Happy Thanksgiving folks! It’s a fantastic time of year in sports, and in the NFL this is when teams solidify their playoff positions. This week, let’s discuss a few teams in the playoff hunt that might be overvalued road favorites.
Saints Being Dismissed
The nightcap on Thanksgiving is an intriguing one between two clubs that are desperate for a win. The betting market has shifted in the early part of this week, driving Buffalo up to -6.5 at most shops, likely due to the news of Alvin Kamara not practicing again on Tuesday. Kamara is obviously an impact player for New Orleans, but the market’s unchecked support for Buffalo, which has not covered consecutive games since the beginning of October, is somewhat surprising. Josh Allen has been erratic in his play over the last three weeks, and the Bills have been largely untested with one of the easiest schedules in the league. In one of their biggest tests of the season this past Sunday, they were handed a 41-15 loss by the Colts.
New Orleans did not look its best on Sunday either, losing in Philadelphia 40-29 due to a pitiful performance from Trevor Siemian. In 41 dropbacks, he completed just 22 passes for 5.4 yards per attempt while turning the ball over twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Darius Slay. Some might believe that Siemian has been a poor substitute at quarterback for Sean Payton, but truth is this offense had been performing at a decent level in the two starts prior. In losses to Atlanta and Tennessee, the Saints outgained both opponents while averaging 5.76 yards per play and 34 yards per drive. Siemian himself has been performing well overall with eight touchdown passes and four turnover-worthy plays in three starts (four games). The offensive line is also getting somewhat healthier with Terron Armstead practicing in a limited fashion on Tuesday.
On the other side is a Buffalo offense that has been completely overvalued by the masses. By Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Bills rank 18th in offense, just 1.4 percent better than an average NFL team. At the center of that is Allen who has thrown five interceptions and committed eight turnover-worthy plays in the last three weeks alone. Against Indianapolis he committed a turnover-worthy play on 10.3 percent of his dropbacks despite being pressured on just eight of them. For me, this line is just getting too high. The market is reacting to news about Kamara that is already factored in and Buffalo is a team I am willing to bet against with an undervalued ‘dog at home.
Eagles Offer Little Value
With the win and cover against New Orleans this past weekend, Philadelphia improved to 3-1 SU and ATS in its last four games and 5-2 ATS in its previous seven. The Eagles are averaging 34.5 points per game during that four-game span and their offense is climbing leaderboards, now ranking seventh in DVOA (plus-10.5 percent) and fifth in PFF grading (80.5). Any support for Philadelphia is warranted given the growth the team has shown, but the pendulum might have swung too far in one direction this weekend.
Philadelphia has closed as a favorite just twice this season -- last weekend against New Orleans and a road game in Detroit. For this weekend the market has deemed Philadelphia 3.5 points better than the Giants in New York, a big role reversal for a team that has been an underdog in seven games this season. Furthermore, the Eagles were -3 in Detroit on Halloween, but this weekend are laying the field goal and the hook against a division rival. The Giants are a poor football team that just fired its offensive coordinator, but are they a half-point worse than the winless Lions? From a power rating perspective this number does not make sense, and I would stress to look a bit deeper into Philadelphia’s offensive performances, specifically the one against New Orleans.
The Eagles scored 40 points against the Saints, but one was a pick-six and another was after a 39-yard drive following Trevor Siemian’s first interception. Philadelphia had just two touchdown drives that began in its own territory on Sunday and two of its four field goals came after drives of 25 yards or shorter. The game was also one of the worst for Jalen Hurts this season. It was his second-lowest PFF grade for an individual game, and he was ineffective as a passer, throwing for less than 200 yards for the fourth consecutive contest. Sharps have been supporting the Eagles at the window regularly, but it seems like all the juice has been squeezed out of this turnip.