Vince Lombardi

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WELCOME to QuantCoach.com, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics. QuantCoach.com's revolutionary coaching statistics are derived from a peer-reviewed and generally accepted theory of competition known as Growth Theory. Veteran coach Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." But Growth Theory teaches us that success "springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking." In professional football, those "recipes" are the plays that coaches design. Simply, QuantCoach.com's coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

THE ARCHIVES (2017-Part 2)

QC's Week 12 Thoughts

Bookmakers took it on the chin in Week 12 (and it would have been worse if the underdog Packers had not covered against the Steelers on SNF) as better designed teams posted a 13-2 record with MNF pending. It is not the first time that better design and bettor butt kicking have correllated. In Week 9 of 2012, better designed teams were a perfect 15-0 That same week, Nevada bookmakers suffered their worst NFL week ever. This is not always the case. In Week 1 this year, better designed teams were a perfect 16-0 on the field, but the bookmakers did fine as 3 teams that were terrible in 2016 (Browns, Jaguars and Bears) covered against 3 2016 playoff teams (Steelers, Texans, and Falcons). But it is not unusual for non-playoff teams to cover Week 1 against playoff teams. On the other hand, better designed teams are usally favored teams and most bettors like the favorites, particularly when the underdogs are mangy mutts, as many were in Week 12. As ESPN Chalk's David Purdum reported, NFL favorites have gone 37-15-4 in November, their best regular season month of the Super Bowl era. Most of that damage was done Week 12.

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QC thought Dak Prescott and the Cowboys defense would rise to the occasion and keep Dallas in the playoff race even without the supsended Zeke Elliott. It has not happened. In the last 3 games, Prescott has not thrown a TD pass or cracked 180 yards passing even though Alfred Morris has done a credible job running the ball. Meanwhile, the front seven, has failed to register a sack in the last 2 games. Finally, each of the tams the Cowboys have faced since Elliott finally accepted his six game suspension--Falcons, Eagles, and Chargers--are the hottest surging teams in the NFL. Sometimes, when it goes wrong, it all goes wrong.

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Anybody who watched Chargers P Drew Kaser try to substitute for injured K Nick Novack on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas got a first-person in lesson in how hard it is to be an NFL kicker. The job seems so easy and we are quick to bury kickers that miss field goals. It seems like a punter, who spends a lot of practice time with a kicker, should be able to step in and handle the job rather easily. Not so. Kaser looked stiff and uncomfortable and was able to convert only one of his chances. Kicking is a highly refined muscle memory. Like free-throw shooting, it takes 100s of repetitions per week to hone the motion. And, pursuant to QC's 8th Commandment, a coach cannot help a substitute kicker with creative play design.

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Some impressive streaks continued and some came to an end in Week 12. Philadelphia has covered 8 games in a row and Minnesota has covered 6 in a row. At the other end of the spectrum, Denver has not covered a game for 7 straight games. New England beat Miami easily, 35-17, but the Patriots saw their 4-game streak without committing a turnover come to an end. Seattle also won, 24-13, over San Francisco. Better yet, the Seahawks were assessed only 74 yards in penalties, which snapped a streak of 5 games in which Seattle incurred more than 100 yards of penalties.

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Bill Belichick is doing one of his finest coaching jobs in his illustrious career. After demolishing the Dolphins, the Patriots play design differential increased to a season high +2.80%. New England's play design differential stood at -2.69% after the Patriots lost to Carolina at home in Week 2 and fell to 2-2. Belichick has accomplished so much that take it for granted that he can fix any football problem. But the Patriots looked extremely vulnerable after the first month of the 2017 season. Now they look like the prohibitive favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Again.

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Week 12: QC's 5 Best Bets

QC spent Thanksgiving Week on the high seas along with his Week 11 picks which rolled down (Saints, Rams, Packers) and up (Jaguars, Patriots) like the Atlantic Ocean beneath his catamaran. (At least the catamaran served rum.) The Week 12 board is chalk full of big favorites, which is always a choppy sea to navigate.

1. Jets +4.5 over Panthers
QC's strongest conviction this week is a clear contrarian play. Carolina received the most selections in Westgate Super Contest and the money has moved strongly toward the Panthers. Carolina is on a 3-0 ATS mini-streak and has rushed for over 200 yards in each of its last 2 games (Dolphins, Falcons). In addition, Ron Rivera's team is 4-1 ATS on the road, the only loss being a TO-to-TD hurricane in Chicago. However, Todd Bowles' New Yorkers have held opponents to 90 yards rushing or less in 3 of their last 4 games. The coverage is plenty good to control Cam Newton as a passer and the Jets enjoy a significant advantave in turnover differential. New York is 4-1 ATS at home and the one game it failed to cover was by just .5 point against Atlanta. The Jets are just 0.8% worse designed than Carolina and home teams in this range that are at least even in turnovers cover 4.5 points around 2 out of 3 times.

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2. Falcons -9.5 over Buccaneers
This is a very big number to lay with a team that is turnover negative and has been wildly inconsistent at home, routing the Packers (with Aaron Rogers) and the Cowboys (without Zeke Elliott), but losing to the Dolphins and Bills (gross). Notwithstanding the pitching sea, Atlanta is still the best designed team in the NFL in 2017, largely because Dan Quinn's pass defense has turned suffocating (6.161 D-QCPY). The best QCYPA Cam Newton, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson could manage the last 3 weeks was Wilson's 5.674. The pass rush led by Adrian Clayborn has been a menace for a month too. Tampa Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has always been sketchy on the road and the Bucs cannot run the ball at all. Tampa is just 1-4 ATS as visitors and they needed 5 TOs from Miami last week to get the one. On the other side of the ball, Falcons QB Matt Ryan has been solid for the last 1.5 games and OC Steve Sarkisian has called more than 30 runs in both those wins. The Bucs defense played well 2 weeks ago at home against Josh McCown and Jets, but it has yielded more than 9.6 QCYPA in last 2 road games (Saints and Dolphins).

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3. Colts +3 over Titans
Indy is a plucky 4-1 ATS at home where QB Jacoby Brissett has not turned the ball over more than once in any game. In addition, he has generated better than 8.4 QCYPA in 3 of those games (Browns, 49ers and Steelers). Other than a mauling suffered at the hands of the Jaguars, the Colts have been a total pain to visit despite the fact their defense has been smooth as lake water on a calm day to navigate. Tennessee is 1-4 ATS on the road including TO meltdowns at Houston (5 TO) and Pittsburgh (4 TO). Pass protection of Marcus Mariota has been in full collapse the past 3 games and the Colts can on occasionly put on a frisky rush.

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4. Raiders -5 over Broncos
Incredible at it sounds, Oakland has still not intercepted a pass in 2017. That failing (and an abysmal 8.108 D-QCPYA) cost DC Ken Norton his job this week. So boy is HC Jack Del Rio glad to see the Broncos! Denver's difficulties at QB (Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler) are well documented. Osweiler broke 5.7 QCYPA in just 1 of his 5 starts, all losses both SU and ATS. The Broncos are a dreadful -16 TO and are on an 0-6 ATS streak. In a desparate move, HC Vance Joseph will start Paxton Lynch at QB. Plugging in a young, inexperienced QB on the road is not usually a great way to break out of the doldrums. Just ask Buffalo HC Sean McDermott. Oakland has not been much better than Denver the last 2 months and is on its own 1-6-1 ATS streak. But they are respectable 2-2 ATS in true homes games (they were in Mexico last week when they were wiped out by that New England Nor'easter). QB Derek Carr has been good against bad defenses (Chiefs, Dolphins) and bad against good defenses. The Broncos were a good defense when they knocked Carr out of the game and beat the Raiders 16-10 in Week 4 in Denver. But the pass D has given up 10 TD passes in its last 3 games.

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5. Ravens -7 over Texans
Houston is 3-1 ATS on the road, but QB Tom Savage has showed a tendency to turn the ball over when the Texans get behind (Jaguars, Rams). The formula for both teams is the same: Get the lead and run the ball 30 times or more to drain the clock. Houston's problem is that its pass defense has collapsed over the last month. Last week, Blaine Gabbert stepped into the lineup off the street and moved the ball. Baltimore's Joe Flacco has struggled all year and his 5.244 QCYPA is horendous. But the Ravens defense has been tremendous since DT Brandon Williams returned to the lineup, limiting its last 3 opponents to 75 rushing yards or less and taking the ball away 8 times. Williams and company will have to play to that level to cover this number, which is a whopper for a team that is as limited throwing the football as Baltimore is. But the guess here is that the Ravens D is up to the challenge, Savage will provide 2 or 3 TO and the Flacco and K Justin Tucker will put enough points on the board to win by 2 scores.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 29-25-1

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Week 11: QC's 5 Best Bets

Not much time for detailed explanation of the handicapping this week folks. Better designed teams continue to bump along at a 73% winning percentage, which is a little below the expected 75% level. That macro consideration plus the fact that the underdogs this week are a particularly mangy level of mutt has QC looking mostly to design stalwarts and proven overachievers.

