Adam Chernoff - NFL Week 16

20 min

Fresh from a profitable Week 15, Adam Chernoff dives into the weekend ahead with two total plays!

Finally, a week that did not split in this column! Week 15 saw two of the three bets come through narrowly missing the sweep. The season record for the column moves to 8-12 (-3.88x) with two weeks to go in the regular season. This week there are two totals to take advantage of on Saturday and Sunday.

Only an Average Output Needed

The market spot here is appealing.

Any total that is sub 40 will always draw attention, but I believe the total here is magnified because of what occurred on Sunday Night Football.

The Bills played to their fourth consecutive under, but in a similar market spot from a numbers perspective, the under was never in doubt. During the course of the game the Bills secondary received a ton of praise as the Steelers played into the strength of the Buffalo defence, neglecting to attack the weakness (defending the rush). I think overall looking at this number, there is a clear appeal to the under seeing how attainable it is that has suppressed this number.

Looking deeper and evaluating the number as a whole, the difference between last week and this week are quite clear.

Last week moved under immediately. The game opened at 38 for the Steelers Bills and quickly went through the key number of 37. I think everyone has heard the saying, “overs early and unders late” especially in primetime, but it was clear that the under was the side from the open, and the market adjusted accordingly. This number opened on Monday and stuck not coming off of the 38 until Wednesday.

The Bills secondary had their way with the Steelers Offense on Sunday night but will they have it with the Pats?

Everything with this move to the under was correlated with the posting of the Edelman video where he struggled in practice to move around. He has been limited, which is a generous title, for all three days of practice this week, but is renowned as one of the toughest skill position players in the league. In an interview Thursday afternoon he seemed optimistic about playing but there is no need to speculate on this more than needed.

Losing 28% of all passing yards for Tom Brady this season is never ideal for an over, but knowing that this price held through Monday and Tuesday (when numbers and on-field analysis will have the most influence on prices) and came down immediately after the Edelman news makes me sell this move all around.

It is clear the market is suppressed based on recent results, but I see a number of points that make me comfortable buying into the over based on numbers and on-field analysis.

As with any handicap, there is always a downside.

That in this game is the fact that Josh Allen has horrific splits against above-average secondaries and below-average secondaries. His passer rating drops nearly 40 points in those splits and his numbers under pressure get even worse. New England for the season is 1st against the pass in success rate. The other downside is the continued lack of a passing game for New England.

The last four weeks the Patriots are 32nd in passing success rate on offence with plays grading positively just 34% of the time for 5.6 yards per attempt. Without Edelman, that percentage might be hard-pressed to improve in the pure passing game.

There is no doubt that both teams could have no luck throwing the football.

Lots and lots of question marks over Julian Edelman’s status for Saturday.

Where I see an edge here is on the volume of plays.

Quietly, despite the offensive struggles for both of these teams, New England and Buffalo play to some of the quickest pace numbers in the NFL. In looking at the season overall, New England leads the league in plays per game and time between snaps at 24.6 seconds.

Buffalo is significantly slower at 27.6 for the season, however, since Week 10 when adjustments were made to their play calling, the Bills have trended as the 7th quickest offence in the NFL at 26.4 seconds. New England since Week 10 has played even quicker with more reliance on no-huddle and moved up to 22 seconds snap to snap.

This game could easily see 130-135 snaps over the course of four quarters.

If these teams just play to their season average in terms of yards per play (5.0) and stay consistent with their pace the last five weeks (130 plays), this game projects out to 650 yards of total offence. At the league median for yards per point (15.5), that puts this matchup despite all of the offensive issues these teams have at 42 points. It is not a coincidence that the first meeting between these two teams closed with a total of 41. From a volume of plays standpoint, all that is needed to surpass this total is the teams playing to their already below average standard offensively.

The reason I am more bullish than usual on pace here is that it works to the benefit of both teams offensively.

There is a clear drop off in performance by Brady this season when facing pressure. His passer rating when pressured is 49.1 (34th) and his completion percentage is 34.4% (40th) is worse of any QB this season with at least 200 dropbacks. For comparison sake, in 2018 Brady ranked 21st in passer rating under pressure, in 2017 he was 1st, in 2016 he was 5th, in 2015 he was 2nd. The Bills are 8th in pass rush win rate.

The best way to negate pressure is to play uptempo, something New England does more than any team in the NFL.

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady should be able to somewhat move the ball against the Bills.

The same applies for Josh Allen.

The Bills QB has a passer rating of 55.3 (30th) and a completion percentage of 40% (36th). The Patriots blitz at an absurdly high rate and will be able to force him to quick decisions. The best way to negate this is tempo for Buffalo. The key with a number this low is volume of plays. As long as they play quick, their average performance this season gets this game into the 40’s.

