Two weeks ago 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 6 matchup breakdowns column. BOL!
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."
*Lions (-3.5) @ Jaguars
I think the Lions are in a favorable spot as they’re coming off a bye giving them extra time to prepare and come out with some motivation to get their season on the right track. Last week against the Saints they got off to a great start going up 14 points but unable to sustain it and lost the game by 6. This week I believe they catch a little bit of a break with the Jaguars. The Jags opened the season with a outright win against the Colts as underdogs then played a competitive game against the Titans but since then they’ve resembled the Jaguar team that many thought they’d be before the season as they’ve given up 31.3 PPG and 428.3 YPG over their last three against the Dolphins, Bengals and Texans (not your typical powerhouse offensive teams). The Jaguars are also dead last in defensive DVOA and dead last defensive Yards per play giving 6.6 YPP and 8.4 YPP in their last game against the struggling Texans. These numbers indicate to me that the Jaguars are tired and possibly looking forward to their bye week which is upcoming. Matt Stafford is a solid quarterback and he tends to perform his best against the AFC South division. Throughout his career he’s completing 64% of his passes with a 10:2 TD:INT ratio and averaging 304.4 YPG with a 7.2 YPA. He’s also faced the Jaguars twice in his career and is 2-0 while completing 69.7% of his passes and averaging 281.5 YPG so I expect Stafford’s success to continue against the Jaguars and the Lions come out of the bye with a win and solid cover.
*Best Bet: Lions -3.5 over Jaguars
Bengals (+8) @ Colts
Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense didn’t look great last week but considering the circumstances and situation they were up against I don’t think they were as bad as they looked offensively. It was Burrows first game against the best team in the division on the road in some bad weather conditions. The Bengals did manage to win the time of possession battle by almost ten minutes against the the Ravens but the 3 turnovers kept them from putting more points on the board. The Ravens were also able to exploit one of the the Bengals biggest weakness and that’s their offensive line. They brought down Burrow seven times but I don’t think the Colts have the same talent level in their front seven to replicate what the Ravens were able to do as they rank 16th in sacks compared to the Ravens being in the top 5. The Colts defense have also been able to take advantage of some easy opportunities early in season beating up on the Jets, holding the Vikings to 11 points while they worked in young players and holding the Bears to 11 points with Nick Foles taking over for Mitch Tribusky with limited practice time with the starters but in their games against teams that had their quarterback named throughout the offseason and with some form of chemistry between his skill players like the Jaguars and Browns were able to have they lost both games and gave up 29.5 PPG. I expect Burrow to have more time in the pocket this week which will lead to a bounce back performance for Cincinnati.
Like: Bengals (+14) vs. Colts (*Tease by 6 points)
Packers (-1) @ Buccaneers
With how often Aaron Rodgers was dragged through the media during the offseason and the Packers using their 1st round pick to take his replacement in this past draft, he’s come out and played with some extra motivation to prove that he’s still one of if not the best quarterbacks in the league and playing at an MVP level. The first month of the schedule was also a little favorable for Rodgers playing the Vikings week 1 with all their adjustments and two easy games against the Lions and Falcons but this weeks matchup with the Bucs should be just as competitive as the game against the Saints. Where I think the Packers hold the edge in this matchup is the play between the two quarterbacks. Tom Brady hasn’t been bad but Aaron Rodgers has returned to playing MVP level football and the other area where I think Green Bay will hold an edge is in penalties. The Buccaneers are one of the most undisciplined teams in the league as they average 8.4 (31st) penalties per game compared to the Packers who average half that at 4.8 (8th). This is something that Tom Brady didn’t have to worry about when he was with the Patriots because Bill Belichick wouldn’t allow you to play undisciplined football but since Bruce Arians has been the head coach in Tampa they’ve led the league in penalties and against a smart quarterback like Rodgers who uses a very effective hard count and loves taking advantage of free plays could be a deciding factor for the winner here.
