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.
Bills (-7) @ Patriots **Best Bet**
This might be a public play but I love the spot the Bills are in for this matchup. The Bills clinched the AFC East division last week by blowing the Broncos out and the Patriots were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week also in their loss against the Dolphins but this is a great opportunity for the Bills to kick a team when they’re down a lot like the Dolphins did last week. The Patriots has dominated this division over the 20 years by winning 18 division titles, making 9 super bowl appearances and coming away with 6 super bowl wins while having the greatest quarterback of all time cruise through the AFC East division. Now that the Patriots are having a down season this is the perfect time for the good teams in that division to get their form of revenge. Josh Allen has played at an unbelievable level throwing for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns while having the 3rd best QBR. He should be familiar with Bill Belichick’s defensive looks and shouldn’t have any issues continuing his high level of play as he’s a top 5 MVP candidate.
Best Bet: Bills -7
Rams (+1.5) @ Seahawks **Teaser Pick**
The Rams made a fool out of me last week as I picked them for my best bet as 17 point favorites and they had a historical loss to the Jets. It was later stated by Sean McVay and Jared Goff that the Rams pretty much didn’t prepare for that game and was looking to this matchup with the Seahawks as it more than likely decides who wins the NFC West. A couple things that worries me about backing the Rams again as short road dogs is they’ll be without Cam Akers who had suddenly emerged as their best running back and that Jared Goff is overrated. Before last week the Jets had been allowing opposing quarterbacks a QBR of 74.2 and Goff had a QBR of 18.8 against that Jets defense so I’m counting on that defense of the Rams and the group of running backs to make up for the loss of Cam Akers a lot like they did in their first matchup as 2.5 point favorites and held the Seahawks to 16 points.
Like: Rams +7.5 **Tease by 6**
Dolphins (-3) @ Raiders
The Raiders needed to win all three of their remaining games to give themselves the best shot at getting into the playoffs and with a loss last week to the Chargers they’re more than likely to miss out on the postseason again while their opponent, the Dolphins look motivated to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2017. Derek Carr is likely out dealing with a groin injury so look for the Hawaiian matchup between Marcus Mariotta and Tua Tagovailoa. Mariotta looked good in relief duty against the Chargers throwing for 226 yards and rushing for another 88 while accounting for two touchdowns. Tua wasn’t needed to have a big game last week against the Patriots but in the two weeks prior he looked to be getting into a nice passing rhythm against the Chiefs and Bengals as he threw for 296 yards and 316 yards. The Raiders have had one of the worst secondaries all year ranking in the bottom 10 giving up 259.6 yards per game through the air and giving up 24 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions so Tua should have another big passing day. The improvement to the Dolphins defense has allowed to be in the position to lock down a playoff spot as they’ve pretty much force s turnover in every game this year and the secondary has given up 16 touchdowns but forced 16 interceptions while allowing opposing quarterbacks to have a 83.9 quarterback rating. Look for the Dolphins to shutdown the Raiders run game and make them be one dimensional and force another turnover off of Marcus Mariotta.
Lean: Dolphins ML
Buccaneers (-9.5) @ Lions
Last week the Buccaneers were able to come back from a 17 point second half deficit led by Tom Brady but they don’t want to make that too much of a habit. The Lions are technically out of playoff contention by being three games back for the final wildcard spot so I don’t think they have much to play for and don’t expect them to have much motivation. The Buccaneers defense was pretty good earlier in the season but over their last four games they’ve been up against some tough offenses and has given up more than 25 points to each of their last four opponents and I think the defense will have some motivation to go out and dominating performances going into the playoffs against teams with nothing to play for. The Lions team total is set at 22 and favored to go under at -113 and I think there’s value on that.
