“Confidence”: Thursday Night Gambling Preview

“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.

The Stats

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.

Settling Accounts:

Last week: 1-4

Season: 3-4

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.

20 thoughts on ““Confidence”: Thursday Night Gambling Preview

  1. My first bet of the season is on Atlanta tonight. Their two lines have looked horrible in both previous games. That’s the only thing I know about football, bet against a team that cannot protect OR pressure.

  2. Had I known McCoy and Martin were both out I’d have been much more confident in the Falcons (I have to write my prediction the day before). Roddy White isn’t as important to Atlanta as McCoy is to TB. And although White is a good receiver he isn’t nearly the talent McCoy is. TB is injury riddled on defense and their offense is a mess. Even if Pittsburgh gets dismantled by the Panthers that line is going to be heavy. How many points would you need to take Tampa Bay next week? Assume that 1) you have to take them, and 2) I am not asking to predict the line – just the number of points +1 you think Tampa Bay is going to lose by next week. Maybe one of you brave souls think the Buccaneers will win next week. Let’s hear it.

  3. Probably a decent chance I bet them next week, line is going to be inflated after a drubbing on national TV. Inpredictable had them as 6-7 point dogs before last nights game, if it opens something crazy like Pitt -10 I’ll have a play on TB

  4. Probably a decent chance I bet them next week, line is going to be inflated after a drubbing on national TV. Inpredictable had them as 6-7 point dogs before last nights game, if it opens something crazy like Pitt -10 I’ll have a play on TB

    I want to see who plays. They are down so many guys, Stich.

  5. McCoy is probably the only one that would possibly alter what I thought of betting.  I still don’t think this team is Jacksonville/Raiders level bad, that absolute embarrassment nonwithstanding.  If the line moves 3-4 points off of that performance, which is what a move to 10 would represent, Im taking the value.

  6. I disagree a bit.  While McCoy is great, I don’t think he’s the biggest loss on defense for TB.  Mason Foster is, IMO, the unquestioned leader of the defense and he was out last week.  Guy has been starting since his rookie year at ML, and actually has more tackles than any other player in the NFL that started in 2011, which may not mean much, but it kind of a cool little statistic.  Adrian Claiborne and Mike Jenkins got hurt in the opener and have since gone on IR, and I’m pretty sure Michael Johnson didn’t play and Gholston saw limited action last night.  If all of those guys are out next week, I’d be pegging that line at around 11.5 in Pittsburgh’s favor, and Pitt hasn’t really been playing well.  Anything less than 10, and I’m probably jumping all over Pittsburgh next week, especially if there are still question marks surrounding Glennon/McCown and who is starting.  I don’t think Rainey is that much of a downgrade from Martin, except for the fumbles, to make much difference in the end result, and I say that as a huge Martin fan.  They just aren’t good enough up front to have a running back not named AP or McCoy affect the end result all that much. If they don’t get healthy, particularly on defense, I really think they could easily finish with less wins than Oakland or Jacksonville. 

  7. I disagree a bit.  While McCoy is great, I don’t think he’s the biggest loss on defense for TB.  Mason Foster is, IMO, the unquestioned leader of the defense and he was out last week.  Guy has been starting since his rookie year at ML, and actually has more tackles than any other player in the NFL that started in 2011, which may not mean much, but it kind of a cool little statistic.  Adrian Claiborne and Mike Jenkins got hurt in the opener and have since gone on IR, and I’m pretty sure Michael Johnson didn’t play and Gholston saw limited action last night.  If all of those guys are out next week, I’d be pegging that line at around 11.5 in Pittsburgh’s favor, and Pitt hasn’t really been playing well.  Anything less than 10, and I’m probably jumping all over Pittsburgh next week, especially if there are still question marks surrounding Glennon/McCown and who is starting.  I don’t think Rainey is that much of a downgrade from Martin, except for the fumbles, to make much difference in the end result, and I say that as a huge Martin fan.  They just aren’t good enough up front to have a running back not named AP or McCoy affect the end result all that much. If they don’t get healthy, particularly on defense, I really think they could easily finish with less wins than Oakland or Jacksonville. 

    Lavonte David has more tackles than any other player in the NFL that started in 2012, was first-team All-Pro last year, and he was named a team captain and Foster wasn’t. I have a hard time calling Foster the “unquestioned leader of the defense.”

  8. You know what, you’re right.  For some reason, I always confuse the two, but David is by far the better player and given he’s the captain, and Foster isn’t, I’ll agree with you that he’s the real leader of the defense.  I don’t think it changes the equation much though.  Foster is a huge loss to the middle of that defense.

  9. You know what, you’re right.  For some reason, I always confuse the two, but David is by far the better player and given he’s the captain, and Foster isn’t, I’ll agree with you that he’s the real leader of the defense.  I don’t think it changes the equation much though.  Foster is a huge loss to the middle of that defense.

    And for what it’s worth, I agree that the injuries hurt. However, the secondary was fairly healthy, with safeties Barron and Goldson and corners Verner, Banks, and Johnson playing (just Jenkins hurt), and they looked as awful as any of the rest of the team. It might be scheme-related, or it might be that some of these big names just aren’t very good. Either way, it was a shameful effort no matter who was lining up – and the offense was reasonably healthy and looked perhaps even worse considering Atlanta has one of the worst defenses in the league.

  10. Goldson looks like a guy happy to be cashing big paychecks. Credit due to Baalke/SF, they didn’t try real hard to retain him and it looks like a great decision to let someone else pay him for average or worse performance.

  11. Confidence is on vacation this weekend.

    I have 3 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.

  12. So far I’m 4/4. One play hit. If either the Bears or the Broncos hit I’ll be up for the week. I’m hoping for. Bears win (because as a fan I can’t stand the Jets) and a Seahawks win by a TD or so (again want the Broncos to lose as a matter of fandom).

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