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We told you we were going to have a comeback week and damn did we deliver. We are coming off a steaming hot 6-1 week where we dominated books. With a lot of big spreads, the board is a little tougher this week. I decided to avoid all games that have been impacted by Covid, so you won't be seeing me write about Chiefs-Raiders, Broncos and Patriots and Steelers-Eagles.
A couple housekeeping notes before we get to the picks. First, remember, if you're gambling this weekend, be sure to use our friends at MyBookie. If you use the promo code "TORRES" MyBookie automatically doubles your first deposit. So you want to put $50 on Kansas City this week - MyBookie will give you $100 to play with if you use the promo code "TORRES" at checkout. It's the best deal going in sports gambling.
Also, in place of writing about a trend of the week, we are going to open up with an analytics glossary. The whole point of this column was to give you guys subscription level information free. We are going to breakdown a few stats every other week to give you guys more context and understanding of how we handicap games. Here are three of the most common analytics we have referenced so far.
DVOA: Is a ranking system created by Football Outsiders that stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which are essentially defensive rankings which are adjusted to take into account the quality of offensive opponents and vice versa. DVOA metrics and processes are routinely adjusted year to year and are sometimes adjusted in season.
Here is the exact definition per FootballOutsiders.com: “DVOA breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality."
DVOA is one of the main stats bookmakers track in developing power ratings, which eventually leads to how they create lines. It’s the reason why we prefer to use DVOA instead of traditional yardage rate power rankings. It’s one of the only stats that factors in context of the situation on the field.
Adjusted Line Yards (ALY): Another static from Football Outsiders that measures the strength of an offensive lines run blocking ability. Football Outsiders explains adjusted line yards as the “Statistic that attempts to, even to a small extent, separate the ability of a running back from the ability of the offensive line. “ ALY essentially calculates the averaging rushing yards the offensive line is responsible for. It is a way that measures the offensive line's ability to get push and move up to the second level blocking. There is an old saying great football teams dominate in the trenches. ALY gives us a measurable stat to see which teams are doing just that.
Success Rate: An emerging popular stat that is the cornerstone of every NFL analytical department in the league. Success Rate is a major tool that measures efficiency and determines if each individual play is categorized as “successful” into the overall goal of scoring/preventing touchdowns. Using success rates to measure efficiency is better than using traditional yards per play because it adds a layer of context to the play; down and distance to go. For example, a two yard rush on 3 and 1- would be graded as "successful" since it moves the chains. But a 10-yard draw or screen pass on 3 and 15 would not be graded as unsuccessful, despite gaining 10 yards because it doesn’t accomplish anything in the grand scheme of things. Success rate is calculated in this manner: A play is successful when it gains at least 40 percent of yards-to-go on first down, 60 percent of yards-to-go on second down and 100% of yards-to-go on third or fourth down.
Now onto the picks:
Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns
Spread: Indianapolis (-1.5)
The wrong team is favored in this one. We have seen a lot of sharp money early on the Browns this week. This line is going to continue to go down and it was already a pick 'em at other shops. This is one of the few times where the Browns have an advantage at quarterback and one of the few matchups where the Colts won’t have an opportunity to dominate the line of scrimmage.
I know there is a lot of hype surrounding the Colts defense. To their credit they have been pretty elite so far- leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed (236.3), points (14.0) allowed per game, and they rank number first in defensive DVOA. In reality the Colts defense is legit, but I don’t believe they are the most efficient defense in the NFL. In addition, the Colts have had the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL so far.
In this contest Indianapolis may be missing two of their top defensive players with linebackers Darius Leonard and Bobby Okerke on the injured list. This doesn’t serve well facing the number one rushing offense in the NFL. The Browns rank first in the NFL in rushing averaging at 5.9 yards per attempt, over 209 yards per game and rank No. 1 in rushing success rate. I know they are missing Nick Chubb, but they have a strong handcuff in Kareem Hunt. Overall, the run game has been carried by their offensive line which ranks first in adjusted line yards with 5.25 yards of push per play. The Browns offensive line has recorded the highest level of second level blocks which has resulted in 10 runs of 20 yards or more this season.
