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. 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.
Jets (+17) @ Rams **Best Bet**
You might see this number and think this is to big to lay but with it being this late in the season and the Jets being the worst team in the league by far can’t wait for the season to be over and I don’t anticipate them coming into this matchup with any motivation to play hard. There’s really no need to get into their stats because they rank last or 2nd to last in every major statistical category on offense and defense. Also in 8 of the 13 games they’ve played they’ve lost by 17 points or more (thats 61%). The Rams are coming off a mini bye with a lot to play for still. They can wrap up the NFC West with a couple more wins including a win next week against the Seahawks and they could possibly still finish as high as the 2nd seed so I don’t expect them to look past the Jets. The last few weeks Cam Akers has emerged as a running back they have to feature on a consistent basis as he’s averaging 109 yards per game on 6 yards per carry over the last 3 weeks so he should have no problem leading the backfield against this Jets run defense that gave up 174 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry last week in their 37 point blowout loss. The Jets against the NFC West Division this year is 0-3 SU and ATS losing by an average of 25 PPG and I have this line set at 24 and I believe that the Rams win by at least 24, in a smash spot for the offense through the air as well.
Best Bet: Rams -17
Lions (+11) @ Titans
The Lions were already a bad team and with Matt Stafford likely being out with a rib injury makes them even worse going with Chase Daniel against this Titans team that can put up points in bunches as they’ve 30 or more points in their last five games. Derrick Henry is unstoppable with 1532 yards averaging 5.2 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns plus AJ Brown and Corey Davis are on the verge of being 1,000 yard catchers for Ryan Tannehill. This Lions defense ranks bottom sixth or worse when it comes to defending the pass or the run so they will have their hands full. The Titans are still in a battle for the AFC South Division so I don’t see this as a let down spot for them. Another solid play for this matchup I think is Derrick Henry’s player prop rushing yards to go over 108.5 at -121 odds. He averages 117.8 yards per game on the ground and the Titans run the ball 49% of the time that ranks fourth. He should get at least 120 yards in this matchup.
Like: Derrick Henry Over 108.5 rushing yards
49ers (-3) @ Cowboys
This could be considered a Super Bowl hangover year for the 49ers but I think it’s more of a lost season due to all the injuries that have piled up. Even with so many key guys missing so much time on both sides of the ball, the defense is still playing at a respectable level. They rank 5th in total yards allowed, 6th in Yards Per Play allowed and 11th in opponent passer rating. The Cowboys played their most complete game of the season against the Bengals last week but that seemed more of a rally for Andy Dalton against his former team and its the Bengals. Also the Cowboys only gained 272 yards of offense and was able to benefit from three fumble recoveries and I don’t think they’ll be as lucky this week as the 49ers may have a game plan that’s heavy on the run as Kyle a Shanahan tries to limit the amount of opportunities Nick Mullen’s has to turn the ball over. Raheem Mostert is dealing with another injury to his ankle but Jeff Wilson is healthy and has proven he can handle to workload as he’s averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Another factor that should help the 49ers dominate this matchup with the run game is the Cowboys have the worst ranked defense against run giving up 162.7 yards per game on the ground.
Like: 49ers -3
Buccaneers (-6) @ Falcons
Coming out of the bye last week the Buccaneers were very balanced on offense with 23 pass attempts and 22 rushing attempts which led to a comfortable win over the Vikings but this week I think we should see Tom Brady light up the stat sheet as the Falcons are ranked 30th against the pass allowing opposing teams to throw for 281.8 yards per game. Tom Brady has also shown he’s capable of lighting up bad passing defenses as he lit up the Chiefs, Panthers, Raiders and Chargers for an average of 356 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski should all have big days as Brady’s top three targets plus Ronald Jones is 100 yards away from having a 1,000 yard season. The Buccaneers defense should have no problem making the Falcons offense one dimensional as they rank 9th in total offense and 1st in stopping the run. Tampa Bay also ranks 6th in sack percentage so look for them to stop the run and force the Falcons into 3rd and longs and that defense should get to Matt Ryan and bring him down a few times.
Texans (+7.5) @ Colts
This will be the second time in three weeks that these teams will have played each other and should be more of the same results. The Colts aren’t really an explosive offense but over the last seven games they’ve scored more than 25 points six times and that’s mostly due to them winning the turnover battle in this games. Deshaun Watson doesn’t really turn the ball over much as he only has 6 interceptions to 25 touchdowns. But the Colts do have one of the top defenses in the league ranking 6th in total yards, 5th against the run and 12th in points allowed so it’s going to be hard for the Texans to move the ball on this defense. On the other side look for the Colts to continue to establish the run to set up the passing game. The Texans rank bottom 10 and worse when it comes to defending the run and pass so Phillip Rivers and this offense shouldn’t have an issue moving the ball. In their first matchup the total was set at 50 and it went under and this matchup it opened at 52.5 and has been bet down to 50.5 and I still see value on playing the under.