1. Jaguars -7.5 over Browns
The Jaguars are 3-0 ATS against Bottom 10 designed teams (Texans, Ravens and Colts). The Browns are the worst designed team in the NFL. Look for Jacksonville to make it 4-0 with an easy win in Cleveland.

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2. Saints -7.5 over Redskins
New Orleans has soared to No. 3 in play design differential even though QB Drew Brees barely broke a sweat in Week 10 in Buffalo. Minnesota QB Case Keenum, who is has played this year like a bit of a poor man's Brees, carved up Washington last week. As QC said recently, you have to offer at least 10 points for QC to step in front of a New Orleans parade when Sean Payton's team is playing this well.

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3. Packers +2 over Ravens
Green Bay has turned the ball over just 1 time since Brett Hundley took over at QB and he will have to continue to avoid subsidizing opponents if the Packers are going to hang in the race for the NFC North title. Baltimore wins and covers when it runs the ball 30 or more times. When it doesn't, QB Joe Flacco is prone to awful play and turnovers. The Packers have been stiff against the run since the bye, including holding the Bears to 55 yards last week in an upset win in Chicago.

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4. Rams +2 over Vikings
LA has been on fire and leads the NFL in explosive plays. Minnesota, on the other hand, ranks first in preventing explosive plays. The last time the Rams ran into a D that prevents big plays, they committed 5 turnovers and fell to the Seahawks. To avoid that, Sean McVay has to get Todd Gurley going on the ground against a Vikings defense that is usually stingy against the run. In their only 2 losses, Minnesota's opponents ran the ball more than 30 times. If Gurley can keep the offense balanced and pressure off QB Jared Goff, LA might receive some TO subsidies from Case Keenum.

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5. Patriots -6.5 over Raiders
New England blew out Denver two weeks ago and then hung around through its bye week in the thin Mile High air to get ready for this game at altitude in Mexico City. Tom Brady has posted more than 8.4 QCYPA and tossed 19 TD passes. Belichick has fixed the D. After an awful first 4 games, the Patriots pass coverage has yielded more than 7.15 D-QCYPA just once in its last 5 games. That's not great, but a team can win at that level with Brady at QB. On the other side of the ball, Oakland QB Derek Carr has been extremely inconsistent. He has followed good games with bad for a month and the calendar points to "bad" this week.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 27-22-1

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QC's Week 10 Thoughts

How bad did John Fox's challenged which transformed a first-and-goal inside the Green Bay 1-yard line into a fumble and touchback that gave the Packers the ball at the 20 in what eventuallyl became a 23-16 Chicago loss? Infinitely bad. Less than 1% of play design differential and less than 1/2 point of player productivity separated the two teams. In other words, coaching stats indicate this should have been a tie game, which it may well have been if Fox had not challenged, and the Bears had retained possession and scored a TD. The irony is that in the preview of this game, QC criticized Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy for being a specatator in the Packers' previous game against Detroit. If Fox had been a specatator and let the game come to him, the outcome might have been different.

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Minnesota QB Case Keenum was getting a lot of attention after throwing 4 TD passes in a 38-30 win at Washington that moved the Vikings to 7-2 and kept them 2 games in front of Detroit and Green Bay in the NFC Central. But what impressed QC even more was the play of the Minnesota offensive line. GM Rick Spielman completely remade the line in the offensive season, bringing in 5 new starters. Broadcaster Paul Allen calls the line the "Moving Company." QC was pretty confident that rookie C Pat Elflein (Ohio State) would quickly become a contributor and he is the anchor of the core that is providing the undersized Keenum great gut protection. Spielman got a steal with that guy as he did a few years ago with LB Eric Kendricks and others in later rounds.

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When was the last time New Orleans did not win the turnover battle, did not throw a TD pass, and did not yield a sack and still won the game? Who knows. But that is what happened in the Saints 47-10 wipeout of Buffalo. Led by Mark Ingram New Orleans ran for 298 yards against what had been one of the strongest D's in the NFL. The win was the Saints' seventh in a row and stamped them as genuine Super Bowl contenders.

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Dallas fans were prepared to go without RB Zeke Elliott who finally ran into a court that could hold fast at the point of attack. But what Cowboys' fans were not prepared for was the scratch of T Tyron Smith. Neither was OC Scott Linehan. That was obvious after Atlanta DE Adrian Clayborn abused backup T Chaz Green and registered 6 sacks in a 27-7 win that could be critical when wild-card berths are decided in December. Clayborn has always been a solid NFL trench warrior, never creating any drama and rarely drawing any attention as he professionally went about his business of keeping blockers off LBs playing on the second level. But 6 sacks will get anyone attention. And Linehan better give his pass protection some attention.

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Week 10: QC's 5 Best Bets

The Giants no-showed last week but the favorites we backed in Week 9 (Jaguars, Saints and Cowboys) all flexed their muscles in impressive wins. And the Ravens scavenged a cover. The 4-1 week was our best since Week 3. There are some attractive options on the board in Week 10. We will try to recapture that early momentum.

1. Packers +5.5 over Bears
This is a battle to teams going in opposite directions. Both have primitive passing games but for completely different reasons. Chicago's OC Dowell Loggains and his staff are designing their butts off, but attrition has wiped out the Bears' receiving corps. QC hasn't seen leg injuries like those suffered by WR Cameron Meredith and TE Zach Miller since King Arthur sliced off the Black Knight's legs in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Eek. Dom Capers' pass coverage was shredded by Matt Stafford in its last outing but rookie Mitch Trubisky just does not have the weapons to duplicate that feat. On the other side, you have to wonder about how much Packers HC Mike McCarthy and staff are helping Green Bay's new QB Brett Hundley. In the loss to Detroit, it seemed like every time Hundley came off the field he would go sit by himself and not interact with any coach, don a head set, or otherwise receive any coaching. Remember when P-rex Manning would go to the sideline and flip through still photos of the defense like a teen-age boy going through a girlie mag? That was not happening at Lambeau Field against the Lions and that's on McCarthy and his staff. The most intense criticism QC ever directs at coaches is when they become spectators. Both Hundley and his coaches looked like spectators on MNF. That's not good. But it is more correctable than replacing an entire receiving corps. In addition, Hundley has done one thing well since becoming the starter two weeks ago: He has not turned the ball over. If the Packers coaches actively engage and coach him up every single second and Hundley continues to avoid turnovers, the Packers may not win this game, but they should be able to parlay the generous point subsidy into a cover.

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2. Bengals +4.5 over Titans
Tennessee is one of only 2 teams that has been a favorite in every game this year (the other is the Patriots). That's more a function of the Titans soft schedule than it is any impressive prowess. Tennessee is not as physical as Jacksonville, who pushed Cincinnati around last week and took its lunch money. Cincinnati is kind of the photo negative of the Baltimore team that came to Nashville last week. The Ravens play design and player productivity is substandard, but you can almost always count on them to at least hang in the turnover battle and overachieve a little bit. The Bengals are just the oppositve. The Bengals quality stats look pretty good in places. Despite the 3-5 mark, Cincinnati ranks No. 10 in the NFL in play design differential. But the turnover differential is a ghastly -9 and like the Ravens they rank near the bottom of the NFL in explosive plays. The Bengals won the turnover battle in Jacksonville, but they were not solid in the kicking game and a late punt return for a TD sealed the cover for Jaguars bettors. In the 3 games that Tennesse has covered, it has gotten at least a pair of explosive plays from its offense, usually big runs from Darrick Henry or DeMarco Murray. But the Cincinnati D ranks No. 2 in the NFL in preventing explosive plays according to the ESPN NFL Matchup Show. As long as the Bengals D comes though and interceptions don't emerge from Andy Dalton like candy from a Pez Dispenser, this should be a classic 3-point snoozer between mediocre NFL teams. Yay parity!