As for their matchup with Cleveland, while the Colts defense has been great, they rank 16th in stuff rate and have trouble stopping players at the line of scrimmage. With Leonard potentially out, you are going to ask their second string linebackers to properly fill gaps against the best rushing offense in the NFL. I simply don’t think that’s going to happen. The Browns offense has been dynamic and coach Kevin Stefanski has been great at disguising their looks. Cleveland's offense is surprisingly balanced, as Cleveland runs the ball at just a 45 percent clip. Expect the Browns to keep the Colts on their toes with play action, and passing on early downs. The Colts defense won’t be ranked No. 1 anymore after the Browns are done with them.
Offensively the Colts have been pretty mediocre. Phillip Rivers is over the hill and they have been one of the least efficient offenses in the NFL. Even with one of the best offensive line in football, the Colts are averaging an NFL worst 3.9 yards per carry. Rivers is coming off a game where he completed just 55 percent of his passes, and is averaging nearly an interception a game. He will face a very aggressive Cleveland defense that leads the NFL in turnovers with four interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
In addition, Colts left tackle Anothony Castonozo is questionable to play. If the Colts left tackle can’t go, Myles Garrett should have a field day. The Browns defensive end leads the NFL in sacks and pressures.
This should be the most competitive game of the slate and the Browns will prove they are legitimate playoff contenders with a win.
The pick: Browns +1.5 (2 units)
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Atlanta -1.5
After an embarrassing performance on Monday night football, the Falcons are the team everyone has sold their stock on. The Panthers seem to be the "Pick of the Week" for every betting article on the internet. Honestly, I can’t blame them. Atlanta has simply been horrible. They are 0-4, the offense is underperforming and their defense has been abysmal.
But with the line value on the Panthers disappearing with the early action, we are going to the route of the OVER here.
The Falcons defense has surrendered over 30 points in every game this season, and safeties Keanu Neal and Jaylinn Hawkins could be out for this one. That decimated, beat up defense is going up against a Panthers offense which has scored 30 points twice against struggling defenses. Both DJ Moore and Roddy Anderson both should have field days. The Panthers rank eighth in the NFL averaging 8.0 yards per play.
On the other side, the Panthers defense has not been great stopping opposing teams either. The defensive unit is still trying to find their footing after replacing eight starters from last year’s team. Metrically, Carolina actually ranks worse than the Falcons, falling to 28th in overall defensive DVOA. The Panthers are poor against the run, allowing 58 percent of runs to grade successfully. The Falcons offense has been trying to establish their ground game, and this might be the game where they breakthrough.
Looking ahead to Sunday, the Falcons will come in with a sense of urgency knowing they will need to score at least 30+ points to give their team a shot to win. Carolina has had some injury concerns in the secondary as well; Eli Apple is not expected to play while top corner Donte Jackson has been limited in practice.
Overs have been hitting all across the NFL, and we like this one to hit this week.
The pick: over 53.5
New York Giants at Dallas
Spread: Dallas -8.5
This is a game I have continually gone back and forth on.
My initial thought was backing the narrative of a Jason Garrett revenge game against his former team. Then I watched some film of the Giants and Rams game, where the Giants seemed to be competitive. It’s a miracle that they were driving to tie the game on the final drive. The Rams simply did not try, and just tried to get out of that game healthy. Offensively, the Rams ran the same zone play out of heavy formation close to 58 percent of the time and Jared Goff missed opportunities to throw to open receivers on almost every drop back.
On the Giants side, their offensive line is incapable of protecting Daniel Jones. Defensively, they are the worst team in the league at defending 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers). The Cowboys are the best offensive team in the NFL in 11 personnel.
Point being, this is a get right game for Dallas.
The Dallas defense is on pace to be the worst defensive team in their franchise history. But they get the Giants at home and they are familiar with Jason Garrett’s vanilla offensive scheme. Dallas should put up at least 35 points against the Giants defense.
Dallas is 0-4 ATS this season and they are due to cover a damn game.
I like the Cowboys to cover this one, and we are going to hedge with playing the over too- if the Giants cover the over is going to hit with it.
The pick: Dallas -8.5 (1 unit), Over 54 (0.5 unit)
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks -- Sunday Night Football
Spread: Seattle (-7.5)
It’s Kurt Cousins starting in prime time and you know that's the only storyline your friends will be talking about in the group chat. We have already seen a 6 to 1 ticket count on the Seahawks early in the week yet the spread has gone down just two points from the look ahead line of Seattle -9 to -7.
