The most loaded report ever! NFL Championship previews amidst Tom Brady’s injury drama, the Vegas Golden Knights stun Tampa Bay on the road, a 17-3 printing press in the NBA, plus Greg Peterson’s weekend hoop previews right now in VSiN City!
NFL Playoffs: “Market Watch” for Championship Weekend
Important developments in both of Sunday’s matchups since our prior “Market Watch.”
Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET: Jacksonville at New England Patriots
Opening Line: New England -9, total of 45.5
Tuesday’s Line: New England -9, total of 46.5
Current Line: New England -7.5, total of 46.5
We talked Thursday morning about the point spread impact of Tom Brady’s hand injury. Thursday afternoon, Brady did not practice! That led to additional skepticism about his ability to throw at 100% effectiveness against the Jaguars elite defense. New England dropped down to -7.5, with a few offshore leading indicators (namely bookmaker.eu) showing only -7.
We’re not going to rehash the dynamics we outlined in yesterday’s lead story. Suffice to say, the “basic strategy” teaser window closes at -7 (because the approach “crosses” both the 7 and 3 in one fell swoop rather than starting on one). Though, the more likely Brady is hindered, the less sense it makes to bet New England in a teaser anyway.
If it starts to look like Brady WON’T be hindered, the point spread will shoot back to -9 before you can say “wrist-gate.”
Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Opening Line: Minnesota -3.5 (even), total of 40
Tuesday’s Line: Minnesota -3.5 (even), total of 38
Current Line: Minnesota -3, total of 39
We’re much more solidly on the field goal now than earlier in the week, when some stores were offering the Vikings at -3 (-120). In fact, the Eagles are now getting so much respected interest that some stores are making the Eagles plus 3 (-115), the Vikings -3 (-105).
That may not sound like much to many of you because it’s just a half-point difference from the opener. But…it’s the most important half point in football betting! And, it’s moving against the common tide of the public’s traditional affection for favorites. Looks like a mix of respected money and public preference for the “home” team rather than the “favorite” has created a need for sports books to encourage Minnesota money. And, this is happening without any sort of injury developments like we have in the opener.
Note that the total has nudged back up to 39. It was already known that the weather was supposed to be mild for this time of year. So, that move could be public-related, or in combination with a sentiment for “Eagles and Over” from influential sources.
As we always say, be sure you watch VSiN programming from now through the weekend for all the latest market developments. This is why VSiN was created!
Sticking with Championship Weekend, time for our expanded stat previews for Sunday’s action...
NFL Playoff Stat Preview: Jacksonville/New England kicks off Championship Sunday
A lot of drama already in this one given Brady’s injury. Let’s make sure we have the statistical foundation fresh in our minds once it’s time to make a selection.
Jacksonville (10-6) at New England (13-3)
Las Vegas Line: New England by 7.5, total of 46.5
Records vs. the Point Spread: Jacksonville 9-7, New England 11-5
Both teams were moneymakers during the regular season, though New England is supposed to offer “no value” because of high weekly prices, and Jacksonville had a quarterback that you supposedly couldn’t bet on. The teams are a combined 2-1 ATS in the postseason with the Jags splitting and the Patriots blowing out Tennessee.
Jacksonville: 5.4 on offense, 4.6 on defense (vs. the #32 ranked schedule)
New England: 5.9 on offense, 5.7 on defense (vs. the #25 ranked schedule)
Quick reminder that we’re only using regular season stats in our playoff previews to keep everyone at an even 16-game sample. Both of these teams played soft schedules. Though some New England skeptics are overstating how easy the Pats had it in the final three months. Yes, they were in the weak AFC. But they did beat Pittsburgh, Atlanta, the LA Chargers (playoff caliber in most analytics measures, though a non-qualifier), and Buffalo twice (playoff qualifier, though one with a poor offense). They weren’t facing the Colts or Browns every week (or at all). The Jaguars played dominating defense against the softest schedule in the NFL, posting a differential of plus 0.8. New England’s greatness wasn’t captured in yards-per-play. The offense finishes drives very well, making them much more potent than 5.9 makes it seem (five touchdowns last week vs. the Titans on just 5.5 YPP). The defensive average was killed by a horrendous September that was followed by three months of excellent defensive football (as we outlined in a tutorial nine days ago).
