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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 (2018-Part 3)

Week 17: QC's Best Bets

A late TD pass by Buffalo QB Josh Allen, a field goal as time expired by Philadelphia's Jake Elliott, and blown leads of 9 and 10 points by the Lions and Saints, respectively, kept Week 16 from being extraordinary. Still, QC managed to hang onto a 7.95% profit, his 12th profitable week out of 16. Such a result is even more acceptable in light of the fact that home teams finished 2-12-2 ATS in Week 16.

1. Giants -6 over Cowboys
The Giants are 5-1-1 ATS since their bye and actually a little better designed than the Cowboys. New York has lost 5 of its 10 games by a TD or less. Last week, the Giants dominated Indianapolis for 3 quarters, only to give up the lead and the win late in Q4. The media has battered QB Eli Manning, but his 7.341 QCYPA and 92.7 passer rating are still adequte to compete in the NFL. Defensively, New York's pass coverage has been average despite a sub-par pass rush. All of this would point toward a tight game if Dallas game planned and played to win. But HC Jason Garrett will not be doing so. The Cowboys are locked into the NFC playoffs as a No. 4 seed and Jerry Jones already has said Dallas will "play smart." To win in the NFL, a team must play desperately. That won't be Jerry Jones' team on Sunday. QB Dak Prescott, RB Zeke Elliott and a host of other front-liners will play a few cautious series before retiring for the rest of the day, which should put Pat Shurmur's team on the smooth path to a season-ending double-digit victory.

2. UNDER 45: Saints vs. Panthers
These teams put a mere 21 total points on the scoreboad when they met just two weeks ago in Charlotte, NC. Now, in what may be Ron Rivera's last game as the HC of the Panthers, Carolina will go with practice squader Kyle Allen at QB due to injuries to Cam Newton and Taylor Heinicke. Like the Cowboys, Sean Payton's team has locked up its position in the NFL playoffs. Since 2010, the year the NFL mandated intradivision games in Week 17, nine teams have played their final regular season game after clincing the top-seed in their conference. Only 2 times in those 9 games has the total gone over 45 (Patriots vs. Dolphins in 2016 (49) and Packers vs. Lions in 2011 (84), a/k/a, "The Matt Flynn Game"). Payton will give backup QB Teddy Bridgewater significant playing time. Bridgewater may still have game, but Payton probably will keep all play design vanilla so don't expect it to be much of a showcase for Bridgewater. Like the Cowboys, the Saints have a future so they will not be betting big in a game that has not potential return on investment.

3. Patriots -13.5 over Jets
Unlike standup comedians, embattled NFL HC like the Jets' Todd Bowles rarely leave on a high note. Since 2010, there have been 19 games in Week 7 decided by 14 points or more in which an HC dawned a headset for a team for the last time. The record of the soon-to-be-departed in those blowouts: 1-18. Only Buffalo's Chan Gailey ended on a high note with a 28-9 win in 2012 over ... wait for it ... New York and Todd Bowles. Sam Darnold has looked good the last 3 weeks since returning from injury, completing at least 63% of his passes with a TD-to-INT ratio of 6:1. But the Patriots are 5-2 ATS at home and 5-2 ATS when opponents run for less than 100 yards and New York has run for less than 100 yards in 8 of its last 9 games. Even with Darnold, who can be TO-prone on the road, playing well, t is hard to imagine Bowles going out on a high note at New England against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Brady struggled last week against Buffalo's stingy defense, but he carved up the Jets (9.774 QCYPA) when the teams met a few weeks ago in New York. The Patriots ground game blasted the Bills last week for 273 yards on 47 carries and hammered the Jets in the first meeting for 215 yards on 36 carries. This game has all the characteristics of a classic NFL HC last gig.

4. UNDER 45: Packers vs. Lions
Bettors are backing the Pack as rumors swirl that QB Aaron Rogers wants to play well enough for managment to make interim HC Joe Philbin the permanent HC. But the Lions are 6-1 ATS against negatively designed teams like Green Bay and 5-2 ATS on the road. So QC doesn't want any part of the side here. But he will roll again with the Detroit Under Machine. If anyone has been paying attention (not likely given how bad and boring the Lions have been lately), Detroit games have gone under 40 points in 6 straight games and 7 of the last 8 games. QB Matt Stafford has thrown just 3 TD passes in his last 6 games and the the Lions have scored 17 or fewer points in 7 of their last 9 games. In addition, Green Bay is 3-0 to the under against negatively designed teams like Detroit at Lambeau Field (Cardinals: 37, Dolphins: 43, Bills: 22). QC expects another UNDERwhelming performance from both sides on the not quite frozen tundra (weather forecast calls for a sunny 36 degrees).

5. Texans -6.5 over Jaguars
Jacksonville is reinserting Blake Bortles at QB after a dismal experiment with Cody Kessler, who has been sacked for an average of -36 yards per game in his last 3 starts. Still, the Jaguars were even in TOs and 2-2 ATS with Kessler under center. With Bortles starting, Jacksonville is -11 TO and 3-6-2 ATS. Houston's pass defense has crumbled, but it is highly unlikely that Bortles will be able to exploit that weakness. On the other side of the ball, the Texans have not committed a TO in their last 4 home games (3-1 ATS). Houston's +12 TO differential is tied for second in the NFL. Big play RB Lamar Miller was a full participant in practice this week and is on schedule to return to help a running game that has not topped 100 yards in the last 3 games. With Miller in the lineup, the Texans stung the Jags for 141 rushing yards in an easier than it sounds 20-7 win in Week 7. If Miller can get the ground game on track, QB Deshaun Watson might not have to pay the physical price to make the big plays he consistently makes to keep Houston's offense moving. Rarely does a team go quietly in this rivalry, but with Miller back Bill O'Brien's team should have enough firepower to win by at least 7-10 points.

6. Steelers -14.5 over Bengals
Like Todd Bowles, Cincinnati's long-time HC Marvin Lewis may be on his way out and it is not likely to be on a high note. The Bengals rallied in garbage time last week to cover against Cleveland, but boy was it ugly before Q4. In the first half, QB Jeff Driskell and company generated just 36 yards of offense, including -15 passing yards. RB Joe Mixon has been a workhorse, but the Steelers D has held opponents to 90 or less rushing yards in 4 straight games and Cincinnati ran just 13 times for 62 yards in the first meeting between the teams. Pittsburgh is 4-1 ATS at home when opponents run the ball less than 25 times and won 3 of the 4 games by at least 15 points. The Chargers were the only team to cover and they needed a punt return for a TD to do so. On offense, QB Ben Roethlisberger is far less TO-prone at home and the Steelers' offense averages 32 points per game. Pittsburgh has played just one negatively designed team at home, Carolina, which it beat 52-21. Cincinnati also is likely to be without DBs Dre Kirkpatrick and Tony McCrae and LB Vontaze Burfict, who is Public Enemy No. 1 in Pittsburgh. Steelers' fans won't miss Burfict, but they will miss Lewis, who has lost 7 straight to the Steelers and is 8-25 vs. Pittsburgh since becoming Cincinnati's HC in 2003.

7. Vikings -4.5 over Bears
Chicago is locked into the No. 3 seed and Minnesota is in the playoffs with a win. Moreover, the Vikings will travel to Soldier Field next week for an immediate rematch if Seattle dispatches lowly Arizona. So Bears' HC Matt Nagy is not going to show Mike Zimmer anything. Zimmer's signature pass coverage has roared back to life recently and has not yieled a TD pass in its last 3 games. So Minnesota at home would be a handful for Nagy and QB Mitch Trubisky even if their motivation was not so conflicted. Why would Nagy give Zimmer a preview of coming design attractions under these circumstances? This is the fourth time since 2009 that a team has entered Week 17 with an immediate rematch realistically imminent. In all 4 games, the team that needed to win and/or was at home emerged victorious. In 3 of the games, the score was 33-7, 37-0 and 24-0. Only in 2012 when Green Bay's Aaron Rogers kept pace with the Vikings' Adrian Peterson in a 37-34 loss did the team that had already sewn up a playoff spot stay connected. The Bears have too much to lose and too little to gain to make winning this game (or even staying close) a high priority.

Last Week: 4-3-1
Season: 62-44-4 (.585)

 

QC's Week 16 Thoughts

Pittsburgh's 31-28 loss to New Orleans may cost the Steelers a berth in the 2018 playoffs, but there are two other things that it is unlikely to cost HC Mike Tomlin: The streak of his team finishing in the top 10 in play design differential and his job. Since QB began tracking play design objectively, the only team to finish in the top 10 in play design differential every year has been Tomlin's Steelers. Currently, Pittsburgh is ranked No. 7 and with Cincinnati's weak defense and injury-depleted offense on deck, it is highly unlikely the Steelers will slip from the top 10. If Pittsburgh misses the playoffs, it will not be because of coaching failures. It will be because Ben Roethlisberger, et al. subsidized the Browns and Broncos with 10 road turnovers and the Steelers' kicking game broke down against the Chargers and Raiders. It will be the most stunning coaching change of the last 10 years if a Rooney pulls the rip chord on Tomlin under these circumstances.

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Minnesota seems to be peaking at just the right time as illustrated by the Vikings 27-9 beat down of Detroit. Most of the attention has been focused on HC Mike Zimmer changing his OC from John DeFilippo to Kevin Stefanski to get RBs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray going on the ground. But what has really come on is Zimmer's signature pass coverage. In their last 3 games, the Vikings have yielded 0 TD passes and D-QCYPA of 3.000, 1.592 and 3.186. Granted, the opponents--Seahawks, Dolphins and Lions, respectively--are not aerial circuses. Since Week 5, the Patriots' Tom Brady has had an oustanding game and the Saints' Drew Brees has had a good game against Minnesota. The Vikings' D has throttled every other QB they have faced.

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Has any NFL RB come off the street and had a better game than the Rams' C.J. Anderson? Carolina released Anderson after its loss to Pittsburgh in early November and nobody picked up Anderson until LA did on December 18, just 5 days before meeting Arizona. HC Sean McVay was in desperate need of infantry reinforcement because star RB Todd Gurley has a sore knee and backup Malcolm Brown is already on IR with a knee injury. Anderson looked like he has been the Rams' feature back all year, going for 167 yards and a TD in a 31-9 win over the Cardinals.