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3. Jaguars -3.5 over Chargers
This is a perfect spot to bet against Phil Rivers. Not everyone is sold on Jacksonville because they have been up-and-down in 2017 and this week seems like it is due for a down and LA comes in off a bye after winning 3 of 4 with the one loss being an excusable defeat at New England to Tom Brady. But the Jaguars' pass rush and pass coverage are relentless and suffocating. Rivers becomes highly erratic when he is under pressure and his receivers are closely covered. The Jaguars have a whole lot of that. In addition, it now looks pretty clear that if all Blake Bortles is asked to do is play within himself and let the game come to him, he can meet expectations. Last week against Cincinnati's above-average defense, Bortles and company hogged the ball for over 40 minutes even though stud RB Leonard Fournette missed the game after being suspended for the "that's so Tom Coughlin" infraction of missing the team picture. Teams only take one team picture a year so Fournette should be back. The LA run defense was ultra-soft in the first 5 games, but better in the last 3 games before their bye. But the three teams the D faced (Raiders, Broncos, Patriots) are neither as committed or as physical as Jacksonville in the run game. The Jaguars already have two games this year where they sacked opposing QBs 10 times. If "Sacksonville" can get an early lead, it might push that number again.

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4. Cowboys +3 over Falcons
QC has hunch that we are all about to find out that the real superstar on the Dallas Cowboys is QB Dak Prescott. To date, everyone has thought Zeke Elliott is the leading man in Dallas and Prescott is a supporting actor. But the roles really might be the reverse. Prescott can beat teams both passing and running as he did last week against Kansas City. And Alfred Morris is both fresh and a lunch pail guy who will step in for Elliott and keep the ground game physical and productive. The Cowboys will lose some dash and you might not hold your breath as much when Dak hands off. But Morris probably can still where a defense down. And the Falcons were trampled on the ground last week by a dual-threat QB, Cam Newton, and his supporting cast. If the Dallas offense is still firing at high level, Falcons QB Matt Ryan will have to keep Atlanta in the game. To do so, he will need pass protection from a group that is becoming one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Rod Marinelli's front four does not have a catchy nickname like "Doomsday." But since David Irving has come back from suspension, opposing QBs have been running for their lives. QC loves Marinelli's tactic of bumping 6-4 plugger Tyrone Crawford out to DE and playing the 6-7 Irving inside at DT to get gut pressure from a tall rusher. Marinelli did this with Julius Peppers in Chicago and it wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Rookie OC Steve Sarkisian has not seen Irving inside before and it is unlikely that Sark's well of football knowledge will be deep enough to counteract Marinelli's agile tall timber design until after a few trees have fallen on Ryan.

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5. Dolphins +9 over Panthers
One certainly cannot make a living backing Jay Cutler. After all, Cutler is the worst QB in the NFL ATS. But QC has been pretty good over the years at picking a spot here and there to back 'em. This looks like one of those spots. He has had some nice performances in prime time games. Carolina is about 1/4 of a percentage point negatively designed. Detroit is virtually identical. And the Lions are giving the winless Browns only 2 more points than the Panthers are giving the Dolphins. Would you make Miami just a 2-point favorite over Cleveland on a neutral field? QC would not. The Dolphins turnover differential is far better than the Browns and, more importantly, much better than the Panthers too. Give Miami HC Adam Gase credit for this: When things start to go wrong, he acts. Last year, after a 1-4 start, he fired a few offensive linemen. This year, after getting blown out by Baltimore, he jettisoned star RB Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins still lost their next game, but they battled to the end and got a push ATS. Gase keeps his team on its toes. And the offense has shown some life scoring 20, 31, and 24 points in 3 of the last 4 games. Meanwhile, the Panthers offense has topped 29 points just once all year (against New England in Week 4 when the Patriots defense was still a hot mess). If Cutler can get Miami 20, the Dolphins should cover and if he can stay turnover positive the Dolphins might even pull a SU stunner.

Last Week: 4-1
Season: 25-19-1

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QC's Week 9 Thoughts

It is not often that one team runs over another in the NFL, but Carolina did it to Atlanta in a 20-17 win. QB Cam Newton ran for 84 yards and a TD and rookie RB Chistian McCaffrey chipped in 66 yards and a TD as the Panthers rolled up 201 yards. It was the first time Carolina broke 140 yards on the ground since a Week 5 win at New England. On the other side of the ball, the Falcons found another new way to lose. This time star WR Julio Jones dropped a perfectly thown, sure-fire TD pass from Matt Ryan. Atlanta's +4.77% play design differential remains near the top of the NFL, but Dan Quinn's team is only 4-4 and every week it seems to break down in a different area. One of the biggest questions of the second half of the season will be whethr or not the Falcons can find themselves and win a few games in a row to make the playoffs.

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Two teams that are not having any trouble finding themselves in the NFC are Philadelphia and New Orleans. TH The Eagles crushed Denver, 51-23, as Carson Wentz tossed 4 more TD passes. The Eagles have covered 6 straight games ATS as they head into their bye. Meanwhile, the Saints steamrolled Tampa Bay, 30-10. After getting torched the first 2 weeks of the season, DC Dennis Allen's D has held 5 of the last 6 teams it has faced to productivity below the JaMarcus Cable. That is a tremendous improvement from last year when opposing passers has their way with the Sains (8.286 D-QCYPA; No. 32 in the NFL).

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The great ESPN NFL Matcup show had a terrific snapshot of some of the play design that Seattle OC Darrell Bevell has created this year. QC tweeted it out and it became one of the most "liked" tweets he has ever authored. But a few contrarians who still can't let ago of pass Bevell called in Super Bowl 48 that resulted in an interception by the Patriots Malcolm Butler. The Seahawks were ambushed by the gritty Redskins, 17-14, but don't blame Bevell. Wilson threw 2 interceptions and K Blair Walsh missed 3 FGs. Still, Wilson had given the Seattle the lead 14-10 by connecting a beautifully designed and called TD pass to Doug Baldwin with less than 2 minutes to go. There was not a defender with 10 yards of Baldwins when he caught the ball and one affinity site described Baldwin and "vanishing" and "reanimating." That sounds like magic. And, as with magic or any other unseen power, some people have a tendency that play design and play calling sould solve any situation that arises on the field. Play design and the ability to call plays effectively are powerful tools to be sure. But they are not magic. And one who expects magic from play designers and playcallers will always find only disappointment and miss out on the joy that arises from an occasional magic play.

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It is typical for at least one team to climb from worst to first in a division. This year, two 2016 last place finishers currently sit atop divisions: Philadelphia and Jacksonville. Moreover, the Jaguars and the LA Rams are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the NFL in play design differential. If you have told anyone at the end of 2016 that barely half way through 2017 the Jaguars and Rams would be the best designed and coached teams in the NFL, you wuld have gotten plenty of skeptical looks. But both are for real. Jacksonville ground up Cincinnati, 23-7, with suffocating defense and a ball-control offense led by a mistake-free Blake Bortles. Meanwhile, LA demolished the NY Giants, as QB Jared Goff posted the highest QCYPA that any passer has posted so far in 2017 (15.955).

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Week 9: QC's 5 Best Bets

Turnovers killed the Bengals and Redskins chances to cover last week and were not enough for the Seahawks to overcome what will be the last DeShaun Watson offensive explosion of the year. QC’s Best Bets continued to scuffle finishing 2-3. That we knew what the risks were before making the picks and those risks in fact were our undoing is of small consolation. Turnovers are “emergent events” in the language of design architecture. In layman’s terms, turnovers just spontaneously “pop up” without any purposeful design. Handicapping would be a lot easier without turnovers, but it would be a lot duller too. Our path is forward.

1. Giants +3.5 over Rams
Everybody including QC loves what Sean McVay has done in LA this year and the Rams have covered 2 of their 3 road games and missed the third by ½ point. Still, at Dallas and Jacksonville they benefitted greatly from their opponents’ special teams miscues. QB Jared Goff has tailed off quite a bit when he has seen top defenses like Seattle and Jacksonville and New York can still play D. On offense, the Giants are throwing short passes and Eli Manning is playing within himself. He also has been excellent in the red zone on those rare occasions the Giants offense finds itself there. Rookie TE Evan Engram is weapon in that area (3 TDs) and is having one of the most productive years a rookie TE has had in a long time (30-342). If the New York defense can stifle LA RB Todd Gurley and put the game on Goff’s shoulders, the Giants should keep this close and in a game like that the hook’s value is magnified.

