Last week I introduced a stat that the majority of people reading might not have been too familiar with - Yards Per Point (YPP). This week I would like to introduce another stat that most professional bettors use to measure the efficiency of a team, and its called 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. Now, my goal isn’t simply to introduce a new stat every week here, but it’s more or less to help you become more aware of the important numbers that professional bettors use more often than the simple and common ones out there. With these, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into my official NFL Week 5 matchup breakdowns column!
I'm also putting this again from last week's column, which is a quick primer on YPP and it's 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, and it will be important for our handicapping."
Panthers @ Falcons
Atlanta's defense was carved up by Aaron Rodgers on Sunday Night Football in Week 4 despite Rodgers missing his top two receivers in Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. It doesn’t get easier for the Falcons in Week 5, especially coming off a short week and going up against a divisional opponent that’s been playing better than what most anticipated in 2020. The Panthers are 2-2 SU and ATS while exceeding expectations with a +4.1 point differential. Carolina is covering the spread without their best player in Christian McCaffrey, too, makes things even more impressive. The Panthers were part of my teaser pick last week against the Cardinals and they won the game outright. They’re in a great spot to do it again in Week 5. The Falcons come into this game 0-4, and I believe the wrong team is favored. Teddy Bridgewater has outplayed Matt Ryan to this point and has also made more winning plays than Ryan. The new-look Panthers defense has also performed well so far against quarterbacks that have been playing above average (i.e. Brady, Herbert and Murray) and I believe that continues against Ryan and the Falcons.
Like: *Panthers +7.5 over Cardinals (*Tease by 6 points)
Bengals @ Ravens
Joe Burrow has been quite impressive in the first month of the 2020 season, but this will be the young signal-caller's toughest defense to date. The Ravens' front seven can get after quarterbacks in a hurry and create a lot of pressure, and the Bengals simply don’t do a good enough job protecting Burrow as he’s been sacked the second most in the league with 15. In order to have a chance to be competitive against the Ravens, you also have to stop the run as Baltimore ranks fifth in DVOA rushing and the Bengals, on the other hand, rank 21st in DVOA in rush defense. The Bengals might improve in that area this week though, with Geno Atkins expected to make his season debut. Lamar Jackson missed a couple practices this week but is still expected to play. This could be a good spot for the Ravens to include JK Dobbins a little more in the run game and not overuse Jackson, who was listed as questionable with knee soreness.
Lean: Ravens -13 over Bengals
Raiders @ Chiefs
The Raiders had a solid first month of the 2020 season, albeit against some tough competition. Las Vegas is 2-2 SU and ATS, and this week the team gets a favorable spot ATS as they are double digit road dogs against the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, who enter Week 5 on a short week due to their Week 4 game being moved to Monday night. While the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the league, they’ve really only looked dominant in their Week 1 game against the Baltimore Ravens. They probably should’ve lost to the Chargers, and they caught a huge break on Monday Night Football in facing the Patriots offense without Cam Newton. The defending Super Bowl champs are going to get every team's best shot, and with that, consider that the Raiders haven’t beat the Chiefs since 2017. Over the teams' last 10 head to head matchups, the Raiders have only won one game. Look for Las Vegas to play with some extra motivation here. The Raiders offense has taken advantage of weak defenses so far this season with a 13.6 Yards Per Point, and the Chiefs will be the toughest defense they’ll have faced so far. Las Vegas, however, is expected to have 1st round wide receiver and speedster Henry Ruggs back in the lineup. With Ruggs back on the field, his speed will open up the middle of the field more for Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. This is also a great opportunity for Derek Carr to solidify that he’s the quarterback of the future for this team, and Carr playing well pulling - and possibly pulling out a win - will erase any doubt that Jon Gruden might still have about him. I like the motivated Raiders to cover the +11.5 spread here.
Lean: Raiders +11.5 over Chiefs
Broncos @ Patriots
Because of the recent positive COVID-19 tests this Week 5 matchup has been moved to Monday night. The Patriots now get another day to prepare and recover, but they could still be without Cam Newton and shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore, as the latter recently tested positive for COVID. Against the Chiefs, the Patriots were able to move the able and have plenty of scoring opportunities, but because they didn’t have a quarterback that could put points on the board, they failed to cover a big number. If New England is going to be without their two best players (it's currently more than likely that Newton and Gilmore both don’t play), then I don’t see them covering a number as big as -9 or -9.5). Brett Rypien showed he was capable of moving the ball down the field and scoring points on a pretty solid defense in the Jets as the Broncos offense scored 30 points in a primetime spot on Thursday. Rypien completed 60% of his passes on 7.8 Yards Per attempt with a QBR of 63.5, which is pretty good for a quarterback's first ever NFL start. His three interceptions are mistakes that can be corrected, and if he faces a Patriots defense without its best player in Gilmore, then he should have the advantage. Rypien also showed to have a good connection with Tim Patrick, as he targeted him seven times and Patrick had six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. I look for that Rypien-to-Patrick connection to continue, as well as 1st round wide receiver Jerry Jeudy getting more involved in the passing game. I like Denver to cover as +9.5 dogs here.
