We enjoyed a welcome return to form last week, landing both two-unit selections, picking up 2.87 units on the day and taking us to +4.04 on the season. Fitzmagic and the Bucs nearly made it a bumper Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. Regardless, we march on, and might as well start with the bearded wizard himself, who is the league’s most efficient passer through eight weeks at 10.18 adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A). Patrick Mahomes is languishing in second behind the Aamish Rifle at just 9.26 ANY/A.
More Fitzmagic Please Sir
This week ‘Fitzmagic’ goes up against a Panthers pass defense which is pretty much league average in most metrics, but whose weakness is against explosive passes, ranking fourth-worst in the league in that category. That’s a weakness that is likely to be exploited by the Bucs offense who rank third in explosive passing plays. As noted in this column this year, it’s near impossible to match up with all of Tampa Bay’s weapons.
They literally have four starting-calibre wide-outs, with two proper deep threats and they are going to score points. it’s no coincidence six of their seven games have gone over the total.
The big question for me then was Tampa Bay or the over, and I think the over is the bet here.
Firstly the Bucs defense is still pretty banged up with MLB Kwon Alexander tearing his ACL two weeks ago and DT Gerald McCoy questionable for this one. Secondly, the Panthers offense is becoming increasingly pass-happy and explosive.
During the last three games, they’ve thrown on 64.7% of plays, which would rank fourth highest in the NFL over a full season.
The three game sample is instructive because it marks the return of Greg Olsen, one of Cam’s favourite targets. For the season, the Panthers now have the 5th-ranked offense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and the Bucs have shown literally nothing to suggest they will slow them down. There should be some points in this one!
Ravens = OverRated
Next up we’re fading the Ravens again.
I laid out last week why their defense was likely overrated, and I didn’t see anything on Sunday to change my mind. This analytically-inclined gentleman below also laid out another reason why they’re overrated. In short they’ve played crap offenses.
If you use SRS for predictions, team ratings, etc., here's something interesting: Looking at PFR's SRS numbers, the Ravens have the best defense in the league at +6.7 DSRS, meaning, they've allowed 6.7 less per game than the average team, adjusted for SOS. (1/6)
— Thomas McDermott (@tpmcd67) October 29, 2018
On the other side we have a Steelers team that is slowly rumbling into form.
In fact, the defense is fourth in net yards per attempt (YPA) allowed, despite facing a much tougher schedule than the Ravens. They have also given up the fewest yards in football over their last three games.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers are significantly superior to the Ravens in just about every offensive stat, including a full yard per play (ypp). If we give the Ravens about 2 points for home field given the divisional familiarity, we’d need them to be the clearly better team to justify this line.
There’s no evidence for that, and Steelers +3 is a cracking bet.
Heading to Mile High For Week 9 Value
Finally, we are heading to Denver of another multi-unit bet in the form of the 3-5 Denver Broncos, who take on a Texans team on a 5-game winning streak, who also just traded for one of the Broncos top receivers.
The key here is schedule.
The Texans defense is a paper tiger, having faced the easiest schedule of opposing offenses in the league. Meanwhile, the Broncos have faced the single hardest schedule in the entire league per FB Outsiders.
That helps explain why their efficiency metrics are down, but when adjusted for that schedule, things look a little different. The Broncos are the seventh best team in the league per Football Outsiders, ahead of Houston at 12th. Just using adjusted YPP, the teams are dead equal, and given Denver’s noted homefield, this should be a full -3 rather than the current -1.5.
There’s also perhaps a small edge to be had in the matchups, chiefly in the protection of Deshaun Watson, which the Texans have failed to do all year long.
The Broncos defensive line ranks third in adjusted sack rate, while the Texans offensive line ranks 29th, meaning Deshaun Watson has been pressured on a league-high 45.1% of his dropbacks this year (PFF).
It seems likely Watson is going to be under pressure in around half of his dropbacks here, which isn’t super conducive to soring.
He will also be without deep threat Will Fuller who tore his ACL last week. I read some research recently which highlighted a significant drop-off in a QB’s YPA without a lid-lifter on the field (I can’t find the link I’m afraid).
It makes sense if you think about it. An NFL field is a tightly strung economy, to borrow a phrase from the Blindside, and a genuine deep threat forces the defense to leave at least one safety deep. That’s one less player clogging up passing lanes over the middle and that can have a major cumulative effect.
So I see it being a struggle for the Texans to score, while the Broncos should have some decent success against a Texans defense which is not as good as its stats indicate.
Best of luck all.
- Broncos -2.5: 2 units @ 2.09
- Steelers +3: 3 units @ 1.91
- TB/Carolina Over 54.5: 1 units @ 1.95
Brad had the week off from the Matchbook Betting Podcast this week but the show goes on as Nat Coombs is joined by Adam Chernoff, Mike Carlson and Matchbook’s Sully to preview Week 9 of the NFL season. If you haven’t already subscribed, search for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’ on your preferred podcasting app.