside of the division as favorites, the under has hit in 14 of their last 15 games. The under has hit both times in this spot this season, when Pittsburgh games have generated only 43 and 42 points in wins at New York Giants and Dallas.
Atlanta Falcons +5 vs New Orleans Saints
Count me as one who doesn’t think Jameis Winston can just step in and easily fill the shoes of Drew Brees. We are talking about polar opposites when it comes to strengths and traits at the QB position. Whereas Brees is crazy efficient at the short passing game but rarely throws it downfield, Winston really only wants to take deep shots down the field. Winston stepped in last week and produced a -0.07 EPA/play and 46% success rate on his 13 dropbacks. Clearly, the Saints will try and improve that figure with a full week of practice but I can’t imagine Sean Payton will completely overhaul this offense just for the 2-3 games that Brees will be out.
Can Winston help himself and stick to the short/intermediate passing game plan or will he revert to his old ways forcing deep throws into coverage? Unfortunately for Winston, he doesn’t have the same downfield weapons with this Saints offense as he did in Tampa. The Falcons know how to defend Winston as well and they rank seventh in DVOA run defense so they will be forcing him to make plays on Sunday.
The Saints defense comes in surprisingly first in the NFL in DVOA run defense and will force the Falcons to throw the ball, which is ideal if you are a Falcons backer. Todd Gurley has been predictably terrible this year, ranking 27th in DVOA among 31 NFL RBs and 24th and success rate.
Matt Ryan has played well this year and has completed 67% of his passes for 15 TDs, 5 INTs, and 305 yards per game with 7.8 yards per attempt. His numbers are even better in just the games that Julio Jones has played and been healthy. In the six full games that Jones has played, he has completed 71% of his passes for 14 TDs, 3 INTs, 323 yards per game and 8.4 yards per attempt. The Falcons have gone 3-3 in those isx games and two of those losses came by 1-point each.
Overall, for the season, Ryan is sixth in QBR and 10th by DVOA. He should continue to find success against a Saints secondary that has played better of late against some bad competition (Nick Mullens, Nick Foles) in their last three games but have been shaky overall. The Falcons off of a bye will be helpful as they should be getting back star WR Calvin Ridley from injury. Ironically, the Falcons were in this same exact spot last season, coming off a bye and pummeling the Saints 26-9.
Teaser of the week: Eagles +9.5/Cards +9
The Eagles bring to Cleveland a 13th-ranked run defense by DVOA, the sixth-ranked defense in adjusted line yards allowed and have allowed the fourth-lowest percentage of explosive run plays. In addition, they rank sixth in defensive pressure rate and go up against Baker Mayfield who ranks 30th in the NFL in passer rating when facing pressure this season.
In the last two seasons, Mayfield has a poor 55% completion percentage, 5.8 ypa, and has only thrown for an average of 168 yards per game against defenses that have ranked in the top-12 in pressure rate. The Eagles offense should be fine against a Browns defense that is 18th in DVOA even after only facing only one top 14 DVOA offense to date, Las Vegas, and that game was played in a virtual hurricane. This defense ranks 28th in points per drive allowed on drives that haven’t ended in a turnover. As long as the Eagles don’t make a ton of mistakes, they should easily cover this tease.
Arizona matches up very well with Seattle, having won the last two games outright against the Seahawks. In fact, the Cardinals have gone 3-0-1 ats, including three outright wins, in their last four games in the division. The Cardinals are 12-4-1 ats in 17 games as an underdog, 7-1-2 ats as road underdogs, with Kyler Murray at QB. The Seahawks might cover the 3-point spread but getting nine is very attractive with a Seahawks defense that just can’t cover anyone in the passing game. The Seattle secondary is bad in general, but they will again be missing their top two CBs in Shaquill Griffin and Trey Flowers.
Best Bets Record YTD: 10-11-3 (48%)