Last week was mediocre again for us: 2-2-1. Truly 50% and overall we are truly 50% at 12-12-1. However, Weeks 6 - 13 of the NFL season provide plenty of profitable opportunities. We are now in the sweet spot or, shall we say, the optimal betting window for football. The current amount of in-season data is sufficient to make our models reliable. Also, the games still matter unless you are the Miami Dolphins. More on the Fins later.
Last week we focused on a blend of favors and underdogs and we will do the same this week. Before we share our picks, it is helpful to restate our methods. We have two models at play here: regression and probability. Regression uses DVOA, a metric from Football Outsiders, as the input and through historical analysis, we feel we have a formula that can predict the point differential with strong accuracy. For example, the regression model had the Patriots winning on Thursday Night by 20.5 ponts. Final score was 35-14. Don't act like you're not impressed! Probability gives us the chances a team will cover the point spread and the model is built using various machine learning packages. New England was the top rated team to cover based on this model with a 71.31% probability. We didn't take them this week but I am not even mad; that is amazing!
Enough with the math talk and Ron Burgundy quotes. You want to know our Week 6 picks, so here they are.
Seattle Seahawks -1. Regression model has the Seahawks winning by at least 8 points. Probability to cover is 64.21%. Cleveland looked awful on Monday Night Football. Seattle has had 4 extra days of rest and have one of the best QBs in the league. In fact Seattle's passing offense ranks #1 based on DVOA from Football Outsiders. Also, the 49ers run game carved up the Browns porous D with plenty of 2 RB formations. Seattle is very effective at running the ball. Cleveland is overrated and Seattle will be the 3rd NFC West team to dominate this mediocre squad at the line of scrimmage.
Washington Redskins -3.5. Consider this the only time this season, or perhaps ever, we will take a winless team to cover as a road favorite. Why? Because Miami is utterly terrible. True, the Deadskins have not had much to write home about. However, regression has Washington winning by nearly 17 points. The probability model feels that Washington has a 66.98% chance to cover which is the 2nd highest probabilty for Week 6. Need more evidence? Just visit Football Outsiders and click on Team Efficiency for several seasons. The worst team in the league did not have a DVOA rating even remotely as low as Miami's. The Dolphins are pitiful but at least they have a plan ... tank now and win later. Bet against this hapless squad until they prove they can compete at the professional level.
San Francisco 49ers +3. Keep disrespecting the 49ers ... I dare you! The ESPN NFL Power Rankings have the 49ers at #6 which is a shame. Seattle is ahead of the 49ers but barely beat Cincinnati at home during Week 1 by a score of 21-20 while the 49ers smacked the Bengals 41-17 during Week 2 and this was the 49ers 2nd road game in a row. Fine, the 49ers have yet to play a strong team but what else do you want from them?! They are beating inferior competition to a pulp which is what championship contenders do. The Patriots are also undefeated and have played worst teams than the 49ers yet are ranked #1 in ESPN NFL Power Rankings. Of course they are the Patriots but if you look at total DVOA on Football Outsiders, the 49ers are #1 with New England at #2. So please tell me how one of the top NFL teams is a dog on the road to a team that gave up 54 points to Tampa Bay two weeks ago?! I tell you, no respect for the 49ers which is fine by us. Our regression model has San Francisco beating the Rams by 12 points with a 58.3% probability of covering. The 49ers might be missing a few key players who have been instrumental in the run game but the Rams are also missing Pro Bowl level talent with RB Todd Gurley doubtful and CB Aqib Talib out for this divisional showdown. Don't just take the points for the 49ers, go moneyline. I dare you!
Tennessee Titans +2. Tennessee has been a funny team. We were spot on with them by selecting them in our Week 1 picks. All they did was prove how overrated the Browns are. Afterwards, the Titans only victory has been to Atlanta which is not saying much. Tennesse lost close games to Indianapolis and Buffalo but those are teams of the same caliber as the Titans. The Broncos are not. They belong in the cellar with the rest of the NFL fodder: Dolphins, Redskins, Jets, Bengals, and Falcons. To get 2 points against a clearly weaker opponent is way too good to pass up. The Broncos are a franchise that has been in a tailspin since they won the Super Bowl four years ago. Meanwhile, the Titans have consistently been a winning team by going 9-7 in each of the last 3 seasons and might do the same this year. Just like the 49ers, moneyline the dog for better value.
Dallas Cowboys -7. Quite a bit of chalk here, especially for a road team that has struggled lately. However, those struggles were against good teams such as the Saints and Packers. The Jets are getting Sam Darnold back but who cares. The Jets stink and the Cowboys are still a legitimate Super Bowl contender. LB CJ Mosley is doubtful to play so expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a strong game with no linebacker on the Jets capable of stopping the Dallas run game. Plus the Dallas passing offense has been incredible with the #3 ranked passing offense using DVOA and overall Dallas ranks #1 for DVOA offense. The Cowboys have covered the spread against weak competition with thee convincing victories against the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins. Make it four after tomorrow. Regression has the Cowboys winning by at least 17 points with a probability of covering at 58.92%. Don't doubt the data!
Except for Dallas, all of the other spreads are small. In regards to the dogs, you can moneyline them for a bigger profit margin. The Seahawks and Redskins should win by at least a TD against inferior competition. The Cowboys spread is fairly large but that is OK since we have seen teams cover large spreads frequently this season. The bad teams are simply that bad. As for strategy, you can parlay the two morning games and then parlay the three later games for some afternoon delight. Skyrockets in flight! Stay classy!