I went 2-2 in best bets as the New England Patriots really screwed me out of a perfect day. The tease at +8.5 was certainly in play all game as they only trailed by more than eight points at the 3:19 mark of the fourth quarter. For some odd reason the genius Bill Belichick did not attempt a field goal to cut the lead to 7 when New England was down 10 with a fourth-and-3 at the 23 yard line and only 1:16 remaining in the game. To think such a terrible Patriots offense was good enough to try and score the 7 at that point instead of cutting it to a one-score game is just atrocious thinking. Otherwise, the other leg of the teaser (Browns PK) hit. We got winners with the Panthers +8.5 and the Cardinals at -6.
It’s easy to discuss the craziness of Week 15 with both the Jets +17.5 and the Bengals +14.5 winning outright. You may not see that again in the same weekend for the next 20 years. This leads me to discussing one of my favorite trends of the last 30 years that everyone should keep an eye on for the next two weeks.
All we keep hearing at this time of season is the “must-win” situations that teams will face to get into the playoffs. Inevitably, when one of these teams faces a bad team that is out of contention, the line gets inflated and the public typically bets heavily on the team that needs to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
But this allows us to take advantage of that overinflation and back the ugly non-playoff teams that nobody wants to back and there is a great trend that has quantified this way of thinking. According to Dr. Bob Sports, since 1990, teams that are out of playoff contention are 100-65-5 (61%) against the spread in Weeks 16 and 17 when facing teams that are in must-win situations in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Meaning, it is typically advantageous to fade a team that would be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss.
Obviosuly, just like any trend that you see out there, you should never blindly bet that side if there are extenuating circumstances that would raise red flags. I think the overriding theme this late in the season, however, is not to totally discount the pride of a bad team against a potential playoff team.
This week there will only exist one scenario that would fit this specific trend and that would be if the Cardinals defeat the 49ers on Saturday, leaving the Bears in a win-or-get-eliminated scenario against the Jaguars. The Jaguars at +7.5 would be the play if Arizona does indeed get the victory on Saturday.
Week 16 Best Bets
Denver Broncos +3.5 vs LA Chargers
As we have discussed many times, I really love this Chargers talent but Anthony Lynn has really held this team back. It is really incredible that in the last two seasons, Chargers games have ended in an outcome of more than eight points in only eight of 30 games. Only three of 14 Chargers games this season have ended in a margin greater than eight points. The last two seasons, the Chargers are only 5-11-1 ats as a favorite and 3-8 ats as a favorite of at least three points. The Chargers are 0-5 in the last two seasons as a favorite within their division, including 0-3 against Denver. This is not a team you want to back as a favorite, and especially one over 3.
We are selling the Chargers a bit high after two straight wins and buying the Broncos at a low spot following a blowout loss on national TV last week against the hottest team in the NFL. The Broncos really struggled to defend the four-wide spread offense of the Bills with multiple CBs injured. The Bills are second behind the Cardinals in usage of 4 WR sets at 15%. The Chargers have used 4 WRs in only 3 plays all season. I don’t expect Lynn to take advantage as he has never been known to attack a team’s weakness.
The Broncos should be able to grind out this game on the ground utilizing both Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay against the league’s 26th-ranked DVOA run defense, including the 27th-ranked run defense in explosive run play percentage allowed. And now Joey Bosa is in the concussion protocol and there remains a big question as to whether he will play.
I think Denver is a live dog and will be able to compete with the Chargers. Denver has faced the toughest schedule in the NFL, according to DVOA. They’ve played six games against the top seven teams in the NFL, including five games against the top five teams! They have faced eight teams that rank outside of the top 10 in DVOA rankings and in those games are 5-3 straight up and 6-2 ats. In fact, the Broncos have only faced four teams that rank in the bottom 10 in DVOA rankings (Chargers, Jets, Patriots, and Raiders) and are 3-1 straight up and ats against those teams. The Broncos are battle tested and will compete.
LA Rams +2 vs Seattle Seahawks
I always love backing good teams after an embarrassing loss and this certainly qualifies. What we saw from the Rams last week is what we have seen multiple times this season. The Rams have five losses and in the game following their last four losses, the Rams have won all four and are 3-1 ats in those spots. They have won each of those games by at least seven points, including their Week 10 victory against Seattle.
The Rams still own the seventh-best DVOA offense and fourth-best defense. There is little doubt in my mind that the Rams were preparing ahead of time for this Seattle game, overlooking the Jets. The Rams have owned this Seattle team, winning five of their last six matchups with the lone loss last season by one point in Seattle following a last second missed field goal.
We know why this is and the Rams defense matches up tremendously with this Seattle offense. We got a good pass rush up the middle with Aaron Donald against a bad Seattle OL and the best CB in the NFL in Jalen Ramsey able to shut down DK Metcalf all by himself. The Rams are also seventh in DVOA run defense so the Seahawks don’t have a lot of options to attack this Rams defense.
With no home-field advantage here, I have the Rams as a 2.5-point favorite so there is value with this recent overreaction to last week’s game. Since 2010, there have been 10 teams, who were above .500 and that were favored by at least 13 points and lost outright. Of those 10 teams, eight covered the spread the following week. We have a little bit of a sample of these good teams that can bounce back following a huge upset loss.
Tennessee Titans vs Green Bay Packers over 56
The Titans have been an over machine this season, with only three of their 14 games going under the total. The only times the Titans games were not able to hit the over came against the worst offenses in the NFL in Denver, Jacksonville, and Chicago. That’s what happens when you rank third in DVOA offense and 28th in DVOA defense. Their pass rush is non-existent, ranking 31st in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers is No. 1 in the NFL in passer rating with a clean pocket. Against the Titans’ 30th-ranked pass defense, expect Rodgers to throw the ball at will. On the other side of the ball, expect another big December game against Green Bay. The Packers are 21st in DVOA run defense but this is a defense that has only faced two top 18 EPA rush offenses (Minnesota and Tampa) and none inside the top 12. In those three games against Minnesota and Tampa, Dalvin Cook and Ronald Jones ran for 328 yards on 65 carries (5.04 ypc) and seven touchdowns! Now they get to face the Big Dog Derrick Henry.
Ryan Tannehill should also find success through the air against the 18th-ranked pass defense and 23rd ranked pressure defense. Tannehill is fourth-best in the NFL in passer rating with a clean pocket. I have this modeled at 59 and with no negative weather issues, this game should feature lots of points.
Best Bets Record YTD: 18-20-3 (47%)