Lean: Detroit Lions team total under 22 points
49ers (+5) @ Cardinals
Even as great of a coach Kyle Shanahan is with putting together a game plan and scheming guys open, he still needs a quarterback that can accurately get them the ball without turning the ball over so much and without Jimmy Garoppolo healthy the 49ers don’t have a quarterback capable of doing that. Nick Mullens continues to have multiple turnovers in games he’s started and is most likely out for this matchup after injuring his elbow so well see CJ Beathard who isn’t much better than Mullens. The Cardinals are coming off a hard fought and emotional win over the Eagles last week so this could be a potential flat spot and look ahead spot to next week against the Rams as they’ve had the 49ers number the last few matchups against them
Bears (-7.5) @ Jaguars
Since Mitch Trubisky has been reinserted into the starting lineup the Bears offense has looked a lot better scoring 30 or more points in three out of four games. They’ve all come against bad teams that won’t be in the playoffs so going up against a Jaguars team with nothing to play for and looking to secure the number one pick in the draft, Trubisky should continue his great play of late. The one thing that concerns me is this could be a potential look ahead spot for the Bears as they have a matchup with the Packers in the final week of the regular season so they could come out a lot like the Rams did against the Jets last week so this is more than likely a pass for me.
Colts (-1.5) @ Steelers
The Steelers poor play on offense could be attributed to a lot of different things. They really haven’t been able to have a true bye week so far this year, a couple key stagers got hurt and aren’t expected to return this year, their offensive line that’s ranked top 5 or better over the years is suddenly looking old and during the stretch of games they’ve played some really good defenses in Washington and Baltimore but in their last game against the Bengals was a head scratching performance. Many (including myself) thought that was a “get right” spot for Pittsburgh as they’ve dominated in the Bengals in the past and they had the most rest heading into this game compared to their previous ones but that was probably their worst performance. Now the competition doesn’t get easier this week going up against the Colts and the betting market would agree as the Steelers opened as 3 point favorites and are now current,y 1.5 point home underdogs with the Steelers getting 98% of the money and slightly more than 2/3 of the tickets. This seems like the right time to back the Steelers with everybody against them and counting them out but they haven’t shown any signs that would justify backing them in this spot.
Lean: Colts -1.5
Giants (+10.5) @ Ravens
The Giants has been playing well before their recent two game losing streak to the the Cardinals and Browns. Daniel Jones seem like he rushed back from a groin injury to early and wasn’t able to unlock every part of his game against the Cardinals and the Giants went with Colt McCoy against the Browns but he wasn’t able to get the job done either barley completing 60% of his passes with a 82 quarterback rating and only scoring 6 points. Now they have to deal with a desperate Ravens team that needs to win the remaining of their games to secure a spot in the playoffs. Gus Edwards is an important piece to the Ravens running game and his rushing player prop is set at 40.5 -124 and he’s gone over that number in his last three games on limited carries and I like his chances to go over that total again as I think the Giants defense will be more focused on stopping Lamar Jackson and JK Dobbins and I think they’ll relax a little bit when they see Edwards come into the game.
Lean: Gus Edwards over rushing yards 40.5
Falcons (+10.5) @ Chiefs
It’s amazing how talented the Chiefs are and they’ve gone 13-1 straight up so far this year but they failed to cover a spread in their last six games while having double digit leads in most if not all of those games. This tells me that they just seemed to get bored during games and managed to do just enough to hang on to the win and move on to the next week looking to get ready for the playoffs. The Chiefs depend on Patrick Mahomes to be at his best every game and he has been while on his way to winning his second MVP award most likely and his passing yard player prop is set at a pretty high number at 326.5. He’s only gone over that total once in his last three games and since they’ll be without Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a few weeks this could possibly be a spot for the Chiefs to give Le'Veon Bell 20 carries or more so he could get into a good rhythm carrying the ball going into the playoffs so I see some value on playing that number under.
Lean: Patrick Mahomes under 326.5 passing yards
Browns (-9.5) @ Jets
With the Jets coming off probably the most historic win as underdog of 17 points and possibly ruining their chances of getting the number one overall pick this could possibly be a letdown spot and with the Browns having a Week 17 matchup with the Steelers that could possibly be for the the AFC North division crown this could possibly be a look ahead spot for them. Baker Mayfield has done a great job so far this year running Kevin Stefanski’s offense in the first year and he hasn’t have to carry it himself as he is able to depend on an elite running game with the tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb missed some weeks during the season but since he’s returned the offense has looked a lot better as they became full strength. For me it’s hard to find value playing either side for this matchup so it’ll be a pass for me as I think they’ll be more value on the Browns next week against the Steelers.
