By John Kaufman – NFL Betting Analyst
It is week six of the 2019 NFL season. We’ve got five weeks in the books with 12 still to go. Even though it always feels like the season is whipping by, there’s still a lot of football left. That is definitely a good thing.
Even better though, is that our sample size keeps growing. The more games played, the more data accumulated, the smarter we are getting about what to expect from the 32 NFL clubs. That didn’t help me last week, however, as I went 2-2 in this column. But I suppose a push isn’t the worst thing in the world. And there was one game I recommended in which you may have gotten a better number than I did, so perhaps you went 2-1-1 following my advice. I hope so.
Anyway, let’s get to the recap of week five.
Week Five Postmortem – Results: 2-2 (2019 Record: 10-4-1)
Like we always do, we need to quickly recap week five and see how I did, where I was right, and where I can improve. Again, you’re getting this recap every week no matter if I go 10-0 or 0-10. I know this statement is repetitive, but it needs to be included here every week:
I don’t care what my record is in any given week. You’ll always get this recap. I will never run from a bad week. Nor will I get too big an ego because of a good one. It’s always about the process yielding good results. I was the very epitome of mediocre last week with a .500 record, but let’s see if the process was poor or if I just got unlucky.
MIN -5.5 at NYG – Result: WIN (MIN 28-NYG 10)
In week four I recommended taking Chicago -1.5 at home against Minnesota because the Vikings are just awful on the road, outdoors, and against above .500 teams. They did indeed lose that game, falling to 0-11-1 in that situation. Last week I picked Minnesota even though they were on the road and outdoors. The difference? The Giants are a bad team. That makes all the difference when it comes to betting on or against this Vikings team. They are the #1 run-heaviest team in the NFL in neutral game scripts. When the Vikings can run the ball, they will. And oh boy are they good at that. According to Pro Football Reference, they are second in the NFL in total rushing yards with 832 and third in yards per attempt with 5.4. If you have Dalvin Cook on your fantasy football team, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, thus far in the season we have a bit of a formula with Minnesota:
When you expect them to be in a tight game or to be leading, especially at home or on the road vs bad teams, you can bet on them.
When you expect them to be in a game in which they’ll be behind and have to throw more than they’d like to, you can bet against them.
That’s the formula with the Vikings, and we’re going to use that to our advantage this week. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
BAL -3.5 at PIT – Result: LOSS (BAL 26-PIT 23, OT)
Ugh. This game. The hook strikes again.
I referred to this game in the intro. Baltimore -3 was available in a lot of shops, so I hope you found that and pushed instead of losing like I did.
Still, I feel like I was on the right side in this one. If I told you that Mason Rudolph would leave this game with an injury and the Steelers would have to roll with Devlin Hodges at quarterback, first you’d have asked me if Devlin Hodges is an actual NFL player. And I would have quickly checked Google and then replied, why yes, it seems that he is. And then you’d have said, well, I’ll take Baltimore -3.5 then. Obviously, I’d have walked with you to the betting window on that one.
Other than Hodges having to play a lot of this game for Pittsburgh, here are some quick stats about this game:
Plays ran: BAL-73, PIT-51
Total yards gained: BAL-277, PIT-269
Rushing yards: BAL-138, PIT-77
Time of possession: BAL-39:00, PIT-25:34
The Ravens had the ball all game and really should have won by a lot more. But, like most NFL game, the result depends on who better protects the football. Let’s check one more stat, shall we?
Turnovers: BAL-3, PIT-2
And boom goes the dynamite. That’s how a bet of -3.5 loses against the third string quarterback. The Ravens didn’t protect the ball, thus they barely escaped Pittsburgh with the win, let alone a cover. Still, the process is what we’re concerned with here and this was good process with a little bit of bad luck. It happens. We shrug our shoulders and move on.
DEN +6.5 at LAC – Result: WIN (DEN 20-LAC 13)
We had this bet one from the get-go. After one quarter of football, Denver lead the Chargers 14-0, and that was more than enough for us to get this cover.
I liked Denver in this game because of four main reasons:
1. LA has zero home field advantage.
2. LA is extremely injured.
3. Keenan Allen was going to get the Chris Harris blanket treatment. Harris held Allen to four catches for 18 yards. (Harris truly is something special, man. What a stud.)
4. The Broncos run most of their plays using 11 personnel, and the Chargers are way below average at defending offenses in 11 personnel.
All those points proved to be key, but it was the last one that really sunk the Chargers. Denver ran for 191 yards against LA’s defense, and that made all the difference, especially in the first half.
