Editor's Note: Hello friends, this is your editor-in-chief/fantasy director Chris Dell here again to introduce you to our special Friday/Saturday edition of Smoove's NFL Matchup Breakdowns column. For the rest of Smoove's Week 16 breakdowns, simply check our home page for the link to the remaining Sunday and Monday matchups. That will be posted by Saturday afternoon at the latest on the website. We also have two additional/special editions for this week's Saturday two-game slate, which includes our staff's DFS Top Plays and my own Chris Dell's Top Player Props. Our normal, full editions for each article will be released, per usual, over the weekend, including DFS on Saturday night (for Sunday) and Player Props on Sunday morning (for Sunday's main slate). A lot of new projects and content packages are currently in the works at the Betting Predators, as well as some cool new merch and hoops content for the 2020-21 NBA and college basketball seasons. Stay tuned on Twitter @BetPredators as we will be announcing updates on everything very shortly. We greatly appreciate everyone tuning into the podcast, reading the articles, sharing and subscribing, retweeting, etc., as it has been a wild, fun ride so far. Our only goal as we grow is to continue to provide you with the highest quality of content, analysis and strategy, no matter the sport. Now, without further adieu, Mr. Smoove take it away with your Week 16 matchup breakdowns column!
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. Also 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 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. I will reference this stat quite often here on this column below.
Vikings (+7) @ Saints
Dalvin Cook has gone over 100 yards eight different times this year, including three straight times in each of his last three games. In order to keep this New Orleans Saints defense guessing, I believe he’ll need another effort like that as the Minnesota Vikings try and pull off a miracle to get into the playoffs. The Saints are coming off a couple weeks where they’ve allowed opposing ball carriers to go over 100 yards with both Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts eclipsing that mark for the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as the Kansas City Chiefs' running back tandem of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and LeVeon Bell. With Cook being the second leading rusher in the league, I’m banking on him going over 100 in this spot. I also believe it’s a strong play to take his player prop of over 80.5 rushing yards. Cook has carried the ball 20 or more times this year in nine games and he’s gone over 100 yards in eight of those games. I expect more of the same.
Like: Dalvin Cook Over 80.5 rushing yards
Buccaneers (-9.5) @ Lions
Last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to come back from a 17-point second half deficit led by Tom Brady's arm. But the Bucs don’t want to make that too much of a habit as the 2020 regular season winds down and the playoffs rapidly approach. The Detroit Lions are technically out of playoff contention by being three games back for the final NFC wild card spot, so I don’t believe they'll have much to play for and I don’t expect them to have much motivation in this spot. The Buccaneers defense was pretty good earlier in the season, but over its last four games Tampa Bay has been up against some tough offenses and has given up more than 25 points to each of their last four opponents. This Tampa defense will have some motivation to go out and produce some dominating performances going into the playoffs against teams with nothing to play for like the Lions and Atlanta Falcons in Weeks 16-17. This Lions team total is set at 22 and I believe there’s value on that, especially with Matthew Stafford's overall health in question.
Lean: Lions team total under 22 points -113
49ers (+5) @ Cardinals
Even as great of a coach as Kyle Shanahan is with putting together the right game plan and scheming guys open, he still needs a quarterback that can accurately get them the ball without turning it over so. Without Jimmy Garoppolo healthy, the San Francisco 49ers simply don’t have a quarterback capable of doing that. Nick Mullens continues to have multiple turnovers in games he starts and is most likely out for this matchup after injuring his elbow in Week 16. Now we’ll see CJ Beathard under center, who isn’t much better than Mullens either way. The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a hard fought and emotional win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, so this could be a potential flat spot and lookahead spot to next week against the division rival Los Angeles Rams. Arizona has had the 49ers' number the last few matchups, even when San Francisco was the superior team in 2019. With Kyler's shoulders back to full health, he should ball out against a team without much left to play for. It's just tough to bet against Shanahan & Co when the pressure is off and everyone is counting them out. Because of that, consider this a pass for me.
Dolphins (-3) @ Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders needed to win all three of their remaining games to give themselves the best shot at getting into the playoffs, but with a loss last week to the Los Angeles Chargers, they’re more than likely to miss out on the postseason again. Their Week 16 opponent, however, is the Miami Dolphins, a team on the verge of making the postseason for the first time since 2017. Derek Carr is likely out here dealing with a groin injury, so look for the all-star Hawaiian matchup between Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa in this AFC battle. Mariota looked good in relief duty against the Chargers on Thursday Night Football in Week 15, throwing for 226 yards and rushing for another 88 while accounting for two total touchdowns. Tua wasn’t needed much last week against the New England Patriots, but in the two weeks prior he looked to be getting into a nice passing rhythm against both the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. In those two games he threw for 296 yards and 316 yards, respectively, and now he gets a Raiders secondary all year ranking in the bottom 10 of the league and giving up 259.6 yards per game through the air to go along with 24 touchdown passes and just10 interceptions. Tua should have another big passing day here, and the improvement of the Dolphins defense has allowed this team to be in the position to lock down a 2020 playoff spot. Miami's secondary has forced 16 interceptions while allowing opposing quarterbacks to have just a 83.9 quarterback rating. Look for the Dolphins to shut down the Raiders run game and forcer them to become one dimensional. I expect a few Mariota turnovers in this game, too.
Lean: Dolphins ML