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Chargers QB Phil Rivers fell out of MVP discussion with a thud in LA's 22-10 loss to Baltimore. Coming into the game, Rivers had thrown a TD pass in every game and at least 2 TD passes in every game but one. Such a performance likely would have been enough to top the Ravens and, given Kansas City's 38-31 loss to Seattle, put the Chargers in position to claim the No. 1 seed and home field through the AFC playoffs. But Rivers, as he has throughout his career, came up empty in his team's biggest moment. Rivers not only failed to throw a TD pass, but also was sacked for -34 yards in losses and generated a measley 3.973 QCYPA, his worst production of the season by 3 yards per attempt. Rivers may one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame based on his career passing numbers. But if QC was a voter he would have a hard time getting past Rivers' almost complete inability to come through in the clutch.

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Week 16: QC's Best Bets

Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for QC’s Week 15 Best Bets (3-6). There were breakdowns in the kicking game (Seahawks and Cowboys) and turnovers (Cardinals) and coaches who forfeited compensation their players had earned (field goals) chasing compensation they desired (Bills and Cowboys). Over the last 3 weeks, QC is 13-13. They call it gambling for a reason.

1. Patriots -13 over Bills
The mainstream media sees the New England as struggling, but QC does not see it that way. The Patriots have lost back-to-back road games, but both results featured events that are unlikely to occur again. At home, New England is 5-1 ATS and a ground-and-pound machine, averaging 33.7 rushing attempt per game. Those numbers are reflective of a team that on average has been 2.58% better designed than its opponent (No. 4 in NFL) and +7 TO. Indeed, Bill Belichick's team's play design differential and turnover differential are virtually identical to its 2017 season that ended in the Super Bowl. As long as the officials do not inhibit New England’s ground game as they did in Pittsburgh (14 penalties on the Patriots), RB Sony Michel should be able to get traction and open up the passing game for WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski. Buffalo has committed 27 TO in its 9 losses (and only 1 TO in its 5 wins). Look for Bills’ rookie QB Josh Allen to suffer some turnovers and New England to vent some frustration and win big.

2. Giants +9.5 over Colts
Indianapolis pitched a shutout of Dallas while the Giants were blanked by Tennessee. New York also will be without WR Odell Beckham. But the Cowboys gashed the Colts on the ground for 71 yards rushing in Q1 last week (Zeke Elliott had 50 yards on his first 5 carries) before a blocked field goal and a failed 4DN attempt inside the 10-yard line allowed the game to get away. QC thinks Saquon Barkley will bounce back from a subpar game and put some juice in New York’s attack. It may not be enough to win SU, but the Giants are 6-1 ATS on the road and 6-2-1 ATS when they commit 1 TO or less. Indy RB Marlon Mack was fabulous last week against the Cowboys, but neither Mack nor anyone else did much on the ground in the Colts’ prior two games (at Houston and Jacksonville). Andrew Luck is easily the best QB in this game, but Indianapolis is just a little more than 1% better designed than New York and does not enjoy any turnover superiority. Don't expect this game to be a thriller on par with the 1958 NFL Championship Game that was played 60 years ago in which the Colts beat the Giants in OT, 23-17. But if Barkley can make a few big plays and get to the end zone a couple times and New York limits its turnovers to 1 or less, the Giants can cover.

3. Texans +2 over Eagles
Houston QB Deshaun Watson is one tough son-of-a-gun. In the Texans last 4 games, Watson has been sacked for -55, -41, -27 and -26 yards, but Houston has not committed a TO. Watson just will not give in. Sacks can take an offense off schedule, but Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins are explosive enough to overcome some of those losses and K Ka’imi Fairbarn has been money. Philadelphia went to LA last week and kept its playoff hopes alive with an upset win over the Rams. Philly’s TO fortunes have turned around the last 2 weeks (+4 TO). But QB Nick Foles has thrown just 1 TD pass in his 3 starts. This looks like it will be a low scoring slugfest and Houston’s defense, which has not yielded more than 90 yards rushing in its last 3 games, looks equipped to do enough for the Texans to win SU.

4. Lions +6 over Vikings and
5. UNDER 42.5

The total in 4 of the Detroit's last 5 games has been under 40 points. The Lions are playing defense and have only given up 2 TD passes in their last 3 games. On offense, Detroit QB Matt Stafford has a very sore back and very limited receiving options beyond WR Kenny Golliday. But the RB triumvirate of LeGarrett Blount, Zach Zenner, and Theo Redick has combined to rush for more than 100 yards in 4 straight games, which has kept the Lions in games against even top-designed opponens like the Bears and Rams. The Vikings sacked Stafford 10 times the last time these teams met and got Dolphins' QB Ryan Tannehill 9 times last week. But pass pressure is one of the most volatile elements in NFL football. It comes and goes, particularly on the road. Still, the Lions have scored more than 17 points in just 2 of their last 8 games and it is unlikely they will exceed that figure here. But Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins has been able to generate just 20, 10 and 7 points in his last 3 road games at the Patriots, Bears, and Seahawks. The Vikings lost all those games both SU and ATS. Last week HC Mike Zimmer got the heavy dose of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray that he had been craving. But Minnesota's 220 rushing yards were more than they combined to gain in their two prior games (both on the road). The Vikings are 1-5-1 ATS when Cousins passes 40 times or more. Minnesota will have to prove it to QC that last week's ground game is portable and will show up on the road. This will be a good test.

6. Bears -4 over 49ers
Chicago ranks No. 1 in the NFL in takeways with 35. San Francisco is tied for No. 3 in the NFL with 27 giveaways. If turnovers were not so volatile, the 49ers would be catching a lot more points. But, as we know, turnovers are extremely volatile. But there are other reasons to like Chicago. HC Matt Nagy is branch of the Andy Reid coaching tree and Reid's Chiefs' hung an easy 38 points on the 49ers earlier this year. QB Mitch Trubisky and scatback Tarik Cohen should be a headache for the San Francisco D, which has generated but 6 takeaways all year. 49ers' QB Nick Mullens looked good against the Seahawks ball-hawking D last week, but Vic Fangio's defense is a lot harder to run on than Pete Carroll's D. The Bears' D has seen less than 25 rushing attempts in 5 of its last 6 games (exception was upset OT loss at New York Giants) and the 49ers are 1-5 ATS when they run the ball less than 25 times. Fangio designed takeaway machines in San Francisco in 2011-2012. If his Windy City Turnover Machine is blasting at full fury and San Francisco falls behind, it will be a long day for Mullens and HC Kyle Shannahan.

7. UNDER 44.5: Cardinals vs. Rams
The last time these two teams played, Arizona managed just 5 first downs in a 34-0 defeat. It has not gotten much better for the Cardinals. QB Josh Rosen came out on fire last week in Atlanta. But after throwing a TD pass to RB David Johnson, he tossed a pick-6 and then fell apart. Arizona has topped 20 points just once at home, scoring 21 against Oakland's NFL worst defense. With rookie WR Christian Kirk out, no Cardinal who has been targeted at least a dozen times has averaged better than WR Larry Fitzgerald's 10.3 yards per catch. Johnson has played heroically, but Fitzgerald has been virtually invisible. It has been ugly. In addition, for the first time since he arrived in LA, it has gotten a little ungly for wunderkind HC Sean McVay. His team has lost 2 games in a row as QB Jared Goff and his teammates have turned the ball over 11 times in their last 4 games. Moreover, the Rams' play design differential has shrunk from +5.96% to +2.11%. Goff's QCYPA has not reached 6.3 in his last 3 games (2 on the road at Detroit and Chicago). Goff's G-C-G core protection frequently has broken down and he misses injured WR Cooper Kupp. Now RB Todd Gurley has a sore knee and his participation this week will be a game time decision. And backup RB Malcolm Brown is already on the IR. With LA facing all this adversity on offense, don't be suprised if DE Chandler Jones, DB Patrick Peterson, and the rest of the Arizona D show some pride, get after Goff, and keep the Cardinals in the game as they did in Week 3 against the Bears in a 16-14 loss.

8. Saints -5 over Steelers
After 3 straight games on the road in which QB Drew Brees and the offense struggled to find its rhythm, the Saints return to the Super Dome looking to extend a 4-0 home ATS streak. Brees should get help from newly activated WR Ted Ginn and the D, which as created 17 TO in its last 8 games. On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have committed 16 of their 23 TO on the road and are 0-3 ATS in their last 3 road games. Pittsburgh rookie RB Jaylen Samuels got the Steelers ground game going last week against the Patriots, but Pittsburgh has rushed the ball more than 22 times in just 2 of 7 road games. New Orleans is 8-0 ATS when its opponent runs the ball less than 23 times. With RB James Conner still out, HC Mike Tomlin will need another good game from Samuels if the Steelers are to have a chance to win or even cover this game.

Last Week: 3-6
Season: 58-41-3 (.586)

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QC's Week 15 Thoughts

Week 14 was not a good week in the NFL to be a nemesis. The Broncos, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Patriots all came into their games with lengthy histories of domninating their opponents, the Browns, Chargers, Seahawks, and Steelers. All four received their comeuppance. Penalties played a role. The four bullies were flagged 42 times (average 10.5 penalties per game) while the four patsies were penalized only 25 times (6.25 penalties per game).

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How bad was Jacksonville's offense in a 16-13 loss to Washington? QB Codey Kessler's average a yard less per pass attempt (1.176 per QCYPA) than he lost on sacks per pass attempt (-2.176). As a result, the Jaguars' player productivity was a miserable 0.80. Kessler and Jacksonville did get some traction on the ground (6.23 yards per rush), but HC Doug Marrone rested RB Leonard Fournette for a good portion of the game. Ugh.

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It is hard to run over a team in the NFL but that is what Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Tennessee did to Oakland, Tampa Bay, and New York . Nobody is flattening opponents like the Titans' Darrick Henry. Coming off a 230+/4 TD effort against Jacksonville, Henry steamrolled the Giants for more than 170 yards and 2 scores. Henry's game has some holes. But nobody is more fun to watch than Henry when he gets downhill. Don't get in the way of that runaway train (or QB Marcus Mariota, who chopped down LB Alec Ogletree to spring Henry on one of his jaunts.)

