Playing the Spread with PMo- Week 8
This is not your father’s National Football League anymore. The climate of the league is in a rather chaotic state right now, which may be a good thing for bettors.
It is pretty crazy to think that high school football now has a direct influence on the NFL. With the majority of college offenses running the spread, (adopted from high school) football is taught much differently from when I was growing up. Offensive players no longer are burdened with the task of having to make sight adjustments and other pre-snap calls because the spread offenses have dumbed down the game so players don’t have to think much and can just react. Offensive lineman entering the league have never faced this steep of a learning curve, so inherently there is less time for QBs to make critical decisions which affects the running game as well.
To make matters even more difficult for the adjustment periods for young players, the 2011 CBA put tremendous time-constraints on practice time. Coaches have minimal time to shape their young men because not only is there a limited amount of time you can practice, but most of the practices are non-contact with merely a handful of practices throughout the entire season in pads.
These constraints have even led to coaches implementing spread concepts into their own scheme to accommodate the personnel they have to work with, namely teams with QBs who come from similar regimes (Alex Smith, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton). Drafting a guard or tackle in the early to middle rounds has historically been a safe selection, but now teams are inclined to take DEs who are explosive athletes that can get home.
Also notice how there are a ton of flags and poor tackling mechanics? CTE is the worst plague that’s ever been brought into the League’s (and the sport’s) conscience which has forced the hand of the League Office and Competition Committee to alter the rules so defenders must tackle within a ‘strike-zone’ and their facemask straight ahead as opposed to facing down. Defensive players are still adjusting to this seemingly impossible task at times, so tackling will continue to be a work in progress.
Pro football is undergoing a lot of changes currently and it make take a few more years for everyone to adjust with the times which actually is great news for us because we must thrive in the madness. Turbulent times mean more opportunities for the marketplace to take advantage over the course of a season. It is up to the bettor now to find those minute edges and details about organizations coaches and players that can lead to monetary gains. This week brings an abbreviated board with 6 teams on bye that allows the bookmakers to sort of hone in on each game more accurately so buyer beware.
I’d like to preface every week by saying that I would never recommend playing every NFL game in a week. The games that I write about are the ones I am willing to put my pocket into play. The games that aren’t written about are “force leans” which means that if I had a gun to my head who would I bet on in a given matchup. Note: Lines are from the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas and are subject to change at anytime. All game times are Eastern Time Zone.
All NFL: 64–46–4
Last Week: 7–6–2
Premium NFL: 18–13–1
Last Week: 3–1
CBS 1PM: IND @ CIN (-10.5) IND +10.5
The 2017 campaign couldn’t have started out any shakier for Cincinnati as they failed to score an offensive TD through its first two games. Shortly thereafter, Marvin Lewis got rid of former OC Ken Zampese and inserted Bill Lazor into that position. Lazor immediately injected life into the offense by shuffling some of its atrocious OL pieces to create some semblance of a cohesive unit while feeding its top playmakers WR AJ Green and RB Joe Mixon. The first 3 weeks under Lazor’s direction the Bengals saw a tremendous jump from 4.5 PPG (under Zampese) to 25 PPG. During that span we saw Cincy battle right back into the playoff hunt sitting at 2–3 with a bye week on the horizon to get ready for Pittsburgh. Even with the extra time to prepare it proved to be of no avail as the Bengals were outclassed once again by their rival and they are right back to square one with this offense again as they are allowing QB Andy Dalton to get sacked at an alarming 9.1% rate this season well above his 5.8% career average. If the new OC wasn’t already knee deep in pressure here was RB Joe Mixon postgame:
“I felt like (Le’Veon) Bell got the ball 35 times. I get it seven. All in the 1st half, then don’t touch the ball again… I can’t showcase nothing if I don’t get the ball.”
Lazor’s response is concerning to me because it’s almost as if he accepts the issues he has as a coach and play-caller which is a pattern he has shown in the past also from his days as the Miami OC under Joe Philbin.
“In the last two games we won somewhere between probably 2–5 of our skill position players were probably pissed at me after game and it’s between two and five. It’s just the fact. That’s NFL football. Not everyone is going to be happy with their touches all the time.”
While I agree with him that it is almost impossible to please everyone within an offense it is malpractice to just accept that as standard operating procedure. Luckily for this unit they have Indianapolis coming to Ohio who sit at #30 on the Defensive Efficiency charts provided by FO and not to mention just lost their young stud safety Malik Hooker for the rest of 2017. It is safe to say the Colts hit rock bottom last week getting shutout for the first time since 1993 and giving up 10 sacks to that vaunted Jacksonville defense.
To topple on the obvious problems this offense has its best player WR T.Y. Hilton displayed poor character by taking an unnecessary shot at his line:
“We (were) winning our matchups (speaking of the WRs), the O-line just got to play better.”
That is an awful thing to hear and it just illustrates that this locker room is clearly in shambles with nobody to pick up the pieces. This game intrigues me so much because both organizations are in states of emergency. This is the kind of chaos I was referring to in the introduction, the kind of madness that leaves a wide margin for error that needs to be taken advantage of. When players lose trust in a coaching staff that is when you see dangerous attitudes from rogue players on defense who might ad-lib on some plays just to see if something different works since what they’ve been coached to do all season hasn’t. This is the type of game flow that allows for big plays and turnovers so it calls for an Indianapolis/Cincinnati OVER 41.5.
FOX 4:25PM: DAL @ WAS (+2) DAL -2
A major challenge lies ahead for the Redskins at a critical juncture in their campaign. The ‘Skins will enter the 2nd leg of a 5-game stretch where they face 5 teams currently in the thick of the playoff hunt (@PHI, DAL, @SEA, MIN, & @NO). This week is doubly important as they have a crucial divisional tilt with a Dallas team whom they are tied with in the standings.
