Confidence: Week 16 NFL Gambling Preview

Confidence is an NFL gambling preview, using statistics, matchup analysis and other metrics to create predictions readers can use at their discretion.

Week 15 Misses Reviewed

Only Philadelphia failed to deliver last week, resulting in a tidy 1.73-unit profit. The opening kickoff proved an ill omen for the Eagles, as Cowboys placekicker Dan Bailey’s boot took an awkward bounce forward and touched Eagles wideout and return man Josh Huff, creating a live ball which Dallas recovered.

Philadelphia-Eagles-Josh-Huff-Kickoff-Fumble-Dallas-Cowboys-CJ-Spillman-Fumble-Recovery

This marked the first of four Eagles turnovers; Dallas converted the first three into 17 Dallas points, while the fourth closed out the game. The Cowboys dominated Philadelphia in the overall stat lines for yardage gained (364 to 294), time of possession (41:55 to 18:05), and first downs (26 to 19).

Teams to Tease in Order of “Confidence”

There are four road favorites this week that intrigue me: Denver at Cincinnati, Seattle against Arizona, Green Bay traveling to Tampa Bay, and Detroit at Chicago.

Denver at Cincinnati -3 (+3)

What I like: Cincinnati’s 9-4-1 record is deceiving. Their overall weighted DVOA ranks only 19th-best at -1.9%. Pro Football Focus has the Bengals as a split team with the 3rd-worst defense (-80.7) and the 6th-best offense (+18.4). On the other hand, Denver is every bit as good as their 11-3 record indicates, as they sport the 2nd-best overall weighted DVOA at 30.0%. The Broncos are also highly regarded by Pro Football Focus with the 5th-best offense (+38.5) and the top-rated defense (+102.9).

Denver’s dominant offense isn’t a revelation but their defense still isn’t getting the respect it deserves. The Broncos can handle anything Cincinnati sends at them, with the 5th-best defensive passing DVOA (-6.3%) and the 2nd-highest defensive rushing DVOA (-27.2%). Cincinnati’s running backs face an uphill battle and so does Andy “Prime Time” Dalton. The Bengals QB is 2-9 in prime time games and was at his worst earlier this year against the Browns, completing just 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards, tossing 3 interceptions, and compiling a QB rating of 2.0.

What I don’t like: Cincinnati’s defensive passing DVOA rates 9th-best -2.9%. And while this is probably just a small sample size issue, Denver’s offense has performed noticeably worse on the road with a total home offensive DVOA of 53.2% ‒ but a total road offensive DVOA of only -2.9%.

The Call: Take Denver -3 and tease them too at +3

Seattle at Arizona -8 (-2)

What I like: Arizona’s 11-3 record is more of a mirage than Cincinnati’s. The Cardinals’ total weighted DVOA is only 18th-best at -1.5%. Pro Football Focus is even less charitable, rating Arizona 16th overall in defense (+7.6) and, not surprisingly, 7th-worst overall in offense (-109.2).

Seattle, like Denver, has a record that matches their statistics with better ratings across the board. The Seahawks have the 4th-best total weighted DVOA at 23.1%. They also score higher at Pro Football Focus with the 14th-best offense (-31.9) and 9th-best defense (+47.9). Seattle has success both running and passing the ball with the 12th-best offensive passing DVOA (16.5%) and the best offensive rushing DVOA (29.2%).

Arizona is starting Ryan Lindley at quarterback this Sunday. Sporting a career QB rating of 46.8, his last appearance resulted in this. He will turn the ball over against Seattle. The Seahawks sport the 4th-best defensive rushing DVOA at -22.5%, so if the Cardinals want to run the ball, Seattle will shut them down.

Did I mention the Cardinals are starting Ryan Lindley?

What I don’t like: Arizona has a balanced and strong defense. The Cardinals total weighted defensive DVOA rates 3rd-best at -13.8%, with the 7th-best defensive passing DVOA (-3.8%) and 3rd-best defensive rushing DVOA -(23.0%).