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QC heard a lot of complaining about the touchback rule after New Orleans' WR Tommylee Lewis fumbled the ball through the end zone in the last 2 minutes of MNF vs. the Panthers. Those who don't like the touchback rule must not recognize that an NFL field is comprised of two distinct fields: The scoring fields (or end zones) and the field of competition (or play). If a fumbled football crosses the sideline boundardy and leaves the field of competition, logically the ball is put back into competition at the point it left the field of competition. But if the ball crosses the sideline boundary in the scoring zone, it makes no logical sense to either award the fumbling team points (because it does not have possession) or put the ball back into the field of competition at some arbitrary point in the field of competition. There is no more injustice in awarding the opposing team a touchback on a fumble that crosses the boundary in the scoring field after leaving the field of competition than there is in awarding the returning team a touchback when a punt crosses the boundary in the scoring zone after leaving the field of competition. The only difference between the punt touchback and the fumble touchback is on the punt the offense intended to give up possession of the ball whereas on the fumble touchback the offense (usually) had not such intention. QC doesn't think the rule should be any different to unintentional relinquishment of possession than it is for intentional relinquishment of possession under these circumstances. Fumbles are bad. Don't expect the rulemakers to bail your ballcarrier out.

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Week 15: QC's Best Bets

1. Browns +3 over Broncos
Nothing says the '80s like the Browns and the Broncos in a game that (almost) has playoff meaning. Those were the days. Elway vs. Kosar. Reeves vs. Marty. Dawg Pound vs. Barrell Man. It was one of the best rivalries of the era. There is just a little Cleveland +3 left as QC writes this as the majority of books have gone to Browns +2.5. But you can find it if you look (again, as this is being written). Cleveland may be just 3-3 ATS on the road, but it is 3-1 ATS against negatively and (again) would be 4-0 ATS if Al Riveron's X-ray eyes had not taken away a game-clinching 1DN vs. Oakland. QB Baker Mayfield has put up at least 9.4 QCYPA in his last 4 starts. Broncos RB Phil Lindsay may cause Gregg Williams D a lot of trouble just as Carolina's Christian McCaffrey did last week. But Denver is just 2-3-1 ATS at home and 2-3 ATS vs. negatively designed teams.

2. Bengals -3 over Raiders
There was a lot of Bengals -3 even money earlier in the week and now some Bengals -3 with extra juice is showing. That means the bookmakers have dug in and do not want to move this game off the number. It makes sense. These are two of the worst designed teams in the NFL. QC was hoping that recency bias derived from Oakland's upset of Pittsburgh would move the number to at least Cincinnati -2.5, but bookmakers can be a stubborn bunch. There are still reasons to like Cincinnati. The Bengals are 5-1 ATS when the opponent runs the ball 25 times or less and the Raiders have reached 25 carries just 5 times in 13 games. Oakland QB Derek Carr played well at home in his last 2 games, but he has not cracked 6.3 QCYPA in his last 4 games outside Oakland Coliseum and Cincinnati's defense has yielded just 2 TD passes in its last 2 games. On offense, Bengals RB Joe Mixon (32-144) carried the attack last week and the Raiders have given up at least 100 yards rushing in 8 straight games.

3. Cowboys +3 over Colts
Indy is the darling of a lot of media handicappers this week. Dallas is a little beat up. But these teams are separated by a microscopic .0006 design points. A field goal subsidy seems a little generous under those circumstances. Even without G Zack Martin, Dallas should be able to run the ball. Zeke Elliott and friends have put up at least 100 yards in 5 straight games. QB Dak Prescott has set season highs for passing yards in 2 of his last 3 games. The Colts are 6-2 ATS when run the ball at least 23 times and 6-0 ATS when QB Andrew Luck attempts less than 40 passes. But last week was the first time Indy covered when Luck attempted 40 or more passes. The Dallas D might be back LB Sean Lee, who will help rookie tackling machine Landon VanderEsch and Jaylon Smith make things hard for Colts RB Marlon Mack. The Cowboys' D has not seen more than 20 rushing attempts for 5 straight games. If Dallas makes it 6 in row, Luck probably will have to too much.

4. Bills -2.5 over Lions
and 5. UNDER 39.5

Buffalo demonstrates the power of turnovers: In the Bills 4 wins, Buffalo has committed a total of 1 TO. In its 9 losses, the Bills have committed 27 TO. So HC Sean McDermott is probably glad to see Detroit, which has forced only 12 TO in 13 games, tied for 5th least in the NFL. Moreover, the Lions are 0-5 SU when the opponent runs the ball at least 25 times. Led by the surprising running of rookie QB Josh Allen, the Bills have run the ball at least 28 times in 5 straight games and are 2-1 ATS at home with Allen at QB. It also looks like RB LeSean McCoy will give it a go. On the other side of the ball, Detroit QB Matt Stafford has not reached 6.5 QCYPA in 6 straight games and has thrown only 4 TD passes in his last 6 games. This game looks like a replica of the Lions meeting last week with the Cardinals (a 17-3 win). But this time QC thinks Buffalo's pass rush (-19 sack yards in 3 of last 4 games) will get to Stafford and Detroit is 0-6 SU when he is sacked for -14 yards or more.

6. Jaguars -7 over Redskins
You will have to pay -120, but you can still find Jaguars -7 on the market. QC would pay the extra. Jacksonville has been a huge disappointment, but when RB Leonard Fournette is rolling, the Jaguars are still pretty formidable and 4-2 ATS at home. Without any offensive support, Washington's D has broken down as opponents have run the ball more than 30 times and gained at least 130 yards in 4 straight games. That is exactly the kind of game Fournette and HC Doug Marrone want to play. Jacksonville's pass coverage (6.7 D-QCYPA) is still among the best in the NFL and the run D held the Steelers and the Colts to 26 and 41 yards rushing, respectively, in its last 2 home games. Washington is down to a street FA at QB, Josh Johnson. And RB Adrian Peterson gained more yards on his 90-yard TD vs. the Eagles than the Redskins ground game has achieved in 2 of its last 3 games. Johnson has not started an NFL game since 2011 and his career record as a starter is 0-5, probably because he has thrown 11 picks and only 6 TDs. Earlier this week, Johnson said, "This is like going to Disneyland every day for me." Playing behind Washington's patchwork offensive line, Johson is definitely going to need some magic pixie dust if the Redskins are to win this game or even cover.

7. Cardinals +9.5 over Falcons
8. and UNDER 44

QC's favorite handicapping stat of the 2018 NFL season is this: Atlanta is 0-10 ATS when QB Matt Ryan is sacked for over -13 yards. Led by DE Chandler Jones, the Cardinals have sacked opposing QBs for at least -14 yards in 6 of their last 9 games. ESPN's NFL Matchup's stats rank Jones as the most disruptive player in the NFL. OC Byron Leftwich has been able to get RB David Johnson going a bit. When the Cardinals rush the ball 25 or more times they are 3-1 ATS. On the other hand, the Falcons are 0-8 ATS when the opponent runs 25 or more times and have seen at least that many rushing attempts in 5 straight games. Arizona QB Josh Rosen is still a work in progress, but he will have to fall completely apart for Atlanta to cover this number. Under these circumstances, the 44 total looks incredibly generous so QC will also play the UNDER to guard agaist a Rosen fiasco. The last thing QC expects to break out in Atlanta is a shootout.

9. Seahawks -3.5 over 49ers
San Francisco is 0-5 ATS when its opponent runs the ball 28 or more times. Seattle has run the ball 28 or more times in 11 straight games. Kyle Shannahan's team is 0-6 SU against postively designed teams and Pete Carroll's team is 7-1 SU against negatively designed teams. And the Seahawks blasted the 49ers 43-16 just 2 weeks ago. Yet, the spread has crashed from Seattle -5.5 at the open to Seattle -3.5. If there is a reason for this, don't tell QC. He doesn't want to know.

Last Week: 6-2
Season: 55-35-3 (.611)

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QC's Week 14 Thoughts

Sports Illustrated's Connor Orr offered a potential clue as to one of the reasons better coached/designed teams have struggled to win to approach the 75% winning percentage QC expects. Orr pointed out that explosive gains of 20 or more yards are way up this year. One of the factors that can distort coaching statistics is when a team's play design differential is skewed by a abnormally big play or two. QC calls this the "Delhomme Exception" after former Panthers' QB Jake Delhomme's performance against the Patriots in Super Bowl 38. This year, gains of 20 or more yards have increased from 7.5 gains per game to 8.3 per game. That's by far the biggest single year jump since 2000 according to Orr and comes on the heels of back-to-back years of explosive gains.

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No coach in the NFL has done more with explosive gains than Miami's Adam Gase. Overall, the Dolphins rank in the Bottom 10 in the NFL in play design differential. But Miami is 7-6 because it has generated explosive gains and is +8 TO. Gase's team stunned New England on Sunday, 34-33, with the biggest explosive gain of the season. RB Kenyan Drake took a lateral and raced past Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski for a TD as time expired. For the game, Miami ran only 40 plays from scrimmage. But the Dolphins averaged 9 yards per rush and 11.105 QCYPA. In other words, they lived on explosive gains.

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Expect Pittsburgh fans to go into full panic after the Steelers lost to the worst-designed team in the NFL, Oakland, 24-21. The loss left Mike Tomlin's team 0-4 against the AFC West and a 7-5-1 overall mark. Pittsburgh played without RB james Connner and for a fourth straight game failed to run the ball 20 times or gain 100 yards on the ground. Expect these numbers to be a source of disgruntlement in the Steel City and Tomlin to get some heat from the public. The Steelers next two games are New England (off a loss) and at New Orleans (which is still desperately trying to secure home field througout the NFC playoffs).

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The 15-6 final score might not look like it, but the Bears and the Rams played the closest game of the 2018 NFL season as measured by play design differential and player productivity differential this year. Chicago was 19/10,000ths better designed and 3/1,000ths more productive. Those figures are more reflective of an 8-6 game decided on a safety, which is what the result might have been if backup OL Bradley Sowell had not hauled in a pass from Bears' QB Mitch Trubisky for the only TD of the game. On that play, other than Trubisky, every player on the field for Chicago was either an OL or a DL. That is the kind of radical design that gets a player designer like HC Matt Nagy, skewered on Monday morning if the execution fails. But when the playmaker succeeds, as it did against the Rams, it is the design of legend.

