Game 2 (Game 1 was TNF)
Miami (-3.5) @ Jacksonville O/u: 47.5
The model has this game going Jacksonville’s way and I’m going to try to figure out why in this write-up as I go through the stats. What I notice early is the horrendous numbers from the Miami Dolphins. Less than 200 yards per game in the air and only 70 yards per game on the ground, they have nothing working for them with 4.4 yards/play. Jacksonville’s numbers are pedestrian, but they are better than Miami’s, throwing for over 200 yards per game and running for 129/game. The problem comes in with the turnover margin, Jacksonville with a -10 turnover differential is the main problem in this game and whether or not they can hold onto the ball and whether or not they can take it away from Brissett will determine whether or not they can get their first win of the season. Miami has 5 picks on the season and I’m sure that will be their strategy for taking this London game. Miami blitzes 41% of the time, the second-highest percentage in the league, and I think that only goes up against rookie Trevor Lawrence and his league-leading pick number. Jacksonville will certainly counter by throwing the ball quickly, as Trevor Lawrence gets rid of the ball in 2.9 seconds according to NextGen stats, while this could lead to a few mistakes, I think Jacksonville has taken themselves out of a few games and the exposure on the defense after the blitz (if called correctly by the OC) could prove deadly for an MIA defense that ranks 23rd in pass DVOA. The winner or loser of this game will depend on the defenses, will the Dolphins step up and make the plays needed against Lawrence? Or will the Jaguars' defense finally force a turnover or a few stops against arguably the slowest offense in the NFL right now? At the end of the day, in the trenches, JAX wins, ranking 4th in adjusted line yards and only giving up 8 sacks this season as well as allowing runners 3.3 yards before contact, 5th in the NFL. Control the run game, control the passing game, control the trenches, all the Jags need to do is keep the ball in their hands and not turn it over 3 times and they should be okay to pick up a win in their true home stadium in London.
Pick: Jags +3.5
Houston @ Indianapolis (-10) O/u: 42.5
As always, starting with the model, we look at the numbers for this week and we have this at a 5 point game, giving about 5 points of leverage to Houston. However, with Houston, we always have to remember the several QB changes that have occurred since the genesis of the season and how that affects the numbers, although with that being said Davis Mills has shown a lot of life with that Houston offense. David Culley is another very interesting character, as he is one of the rare coaches that admits when he has room to grow, and I think that helps this locker room in the long run, as for this game though, there are a lot of stat differentials to discuss.
The Colts will be coming off of a short week, as they are reeling off of a meltdown on MNF against Baltimore after leading 22-3 in the 3rd quarter. This seems like a bounce-back game for Indi, but before we make any assumptions, let’s look at the numbers that aren’t in the model to get a better grasp of what we are working with contextually here. Houston has a dead offense; they are bottom 3 in passing and rushing DVOA offensively, passing for about 200 yards a game and rushing for less than 80. They don’t have the ball for the majority of the game in terms of TOP% but their pass defense has been their lone strong point, ranking 9th in pass DVOA allowed. Houston’s offensive line has been their worst aspect, ranking dead last in adjusted line yards and dead last in yards before contact while rushing, 1.2 yards. So clearly, they will need to rely on passing if they want to stay in this game, and that leads to our first look at the Colts, their pass defense. Indianapolis ranks 30th in pass DVOA allowed, and while they have faced Russell Wilson, Matt Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, and Lamar Jackson in 4 of their first 5 games, they have NOT looked good. If Houston wants to expose Indianapolis, they may get a few chances in the air. Houston usually allows pressure on 28% of their dropbacks (5th worst in the league) the Colts blitz less than 20% of the time, meaning Davis Mills may have a little more time than usual to work in the pocket, as he will need to throw the ball 40+ times before pressure reaches, which shouldn’t be a problem seeing as he gets the ball off in 2.71 seconds on average. While I am concerned about Houston’s defense being stagnant, they are not facing a spectacular offense. Indianapolis’s west coast-ticky-tacky offense is smart for what they have on offense, but they will have to run the ball more than they’d like to pull away in this game. I think Houston keeps the game within a TD and a FG with their passing game and their surprising ability to force interceptions against a trigger-happy QB like Carson Wentz on a short week. I’ll take the points with Houston.