Like: Broncos +9.5 over Patriots
Rams @ Washington
The Rams are 3-1 out of the gates, but keep in mind that their three wins came against teams that aren’t playing that great right now in the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants. The Rams could also be in a letdown spot here in Week 5, as during the first four weeks of the season they played two games back-to-back on the road on the east coast, and they then came back home for a game. Los Angeles is now headed back to the east coast for an early 10 a.m. (PST) game as a big road favorite. Looking ahead, the Rams also face the 49ers in Week 6, so they could get caught looking ahead to an NFC West showdown against one of their biggest rivals. Washington is another team that’s making a change at quarterback this week, going with Kyle Allen under center over Dwayne Haskins, who is likely to be inactive for Week 5 with Alex Smith serving as the team's primary backup. Ron Rivera has a lot of confidence in Allen dating back to last season - when Rivera became the head coach of Washington he had the opportunity to pursue a free agent quarterback, and he signed Allen, who is now replacing Washington’s 1st round draft pick from a year ago in Haskins. Allen, for his career, has put up some respectable numbers by completing 62% of passes and 239 passing yards per game while averaging 6.9 Yards Per attempt with a 68 QBR. Washington also has one of the better defensive front seven units and should be getting Chase Young back from injury, which will make this unit even stronger in getting after Jared Goff.
Like: *Washington +8.5 over Rams (*Upset Alert)
Jaguars @ Texans
After firing Bill O’Brien you’d expect the Houston Texans to come out for this game and play with some motivation, but I’m not confident that they will. Houston is 0-4 SU and ATS while giving up over 30 PPG. The only player worth trusting on this roster right now is Deshaun Watson. Jacksonville, on the other hand, is capable of scoring points, but they also can’t stop anybody either, as they give up 29 PPG. Look for Gardner Minshew and Deshaun Watson to have big days in the passing game as both teams rank inside the top five with nearly 65% of their teams' plays coming through the air. The over would have been a solid play if you were able to get it when it first opened at 52.5. I currently have the total set at 53, but a stronger play would be for Minshew and Watson to go over their passing yards player prop totals.
Like: Watson over 259.5 passing yards
Cardinals @ Jets
The Cardinals grabbed the market's attention during the first month of the season, especially after beating the 49ers as road underdogs in Week 1, but over their last few games they haven’t lived up to their new and lofty expectations. A lot of people were predicting Arizona as surefire playoff team after two weeks, and as even having a legit shot to win the NFC West division, which this season looks to be the toughest division in the NFL. Kyler Murray is very talented, sure, but he's still a young player in his second year. I expect him to still make some mistakes - and still make highlight reel plays, as well - as he continues to go through growing pains. The Jets finished a respectable 7-9 last season and many had their floor at a minimum of 7 wins this year, but they've had a horrible first month to the season in going 0-4 SU and ATS while losing games by an average margin of victory of -16.5 points. New York has also failed to meet expectations ATS with a point differential of -10.2. With Darnold out with an injury in Week 5 and Joe Flacco stepping as the team's temporary starter, I still don't believe much changes here. Flacco and the Jets passing game should be able to take advantage of a Cardinals pass defense that is currently ranked 23rd using the DVOA metric. During his time with the Ravens, Flacco relied a lot on his tight ends in the past, so I look for Chris Herndon to have a solid day here and eclipse his low player prop total.
Like: Chris Herndon over 35 receiving yards
Eagles @ Steelers
The betting market may think that the Eagles' win last week was a "big upset" over the 49ers, but I’m not buying it. The 49ers were coming off consecutive weeks on the road - and on the East coast - and were still dealing with a cluster of injuries, including to the most important position in football with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out. In addition to that, the 49ers are now 22-7 when Garoppolo starts and 7-22 when he doesn't. On the other side of the ball, Carson Wentz was able to do just enough against the banged up 49ers defense to pull out a win. I don’t believe that same type of performance will be enough this week, however, against this Steelers defense. Pittsburgh has defended the pass pretty well in 2020, allowing opposing QBs to complete only 59.8% of their passes and allowing a slightly above-average grade in QBR at 62.7. The Steelers are one of the most complete defenses in the league here. Their front seven can rush the passer and their defensive backs can create turnovers and breakup passes. I expect them to continue to take advantage of a below average offense in the Eagles, who are also dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball. I have this line at -9 and I think the Steelers win by 10. I'll take the host Steelers -7 as my best bet for Week 5.
Like: *Steelers -7 over Eagles (*Best Bet)
Dolphins @ 49ers
Last week the Dolphins were able to stay in the game against the Seattle Seahawks, but they settled for five field goals and were never able to get close enough for a win or a cover. This week, Miami might have better luck scoring those elusive touchdowns by going up against a still-banged up 49ers defense. With Jimmy Garoppolo now expected to be back for this game, I believe that the 49ers have the edge. Last week against the Eagles, the 49ers outgained Philadelphia (417 to 267), had more 1st downs (25 to 18) and had a better Yards Per Play (6.0 to 4.5). San Francisco lost the turnover battle and threw a costly pick six, however, and that was the difference in the game. Garoppolo was off to great start this season before his injury, posting a 78.3 QBR and playing 22.2% better than your "average" quarterback. With Jimmy G returning, plus some of his top receiving options healthy enough to play, we’ll get our first look at how explosive this 49ers passing attack really can be. The 49ers may also be getting Raheem Mostert back as well, which will improve the running game and help take advantage of a porous rush defense ranked 31st in DVOA. Look for Jimmy G to also throw the ball with ease against this soft Miami secondary.