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Thursday Night Football this week will feature the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the NFL in play design differential, but the No. 1 team will not be Kansas City. Andy Reid's team has been at the top for the last few weeks, but after the Chiefs scraped by the Ravens in OT, 27-24, and the Chargers methodically dispatched the Bengals, 25-20, Los Angeles assumed the top spot. After the 13 games, the design difference between the two teams is just 0.24%. QC expects a close game.

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Week 14: QC's Best Bets

Sometime you just have to get right back on the horse after it bucks you. Last week, QC went 3-4 with plays involving the Chiefs (L x2), Browns (L), Cowboys (W), Raiders (L x2), Steelers (L), Rams (W), and Vikings (W). All of those team are back on QC's card this week.

1. Chiefs -6.5 over Ravens
This is a classic matchup between the league's best offense and the league's best defense. Kansas City leads the NFL in QCYPA and explosive plays. Baltimore leads the NFL in D-QCYPA and preventing explosive plays. The Ravens have run the ball at least 31 times for 165 yards in their last 3 games since Lamar Jackson took over at QB and are 6-1 ATS when they run the ball at least 28 times. But Baltimore is just 1-5 ATS when its QB is sacked for -10 yards or more and the Chiefs have sacked opposing QBs for at least -10 yards in 10 of 12 games. DC Bob Sutton's pass rush didn't make it back from bye last week in Oakland and Raiders QB Derek Carr went up and down the field on the Chiefs. QC expects a better performance this week. The turnover battle may be a problem for John Harbaugh as his team has committed 11 of its 15 TO on the road and Andy Reid's team has committed just 4 of its 14 TO at home. QB Pat Mahomes and company did not seem to miss released RB Kareem Hunt last week in Oakland as they led wire-to-wire and scored 40 points. Kansas City leads the NFL in Q1 scoring at 9.2 points per game. If the Chiefs get out of the gate quickly and force Jackson to throw the ball more than Harbaugh wants, Kansas City should have little trouble covering this number. The Chiefs have laid at least -10 points in the 3 games they have failed to cover.

2. Colts +4.5 over Texans
If ever an HC needs to take a class about reliance interest it is Indy's Frank Reich. Last week, in a 6-0 loss to Jacksonville, the Colts went for it on 4DN 3 times and came up empty every time. It is never a good idea to squander the compensation your team has earned chasing the compensation you want against a team with Cody Kessler at QB. In addition, QB Andrew Luck was not his magic self on 3DN. But nobody bounces back from a loss like Luck. Since entering the league in 2012, the Colts are 20-6 off a SU loss with Luck at QB and 22-7 SU against the AFC South. To bounce back again, Reich needs RB Marlon Mack to get back in the groove. Indy is 6-0 SU when it throws less than 40 times and 0-6 SU when Luck throws 40 or more times. Mack is the key to reducing Luck's burden to carry the team. Houston has looked impressive the last two weeks against middle-of-the-pack teams Tennessee and Cleveland, but the Texans frequently have played down to the level of their competition and escaped with wins over Washington, Denver, Buffalo, and Dallas. Bill O'Brien's team did not escape against the NY Giants. Although it won going away, Houston yielded over 300 yards passing the last 2 weeks. Look for Mack to get traction and Luck to take advantage of the Texans' suspect pass coverage and rebound with a win... provided Reich does not squander the earnings.

3. Browns +2 over Panthers
Carolina has lost 4 games in a row and this is its 4th road game in 5 weeks. That is a tough stretch. The Panthers are -7 TO during the losing streak and have committed 11 of their 15 TO on the road. Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey is explosive in the running game and nobody in the NFL gives up more explosive runs than the Browns because DC Gregg Williams is frequently guessing with his blitzes. But the Panthers are just 1-3 SU when they average 6.7 yards per rush or better. Ron Rivera's team averaged 8.15 and 8.84 yards per rush the last two weeks and lost both games to Seattle and Tampa Bay. Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield is more comfortable at home where the Browns are +9 TO. Mayfield has not been sacked in 3 games, but last week in Houston Mayfield's 3 interceptions took Cleveland out of the game quickly. Mayfield should still be smarting from that performance and should be a little more careful against this week. In addition, because the Browns fell behind so quickly in Houston, OC Freddy Kitchens could not get RB Nick Chubb going and Cleveland ran the ball just 9 times. The Browns are 6-1 ATS and though they took a thumping at home from the Nos. 1 and 2 designed teams (Chiefs and Chargers), they are 4-0 ATS at home against middle-of-the-pack teams like Carolina.

4. Cowboys -3 over Eagles
So the Cowboys beat the Saints at home by 3 and now all they have to do to cover agains the Eagles is win again by the same 3 points after 10 days to prepare? Got it. Dallas HC Jason Garrett has historically awful record as a favorite and the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles are playing for their playoff lives, but QC likes the Cowboys. Dallas is 5-0 ATS when opponents attempt more than 30 passes and Philadelphia QBs have attempted at least 30 passes in 11 of 12 games. Philadelphia has struggled to run the ball all year and that is not likely to change against Cowboys' defense that has yet to see more than 20 rushing attempts during its current 4-game SU and ATS win streak. In addition, the Eagles have played a relatively easy schedule. Philadelphia has faced only 3 teams that currently are design positive and are 1-3 SU and ATS and 0-3 SU and ATS on the road (Buccaneers, Titans and Saints). Dallas design is strongly positive since WR Amari Cooper joined the team and provided a vertical stretch to open thing up for QB Dak Prescott and RB Zeke Elliott. Philadelphia has yet to win 2 games in a row and the if that trend continues they are due for another "L." Most Las Vegas sports books are offering -3.5 with reduced juice, but CG Technology has -3 as this is being written and QC hates to lay the hook with a home favorite.

5. UNDER 51.5: Raiders vs. Steelers
Pittsburgh is 0-3 SU and ATS vs. the AFC South (Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers). Mike Tomlin's team can't fall to 0-4 agains the lowly Raiders, can they? Pittsburgh has not won in Oakland since 1995 and Raiders' backers will receive a 10+ point subsidy. But it is the total that is attractive to QC here. The Steelers' defense relies on a nasty pass rush (-.635 sack yards per pass attempt) backed by fairly straight forward coverages on the back end. Extremely well coached teams like the Chiefs, Chargers and Patriots give Pittsburgh trouble, but the system has worked pretty well against negagively designed teams. Against such teams this year, the Steelers have held opposing QBs to less than 5.8 QCYPA in 5 of 6 games and 5 of those 6 games have finished under this 51.5 total. (Only a wipeout of Carolina at home on short week has gone over 51.5). In addition, Ben Roethlisberger and company have had TO trouble on the road, committing 14 of the 20 TO away from home. And Big Ben won't have top RB James Conner, who is out with an ankle injury, and will be exploring rookie RB Jaylen Samuels skill set. Raiders QB Derek Carr can still do damage, particularly at home, when he has time to pass. Last week he carved up Kansas City, which did not have its usual pass rush. But when Carr has been sacked for -20 yards or more in a game, Oakland scores about 8 points per game. The play here is that the Pittsburgh offense will continue to find itself in the Black Hole, but the Steelers pass rush will rise up and lead Pittsburgh to a relatively low scoring win. QC was on the under with both of these teams last week and did not take the money. Let's hope history does not repeat itself.

6. Bears +3 over Rams and
7. OVER 51.5: Bears vs. Rams

Chicago will be happy to see QB Mitch Trubisky return from a shoulder injury. Backup Chase Daniel did OK, splitting his two starts (both on the road), but Trubisky brings more big play ability with both his arm and his legs. The Bears are 5-1 ATS at home and the only blemish was the result of special teams break downs against the Patriots. The Chicago D has collected 30 takeaways, which has fueled the Bears 8-4 run to the over. LA has not been quite as explosive without WR Cooper Kupp and last week lost backup RB Malcolm Brown. HC Sean McVay called the loss of Brown "devastating." Still, QB Jared Goff and the Rams have scored at least 29 points in 11 of 12 games. But the LA defense has given up an average of 34.7 points per game to positively designed teams like the Bears. That number explains why the Rams are 1-4-1 ATS vs. positively designed teams.

8. Seahawks -3 over Vikings
This handicap begins and ends with Seattle's powerful ground game: The Vikings are 0-4 when opponents run the ball and the Seahawks have run the ball at least 28 times in 10 straight games. Mike Zimmer's team better double buckle those chin straps. Pete Carroll's team also seems to have recaptured its home field swagger (4-1 ATS) and is 5-1-1 ATS vs. negatively designed teams like Minnesota. The Vikings are 5-0 ATS when QB Kirk Cousins attempts less than 40 passes, but he has attempted 40 or more passes in 4 of his last 6 games (1-3 ATS) and 7 of 12 games overall (1-5-1 ATS). QB Russell Wilson and his teammates have not committed more than 1 TO in a game since Week 2 and are +11 TO. If that trend continues, then Seattle RBs Chris Carson and Rashad Penny will grind clock and Cousins will have little margin for error or help from the Seahawks and it could turn into a long night in the Pacific Northwest for the Vikings.

Last Week: 3-4
Season: 49-33-3 (.598)

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QC's Week 13 Thoughts

Green Bay fired HC Mike McCarthy after an embarrassing loss in Lambeau Field to Arizona, 20-17. After the game, McCarthy told reports he had "no idea what the hell I am going to do tomorrow [to fix the Packers' problems]." In coaching, such rhetoric is effectively a resignation. Coaches cannot be spectators. It is the coaches job to design solutions. One McCarthy admitted he was out of design solutions, management had not choice to but to dismiss him immediately. From 2009 through 2014, the design trio of McCarty/Aaron Rogers (offense) and Dom Capers (defense) never ranked lower than No. 6 in play design differential in a year in which Rogers was healthy. But play design has been eroding in Green Bay. The Packers finished ranked No. 18 in 2015 and No. 24 in 2016 as Rogers started all 32 games. Last year, the Green Bay ranked dead last in the NFL in play design differential (although some of that was due to Rogers missing most of the season with an injury). This year the Packers currently rank in the middle of the pack at No. 14. Can McCarthy regain the design form Green Bay exhibited from 2009-2014. To do so, he will need an excellent defensive designer and a QB who will follow the designs as Rogers probably has freelanced too much the last 4 years. Another team probably will give McCarthy another chance, but without a good defensive designer and a QB that follows the recipe, QC would not expect much tasty performance with McCarthy in another kitchen.

