2018 Record: 38-25-2 (60 percent)
Carolina Panthers @ Cleveland Browns +1
This is a really interesting line. Last week, the Cleveland Browns were just 5.5-point underdogs on the road against the Houston Texans. Let’s look into the numbers here.
- Houston: 7.7
- Carolina: 7.0
- Cleveland: 6.1
- Cleveland: 6.2
- Houston: 6.5
- Carolina: 7.4
Houston is clearly a much better team than the Carolina Panthers. Despite that, this line suggests that the Panthers would be seven-point favorites at home, more than Houston was favored last week. Carolina is probably closer to Cleveland in talent than Houston. There are some logical flaws here.
The overreaction to the Browns this year has been crazy. Baker Mayfield plays well, there’s huge value on the Houston Texans the next week. Baker Mayfield plays poorly, there’s huge value on taking him the next week. These recent lines seem to be reacting too strongly based on what how the team looked like just the week before…which is odd since the Panthers could not stop coughing up the ball against a Tampa Bay team that could not force turnovers all year last Sunday.
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills -3.5
Quietly, the Buffalo Bills have one of the better defenses in the NFL. From an AY/A perspective, they are about as good (relative to the NFL average) as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are bad in that aspect.
So while the Bills are last in the league in passing efficiency, the New York Jets are just 30th in the NFL. The best unit on the field in this game, by a good margin, should be Buffalo’s pass defense going head-to-head with New York’s passing game.
Remember, the Bills already beat this team 41-10 on the road last month.
Los Angeles Rams @ Chicago Bears +4
An 8-4 team is a four-point home underdog! With the most consistent, best defense in the league! Read what I wrote about the Chicago Bears’ defense and how we should look at them relative to the rest of the NFL.
From an adjusted net yards per attempt perspective, Chicago’s defense is basically as valuable as the Los Angeles Rams’ passing offense this year. Chicago’s AY/A offensively ranks 12th, which is not great but is not awful. It seems like Mitch Trubisky is likely to play over Chase Daniel, who got them through a short-week game against Detroit and a two-interception game against New York for wins. That should help them out.
Defensively, the Rams are 22nd in the NFL in AY/A. On a per pass basis, the Rams defense is open for business. This game is going to be tighter than some expect. This line suggests that the Rams would be 10-point favorites in Los Angeles. Too much!
Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals +2.5
Coming off of what was the biggest home upset in Green Bay Packers’ last 40 years of football, you would think the Arizona Cardinals would be getting more respect at home. Offensively, they rank 31st in AY/A, but the Detroit Lions rank 27th. On the defensive end, Arizona’s defense ranks ninth and Detroit’s ranks 29th.
If I told you to choose one of these options, which would be the biggest plus in a matchup?
- A: ninth-ranked defense vs 27th-ranked offense
- B: 29th-ranked defense vs 31st-ranked offense
You would pick A every time, right? Seems simple enough. For whatever reason, the 4-8 Lions (who are 1-4 on the road) are getting a lot more respect than the 3-9 Cardinals right now. This line suggests that Detroit would be an 8.5-point favorite at home. That just seems really ill-advised.
Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks -3
When the Seattle Seahawks choose to, they can pass the hell out of the football. Their team’s adjusted yards per attempt this year is 8.6, good for fifth-best in the NFL behind the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams. Compared to the Minnesota Vikings, ranked 15th at 6.8 (NFL average is 6.9), this is not really a close game offensively in the air. With that being said, Seattle will run it all over and limit Minnesota scoring drives if given the chance and the Vikings are struggling on their offensive line.
Defensively, their passing games aren’t much different. Seattle has an AY/A of 6.1 and Minnesota has an AY/1 of 5.6. On that end of the ball, the Vikings are about a half-yard better than the Seahawks, but Seattle is nearly two yards a play better when passing offensively. There should be a clear lean for Seattle being the best team here.
Remember, despite the losses, the Seahawks haven’t really played any bad games this year. They played Denver in Denver Week 1 when we know elevation is a factor early on in the season and lost by three. They then played another road game to start the year in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears, who have the clear best defense in football and lost by a score. In Week 5, they lost by two points to the Los Angeles Rams. In Week 9, they had a chance to win the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on an untimed down inside the red zone. In Week 10, they lost a five-point game to the Rams.
Seattle, on a 7-3 run, is still better than their record is giving them credit for at this point. Look for the favorite to lock in the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs to be in a good spot to cover here.