I went 1-1 on picks last week, with New England as an easy winner and the New York Giants with yet another lackluster performance as the lone loss.
Overs won again last week with a 9-7 advantage and year-to-date games have gone over in 29 or 48 games for a 60% hit rate. For the year, the books have definitely done their job from a side perspective as no matter what split you want to use (home favorites, road favorites, home underdogs, home favorites, etc.) they all currently sit at 50%. It’s the overs that the market just hasn’t totally caught up with yet. But they are certainly on the way to getting there.
In Week 1, the average over/under total was 45.8 points per game. Based on the current totals, the average sits at 49.8. Even last week, we saw the average number of points scored per game reach an incredible 52.3 points, but only saw nine of the 16 games go over. That tells me that although we may continue to see high scoring games, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will continue to see overs win the week.
What’s interesting is how road teams have performed on offense. Last week, the 16 road QBs threw for 34 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions, with 11 of the 16 quarterbacks producing excellent QB ratings above 105.
We saw stars like Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers decimate their opponents by using hard counts on the road, which would normally be impossible in locations like Baltimore, Denver, and New Orleans. It’s become more apparent that there is virtually zero home field advantage, even with the travel, with these types of quarterbacks. For the season, road teams are averaging 24.6 ppg as compared to 23.3 thru the first three weeks last year.
I have discussed many times here as well as on Twitter and our Sharp Angles podcast about how I expected offenses to be ahead of defenses heading into the season. That has definitely shown itself with all of the scoring trends. However, one area that I discounted was the impact of a lack of offensive penalties. Last week I detailed how a lack of home crowd noise has most likely led to a record low number of false starts to start an NFL season. But it’s the lack of offensive holding penalties that has been eye-popping.
According to nflpenalties.com, there have been 75 offensive holding penalties called through the first three weeks. This figure is down 59% from last year and down 45% from the prior 5-year average. In addition, defensive pass interference penalties are up 47% from last year and are at the highest three week total since 2001.
It’s easy to speculate that this may have come from a mandate by the NFL for referees to let certain penalties go as long as it’s not egregious. Could it be that the NFL wants to increase scoring to help TV ratings since there is no revenue from ticket sales? That’s certainly very plausible and could be what’s driving some of these penalty trends. I will be curious to see if referees start to call games a bit tighter than they have so far with some of the scrutiny they are starting to get.
Favorite Week 4 Picks
Chargers +7 vs Tampa Bay (-110)
The 2020 Chargers are one of those teams that want to back as underdogs but stay away from as favorites like they were last week. I was on Carolina last week based on this theory and the Panthers easily covered. Understanding they are not the same teams but the Chargers have only lost by over 7 points in two of their last 13 losses.
The Bucs are playing well but their competition of late hasn’t been great. Not having Chris Godwin is a big deal as he was the top-rated WR by PFF for a reason. He makes a big difference for this offense and Brady had to force-feed inefficient targets to his running backs the last game he missed against Carolina.
Tampa Bay’s defense has allowed the fourth-highest number of targets to running backs and rank 14th in success rate and 23rd in ypa allowed. Austin Ekeler has been a major security blanket for rookie Justin Herbert, as he was targeted 11 times last week.
In general, there is an easy smell test to determine how this line is inflated. In Week 2, Tampa was an 8.5-point favorite at home against Carolina. Last week the Chargers closed as a 6.5-point favorite against the same Carolina team, meaning the market essentially only thinks that the Bucs are two points better than the Chargers. Even if you account for the positive performance last week by Tampa and the negative performance by LA, the adjustment of five extra points isn’t justified.
Under 54.5 Minnesota vs Houston (-110)
Sharps pounded this over when it opened at 50.5. I believe the move was justified but I think it’s a bit too high at this point as it has crossed over a key total number of 54. These have been two very bad defenses so far. Both teams have also played at a fast pace overall, ranking ninth and 14th in seconds per play. However, these pace numbers are misleading and I believe leads to value on the under.
Both teams have been getting blown out early and often leading lots of hurry-up on offense as they try to catch up. In purely game neutral situations, where the score differential is under 10 points in the first half, less than eight in the second half, as well as the final 5 minutes of the first half where hurry up is common, these two teams are ranked 26th and 27th in pace. In addition, we know Mike Zimmer’s propensity to run the football and, in fact, the Vikings rank No. 1 in the NFL in rush play percentage in games within one-score.
Record YTD: 4-3-1 (57%)