“Confidence” is about knowing the players, the numbers, the history, and the line, putting them all together and delivering predictions on this week’s NFL games. Delving deep into advanced statistics and player grades, “Confidence” helps when trying to beat the experts in Vegas.
The Week That Was
Denver 24 – Kansas City 17
The combination of a strong Denver offense and a goal-line stand delivered Denver the win. The team DVOA performances are much further apart than the actual score, as evidenced by the domination of the Bronco offense: 7.1 yards per play, 57.2% offensive DVOA. The Bronco defense had a bend-but-don’t-break day, trading yardage and time of possession for field position while capitalizing on the Chiefs’ inefficiency. This was a good call; Kansas City couldn’t match Denver’s relatively low point total and the Broncos covered.
San Diego 30 – Seattle 21
Turnovers often decide football games; San Diego fumbled three times but recovered each one. Seattle, on the other hand, fumbled twice and only recovered once. The Chargers effectively attacked the weakness of the Seahawk defense ‒ the short and intermediate areas in the middle of the field. The 118-degree temperatures at kickoff didn’t help the Seahawks; both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were affected and the entire Seattle squad looked sluggish and lethargic due to the conditions. This was a bad call: The heat, the fumble luck, and the success San Diego’s offense had against the middle of Seattle’s coverage doomed the Seahawks.
Cleveland 26 – New Orleans 24
New Orleans was 19% better by DVOA; usually, when one team is this much better, they win. But again, turnovers were the key factor. The Saints fumbled once, failed to recover and allowed a pick-six. Even their mighty offense couldn’t overcome their mistakes and their defensive shortcomings allowed Brian “The Destoyer” Hoyer and his Browns to win the day. This was a bad call; the turnover battle often decides game, especially when one is taken back to the house.
Dallas 26 – Tennessee 10
Well, so much for “Confidence” in Jake Locker. He had receivers open all day but barely scraped together a 52.9% completion rate. His accuracy and decision making were atrocious, especially on the Barry Church interception. The Titans defense couldn’t handle Dallas’ rushing attack and specifically could not stop the offensive line at the line of scrimmage or in the second level. The Dallas running game churned out 13 first downs and 220 net yards. Tennessee’s DVOA: -42.3%. The Cowboys’ DVOA: 65.2%. This was an egregiously bad call and Locker gets the “No Confidence” award for Week 2.
Thursday Night Preview
This week’s slate features the Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
DVOA ranks the Falcons 16th overall at 1.9%, with the defense 29th at 20.7% and the offense 6th at 18.2%. DAVE has the Falcons 17th overall at -2.5%, with the defense 31st at 9.6% and the offense 10th at 5.8%. The Falcons have played consistently poor defense while exhibiting one good week and one poor week on offense.
DVOA puts the Buccaneers 26th overall at -22.9%, with the defense 18th at 3.5% and the offense 26th at -16.1%. DAVE ranks the Buccaneers 23rd overall at -6.3%, with the defense 18th at -0.4% and the offense 24th at -5.4%. The Buccaneers have been slightly below average in both games on defense and have had above-average performance (with one horrific display) on offense.
When Atlanta Has the Ball:
Simply put, Atlanta has a weak offensive line. Tampa Bay star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is a game time decision with a broken hand. If McCoy plays, he and defensive end Michael Johnson give the Buccaneers the ability to get pressure on Matt Ryan early which, as seen against Cincinnati, significantly hampers the Falcons’ passing attack. The Buccaneers would also have the ability, with their stars, to control the line of scrimmage in the running game. Not knowing if one of the NFL’s best players is going to suit up makes this tough to factor in.
The key matchup here will be Tampa Bay cornerback Alterraun Verner against Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones. The Bucs have a porous secondary, but if Verner can contain Jones on his own and Lavonte David successfully defends his man, it would free up coverage to address Falcons deep threat Roddy White. The matchup favors Atlanta, but Tampa Bay is not without hope.
When Tampa Bay Has the Ball:
The Buccaneer offensive line should have a significant advantage in both the passing and the running game. Atlanta still has yet to register a sack on defense. Bobby Rainey ran for 144 yards last week and 163 yards the last time he faced the Falcons, which helped Tampa Bay gain a 6:30 advantage in time of possession. Expect Atlanta to wisely commit to defending the run, thereby leaving their already-vulnerable secondary even more exposed and taking us to…
…the marquee battle between Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Atlanta cornerback Desmond Trufant. In his game against the Falcons, Jackson had ten receptions for 165 yards. With Mike Glennon lurking in the shadows it’s now or never for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown. Luckily for McCown, he should have plenty of time in the pocket and a defense that is more committed to stopping the run. Aside from Jackson and Mike Evans, McCown has few other targets: Running back Doug Martin will likely get limited snaps due to injury, rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is out, and the remaining options are either raw rookies or replacement-level veterans.
Further Uncertainty When Tampa Bay Has the Ball:
There is uncertainty as to how Bucs head coach Lovie Smith will proceed on offense. He has been reluctant to trust his passing attack so far this year, which leaves a couple of questions heading into tonight’s contest: If Atlanta dares Smith to pass, will he? Will the offense open up more this week at all?
The Titans are a good example of early-season volatility. In Week 1 they looked like they were contenders for the AFC South crown. A week later they appeared destined for a top-three overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. In terms of defenses faced, Tampa Bay has seen a good-to-great one in Carolina, a mediocre one in St. Louis, and tonight they’re up against one of the worst in the league. If the Buccaneers don’t perform well here, the limitations of their offense will be unquestioned.
The Call: ATL -6.5
I have no “Confidence” in this game for three reasons: 1) There is too much uncertainty surrounding how Tampa Bay’s offense will perform against Atlanta’s defense; 2) Tampa Bay has an extensive star-studded injury list with too many game-time decisions; and 3) The advanced statistics have the line much closer than the books. All the uncertainty revolves around Tampa Bay, which might normally make the Falcons the call, but I would not advise wagering on this game.
Last week: 1-4