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2. Jaguars -5 over Bengals
This is a total turnover mismatch. The Jaguars are +8 TO. The Bengals are -11 TO. Don’t expect that to change this week. Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton struggles when WR A.J. Green is nullified and Jaguars CBs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are well-suited to make that happen. In addition, the Bengals struggle with pass protection and the Jaguars have the most ferocious rush in the NFL. And they just added DT Marcel Dareus in a trade with Buffalo. On offense, RB Leonard Fournette is healthy enough to play again and he will take the pressure off of Blake Bortles. But Bortles has had some great games. He shredded the Colts two weeks ago (18-26-330-TD). The Cincinnati pass D is much better than Indy’s but Bortles should be able to post something between 6.5 and 7.5 QCYPA and if he does that and does not turn the ball over the Jaguars can wait for their defensive pressure to get to Dalton. Don’t be surprised if the second half of this game looks something like what happened when Cincinnati traveled to Pittsburgh and got manhandled by the Steelers D in the second half.

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3. Saints -7 over Buccaneers
New Orleans has improved its play design differential +14.44% on its current 5-game winning streak. It now stands at the highest level it has been since 2011 when Sean Payton’s team was an automatic play in the Super Dome no matter the point spread. New Orleans did bungle a little last week against Chicago, giving away 2 turnovers. But the Saints still bested the Bears and their talented D by 8 points and you only have to lay 7 points here. Does that make any sense to you? It doesn't to QC. The Bucs defense is lousy and their QB, Jameis Winston, is playing hurt. Winston had no command of his fastball last week in a 17-3 loss to Carolina, who’s QB, Cam Newton, eked out productivity (2.07) that barely exceeded the JaMarcus Cable. Nobody is holding Drew Brees’ productivity below the JaMarcus Cable in the Super Dome, you can bank on dat. This looks like a blowout.

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4. Ravens +5 over Titans
Tennessee can run the ball with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry behind a good O-line and Baltimore ranks at the bottom of the league in run defense so the Titans should have their way with the Ravens upfront, right? Probably not. DT Brandon Williams returned from a foot injury 10 days ago against Miami and the Ravens run D looked much better. There are not too many DLs who make a huge difference and none that the line-makers account for individually when they make the line. But Williams is really good. When Baltimore’s front seven is wreaking havoc, its deep secondary led by CB Jimmy Smith becomes much more threatening. On offense, QB Joe Flacco will play as it appears that the ear injury he suffered against Miami turned out to be more significant than his brain injury. The Ravens also have TE Maxx Williams back in the lineup and pest-back Danny Woodhead should return to action. WR Mike Wallace is back too and WR Jeremy Maclin should go. With all this healing going on, QC thinks a 5-point subsidy is very generous and if you can get 3.5 or more jump on it.

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5. Cowboys +1 over Chiefs
Zeke Elliott will play but QC would pick Dallas here even if he had not won a temporary reprieve in court. The Cowboys have looked very much like a Super Bowl contender the last two weeks in steam-rolling the 49ers and Redskins. In doing so, they won the turnover battle decisively in both game. That is hard to do against Alex Smith and the Chiefs, but KC saw its streak of turnover-less games end at 5 on Monday night in Denver. The Chiefs' play design differential has been consistently eroding for a month. It is still positive and KC still is always a breath away from a big-play from Tyreek Hill or Kareem Hunt. But Andy Reid’s attack has become very big play dependent. If the Cowboys minimize the explosive plays, the Chiefs soft defense will have a very hard time denying Elliott, Alfred Morris, et al. less than 30 carries. And when Dallas rushes 30 or more times and Dak Prescott throws between 25-35 times, the Cowboys almost always win and cover. Further, a better designed team like Dallas wins SU 63.6% of the time. The Cowboys have been beaten twice at home, but in those games (Rams and Packers) Dallas helped its opponents cause by committing some killer turnovers. The Chiefs are very opportunistic so it could happen again. Whether turnovers will happen is pure speculation. QC will speculate on the “NO” and hope the turnover roulette wheel spins out “NO.”

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 21-18-1

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QC's Week 8 Thoughts

Atlanta saved its season with a gutty 25-20 win over the Jets in a downpour in New York. The Falcons moved the ball at will, but again strugged with turnovers (-1). For the year, Matt Ryan and company already have given the ball away 9 times after giving it away only 11 times in all of 2016. If Atlanta can get its turnover differential back in the black, they are still very much alive in the NFC race.

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New England's Bill Belichick owns the Chargers Phil Rivers. After a methodical 21-13 win, Belichick is 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS against Rivers when he has Tom Brady in the lineup. (Rivers did win the 2008 encounter when Matt Cassel was the starter after Brady underwent season-ending kneee surgery after Week 1). This meeting was typical of some many others as the Patriots won the TO battle 1-0 and the Chargers imploded on special teams when punt returner retreated 11 yards after fielding a punt and was tackeled in his own end zone to give New England a safety.

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The final score in Washington's 33-19 loss to Dallas was not reflective of the guttiness that the Redskins displayed. Jay Gruden's team played most of the game with only one regular starter on the O-line. Still, Washington was able to forge a 13-7 lead and was poised to extend the lead to 16-7 until the Cowboys blocked the field goal attempt and returned the block inside the Redskins' 5-yard line. RB Ezekiel Elliott scored on the next play and Dallas never trailed thereafter. But it was the catastrophic special teams breakdown and -2 TO differential that caused the loss, not any lack of gumption on the part of Washington.

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Week 8: QC's 5 Best Bets

The Week 7 card was every bit as challenging as QC thought it would be. The 10 most popular picks in the Westgate Super Contest went 0-10. QC's 1-4 was not much better. After starting the year 12-3, QC has been scuffling at 7-12-1. There is no time like the present to reclaim that early season form.

1. Falcons -4.5 over Jets
Last year's Super Bowl runnerups are on a 3-game losing streak against the AFC East and OC Steve Sarkisian is catching heat for it from every angle. Without Kyle Shannahan designing plays, Matt Ryan's TD passes to TE/RB has shrunk from 16 to 2. But keep a couple things in mind. First, Atlanta's 2016 +9.5 QCYPA was going to regress significantly even if Shannahan had remained OC. That number simply was not sustainable. Second, the Falcons pass coverage (6.373 D-QCYPA) is much better than last year. Third, even with all their problems, HC Dan Quinn's team is still the fourth-best designed team in the NFL with +4.32% play design differential. The Jets have overachieved, particularly at home where they are 3-0 ATS and they are 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 games. HC Todd Bowles has done a great job, but New York is not this good and cannot exceed expectations forever. This looks like a good spot for the Falcons to stop their slide and the Jets to regress a bit toward their lowly pre-season expectations.

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2. Bengals -10.5 over Colts
Both teams lost convincingly last week, but Cincinnati did it on the road at -2 TO while Indy received +2 TO at home Jacksonville and still was never in the game. The Colts pass defense is simply abysmal (9.037 D-QCYPA). And now talented rookie DB Malik Hooker is out for the year with a knee injury. Until the second half last week in Pittsburgh, it looked like promoted OC Bill Lazor had restored QB Andy Dalton's mojo. The Bengals D has been stout all year until last week too, but Indy has failed to rush for 100 yards in 6 of 7 games. Moreover, QB Jacoby Brisset was sacked 10 times by the Jaguars. Cincinnati's pass rush is not at that level, but lead by rookie DE Carl Lawson it is still pretty good (.585 yards lost per pass attempt). Laying this many points on team that underachieves and turns the ball over as much as the Bengals (-9 TO) is a risky move. But the Colts are 0-3 ATS on the road and their -7.94% play design +/- is the worst in the NFL (even worse than the winless Browns and 49ers).

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3. Panthers +2 over Buccaneers
Carolina has beat itself the last two weeks giving away 3 TOs in losses to Philadelphia and Chicago. In addition, Cam Newton has been a sub-5.5 QCYPA passer after back-to-back weeks of better than 11 QCYPA. In other words, it is anybody's guess which Cam and Panthers team will show up on offense. But the D is almost always stingy as demonstrated by a very good 6.626 D-QCYPA and .670 sacks yards lost per pass attempt. Jameis Winston and the Bucs also have had turnover troubles in their last 2 games (5 giveaways). And the Tampa pass defense (8.505 D-QCYPA) has been as bad as any outside out Indiana. Neither team has been able to run the ball effectively. Look for the team that wins the TO battle and gets the lead to have more success on the ground, control the game, and win. QC thinks Ron Rivera's D gives Carolina a better chance to be that team.