Pick: Houston Texans +10
Green Bay (-4.5) @ Chicago O/u 45
Looking at the model for this game, I don’t think it necessarily reflects the abilities of both teams, and I do not say that often, but seeing as I put my money where my mouth is, honesty is most definitely the right policy. For starters, the Packers' week 1 performance has to be treated as an outlier at this point looking at their performance in the last 4 weeks. Secondly, the Bears are still a mess, they just beat a team that’s more of a mess and their numbers still reflect incredibly poorly. I don’t know Aaron Rodgers’ record against divisional opponents (especially at Soldier Field) but I trust that it is strong. In addition, we still have this at a 6 point game, the differential is just not strong enough to warrant a play (3 points is the barometer). So let’s dive deeper. Green Bay is 10th in total DVOA on offense but 4th in DAVE (football outsiders) so they are projected to improve as the year continues. Their defensive line still couldn’t stop a leaky faucet, ranking 29th in rushing DVOA allowed, but with David Montgomery missing for CHI, they will be missing a big playmaker that would weaken the weakest part of GB’s defense. Placing Jaire Alexander on the IR is a rough move for GB and they will likely get burned without him a few times, but that still forces Justin Fields to throw the ball a LOT to win a game in which the Packers biggest weakness is the ground game, so it’s tough to know which way the bears will go, especially when you don’t know who is calling their plays on a weekly basis. Neither team blitzes too much and both teams do at least a decent job of protecting their QB, although there are a lot of Question Marks next to offensive linemen this week for GB. Chicago has kept the ball well, only turning it over 4 times, slightly better than the Packers who have done so 5 times (big whoop) but I am beginning to see a trend here: Two QB’s who are not rushed and are well-protected, GB has an injured secondary, allowing CHI to possibly get more points in and we KNOW Green Bay will get their points with their powerful offense. Don’t get me wrong I think the Packers win this game, but I don’t think the play here is the side, I think it is on the total with a possible breakout game for Justin Fields, regardless of who gets the win. Chicago can’t pass, but they can run, Green Bay cannot stop the run, so I think there will be ample opportunities for Chicago to try and play catch up. We have the final score at 48 but I think it should be closer to 50.
PICK: GB/CHI OVER 45
Green Bay: 27
FADING KC @ WFT. NO EDGE ON SIDE OR TOTAL
Minnesota (-1) @ Carolina O/u: 46
The Vikings continue to stifle me for the second year in a row, whenever I think I have them down, they change it up. This week they visit a team that is almost equally as confusing this season, the Carolina Panthers. Offensively speaking, the Vikings just edge out the Panthers in most categories. They pass and run for more yardage, they average more yards/play, they have a better turnover margin, and they complete a higher percentage of their passes, and yet with all of this said, we have this game at exactly the same spread as Vegas, Minnesota -1. So why is this line so low? Let’s dive deeper. Minnesota has lost their last 2 road games, although the losses were by a combined 4 points. I was looking at the over, but seeing as Carolina has not hit 30 all season and MIN has only done so twice, I don’t feel very safe doing so. Neither team is very banged up and both teams are coming off of home games vs sub-par teams. Minnesota is 11th in passing DVOA and 28th in rushing DVOA, which is surprising seeing as they have Dalvin Cook and run their offense through the run and play-action, that being said, Cook has been injured in the past couple of weeks and if he can return for this week, helping out that weakness would really put the pressure on Carolina to perform early. And speaking of pressure, Carolina is 28th in pressure % allowed so far, letting Sam Darnold get rushed 26.1% of the time. CAR is 20th in rushing DVOA so they won’t be helping Darnold in that aspect, and in addition to that Minnesota is 6th in pass DVOA allowed and is 3rd in adjusted sack rate with 17 so far. Darnold will be forced to check down and move quickly, and seeing as he holds the ball for 2.9 seconds, that might not be long enough for him to find an open player with Carolina’s offensive line problems. On the other side of the ball, Carolina has been phenomenal defensively. They are 2nd vs the pass and 12th vs the rush against impressive rushing competition. And with the addition of Stephon Gilmore, this secondary is going to be scary to see, especially with the #1 ranked team in adjusted sack rate, but Minnesota will counter with their 3rd ranked pass blocking rotation with 9 total sacks allowed all season (partially because Cousins throws the ball in 2.66 seconds).