Seattle, throughout the history of the franchise, has had serious home/road splits.

The Call: Take Seattle -8 and tease them too at -1.

Green Bay at Tampa Bay -10.5 (-4.5)

What I like: Even after last week’s defeat at the hands of Buffalo, the Packers own the best total weighted offensive DVOA at 26.7%. Green Bay’s offense is well-rounded with the 3rd-best offensive passive DVOA (44.2%) and the 5th-best offensive rushing DVOA (6.8%). Tampa Bay’s meager defense appears ill-prepared to handle Green Bay ‒ even more so now that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Buccaneers’ defense was already suspect to begin with, sporting the 7th-worst defensive passing DVOA at 19.8%.

I am not sure if what Tampa Bay does with the football can be called “offense” as the Bucs own the NFL’s 2nd-worst total weighted offensive DVOA at -23.9%. Like the Packers, the Buccaneers are “balanced” on offense with the 2nd-worst offensive passing DVOA (-19.3%) and the 4th-worst offensive rushing DVOA (-19.1%).

What I don’t like: Green Bay’s mediocre defense carries the 20th-best total weighted defensive DVOA at 0.5%. Offensively, Packer star running back Eddie Lacy won’t be able to see the field this Sunday. Literally.

The Call: Tease Green Bay at -4.5.

Detroit at Chicago -7 (-1)

What I like: Chicago is a franchise in turmoil, having benched struggling quarterback Jay Cutler for backup Jimmy Clausen ‒ who last started a game in 2010 for the Carolina Panthers. Clausen finished his only year of play with a 52.5% completion rate, 3 touchdown, 9 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 58.4. He will have his hands full leading the Bears offense against a Lions unit sporting the 2nd-best total defensive DVOA (-15.6%). Detroit stops air attacks well, holding the 3rd-best defensive passing DVOA (-6.7%). Chicago may want to try to run more with Clausen at the helm and RB Matt Forte in the fold, but Detroit will meet that challenge with a stout front rated the league’s best by defensive rushing DVOA (-31.2%).

Chicago’s defense is as ugly as Tampa Bay’s offense, and carries the 2nd-worst total weighted defensive DVOA at 16.3%. The Bears, rated 4th-worst in defensive passing DVOA at 27.0%, struggle to stop the pass. The Lions, sporting the 15th-best offensive passing DVOA at 12.3%, should be able to throw the ball with ease against the Bears. Aside from Detroit’s shoddy ground game (see below), the Lions win the matchups everywhere else.

What I don’t like: Chicago’s skill players made Josh McCown look like a star last year, so there is precedent for a Chicago backup quarterback having success. Detroit’s safeties have played well but their corners are vulnerable. Detroit’s running game holds the 3rd-worst offensive rushing DVOA at -20.4%, and could be hamstrung against the Bears.

The Call: Take Detroit -7 and tease them at -1.

Closing Thoughts:

I am betting against teams led by the following quarterbacks: Andy Dalton (a marginal starter), Josh McCown (a good backup), Jimmy Clausen (an average backup), and Ryan Lindley (a terrible backup). And the most I have to tease down to is only -4.5. What could possibly go wrong?

The Week 16 NFL Gambling Preview Plays:

  • Denver +3 and Seattle -2
    • Risking 1 unit to win 0.91.
  • Denver -3
    • Risking 1 units to win 0.455
  • Seattle -8
    • Risking 0.5 units to win 0.455
  • Green Bay -4.5 and Detroit -1
    • Risking 1.0 unit to win .91.
  • Detroit -7
    • Risking 0.5 units to win 0.455
  • Total Risk: 4 Units
  • Total Potential Reward: 3.64 Units

DVOA data courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com

John Limberakis is Inside The Pylon‘s gambling analyst, using statistics and trends to break down the betting lines, and finding the winning edge to wager with confidence.

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