Adam Chernoff returns for the beginning of the NFL Season with a Total Play that is sure to get your pulse racing!
Here we go again! Summer has wrapped up and we are back to football.
Before we get going, a few thank you’s to send around
- Thank you to all of the readers from last NFL Season and everyone who watched the Copa America video content this summer.
- All new readers coming on board this season for taking the time to read.
- Sully and the folks at Matchbook HQ for giving a home to my weekly NFL column for the third year.
The bar was set awfully high last season, but I will be working hard until February to bring results to top it. I look forward to sharing this column with all of you each week.
Looking back on 2018, my season focus was simplicity. One year ago I wrote, “My focus this season is on simplicity. With the turning tides in the American betting industry, this season bettors will be exposed to more football betting media than ever before.
This season, my focus is on consistency.
Last year bettors were exposed to more football betting media than ever before, but this season bettors will be exposed to more data than ever before.
Bettors have a better chance of overfitting and drowning in numbers if they are not consistent with their process and relying on information they value. Don’t be swayed in 2019, stay consistent.
For the opening week, let’s begin with a double bet on a total.
San Francisco vs. Tampa Bay
I wanted to start the first article of the season off with some great creative piece that illustrated my point in a creative way and got everyone excited for football. I ended up submitting this article a day later than promised and wasted three hours trying to re-write the narrative for this 49ers Buccaneers handicap.
To avoid breaking the focus from 2018 and the new focus in 2019 before I have even made a single wager, I am going to be blunt and keep it simple.
Everything about this matchup sets up for the potential to score points.
The strength of both Tampa Bay and San Francisco on defense is at the line of scrimmage. For the most part, the base 3-4 of Tampa Bay and base 4-3 of San Francisco can be disregarded because both offenses will force the defense into sub-packages. San Francisco has three elite pass rushers in Bosa, Buckner and Ford. Tampa Bay has Suh and Vea upfront which rank in the top third of their position, but a tremendous group of linebackers led by Lavonte David who may be the most underrated defender in the NFL.
In terms of coverage, Robert Saleh will have his team play zone coverage on 66% of snaps and will only blitz with five or more pass rushers on 20% of plays – about 4% below league average. Todd Bowles will play slightly less zone coverage (between 60-63%) but will blitz as often as any coordinator in the league with rates of 35% and up.
Keeping in mind the tendencies of both teams, we can play the head coach and validate the opportunity for both teams to score.
The weakness of the Tampa Bay offense is their line. Bosa, Buckner and Ford will be able to generate pressure on a four-man rush. Saleh plays Cover 3 at one of the highest rates in the league, which means that Tampa Bay will have to get the ball out of Winston’s hand quickly to specific spots on the field. The weakness of Cover 3 is up the seam and in the flat on the sideline. For seam routes, Tampa Bay has the best target option in OJ Howard. The tight end was second to only Rob Gronkowski in yards per target in 2018 and is the best downfield tight end receiving option in 2019. Few wide receivers are able to push a defense back like Mike Evans and his effectiveness on deep post routes are perfect to create simple high low reads for Jameis Winston.
From a head to head matchup perspective, it is a mismatch at each level in favour of the Bucs with Sherman who enters 2019 off the worst graded season in his career and fifth consecutive on a downward trajectory is the best option to defend Evans.
When stretched wide, K’waun Williams, a below-average slot corner must deal with Chris Godwin while Ahkello Witherspoon and two below-average cover linebackers must deal with speedy Breshad Perriman and matchup nightmare OJ Howard. The Bucs offense is going to move quickly, with tempo with the focus on getting the ball out of Winston’s hands quickly.
This is a dream game for Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich from a play calling perspective.
For Kyle Shanahan, this seems too easy as well.
Where Arians and Leftwich will focus on moving the ball quickly and relying on short passes and tempo to break down the Cover 3 of San Francisco, Shanahan will need to deploy patience to wait for his opportunity.
I have the trio of Hargraves, Stewart and Davis ranked as one of the three worst cover units in the NFL entering 2019. Neither Justin Evans or Jordan Whitehead ranked in the top 45 safeties last season and will be thrust into full time starting roles to begin the season.
Todd Bowles has an allotment of talent to play with on the front line, but his willingness to bring the extra defender will ultimately burn him in this matchup.
Pettis, Kittle and Goodwin all rank in the top 50 for receivers in the NFL with an average separation of 3 yards per target. The addition of Tevin Coleman to the roster is extremely interesting as it adds the fastest ball carrier in the NFL to the equation. If Lavonte David gets caught on Kittle, the running back pass which Kyle Shanahan loves to scheme in becomes extremely effective. Much like the Buccaneers are going to have mismatches in any instance of single coverage, the same thing applies for the 49ers, but against this Todd Bowles defense, they just have to go about opening it up a different way.
Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, there are two of the most creative offensive coaches with extra preparation time game-planning against defenses which feature two of the worst five secondaries in the NFL entering 2019.
Both teams have a variety of weapons which pose matchup advantages and the only concern for either coach is the ability of both defenses to generate pressure which will call for shorter more efficient pass options which play well into the high zone coverage rate both defenses run. Add in the fact that both coaches are quite aggressive in their play calling tendencies and the game is lined to be very competitive, we are likely to see the best both playbooks have to offer.
Looking at the market on Matchbook, considering that 50.5 is priced to 1.96 on the over, the best way to approach this game is to take an alternate number at over 51.5 below the key number of 52.
The ideal price point is 2.08 which should come considerably as we approach kickoff on Sunday.
- San Francisco 49ers Tampa Bay Buccaneers Over 51.5 (2.08). Risking 2.00x