Key Passing Stats
Jacksonville: 7.1 yards-per-pass attempt, 21 TD’s, 13 interceptions thrown
New England: 7.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 32 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown
It would be a blowout for a healthy Brady. The Pats are the masters of the low-risk/high-reward offense that the league has been trying to trend toward. Blake Bortles is more high-risk/medium-reward when the Jags have to rely on his arm. No way to know how hindered Brady will be. Should Brian Hoyer get the start, his stats in this system would probably be comparable to the numbers you see for Bortles, lacking the ability to finish drives.
Jacksonville: 6.0 yppa allowed; 17 TD’s allowed, 21 interceptions
New England: 7.3 yppa allowed; 24 TD’s allowed, 12 interceptions
Big edge to the Jaguars…though the defense sure didn’t do much to slow down Ben Roethlisberger last week. It’s possible that the Jags are dominant vs. weak quarterbacks, but more mortal vs. quality. New England held the Titans last week to a passing line of 22-37-0-202 even with a garbage time TD (that’s 5.5 YPPA). That’s a decent estimate for what Bortles would most likely accomplish unless there are a few busted coverages that allow long plays.
Jacksonville: 34% third down pct-allowed, 33 takeaways, 55 sacks
New England: 39% third down pct-allowed, 18 takeaways, 42 sacks
Monster edge for the Jaguars. And, the likelihood that it’s all “air” vs. a soft schedule means less if an injured Brady isn’t at full strength.
Raw Touchdown Counts
Jacksonville: 39 offensive TDs, 26 TD’s allowed, vs. the #32 ranked schedule
New England: 48 offensive TDs, 30 TD’s allowed, vs. the #25 ranked schedule
That’s plus 18 for the Patriots, compared to plus 13 for the Jaguars during the regular season (against a tougher schedule). Patriots won this stat 5-2 over Tennessee, while the Jags were just 1-0 vs. Buffalo and took a 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh (one Jax TD was a fumble return). Did we calculate post-September already for the Pats? Can’t remember. New England only led this category 15-14 after is first four games, meaning it was a 33-16 waltz the rest of the way.
Red Zone Touchdown Rankings
Jacksonville: #2 on offense, #2 on defense
New England: #6 on offense, #4 on defense
So far, we’d have to say that adding this stat was a big boost to our previews. Both offenses are great at finishing drives (the Jags more so because of running backs and an easy schedule). New England ranks #4 on defense for the whole season, including the lousy September. The Pats should get more credit than they do on that side of the ball.
Tough to make a case for either side until more is known about Brady’s status, and the recovery of Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette. We talked about how useless he was after he sprained his ankle last week in the Monday report. If he’s not enjoying full speed and mobility, the Jaguars are much easier to stop. Weather shouldn’t be a factor.
*If Fournette is a force, while Brady can’t perform to his norms, then Jacksonville is going to the Super Bowl.
*If both are hobbled, possibly a 23-17 type game where Under makes the most sense.
*If Brady is unaffected while Fournette can only run forward in a straight line, this might be a replay of Pats/Titans in terms of game flow. Remember that the Jags lost the second half at Pittsburgh last week 28-17 after Fournette was limited to plodding into the line.
*If both look to be near 100%, a thriller that likely favors the Jags against a number that would have risen back toward plus 8.5 or plus 9.
The hunger for updated injury reports Sunday morning is going to be huge.
NFL Playoff Stat Preview: Minnesota must win at Philadelphia to “host” Super Bowl
The Vikings were lucky to survive their opener last week vs. New Orleans, while the Eagles had to sweat out the final drive of a home nailbiter. Are the Vikings getting too much respect in the line away from their home field? Let’s see what our key indicator stats have to say.
Minnesota (13-3) at Philadelphia (13-3)
Las Vegas Line: Minnesota by 3, total of 38.5
Records vs. the Point Spread: Minnesota 11-5, Philadelphia 10-6
Two more winning records ATS, as the market was slow to respect Case Keenum and Carson Wentz through division-winning campaigns…and then unappreciative of the Philly defense as a home dog last week against Atlanta. Both teams are 11-6 ATS counting the playoffs.