Like: Packers (+5) vs Buccaneers (*Tease by 6 points)
Rams (-3.5) @ 49ers
It hasn’t been a good start to the season for the 49ers and injury to key players is the main reason. Last year the 49ers were able to overcome injuries and still have an average margin of victory of +10 but injuries didn’t happen until the halfway point of the season when teams had a chance to establish some type of chemistry. This year the injuries have effected the 49ers from Week 1 not allowing them to establish a rhythm or chemistry for the offense or defense. They’ve been playing without their four best cornerbacks and other key defensive players and it showed last week against the Dolphins as they were blown out. Their may be some hope that they get one of their better cornerbacks back from injury this week (Emmanuel Mosley) and that should help pairing him with Jason Verrett who’s been a bright spot for them. Jimmy Garoppolo did not look healthy returning last week but with another week of preparation and recovery he can’t look any worse than he did last week. A factor working in favor of the 49ers is last year they dominated their division going 5-1 straight up while winning both games against the Rams. They’ll also have some added motivation for this game as they were embarrassed last week at home against the Dolphins and they were one of the top three favorites to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season.
Lean: 49ers +3.5 over the Rams
Bears (+1.5) @ Panthers
The Panthers are off to a great start going 3-2 but this will be the second toughest defense they’ve faced going up against the Bears who rank 9th in opponent Yards Per Play (5.2). Back in week 2 when the Panthers played the Buccaneers (allow 4.9 yards per play ranked 3rd) they were held to 17 points and had 4 turnovers and I expect a similar performance against this Bears defense. The Bears are coming off a mini bye with their last game being on Thursday and they’ll also have more practice time for Nick Foles with the starters that will help him be more comfortable with the starters. The Bears defense did a solid job holding the Buccaneers offense to only 19 points and creating pressure on Tom Brady with Khalil Mack leading the way with two sacks and I expect that continue. Over the last 3 seasons the Bears have played pretty well in games when the line is between +3 to -3 with a 9-5 straight up record and 8-6 ATS and they’ve also played well against the NFC South division going 3-1 straight up and ATS so with them being short road underdogs I’m looking for them to get the win outright over the Carolina Panthers.
Like: Bears (+1.5) vs. Panthers
Broncos (+9.5) @ Patriots
News is that Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore both returned to practice and are expected to play giving New England a boost on offense and defense but Drew Lock also returned to practice and is expected to play as well giving the Broncos offense and more specifically in their passing game a boost. Rypien didn’t play horrible in his one start leading the Broncos offense to a 30 point effort (pick six by the defense) albeit against the Jets, this week will be a tougher task but with Drew Lock back under center I like him to make enough plays with the weapons surrounding him to stay within the number. The Broncos could be without Gordon due to him being arrested for a DUI but they’ll also get Phillip Lindsay back healthy and before his run of injuries he was the Broncos lead back. The Patriots are allowing opposing running backs 4.4 yards per carry and in a win against another AFC West opponent, the Patriots allowed Josh Jacobs to run for 71 yards averaging 4.4 YPC. The Patriots also faced the Chiefs (another AFC west opponent) and their lead back Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged 4 YPC and a total of 64 yards. I expect for the Broncos to lean more on the run to take pressure off their young quarterback and set up the play action pass. With Gilmore more than likely playing this game Bill Belichick likes to put him on others teams second best receiver and double team the best receiver but the Broncos have a number of different options that can make plays in the passing game with Jeudy, Patrick Hamler, Hamilton and Fant who benefited from an additional week to get healthy and Vic Fangio says he’s “50-50” to play. Over the past three seasons the Patriots have been 11-8 ATS when the line fell between 3.5 to 9.5 points but that was with Tom Brady and you could rely on him throw more compared to Newton. With Newton as the quarterback now the Patriots want to lean more on the run and the Denver Broncos do a solid jump allowing opposing running backs 4.2 YPC that ranks 11th overall.