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4. Redskins +2 over Cowboys
Both of these teams have top-notch QBs, but both would prefer to run the ball. Both are 2-1 ATS when running the ball 30 times or more. Ideally, both would like to run the ball 30 or more times and have their QB throw no more than 30 passes. The design and turnover differentials are virtually identical. Dallas is the healthier team and coming off a 40-10 trouncing of San Francisco. But that result was fueld by a +3 TO differential. In the Cowboys' 3 wins (SU and ATS), Dak Prescott and company have not committed a turnover. In their 3 losses (again SU and ATS), the Cowboys have turned the ball over 7 times. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have overcome 4 TOs in two of their wins so it seems like Jay Gruden's team does not need quite as much perfections as Jason Garrett's team. That is because Cousins can carve up defenses with unconventional weapons in RB Chris Thompson and TE Vernon Davis who average 15.9 and 19.5 yards per catch, respectively, which are outstanding numbers for players at their positions. You have to go back to 1959 when 49ers RB Hugh McElhenny averaged 15 yards per reception to find more receiving bang from a RB buck than Thompson. The ability of Washington T Trent Williams to stay on the field will be critical. After Williams left the game last week against Philadelphia, he was replaced by the woeful T.J. Clemings and the Eagles' pass rush overran Cousins. The Cowboys DeMarcus Lawrence and friends could do the same thing if Clemmings plays significant snaps.

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5. Seahawks -5.5 over Texans
Houston rookie QB DeShawn Watson is the talk of the NFL, but the last time he faced a high quality NFL defense was Week 2 at Cincinnati and his QCYPA was below the JaMarcus Cable at 4.083. Since then he has feasted on sub-standard pass defenses in 3 straight home games. So this is a prove it game for Watson. No defense in the NFL is better at limiting explosive plays than Seattle. The Seahawsk D-QCYPA is an outstanding 5.532, which is as suffocating as their 2013 Super Bowl champion form (5.557). Pete Carroll's team has quietly crept up to No. 3 in the NFL in play design differential at +4.95%. Seattle's O-line is much maligned, but thanks to Russell Wilson's peerless escapability, the Seahawks lose onl .427 yards per pass attempt to sacks, which is not awful. It will be up to the depleted Texans pass rush to generate more pressure than that and keep the game close and to Watson to play within himself and let the game come to him. That kind of patience has never been Watson's strength so don't be surprise if he turns the ball over 2 or 3 times and Seattle wins by a couple of scores.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 19-15-1

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QC's Week 7 Thoughts

Both the 49ers and the theory that distractions inhibit NFL performance went down hard in San Francisco. After a mad week in which RB Zeke Elliott was re-suspended and then reinstated (perhaps temporarily) in New York, Dallas smashed the 49ers 40-10 as Elliott accumulated over 200 yards rushing and receiving and scored 3 TDs. The resurgent Cowboys' pass rush also battered rookied first-time starter C.J. Beathard. It easily was the best performance from HC Jason Garrett's team of the 2017 NFL season.

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Speaking of pressure, Jacksonville sacked Indianapolis QB Jacoby Brisset 10 times in a 27-0 blanking of the Colts. It was the second 10-sack out of the year for the Jaguars. (Houston QBs went down 10 times in the opener.) 75% of those sacks came from Jacksonville's scare front 4 of DEs Yannick Ngakoue (2.5) and Dante Fowler, Jr. (1.5) and DTs Calais Campbell (2) and Malik Jackson (1.5). For the year, opposing passers have on average lost .860 yards per pass attempt. That is more than .10 yards more lost than Carolina brought in 2013 (.753), the most since QC invested coachings statistics.

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Speaking of defense, Pittsburgh put together another incredible half in the second half of its 29-14 win over Cincinnati. The Steelers yielded just 19 total yards in the second half. The week prior, Pittsburgh gave up just 6 yards in the first half to Kansas City. For the year, the Steelers D-QCYPA stands at a miniscule 5.108 and opposing passers are losing on average .816 yards per pass attempt even though no Pittsburgh defender has more than 4 sacks. That is some stifling D.

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Week 7: QC's 5 Best Bets

If you had told QC before Week 6 that the Eagles, Jets and Steelers would cover and the Lions would score 2 defensive TDs and the Ravens would return 2 kicks for scores, QC would have been better than 95% sure he had a 5-0 week. But that's not the way it went as the Saints scored 3 defensive TDs against Detroit and Chicago scored a defensive TD and won in OT at Baltimore. Still, a profitable 3-2 mark in a week when the linemakers slaughtered the bettors is not bad at all. The board is not nearly as friendly this week. Candidly, there are zip, zero, zilch games on the board upon which QC can form a conviction based on coaching stats. It is tempting just to sit Week 7 out. But what fun is that? So QC is going to try something different: He is going to listen to his sharp friends and lean on them this week to try to build a little momentum.

1. Colts +3.5 over Jaguars
There is no way QC would pick the Colts in this game based on coaching stats, but Indy is getting a ton of love from the sharpest bettors QC follows. So let's go with it. The Colts are 3-0 ATS at home, but those wins are over Cleveland and San Francisco (0-12 SU) and Arizona (0-3 ATS on the road). The Jaguars have been win one, lose one all year and are do for a win one. Don't be surprised if DBs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye turn over Indy QB Jacoby Brissett and spark a big win. But Jacksonville has special teams problems and QC despises laying the hook on the road with any team. So, hopefully, Brissett will play within himself, rookie RB Marlon Mack will spring a run or two, WRs T.Y. Hiltona and Donte Moncrief will make a play or two, and the game will end up in the hands of Jacksonville's Blake Bortles in Q4. If all that happens, then QC's sharps are really sharp.

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2. Seahawks -5.5 over Giants
QC is stepping out on his own on this one because Seattle HC Pete Carroll owns the Manning Brothers and the NFC East. Since 2012 when Russell Wilson arrived, the Seahawks are 4-0 against the Mannings and a whopping 13 takeaways and +8 TO. Here is why: The Mannings hate to take sacks. Eli is a little more willing to do so than P-Rex ever was, but Eli is not real patient with getting beat up. He toughed it out last week in Denver and NY stunned the Broncos. But it is unlikely that he will display that kind of patience two weeks in a row. Wilson, on the other hand, is the best QB in the NFL when getting mugged. Since his rookie year, Wilson is 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS against NFC East teams. The only blemishes on the record were inflicted by Dallas. For good measure, Wilson also has never lost at New York to play the Jets or at New England. Sharps and linemakers fret over long road trips, but Seattle's travel from the far Northwest to the far Northeast has produced 0 losses since 2012. QC thinks it is more likely that the Giants provide a treasure trove of turnover subsidies than they receive such treasure. If that happens, Seattle should win by something like 23-0.

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3. Bengals +5.5 over Steelers
Pittsburgh dominated unbeaten Kansas City last week but at the end of the day had only 19 points to show for it. The Bengals have struggled on offense, but they are coming off a bye and the week before that moved the ball well on Buffalo's rugged defense. Still, this game should be all about defense. Both teams rank at the top of the NFL in pressuring opposing QBs and in success rate on defense. Both teams rank in the top 5 in the NFL in play design differential with Cincinnati ranking No. 1. However, the Bengals' also are one of the NFL's biggest underachievers per QC's achievement measure and that is reason to be super nervous about backing them on the road in any game. Still, unless Cincinnati's propensity to turn the ball over (-7 TO) emerges again, this should be a close, low-scoring game that is decided by a field goal.

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4. Broncos +1.5 over Chargers
Denver embarrassed itself losing to the winless Giants last week while LA comes in on two-game mini-winning streak. But many of the sharps QC follows like the Broncos and QC always has an open mind about betting against Phil Rivers, especially when the Chargers are a favorite of any kind. Rivers is always capable of turning out a 3 or 4 TO performance, especially when his side abandons the run. That's pretty likely given the Broncos are yielding just 70.2 yards rushing per game, which includes a fluky 148 yards last week after they fell behind. Rivers has protected the ball for the past 3 games so he might be due for some generosity. LA was great at taking the ball away last year, but so far this year they are on pace to create only 18 takeaways. Trevor Siemian and his Denver teammates gave it away 3 times last week to NY so they should be concentrating on ball security. In the opening game of the season, the Broncos hammered LA for 140 yards rushing on 36 carries. The Broncos are 3-0 ATS when they run the ball 30 times or more and the Chargers are yielding on average 30.3 rushes and 152.5 rushing yards per game.

