“Confidence” took a little vacation last weekend, but we still got some work done. The comments section of the prior Thursday Night Football Preview included these six plays:
- New Orleans -4 and Denver +12
- Risking .5 units to win .455.
- Philadelphia PK and Baltimore +4.5
- Risked .5 units to win .455.
- Chicago +9 and Philadelphia PK.
- Risked .5 units to win .455.
I used Philadelphia (PK) twice, doubling down on it. “Confidence” scoring counts that as 2-0. Had Philadelphia lost, it would have resulted in two thumbs down.
New Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins made it close but the Eagles prevailed, making this a good call. Both teams scored at will, each benefiting from a long scoring play. Special teams made the difference, as the Eagles scored a TD on a kickoff return and Washington missed a 33-yard field goal. In the end, the Eagles’ defense made a crucial 4th-and-10 stop at their 41-yard line to seal the win.
This was a good call as the Saints completely dominated the day with the second-highest offensive DVOA (32.9%), third-best overall DVOA (51.1%), twice as many first downs as the Vikings (27-13), a 396-247 margin in total yards, and a 7:06 advantage in time of possession. Minnesota averaged a paltry 2.7 yards per rush and the New Orleans defense held them to just two field goals. A complete and thorough win for the Saints.
This was a good call thanks to Peyton Manning. He ended the day 12-for-20 for 162 yards and two touchdowns, a two-point conversion and one interception. Pedestrian numbers on paper but it was the strong performance from Manning in the 4th quarter that made the difference. His 26-yard strike to tight end Jacob Tamme and subsequent 2-point conversion pass to Demaryius Thomas tied the game with 18 seconds left.
The Broncos played their best defense in the 4th quarter, generating a safety, a forced punt, and a pick. They also held the Seahawks to a field goal after their pick of Manning and subsequent 52-yard return. The Broncos’ performance on offense (15 points scored) and defense (2 points scored, 3 points allowed) in the final frame erased the Seahawks’ lead and carried this teaser to victory.
Another good call because of the Jets’ sloppy play throughout the game. New York fumbled four times, recovering only three. Geno Smith threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Chicago was handed another touchdown after the Jets fumbled a punt inside their own 40-yard line. The Bears’ defense gave up 414 yards but limited New York to four field goals and only one touchdown with strong performances in the red zone.
Baltimore did more in the fourth quarter, winning this close game of attrition with their special teams and making this a good call. They oversaw a Cleveland missed field goal, blocked another field goal attempt, kicked off for a touchback, and pinned the Browns at their seven-yard line on a punt. Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker was perfect on two easy field goal attempts. The Ravens’ running game was effective, netting 160 yards (4.8 per carry), while the defense limited the Browns to 85 rushing yards (a putrid 2.8 per carry).
Teams and/or Games to Stay Away From
Minnesota +3 vs. Atlanta
After facing Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown last weekend, the Falcons are playing against another likely replacement-level quarterback as rookie Teddy Bridgewater makes his first NFL start. Atlanta matches up well against Minnesota on both sides of the ball and the Falcons offense could pose problems for the Vikings’ secondary. Still, without suspended running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have too many question marks for there to be “Confidence.”
Verdict: Stay away from Minnesota.
Houston -3.5 vs. Buffalo
The Ryan Fitzpatrick Bowl! The below-average ex-Harvard quarterback returns to Buffalo with his new team, the Texans to face the enigmatic riddle that is EJ Manuel and the Bills. On paper this game is too close to call, so whichever quarterback makes the fewest mistakes could lead his team to victory.
Verdict: Avoid this game at all costs.
Teams to Tease in Order of “Confidence”
New Orleans -3 (+3) at Dallas
While Dallas can be explosive on offense, the Cowboy defense is a travesty. New Orleans finally played well on defense last week and their offense is deadly. The Cowboys’ “lone star” on defense, interior tackle Henry Melton, is still battling a pre-season groin strain and now has a hamstring strain.
DVOA rates the Saints 13th overall at 10.8%, with the defense 31st at 15.4% and the offense 1st at 24.6%. DAVE rates the Saints 8th overall at 11.7%, with the defense 23rd at 4.5% and the offense 2nd at 15.7%. Meanwhile, DVOA rates the Cowboys 19th overall at -2.1%, with the defense 24th at 8.5% and the offense 14th at 3.3%. DAVE rates the Cowboys 20th overall at -5.2%, with the defense 29th at 7.2% and the offense 16th at 0.7%. This leads us to “Confidence” that the Saints have the superior offense and a greater advantage while on offense.