Like: Broncos (+9.5) over Patriots
Browns (+3.5) @ Steelers
The Browns are off to a hot start but their four wins have come against teams that are a combined 7-12-1 and if they want to be considered one of the legit teams in football they’ll need a win against the undefeated Steelers. Baker Mayfield has a QBR of 78.4 that ranks 8th in the league but he’s performing 7% worse than an average quarterback compared to Ben Roethlisberger who ranks 20th in QBR with a 62 rating but is performing 16.5% better than an average quarterback according to DVOA. These numbers tell me that Roethlisberger has been playing better individually against tougher defenses in tougher situations and I think that will be the deciding factor in this game. With the Steelers going 8-8 last year with Roethlisberger missing pretty much all season a lot of people felt that even with average quarterback play the Steelers would’ve been a playoff team and now with Roethlisberger returning healthy he’s proving to be the difference maker. He’s completing 69% of his passes (ranks 9th), averaging 254 YPG (ranks 17th) and ten touchdown passes (ties for 7th) with only one interception. Baker Mayfield has been at his best when the Browns have been able to establish the run first then setup the pass but that will be difficult against the stingy Steelers defense that only allow opposing teams running backs 3.3 YPC (ranks 2nd). I think this will cause the Browns to be in more 3rd and long situations than they would like forcing Mayfield to make throws down the field and the Steelers passing defense is just as good as their run defense only allowing 237.5 YPG (15th), 8:6 TD:INT and tied for first in sacks with 20. With the pressure the Steelers defense will be able to put on Baker Mayfield I think he forces some throws and makes some misreads that’ll lead to a couple turnovers and end up being the difference in the game. The Steelers are 5-1-1 SU and 2-4-1 ATS over the last three years against the Browns but the average line in those games was around Steelers -5 this line opened up Steelers -3 suggesting that the Browns have closed the gap over the years and these teams are even on a neutral field - and I disagree with that sentiment.
Like: Steelers (-3.5) over Browns
Cardinals (-2) @ Cowboys
With Dak Prescott out for the year and the Cowboys turning to Andy Dalton many would think that it’s gonna be a drop off but it won’t be as much of a drop off as people would think. During his time with the Bengals Dalton completed 62% of his passes, had a 204:118 TD:INT ratio while winning 53% of the games he started in (pretty solid considering its the Bengals) now he’ll be surrounded with the best collection of talent he’s probably had at any point of his career. He can lean on the running game with Zeke in the backfield and if defenses try to load the box and take away the run he’ll have a trio of talented receivers in Cooper, Gallup and Lamb (even the tight end Schultz) that he can get the ball to. With the Cardinals opening the season with a win over a banged up 49ers team they started to become overrated and it showed in their losses to the Lions and Panthers in back to back weeks. Their wins against the Jets and Washington were not impressive considering how bad those teams are and if the 49ers are able to get healthy at some point i believe their second matchup will have a different outcome. The Cowboys defense has been terrible up to this point giving 5.8 yards per play (ranks 21st) but they weren’t that bad last week against the Giants only allowing 300 total yards and 4.8 yards per play but they did allow to many points and need to improve on third down (Giants converted 7/13 tries last week). For the first week playing without Dak I think this defense will rally and play with some motivation to keep this Cardinals offense in check and build on the win from last week. This line opened up at Cowboys -3 and quickly swung to Cardinals -2 with the injury news to Dak and has been bet down to 1.5 recently. Dak is valuable to the line but I don’t think he’s worth that many points of line movement with the Cowboys having the best backup quarterback in the league.
Like: Cowboys (+2) vs. Cardinals
Texans (+3.5) @ Titans
With all the issues and setbacks the Titans have had over the last couple weeks most people thought they wouldn’t play well on Tuesday night but they came out and put up 42 points on the Bills who were undefeated coming into that game. Now they’re heading into week 6 in a super short rest situation but the Texans are coming off their first win of the season after their head coach was fired so I’m expecting a let down spot for both teams. The lone bright spot for this Texans team is Deshaun Watson. He’s averaging 290.2 YPG (ranks 9th), completing 66.9% of his passes (ranks 18th) and averaging 8.9 YPA (ranks 2nd). The Texans find themselves down a lot and most of the time by double digits in the second half which leads to Watson having to try and throw them back into the game which makes for Watson’s total passing yards over a strong play again this week. The Texans are also throwing the ball 63.8% of the time this season (5.9% more than last year). The Titans defense hasn’t been as good this year compared to last year especially in the passing game where they allow opposing quarterbacks to throw for 261 YPG (ranks 21st) and 295 YPG at home.