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The AFC North is a race again after the Steelers lost to the Chargers, 33-30, to fall to 7-4-1 and the Ravens routed the Falcons, 26-10, to improve to 7-5. Cleveland is the difference so far. Baltimore lost in OT to the Browns and Pittsburgh battled to a tie. Both the Ravens and Steelers have 2 games let that they probably should win (although Baltimore must again face pesky Cleveland in the last game of the year) and two games in which they will be underdogs. Pittsburgh gets New England at home and travels to New Orleans. Baltimore must travel to Kansas City and LA (Chargers). For the Ravens to pull out the division they probably need the Steelers to lose to both the Patriots and the Saints and to upset the Chargers, who will have faced Kansas City the week before and may be locked into a wild card with little to play for by the time Baltimore arrives on the West Coast.

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Don't be fooled by Kansas City's 174 yards rushing against Oakland; the Chiefs are going to miss released RB Kareem Hunt. The Raiders defense is atrocious in every aspect. When Kansas City meets the quality AFC teams in the playoffs, QC is not sure Andy Reid will be able to overcome the loss of Hunt. You just don't find RBs who can run with power and then split out run WR routes. Ask Bill Belichick. Hunt ravaged Belichick's LBs in the two games he faced New England. Baltimore will provide a good test for Reid and Pat Mahomes this week. The Ravens pass coverage (5.936 D-QCYPA) is amongst the best in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if Baltimore resepects the run at all or simply floods the field with DBs to try to slow down Mahomes.

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Week 13: QC's Best Bets

QC was a tasty 3-0 on sides over Thanksgiving (that's Bears, Browns, and Broncos as well as stuffing, mashed potatoes and creamed corn). But paid a price for gluttony as overdoing it on totals turkeys (2-4-1) reduced the profit margin to about 5.4%. The Colts vs. Dolphins push left a particularly fowl taste as QC could have gotten 1/2 a giblet less and cashed a ticket rather settling for refund if he had pounced on 50.5 early in the week. Still, nobody ever went broke taking a profit and QC's Best Bets have been profitable 10 of 12 weeks in 2018.

1. Cowboys +7.5 over Saints
One of the signatures of a top coach is that his or her team improves as a season progresses. In QC's view, New Orleans without question has improved more since Week 1 than any other team in the NFL. That growth is the primary reason the Saints have won 10 games in a row SU and covered their last 9 games. But QC thinks the Big Easy sizzle has finally outgrown the steak. Usually, it is not this easy for long in the NFL. New Orleans has averaed 43.3 points in its last 3 games, but it also has been +8 TO in those games. And with the lead and Drew Brees at QB, the New Orleans defense has only seen an average of 14.6 rushing attempts per game from 3 of the least committed rushing teams in the NFL (Bengals, Eagles, and Falcons). If it is anything, Dallas is committed to running the ball. RB Zeke Elliott has been on fire the last 3 weeks as the Cowboys have averaged 30.3 rushing attempts and 149.7 rushing yards per game. The Saints are 0-2 ATS when they see 27 or more rushing attempts. It's just been a long time since they have seen that kind of commitment to the run. Even more importantly, Dallas has not committed a TO in its last 3 games. To have a chance against Brees and company, Dak Prescott again will have to play TO-free. It will be harder if T Tyron Smith cannot play because of a neck injury. But Prescott is tough son of a gun who will has been willing to take a sack rather than risk a TO during the Cowboys' current 3-game winning streak (the Redskins and Eagles both sacked him for -31 yards in losses). Many people questioned Dallas parting with a 1RD draft pick for WR Amari Cooper, but Cooper can take the top off a defense and stretch the field vertically and New Orleans' pass D has been bad against teams that throw the ball deep (Bucs, Falcons 2x, and Rams). Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and the rest of Payton's interchangeable parts are handful, but the Cowboys are tied with the Vikings for the least number of TD passes allowed in 2018 (14). Other than Tyron Smith's status, everything here suggests Dallas is the side.

2. Browns +6 over Texans
Last year, these were arguably the two worst teams in the NFL. Houston lost 8 of its last 9 games after it lost QB Deshaun Watson to a knee injury. That paled in comparison, of course, to Cleveland, which finished 0-16. Now the Texans are on an 8-game winning streak and the Browns have won their last 2 games to get a sniff of the playoff race (although they are probably a year away). Houston ranks No. 5 in the NFL in plays design +/- (+3.87%) and Cleveland has struggled against other top designed teams such as the Chargers, Chiefs and Steelers. Cleveland's biggest problem has been a tendency to give up big plays, and Houston's Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins specialize in big plays. But Watson has been sacked for at least -21 yards in each of the Texans' last 3 games and that is living dangerously. QC is willing to speculate that DE Myles Garrett and company can get to Watson and the Browns won't get burned on the back end (too often). A big reason for that belief is the play of Cleveland MLB Joe Schobert, who Pro Football Focus ranks No. 1 among NFL LBs in pass coverage. With Schobert in the lineup, the Browns are 4-3-1 and, arguably, if they had a kicker who could kick straight early in the season they would be 7-1 with Schobert in the lineup. On offense, Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield has not been sacked and has thrown 7 TD passes in his last 2 games. RB Nick Chubb balances the offense and the Browns are 6-1 ATS when they run the ball at least 27 times. Houston, on the other hand, is 0-6 ATS when its opponent attempts 27 or more rushes, so if Chubb can continue to produce +6 points should be more than enough for Cleveland to cover.

3. UNDER 55: Lions vs. Rams
LA (Sean McVay's) Rams have been held under 30 points just twice this year. In both those games, the Broncos and Packers sacked LA QB Jared Goff for at least -26 yards in losses. Detroit's defense has stuggled at times this year, but the Lions -.649 sack yards per pass attempt is near the top of the league. Ziggy Ansah and company should be able to get after Goff and the return of DB Darius Slay last week against the Bears gave Detroit's coverage a boost. McVay also may try to get RB Todd Gurley reestablished in the offense. The Rams have run the ball no more than 23 times in their last 3 games. On offense, QB Matt Stafford is struggling. He has not topped 6.1 QCYPA in his last 4 games. In other words, Stafford is producing at a level just north of replacement level. It is not all Stafford's fault. With WR Golden Tate traded, WR Marvin Jones on IR, and RB Kerryon Johnson hobbled by a knee injury, there just isn't anywhere for Stafford to go with the ball other than WR Kenny Golliday. Look for DC Wade Phillips to double cover Golliday all day and DT Aaron Donald to give the Lion's pass protectors fits. The Rams should not have too much diffculty prevailing and may cover the double digit point spread, but the total score probably will not reach 50.

4. Chiefs -15 over Raiders and
5. UNDER 55.5: Raiders vs. Chiefs

QC doubts Andy Reid will enjoy blasting Jon Gruden on Sunday. Reid has walked in Gruden's shoes. In 2012, Reid's last year in Philadelphia, his Eagles spiraled out control after he fired DC Juan Castillo and lost 9 of their last 10 games. Philadelphia finished 3-12-1 against the spread. It was ugly. Gruden's 2018 Raiders look a lot like Reid's 2012 Eagles and are 2-9 ATS. Oakland cannot cover receivers (9.368 D-QCYPA) or rush the passer (-.212 sack yards per pass attempt). The Raiders average just 8.4 points per game when QB Derek Carr is sacked for -20 yards or more. Kansas City has sacked opposing QBs for -20 yards or more in 4 straight games. The Chiefs' explosive offense almost always jumps to an early lead and the KC defenders disregard the run and set their sights on the QB. The Chiefs are the best coached/designed team in the NFL (+7.34% play design +/-) and Oakland is the worst (-6.60%). In addition, Reid is 13-6 ATS off a bye (although KC did lose off its bye to the Giants last year, 12-9, as a -10 road favorite). If you can ever feel cautiosly optimistic laying 15 points on the road (nothing is guaranteed; it's called gambling for a reason), this is the game. And, in case Reid takes his foot off the gas, lay some money on the under. No point in letting kindness go uncompensated.

6. Patriots -5 over Vikings
New England and Tom Brady is on another turnover-free streak having gone 4 straight games without a giveaway. If the Patriots can get the lead and feed the ball to RB Sony Michel, they will have an excellent chance to extend that streak and cover this number. New England is 6-2 ATS when it runs the ball 30 or more times and has run the ball 30 or more times in 4 of 5 homes games. Minnesota's defense can be tough against the run, but teams like Chicago, New Orleans and Buffalo have had success by winning the turnover battle and grinding the clock. When the Vikings have the ball, QB Kirk Cousins will shoulder a heavy burden. Minnesota is 5-0 ATS when Cousins throws 40 or fewer passes, but that has happened only once on the road (at Philadelphia). The Vikings have rushed the ball more than 30 times against only the woeful Cardinals and 49ers. Look for Brady to get help from Michel and Cousins' turnovers and New England to improve to 5-1 ATS at home.

7. UNDER 51.5: Steelers vs. Chargers
This game will feature two of the better defenses in the NFL. Throw out Pittsburgh's game against the high-powered Chiefs and the Steelers' D is giving up just 19.25 points per game at home. Throw out LA's game against the high-powered Rams and the Chargers' D is giving up just 14.25 points per game on the road. Both teams have tremendous QBs--Ben Roethlisberger and Phil Rivers--but QC expects the defenses to dictate here. Rivers will be without RB Melvin Gordon, which will give the Steelers' scary pass rush (-.659 sack yards per pass attempt) a little more liberty to pin its ears back and attack the pocket. Roethlisberger has been suffering through a wave of turnovers (as he occasionally does). So Pittsburgh HC Mike Tomlin might be inclined to try to settle Big Ben down by feeding RB James Conner against a Chargers' D that has given up 100 yards rushing or more in 5 of its last 6 games. That will shorten the game as will Rivers' deliberate pace of play. Turnovers lead to points so, of course, a spike of turnovers could undermine this handicap. But Pittsburgh has committed just 5 of its 19 turnovers at home and the Chargers have committed just 4 of their 10 turnovers on the road.

