I went 0-1-1 on best bets last week, losing the Packers/Texans over by 1 point and pushing with the Browns -3 when Cody Parkey missed a PAT. Those are the breaks.
Overs went 6-7-1 last week and are now 53-49-3 on the season. After seeing a dip in scoring in Week 6 with the average points per game scored at 47.6, we saw a bounce back to 50.6 points this past week. As we are heading into the beginning of November, make sure to pay attention to weather when considering a total. There are multiple games that will be affected by poor weather, mainly rain and wind, with wind gusts expected to be over 20 mph in Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, and Green Bay this week.
As we head into Week 8, this is a good check to see what teams are potentially better or worse than their record indicates. We can use point differential and the Pythagorean Theorem to help indicate a team’s underlying performance. The table below shows us where each team ranks using this method. You can see how many games above or below expectation each team has won.
|Team||Expected Wins||Actual Wins||O/U Expected||DVOA Schedule|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5.2||5||-0.2||18|
|Kansas City Chiefs||5.1||6||0.9||22|
|Los Angeles Rams||4.9||5||0.1||29|
|San Francisco 49ers||4.6||4||-0.6||30|
|Green Bay Packers||3.7||5||1.3||6|
|New Orleans Saints||3.1||4||0.9||3|
|Los Angeles Chargers||2.9||2||-0.9||9|
|Washington Football Team||2.6||2||-0.6||21|
|Las Vegas Raiders||2.5||3||0.5||1|
|New England Patriots||2.2||2||-0.2||11|
|New York Giants||2.1||1||-1.1||13|
|New York Jets||0.8||0||-0.8||10|
To date, the teams that have outperformed their point differential the most include the Browns (5 actual wins vs pythagorean expectation of 3.1 wins), Bills (1.6 actual wins over expected), and Steelers (1.6 actual wins over expected).
The one flaw with this is there is no consideration for the strength of opponents played. For example, going 6-0 and winning a bunch of close games against a schedule that would include Kansas City, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, etc is not the same as beating the likes of Jacksonville, NY Jets, etc.
When we look at some of the teams that have outperformed expectations the most, Pittsburgh has done it against the second-easiest schedule of opponents, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics. Cleveland has played against a league-average schedule and Buffalo against the 23rd-ranked schedule.
When we look at the teams that have underperformed the most so far, the teams at the top include Atlanta (1 actual win vs Pythagorean expectation of 3 wins), Cincinnati (1.8 wins below expectation) and Houston (1.4 wins below expectation).
Week 7 Best Bets
Indianapolis Colts -2.5 over Detroit Lions
The Colts are coming off a bye and are getting healthy at the right time. After a hot start, the Colts stumbled a bit with a loss to the Browns and a come from behind victory over the Bengals. Left tackle Anthony Costanzo missed the Browns game and came back for the Bengals game the following week but needed the bye to completely heal his bad ribs. Linebacker Darius Leonard finally made his return to practice after missing the last two games and nearly three weeks of practice. Leonard, although it was limited, returning to practice is a big move as he is a vital piece to the defense.
The defense was not as stout with Leonard out, allowing 5.4 yards per attempt, 25 points per game, and a 24th-ranked 0.124 EPA per play. With Leonard in the lineup, the Colts allowed an average of 14 points per game, 4.4 yards per play, and a league leading -0.156 EPA per play in their first four games.
A good predictor of success is early down success rate. The Lions offense ranks 29th in the NFL on first and second downs while they will be going up against a defense that ranks third-best in the NFL on early downs. Matthew Stafford may not have much success against the fourth-best DVOA pass defense, especially considering the Lions have faced the sixth-easiest schedule of opponent pass defenses to date.
On offense, the Colts may get back the services of rookie WR Michael Pittman Jr., who has missed the last three games. Philip Rivers should have his way against a Lions pass rush that ranks 25th in pressure rate. In fact, in a clean pocket, Rivers ranks ninth in the NFL in yards per attempt at 8.4.
