Vince Lombardi


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Week 11: Best Bets

Better designed teams enjoyed a 12-2 week, but once again QC found the two better designed teams that failed to win, the Buccaneers and the Eagles. Of course, complaining about turnover-prone Tampa Bay not covering is like an offensive lineman complaining about the price of an all-you-can-eat buffet... he may have a point, but he is not the one to make it. Still, it was a profitable 4-2 week and QC has been in the money 8 of 10 weeks.

1. Seahawks -2.5 over Packers
The home team on a short week is almost always an advantageous spot. The Seahawks are 1.5% better designed and +8 TO. This line is probably too low because Pete Carroll's team has lost twice at home already (Rams and Chargers). But all but one of the Seahawks' losses are to teams who rank in the top 5 in the NFL in play design differential. Mike McCarthy's Packers (+0.60%) are not at that level. Green Bay is 1-5 ATS when its opponent runs the ball 27 or more times, covering only with the aid of +9.5 against the Rams. Seattle has run the ball at least 32 times in 7 straight games.

2. Colts -2 over Titans
Tennessee is suddenly the talk of the NFL after two impressive wins over Dallas and (especially) New England. QB Marcus Mariota played his two best games of the season against the Cowboys and Patriots, but the Titans still are 1-3 in games in which they fail to run the ball at least 30 times. In other words, Mariota is effective when his team is effective, not the other way around. Tennesee is 5-0 ATS when they sack the opposing QB for at least -10 yards. That's the rub here. The Colts' O-line has jelled and QB Andrew Luck has not been sacked even once in his last 4 games. In his last 3 games (all Indy wins) Luck has posted at least 8.5 QCYPA, tossed 10 TD passes and not attempted more than 31 passes. Finally, Tennessee has committed 9 of its 10 turnovers on the road. Look for Mariota to subsidize the Colts with at least 2 turnovers and the Colts' O-line to protect Luck well enough for him to continue his mastery of AFC South opponents.

3. Falcons -3 over Cowboys
Atlanta staggers back home off a loss to the lowly Browns while Dallas bounces into town off an impressive win over rival Philadelphia. That doesn't mean much to QC. The Falcons are a much more potent team at home where they have put up 31, 37, 36, 34 and 23 points. In each of those games, QB Matt Ryan posted better than 9 QCYPA. RB Ezekiel Elliott ran like Superman against the Eagles, but Atlanta shut down the Giants' Saquon Barkley a few weeks ago. LB Deion Jones, the Falcons' best defender, was activated from IR this week, although HC Dan Quinn has been coy about whether Jones will play. This game has huge playoff implications so if Jones says he is good to go, he probably will play. Dallas QB Dak Prescott has not thrown more than 1 TD pass or posted more than 7.5 QCYPA in any game on the road where the Cowboys are 1-4 ATS after the upset of the Eagles. QC does not think Dak, Zeke, et al. have enough firepower to pull off such an upset in back-to-back games.

4. Jaguars +5.5 over Steelers
The Steelers have covered 5 games in a row and 6 of their last 7 games. Led by RB James Conner, Pittsburgh has run for at least 112 yards in the 5-0 ATS streak. Supported by a strong running game, QB Ben Roethlisberger has not turned the ball over more than once in 4 of those 5 games. This seems to QC about as long as one can expect the Steelers to stay disciplined, especially on the road. Jacksonville lost its fifth game in a row last week at Indianapolis, but the Jaguars looked much better and pushed on the betting line. RB Leonard Fournette returned to action and Jacksonville ran the ball 34 times despite trailing for most of the game. With the Colts' defense forced to respect the ground game, QB Blake Bortles was not sacked and posted 8.8 QCYPA. On defense, the Jaguars gave up just 81 yards on the ground, which ended a stretch in which opponents ran for an average of 151.5 yards per game. Doug Marrone's team looks like it has bottomed out and should be ready to make the Steelers meeting with Jason Mendoza's favorite team an all day job.

5. Panthers -4 over Lions
It is hard to handicap turnovers because turnovers are undesigned, emergent events. In other words, turnovers tend to just pop up. But if ever a game looked like it can be handicapped on turnovers, this is it. The Panthers are +6 TO on the season while the Lions are -8 TO. Carolina is 5-1 ATS when it doesn't turn the ball over more than one time in a game (and 0-3 ATS when it does). On the other side of the ball, Matt Patricia's team has generated just one takeaway in its last 4 games and more than one takeway in just 2 of 9 games. In addition, Carolina is 5-0 ATS when it sacks opposing QBs for at least 14 yards in losses. Detroit QB Matt Stafford has been sacked for -45 and -56 yards in losses in his last 2 games and has lost at least 13 yards on sacks in 6 of 9 games. Unless, the Lions' O-line suddenly remembers how to block and rookie RB Kerryon Johnson regains the form he showed in wins over the Packers and Dolphins, this looks like another long day for Patricia and Stafford.

6. Broncos +7 over Chargers
The Chargers are playing very un-Chargers-like football. LA has committed only 7 turnovers all year. In their last 5 games, QB Phil Rivers has thrown fewer than 30 passes. The Chargers are 4-1 ATS in that stretch, failing to cover only in a SU win over Tennessee in London. HC Anthony Lynn and Rivers have ridden the surge to a No. 2 ranking in the NFL in play design differential (+6.27%). But Denver matches up well with well-designed teams because the Broncos can run the ball on offense and rush the passer on defense. The Broncos have covered against Chiefs (No. 1 in play design differential) and the Rams (No. 3 in play design differential) in the last month, although they lost both games SU. LB Von Miller and friends have sacked opposing passers for at least -21 yards in 3 of their last 4 games. Rivers has been sacked for no more than -16 yards in any game this year. If Denver can get pressure, QC is speculating Rivers will provide a couple turnover subsidies. If Denver QB Case Keenum can convert those turnovers into 2 or 3 TDs, the Broncos might even pull a SU upset.

7. Chiefs +3.5 over Rams
Offensively, these are easily the two best teams in the NFL. Kansas City ranks No. 1 in the league in both play design differential (+7.28%) and QCYPA (9.754). LA ranks No. 3 in play design differential (+5.96%) and No. 2 in QCYPA (9.713). The biggest differences are the Chiefs convert their efficiency to points better than the Rams and Kansas City (6.884 D-QCYPA) covers opposing receivers a lot better than LA covers opposing receivers (7.686 D-QCYPA). For the Rams to win, HC Sean McVay should run Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown 40 times and shorten the game. Such an approach is even more attractive now that the game has been moved to LA from the thin air of Mexico City where Gurley might have run out of gas quicker. If McVay and QB Jared Goff try to match Andy Reid and Pat Mahomes strike-for-strike, this could get ugly. But if McVay pounds the KC front with Gurley the way Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels pounded the KC front with Sony Michel and company (38 rushes), the Rams could pound out a win. Still, given that the Chiefs are 8-0 ATS in games in which they are laying less than 10 points, taking Kansas City plus a field goal and the hook is a no brainer.

Last Week: 4-2
Season: 36-23-2 (.610)

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