The pressure for Dallas to win is demanding as well because they know that this could be Zeke’s last game before he is handed down a 6-game suspension from the League office. Washington will hardly have enough offensive lineman available to practice this week as Coach Gruden bluntly told the media on Tuesday: “I don’t have any linemen.” Cluster injuries are something that I deem extremely important when I bet on games and this is the epitome of cluster injuries.
The Dallas defense overall is nothing to keep OCs up late at night, but the one area they have some talent is at both defensive end positions featuring breakout stud Demarcus Lawrence and the 6’7 freak on the other end in David Irving, who has only played 2 games this season due to a suspension of his own. Despite only having played in those 2 contests Irving has registered 3 sacks already while Lawrence has tallied a sack in every game so far this season, his 9.5 total only .5 behind the Jags Calais Campbell for tops in the NFL.
Left guard Shawn Lauvao is the only Redskins starter on the OL without a serious injury right now. Former All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams is the most important starter for this unit he has been dealing with knee injuries for years and has been held out of practice the last couple weeks prior to him aggravating it on Monday Night Football. Williams has been such a cornerstone for this franchise since he was drafted 4th overall out of Oklahoma in the 2010 NFL Draft and Jay Gruden is already on record saying that he wants to do what is best for his guy. This is a huge turning point in Trent’s career as he is entering the latter stages of his shelf life but still young enough at 29 to sustain as one of the best tackles in pro football for a few more seasons. This is an offensive line rated at the dead middle of the pack by Football Outsiders adjusted OL charts but could see a sharp drop if they have to piecemeal it together.
Meanwhile the Dallas OL is beginning to perform to its high standards as their quintet ranked #1 in run blocking and #2 in pass-pro last week according to PFF. Dallas averaged 3.41 yards before contact per rushing attempt in last week’s dominant road victory last week in Santa Clara according to PFF. The bookies in Nevada and the marketplace for that matter have a tendency to underrate offensive line play in general and most folks are not privy to the importance of one cohesive unit. I don’t believe the current line is giving this notion enough merit so I will be on the road favorite here Dallas -2.
Thursday Night Football CBS 8:25PM: MIA @ BAL (-3) MIA +3
London Game NFL Network 9:30AM: MIN @ CLE (+9.5) CLE +9.5
FOX 1PM: CHI @ NO (-9) NO -9
FOX 1PM: ATL @ NYJ (+5) ATL -5
FOX 1PM: CAR @ TB (-2.5) CAR +2.5
FOX 1PM: SF @ PHI (-12.5) SF +12.5
CBS 1PM: OAK @ BUF (-2.5) OAK +2.5
CBS 1PM: LAC @ NE (-7) LAC +7
CBS 4:05PM: HOU @ SEA (-5.5) SEA -5.5
SNF NBC 8:30PM: PIT @ DET (+3) DET +3
MNF ESPN 8:30PM: DEN @ KC (-7) DEN +7
College Football (4–10)
A sigh of relief came into breath last week as we finally hit on a big time college play. We were able to exhale rather early into the night as Notre Dame handled the Trojans in South Bend. This week we focus on teams outside of the power 5 which is a much softer market that can lead to easy spread victories. Information about football teams outside of the power 5 conferences is much less readily available so I will keep this week’s college board write-ups succinct and to the point.
Thursday Night CBSC 7PM: Eastern Michigan @ Northern Illinois (-7.5) NIU -7.5
Chris Creighton’s Eagles are desperate for a victory to halt a grueling five-game losing skid with all five losses by one possession. All of EMU’s games besides one opening night victory have come down to the final possession with 2 of those contests requiring overtime. This brutal stretch of long, hard fought close games is tougher to deal with for Eastern Michigan as they lack the necessary depth to overcome attrition. Last year the Eagles were a breakthrough story as they came out winners of close games finishing 3–0 in games decided by 5 points or less. The inevitable regression to the mean has hit them hard this season and unfortunately it is all too familiar for this group of players if you look at the records of the past seasons before last year’s breakout. The 3 seasons prior to 2016, EMU’s overall mark was 5–31.
NIU comes into Thursday night fresher than most teams on a short week as they cruised to 48–17 pounding of Bowling Green on Saturday. The Huskies have dealt with adversity this season, losing both starting QB and RB to injuries, but adjusted well and their development has been accelerated by a rugged non-conference schedule by MAC standards that included a home game versus BC and road trips to Nebraska and San Diego State. The most important factor for this matchup is an aggressive NIU defense that is #2 in the country in TFLs. The physicality of the Huskie defense wear out anyone over the course of four quarters especially versus an opponent that may not have enough gas left in the tank at the end. Northern Illinois -7.5.
Saturday ESPN3 3PM: San Jose State @ BYU (-12.5) BYU -12.5
BYU is an example one of the most extreme ATS teams of all-time at this point in a season as the Cougars check in at 0–8 against the number and 1–7 straight up. The oddsmakers can ill afford for any team to be decrepit versus the spread, so it is literally a goal of theirs to set a line that BYU can cover. At this point it is all about effort level for the Cougars because they have a soft schedule the rest of the way. The lines for BYU shouldn’t be too large because of how awful they have been so far this year and if the players and coaches give it their all then we can find great value on the Mormons from here on out.
BYU HC Kelani Sitake went out and put the full blame on the coaches last week also noting the importance of finishing the season strong for the seniors. It could very well be your typical coach-speak, but this is the last time a lot of these men will every play meaningful and competitive football, so it shouldn’t be hard to muster up some covers the rest of the way. This play is less about a football team and more about math so take it for what it’s worth Brigham Young -12.5.