Do you see how much of a clusterfuck this game is?
I don’t like that I always do this, but I lean Minnesota’s way. I think Dalvin Cook can make his way back and improve this rushing attack in a low-scoring battle where every point will count. Looking at the dealbreakers, Darnold has thrown 6 interceptions this season, while Cousins has only thrown 2. I think this will come down to who makes the LAST mistake, and I believe that the person to make that error will be Darnold. I will not be making an official play on this game because it is quite the debacle as to which factor will be most important in this matchup, but I will lean towards Minnesota for those who are on the fence.
LEAN: VIKINGS -1
MODEL FINAL SCORE:
MIN: 29 CAR 28
LAC @ BAL (-3)
This game will be one of the most intriguing ones of the week, especially after such a big week for both teams coming back to win in their respective matchups. Baltimore is coming off of a Monday night game vs the Colts while the Chargers were at home against the Browns in a thriller. The Ravens offense has been a mystery, excelling when they show up, falling apart when they don’t, and we don’t know what or who flicks the switch. LAC has shown no issues with going on the road, winning in Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs in Week 3 and in FedEx Field over the WFT in Week 1, but Baltimore is an intimidating team to visit, and they also beat the Chiefs this season. So since the model doesn’t have a play on this game right away, let’s look into why that may be.
Baltimore is going through an identity crisis. For the last 2-3 years, they have been the landmark for what a power run offense is supposed to be, ranking in the top 5 in every category almost every time. This year they are 16th in rush DVOA and have had to compensate with a 7th ranked pass DVOA. They have been middle of the pack defensively, ranking 20th and 19th in passing and rushing DVOA allowed respectively. Their offensive line has been nothing spectacular, ranking 25th in adjusted line yards and 22nd in sacks allowed. Their defensive line has been good ranking 6th in adjusted line yards allowed but haven’t been overwhelming the QB, ranking middle of the pack in sacks and adjusted sack rate. The Ravens have the highest blitz percentage of any team, but Herbert gets rid of the ball in 2.67 seconds on average. Los Angeles is 8th in both pass and rush DVOA allowed and this is a statement game for them after a lot of questions have been being asked about their defense
after the shootout vs Cleveland.
Overall, the Chargers have been a much more complete roster and the injuries on the offensive line for Baltimore should make it a lot tougher for Lamar to have time to throw the football, even though the Chargers blitz the least in the league. I think this is a close game that could be decided by less than a FG.
PICK: Chargers +3
CIN (-3.5) @ DET O/U: 47
Looking at the model to start out with, it has the Lions winning this game by 1 point, but as always the model cannot take a lot of exterior factors into context, Detroit is mostly healthy, so they have that going for them, but not much else. Cinci has a lot of probable’s, so I expect them to be fairly healthy as well. The Bengals have had mixed performances over the season on the road so far, with a 3-point loss to the Bears (worst game of Burrow’s career) and a 14-point win over Pittsburgh in Heinz Field, so if they bring the juice I have no doubt they can score on this Detroit defense. Offensively speaking both teams rank below average in rush and passing DVOA. In terms of the pace of play, the Bengals play the slowest pace in the league while the Lions run the 10th fastest but seeing as the Bengals are likely going to work the time of possession game against the poor run defense of Detroit and while the Lions defense is worrisome for me, this makes me lean on the total early. Detroit has only given up a maximum of 24 points in their last 3 games, and the Bengals have held ALL opponents to under 25 points per game. With the pace of play being as slow as it will be and the amount of running that I believe will be occurring (thus running the clock) I think it is worth a look when talking about the UNDER at 47.
