Adam Chernoff returns with an AFC South mismatch angle he’s keen to exploit.
This will be my thirteenth season betting on the NFL, but it was not until the last couple of seasons that I was able to define my work during the week.
I am much more analytical and subjective in my approach than I am mathematical.
The problem I found with reading and studying in excess each day is making sense of the amount of information consumed. Some quotes or data tend to stand out much more than others and placing proper value on what matters can be tricky. To help myself out, I started “handicapping into buckets”.
The idea behind handicapping into buckets is to drop each piece of information when researching a game into one of five idea buckets or topic containers. The five buckets are:
- On-Field Analysis
- Information (News/Injuries)
After completing my work, I am left with an organized analysis of each game, but also a viewpoint into pieces of information which five of the most prevalent bettor types will tend to value.
Everybody hears something like…
“The math guys are going to love this team”
“There are some serious mismatches across the board here”
“This is setting up for a public burial”
These are opinions and thoughts I value because it gives me hints to what type of bettor might be betting on a side, when they might be betting it and where the bet might come from. While betting markets move during the week, I can reference my notes and see which bucket might be moving the line by referencing the sportsbook where the move originated. For me, it is all about understanding different viewpoints of betting styles and why bettors like the games they do.
The idea of handicapping into buckets helps me find spots during the season where lesser valuable information may be more widely available and over-utilized and potentially spots to bet against it.
For example, I tend to prefer betting into spots where there are strong numbers and on-field analysis support matched up against strong situation and narrative support – especially if the number has shortened in favour against team with the support former.
A good example of that is the Jaguars vs Colts on Sunday.
To say there is a mountain of situations and trends working in favour of the Jacksonville Jaguars would be an understatement. Below is just a sample of the many betting spots which support the Jaguars:
- Divisional home dog
- Divisional home dog of more than a touchdown
- Outdoor home team hosting visiting dome team
- Dome team travelling to play in extreme heat (100+ degree heat is forecast)
- Underdog of more than a touchdown with total less than 45
- Florida home team in September
- Colts 0-5 L5 in Jacksonville
- Colts 1-9 L10 ATS vs Jacksonville
I think many bettors overstate or overthink what can influence the NFL betting markets and underestimate the number of money bettors who will blindly throw at the sport each week.
Often times simple things will cause enough of a collective opinion (especially early in the market) to hold back prices – resistance – or move them through dead numbers.
In my opinion, the long list of data in the situational bucket is what brought the Jaguars price down from a dead zone 8.5 to as low as 7 before a release from a group yesterday morning took the price back to 8. The main reason I believe this is due to the fact the news coming out of Jacksonville camp has been significantly more negative than anything out of Indianapolis. Even when there was negative news about the Colts, none of the movement in favour of the Jaguars matched the time of the news release.
Anytime I see movement in early NFL (in this case very early) betting markets that do not come at the same time as news, it is either a release or someone “taking a number” early perhaps with the intent to do something back against it later or just hoping they get well ahead by the time it closes. To me, it is the latter because no one was releasing Jags +8.5, +8 and +7.5 in early August when much of the movement occurred.
This intrigues me because I feel the on-field advantages that work in favour of the Colts which I value are being ignored to an extent.
I love the guys at PFF and have some good industry friends working over there. The only thing I do not care for is their consistent pummelling of anything relating to running the football. It was to my surprise this offseason when a few of the people I respect over there started tossing around the idea of rushing being more effective than usual in the initial few weeks of the season.
The thought process behind that idea is that no team has had in-game reps due to the cancelled preseason but there has been extended conditioning and acclimation time over 35 days of consistent practice. All teams are coming into the 2020 regular season with more consecutive practice days than a usual offseason, but significantly less physical reps. The conclusion is that tackling could be worse than usual, and simplistic play design which relies on the least amount of timing will be more effective than usual.
I believe there is truth to this. Chris Ballard, GM of the Colts, may not agree, but there is no denying the team is more than equipped to exploit it after drafting Jonathan Taylor to play behind Marlon Mack – a 1,000-yard rusher from a season ago. In 2019 the Colts were 7th in rushing efficiency last season and return all five starters on the 3rd graded, often injured, offensive line. Considering the improved health of the offensive line entering this season and the addition of Taylor, it is not a stretch to have the Colts rated as the top offensive line and top rushing backfield in the NFL. This is a serious asset to have, especially early in the season and in this matchup on Sunday.
Colts Offense vs Jags Defense
The media has made a big fuss over the departure of Fournette, but somehow no outlet has gone out of their way to discuss the turnover on the defensive line. Since the beginning of August, the Jaguars have lost SIX defensive linemen. Woods and McCray opted out. Russell is out indefinitely with a hip injury. Davis and Mauro are both suspended until mid-season and Ngakoue was traded to Minnesota.
Add in the departures of Campbell and Dareus before camp, and the Jaguars have moved through eight total defensive linemen this offseason. To make matters worse, Taven Bryan suffered a bone bruise late in camp and rookie K’Lavon Chaisson dealt with a hamstring issue throughout the middle portion of camp. Bryan is unlikely to play.
Even with names like Campbell and Ngakoue on the defensive line in 2019, this was a unit that was one of the five worst against the rush. Everything that has occurred in the past three weeks leads me to believe they will only be worse going into 2020. The linebacker trio of Williams, Schobert and Jack grade out respective 88th/90, 49th/90 and 79th/90 and will do little to provide any help.
This Jags defensive front against the league-best offensive front of the Colts is as lopsided a matchup as there can be.
The benefit of the mismatch goes beyond just running the ball.
Off a successful run game always comes the opportunity for increased play action. Philip Rivers has a history running offenses for Reich and Sirianni in his career and the reports out of Colts camp on Rivers have all been glowing about how seamless of a transition it has been due to his knowledge of their coaching and play-calling style. Last season Sirianni ran play action at the 7th highest rate in the NFL at 31% which is a number that is likely to increase in 2020 because in limited usage with LA (just 20%), Rivers had the 10th highest increase in YPA, 6th highest completion percentage, 8th highest yards per attempt and 11th highest rating increase with play action.
In the secondary the Jags will be starting a rookie in Henderson, first-year starter Wingard off just 190 snaps and Herndon who graded out 95th of 115 in 2019. While the Colts will be without Doyle and Burton at TE, all wide receivers will be set to go. Campbell cleared protocol on the weekend, Hilton has been terrific at camp and new downfield threat Michael Pittman is set to make his debut.
Whether it be any mismatch listed above or the fact that first-year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said the offense is “still in diapers right now” in reference to how they are learning his new system, everything about the Jags screams disadvantage via youth and inexperience.
In 2019, the Dolphins went into the season with the lowest average age at 25.2 years per old. They faced a highly physical, run focused Ravens team in the opening week in the Florida heat. The young Dolphins team conceded a 59% rushing success rate, 5.8 yards per carry and 265 total rushing yards. The inability to stop the rush sparked 7 explosive passes, 14.0 yards per pass and 379 yards out of Lamar en route to a 40 point loss. The Jaguars enter 2020 with an average age of 24.5 years which is not only the youngest in 2020 but the second youngest in the past five seasons.
I expect a similar balance of offensive efficiency out of the Colts who have the talent and experience across the board and will dominate the game starting upfront.
- Indianapolis Colts -8 (-110 / 1.91). Risking 1.10x