Like: Under 50.5
Patriots (+1.5) @ Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa coming off a decent individual performance last week against the Chiefs passing defense but this week he’s up against arguably the best coach in NFL history Bill Belichick and he seems to specialize in shutting down rookie quarterbacks. Justin Herbert is arguably having the best season any rookie quarterback has ever had and Bill Belichick made him look bad completing less than 50% of his passes while barely throwing for over 200 yards on 3.9 yards per attempt and forcing him into two interceptions and I’m looking for Belichick to do a similar thing to Tua. Cam Newton also hasn’t been the greatest throwing the ball as he’s thrown twice as many interceptions than touchdowns and has 8 games where he’s thrown for less than 200 yards including three straight games and only one passing touchdown over those last three games. Look for the Patriots to continue to establish the run as they rank 5th in rush Yards Per Game and for the Dolphins to lean on the run as well as the Patriots rank 23rd in defending the run. With both teams running the ball and playing strong defense against the pass more than the run I think it’s a strong play on the under even with it being a low total. In week 1 these teams combined to score 32 points with a total of 41.5 and oddsmakers made the wrong adjustment by opening this total at 44 and I still see value at playing the under at 41.5
Like: Under 41.5
Jaguars (+13) @ Ravens
In their last game against the Browns, Lamar Jackson’s player prop for rushing yards was set at 59.5 and he went over that total within the first quarter and I think playing his player prop for rushing yards is another strong play. The Jaguars are 30th in defending the run giving up 145.5 per game. I think Jackson has a strong chance of going over 100 yards rushing in back to back weeks. Like the Jets, the Jaguars are playing to make sure they lock up a top 2 pick for the draft so they can land Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence so they’re not trying to win and to prove that point the Jaguars are expected to start Gardner Minshew instead of Mike Glennon who was actually playing pretty well for a stretch of games.
Like: Lamar Jackson over 62.5 rushing yards
Bears (+3) @ Vikings
The Bears have had a respectable defense and it seems that reinserting Mitch Tribusky as the starter has sparked the offense as well as they’ve scored 30+ points in back to back weeks including last weeks blow out win over the Texans. Tribusky has been has averaged 267 yards and two touchdowns per game since he’s got his job back and I see that continuing as the Bears make a push for the playoffs which makes this matchup so important because if the Bears win they’ll mover in front of the Vikings and would be one game out of that extra playoff spot. The Vikings had been barely getting by before their loss last week against the Buccaneers and it’s been the defense that’s let them down. They’ve given up more than 25 points in 3 of their last 4 games and had to depend on Kirk Cousins to bail them out against the Jaguars and Panthers. He wasn’t able to pull it off against the Buccaneers because their a top 10 defense and the Bears are ranked 11th in total defense so look for a Cousins to have similar problems against this Bears defense.
Like: Bears +3
Seahawks (-6) @ Washington
Washington is on a 4 game winning streak but I think it ends here as they go up against Russell Wilson and his explosive Seahawks offense. During that four game winning streak Washington hasn’t had to face an elite offense ran by a elite quarterback and that’s what they’ll be up against with the Seahawks who 3rd in total yards, 7th in passing, 12th in rushing and 3rd in points per game. Also the Seahawks defense has improved since adding pass rusher Carlos Dunlap and Jamal Adams returned from injury. The Seahawks have held their opponents under 24 points in the last 5 games and they should keep Washington well under that number especially if Alex Smith isn’t able to play.
Like: Seahawks -6
Eagles (+6.5) @ Cardinals
The Eagles had gone six straight weeks scoring less than 24 points and in Jalen Hurts first start at quarterback not only did the Eagles score 24 points, they beat a Saints team as 7.5 point home underdogs. I think the spark that Hurts provided lasts another week at least to be able to score points on this Cardinals defense. Both teams have dual threat quarterbacks that’s hard to contain them once they’re out of the pocket and making plays with their legs as well as their arms. Kyler Murray appears to be healthy after dealing with a shoulder injury for a few weeks as he ran the ball 13 times last week. This total is around 49.5 and I think both teams should score at least 25 points apiece so I see value in playing the over.
Like: Over 49.5
Chiefs (-3) @ Saints
The Chiefs haven’t covered a spread in five straight games but I still wouldn’t want to bet against them as they’ve been able to get double digit leads in majority of those games during that span. They know that they’re the best team in the league with the best quarterback in the league and seem to be pacing themselves. This is a potential Super Bowl matchup and with Drew Brees now confirmed to play/start in this game look for the Chiefs to be motivated to play hard and send a message. I will lean KC -3 here.
Lean: Chiefs -3
Browns (+6.5) @ Giants
With the Browns coming into this matchup off of two straight weeks of playing at a high level against the Titans and Ravens I think this is a potential flat spot for them. I also think this is a potential spot for the Giants to have a bounce back performance after being blown out last week in Daniel Jones’ return from injury. He didn’t look healthy or play well with limited mobility and Joe Judge won’t have a problem going with a healthier Colt McCoy. Before being blown out last week to the Cardinals the Giants went 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games and are still in the mix to win the NFC East division so with how well they’ve been playing over the last month tells me the players are buying into first time head coach Joe Judge and I expect them rebound from last week. The Browns may be sitting at 9-4 but you can move the ball on this defense on the ground as they gave up 231 rushing yards and 7.2 yards per carry to the Ravens and the week before that they gave up 389 passing yards (64% completion, 7.7 yards per attempt) to the Titans so with the strength of this Giants team being the run game, they should be able to move the ball with Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris.
Lean: Giants +6.5
Steelers (-13) @ Bengals
The Steelers have really been struggling as of late averaging 17 points per game over their last three going 0-3 SU and ATS that might be due to how much they’ve been effected by COVID with their games being rescheduled and postponed causing them to miss out on their bye week. Playing the Bengals this week should help them bounce back but I expect the Steelers defense to play with some motivation and shut down a familiar opponent. Just as bad as the Steelers offense has been the Bengals have been worse as they’ve averaged 10.4 points per game in their last five games and in their first matchup with the Steelers they only scored 10 points. Big Ben had a great performance in that game as well throwing for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns so seeing the Bengals again should get him back on the right track.
Lean: Ben Roethlisberger over 250 passing yards