It’s Divisional weekend and Brad Allen returns well rested and ready to fire with two solid bets.
Apologies for the recent lack of content folks, but we have a feast of football in store this weekend, and I reckon there are a few cracking bets to be had.
Betting On The Defenses In Foxboro
Let’s start in New England. Statistically, the Chargers are the clear better team by most advanced metrics. They pass the ball and stop the pass better than New England. One efficiency-based model I look at made this game New England -1. But of course, the Chargers are in a hideous spot in their third straight road game with a 10 am body clock start. Melvin Gordon is banged up, they’re missing key defenders up the middle of the defence at DT and LB and they’ll be a California team playing in sub-zero temperatures.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have had the week off, after a cupcake Week 17 game meaning they should be perfectly prepared for this one.
I’d still make this line 3.5 if setting it myself, but it’s only a small edge. I think there’s a better bet to be had on the under.
Here it’s worth touching on the gradual decline of Tom Brady. He is posting significant drop-offs in air yards and aggressiveness, as measured by the percentage of passes thrown into tight windows. Brady’s average attempt travels 7.6 yards downfield, which ranks 24th in the NFL, while his average completion travels just 5.6 yards, which ranks 23rd.
Per Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier who looked into Brady recently: “ A deep dive into the three-year data at Next Gen Stats shows it’s rare for a successful quarterback to average in the ranges of 5.6 air yards per completion and 14 percent aggressiveness, as Brady did this season. There are lots of names like Keenum, Cousins, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Tyrod Taylor and Blake Bortles in that range, many of them quarterbacks who get criticized (often rightfully) for playing it far too safe and limiting their offenses.”
Another way to measure this is how Brady deals with third and long.
2018: 50.5% completion rate on 3rd-and-4-plus; 34.3% conversion rate for 1st downs
2017: 55.9% on 3rd-and-4-plus; 41.4% for 1st downs
2016: 65.3% on 3rd-and-4-plus; 43.2% for 1st downs
In other words, if the Pats get behind in the down and distance they struggle. The Chargers as mentioned have issues of their own in the heart of the defence where key run pluggers and linebackers are going to miss the game. It’s part of the reason they just took linebackers off the field last week and played seven defensive backs on 58 of 59 snaps.
The Chargers strength is unequivocally against the pass thanks to excellent corners and safeties and those two electric pass rushers in Bosa and Ingram.
All of which means I think we see Bill Belichick get a full back and two tight ends on the field and try pummel the Chargers into submission with the run game, which needless to say is good for the under.
There are also some questions about the Chargers offense with the aforementioned injuries and a statistical decline in Philip Rivers in the month of December, which continued last week. Rivers posted his lowest YPA of any month and 6:6 TD to INT ratio, by far the worst month of the season. Again I’m not completely panicking about Rivers because YPA numbers were down across the league in December, but it’s definitely another little edge in my book.
Attacking The Saints Team Total
Next up we’re taking New Orleans team total over. I try to steer clear of team totals in these write-ups as I know it can be difficult for people to get on, but with it being the playoffs there should be enough liquidity in the market.
This is pretty simple. In home games this year (excluding the game started by Teddy Bridgewater) the Saints average 37 points.
The Eagles are still undermanned in the secondary and are basically the same team that gave up 48 to the Saints earlier this season.
They have looked better of late, but as always with defenses, that’s a product of their opponents. Even in the second half last week, the Bears figured out the Eagles were biting on double moves and proceeded to cook Avante Maddux with deep shots.
There is a narrative the Saints offense have fallen off somewhat but that’s mainly a function of playing on the road more often with offensive line injuries, particularly all-pro left tackle Terron Armstead. Four of the five O-lineman are still on the injury report but crucially all are expected to play, and when intact this is probably the best offensive line in the league.
If they nullify that Eagles defensive line, Brees will shred the Eagles defensive backfield.
Ted Ginn should also be up to speed by now after returning to the offense near the end of the season, and I’m a firm believer that a deep threat opens up the offense for everyone else; i.e Kamara and Michael Thomas. There’s too much uncertainty on the other side of the ball for me to include it in this bet. The Saints defense has been trending upwards and is actually sixth in the NFL in weighted DVOA. But as you know I don’t put too much stock in the stability and predictiveness of that number.
And what do we make of Big Dick Nick?
His YPA under pressure is higher than when clean (7.8 to 6.9) which is literally backwards and won’t continue. YPA, when clean is the most stable QB stat and performance when pressured, is one of the noisiest. BDN is also converting third downs at a very high rate, which won’t necessarily continue, so I don’t really know what to expect against the improving Saints defense.
Not much to add on the last two games; I’d back Cowboys at +7.5 and Colts at +6.
- Chargers/Patriots under 47.5: 2 units @ 1.95
- Saints TT over 30.5: 2 units @ 1.91