Last Week: 5-4-1
Season: 46-29-3 (.613)

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QC's Week 12 Thoughts

Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis won their 5th game in row, 27-24, despite being -2 TO. Luck has been uncanny througouht his career at overcoming turnovers. How does he do it? QC's theory is that Luck intuitively understands risk and buys more risk when he needs to do so when his team is down (as a team often is when it is -2 TO). It is Luck's intuitive risk management that is probably the source of his comeback powers. Luck has been on the wrong end of some hideous blowouts when his approach does not work out. Every coin has two sides. But fans tend to remember fantastic comeback finishes a lot longer than they do blowout losses.

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Chargers' QB Phil Rivers completed 28 of 29 passes in a 45-10 romp over the Cardinals. QC'd bet $10 that most NFL QBs could not compete 28 of 29 in practice against air.

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Cleveland's 35-20 beat down of Cincinnati is more evidence that the Browns have bottomed out and are growing in the right direction. It also makes one wonder what might have been in 2018 if Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam had parted ways with former HC Hue Jackson during the off-season instead of waiting until mid-season to pull the ripcord (and signed a reliable place kicker). QC doesn't think Jackson is as bad as his record suggests, but it seemed pointless to bring Jackson back on his record of futility. If Haslam had seen it that way after 2017, he could have avoided a lot of unecessary drama and his team might be in the thick of the playoff race, rather than clinging to desperate hope of qualifying for the post-season.

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Buffalo HC Sean McDermott and his staff have done a fine job stabilizing the Bills' season. With a 24-21 win over Jacksonville, Buffalo (4-8) climbed out of the AFC East cellar. Four of the Bills' last 5 games are with Miami (2x), NY Jets, and Detroit. Those teams rank Nos. 27, 26 and 31, respectively, in the NFL in play design differential. If McDermott's O-line can keep QB Josh Allen healthy (he was not sacked by the Jaguars), the Bills might make a run at an 8-8 record if they can get by the Dolphins in Miami.

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Week 12: Best Bets

1. Bears -3 over Lions
The Bears drilled the Lions just two weeks ago and enjoy massive edges in play design (+9.85%), player productivity (+18.07) and turnover differentials (+20). Chicago will be without starting QB Mitch Trubisky, but other than the last meeting with Detroit, Trubisky's QCYPA in his last 5 games has been 6.780, 8.138, 6.800, and 5.484 and Chicago won and covered 3 of those games. Backup QB Chase Daniel likely can duplicate that performance. Daniel was the backup QB in Kansas City for the 3 years Bears HC Matt Nagy was the QB coach for Andy Reid. The most important question about a backup QB is can he execute the offense. Daniel may be a little rusty, but QC is pretty confident that he Daniel can execute the offense and not crash it with turnovers. On the other side of the ball, Lions QB Matt Stafford has a bigger problem in that RB Kerryon Johnson will miss the game with a knee injury. Detroit has gone as Johnson has gone in 2018. In wins over the Patriots, Packers, Dolphins, and Panthers, Johnson has supplied a strong running game and Stafford has not attempted more than 37 passes. In 4 of Detroit's 6 losses, Stafford has attempted 40 or more passes and the Lions are 1-3 ATS in those games. Without Johnson, Stafford will have to pass too much, which will play into the hands of a ball-hawking defense led by DB Eddie Jackson that has created 27 turnovers.

2. UNDER 37.5: Bills vs. Jaguars
Buffalo has played a brutal schedule that includes 5 games against opponents currently ranked in the Top 10 in play design +/-. But in games against negatively designed teams (like the Jaguars), the Bills are 2-1 ATS, including 2-0 at home. Rookie QB Josh Allen is back and he has protected the ball pretty well, especially, for a rookie. HC Sean McDermott's D has been stingy at home (when the QB does not turn the ball over) and has yielded no more than 83 yards rushing in 4 of its last 5 games. Jacksonville wants to run the ball with RB Leonard Fournette. Last week, with the lead, the Jaguars ran the ball 43 times and attempted just 18 passes against Pittsburgh. Don't expect to see much of a change this week. This game looks like a reprisal of the Bills' 13-12 win over the Titans early this year or their 10-3 loss to the Jaguars last year in the divisional playoffs.

3. UNDER 43: Ravens vs. Raiders
Baltimore ran the ball 54 times last week against Cincinnati, including 27 times by QB Lamar Jackson, a record for an NFL QB. Running the ball moves the clock and leaves less time for scoring. Oakland's D has seen at least 30 rushing attempts in 6 of its last 7 games so QC expects the Ravens to easily attempt 35-40 rushes. On defense, Baltimore gave up just 3 and 14 points at home to poor passing teams Buffalo and Denver and shut out Tennessee on the road while sacking Titans' QB Marcus Mariota 10 times. Raiders QB Derek Carr has been sacked 32 times, tied for fourth most in the NFL. On the road, Oakland has averaged just 15 points and probably will have a hard time reaching that figure in this game.

4. OVER 54.5: Buccaneers vs. 49ers
Turnovers lead to points and these teams specialize in turnovers. The Buccaneers are a jaw-dropping -23 TO while the 49ers are -14 TO. Both teams can move the ball. Tampa Bay hung 35 points on the Giants last week despite being -4 TO and has scored at least 26 points in 8 of 10 games because its QBs average better than 9.2 QCYPA and more than 42% of their passes result in first downs. San Francisco RB Matt Breida leads all NFL RBs with at least 100 carries in yards per attempt (5.59). The 49ers have scored 30 and 34 points on defenses with greater than 9.0 D-QCYPA (Lions and Raiders) and the Buccaneers D-QCYPA is just as bad (9.143 D-QCYPA).

5. Browns +3 over Bengals
Cleveland has lost 25 road games in a row and a loss to Cincinnati will tie the Browns with the 2007-2010 Lions for the longest road losing streak in NFL history. But there are reasons to think the streak ends here. First, MLB Joe Schobert returned two weeks ago in an upset in Atlanta and, suddenly, Cleveland's pass defense was difficult to penetrate again. An MLB who is strong in pass coverage (e.g., HOFers Brian Urlacher and Jack Lambert) is a must in a 4-3 and Pro Football Focus has graded Schobert as the best LB in coverage in the NFL this year. In addition, rookie QB Baker Mayfield and RB Nick Chubb should have succes against the Bengals' D. Cincinnati has given up 200 yards rushing in 3 games this year and 100 yards in 7 of their last 8 games. So Mayfield should be able to sustain balanced offense. On the other side of the ball, the Bengals have become one dimensional. Cincinnati has not attemped more than 20 rushing attempts in 4 of its last 5 games and is 1-4 SU in those games (barely hanging on to beat Tampa Bay with the benefit of +4 TO). OC Bill Lazor simply does not ride RB Joe Mixon enough, maybe in part because Mixon has ben nursing a sore knee. The Browns have faced a brutal schedule. Cleveland has faced only two negatively designed teams, the Jets and Raiders, and should be 2-0 ATS against them. The Bengals rank in the bottom 10 in the NFL in play design differential (-2.66%) and will be the first team in 6 weeks that Cleveland has faced that is not positively designed. QC has a feeling that this is why this game is not pick 'em as it should be.

6. UNDER 46: Jets vs. Patriots
New York has not rushed for over 100 yards in its last 4 games or averaged better than 5.6 QCYPA. A team simply cannot sustain offense with those numbers, which look a lot more like the team that averaged 13 points per game at home against the Dolphins, Vikings, and Bills and not anything like the team that averaged 38 points per game at home against the Broncos and Colts. New England also has not been high-scoring on the road. The Patriots' offense has scored more than 20 points only once way from home (24 at Chicago) and has averaged only 16.4 points per game on the road (21 of their road points have been scored by the defens and special teams). Patriots QB Tom Brady has failed to throw a TD pass in his last 2 road games and has topped 7 QCYPA just once (at Chicago). With 2 weeks to get ready, QC thinks Jets' HC Todd Bowles will have his defense ready and motivated to atone for a disastrous pre-bye performance against the Bills' Matt Barkely.

7. OVER 51: Colts vs. Dolphins
Only the Saints and QB Drew Brees has been hotter than the Colts and QB Andrew Luck. Indy has scored at least 29 points in its last 5 games and scored 34 or more in 5 of their last 7 games. It is hard to see the Dolphins defense that has given up an average of 37 points on the road to top-line QBs Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson, and Aaron Rogers slowing Luck down. Miami HC Adam Gase is clever enough on offense and the Dolphins' special teams are dangerous enough for Miami to have averaged 20 points per game in 3 of their 4 road games (the Fins could muster nothing but Jason Sanders field goals last week in Green Bay). QB Ryan Tannehill returns for the first time since Week 5. Miami's offense averaged about 22 points per game with Tannehill under center before it ran into New England and Tannehill got hurt the next week at Cincinnati. Opponents sacked backup QB Brock Osweiler for -50 and -35 yards in the Dolphins' last 2 games. Indy's pass rush hadn't been much since the first month of the season until it got after Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota last week. If that was an aberration and if Tannehill can avoid the rush a better than Osweiler and sustain some offense, this could turn into an unexpected shootout.

8. UNDER 44.5: Chargers vs. Cardinals
Chargers' QB Phil Rivers likes to take his time. LA ranks No. 29 in the NFL in plays run and No. 32 in the NFL in Football Outsiders pace of play statistics. Thus, even though Rivers is having a dynamite year (he has thrown at least 2 TD passes in every game), the Chargers have scored more than 30 points just twice this season. LA killed itself last week against Denver with turnovers, penalties, a kicking game breakdown (missed PAT), and poor end-game clock management. That may not happen again, but it still is hard to see LA scoring more than 31 points against a Cardinals' D that held Kansas City to a season low 26 points and has only given up more than 30 points twice. Arizona's defenese does it with a nasty pass rush that sacks opposing QBs for -.691 yards per pass attempt (No. 4 in the NFL). Offensively, Cardinals RB David Johnson has steadily been getting more traction since Byron Leftwich replaced Mike McCoy as OC. Johnson broke out for his first 100-yard rushing game of the year last week agains the Raiders and Arizona ran the ball 31 times. More telllingly, rookie QB Josh Rosen attempted only 20 passes against Oakland's abysmal pass defense, which shows how much Leftwich does not want Rosen to attempt passes (for fear of turnovers). The Chargers have DE Joey Bosa back on the D-line, but lost DT Corey Liuget for the year last week to injury. LA opponents' have run the ball for more than 100 yards in 5 straight games. All of this should add up to a rather methodical, realtively low-scoring Chargers' win.

