Adam Chernoff is rounding off the regular season with a total play in Houston while also laying his biggest number of the season to date.
It wouldn’t be an insights column this year without a 1-1 split to recap. The Saturday total got home with ease but Sunday fell just short. The season record for the column moves to 9-13 (-3.88x). One side and total this week.
Adjusted Too Far
These two teams played in Week 15 as everyone reading this column well knows as we took a kick in the shins after getting three points better than close.
The total was smoked up from 47 to 52 before coming back and closing at 51. The first twenty minutes of the game were scoreless before the game ultimately finished on 45. The game saw 806 yards despite the slow start, which using the yards per play median for the league translates out to an expectancy of 54 points.
Three red zone interceptions inside the end zone and at the goal line lingered large in that game.
The makeup of these teams has not changed though.
These are still two of the most efficient offenses in the NFL, and two of the biggest question marks on defense.
In terms of passing success rate, Houston is 5th on the season and Tennessee is 4th since Ryan Tannehill took over in Week 7.
Tennessee is the best scoring red zone offense in the NFL and Houston is eight. These teams are two of worst red zone defenses in the NFL (TEN 30th, HOU 32nd) and everything about this matchup insinuates yardage and points.
There is obviously a lot of sit/start speculation about what Bill O’Brien will do.
What I find fascinating about this price move is that nothing was ever made official by the head coach himself.
The move from HOU -1 to TEN -6 and the total drop from 49 to 45 occurred Sunday evening and Monday morning off of NFL reporters suggesting it would happen.
Bill O’Brien has never once in any press conference or public call this week acknowledged sitting starters.
In fact, he has suggested the opposite and has reassured that Houston is playing to win. Of course, the betting market tends to account for messages between the lines and it would be naive of me not to make note of the fact that Houston will know exactly where they stand before this game kicks off.
Will Fuller has already been ruled out and Kenny Still has a hamstring injury, so it is unlikely that he will play too.
DeAndre Hopkins has been dealing with the flu and Deshaun Watson has been dealing with a back injury but is more than healthy enough to play.
Should Watson, Hopkins, Stills and Fuller all not play, that would mean this total would come down further and be a big blow to the bet.
If we are going off of the word of O’Brien, then Watson and Hopkins should play for at least a portion of the game. But there are obviously defensive implications as well. If offensive starters are taken off, then defensive starters will follow too.
While there are not enough names on the depth chart to play with two backup units, anyone removed from the defense, especially within the secondary, is going to open up more yardage and point potential for the Titans.
As for Houston if it comes down to AJ McCarron, Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Keke Coutee and DeAndre Carter with Darren Fells and Jordan Akins, I still think the Texans can move the ball on the Titans.
This Tennessee secondary is horrific, and their 51% success rate allowed to the fifth easiest schedule of opponents through Week 16 validates that.
The way I look at this number is this:
Taking the midpoint here at 45 puts this bet in a great position if the starters play for Houston as Bill O’Brien is advocating for, which would push the total back up towards 49.
If the starters do not play, this number comes down closer to 41 and an additional stake can be added to the over.
Going To Get Ugly
This is the biggest number I have layed this season and I am pretty pleased with the number I took here.
I am intrigued by the Patriots.
While I am not about to begin a Tom Brady betting checklist after all of these years, the clear issue Brady and the Patriots offense as a whole has had is facing pressure.
As referenced in the write-up last week, Brady has the 34th ranked passer rating when pressured in 2019 in addition to the worst completion percentage.
The main dip with this performance against pressure came in the early season with offensive line turnover and then the loss of fullback James Devlin.
Devlin was an essential part of the Patriots running game, and without any threat of run with him out of the lineup, opposing defenses started to key in on Brady.
In Week 8, Elandon Roberts was introduced as a fullback. Between Week 9 and Week 14, he played 16 combined snaps.
Key offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn returned to full health in Week 13 and it was not until Week 15 with two games under his belt that we saw this offense turn into what we expected it to look like preseason.
Elandon Roberts has played 31 snaps in the last two games at fullback and the NE rushing success rate has gone through the roof at 56% the last two games.
Against Cincinnati, the Patriots ran for 5.5 yards per carry and 175 yards.
Against the Bills they went for 4.1 yards per carry and 143 yards.
With the sustained run game, the pressure has dipped on Brady too. Against Buffalo, he was pressured on just 9 of 33 dropbacks. Against Cincinnati, he was pressured on just 9 of his 31 dropbacks. Everything is slowly beginning to click, and it all starts with a little improvement in protection and the addition of a fullback to the lineup.
There will always be a narrative about what Bill Belichick is and is not showing, but the fact is that he came out immediately on the call Monday morning and said this is a playoff week preparation.
While we might see some play-calling tapered against Miami, the fact is that this is a phenomenal matchup for the Patriots across the board.
The schedule for New England has been a topic of conversation all season, but the defensive opponents they have faced rounded into form as the season progressed.
Adjusting for performance, New England has faced the 9th most difficult schedule of opposing defenses this season. There is a clear divide in performance against above and below-average opponents too.
New England has played seven opponents that rank below average for overall defensive efficiency. In those games, they have scored an average of 30 points (including the monsoon vs Dallas).
In games against opponents that rank above average, they have scored 22 points per game. They beat Miami 43-0 in Week 2, and while nothing in that game applies to this game from a box score perspective, the fact that Miami is a step down in competition across the board defensively opens up the potential for the Patriots to continue solidifying their identity and finding success moving the football.
The Dolphins have three starters in the front seven not practising which opens up the run game potential for New England Further in addition to starting corner Jomal Wiltz likely to miss the game.
Miami is going to have to find a way to make it to 17 to cover this game. Against five opponents that rank inside the top 10 for defensive efficiency, they have scored an average of 13 points.
If we expand that out to opponents that rank average or better, the average points per game jump to just 18 for the season.
You won’t be able to correlate the side with the total, but there is potential for plenty of points in this game for New England.
Miami can’t generate pressure, is among the worst teams in the league at stopping the run and is dealing with a number of injuries.
I will back the big number.
- Tennessee Titans Houston Texans Over 45 (1.96). Risking 1.50x
- New England Patriots -16 (1.95). Risking 1.50x