In Week 3 against Minnesota, New Orleans’ defense held the Vikings to just three field goals. While no offensive juggernaut, the Vikings had just 59 yards rushing while quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater were under pressure on 21 of their 38 passing attempts. That New Orleans is still second-to-last in DVOA (after that Week 3 performance) tells us just how awful they were in their first two games. “Confidence” is making the call, based on the stats, that the Saints’ defense will perform closer to the middle of the pack and not the rear going forward.
When the Saints Have the Ball:
- Run Game: Saints OL vs. Cowboys front four: New Orleans Edge
- Run Game: Saints RB vs. Cowboys LB: New Orleans Edge
- Passing Game: Saints OL vs. Cowboys pass rush: New Orleans Edge
- Passing Game: Saints WR/TE vs. Cowboys secondary: New Orleans Edge
Overall Edge: New Orleans Saints
When the Cowboys Have the Ball:
- Run Game: Cowboys OL vs. Saints front four: Dallas Slight Edge
- Run Game: Cowboys RB vs. Saints LB: Dallas Edge
- Passing Game: Cowboys OL vs. Saints pass rush: Dallas Slight Edge
- Passing Game: Cowboys WR/TE vs. Saints secondary: Dallas Edge
Overall Edge: Dallas Cowboys
Unless the Saints lose the turnover battle, they should win this game. Drew Brees should have all day to pick apart a terrible Dallas secondary. The Cowboys’ defense is going to finish last or in the bottom five of most statistical categories, after finishing 30th overall in DAVE during 2013. As long as the Saints’ defense can limit Dallas to under 28 points they should be able to win this game by a 7+ point margin.
The Call: This is a high “Confidence” pick. Stay away from Dallas. Take New Orleans +3.
Pittsburgh -7.5 (-1.5) vs. Tampa Bay
The last time we saw Tampa Bay, they were being stomped flat by the Falcons during Week 3’s Thursday Night game. The Buccaneers trailed 35-0 before they got a first down, leading to “Confidence” that their collective offensive ineptitude will continue indefinitely. To have any chance in this game, Tampa needs their battered front seven to control the line of scrimmage against the Steelers’ offensive line, but that unlikely given the questionable health of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
DVOA rates the Steelers 10th overall at 14.9%, with the defense 25th at 12.6% and the offense 5th at 21.9%. DAVE rates the Steelers 10th overall at 8.6%, with the defense 25th at 5.0% and the offense 4th at 11.4%. Further, DVOA rates the Buccaneers 32nd overall at a morbid -65.3%, with the defense 26th at 12.8% and the offense 32nd at -38.6%. DAVE rates the Buccaneers 31st overall at -29.8%, with the defense 24th at 4.8% and the offense 30th at -18.4%. The Steelers have the edge here as the numbers on Tampa are either frightening or hilarious, depending on your rooting interests.
When the Steelers Have the Ball:
- Run Game: Steelers OL v. Bucs front four: Tampa Slight Edge
- Run Game: Steelers RB v. Bucs LB: Pittsburgh Edge
- Passing Game: Steelers OL v. Bucs pass rush: Tampa Edge
- Passing Game: Steelers WR/TE v. Bucs secondary: Pittsburgh Edge
Overall Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers
When the Buccaneers Have the Ball:
- Run Game: Bucs OL v. Steelers front four: Pittsburgh Slight Edge
- Run Game: Bucs RB v. Steelers LB: Tampa Slight Edge
- Passing Game: Bucs OL v. Steelers pass rush: Pittsburgh Edge
- Passing Game: Bucs WR/TE v. Steelers secondary: Tampa Edge
Overall Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers – Slight
The Buccaneers’ disarray on offense means they are unlikely move the ball even against a below-average Pittsburgh defense. But the Tampa Bay offense is so utterly dysfunctional that while scoring points isn’t out of the question, they will not keep up with a high scoring offense like the Steelers. Unless turnovers are a major factor the Steelers should dominate this matchup at home.
The Call: This is a high “Confidence” pick. Pittsburgh -1.5
Chicago +1.5 (+7.5) vs. Green Bay.
Chicago and Green Bay are closely-matched teams in the NFC North, which makes getting over seven points as a slight home underdog appealing. There is “Confidence” that Chicago will win or lose a tight game.
New England -3.5 (+2.5) at Kansas City
New England’s defense matches up well with Kansas City’s offense and there is “Confidence” that the Patriots’ will score enough against the Chiefs to win a low-scoring game.
“Confidence” teaser picks are 9-4 this year for a 69.2% hit rate. “Confidence” was 6-0 last week.