9. Broncos +3 over Steelers
and 10. UNDER 46.5

Denver is 3-2 ATS against teams ranked in the top 5 in the NFL in play design differential and 3-1 ATS when catching points (their only failure against the number as underdog was against closing line vs. Chiefs at home, but you could have backed Denver all that week at +4.5 and covered; the other loss was as a -2 point favorite vs. Texans). Pittsburgh comes in ranked No. 4 in the NFL in play design. How do the Broncos do it? While Denver ranks in the bottom 10 in the NFL in play design differential (-2.04%), the Broncos rank in the top 5 in explosive plays. Denver leads the NFL in yards per rushing attempt at 5.2 and RB Philip Lindsay ranks No. 2 in the NFL in yards per carry (5.54) amongst RBs with at least 100 carries. Also, QB Case Keenum has been willing to take a beating from opposing pass rushers rather than risk turning the ball over. The Broncos have provided more than 1 TO subsidy in just 2 games so far. The Steelers have a very nasty pass rush. LB T.J. Watt ranks No. 5 in the NFL in throwing opposing QBs for losses (-68 sack yards). And until Jacksonville got the lead last week and ran the ball 43 times, no opponent had topped 100 yards rushing against Pittsburgh since Week 2. The Broncos offensive line is very beat up (3 starters have been lost for the season), so Keenum will have to tough it out and take the pounding and the sacks and wait for LB Von Miller or someone else on the Broncos defense to make a big play. If Keenum can limit the sack yards to less than 20, post 7.00 QCYPA, and throw a couple of TD passes, Denver may even be able to pull a second straight SU upset. But if the Steelers rush overwhelms Keenum, the Broncos will struggle mightily to score so playing the under along with the side is a good hedge.

Last Week: 5-2
Season: 41-25-2 (.621)

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QC's Week 11 Thoughts

How important is pass protection in the NFL? The Colts have not allowed a sack in their last 5 games and the Saints have not allowed a sack in their last 4 games. Combined, those teams went 8-1 in those games. Indianapolis' play design differential has improved 2.78% and its player productivity has improved 1.45 points during its streak. New Orleans' play design differential has improved 2.95% and its player productivity has improved 46.68 point during its streak (mostly due to improvement of its pass coverage on defense). The teams have won those 8 games by an average of 20.625 points per game.

****

New Orleans burst into the top 10 in play design differential after its 48-7 annihilation of the soon-be-ex-Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. On offense, Sean Payton, Pete Carmichael and Drew Brees showed just how fungible receivers can be in the hands of master play designers as backup WRs Tre'Quan Smith and Austin Carr caught TD passes and Smith exploded for 157 yards on 10 catches. It was the third straight game Brees, et al. were infinitely productive (> 10 QCYPA). On the other side of the ball, DC Dennis Allen's troops turned in by far their most impressive pass coverage performance as Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz (4.182 QCYPA) and his Eagles' teammates player productivity (1.68) was well below the JaMarcus Cable standard of futility.

****

Stop if you have heard this before.... Tampa Bay turned the ball over 4 times and finished -4 TO. The Buccaneers now stand at an astounding -23 TO for the season. With Dirk Koetter's play design and a pirate ship full of playmakers led by WR Mike Evans, the Buccaneers have posted QCYPA of 9.392 and a player productivity differential of +22.14 points. Since 2008, only the 2011 Packers, who finished 15-1, and the 2016 Falcons, who finished 11-5 and reached the Super Bowl, have finished a season with better numbers. Tampa Bay is 3-7 due to the incredibly negative turnover differential.

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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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QC's Week 10 Thoughts

Play designers followed up a dominant 12-1 Week 9 with another oustanding week (11-2 with MNF pending). Six QBs were infinitely productive and averaged more than 10 QCYPA: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Baker Mayfield, Mitch Trubisky, and Marcus Mariota. Even Matt Barkley, who was brought in off the street by desperate Buffalo, put up 9.961 QCYPA as the the hitherto listless Bills embarrassed the NY Jets, 41-10. Keep an eye on Barkely. He can produce offense. But turnovers also follow him.

****

Speaking of turnovers, Tampa Bay had another 4 giveaways in a 16-3 loss to Washington. The Buccarneers now have given the ball away 25 times in 9 games and are on pace to subsidize opponents with over 44 TO, which would be 2 more than the 0-16 Browns provided their opponets last year. QC has never seen a team like HC Dirk Koetter's team. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 401 yards and averaged over 9.7 QCYPA, but the Redskins did not have to do anything to win because of the turnovers. Fitzpatrick has hand in 5 400-yard passing games in 2018, but the Bucs are just 2-3 in those games.

*****

New Orleans destroyed Cincinnati, 51-14, as QB Drew Brees had another phenomenal game, but what QC really liked was how Saints HC Sean Payton and OC Pete Carmichael used third string QB Taysom Hill. Against the Bengals, Hill ran the option, lined up wide and sealed the edge on a screen pass to Alvin Kamara, threw a jump pass (alas, it was incomplete), and returned a kick. It will be interesting to see more NFL teams try to copy what Payton and Carmichael are doing and go looking for players that resemble Hill.

****

A few recent columns has hypothesized that defensive play designers "have fallen behind" offensive designers and are playing to many "static defenses," particularly Cover 3. QC is not so sure. There are 5 teams that currently average better than 9 QCYPA: Chiefs, Rams, Chargers, Buccaneers, and Saints. That is unprecedented efficiency. And the Raiders and Saints are yielding better than 9 QCYPA. But in between the top and the bottom of the NFL, the data looks fairly normal to QC or, at least, not radically outsside usual ranges. Seattle HC Pete Carroll perfected Cover 3 way back in 2013. Typcially, if a defense has a weakness, offensive designers will not need 5 years to figure out how to exploit it. And last year (2017) defenses played better than average pass coverage. To QC, this looks mostly like a normal defensive ebb after a year or two of defensive flow, rather than one side of the ball seizing a decided schematic advantage.

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Week 10: QC's Best Bets

"The best thing about being a pessimist is the surprises are always pleasant."--QC

Bookmakers must surely agree as bookmakers do great when turnovers, missed field goals, and other unexpected frustrations lead to upsets. When things go smoothly as planned, as they did in Week 9 when better coached/designed teams went 12-1, bookmakers tend to take a beating. ESPN Chalk reporter David Purdum said descriptions of Week 9 from bookmakers "were the worst I can recall since Week 9 of the 2012 season." How did better coached/designed teams do in Week 9 of 2012? 14-0. QC was in the red last week with the bookmakers (1-4) and even managed to find the one better designed team that lost SU (Jets +3). But things rarely go smoothly as planned for long, especially in the NFL. Hopefully, this week the surprises will return to being pleasant for the pessimists. We are on to Week 10...

1. Buccaneers -3 over Redskins
New Orleans and Atlanta have roasted the Washington pass defense and Tampa's offense has been just as explosive as the Saints and the Falcons. The Buccaneers have scored at least 26 points in every game but one. On the other hand, the Redskins have scored more than 24 points just once. In games against quality NFL passers Andrew Luck, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, the Redskins have lost by at least 12 points. Washington's passing game is the least explosive in the NFL and HC Jay Gruden would prefer to run the ball and eat clock. This probably sounds wonderful to Tampa HC Dirk Koetter. Teams rarely bother to run on the Bucs because their pass D is so awful. Opposing passers have posted a combined 124.3 passer rating against Tampa, which is greater than the single-season NFL record of 122.5 set by Green Bay's Aaron Rogers in 2011. The Buccaneers biggest problem has been turnovers. Tampa is a ghastly -15 TO and is on pace to give away 42 TO subsidies, which would equal the number the 0-16 Browns provided last year. But turnovers are emergent events. It is possible for a gusher of turnovers to suddenly go dry. If that happens in Tampa, one has to think the Redskins will struggle to keep up as they did against New Orleans and Atlanta.

2. Cardinals +16.5 over Chiefs
This game reminds QC of 0-7 Tampa Bay's visit to 7-1 Seattle in 2013. The Seahawks were laying a huge number (-14.5) and were more than 10% better designd than the Bucs. But Tampa jumped to a 21-0 lead and Seattle had to scratch and claw to rally and win in OT, 27-24. It defies imagination to think Arizona could get ahead of Kansas City 21-0, but the Cardinals may matchup with the Chiefs better than anyone suspects. (And the Chiefs may be looking ahead to a primetime meeting with the Rams in Week 11.) First, the Cardinals pass rush (-.632 sack yards per pass attempt) is downright nasty. Second, Arizona has yielded just 9 TD passes in 8 games. Third, teams love to run on the Cardinals because they fall behind. Every team that has faced Arizona has run the ball at least 30 times. All things being equal, Arizona HC Steve Wilks would much prefer to see Kareem Hunt running the ball than QB Pat Mahomes slinging it. On offense, new OC Byron Leftwich has had 2 weeks to work with rookie QB Josh Rosen and to figure out how to get RB David Johnson going. The Cardinals running game has yet to crack 100 yards this year, but the Chiefs run defense can be pretty soft. Overall, the Chiefs have given up 21 or more points in 7 of 9 games. If the Cardinals can muster 21 points, then KC will need to put up 38 to cover. Only Denver in the short week debacle in which Rosen turned the ball over 5 times has scored that many against the Cardinals D.

3. Chargers -10 over Raiders
Oakland is exhibiting the signature signs of a "death spiral" during which consideration should be given to fading a team on a weekly basis. The Rams in Jeff Fisher's last year and the Eagles in Andy Reid's last year went through similar death spirals. What is unusual about this death spiral is that HC Jon Gruden is new. But everyone in the organization knows they won't be in Oakland much longer and one has to believe that it is hard for anyone to be too concerned about the ineptitude at this point in time. And inept the Raiders be, me hardy. Oakland is underachieving by an astounding -11.38 points per game. The Raiders pass rush has sacked opposing passers for more than 10 yards in a game just once (their sole win over Cleveland). Only a month ago, Chargers QB Phil Rivers lit up the Oakland pass defense for more than 13 QCYPA in a methodical 26-10 beat down. It is hard to imagine that Oakland will be even that close this time around.

