Brad Allen: The Panthers have lost their bite

10 min

Another rough week for the blog last week as we lose both selections, and drop to -9.4 units on the season. Again I don’t really have too much explanation to give. Both lines moved significantly in our favour – more than enough to cover an implied bookmaker margin or exchange commission – suggesting we had positive EV bets that just happened to lose.

It’s part of betting; there’s only so much you can control, and in a small sample size of three or so bets a week and a highly efficient market like the NFL, this kind of thing is par for the course.

On We Go To Week 14

First up this week I’m having yet another bet on Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Brownies.

Baker had a rough week last time out, which is to be expected of a rookie, throwing three picks in the loss to the Texans. However, he still averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt and has thrown for 9.8 yards per pass attempt over the past three weeks. He takes on one of the worst pass defences in the NFL in the Panthers; 28th by Football Outsiders DVOA, and I think it’s a safe bet for the Browns to put up some points.

On the other side of the ball, I think there are legitimate concerns about the offense. The Panthers are averaging 19.8 points per game on the road this season (24th in the league) as opposed to 30.8 per game at home (8th).

I generally steer clear of home-road splits as they’re often a function of scheduling, but the home/road point differential for the Panthers is the largest such gap in the league at 15.5 (+7.7 at home and -8.0 on the road) suggesting there is some signal in there.

Beyond that, there’s a chance Cam Newton is injured. Many will have noticed the Panthers took Cam out last week at the death and used Taylor Heinecke to throw a Hail Mary. That’s hardly a sign of confidence in your QB’s arm and Cam was actually added to the injury report all the way back in Week 8 with a right shoulder injury.

Is Cam Newton shoulder worse than was originally suspected?

Former NFL QB Brady Quinn said this week it looked like there was clearly something wrong with Cam.

“When you watch him throw, typically he’s this big guy who throws effortlessly right? It looked like the way the ball left his body and arm like there wasn’t much on it. Like he almost had a dead arm,” Quinn said. “Something you would experience in camp maybe when you’re throwing a ton. Or maybe at this point in the season — people don’t realize between the hits and the number of throws, sometimes arms need rest because they don’t have enough juice.

“Either way, I don’t know that he’s looked as healthy or been as close to as 100% throwing as we’ve seen in the past.”

There’s something interesting going on with his usage too.

As pointed out by analyst Will Brinson, Cam’s average depth of target (aDOT) has dropped and he’s now averaging just 5.2 air yards per pass attempt, tied with noodle-armed Eli Manning near the bottom of the league.

When throwing more than 15 yards downfield in the last three weeks, his completion percentage has dropped from 49% to 33% with YPA dropping from 10.8 to 7.5. His rushing attempts per game have gone from 9.1 to 4.5 in the same time span referenced above.

In short, I expect the Browns to put up some points and I’m not sure Cam is healthy enough to keep up.

A Rare Under In The NFC South

We are sticking in the NFC South for our second bet, where we’re taking under 56 in the New Orleans, Tampa Bay game.

For starters, we have some horrible weather lined up for Sunday, with light drizzle and 12mph winds throughout the game.

It’s not the type of weather that destroys scoring, but outside on a grass field, it’s certainly a factor.

Next up we have the fact that it’s profitable to simply back unders in certain divisional games late in the season.

Betting division unders of 44.5 or above in Week 11 or later has returned a profit of +51.64 units since 2003, likely due to the familiarity between teams. There’s a similar downward trend seen in more granular data like a quarterback’s YPA as well.

Adverse weather conditions in South Florida on Sunday may slow down Drew Brees and this powerful Saints offense.

Finally, there’s the expected flow of this game.

Tampa has seen their snap-rate pace drop for six consecutive weeks. It is partly a result of the game script but also partly because Tampa Bay has become more run-heavy in neutral situations; probably in an effort to reduce the insane number of interceptions being thrown by the QBs.

New Orleans has also proven itself happy to sit on a lead and grind the clock, and I think this one could go way under the lofty total.

Chiefs Kingdom To Rule on Sunday

Finally, I’m taking the Chiefs -6.5. There’s not much new to say about the Chiefs who lead the league in points per game (37) and are the sixth best offense ever tracked by Football Outsiders. They will score their points no matter the opponent, and I don’t see how the Ravens keep pace.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has had his offense humming this season.

Lamar Jackson is at 5 YPA for the season despite playing three wet-paper defences in the Bengals, Falcons and Raiders. In fact, the Ravens offensive DVOA has fallen under Lamar, suggesting he is worse than Flacco. This line is as close as it is thanks to the Ravens defense and a rushing quarterback. I will take the obscenely efficient passing offense of the Chiefs any day of the week.

Recommended Bets

  • Chiefs -6.5: 2 units @ 1.96
  • Saints/Bucs under 55: 2 units @ 1.99
  • Browns moneyline: 1 unit @ 2.15

On this week’s NFL Podcast your host Nat Coombs is joined by Paolo Bandini, Brad Allen, and Matchbook’s Aidan “Sully” O’Sullivan to preview the best of Week 14’s action.
Lively chat and debate between the lads as they break down five games in total. Listen below and search for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’ on your preferred podcasting app to subscribe.