Vince Lombardi

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THE CHALKBOARD

Week 3: QC's Best Bets

This Week 3 card is like no other card QC can ever remember. It presents a couple unusual opportunities to "bet like a banker." Typically, by Week 3, bookmakers are installing better desgined teams as favorites in about 75-80% of all games. But the better designed teams are only favorites in half the games this Week 3. Perhaps that is because better designed teams hav only won 63% of all games (disregarding ties). Better designed teams usually start much quicker than that and frequently win at an 80% of better clip in the first two weeks. Perhaps the epidemic of kicking miscues is the reason. In any event, QC has some never-before-seen-here plays to consider.

1. PARLAY: Jaguars -7 over Titans and UNDER 39.5
Tennesse swept Jacksonville last year, but from the way the Jaguars played this looks like a more mature team. QB Blake Bortles has become confident enough to patiently let the game come to him. Against New England, he targeted RBs and TEs on 19 throws and methodically took Bill Belichick's defense apart. RB Corey Grant has developed into one of the NFL's top out-of-the-backfield pass catchers and Tennessee's pass coverage has been awful (9.123 QCYPA). Defensively, Jacksonville should be able to control the Titans even if banged up QB Marcus Mariota makes a go of it. Even with (mostly) Mariota at QB, Tennessee is 2-6-1 ATS since the beginning of 2016. Take away DB Kevin Byard's 66-yard TD pass against Houston and Tennessee's QCYPA is 5.712. Further, the Titans also have a kickoff return TD this year, which means their offense is averaging just 13 points per game. Now it faces what might be the best D in the NFL (or at least the AFC). The Jaguars need to be solid in the kicking game and not give up any cheap points on returns or fake punts. But if Jacksonville is alert, it should be able to pound a win. Something like 20-7 sounds about right.

2. OVER 41.5: Texans vs. NY Giants
The Giants' offensive line and QB Eli Manning are getting ripped for their performances the first two weeks of the season. Don't overreact. New York faced what might be the two best defenses in the NFL in Jacksonville and Dallas. The G-men did not thrive, but they hung in there. If not for a pick-6 Week 1 and a long pass to Tavon Austin Week 2, New York might be 2-0, not 0-2. Sometimes the difference between failure and success is that thin. Houston's defense looks good on paper, but so far the Texans pass coverage has been pretty soft (8.066 D-QCYPA). There is plenty of explosive playmaking on both sides just waiting to go off in Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley on the New York side and DeShaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller on the Houston side. In addition, both Manning and Watson have potential to turn the ball over 2 or 3 times in any game. And TOs lead to points. With both teams 0-2 SU and ATS, it seem risky to get involved with the side. The OVER feels like the safest play here.

3. Chiefs -6 (at the open) over 49ers
Kansas City is 11.89% better designed than its opponents despite playing both games on the road. OC Eric Bienemy is doing a fabulous job designing plays for young gun QB Pat Mahomes, who has an amazing collection of weapons. Since 2009, teams that are 10% better designed than their opponents entering Week 3 are 9-1 SU and 8-1-1 ATS. Only the 2012 Eagles, who committed 9 TOs in their first two games and later collapsed and finished 4-12, failed to cover. That collapse cost Andy Reid his job in Philadelphia. But it is highly unlikel it will happen again to Reid now. The Chiefs have the same machine like look as the 1984 Dolphins of Dan Marino and the 2011 Packers of Aaron Rogers, who combined were 29-3 in the regular season. San Francisco HC Kyle Shannahan is a marvelous play designer and Jimmy Garoppolo has been hanging in there despite poor pass protection (-1.254 sack yards lost per pass attempt). But Shanny and Jimmy G just don't have the juice to keep up with KC. The 49ers No. 1 WR, Pierre Garcon, might be No. 5 on the Chiefs. The Kansas City faithful has been watching the fireworks on TV for two weeks and should be wildly out of control for their first opportunity for a live show. (Note: The -6 open has now moved to -6.5 and probably will move further against the Chiefs by kickoff so don't wait.)