Like: Deshaun Watson total passing yards over 270
Washington (+2.5) @ Giants
Kyle Allen was quickly knocked out of the game last week against the Rams and after demoting Dwayne Haskins to the third string Alex Smith entered the game and finished it. It was nice to seem him return to the field and overcome all the obstacles it took to get to that point but the Washington offense wasn’t able to do anything against the Rams defense and the one that probably suffered the most was their underrated receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin only had three catches for 26 yards while Smith was under pressure all game. This week should be a better spot for him to have a big game with Kyle Allen returning to be the starter and going up against a Giants front seven that doesn’t cause nearly the amount of presser as the Rams do. Last week the Giants secondary allowed a rookie receiver in Ceedee Lamb catch eight of his eleven targets for 124 yards. Washington doesn’t have as many talented receivers as the Cowboys do so McLaurin should see a large amount of the targets in Week 6.
Lean: Terry McLaurin over 65 total receiving yards
Falcons (+4) @ Vikings
Teams typically come out and play with extra motivation after firing their coach and the Falcons not only fired their head coach Dan Quinn but they also fired their General Manager. One of the reasons I think you see teams play with added motivation after a coach is fired is because the players are left with no choice to send a message to the owner that they weren’t the reason they weren’t meeting expectations as a team and they’re able to rally together at least for a week and play hard and I think that’s what the Falcons will do in Week 6. The Vikings want to establish the run to setup the pass with play action regardless if Dalvin Cook plays or not because they have another pretty good running back in Alexander Mattison and the Falcons offense is more efficient when they can be more of a balanced offense instead of depending on Matt Ryan so much in the passing game. So with both teams at their best when the run game is going first I think a play to the under is where I lean for this game. Todd Gurley had his most productive day as a member of the Falcons going for 121 yards on 14 carries and with the Vikings allowing opposing teams to rush for 132.6 YPG (ranks 24th) I expect both teams doing their best to establish the run.
Lean: Vikings/Falcons total under 54 points
Ravens (-7.5) @ Eagles
Lamar Jackson hasn’t looked as nearly as dominant as he did last year when he won the MVP but with that being said this Eagles defense is the type of defense he can take full advantage of while they’re still dealing with at least seven key players out this week and a few others questionable. Even though the Ravens won and covered a big spread last week Jackson didn’t play well only completing 51% of his passes for 180 yards and one interception (did throw for two touchdowns) and considering the weather conditions Jackson only ran the ball twice. I expect him to play better this week and rush the ball more than two times but this is another big number to cover on the road this week with the Ravens catching majority of the tickets and probably will increase the closer to game time.
Lean: Ravens (-7.5) over Eagles
Jets (+9.5) @ Dolphins
If their ever was a time to bet on the Jets it would be this week and this week only. There’s no statistical data that would support this decision but only betting logic. Everyone can see that the Jets are the worst team in football right now and Adam Gase is probably the favorite of coaches to be fired next but the Jets are getting 9.5 points against a Dolphins team that played above their expectations while blowing out an injured super bowl contender last week so they can be in a letdown spot because as bad as the Jets have been, the Dolphins are not 9.5 points better than anybody. This is also a division rivalry game and the Jets are getting less than 35% of the tickets in this game.
Lean: Jets (+9.5) over Dolphins
Chiefs (-5) @ Bills
The Chiefs are coming off a rare division loss at home and could be playing with some added motivation because they don’t lose often. They’re also in a great spot to take advantage of the Bills as they’re coming into week 6 on super short rest with playing on Tuesday night and getting embarrassed. The Bills had a top 5 defense last year but that’s not the case this year as they rank 27th in overall DVOA for defense. They have gone up against the ninth toughest schedule for offenses but that doesn’t get any easier going up against this Chiefs offense that’s averaging almost 30 PPG. The Bills got off to a great start and the play of Josh Allen took the attention away from they haven’t really beat anybody that good yet and didn’t look nearly as dominant as their record would indicate. A lot of different factors could of played a part in them getting blown out by Titans but they did have tough games against the Rams and Raiders and the Raiders just went into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs as double digit underdogs. Even though the Chiefs are getting over 70% of the tickets I think that’s the only side to be on for this game and you should bet it now if you like the Chiefs because the number will probably be closer to 6/6.5 approaching game time.
Like: Chiefs (-5) over Bills