This was an easy win and we’ll take that all day long.
Six Point Teaser of The Week (+ 6 points, -110) – Result: LOSS
ARZ +9 at CIN – Result: WIN (ARZ 26-CIN 23)
CLE +9.5 at SF – Result: LOSS (SF 31-CLE 3)
I liked Arizona in this spot a lot. Heading into this game they were 5th in the NFL in rushing DVOA, and Cincinnati was 28th in rush defense DVOA. Arizona ran for 266 yards in this game and won it outright. I correctly identified this imbalance, so this ended up being an easy win as well.
Cleveland got crushed last week, and this was bad process by me. I simply underestimated Kyle Shanahan’s ability to scheme a rushing offense that is really impressive and so incredibly difficult to stop. The 49ers ran for 275 yards on 6.9 yards per attempt, and clearly that made all the difference. I failed to recognize how impactful that rushing offense could be, especially at home, and I wasn’t even close to hitting this leg of the teaser. Nothing to do now but learn and move on.
NFL Week Six: Best Bets
We have 13 more games of NFL action ahead of us. The M*A*S*H unit that is the NY Giants traveled to New England to face the Patriots this past Thursday night. Although the score was kinda tight for a while there, the Patriots ended up covering the massive 17-point spread, winning the game by a score of 35-14.
The Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders all have byes this week.
Alrighty then. Let’s move on to the week six action and see if we can’t make some money together!
KC (4-1) -4 vs HOU (3-2) – 1:00 PM on CBS
I really like Kansas City in this spot for a couple of reasons. First, the look-ahead line in this game was Chiefs -8, so we’re already getting four points of value on this line.
Second, and most importantly, is Houston’s defense – specifically the scheme they play and how it significantly limits them. But, in order to understand this last point, we need to take a look at how teams have been trying to limit Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense.
I’m not quite sure when this began, but recently teams have begun to play man defense against Kansas City and it has worked very well, especially when Tyreek Hill isn’t playing. Last Sunday night we all watched as the Colts beat the Chiefs very soundly at Arrowhead. They did it by playing man coverage almost exclusively. That really stands out to me, because in their four previous games, the Colts played nearly 100% zone defense against the pass. This means that their coaching staff realized that playing man coverage against Mahomes would give them an edge, so in one week they essentially changed their entire identity on defense.
And it worked beautifully.
Okay, so why can’t Houston just do what Indy did and play man coverage against the Chiefs tomorrow?
Well they could try to do that, but the problem is that they are awful at playing man. And that’s the key to this bet.
This stat is pulled from The Lefkoe Show podcast:
So far in 2019, Houston’s defense is playing approximately 30%-man coverage and 65%-zone coverage. (Screen passes were left out of this stat because the coverage is insignificant on plays like that.) In man coverage, Houston’s defense is giving up 8.3 yards per attempt and has yielded six touchdowns. Meanwhile, they have only one interception and a 4.6% sack rate, which is an extremely low rate.
This makes sense. The Texans are playing over twice as much zone defense as they are man coverage because they aren’t very good at man-to-man. So, if they try that against Patrick Mahomes, he’s going to tear them up. And if they sit back in zone all day long, he’s going to tear them up.
Basically, Mahomes is going to tear them up.
So don’t be nervous to lay the points with Kansas City tomorrow. This is a very good spot for them.
LAR (3-2) -3 vs SF (4-0) – 4:05 PM on FOX
I can hear you saying, John, you bet against Kyle Shanahan last weekend and got destroyed, so you’re going back to the well? That is… not smart.
Possibly. But there are two factors that have me favoring the Rams in this contest.
1. This what happens to the LA Rams when Sean McVay has extra time to prepare for a game:
They are 10-0 straight up, 8-1-1 ATS, and they are averaging 37 points per game from their offense.
(Now, those records do include last year’s Super Bowl loss, a game in which he clearly was out-coached by Bill Belichick. But even if you include that game, McVay is still exceptional with extra time to prepare.) The Rams lost to Seattle two Thursdays ago, although if Greg Zuerlein had made that last second field goal, LA would have won that game. Regardless, McVay has had 10 days to prepare for the 49ers which has proven to be a significant edge for the Rams. Meanwhile, Shanahan’s team is on a short week having played on Monday Night Football the week prior. Which leads me to my second point…
2. San Francisco is going to be without fullback Kyle Juszczyk for the next month or so. That is a significant loss for a team that runs more 21 and 22 personnel than nearly anyone in the NFL. Additionally, the Niners will be without both starting offensive tackles this week, as RT Mike McGlinchey and LT Joe Staley are each out with knee injuries. That is a lot for any NFL coach to deal with on typical rest. But on a short week? That’s almost unfair. (Although, one glance at Shanahan’s paycheck and suddenly things don’t seem so unfair anymore.)