4. Rams ML (-320) over Chargers and
5. Chargers +7 over Rams

This is an intriguing game. Essentially, both teams are at home (or maybe there is no home team) so there should be no home field advantage for either team. The Rams have not given up a point for 6 quarters and obliterated Arizona last week, 34-0, and public perception of their greatness could not be higher. HC Sean McVay's team is 10.21% better designed that its opponets, so it qualifies for the same trend as the Chiefs. But the Chargers are potentially a lot better than a 7-point subsidy suggests. In 18 games under HC Anthony Lynn and DC Gus Bradley, they have failed to cover 7 points just 3 times (all in 2017) : twice against Kansas City (at -7 TO) and at New England (at -1 TO). In 2018, Chargers' QB Phil Rivers has been outstanding (9.205) and actually more productive than Rams' QB Jared Goff (9.185 QCYPA). If Rivers can avoid turnovers, they should be able to stay connected. Further, if the Chargers can strike early and go to the lead, McVay has been known to abandon Todd Gurley and the running game and it could get a lot harder for Goff, especially because the Chargers have some pass rush even without Joey Bosa. The Rams' money line is expensive, but you can hedge against the risk by also taking the Chargers and the points, which creates a creative opportunity for a synthetic middle (Rams win, but by less than 7 points). A wager of $320 on the Rams' ML and $352 on the Chargers +7: (a) gains exposure to a 62.5% profit if the Rams win by less than 7; (b) gains exposure to 14.9% profit if the Rams win by exactly 7; (c) reduces the risk of a Chargers victory to $0; (d) and will cost $252 (not $352) if the Rams win by more than 7 because you will receive a $100 profit on the Rams' ML. In other words, you can structure this bet so that the only way you can lose money is if the Rams win by 8 or more points, and even if that happens you will lose about 21% to 28% less money than if you nakedly bet the Rams to win on the money line or bet $352 on the Chargers +7 .

6. Cardinals +6 over Bears and
7. UNDER 38 (no parlay)

Arizona has been so unspeakably bad on offense in 2018 that K Phil Dawson has yet to attempt a field goal or a PAT. The Cardinals have been able to get close enough to the goal line for an attempt only one time and on that occasion they were already so far behind they went for a 2-point PAT. Doh! But, as the Bears know, such offensive ineptitude does not mean winning is impossible. After all, in 2017, Chicago defeated Carolina 17-3 despite QB Mitch Trubisky completing just 4 passes and the Bears generating just 5 first downs. Trubisky has been very shaky in 2018, as demonstrated by his 5.217 QCYPA and Chicago's 2.12 player productivity. And Arizona still should be able to play good defense, especially at home. OC Mike McCoy needs to get RB David Johnson going in both the running and the passing game. That will be tough against Khalil Mack and company. But the Bears secondary has given up some big plays. If McCoy loosens up a little and lets QB Sam Bradford try some deeper throws to Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, he might hit a shot or two. The Cardinals enter the game a dreaful -18.38% worse designed than their opponets. But since 2009, teams entering Week 3 that are at least 10% worse designed than their opponets are 7-4 SU and 8-3 ATS and have stayed within 6 points or less 9 times (82%). Further, matchups like this have stayed under 37.5 points 8 times in those 11 games. If you disregard the two games involving the high scoring Saints, 8 of the remaining 9 games have stayed under 37.5. Only the Colts 31-28 win over the Browns in 2017 is the exception. Combined the Bears (16.5 points per game on offense) and the Cardinals (3 points per game on offense) are averaging just 19.5 points per game on offense (Chicago's D has scored 14 points). Arizona has been terribly inefficient and unproductive, but it has committed only 3 turnovers in its losses, the same as Chicago, so it is unlikely that one team or the other will enjoy a big turnover margin. If neither team gets points from its defense or special teams, it is hard to see how this game gets beyond the low 30s. Further, QC is 4-0 to the under and the only single snap in any of those games on which theoretically a game could have gone over was the Bears' victory formation kneel down against Seattle on Week 2 MNF. In other words, the unders so far have been no sweat. If McCoy and Bradford cannot generate at least a few big plays, the UNDER can serve as a potential insurance policy here.

Last Week: 4-2
Season: 9-3-1

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