Two Angles In A Crucial AFC South Matchup And A Divisional Under Are Tempting Adam Chernoff This Week!
It is remarkable that I begin this column off recapping another 1-1 split from the previous week which has become the norm as the column this season continues to bleed out a small net loss week after week. Three bets this weekend ensure no split is possible, and should all come through, bring the column back near even on the season.
A Tough Matchup For The Titans
No one can deny the success Tannehill has had taking over the Titans offense. In Week 1-6, Tennessee with Mariota ranked 31st in pass success rate and 21st in rush success rate. The ripple effect was real too. Henry averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. From Week 7-14, the offense is up to #3 in pass success rate and #9 in rush success rate and leads the NFL in explosive passing and rushing at 16% and 17% respectively.
Tannehill will not be in the MVP discussion, but I do not think that it is out of the question.
He now qualifies for all major QB passing metrics, and the numbers look incredible. Top of the league in passer rating and yards per attempt.
Highest completion percentage above expectation. Second best completion percentage, 4th in caught air yards and 5th in intended air yards. All of this is done with the 6th highest aggression percentage which reflects percentages of attempts into windows where the nearest defender is within one yard. Everyone around him has increased their play too. Henry is up from 3.8 yards per carry to 5.7, and the offensive line is up to top 10 in adjusted line yards and lead the league in short-yardage run blocking.
Schedule validation is the only question mark.
The most difficult opponent from a defensive efficiency the Titans have faced since Week 7 was Tampa Bay, which ranks 10th. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times.
Teams can not be faulted for the schedule they face, but they can be faulted for the performance in those games.
The Titans have performed extremely well against the third easiest schedule in the league since Week 7. In many ways the schedule is validated, but when do things like the offensive line ranking dead last in adjusted sack rate, Ryan Tannehill holding the ball for more than 2.80 seconds per snap and the extremely high aggression rate come into play and burn the Titans?
Matched up against the Houston Texans who rank in the bottom five of the league in pressure rate since JJ Watt was placed on IR, the answer is not likely to be this Sunday. What was a great pass rush has fallen flat since losing the league leader in individual pressures. But the ripple effect has made its way through the Texans defense. Without their best pass rusher and run stopper upfront, the Texans have been trending in the wrong direction. For the season-long numbers the Texans rank 19th in pass defense success rate and 9th in rush defense success rate.
Since losing Watt, those numbers have dropped to 26th and 16th. Explosive plays against have increased too. The Texans are 27th defending explosive pass plays and 26th against the run. Drops from 21st and 24th for the season.
For the Titans, the extremely easy schedule of opposing defenses continues. The Texans are actually the third easiest opponent in terms of defensive efficiency for the Titans the entire season at 27th. Against Jacksonville (29th) and Oakland (31st) the two opponents easier, Tennessee scored 42 points in each. As great of a matchup as this is for the Titans offense against the Texans defense, the advantage for Houston on offense is even stronger.
The Titans secondary is the most fraudulent single personnel unit in the NFL.
Since Week 7, Tennessee ranks 27th in pass defense success rate against the second easiest schedule of opposing pass offenses. Unlike the offense where above expectation play has come against a weak schedule, the Titans secondary has ranked well below average against an extremely weak schedule. The only team that ranks top 10 in pass success rate the Titans have faced this entire season is Kansas City. The Chiefs put up 433 passing yards and more than 535 yards of total offense.
Houston will be the second team the Titans have faced this season that rank inside the top 10, but also the only team that ranks inside the top ten for both passing and rushing success rate offense.
The Texans defense is one of the easiest opponents to date for the Titans offense, as is the Titans defense one of the easiest opponents to date for the Texans offense.
The great Houston passing numbers have come against the 6th most difficult schedule of opposing secondaries. The step down to Tennessee at 23rd in pass efficiency defense is the first opponent since Jacksonville in Week 9 Houston has faced that ranks worse than 14th. The Texans have played two bottom third secondaries this season (ATL, OAK) and scored a combined 80 points in those two games.
In addition to Titans CB Adoree Jackson not practising, DB LeShaun Sims and S Kenny Vaccaro are dealing with injuries too. This secondary has been one of the worst graded units in the NFL to date, and without two potential starters and the next man up on the depth chart, the most difficult opponent of the season could become more problematic than anticipated.