Bengals (+7.5) @ Texans
All year long the Texans offense has been super dependent on Deshaun Watson having a big day through the air as they rank top 5 passing play percentage and he’s consistently gone over his player prop passing yard total but this week I think there’s some value on his rushing yard player prop of 27.5 -124 to go over as he’s averaging 28 rushing yards per game and his backfield as well as his receivers are banged up. Also the Bengals give up 128.4 rushing yards per game (ranking 26th) so all it would take is for Watson to keep the ball on a couple RPOs and get loose downfield to go over this number and he’s more than capable of pulling that off.
Like: Deshaun Watson over rushing yards 27.5 -124
Broncos (+3.5) @ Chargers
Justin Herbert is having arguably the best season by a rookie quarterback that’s ever been played and I think that should continue against the Broncos team. The Broncos are out of playoff contention but I think they’ll come out and be motivated to play hard as they were blown out last week by the Bills and players are playing for their roster spots for next season on this team. It also looks like the public is heavily backing the Chargers and that’s hard for me to do as I don’t trust this defense or the head coach. There is value on Herbert’s player prop passing yards set at 256.5 over -125 as he’s averaging 290 passing yards per game and the Chargers offense is at their best when he’s putting it in the air.
Like: Justin Herbert Over 256.5 passing yards
Panthers (+1) @ Washington
This Pick is all dependent on if Alex Smith is healthy enough to play this week. If he is it’s a pass for me but if he doesn’t and Dewayne Haskins is forced to play I like the Panthers. Haskins has now been exposed that he’s not a NFL caliber quarterback from his skill set and he benefited from being surrounded by 1st-3rd round talent while he was at Ohio State. He also doesn’t have the intangibles of being a leader as he continues to make poor decisions off the field as he was seen partying at club without a mask after last weeks game against the Seahawks. The Panthers have been in one position games in 9 out of their 14 games so give a lot of credit to Matt Rhule for having the Panthers play hard and try to establish a culture in his first year as a head coach.
*Like: Panthers +1 (*if Haskins plays/starts)
Eagles (-2.5) @ Cowboys
Jalen Hurts seems to look more comfortable with each snap that he takes and it’s been stated from the credible people that the Eagles players seem to be playing harder for Hurts than they did for Wentz because they feel Hurts is a better leader and he looks to be able to make the plays that Carson Wentz couldn’t make consistently. Hurts is coming off a game against the Cardinals where they had a chance to win it late on a hail Mary and he played great throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown and now he’ll get to face a Cowboys defense that ranks dead last in defending the run that gives up 161.8 yards per game so I expect Hurts to be a threat again in the running game. His player prop for passing yards at 230.5 has some good value to go over as well.
Like: Eagles -2.5 & Jalen Hurts Over 230.5 passing yards
Titans (+3.5) @ Packers
There’s a couple great matchups this week but this is the game of the week as both teams offenses rank inside the top 5 averaging over 400 yards of offense and both teams average 31 points per game. Green Bay is more explosive and balanced with the pass and the run and the Titans are explosive in the running game led by Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill has shown he’s capable of exposing weak pass defenses with AJ Brown and Corey Davis. Mike Vrabel has shown to be one of the smartest coaches in the league with his ability to manage the clock and play calling and that will come in handy for this matchup as they try and slow down this Packers offense with the 26th ranked defense that gives up nearly 400 yards of offense and allows a 52.6% 3rd conversion rate to opposing offenses. In order for them to slow down this offense they’ll need help from their own offense and in particular Derrick Henry. The Packers have improved their rushing defense this year ranking 11th but this will be the best rushing attack they’ve seen all year and they do have a history of being dominated by elite rushing attacks (49ers twice last year) so if the Titans are able to establish Henry early then I think Tannehill will be able to continue his great play in the passing game with his weapons on the outside.
Like: Titans +3.5