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5. Redskins +5 over Eagles
Both teams have lost tough battles at Kansas City and the Eagles topped the Redskins in Week 1. That's it for the failure on both sides. This should be an old fashion NFC East brawl, even though it will lack Washington rookie DT Jonathan Allen who went on IR with a foot injury this week. He will be missed. Star DB Josh Norman is out too but rookie Fabian Moreau is one to watch and he should do an adquate job against Philly's star-less WR cast. When Washington has the ball, they will have to control Fletcher Cox who destroyed Carolina's O-line 10 days ago. But the Redskins have G Brandon Scherff who can go toe-to-toe with Cox and the Eagles other big and nasty interior defenders. In the end, this game probably will be decided by which QB avoids turnovers. In the opener, Kirk Cousins committed two crushing Q4 turnovers and the Redskins lost the TO battle 4-2. Eagles' QB Carson Wentz is getting gushing praise, but he still makes QC hold his breath the way he holds the ball in the pocket and throws it into tight spaces. QC will speculate that he will not get away with such play this time and the TO ratio will flip and Washington will tighten up the NFC East race with a SU win.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 18-11-1

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QC's Week 6 Thoughts

Great coaching does not always show up at the top of QC's weekly "Best Coached" list. Chicago is 2-4, but HC John Fox and his staff are designing and coaching their butts off. In a 27-24 win at Baltimore, Bears' RB Tarik Cohen threw a TD pass and Chicago prevailed despite giving up a kickoff return for a TD and a punt return for a TD. Since inserting rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears have been better designed than their opponents each of the past 2 weeks and their play design differential has improved from -5.18% to -0.77%. The Bears still have a lot of ground to make up, but the distance does not feel as daunting now that both division leaders, Green Bay and Minnesota, likely will be without their starting QBs for the rest of the year. The most unlikely division champion since QC invented coaching statistics has been the 2011 Denver Broncos, who won the AFC West at 8-8 with a -12 TO differential, a -3.67% play design differential, and Tim Tebow at QB. Who coached the 2011 Broncos? John Fox. The early season parallels between the 2011 Broncos and these Bears is uncanny. Both started 1-4 behind a veteran QB (Kyle Orton and Mike Glennon, respectively). At an extended break in the season, both turned to a new young QB (Tebow and Trubisky, respectively). The change quickly returned a bizarre, improbable overtime win on the road. After a blowout loss at home to Detroit left Denver at 2-5, the Broncos ripped off 6 straight wins--each one more improbable than the prior--before falling apart and losing their last 3 games and backing into the divisional championship when the Raiders lost to the Chargers in Week 17. As you may recall, the wins were ugly and the losses were hideous. There will never be a bronze bust of John Fox the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. But he knows how to scramble with the best of 'em. He is like that golfer who for 18 holes seems like he is always in the rough, the sand, or the water, but at the end of the round he signs a even par card and makes his opponents beat him. The 2017 season is still on the front 9. It will be interesting to see if Fox can get the Bears up-and-down often enough to hoist a division title trophy in the cubhouse--er, clubhouse--at the end.

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New Rams HC Sean McVay wowed the NFL the first three weeks of the season when his play design transformed QB Jared Goff and turned him into an infinitely productive passer. Goff has come back to earth. In his past 2 games, Goff has averaged less than 5.9 QCYPA. But LA split those games and probably should have won them both. In a 27-17 win at Jacksonville, the Rams scored TDs on a kickoff return and a blocked punt. Rather than keep the accelerator pressed to the floor against the Jaguars, McVay reeled in Goff, who only attempted 21 passes against the Jax's ball-hawking secondary. In other words, McVay adapted to the moment and won a game in which his team was not the better designed team. He designed within himself and let the game come to his team. Some coaches never learn such self-discipline. (QC's looking at you, Kyle Shannahan.) It is just one game, but McVay may have it already. If so, that is the most impressive attribute that he has displayed so far.

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How bad did NFL HQ screw the Jets when they reversed what appeared to be a TD pass from Josh McCown to TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins when the latter double-clutched the ball as he tumbled over the pylon? Pefectly is the answer. The Patriots won the TO battle 3-2 because the reversal transformed the TD into a TO. The Jets were a tiny smidge better designed (0.72%) and a pinch more productive (0.25). Further, QC's trade secret achievement stat showed NY underachieved by 6 points, the exact amount of points they would have earned if New York had been awarded the TD. The bottom line is that all the coaching stats reflected a tie game on the field. But the game was not decided on the field. It was decided in a control room at NFL HQ. That's outrageous.

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In his Monday Morning QB column today, Peter King claimed the NFL is a "mismash of mediocrity." Maybe. But maybe underappreciated defensive designers have figured out some new schemes to combat the NFL's highpowered offenses and recent drafts have delivered truckloads of talented DBs to execute those designs. QC considers 6.7 QCYPA to be ground zero of NFL mediocrity. In 2016, only 6 teams held opposing pasers to less than 6.7 QCYPA (Denver, Minnesota, Houston, Arizona, NY Giants and Jacksonville). Through 6 weeks, 12 NFL teams are holding opposing passers below that figure (Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, LA Chargers, Seattle and Washington) and 2 more are just barely over 6.7 (Minnesota and NY Jets). Those numbers describe defensive excellence, not mediocrity.

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Week 6: QC's 5 Best Bets

Somtimes you should just listen to your friends. QC's sharp betting buddies had plenty of love for the Panthers and Bengals last week and coaching statistics suggested the Panthers and Packers would be good plays. But QC ignored all that and backed the Cardinals (What?!!) and the Rams (5 turnovers, including one of the greatest defensive plays he has ever seen when Seattle's Earl Thomas karate-chopped the ball from Todd Gurley at the goal line.) Missing the Bengals does not hurt as Cincinnati was extremely lucky to cover at -2 turnovers. (Teams like the Bills cover +3 at a 94.6% clip at +2 turnovers.) But missing out on the Panthers and Packers were self-inflicted wounds. This much is certain for Week 6: Even if the card ends up 0-5, we won't be feeling like that again this week.

1. Eagles +3.5 over Panthers
Thursday night games are usually pretty ugly and both of these teams have defenses that can make a game pretty ugly. Both teams come in off big wins. Carolina's Cam Newtown has posted better than 11 QCYPA in his last two games and that uber-productive passing has driven the Panthers play design differential to No. 3 in the NFL. That looks like it is due for some regression to the mean. It becomes even more likely if Carolina's running game is MIA as it was in Detroit where the Panthers averaged 1 measley yard per carry on 28 attempts. The Panthers pass coverage has been outstanding (6.1 D-QCYPA). The only opposing QB to penetrate it so far has been the Saints Drew Brees. Philly QB Carson Wentz is young and on the road on the short week. Normally, this would be a red alert to stay away. But Wentz is so dad gum smart. He won't have any trouble being ready and he is preternaturally composed. The Eagles rediscoverd their pass coverage and to a lesser extent their pass rush last week in wiping out the Cardinals. Those areas will have to be better to win SU in Carolina. But if Wentz can hit his averages of 7.9 QCYPA and 2 TD passes per game, 3 points plus a hook should be enough to cover.

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2. Jets +9 over Patriots
QC has never seen a point spread like this one in the middle of an NFL season.* Since 2009 in Weeks 4 through 9, there have been only 10 games in which a team has laid 9 or more points on the road. All of those visiting teams laying those points enjoyed large play design edges over the home teams. Still, underdogs went 4-6 SU in these games and 6-4 ATS. Here are those matchups (underdogs who covered in bold, SU winners in bold yellow):

2009: Minnesota (5-0) at St. Louis (0-5) +10.5 (38-10)
2009: Indianapolis (5-0) at St. Louis (0-6) +14 (42-6)
2009: Green Bay (3-2) at Cleveland (1-5) +9 (31-3)
2009: Philadelphia (3-1) at Oakland (1-4) +14.5 (9-13)
2009: Green Bay (4-3) at Tampa Bay (0-7) +10 (28-38)
2011: Green Bay (7-0) at Minnesota (1-5) +10.5 (33-27)
2011: Baltimore (4-1) at Jacksonville (1-5) +10.5 (9-12)
2011: New Orleans (5-2) at St. Louis (0-6) +11.5 (21-31)
2014: Denver (3-1) at NY Jets (1-4) +10 (31-17)
2015: New England (4-0) at Indianapolis (3-2) +9 (34-27)

The combined records of the favorites that covered the big number was 16-3 while the combined record of the underdogs that failed to cover was 3-20. In other words, in games where the underdog failed to cover, the game featured one of the best teams in the NFL and/or one of the worst teams in the NFL. This does not look like such a game. The Jets actually are a little better designed than New England and have covered and won SU both of their home games. Further, a better designed home team covers +9 points 86.7% of the time. New York has multiple ballers on every level on defense: Wilkerson, Williams, Davis, Lee, Claiborne, Adams. HC Todd Bowles is doing a good job designing the defense, which seems to be improving every week. And Patriots stars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are pretty bruised. When New York has had the football, QB Josh McCown has been resourceful and played within himself during New York's current 3-game winning streak. It remains to be seen if Bill Belichick has fixed all his defense's woes. According to ESPN's NFL Matchup, the Patriots are the second worst team Iin the NFL agains the run on first down when in base personnel (6.15 yards per carry) and at pressuring the passer (only 20% of pass snaps have resulted in an opposing QB feeling pressure from New England). McCown does not throw downfield much, but Louis Riddick pointed out the Jets rank second in the NFL in passer rating on throws over 20 yards. These numbers suggest New York should be able generate workmanlike productivity and perhaps even generate a big play or two out of the passing game. This looks like it should be a close game between evenly matched divisional rivals and don't be surprised if the Jets win SU.

