I went 1-2 on best bets last week, winning with the Colts (-2.5) but losing the Ravens (-3.5) as well as the Green Bay/Atlanta teaser. The Colts game was a cakewalk but losing the Ravens really hurt considering the box score. Baltimore outgained the Steelers 5.8 to 4.4 on a yards per play basis and gained an insane 265 rushing yards on 47 carries. Since 1990, there have been 210 teams that have rushed for at least 250 yards in a game and those teams have gone 192-18 (91.4%) straight up.
This clearly came down to turnovers, where the Ravens committed four to only one for Pittsburgh. It also didn’t help that star Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley was knocked out of the game with a season-ending injury against an excellent Steeler pass rush.
Underdogs are now 68-51 ats (57%) after going 10-4 last week. Dogs getting fewer than three points this season are 17-7 ats (71%) and have won 16 of those 17 games outright. Underdogs of fewer than seven points have gone 35-43 straight up, but incredibly 24-24-1 on the road. For every dollar that you would have put on every Moneyline road underdog of fewer than seven points, you would have received back $6.68!
This week I thought it would make sense to not only continue to evaluate how teams have performed versus their point differential, and strength of schedule year to date, but also to see how teams’ future schedules look going forward.
The Buffalo Bills are 6-2 but should realistically be 4-4 based on their point differential (-1). When you also consider that they have played the 18th ranked strength of schedule (based on opponent win %, excluding games against Buffalo) and Football Outsiders’ third-easiest strength of schedule, the Bills don’t look to be as good as their record. Their future opponent win percentage schedule ranks fourth-toughest and their DVOA future schedule ranks sixth-toughest.
The AFC East odds could be interesting when you consider how New England has faced the seventh-toughest schedule, based on opponent win percentage, the sixth-toughest based on DVOA and have underperformed their point differential by 0.7 games. The Pats face the 18th-ranked schedule based on win percentage but the 24th-ranked DVOA schedule going forward.
Two teams that ironically face each other this week but have good future value, based on the metrics below, are the Chargers and Raiders.
Based on point differential, LA should have 3.4 wins but are only 2-6. They have underperformed their -6 point differential by 1.4 wins, fifth-most in the NFL, and have done so while facing the 13th-toughest DVOA schedule. They have had to face three of the best teams in the NFL in Tampa, New Orleans, and Kansas City and lost all three by seven points or less.
Keep an eye on this Chargers team with the continued growth from rookie Justin Herbert. They get to face the second-easiest schedule remaining based on DVOA. At +700 to make the playoffs, this is the one sub .500 AFC team I would take a shot on as a playoff longshot.
The Raiders have faced the toughest schedule of opponents to date based on win percentage and the fourth-toughest based on DVOA. They have impressive wins against New Orleans, Kansas City, and Cleveland, so have shown they can go toe to toe with the best teams in the NFL. Now they get to face the third-easiest future schedule based on win percentage and the eighth-easiest based on DVOA. They have played 4 games at 1pm EST on the road but only have two more of those, at Atlanta and the Jets.
If the Raiders can get their offensive line healthy, the strongest unit on the team coming into the season, and with the fact that they hold a tiebreaker with the Browns, I think they have a real good shot of making the playoffs at a -121.
Week 8 Best Bets
Seattle Seahawks -2.5 over Buffalo Bills
As I discussed above, this Buffalo team is clearly not as good as their record indicates. Buffalo ranks 14th in DVOA’s overall rankings while Seattle currently sits at sixth-best. This Seattle offense, led by Russell Wilson and the dynamic WR duo of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, should have their way against a disappointing Buffalo defense. Seattle is second in the NFL on early downs in success rate and gets to face the 28th-ranked early down Buffalo defense.
What doesn’t make sense about this Seattle offense is their success, or lack thereof, on third downs where they rank 28th. That disconnect is sure to regress with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and one who can make plays with his legs when needed.
Seattle has the third-best passing offense, based on DVOA, and the Bills defense has faced three top-eight passing offenses so far this season. In those games, the Bills allowed an average of 30 points per game and those quarterbacks completed an astonishing 76% of passes for 7.5 yards per attempt, 7 TDs, and 0 INTs.
For Buffalo, Josh Allen has really cooled off after a hot start. Allen was receiving early MVP buzz when he was second in EPA per dropback and completed 71% of his passes for 332 yards per game, 9.1 ypa, 12 TDs, and only 1 INT in his first four games.
In the last four games his numbers have dipped substantially and is 20th in EPA per dropback. He has only completed 63% of his passes for 212 yards per game, 6.5 ypa, 4 TDs, and 5 INTs. This includes games against two bottom-eight DVOA pass defenses and three of the bottom 14 pass defenses. With the Seattle defense getting back star safety Jamal Adams this week and Carlos Dunlap adding to a weak pass rush, Allen may continue to struggle on Sunday.
If your reasoning for potentially fading Seattle here in this spot is the old west to east at 1pm est trend, don’t let that sway you. Since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012, Seattle has posted an amazing 22-9-2 ATS (71%) record playing in the Eastern Time Zone, including 10 straight wins (8-1-1 ATS). I have this game modeled at Seattle -4 so getting any line at -3 or less should be good here.
Arizona Cardinals -5 vs Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ defense was impressive last week but you would never have guessed the Dolphins blew out the Rams based on the box score. Miami somehow won a game by double digits while only posting 3.0 yards per play on offense. Tua Tagovailoa really struggled in his debut completing 12-of-22 attempts for 93 yards and a miserable 4.2 ypa. As bad as Jared Goff performed last week, Tagovailoa’s -0.45 EPA per drobpack was even worse than Goff’s -0.41. He did this against a Rams defense missing star CB Jalen Ramsey.
Miami scored 21 of their 28 points on a fumble recovery TD, a punt return TD, and a 1-yard TD run following a fumble recovery. The Dolphins started 12 of their 14 drives inside their own 50 and gained a grand total of 101 yards on 41 plays.
Now they have to face a Cardinals team coming off a bye with the secondary to lock down DeVante Parker and force the Dolphins to run the football. The difficulty with that is Myles Gaskin is out Sunday and his backup Matt Breida is questionable with a hamstring issue. If Breida can’t go they will be forced to start plodder Jordan Howard.
I love how Brian Flores has coached the last two seasons but having a great equalizer in Kyler Murray at QB, who can use his legs to get out of bad situations is a great asset for the Cardinals. The Dolphins rank dead last in DVOA run defense and between Murray and Chase Edmonds, the Cards should find success on the ground. Edmonds is seventh among NFL RBs with at least 25 carries in DVOA and is averaging an impressive 6.1 ypc this season after 5.1 last season.
Best Bets Record YTD: 8-8-3 (50%)