PICK: CIN/DET UNDER 47 (1u)
Rams (-7.5 @ Giants O/U: 49
FADING THIS GAME, LACK OF VALUE AND INJURIES
Cardinals @ Browns (-3) O/U: 48.5
The model has this game as one of the closest of the season with a differential of 0.167 in estimated team totals. Arizona comes into this game on the road without Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury because of a positive COVID-19 test, they will also be missing Rodney Hudson and Zach Allen. Cleveland will be missing Jarvis Landry, Malcolm Smith, Nick Chubb, both Malik’s are questionable as is J.C Tretter, Myles Garrett, Takk McKinley, Greg Newsome, Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, Denzel Ward, Jadaveon Clowney, etc. the Browns seem banged up even if a lot of these dudes play. Do I think Kingsbury will be missed as a play-caller? Yes, but as a HC the Cardinals will be fine without him, they rank top 10 in offensive numbers and top 5 in defensive DVOA allowed. Their line could use some work and if Nick Chubb and the offensive line were healthy that would be one thing, but they’re not, and I think that helps Arizona. If the Cardinals can get ahead and force this to be a passing game from Cleveland, they’ll struggle without Landry seeing as Odell has no chemistry with Baker. Arizona blitzes almost 40% of the time and I expect them to do the same and put Baker under pressure early, if the Arizona offense can convert and put Cleveland on the defensive early on, I think they can take control of this game. I see a lot of people on Cleveland but the health issues combined with the level of competition they’re up against, and I just don’t know If they pull this one out after dragging themselves back across the country and burning themselves out in Los Angeles.
PICK: Arizona +3
Raiders @ Broncos (-5) O/u: 44
Fading game because of Gruden issues and Raiders variability issues
Dallas (-3.5) @ New England O/U: 50.5
The model has this game as a 7-point victory for Dallas, so we immediately have to look their way here since the spread has dropped to 3.5 from 4 earlier in the week. Dallas has shown a lot of stability on both sides of the ball which is rare for them, and Dan Quinn has admittedly done a great job with the personnel that he has. Both teams are pretty banged up but have their core players. New England barely escaped on the road against the Texans last week and didn’t exactly inspire with their offense, they don’t have a KEY game plan that they can consistently go to, and that is tough for a rookie QB to make work, especially when the offense doesn’t have much room for error, because if you mess up the Cowboys can take advantage quickly, they have a +7 turnover differential which New England sits on -3 and this will be the main differentiator in this game, especially with Dallas having the best adjusted line yards rating on their offensive line. Look for Dallas to control this game on the ground and in the turnover battle.
PICK: Dallas -3.5
New England: 26
Seattle @ Pittsburgh (-5) O/U 43
We have to disregard the model results when looking at this game due to the fact that all the Seattle numbers are based on a Russell Wilson-led team, and this week we will see Geno Smith go against one of the scariest defenses in the NFL. While Seattle is quite banged up, the Steelers are mostly healthy besides the recent loss of Juju Smith-Schuster. The Steelers need to win this game convincingly to cement themselves as contenders instead of pretenders, so let’s look at their numbers and see what they may focus on in this game. The Steelers blitz over 40% of the time, 3rd most in the league and Seattle allows their QB to be rushed over 30% of the time, 3rd worst in the NFL. This is a recipe for disaster for Geno Smith, and it would force Seattle to establish a running game, but the Steelers are 6th in rushing DVOA allowed, Seattle won’t have room to breathe. If the Steelers can establish any sort of rhythm vs this banged-up Seahawks team, they should win this game by at least a TD.
PICK: PIT -5
Bills (-5.5) @ Titans O/U: 54
The model has this game at a 2 point differential, forcing me to lean towards the Titans, but I’ve been productive in fading the Titans this season and the Bills continue to improve upon themselves week-by-week. I don’t like a spread this high on a prime-time game but as of right now there are too many injury reports that I am waiting for (on the Titans end) and I don’t expect to get the news before 1pm kickoff, so for right now, we will leave this game alone, but look for an article tomorrow breaking it down.
PICKS (Favorite picks in BOLD)
GB/CHI OVER 45
CIN/DET UNDER 47
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