Ryan’s Season Totals
Assigned Games: 12-12-1
Best Bets: 19-9, Up 1158%
We hope you jumped in on our Best Bets from last week, as we enjoyed another 3-0 week. Not only was it a 3-0 week, but a 3-0 week that came from true confidence, and not luck. See quote from last week: “We feel good about our selections this week, finding a few plays where our models match our subjective gut (the “holy grail” for handicappers)”.
Best Bet #1: Minnesota Vikings +1 (-115) over the Green Bay Packers
We find this matchup very intriguing. Let’s start with the basics. There is an impression among the public that the Packers are better than the Vikings, and that QB Aaron Rogers is better than Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins. Well, starting with the former, according the Football Outsiders, these teams are pretty much neck and neck:
|DVOA Rank||DVOA||DAVE Rank||DAVE||Variance Rank||Variance|
|Green Bay||12th||7%||10th||10%||19th||+/- 13%|
As you can see, these teams are not only close, but the Vikings have actually performed better this season as a whole, and better yet, FAR more consistent, coming in as the “steadiest” team in the NFL. A far cry from the Packers’ 19th ranked variance.
Now, to the second question. Although it’s fair to call Aaron Rogers the better overall QB during their respective careers, Kirk Cousins has quietly put together a better 2021 season, and is ranked above Aaron Rogers in most advanced QB metrics, notably SIS’ EPA/play (when eliminating garbage time) where Cousins comes in with .218 EPA/play (6th in NFL), and Rogers .205 EPA/play (9th in NFL).
So to start, from a macro standpoint, we have a better team with a better QB playing at home vs a division rival, getting points.
Additionally, as Sharp Football puts it: “Minnesota should be able to get the running game going as well, as they’re one of the heaviest zone-blocking teams in the league and the Packers have allowed the second-highest rate of positive EPA plays against zone blocking.”
So, we have a litany of matchup advantages going the Vikings way, on top of a situational advantage for a team getting points. This seems as smart a bet there is. If you want to buy the point to bring it up to +2, there is probably still enough surplus EV to still make it a smart bet.
Bet: Minnesota Vikings +1 (-115)
Best Bet #2: Joe Burrow OVER .5 Interceptions (-105)
We hit on this play once again last week in Justin Herbert’s interception vs the Vikings. Frankly this week’s model is even stronger on Burrow throwing 1.5 picks. From a macro standpoint we have the Raiders winning this game, and likely putting Burrow in a negative game script, meaning more passes, and better yet, more forced passes.
Beyond this, for as good as he’s been this season, Burrow comes in with a strong QB Archetype for Turnover Likelihood:
|Time to Throw Rank||24rd|
|Expected Completion Rank||26th|
|+/- Completion Rank||2nd|
*All stats above thanks to NFL Next Gen
You can read the above chart, and Burrow’s 2021 QB Archetype as this: A QB that holds on to the ball, throws deep, is VERY aggressive, despite an offense/WR group that’s not open much, but makes up for it with elite accuracy. That last part is what most fans/market have seen this season, but it’s been masked in, let’s call it “very interception friendly type of QB”.
Beyond that, there is a good chance Burrow will get pressured heavily in this game. According to PFF, the Raiders Pass Rush grades out at 85 (1st in NFL), while the Bengals Pass Protection grades out at 57.8 (20th in NFL). This kind of pressure is likely to lead Burrow to take even more chances throwing the ball.
Coupled with that is how the Raiders have generated that pressure: without much blitzing. This is key, as Joe Burrow is ranked 3rd in the NFL in EPA/play WHEN blitzed, yet only 23rd when NOT blitzed (neutral game play). Very important, as the Raiders blitz at the 3rd LOWEST rate in the league (while maintaining the best pass rush).
Add all this up, and .5 Interceptions at (essentially an even bet) -105 is a very profitable option.
Bet: Joe Burrow OVER .5 Interceptions (-105)
Best Bet #3: Las Vegas Straight Up over Cincinnati (-105)
According to Football Outsiders, the Raiders come in as the 23rd rated team by DVOA, and the Bengals as the 25th. The big separator between the two, has been in consistency. By DVOA variance the Raiders are ranked 14th, Bengals at 28th. Translation: Although these teams have performed relatively similarly over the course of the whole season, the Raiders have been far more steady week-in-and-week-out.
Before going into the “onfield” matchups of this game, there are a couple advantages already in the Raiders favor. For one, according to the EDJ Sports Coach Rankings, they have a legit coaching advantage. Second, looking at the referee assignments this week, Jerome Boger heads this staff in this game. And according to the Pro Football Reference, he has called 1-4% less penalties on home teams since 2020, lending to a true home field advantage effect.
From a tactical standpoint there are a couple data points that standout. The Raiders have a strong Pass Rush advantage, on BOTH sides of the ball according to PFF. On the flip side, there has been a well-documented “Carr Deep Ball” resurgence since HC Jon Gruden has been gone, but much of that was based on an ADOT when blitzd (11.0) vs clean (7.0), and the Bengals only bring 5+ rushers at the 18th highest level.
All of this lends us to believe the Raiders should be the favorite in this game, not the Bengals
Bet: Las Vegas +1.5 (-115)