All I’m saying is Vegas knows.
The Seahawks are the public darling of the 2020 NFL season. Russell Wilson is playing great football and Seattle seems like an easy pick against a QB who has not had great success in prime time. The Seahawks are 4-0 ATS this year, but I can argue they could easily be 1-3. Seattle's game against the Patriots went to the final play, in a game the Pats mostly controlled. Against Dallas, the Seahawks trailed as a five-point favorite in the final minutes and benefitted from a poor time management on Dallas. Seattle backers were lucky the Dolphins didn’t have the stones to go for it on fourth down.
Looking ahead to Sunday, as mentioned before, Seattle has one of the worst defenses in football. They ranked 30th in both pressure rate and sack percentage and they have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. They have the worst passing defense in all of football surrendering over 400 passing yards per game. They will be going against a Vikings offense who currently has the two highest graded receivers in all of football in Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen. The rookie from LSU has erupted through the first four games with 16 catches for 348 yards and is averaging a league leading 21.1 yards per catch - this, despite the fact that Jefferson played less than 50 percent of the snaps during the first two games. Jefferson’s presence adds another dynamic to Minnesota's offense, which is good news for bettors, as Seattle allows more explosive passing plays than anyone in the league. Kirk Cousins is an efficient passer when given a clean pocket.
Also, the lack of fans and crowd noise from the 12th man should help the Vikings here. Mike Zimmer has traditionally been pretty good playing out of division opponents. Sitting at 1-3, the Vikings will be desperate to get this one on the road. Minnesota's defense has been steadily improving. I actually like Zimmer’s cover 2 look against Seattle, I like the matchup of playing two high safeties with Smith and Harris to limit explosive plays over the top.
The books have taken a stand on the Vikings and we will side with them on this one. The Seahawks seem to always play close games during primetime. Giving up a touchdown is too much for a team with a horrible defense. I love the Vikings to cover the seven points here and think they have a decent shot at upsetting Seattle on the road.
The Vikings win this one in a shootout, and Cousins finally gets a signature Sunday Night Football win.
The pick: Vikings +7.5 (1.5 units) (0.5 unit ML +260)
Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints
Spread: New Orleans -7.5
We have the Saints back on another prime time game. We get to debate whether Drew Brees arm still works or not. Brees will be playing against his former team the Chargers. Does he still hold a decade long grudge against the organization? Probably. But I don’t think that matters here. The sharps are backing the Chargers as a touchdown underdog again, holding over 86 percent of the money while the Saints account for 63 percent of the tickets. I made this line Chargers +6.5 and we got the whole point of value. The Chargers just played a game where they should have beat the Bucs as a seven-point underdog. An abysmal fumble late in the second half, and a second half collapse cost the Chargers late.
Meanwhile, the Saints came back from a 14-0 deficit against Detroit and were able to move the ball against an atrocious defense. The Saints have largely been an inconsistent team on both sides of the football. But specifically on defense, where opposing quarterbacks have 104.3 rating.
But back to the Chargers, who should get some more continuity on offense with Justin Herbert being named the starter. The rookie has been sensational since being inserted in the lineup, completing 72 percent of his passes and averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. He will be going against a New Orleans club which is still dealing with injuries in the secondary.
While the Chargers have injuries as well, this team has routinely gotten used to competing short-handed the last couple of years. I like the Chargers as a live dog on Monday night football.
* Note Hurricane Delta may cause this game to change venues to Indianapolis, which would void all bets.
The pick: Chargers (+7.5) (bonus 0.25 ML +300)
Bonus: With big spreads there is a lot of value of playing teasers. Especially when you are dealing with big spreads and you can surpass multiple key numbers. I hit a big 7 team teaser with all of our picks last week, so I will share it on the article this week as well. Since we went 6-1 last week, lets give it a shot again.
Bonus pick: Seven point six team teaser with the plays plus the Cardinals to beat the Jets. - Cardinals -0.5, ATL/CAR Over 46.5 Browns +8.5, Chargers +14.5, Dallas -1.5, Vikings +14.5 (pays +475) ( 1 unit)
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