*UPDATE NOTE: The +9 points granted to the Jets is the largest point subsidy QC has ever seen given to a better designed team since the invention of coaching statistics in 2008. The prior record was +8.5 points granted the Giants when they visited Chicago in Week 6 of 2013. New York came into the game 0-5 and a ghastly -13 TO. On the third play from scrimmage, Eli Manning threw a pick to set up the Bears at the Giants 12-yarde line. But the Giants held and Chicago coach Marc Trestman eschewed a chip-shot field goal on 4th-and-goal at the 2-yard line. Jay Cutler's pass to Brandon Marshall fell incomplete and QC thought, "Thank you, Coach Trestman, for avoding those points." But QC's relief was short-lived as 5 plays later Eli threw a pick-6 to Tim Jennings. The teams traded scores until the end of the first half and beginning of the second half when Chicago surged ahead, 27-13, on a pair of Robby Gould field goals. But Eli drove New York 91 yards in Q3 for a TD that made the ATS score, Giants 29.5 Bears 27. That was the final score after a Q4 Chicago pick turned the Giants away. New York covered even though -3 TO because a better designed team covers +8 points at -2 TO or worse 43% of the time. A better designed team covers +9 points at -2 TO or worse 45% of the time and covers +10 points at -2 TO or worse 53% of the time. It also helps if the favored coach says, "No thanks, I'm good," and passes up easy field goal points like Marc Trestman did that Thursday night in October of 2013.

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3. Lions +5.0 over Saints
Sometimes the last thing a team wants is a bye. New Orleans might be that team. The Saints rebounded from an 0-2 start to win back-to-back games as their previously hideous defense stifled Carolina and blanked Miami in London. Then they took a breather. They probably felt pretty good about themselves during that time off. That's not a good thing with the pesky Lions coming to town. Detroit lost a wierd game last week. For 4 games, the Lions pass D was outstanding. Then Cam Newton lit it up. Most of the damage was done by journeyman TE Ed Dickson, so this quite possibly was just one of those days. Detroit CBs Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs have been outstanding and rookie MLB Jarrad Davis will play his second game after returning from a concussion to the lineup. New Orleans has yet to commit a turnover. Drew Brees and his teammates have only gone 4 games without a turnover one other time, no NFL team has ever started a season with 5 straight TO-free games, and the Lions are third in the NFL in takeaways (11). QC is betting on a turnover or two from the Saints. On the other side of the ball, Detroit QB Matt Stafford has turned into a gritty gamer. When he was a golden-armed wunderkind, he would kill the Lions with his own turnovers. But those days occur much less frequently now. He knows how to keep his team in the game whether at home or on the road. And if Detroit falls behind, he can still sling it (even banged up). Last year in New Orleans he went 30-42-341-2 TDs-0 Ints. It could happen again. Detroit is 2-0 SU on the road in 2017 and its two losses at home were by just 3 and 4 points. The Lions have covered +5 points in 17 of their last 21 games (80.9%).

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4. Ravens -6.5 over Bears
When did we last see the following? A struggling team turns control over to a rookie QB who has an extended period of time to prepare for his debut at home. The rookie QB turns in a game, but not spectacular, performance and his team covers the spread as it loses a closer game than expected. The next week the rookie QB and his teammates invade Baltimore. If you said, "Week 2 of the 2017 NFL season," you are right. Cleveland's DeShone Kizer traveled the path that is now before Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky just a few weeks ago. In the prior case, Kizer and the Browns turned the ball over 5 times and the Ravens covered -7.5, 24-10, although the result was in doubt until the end. This week, the Ravens are not laying a TD plus a hook so you don't have to worry as much about a late backdoor cover TD. Baltimore was once formidable at home and it has looked the part recently save a couple weeks ago when the Steelers bloodied their nose. The Ravens are 5-2 ATS at home since their 2016 bye. John Harbaugh's team is pretty beat up and likely won't have star DT Brandon Williams again and might not have DB Jimmy Smith. But the Bears have been an absolute horror show on the road. Chicago is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 road games and the margins of defeat have been 21, 22, 28, 3, 6, 26, 16, 6, 14, and 9 points. The Bears have given away 12 turnovers while Baltimore has taken the ball away 12 times. Both figures rank second in the league. Inserting Trubisky in the line up will make Chicago better in the long run. But in the short run this has all the makings of another Bears road disaster.

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5. Steelers +4.5 over Chiefs
The Chiefs come in flying high off a win at Houston and Pittsburgh limps in after a spanking at home from Jacksonville. But less than 9 months ago the Steelers beat Kansas City at Arrowhead in the divisional playoffs. The Chiefs only gave Pittsburgh 2 points that night, so it looks like recency bias is kicking in 2.5 points. Perhaps some of that additional subsidy is because Kansas City is featuring super rookie RB Kareem Hunt and the Steelers have been soft against the run. But is any RB really worth 2.5 points? The Steelers can run the ball too with Le'Veon Bell, but have really only committed to the run in their wins over Minnesota and Baltimore. Look for HC Mike Tomlin and OC Todd Haley to get back to feeding Bell this week as their RB carried 30 times for 170 yards in the playoff win last year. KC's QB Alex Smith is averaging almost 8.9 QCYPA by mixing Hunt runs with passes to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. But Kelce may miss the game with the aftermath of a concussion. Moreover, Smith has not seen a defense anywhere near as good Pittsburgh's D. The Steelers have found a very good coverman in CB Artie Burns and their coverage is suffocating opposing passers (4.758 D-QCYPA) and generating great pressure (.797 yards lost on sacks per pass attempt). Concededly, the list of passers to have faced Pittsburgh probably could not be worse (Kizer, Keenum, Glennon, Flacco and Bortles). But sub-5.000 D-QCYPA is impressive against anybody and the Chiefs lose .639 yards per pass attempt to sacks because their O-line is banged up--particularly the core--and Smith will take a sack over throwin an interception every day of the week and twice (or 4-6x) on Sunday. Look for the Steelers pressure to get to Smith and if Pittsburgh can be solid in the kicking game (DO NOT KICK TO TYREEK HILL!!!!!) it should be another rock 'em, sock 'em battle that is decided by a field goal or less.

Last Week: 2-2-1
Season: 15-9-1

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QC's Week 5 Thoughts

QC is almost ready to buy into the Eagles after Philadelphia destroyed Arizona, 34-7. HC Doug Pederson’s team dominated the Cardinals in all 3 phases. QB Carson Wentz tossed 4 TD passes and had no trouble at all with the Arizona defense. And the Eagles’ defense kept Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald in check the entire game. Philadelphia’s play design differential improved by 2.94% as a result of the complete performance. That is a big bump for one game. If Philadelphia continues to improve by just a fraction of that amount, the Cowboys (2 games back) and Redskins (1.5 games back with a home L to the Eagles already on their record) will have a hard time catching up.

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After the loss in Philadelphia, Arizona GM Larry Keim questioned his teams “Football IQ.” That seems harsh to QC. The Cardinals play design differential has collapsed since 2015, plummeting from +5.84%, the second best mark in the NFL, to -1.6% after this most recent loss. The media hailed HC Bruce Arians as a design savior in 2014 when the Cardinals overcame a string of injuries to finish 11-5. Arians is colorful and his “no risk it, no biscuit” commitment has won games in 2013-2015 that Arizona otherwise probably would not have won. But Arizona’s play design seem like it has gotten stale and predictable. The flip side of “no risk it, no biscuit” can be pretty ugly. This is a team that could go over the cliff and crater if it falls out of playoff contention in the next few weeks.

