Week three of the NFL season ended as a dead split, 1-10 +0.00x. My record this NFL season sits at 3-2 +1.32x.
Readers of my column here on Matchbook know I love a good narrative. I think that being able to judge a market and get a sense of the driving tone behind the betting movement is a tremendous asset in this industry.
At times, however, it can be overpowering. Much like the consensus report or a single specific statistic, falling in love with the narrative can lead to making a poor judgement. I challenged myself this season to balance out my betting and use narratives in moderation.
This season my focus is on the upside – which when combined with a good narrative – can lead to great betting opportunities, like Chicago this week.
As much as I love a good narrative, I love a good story.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have certainly been THE story of the season thus far. Before the season started, I lost track of the number of preview podcasts, magazines and blogs that predicted the Buccaneers to start the season 0-3. Many of the same shows are now singing the praise of the NFC South darling Bucs.
I think it is phoney.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been good, but, they have been quite fortunate. Despite leading the NFL in basic offensive statistics, the metrics which matter show if not for explosive plays, the team is average.
Tampa Bay has thrown for 14 explosive pass plays which ranks second to Los Angeles. However, through three weeks, Tampa Bay ranks 11th in offensive successful play rate. Of the 189 offensive plays run, just 48% have graded as successful.
The bulk of the concern is on the offensive line.
Through three weeks the front five of Tampa Bay have allowed pressure on 35% of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s dropbacks. The subpar line play has made the ground game of Tampa Bay non-existent. Peyton Barber has carried the ball 49 times for an average of 2.9 yards per carry. This ranks worst in the league for running backs with at least 45 carries.
Travelling to Chicago on a short prep week is a nightmare scenario for Tampa Bay.
Vic Fangio, defensive coordinator for the Bears, can have his way in this game. His defence ranks top of the league defending the rush, pass and pressuring the quarterback. Fangio will have little difficulty putting together a game plan that nullifies the Buccaneers passing strength and forces them to run the ball – something they have yet to do this season.
The return of Jameis Winston from suspension adds an interesting dynamic to the Tampa Bay locker room.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to start, but coming off a poor outing against Pittsburgh with three interceptions, should mistakes begin mounting, how long until he is pulled? I expect the increased pressure with job security on the line to manifest into more mistakes against this aggressive Chicago defence.
The matchup advantage for Chicago holds true on the other side of the ball. The Bears have a top five offensive line which matches up against an average front seven of Tampa Bay. Matt Nagy has put forth an obvious script of 15-20 plays in each of the three games this season.
I viewed the comeback win against Arizona as a turning point for this offense. I think the effort proved to Trubisky and company that they are talented enough to execute an evolving gameplan. Nagy finished the game in Arizona with an 11:7 pass to rush ratio on first down, and was rewarded for smart play calling with a victory.
The Buccaneers will be blown out on Sunday, and the market will see its first correction of the season. Tampa Bay is not a playoff contender and does not deserve to be ranked in the Top 10 of any power ratings. This is an excellent betting opportunity to take advantage of overzealous bettors and back a significant coaching mismatch.
The Chicago Bears are my first double bet of the season.
- Chicago Bears -3 (2.01) risking 2.00x