Fresh from a profitable week 7, Adam Chernoff returns with a tasty total play and an underrated road underdog
The Dolphins and Bills got over 40 last week which earned a win for readers of this column. Through seven weeks of the NFL season, the record for this column is 5-5 (-0.32x). This week focuses on a side on the early slate, and a total late.
The Number Is Too Big
Everyone loves the Colts. I mean, how can anyone not?
They are well-coached, put together a fantastic game plan each week, make the right in-game decisions and are a trustworthy wager. However, as the season progresses, question marks begin to emerge.
In terms of net yards per play which is an excellent indicator of success and correlates to winning in the NFL, Indianapolis ranks 28th at -0.9 net yards per play. On offense, the Colts have been efficient moving the football with Jacoby Brissett but rank just 16th in passing success rate and 23rd in early-down passing success rate.
These numbers appear average at first glance but become damning when considering Indianapolis has faced the easiest schedule of opposing pass defenses through seven weeks.
The matchup against the Broncos defense is the most challenging task they have faced this season. Denver ranked 4th in pass success rate defense and 5th in overall defensive efficiency. In comparison for the Colts schedule, the next most difficult defense this season was Kansas City which ranks 13th in defensive efficiency. The Colts scored just 19 points in the game. The only other opponent the Colts faced this season with a defense that ranks better than 20th for defensive efficiency was Tennessee which ranks 14th. The Colts scored just 19 points in that game as well.
Price point becomes an interesting question in this game.
The Colts opened as low as four-point favourites and have been adjusted all the way up to six-point favourites. It is easy to understand why. Denver was one of the most popular bets for shrewd handicappers in Week 7 which was then tailed by the masses. The Broncos disappointed everyone with a horrendous performance on national television. The last two games for the Colts were victories against Kansas City and Houston. To say both teams enter this game on vastly different trajectories would be an understatement.
But six points is a lot to cover for Indianapolis.
The Colts have played six games this season and covered five, with the biggest point spread being last week against Houston at -1. The other four covers were all as underdogs.
This Colts team does not blow out opponents either.
Their four victories this season have come by a collective 18 points. Much of this inability to separate from opponents comes from their lack of defensive consistency. Injuries have played a big role in the lack of success, but when parsing out the data, the Colts rank 20th in passing success rate defense and 23rd in rushing success rate defense. The defensive unit also ranks 19th and 32nd in explosive passing and rushing defense.
For all the heat the Broncos take, their offensive line ranks 6th in adjusted line yards and 2nd in negative play prevention. With the continuing struggle of Joe Flacco and the departure of Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos have a clear advantage here rushing the football especially with the return of tackle Ja’Wuan James.
Whether looking at DVOA, NetYPP, EDSR or just about any metric aside from win or loss, the Broncos rank nearly equal to or better than the Colts on offense, and significantly higher on defense.
With so much of the market over adjusting for recent performance, there is an opportunity to take a lot of points with the Broncos.
Green Light Over
In a similar situation to that of Atlanta vs Arizona a couple of week ago, there is another green light over situation in Oakland vs Houston at any price better than 52.
I think the Oakland offense is one of the most undervalued in the entire NFL.
Through seven weeks, the Raiders have quietly put together some tremendous offensive performances. Oakland ranks 2nd in the league for passing success rate overall and 5th on 1st and 2nd down pass rate. The run game has provided support as well ranking 14th overall and 11th on early downs. All of this success and each of the high rankings is well validated too. The Raiders have played the second most difficult schedule of opposing defenses in the first seven weeks of the season, including the most difficult schedule of opposing pass defenses.
Oakland has played three defenses which rank inside the top seven in the league for overall defensive efficiency (DEN 5th, CHI 6th, GB 7th). In each game, the Raiders scored 24 points. In their only game against a defense worse than 15th (IND 26th) the Raiders scored a season-high 31 points.
Houston is the second easiest overall defense ranking 19th in total efficiency, but the easiest opposing secondary the Raiders have faced this season.
Houston ranks 22nd in passing defense efficiency.
With significant health concerns in the secondary, the 22nd ranking could appear a lot worse. Starting cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph, Bradley Roby and starting free safety Tashaun Gipson are all in doubt for this game. This comes after losing defensive back Philip Gaines for the season on Sunday. In total, four defensive backs are on the injury report for Houston.
The fact the team has been shopping for options all week – including acquiring Conley from the Raiders – suggests the situation is more dire than appears.
Schematically this game sets up well for Derek Carr to move the football.
The offensive line in front of Carr has played at an extremely high level keeping the pocket clean on 75% of dropbacks which is the third-best rate in the NFL. Carr has the third quickest release in the league from snap to throw which goes a long way to negate the Texans pass rush.
Romeo Crennel plays a high rate of zone coverage which concedes soft throws underneath which is exactly where this west coast offensive scheme exploits opponents.
Without continuity in the secondary, it is unlikely we see a great game plan from one of the worst defensive coaches in the NFL.
As challenging as the defensive matchup may appear for Houston, it is much worse for Oakland.
The Raiders rank dead last in generating pressure. This is going to allow Deshaun Watson to do almost anything he wants with the football. The third year QB has been lethal against teams that do not generate a pass rush. Through seven weeks he has the highest adjusted completion rate, the second-highest adjusted completion percentage, averages 9.0 yards per pass, and a 113-passer rating when throwing from a clean pocket.
The Houston attack overall is a nightmare matchup for Oakland.
They rank 2nd in passing success rate and 3rd in rushing success rate offense. The Raiders at 30th in passing efficiency defense will be the second easiest opponent the Texans have faced. In two games against secondaries worse than 20th in the NFL (LAC 28th, ATL 31st), the Texans scored a combined 90 points.
Much like Houston, the Raiders have injury issues of their own. With the departure of their highest graded corner Gareon Conley, they will rely on Daryl Worley and Lamarcus Joyner who rank 87th and 130th at the position. Erik Harris and Karl Joseph will start at safety. The two of them grade at 59th and 76th respectively. Behind the four starters are six backup defensive backs with a combined 61 snaps this season.
This is officially the worst graded secondary in the entire NFL.
Expect plenty of yards and points in this game.
- Denver Broncos +6 (1.88). Risking 1.25x
- Oakland Houston Over 51.5 (1.96). Risking 1.25x