With tempo the answer for both sides, the likelihood of increased volume of plays is higher.

The Bills have an enormous liability in the front seven and this is the spot where New England can have the most success attacking. The game last week against Cincinnati was not a “get right” spot for the Patriots offensively, it was just New England exploiting a matchup advantage. The difference between the Bengals front seven and the Bills front seven defending the rush is +2% (in favour of the Bengals) the last five weeks.

The Patriots are considerably more vulnerable against the run than they are defending the pass. In the first meeting, Buffalo ran for more than 140 yards and that was without Singletary in the backfield (out due to injury). Key defensive nose tackle Danny Shelton is going to be playing at less than 100%, which opens up the potential for the Bills to find more success running the football than they have built into the matchup.

I get it, these two teams are great defensively.

But between the recency of the Bills playing under, the familiarity of the second meeting of a season between divisional opponents staying under trend across the market and the inefficiency of both of these offensive units the under may seem easy. But all that is needed from these two teams is an average output to a high number of plays to get this over the total.

I’ll oppose the suppressed number and look for this game to get into the 40’s.

New Wrinkles

The loss of Dontari Poe in late November all but ensured the end of the season for this Panthers defensive front.

Since losing the second run stopper of the season in the middle of the 3-4 front, the Panthers have allowed 55% of opposing rushes to grade successful for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. An enormous 16% of opposing rushes have graded as explosive.

Residual numbers have tanked as well.

Carolina is down to 29th in adjusted line yards, 28th in short-yardage defence, and allow the league-high for open field yardage. Through two days of practice, the injury woes have worsened. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler has yet to practice in addition to linebackers Shaq Thompson, Mario Addison and Marquis Haynes.

In addition to the hole the Panthers have been unable to fill in the middle of the defensive line, their right defensive end and half of the starting linebacker unit with their lead depth replacement may all miss this game as well. That issue becomes even more glaring when matched up against the Colts offensive line which is one of the best blocking units in the league overall and especially good in short-yardage situations.

With a struggling banged up Defense Carolina Panthers interim head coach Perry Fewell has plenty to chew on.

On the season, Indianapolis ranks 8th in rushing success rate at 51%.

To say they can get whatever they want on the ground this game would be an understatement, but their biggest advantage could be throwing the football.

At a passing success rate of 43% on the season, there is little to be optimistic about for the Colts offensively. However, there appears to be a clear focus on ending the season with improvement.

Frank Reich backed Brissett in the conference call for the team on Tuesday shooting down the rumour that Chad Kelly would start. Following the call, he had a meeting with Brissett which led to reports coming out Wednesday morning from reporters that cover the team discussing a new “look” to the passing game.

While we are getting to a bit a stretch with narrative, meaningless talk and speculation, TY Hilton has practiced in full each day this week and came out publicly backing the upcoming changes by saying “it will be noticeable”.

The Panthers are an ideal opponent to test anything out against in the passing game.

The Panthers have allowed 48% of passes to grade successful the last five weeks (23rd) and given up 8.7 yards per attempt in that time.

Jacoby Brissett retains the starting QB position in Indy this weekend.

With their pass rush falling off a cliff behind instability in the middle of the defensive line, should the situation at linebacker remain as grim as it is today, Brissett will have all the time he needs in the pocket. Brissett ranks 11th in adjusted completion percentage and 13th in passer rating when kept clean.

As for Carolina offensively, as much as the focus is likely to be on Christian McCaffrey and the number of records he can set in this game for yards from scrimmage, the advantage is going to be in the passing game.

While backing a rookie quarterback making his first start is daunting, the situation in the Colts secondary is dark. The last five weeks, Indianapolis have allowed 51% of passes to grade successful (31st) for 8.2 yards per attempt. Through two days of practice, Malik Hooker, Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson have yet to practice and all can be assumed doubtful for the game on Sunday. Without the three best pass defenders on the team, Indianapolis would be putting out what I would grade as the worst secondary (talent wise) in the NFL.

Will Grier has a very different skillset to Kyle Allen. Grier lacks arm strength but is extremely accurate and was great in college at picking apart shorter routes. When Allen took over for Newton early in the season, it was clear how dangerous this offence can be if a QB can just get the ball into the hands of playmakers. Grier can do that, and those playmakers will have a ton of space if this cluster injury in the Colts secondary holds through, those guys can move the football downfield with ease.

With the Colts emphasis on improving their passing game, the injury advantage for both offences in this game to take on and a new QB for Carolina, this is a game that can play its way into the 50’s.

Recommended Bets

  • Bills vs Patriots Over 37.5 (2.00). Risking 1.50x
  • Panthers vs Colts Over 46.5 (1.95). Risking 1.50x