If any coach can overcome losing three offensive starters in one week while on short rest and go on the road and beat a division opponent, it’s probably Kyle Shanahan. But damn, that is a lot to conquer. And considering how good McVay’s team has been in these spots, I don’t mind laying the short number here whatsoever.
Six Point Teaser of the Week:
PHI (3-2) +9 at MIN (3-2) – 1:00 pm Eastern on FOX
NO (4-1) +8.5 at JAX (2-3) – 1:00 pm Eastern on CBS
(There is a teaser explanation below if you need it.)
I alluded to the Philly +9 portion of this teaser earlier in the recap of last week. The formula that we’ve figured out with Minnesota applies here, but for a slightly different reason. The Vikings are at home and they are favored in this contest. But the key to this game is the Eagles and their #1 rush defense in the NFL. The Eagles have surrendered just 315 total rushing yards this year, which is only 3.2 yards per attempt. You just cannot run against this team. And we know that Minnesota wants to run the ball more than anyone in the league. So, what if they can’t run? Then what?
Well, then we get the game script we want when we’re backing Minnesota’s opponent. We get Kirk Cousins being forced to throw the ball way more than his coaching staff (and Vikings fans, presumably) would prefer. That’s why we’re taking the nine points here.
Now, the reason I am not recommending a play on Philly at +3 and instead am including them in this teaser bet is because Philly’s pass defense is the 4th-worst in the NFL. That is mostly due to injuries, but whatever, it’s still a thing and it is a major problem. Therefore, this game might end up with Minnesota being unable to run the ball as we’re predicting, but instead being very successful throwing it because of how poor and banged up Philly is. If that happens then we’re going to be thrilled that we teased this line. However, I just don’t expect Cousins to light up Philly’s defense, regardless of how beat up they are.
Last, there is one more nugget about the Eagles that I think will play a huge roll tomorrow. When the Vikings face 11 personnel on defense, they are giving up 5.9 yards per pass attempt. When the Vikings face 12 personnel, they are giving up 8 yards per attempt and a 55% success rate. Remember, 12 personnel is when two tight ends are on the field. Guess who is healthy and playing tomorrow? Philadelphia tight end Dallas Goedert. I’m thinking that we’re going to see a lot of Eagles offensive sets that include both Zach Ertz and Goedert on the field at the same time. And if that happens, Minnesota is going to struggle to stop the Eagles.
(Incidentally, here’s a freebie fantasy football/DFS nugget based upon that 12 personnel stat. You can expect Alshon Jeffrey to really struggle in this game tomorrow. Minnesota will do everything they can to take him out of the game. They did the same thing last year when these two teams played, and they did it well. But, in your season-long leagues you should fire up Ertz with all the enthusiasm you can muster. And in DFS, I see that Ertz is only $6600 on FanDuel, which is fairly cheap considering his talent and situation. Go win some money with Ertz this week.)
I actually kinda like Jacksonville a little bit in this game. They’re at home, which is always good. And before last week’s loss in Carolina, they had won two in a row vs Tennessee and at Denver. Furthermore, New Orleans has won three in a row without Drew Brees, the last two of which were at home where their crowd is so impactful. Now they have to play on the road and outdoors, and Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been phenomenal in those spots in his short career.
But we’re getting over a touchdown with this teaser, and in doing so we get to back Sean Payton and the Saints’ defense which has been very good so far this year, especially against the run. And if the Saints can keep Leonard Fournette in check all day and force Minshew to throw a ton, I like our chances to hang within eight points in this one.
Alright y’all, that’s it for week six. Good luck to us all this weekend!! Let’s cash some tickets!!
(TEASER BET EXPLANATION: In case you’re not familiar with a teaser, it’s a bet in which you get six points to manipulate the point spread and/or game total in a favorable direction. For example, in week two this year Denver was underdog against Chicago, as the Broncos were getting +2 points. In a teaser, you get to add six points to Denver’s line and increase it from +2 to +8. Or instead, if you liked Chicago in that game you could have taken the six points and teased their line from -2 to +4. Teasers are great ways to manipulate lines so that they’re more favorable to you. Last, just like a parlay, teasers must include two bets or more, and you must win all the legs in the teaser to win the bet. If you lose one leg of the teaser your whole bet is busted.)
John Kaufman – Across the Board Sports