Brad Allen: Wrong team favoured in the Steel City

12 min

We picked up a little over a unit last week, bringing us back to -8.26 on the season. No need for panic, we will just keep chipping away at positive EV bets and see what happens.

Under Unders All The Way In Maryland

First up we’re going under 47 in the Baltimore/Bucs game.

I’m going to leave the stats aside for this handicap and get straight to the point. This is almost the exact same game as Baltimore/Atlanta and Baltimore/Oakland. Like these two opponents, the Bucs have a competent offense with an appalling defense. And yet because of the way the Ravens now play with Lamar Jackson – ball control, running two-thirds of the time and milking the clock – both games were dead nut unders.

The Falcons game had 41 points, including a defensive TD, while the Raiders game had 37 points excluding two return/special teams TDs.

The Bucs tandem of Jameis Winton and Cameron Brate may struggle to get points on this Ravens D on Sunday.

Even last week Patrick Mahomes had to convert a 4th and 9 on a magical play to tie it up at 24-24, otherwise, that game too goes miles under despite involving the most explosive offense in the league.

In short, I think the Ravens are a dead nut under team, and the Bucs themselves are trending that way in recent weeks (we backed under in their game last week) thanks to improving health along the D-line and a more ball-control offense to help reduce turnovers.

This number is at 47 because of season-long stats which I think simply don’t apply here.

Happy To Fade The Boys This Week

Next up, I’m backing the Colts to beat the streaking Cowboys. Statistically, I think the Colts are the slightly better team with the Cowboys still ranking just 17th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

As the analytics site put it this week: “The Cowboys’ winning streak really includes just one very impressive win: last week’s defensive shutdown of the New Orleans Saints. All five of the Dallas wins have come by just one score, but at least the Saints win was over a really good opponent.

The other four opponents Dallas has played over this winning streak all rank 20th or lower in total DVOA.”

A healthy Andrew Luck has been given some great protection from his Offensive Line in recent times.

Beating poor opponents by one score is not a sign of a good team, while the Colts offense is legitimately one of the best in the NFL, ranking fourth in pass success rate and seventh in rushing success rate when excluding the first month of the season (when Luck’s shoulder was still shaky).

So I’d make the Colts maybe a 3.25 point favourite at home in a vacuum, but it appears they are in a great sport this week.

The Cowboys have come off a massive three-game stretch against the Redskins, Saints then Eagles, and have all but locked up the NFC East and the four seed. This out-of-conference game does nothing for them while the Colts need it to stay the AFC wildcard race. Seems like the Colts are all upside at -3, odds against.

Giant OverReaction

Next up I’m fading another streaking NFC East team in the form of the New York Giants.

I’m not buying that Eli Manning has suddenly become a good quarterback again.

The recent production is a function of trash opposition in my view; the Niners with a backup QB, the Redskins (with Mark Sanchez), the Bucs, and the Bears (with Chase Daniels) where they scored one TD off a pick-six and one off an OBJ trick play.

Brad is refusing to believe that Eli Manning has suddenly become a good QB again.

This is still a bottom-third of the NFL team in my view and certainly worse than the Titans, who have a better ELO rating (basically wins and point differential adjusted for schedule), better-rated QB by PFF and better-rated defense. With extra rest becoming even more important late in the season, I’ll take the better tea at odds against.

Bills Undervalued This Week

I’ve also backed the Bills -2.5.

The Bills legitimately are a better team than the injury-ravaged Lions. One model I looked at this week had the Bills as 5.9 point favourites even before considering the situation this week which will see the dome-team Lions head into Buffalo with literally nothing to play for. The Lions were already short-handed with but were hit again by the injury bug on Sunday.

The Detroit Lions and QB Matt Stafford have had a pretty woeful season to say the least.

Star DE Ziggy Ansah was ruled out for the season, fellow D-lineman Da’Shawn Hand was carted off and missed practice this week, as did slot WR Bruce Ellington.

The Bills meanwhile have outgained their last two opponents on a per-play and per-game basis and have been unlucky to lose both, while the
defense is top 5 in DVOA this year.

Steelers Finally To Set The Patriots Straight

Finally, I’m having a chunky bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The look-ahead line for this one had the Steelers favoured and its now swung the other way, presumably based on the Steelers loss to the Raiders and the idea that the Pats ‘own’ the Steelers in recent years.

Firstly, the Steelers lost that Oakland game because Big Ben sat down for several key series. He was actually 25/29 for 9.82 YPA in that game which is absolutely elite.

In fact, on the season the Steelers are tied for first in the league in adjusted net YPP (tied with the Chargers) with New England back in the middle of the pack at +0.0.

You might argue the Pats are less about explosion and more about down-to-down success but they are seventh in passing success rate over the last six weeks, while the Steelers are sixth.

A healthy Big Ben will hope to light it up on Sunday night.

These two teams also have significant home-road splits, with the Patriots 3-4 on the road this year. Even in this so-called fake loss to Miami, they lost YPP 7.9 to 5.6 and success rate (which doesn’t overweight the final play) 58% to 45%.

As for the ‘New England owns Pittsburgh narrative’; would it exist if Pittsburgh had beaten New England in this exact spot last year? Which they would have done had Jesse James not fumbed/dropped the would-be winning TD.

I think we have a #wrongteamfavoured scenario here.

Recommended Bets

  • Colts -3 – 1 point @ 2.04
  • Bills -2.5: 1 point @ 1.93
  • Ravens/Bucs under 47: 3 points @ 1.94
  • Titans ml: 1 point @ 2.44
  • Steelers ml: 2 points @ 2.2

On this week’s NFL Podcast Host Nat Coombs is joined by Nick Costos, Mike Carlson, and Matchbook’s Aidan “Sully” O’Sullivan to preview the best of Week 15’s action. Follow our new twitter account @matchbookpod for our latest Podcast Updates.