Like: Jimmy Garoppolo over 225.5 passing yards
Giants @ Cowboys
For the first month of the season the Cowboys have not made me or my preseason predictions about them look good. Their defense has suffered a lot of injuries, and they seemingly can’t stop anybody. This has led to them to numerous comeback attempts from big deficits for Dallas, which in turn makes their offensive stats look great because they’re always playing from behind. Dak Prescott is playing on a “prove it” contract in 2020 under the franchise tag and he’s putting up great numbers, but those numbers aren't correlating to wins. The Giants offense, on the flip side, has played the NFL's second toughest schedule, according to DVOA, which has led to them producing some horrible numbers, averaging only 11 PPG in the process. Prescott should be able to take advantage of the Giants' secondary here and put up good enough numbers to go over his total for this game. The Giants simply do not have the personnel to contain Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ceedee Lamb and Dalton Schultz in the Cowboys' air attack.
Like: Dak Prescott over 300.5 passing yards
Colts @ Browns
The Colts are 3-1 and sports the NFL's top-ranked defense through four weeks, but that has come against the 25th-ranked schedule of offenses. This week, Indianapolis goes up against a Browns squad ranked 9th overall offensively, according to DVOA. Even with Nick Chubb out due to injury, Cleveland still has another supremely talented running back in Kareem Hunt, who can serve as a threat in both the passing game and running game. Under new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system, the Browns are at their best when they establish the run first and utilize the play action pass. Baker Mayfield threw for less than 200 yards last week, but keep in mind this is his third system in three years under three different coaches. So as the weeks go by, I look for Mayfield to become more comfortable and start making more plays in the passing game. This will be the toughest offense that the Colts defense has faced so far, and if they’re able to shut the Browns down, I’ll start considering them as legit.. Until then, I lean over.
Lean: Over 47 points
Vikings @ Seahawks
Kirk Cousins is coming off a good game last week in beating the Houston Texans on the road, but this week is the spot to fade him and the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins is 2-8 SU and 2-7-1 ATS on the road in prime time games for his career. Russell Wilson, on the other hand, thrives in any game, but especially under the bright lights of primetime football. Wilson and Aaron Rodgers each rank near the top of the list for early season MVP, and I expect that to continue this Sunday night as Wilson takes advantage of a Vikings defense still working in some young and inexperienced guys. The Seahawks defense might give up some yards, sure, but they can get enough stops when they need to and hold offenses to field goals instead of touchdowns, just like they did last week against the Dolphins. Field goals, however, won’t beat Wilson & Co here. While Cousins is a decent quarterback in today's NFL, he's not the type you want in a shootout. All in all, to have shot at beating a QB like Russell Wilson you have to be able to put up points, and I don’t think Cousins and this Vikings offense can keep pace here.
Like: *Seahawks -1 over Vikings (*Tease by 6 points)
Chargers @ Saints
Anthony Lynn announced this week that Justin Herbert will be the starting quarterback going forward for the Los Angeles Chargers, and I believe that was the right decision based on his play. Herbert has earned the starting job, and he's performing 21.3% better than an average quarterback in his three starts, ranking 12th overall in QBR (73.6). Using the DVOA metric, the Chargers passing offense has been quite impressive with Herbert under center. They’ve faced the fifth toughest during Weeks 2-4 and their pass offense is ranks sixth overall despite facing touch matchups. In Week 5, I look for Herbert to be able to move the ball through air against this Saints defense as well. This will be the toughest passing attack that the Saints have faced so far in 2020, as Herbert is averaging 310.3 passing yards per game while completing 72% of his passes for an 8.7 yards per attempt clip. The Chargers are also getting a great number here at +7.5, so if you can bet it early, I’d recommend you do so.
Like: Chargers +7.5 over Saints
Bills @ Titans
The Titans are getting a lot of extra rest related to COVID-19 issues, as their game last week against the Steelers was postponed and this game is now being moved to Tuesday night. Both offenses here have been performing well and putting up over 25 PPG, but each has come against the 10th easiest schedules for opposing defenses. You can only play who’s in front of you, however, and right now not many quarterbacks are playing better than Josh Allen. Allen has a QBR of 87.1 (ranks 3rd overall), is averaging 331.5 Yards Per Game (ranks 2nd overall) and has thrown for 12 touchdowns (ranks tied for 3rd). Allen is performing 42.4% better than an average quarterback according to our DVOA metrics and statistics, and with all that being said I believe that this line will be to high for me to trust the Bills defense to cover the spread. I’m also not sure how the Titans will react with not playing a game in nearly two weeks.