It was another successful Sunday for readers of the column as Los Angeles and Seattle went well over the total of 50. My record for the season is 5-2 +4.32x with the second double bet of the season on deck.
Handicapping a football game requires a lot of strategic thinking. Often times, only one part of the equation is accounted for.
In order to be successful, it is important to evaluate both sides of a game. Sticking to the easiest or most overpowering angle can lead to confirmation bias and in turn lead to short-sighted wagers.
I do it often too.
I see one matchup advantage and become so confident that I believe the angle will override any possible downside in the wager.
The obvious downside of my wager on New England -3 this week is the Kansas City offense, but, just because I am opposing the team, does not mean I disregard the strength.
The Chiefs offense is extremely good.
They gain 6.5 yards per play and run a successful play 53% of the time. In the first quarter – when the game plan is practised in advance – they average 7.3 yards per play and run a successful play 60% of the time. They have outscored opponents 59-9 through five weeks in the opening 15 minutes and have put themselves in a position to win early on each week.
Those are incredible numbers, however, it is my handicap of the game that makes me believe the strength will be nullified.
The Patriots are going to slow the Chiefs offense down with their offense – rather than their defense.
Let’s flip to the other side of the ball for Kansas City.
Through five weeks they grade out 30th in tackling, 25th in pass coverage and 28th in run defense. The Chiefs allow teams to complete a successful run play 59% of the time, which is worst in the league. Plain and simple, their performance defending running backs this season has been horrific.
Look at these success rates:
- Yeldon: 20 touches 65% success rate
- Lindsay: 12 touches 58% success rate
- Freeman: 8 touches 88% success rate
- Morris: 14 touches 54% success rate
- Breda: 12 touches for 55% success rate
- Connor: 13 touches for 44% success rate
- Gordon: 28 touches for 54% success rate
- Eckeler: 10 touches for 90% success rate
New England has three options out of the backfield to take advantage of this weakness.
James White and Rex Burkhead grade out 5th and 25th respectively in pass-catching running backs through five games while Sony Michael has emerged as a top rushing back with an average yards per rush of nearly 4.5 yards and a 60% success rate the last 3 games.
Another big advantage New England has is at tight end with Rob Gronkowski. Much like running backs, Kansas City has struggled to cover tight ends in the middle of the field.
Gronkowski has only been targeted 31 times in 5 games, but he has caught 24 passes for nearly 14 yards per completion. This is almost on par with the 63% success rate opposing quarterbacks have gained against the Chiefs defense the past three games when targeting tight ends.
(Let me preface the rest of this write-up by mentioning that Michel and Gronkowski were both limited in practice – but both are listed as expected to play).
As I mentioned, there are multiple factors to each handicap.
In my opinion, the advantage and depth at running back allows New England to beat the Kansas City defense a few yards at a time. The ability to rotate three backs will promote long, time-consuming drives which keeps the Chiefs offense off the field and weakens their defense as the game progresses.
If there is ever a long down and distance, the advantage exists at tight end for New England to exploit.
Another reason to pile on top of the RB/TE advantage is the extra prep time. New England played a Thursday game in Week 5 and have had four extra days to prepare for Kansas City.
Unlike the Steelers who had a similar advantage to New England when matching up against Kansas City, the Patriots coaching staff is more than competent to execute the simple game plan. The Chiefs schedule also comes into question with the third “play up” game in a row and second prime-time game in three weeks.
Take all this into account and the handicap sets up a great spot for New England. Also note that I have not mentioned New England currently grades out as the second-best defensive unit in the NFL, holds teams to an overall offensive success rate of 45% and finally have their two elite starting receivers back in the lineup.
New England runs up the score and covers the -3. It is a double bet for me.
- New England Patriots -3 (1.76) risking 2.00x