This game is a green light to the over and the market will continue to push up.
From the side perspective, this was a game with Tennessee at -1 adjusted up to -3 (-15) at initial open off of the contrasting results from Week 14.
Pure numbers play in my perspective taking the +3 with the team that has the bigger matchup advantage and fewer question marks on both sides of the ball.
Unders The Way To Go In KC
Two teams who played in the middle of October on Week 7 in a game with a total of 49.5 that finished with a 30-6 final.
There will be a natural look to bet the under with this being the second meeting between division opponents, but a good example of why I put little stock into situational and narrative noise is due to the noise they present.
In addition to missing a couple of offensive weapons, Patrick Mahomes was hurt early in the second quarter and the majority of the game was played with Matt Moore. the Broncos had Joe Flacco under center for the full four quarters. Not only will both quarterbacks that played the majority of the game seven weeks ago not be present in this game, but both of the teams are also in significantly different situations.
The Denver Broncos have moved on to Drew Lock and are coming off of back to back offensive explosions, covers and outright wins as underdogs. Kansas City is coming off of an outright victory on the road in Foxboro where Mahomes suffered a hand injury that “altered the play calling” according to Andy Reid for the second half of the game.
To compare this game to last is a stretch in the least.
The adjustment down from the previous close of 49.5 to 45.5 in this meeting (and now further) has been made on the strength of both the Broncos and Chiefs defense.
The Kansas City secondary is one of the most underrated personnel units in the entire NFL.
Against the pass, Kansas City ranks 6th in DVOA, holds opponents to a 44% success rate, 9% explosive play rate and ranks 6th in overall pass defense efficiency. All of these numbers have come against the most difficult schedule of opposing passers. Kansas City has faced just three teams all season that rank worse than 13th for pass efficiency offense. They held those three opponents to 51 total points – an average of 17 per game against.
The Denver Broncos will be a significant step down in competition from a six-week run that included games vs Green Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee, Los Angeles, Oakland and New England.
Trying to grade the Broncos offense with Drew Lock is an interesting challenge.
The numbers in two games certainly indicate a lot of promise (40/55, 8.1 YPA, 72% and 5 TD to 2 INT). As mentioned above in the Texans Titans write-up, one game came against the Houston Texans defense which struggles in coverage and generating pressure. The other was against the Los Angeles Chargers that rank 20th in pass success rate defense, and 20th in pass defense efficiency.
The step up to Kansas City at 6th is a big leap, but there are more question marks than that with Lock through two games.
The number say uptick, but the eye test leaves a lot to be desired. Lock has made a number of plays “work” despite misreads and poor decision making. In many ways, this is a new QB making plays based on his arm strength alone. With the uptick in competition this week, a lot of those poor decisions can turn into costly mistakes.
If you follow my write-ups each week, you will remember in games against Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo one of the sticking points for Denver was how their defense has consistently been ranked inside the top third of the league for major metrics in the NFL. The same still applies more than five weeks later.
The Broncos are 9th in pass defense success rate, 11th in DVOA, 7th in explosive pass defense and 12th for overall efficiency. In pure coverage grade, the Broncos rank 8th on PFF. Much like the Kansas City Chiefs, all of these numbers are validated by schedule, too. Denver has faced the second most difficult schedule of opposing passers this season. The difference between Denver and Kansas City is the performance against top offenses.
While Kansas City has struggled, Denver has held their seven opponents that rank inside the top third for passing efficiency offense to an average of 21 points.
The step up to KC at 3rd is not as huge as it sounds, especially considering the fact that Mahomes is less than 100%. X-rays did come back negative and Mahomes has been practicing this week, but the openness of Andy Reid to discuss the change in play calling makes this matchup more intriguing considering the difficulty the Broncos defense poses to the Chiefs.
This is a spot where both teams struggle to move the football through the air (specifically Denver) against very good opposing secondaries.
It is not surprising to see this total begin to tick down based on the numbers and on-field analysis.
- Texans / Titans Over 50.5 (1.90). Rising 1.75x
- Houston Texans +3 (2.00). Risking 1.25x
- Denver Broncos Kansas City Chiefs Under 46 (1.89). Risking 1.50x