Author's Note: Two stats that I will be referencing throughout this weekly matchups column are Yards Per Point (YPP). and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). The goal of YPP is for an offense or defense to make the most of their opportunities when it comes to scoring points, but there are some important things that YPP doesn’t account for that DVOA does. In fact, DVOA accounts for everything YPP does plus important factors like turnovers, field position (where your drive starts) and special teams. These stats not only play a big part in scoring/preventing points, but they also play a big part in winning/covering spreads. With these statistics, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. Now, without further adieu, let’s officially get into our new NFL Week 12 matchup breakdowns column!
A quick primer on YPP and its importance in our handicapping: One of, if not THE most powerful measuring statistics in football, to measure how great an offense or defense is (or isn’t), in my opinion, is Yards Per Point (YPP). Yards Per Point is effective because it measures how many yards an offense gains before they score a point. A different stat that is regularly used by handicappers isYards Per Play, which only takes into account how many yards an offense gains and not its scoring. Gaining yards is a good thing to measure, sure, but in this world, we need to score points, and it does us no favors if a team gains yards without producing those points. This is where YPP will come into play for us. For an offense, the lower the YPP is, the better. Between 10-13 is a very good YPP number for an NFL offense, while 14-15 is average and 16 or lower I consider to be below average for an NFL offense. For defenses, the higher the YPP number is, the better. A defense with a high YPP doesn’t give up a lot of points for the yards that are gained against them. Throughout our weekly matchups column I will reference this stat quite often here.
Texans (-3) @ Lions
To start the 2020 season, the Houston Texans had a brutal schedule. The then Bill O'Brien led bunch started the season off against the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers in three of its first five games, but Deshaun Watson still managed to perform at a high level even against the stiff competition. Watson currently ranks 6th in the league in total yards (2,883), 7th in Passing Yards Per Game (288.3), 6th in completion percentage (68.9%), 10th in passing touchdowns (20) and 11th in QBR (72.9). With so many injuries on defense and an inconsistent running game, Watson is leading the 6th most pass heavy offense, and he now faces off against a putrid Detroit Lions defense on Thursday's Thanksgiving slate opener. The Lions rank 8th worst in the NFL in allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 258.4 yards per game and complete 65% of their passes. Detroit has given up 18 touchdown passes to only 7 interceptions and is also dealing with injuries in its secondary with four guys being listed as questionable or out, including first round draft pick Jeff Okudah. Another key unit that creates pressure on the quarterback is the defensive line, and the Lions have seven guys listed as questionable or out in that area as well. Houston slot receiver Randall Cobb is expected to miss this game with a toe injury, but Watson will still have Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and the tight end tandem of Jordan Atkins and Darren Fells to feed targets to all game long. This line is currently at -3, and I have the Texans winning by at least 5 points, so I still see value in Texans of at least 2 points at the current number. I like Houston up to -5.
Like: Texans -3 (buy up to -5)
Washington (+3) @ Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their best performance of the season - on the road no less - with a win over one of the hottest teams in the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys also hold a slight edge for their annual Thanksgiving Game and NFC East divisional showdown against the Washington Football Team. Washington is coming off a solid performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, led by its defense, as The Football Team held the Bengals to just nine points and 272 yards of total offense. Washington also has one of the most underrated defensive line units in the league this season, as Chase Young & Co forced four sacks last week and are currently ranked tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 32. Washington’s secondary only allows opposing quarterbacks to throw for 195.4 yards a game as well, but the Cowboys secondary has been bad all year, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 232.6 yards per game with 24 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. That's good for Washington’s top receiver Terry McLaurin, who sits top 5 in receiving yards this year and is averaging 87.1 YPG. McLaurin's player prop is set at 73 yards in some shops, with -138 to the over. I like the value there, despite then fact that he missed practice on Monday with a sore ankle and is listed as questionable.
Like: McLaurin over 73 receiving yards
Ravens (+5) @ Steelers
UPDATE: The Ravens-Steelers game has been moved from Thursday to Tuesday for Week 12. We will update this writeup with the news of Lamar Jackson being ruled due to COVID-19.
Since these teams' first matchup back in Week 8, both the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have headed in opposite directions. The Ravens have lost 4 of their past 5 games since that AFC North divisional rivalry game, while the Steelers have remained undefeated on the season. The Ravens have also dealt with injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, such as starting LT Ronnie Stanley and defensive tackle Calais Campbell. It doesn’t get easier this week either, with more key players being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in Brandon Williams, Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins - all three are listed as doubtful, and I would assume they won’t play because of the short week. Missing Ingram and Dobbins will significantly hurt the strength of this Ravens team, which leans on the run game often with Lamar Jackson struggling to throw the ball downfield with any consistency. Without so many key guys, in addition to the team playing so poorly as of late, I just don’t see a scenario where Baltimore can compete in this game. The Steelers only have three impressive wins out of their 10 so far this season, but they’re beating teams how they need to beat them, including back to back blowout wins over the Bengals and Jaguars in Weeks 10-11. I believe that Pittsburgh has been looking forward to sweeping their division rival on Thanksgiving Night for quite a few weeks now, which might explain their dud against the Dallas Cowboys just a few weeks ago. Another factor of added motivation for the Steelers is that with a win, they would eliminate the Ravens' chances of winning the AFC North division. The win would also increase the Steelers' odds of making the playoffs and wrapping up the first overall seed in the AFC. Steelers -5 here for me.
Like: Steelers -5 (buy up to -7) - *TBD