Through six weeks this year, the underdogs dominated. They came out a scorching 51-36-2 ATS. Even more fascinating was that 38 of the 51 underdogs won their games outright. Fast Forward to week 14 where the number has leveled out with the historic run for favorites over a months span. Favorites sit at 96-84-8 ATS in 2017. This week, brings us one of the most competitive weeks of the season, with only one spread crossing the 6 point number(Patriots-11). This week we play dog catcher, as we believe a few teams are getting too many points.
The Titans are coming off a miraculous cover vs. division rival Houston. The final score won’t tell the story of Derrick Henry breaking a yard 75-yard run to cover the spread when the Titans were simply trying to gain a first down to run out the clock. The Texans had no choice but to sell out, but they left nobody to catch him once he reached and the rest is history. That is what the Titans have been all year long. With an 8-4 record, Tennesse might be the league’s most vulnerable squad with a winning record.
This week Tennesse takes its 2-4 ATS road record to Arizona, a team that matches up well vs. the Titans strengths. The Titans offense as a unit is in the middle tier sitting at 16th in overall DVOA according to Football Outsiders. Weighing them down is the lack of support from the passing game. Tennesse rumbles for 4.5 yards per carry on the ground. The two-headed backfield tallies 122.1 rush yards a game. The ground game is something Tennesse leans on to avoid turnovers as they only have two fumbles from the Running back position in 2017, while the quarterback position, is accountable for 14 turnovers this year. Where Arizona holds a considerable edge, is their rush defense is ranked 5th overall in weighted DVOA and 4th vs. the run.
If the Titans ground game is unable to have success on early downs, Marcus Mariota will be called upon to win the game with his arm. The former Oregon standout, owns a 10 to 12 Touchdown to Interception ratio this year, while taking 19 sacks. The Cardinals aren’t exactly bad defending the pass either, where they rank 11th in DVOA and get their leader Patrick Peterson back also boosting the special teams. The Titans have a -16 point differential while playing the leagues 30th ranked strength of schedule coming into the season. The Cardinals defense will be enough to keep them in this game giving value to +3.
Eagles+3 (buy hook to if 2.5)
The Eagles only put up 10 points in a primetime matchup, that many had eyes on. Philadelphia moved the ball the entire night totaling 25 first downs and 446 total yards, 348 of which Carson Wentz was responsible for. Being unable to finish drives and a fumble by the goal line was all the difference. It’s something we all saw coming and the line told us just that, steaming from Seahawks +6 to+3 by game time. On Sunday night, vintage Russell Wilson was able to create outside the pocket, creating plays and drawing defensive penalties. He had inventive moments that I’m not sure Jared Goff will be able to replicate.
According to Pro Football Focus, Russell Wilson was under pressure on 16 of his 36 dropbacks Sunday night, but the pressure didn’t affect the elusive quarterback as he completed 64% of his passes tacking on three scores. Yes, the team has vastly improved, but this is a Rams team that was dead last in quarterback pressure rate last year (40%). We know the Rams are good on both sides of the ball but where they can be punished, is on the ground. They rank 26th overall vs. the run and give up an average of 4.7 yards per rush. The Eagles rank 9th in rushing, plowing for 143.3 yards per game.
On defense, Philadelphia owns the 3rd best weighted DVOA, stopping Todd Gurley won’t be a problem for a defense that has only allowed one rusher to eclipse the century mark. The Eagles haven’t allowed a touchdown to a running back since week four against the Chargers. Do the Rams have what it takes to play in a marquee matchup? Does the missing practice time due to the fires in California hurt the team? The line implies they are only about a half-point better than the Eagles, on a neutral field I don’t believe that to be true. Give me Wentz to bounce back in a big time way.
Motivation is a stat that doesn’t show up on scoreboards. Before the overhaul of staff in New York, The Cowboys sat as 6.5 point road favorites on the look-ahead line. As soon as the announcement of the firing of Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese, the line plummeted to Giants +4.5. The line movement agrees with our theory that the team will want to show improvements under interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. As Defensive coordinator, Spag was a big reason the Giants were 11-5 last year. In 2016, The Giants commanded the #2 defense in weighted DVOA. The remainder of the year will serve as an audition for the former coordinator. If the players want him long term, they will give maximum effort.
If any extra motivation was needed, insert the return of “angry” Eli Manning. After losing his streak of consecutive games started, he is back under center and his teammates, as well as the state of New York, can breathe again. I see an opportunity against a Dallas team that has struggled to score if we take away last weeks game vs. the Redskins. It’s not easy for a team to pull away from an opponent if it doesn’t put up many points. Since 2010, the Cowboys are 20-26 ATS in divisional games. The Giants are 5-3 when playing the role of home dog since 2015. The return of Eli, paired with the coaching change will be just enough to keep this a one-score game. Don’t be surprised if Manning works magic and pulls out an outright victory.
Total of the Week
Chiefs vs. Raiders over 48
Week 7, these two teams squared off in a shootout that ended 31-30. Since then nothing has changed, as both sides struggle to stop opposing teams. The Raiders sit at the very bottom of league ranked #32 in defensive weighted DVOA. Kansas City is not much better at #30. The Chiefs struggled mightily defending the pass, where they give up 252 yards per game (28th). Now, let’s take away the best defensive back Marcus Peters and what we have is the Oakland receivers running rampant all over the field. Tamba Hali has struggled to be on the field consistently, and it’s hurt the pass rush. Tack that on to the Raiders 12th ranked offensive line that’s only allowed Carr to be sacked 27 times. Just as quick as Oakland can score, that will put that 32nd ranked defense back out on the field. Alex Smith just beat the Jets secondary for four scores his last time out, look for the same Sunday. The losing team in the game will score at least 24 points.