The Colts have used 1-2 personnel on 20% of snaps and the Lions rank dead last in success rate allowed to teams using that personnel grouping. With tight ends Trey Burton and Jack Doyle active plus the potential return of Mo Allie-Cox, the Colts could have a big advantage when they go heavy.
Detroit has allowed an astonishing 11.1 ypa in the passing game and 6.1 ypc in the run game against 1-2. There are clear advantages here for the Colts and off a bye, they should be able to handle the Lions at anything -3 or better.
Baltimore Ravens -3.5 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
I thought this line opening at 5.5 was startling, although it was bet down almost immediately to 4 and 3.5. I personally have this rated as Baltimore -4.5, when taking into consideration that the Ravens are off a bye while Pittsburgh is off a tough game on the road in Tennessee and traveling again on the road to Baltimore.
John Harbaugh teams off a bye have historically been excellent, going 9-4 ats in his career (69%). It can’t be overstated how important this bye week was for the Ravens considering the health of Baltimore. Lamar Jackson has struggled as of late, but he clearly has been hampered by a knee injury ever since their Week 4 game against Washington. He barely ran the football against Cincinnati, running it only twice, and his passing numbers were poor in the last two games. He has completed 55% of his passes for a poor 5.7 ypa in the last two games following that injury.
Luckily he gets the bye week to get his knee back to near 100% and gets to go up against a Steelers defense with issues at linebacker. MLB Devin Bush is out for the season and taking his place is UFA Robert Spillane who is in his third year and essentially taking his first snaps of his career the last few games. Spillane is no Bush, and he produced a poor PFF grade of 47.9 last week and had only 2.5 total tackles, only 1 solo tackle with zero run stops (a stop that constitutes a negative rush play). In fact, Spillane only has two run stops on 37 rush attempts for the season (5.4%).
The man he replaced, Bush, has a run stop percentage of 8.9% ranking top 25 among linebackers. In addition, the other starting LB for Pittsburgh is Vince Williams, who ranks 81st in tackling efficiency among 89 qualified NFL linebackers. These are not the linebackers you want against a Lamar Jackson offense.
The Steelers starting the season undefeated has been one of the bigger stories in the NFL, however they are playing above their heads in many respects. Through six games, the Steelers are 6-0 with a +68-point differential, which based on Pythagorean expectation we would expect Pittsburgh to win 4.4 games. Pittsburgh’s 1.6 wins over expected ranks third-highest in the NFL. When you include the fact that the Steelers have this win total above expectation and have faced Football Outsiders’ second-easiest schedule to date, they are clearly not as good as their 6-0 record indicates.
Big Ben has been shaky on offense and really has focused on the quick passing game. He ranks first in the NFL in shortest time to throw at 2.16 seconds. He is 28th in deep ball accuracy and 24th in passer rating. We will see if he can do that against the best set of man-to-man cornerbacks that he will have faced in Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters.
Green Bay Packers -1/Atlanta Falcons +8.5 Tease
After getting upset two weeks ago at home against Atlanta, the Vikings went into the bye as sellers in the trade deadline. They traded Yannick Ngakoue just six games into the season after trading for him. This is a clear sign that the Vikings don’t consider themselves playoff contenders. Add in the fact that the Vikings biggest weakness is their secondary and Aaron Rodgers tore up this team in the opener to the tune of 364 passing yards, 8.3 ypa, 4 TDs and 43 points.
The Vikings have nobody to compete with Davante Adams and considering this Vikings defense ranks 17th in pressure rate but just traded the player who accounted for 19% of the team’s total pressures and 31% of their total sacks, and I can’t see a scenario where the Vikings can keep up.
Taking Atlanta up to 8.5 is an easy one as both the Falcons and Panthers play close games all the time. In fact, these teams have played a combined nine one-score games of their 14 total games. These are fairly even teams in general but Carolina comes in with a pressure rate that ranks dead last and against an Atlanta team that can score with anybody with a healthy Julio Jones, and the Falcons have enough firepower to stay with 9 points.
Best Bets Record YTD: 7-6-3 (54%)