4. Seahawks +10 over Rams
The Rams are 3.11% better designed than the Seahawks. But teams that are 4% better designed than an opponent cover 10 points just 35% of the time at home. For LA to cover this number, it probably needs to be +2 TO or have Seattle break down in the kicking game. The Seahawks won the TO battle in the first meeting (+2) as they pounded the Rams for 190 yards rushing on 32 carries. New Orleans hammered the Rams last week for 141 yards on 34 carries. The Seahawks have run the ball at least 32 times in 6 straight games. If LA can jump out to an early lead and force to Seattle to abandon its running game, it could be a long day for the Seahawks. But nobody in the NFL is better at stubbornly sticking with the ground game than Pete Carroll. An awful lot has to go right for HC Sean McVay and his team to cover a number this big against a team this good.

5. Eagles -7 over Cowboys
Dallas is 0-4 ATS on the road and this does not look like a matchup likely to break that skid. Cowboys' QB Dak Prescott has not attempted more than 35 passes in any game, while QBs facing the Eagles D have thrown at least 36 times in 7 of 8 games because the Philadelphia defense is sturdy against the run. No team has tried to run the ball more than 23 times against Philadelphia. And Dallas is 0-4 ATS when it runs the ball less than 23 times. Offensively, QB Carson Wentz reportedly is finally fully healthy and new WR Golden Tate and RB Darren Sproles should add some big plays to an offense that desperately needs big plays. The Eagles are 3-1 ATS when they run the ball 27 times or more and 3 of the Cowboys' last 4 opponents have run the ball 31 or more times. Dallas is 0-3 ATS in those games.

6. OVER 44: 49ers vs. Giants
San Francisco QB Nick Mullens posted a nearly perfect passer rating in his debut against the hapless Raiders. He won't be that good again, but he probably will be good. Nobody currently in the NFL designs plays better than 49ers HC Kyle Shannahan. The 49ers lead the NFL in yards after catch (YAC) and its not because players like Pierre Garcon, George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk are unusually elusive broken field runners. And Mullens has had 10 days to get ready for the Giants, who have given up at least 20 points in every game this year. What happened in San Francisco's encounter with Oakland that probably cannot be duplicated is the play of the 49ers defense, which sacked Derek Carr 8 times. Prior to that effort, the San Francisco seconday had given up at least 2 TD passes in every game. Other than the Raiders game and one encounter with the Cardinals' miserable offense, the 49ers have given up at least 24 points in every game. The Giants have plenty of weapons in Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard to go past that number.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 32-21-2 (.604)

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QC's Week 9 Thoughts

NFL refereees were in an officious mood in Week 9. Five teams were assessed over 100 yards in penalties: Bills (163), Redskins (147), Bears (129), Chargers (105) and Steelers (103). NFL HQ's laundry bill is going to be unusually large from cleaning all the flags that were on the field. Washington HC Jay Gruden was particularly cheesed about the officiating and several of his players did not think officials called the game the same way for both teams. Chicago, LA and Pittsburgh all still managed to win.

****

It is hard to imagine a team looking worse than Jon Gruden's Raiders did in a 34-3 loss to the 49ers last Thursday Night. Designing on the short week is always tough, particularly when a team is on the road like Oakland was, albeit still in the Bay Area. But when a rookie QB who has never played (Nick Mullens) has the best debut in the NFL since the merger, something more is going on. Did Mark Davis guarantee $100 million to a a coach after the game had already passed him by? It looked like it Thursday Night.

*****

Since QC invented coaching stats in 2009, only 2 NFL teams have posted QCYPA greater than 9 yards per attempt in a season: 2011 Packers (9.845 and 15-1 record) and 2016 Falcons (9.507 and 11-5 record). After half the 2018 season 4 teams have QCYPA that exceeds 9 yards per attempt: Rams (9.888 and 8-1); Chiefs (9.883 and 7-1); Chargers (9.478 and 6-2) and Buccaneers (9.258 and 3-5). The Falcons (8.929 QCYPA and 4-4) and Saints (8.862 QCYPA and 7-1) are just another explosion or two from going over the 9 QCYPA threshhold too. The design and execution of down field passing and screens that create space for YAC has never been better at the top of the NFL, particuarly in the NFC South where the only offense not at or threatening 9 QCYPA is designed by Norv Turner, who has always loved throwing the ball down the field.

****

The Saints handed the Rams their first loss, 45-35, and have won 7 straight games and covered six straight games. But New Orleans does not look like a powerhouse per coaching statistics. The Saints are still on average 0.66% worse designed than their opponents and just even in turnover differential. For comparison, the 2014 Arizona Cardinals were -1.04% worse designed than their opponents when they started 7-1 in 2014, but Bruce Arians' team also was a sterling +10 TO. Arizona ultimately lost QBs Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to injury and finished 11-5 and lost an ugly playoff game at Carolina with Ryan Lindley at QB. Obviously, with Drew Brees at QB, a similar fate would be quite surprising. But New Orleans has had some breaks. The Saints benefitted from opponents failures in the kicking game against Cleveland and Baltimore. Minnesota coughed up a pair of back-breaking turnovers. A controversial spot against LA was a turning point against the Rams. In addition, K Will Lutz has been an unsung hero, nailing 16 of 17 field goals and 27 of 28 PATs in a year in which placekicking has been an adventure. The New Orleans D has created only 8 turnovers (1 takeaway per game), which is near the bottom of the league. When New Orleans won the Super Bowl in 2009, its defense created 39 TO (2.4 takeaways per game). Like teams that are well coached and designed, HC Sean Payton's team is getting better and likely will continue to do so as the season evolves. But New Orleans still has to improve (especially on D) if it is to hoist another Lombardi Trophy.

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Week 9: Best Bets

1. Jets +3 over Dolphins
Miami's D-line has been decimated by injury and has given up over 100 yards rusing in 6 straight games. In order to field a D-line, Ziggy Hood and Sylvester Williams were signed off the street in the past week. Without any pass rush or run stopping, opposing QBs have averaged 10 QCYPA or better (infintely productive) in 3 straight games and have thrown 10 TD passes. Yikes! The Jets are 3-1 ATS when rushing for 100 yards and 0-4 ATS when they do not. Sam Darnold is much more effective when New York runs the football. The Jets have not cracked 100 yards since Isiah Crowell set the franchise's single game rushing record against the Broncos (216 yards). Crowell has been slowed by an ankle injury. Obviously, OC Jeremy Bates needs him to return to form. Miami HC Adam Gase uses more trick plays than any other NFL HC. So far, WRs Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola have thrown TD passes. Gase again will have Brock Osweiler at QB and he's played OK for the most part. Also, WR DaVante Parker played his first meaningful minutes last week against Houston and had a big game. Gase will need big performances from Osweiler and Parker and to pull a rabbit or two out of his cap for the Dolphins to beat the Jets again. The bet here is that the Jets running game gets healthy and Gase doesn't have enough play design magic to overcome the D-line weaknesses.

2. UNDER 47: Redskins vs. Falcons
and 3. Redskins -1.5 over Falcons

Turnovers lead to points and these teams rank first (Atlanta) and tied for second (Washington) at protecting the football (combined just 10 turnovers in 14 total games). The Falcons have played 5 of their 7 games at home and average 32.2 points per game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So most people think they are a high scoring team. But they have averaged just 15 points in their two road games at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In addition, the Falcons defense looked better last week against the Giants with their best DL, Grady Jarrett, back in the lineup. Washington is tailor-made of the under. The Redskins rank No. 2 in the NFL in time of possession and No. 4 in rushing frequency (46.6% of all plays). On defense, Washington has allowed the third fewest first downs via passing (31.4% of all passes) and new S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix just arrived from Green Bay. Atlanta has topped 100 yards rushing just once this year and is 0-4 ATS when QB Matt Ryan is sacked for 16 or more yards. This looks like a tough spot for the Falcons.

4. UNDER 46.5: Broncos vs. Texans
Houston exploded for 42 points in primetime last week against Miami's battered defense, but in the 3 games prior to facing the Dolphins the Texans scored 19, 19 and 20 points. Most of QB Deshaun Watson's numbers look good, but ESPN NFL Matchup pointed out that Watson is the fourth worst rated passer in the NFL on first down. HC Bill O'Brien also likes to run the ball, particularly with Lamar Miller, and Houston ranks No. 3 in the NFL in rushing attempts at over 30 per game. Denver also excels at running ball, leading the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry. But QB Case Keenum is 26th in the NFL in passer rating. When the Broncos do something good, they frequently sabotage themselves as they lead the NFL in yards that have been negated by penalty. Denver is averaging 22 points per game at home while the Texans have cracked 20 points on the road just once.

5. Rams +1.5 over Saints
LA is 4-0 SU on the road and will be an underdog for the first time this year. But when this line opened, the Rams were +2.5 favorites. Apparently, bettors were more impressed with New Orleans' win at Minnesota than QC was. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins moved the ball effectively against the Saints defense, but 2 critical turnovers (one a pick-6) doomed Minnesota. The New Orleans defense has recovered from early strafings by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Ryan, but it has done so against the likes of Joe Flacco, Alex Smith and Eli Manning. Acording to ESPN NFL Matchup, the Saints are still the third worst pass defense in the NFL as measured by opponents' passer rating (111.5) and allow more first downs via passing than any other team in the NFL (43.3% of all passes). Those are not numbers that provide comfort when HC Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff are coming town. New Orleans QB Drew Brees is a handful in the Super Dome, particularly when his running game is working. New Orleans has run the ball 27 or more times in 5 straight games, all wins SU and ATS. But only the Seahawks have been able to run the ball more than 24 times against the Rams. If Saints' HC Sean Payton and OC Pete Carmichael can get RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram going and protect Brees from LA sack machine, DT Aaron Donald, this should be the shootout everyone is hoping it will be. But if New Orleans falls behind and Payton/Carmichael/Brees abandon the run, this might not be as close as expected.

Last Week: 3-1
Season: 31-17-2 (.646)

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