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Cleveland fell to the Jets, 17-14, to drop to 0-5 and media and fan dissatisfaction is growing with HC Hue Jackson. Candidly, QC thought Jackson would improve the Browns fortunes much quicker than this. But the depth of the ultra-youth movement that Cleveland has committed itself too may be unprecedented. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer DE Myles Garrett are just 21-years-old. In earlier eras, they would still be in college developing or learning from the bench. But Cleveland needs them to produce now. Anybody who think they can do so on a regular basis is fantasizing. For the first time this year, on Sunday the Browns dominated the majority of the game. All that domination was undone by a few catastrophic plays (turnovers and missed field goals). Still, for the first time in 2017 the Browns looked a bit improved as their play design differential improved from -8.21% to -5.73%. Hue and all of Cleveland is going through growing pains. These are more intense growing pains than normal, but they are still just growing pains. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but QC is still cautiously optimistic that by the end of the year the Browns play design differential will be at least 2% better than the -6% figure registered in 2016. And if the turnovers and special teams flatten out, Cleveland will double and perhaps triple its win total over 2016.

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Oakland and Tennessee have quickly learned that NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Both started strong, but currently sit 2-3 after discouraging losses on Sunday to the Ravens and Dolphins, respectively. Both played without their starting QBs, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. But neither team showed any grit that might have powered them to rise to the occasion and overcome that adversity. Of the two, the Raiders are in a much more difficult spot because they are in the toughest division in the AFC and perhaps the NFL. But today it is hard to see how either team will be able to rally and reclaim its early season form.

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Jacksonville looks like the team QC hoped the Bears would be. The Jaguars feature: (A) an oustanding turnover differential (+10 after intercepting Ben Roethlisberger 5 times in 30-9 win over the Steelers; (B) a powerful running game led by an oustanding young RB (Leonard Fournette, who torched Pittsburgh for 181 yards); and (C) a QB who plays within himself and lets the game come to the Jaguars (Blake Bortles, who attempted just 14 passes against the Steelers). Here's hoping Bears rookie QB Mitchel Trubisky can give Chicago the same thing Bortles is giving the Jaguars. (Who would have thought you would ever hear that?).

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Week 5: QC's 5 Best Bets

It does not take much to turn a middling 3-2 or 2-3 week into a 1-4 downer. Dallas looked well on its way to 30 rushes and a win and cover over the Rams when rookie punt returner dropped a punt and let LA back in the game. Jacksonville looked like it was going to steal a win and cover against the Jets until an untimely holding penalty nullified a TD that would have put the Jaguars ahead by 4 points late in Q4. So it goes.

1. Cardinals +6.5 over Eagles
Sometimes you have to hold your nose and make the bet. QC flat out missed a play last week when he overlooked the Eagles and a chance to bet against Phil Rivers. The Cardinals played to their underachieving standard until Larry Fitzgerald put the team on this back and won it in OT against San Francisco. Still, Arizona did not cover and now stands 0-4 ATS. Eventually, the Cardinals will break through and this looks like a good spot. Arizona ranks second in the NFL in explosive plays according to ESPN NFL Matchup and the Eagles D gave up over 10 yards per play to the Chargers when LA lined up in 12 personnel. Zona HC Bruce Arians loves 12 personnel because it enables him to max protect, which helps beleagured QB Carson Palmer, and attack downfield. An injury to TE Jermaine Gresham has inhibited Arians' ability to use 12 personnel, but Gresham returne last week against San Francisco and should be good to go. It will help even more if Philadelphia HC Doug Pederson and DC Jim Schwartz try to get by one more week without DT Fletcher Cox. The Cardinals wobbly core protection will struggle no matter who is in there, but if Cox misses the game it may not be overrun. On defense, RB LeGarrett Blount will find the Arizona run defense, which has not given up 100 yards in any game, much stingier than the Chargers. And QB Carson Wentz may struggle against pass coverage that yields just 6.3 D-QCYPA. The Eagles have underachieved the last 3 weeks and are 2-1 SU, but 1-2 ATS. If Arians can design adquate pass protection and Palmer does not turn the ball over, the Cardinals could win SU and should at least cover.

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2. Jaguars +8 over Steelers
These are by far the two best pass defenses in the NFL with Pittsburgh yielding a miniscule 4.647 D-QCYPA and Jacksonville giving up just 5.066. The Steelers banged Baltimore's depleted O-line last week with Le'Veon Bell to keep Ben Roethlisberger out of harms way against the Ravens talented secondary. Meanwhile, the Jets torched Jacksonville for a pair of 65+ TD runs. Pittsburgh won't average 8 yards per rush and pile up 256 yards like the Jets did. On the other hand, Leonard Fournette probably can average the 4.5 yards per carry that ball-carriers have averaged against Pittsburgh. QB Blake Bortles struggled last week (4.171 QCYPA), but he is getting good pass protection and throwing the ball away more and avoiding the big turnover. If Bortles continues to play within himself, this should be a low-scoring defensive struggle. Holding 8 points is a nice cushion in such a game.

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3. Ravens +2.5 over Raiders
Both of these teams have fallen off a cliff the last two weeks after starting out strong with a pair of wins. Injuries have been part of the explanation for both teams. Baltimore has lost several key players on both the O-line and D-line and is praying it will have stud DT Brandon Williams back for this game. The Ravens have missed the gut pass pressure Williams creates and have given up 166 and 173 yards rushing the last 2 games without him. However, Oakland has not run the ball at all the last 2 games. Against Washington and Denver the Raiders averaged just 14 attempts and 28 yards per game. Jack Del Rio hopes to have WR Michael Crabtree back this week, but QB Derek Carr is definitely out. Teams are averaging 28 carries per game against the Raiders' defense and, as pointed out last week, Baltimore has covered 5 straight games in which it has attempted 28 or more rushes. Look for Oakland to continue to struggle on the ground whether Williams plays or not and QB E.J. Manuel to have trouble with the Ravens' talented secondary and the Ravens to win on the road.

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4. Rams -1 over Seahawks
This is a study in contrast. According to ESPN NFL Matchup, the Rams and QB Jared Goff (9.633 QCYPA) rank second in the NFL in explosive plays. On the other hand, the Seahawks D has allowed the third fewest explosive plays in the NFL. Goff leads the league in passer rating when the pocket is clean per Pro Football Focus and Seattle is without DE Cliff Averill and its rush has been fairly mediocre so far. LA has a strong pass rush (opposing passers have lost more than .6 yards per attempt), but it could not get to the elusive Dak Prescott last week and nobody is more elusive in the pocket than Russell Wilson. Neither team has been good against the run. The Rams have Todd Gurley while Seattle lost Chris Carson to injury last week. The Rams' superior ground game and Seattle's 1-6 ATS mark in its last 7 road games makes QC lean LA. Better designed teams at home like the Rams cover 1 point 63.9% of the time.

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5. Bears +3 over Vikings
Chicago is not terrible as they looked on the short week in Green Bay. Rather, they are merely Bi-Polar Bears. Chicago is a depresssing 2-6 ATS in its last 8 road games. But the (Bi-Polar) Bears are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 home games, including covers against top-5 designed teams Atlanta and Pittsburgh (SU W) this year. John Fox had to jettison QB Mike Glennon after Glennon imploded against the Packers. Taking over is rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky. He does not have to be great. If Trubisky can (A) avoid turnovers and (B) raise Chicago's QCYPA from its current 5.7 to 6.7, the (Bi-Polar) Bears will be competitive, espeically at home. Minnesota revved up its pass rush last week against Detroit, but got little traction the first three weeks. Trubisky's mobility may help keep Everson Griffen, et al. off balance. On offense, Minnesota has two top WRs in Stafon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but the loss of RB Dalvin Cook is huge. QB Case Keenum's last 6 road games as a starting QB have included 4 performances at or below the JaMarcus Cable when he posted QCYPA of 3.842, 5.167, 5.302, and 3.429. In their two losses, the Minnesota D has seen more than 30 rushing attempt from it opponents because Keenum could not generate any offense. DC Vic Fangio's defense flustered Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh in its last home game and is quite capable of doing the same to Keenum and leaving the game in the hands of Chicago RB Jordan Howard rather than Trubisky.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 13-7

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