Minnesota: 5.4 on offense, 4.6 on defense (vs. the #13 ranked schedule)
Philadelphia: 5.5 on offense, 5.0 on defense (vs. the #21 ranked schedule)
Minnesota was more impressive in differential (plus 0.8 to plus 0.5) while facing a tougher schedule. And, the Eagles take a hit from those numbers too because Wentz is gone. That said, Philadelphia’s defense didn’t lose a star quarterback…and the differentials from last week don’t suggest that the Vikings should be THIS big a road favorite. Minnesota won the stat 5.7 to 5.3 indoors vs. New Orleans, while Philadelphia won 5.3 to 4.8 outdoors in frigid blustery conditions. Minnesota’s better. Is it the equivalent of six points better on a neutral field?
Key Passing Stats
Minnesota: 7.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 25 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown
Philadelphia: 7.0 yards-per-pass attempt, 38 TD’s, 9 interceptions thrown
Keenum would get the edge in all categories over a 16-game sampling, most likely. But this could turn out to be a tough day for both quarterbacks. Keenum on the road recently…
14-25-0-124 at Green Bay
27-44-2-256 at Carolina (loss)
25-30-0-207 at Atlanta (14-9 win)
That’s an ultra-conservative game of dinks and dunks at Atlanta that didn’t get much on the board, a more wide open game at Carolina with 17 incomplete passes and two interceptions, then trouble with the elements at Lambeau. The strong Eagles’ defense will be “the elements” this week. With so much on the line, the Vikings may go conservative in a way that sets up a low-scoring game.
Nick Foles? Hard to envision a big game against the excellent Vikings defense. We might see both teams resorting to dinking-and-dunking-and-punting while hoping their opponent makes a big mistake.
Minnesota: 6.0 yppa allowed; 13 TD’s allowed, 14 interceptions
Philadelphia: 6.5 yppa allowed; 24 TD’s allowed, 19 interceptions
Edge to Minnesota, buoyed by the fact that its facing a low-threat quarterback this week.
Minnesota: 25% third down pct-allowed, 19 takeaways, 37 sacks
Philadelphia: 32% third down pct-allowed, 31 takeaways, 38 sacks
Minnesota focuses more on forcing punts than taking the ball away (Drew Brees and the Saints were just 2 of 9 on third downs last week). Easy to visualize the Vikings backing off to keep things in front of them while Foles throws short. Philadelphia looks to have more takeaway potential vs. Keenum.
Raw Touchdown Counts
Minnesota: 40 offensive TDs, 23 TD’s allowed, vs. the #13 ranked schedule
Philadelphia: 47 offensive TDs, 31 TD’s allowed, vs. the #21 ranked schedule
Philadelphia’s explosiveness disappears without Wentz. Minnesota qualifies as a legitimate Super Bowl team with those numbers, coming against a schedule that was slightly tougher than league average.
Red Zone Touchdown Rankings
Minnesota: #9 on offense, #3 on defense
Philadelphia: #1 on offense, #20 on defense
The obvious weak spot here is Philadelphia’s defense, though it did win the game last week by keeping Matt Ryan out of the end zone in the final seconds. Is Case Keenum ready to step up and finish drives when asked? That’s probably the key to the cover. Well, it’s at least a key to a comfortable win. An outcome in the neighborhood of that 14-9 Vikings result at Atlanta (13-9, 16-10, 17-13) would cover the spread and get them to February.
Tough call for handicappers. You can’t make a raw statistical case that the Vikings should be this big a favorite. The differences aren’t that dynamic. But you CAN make the case that Minnesota’s defense is so great that it can bottle up Foles and hold the Eagles to 16 points or less (barring cheap points off turnovers or special teams). If Philadelphia’s defense can do the same, we have a low-scoring dead heat that will play out similarly in competitiveness to Falcons/Eagles. If not, Minnesota will host a Super Bowl.
Feels like the stats are telling us there’s slight value on Philadelphia’s side of the equation at plus 3, a bit more at plus 3.5…with conservatism in play calling the potential key to keeping total points from flying into the 40’s.
NHL: Vegas Golden Knights shock Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in “Battle of the Best”
Most of our NHL coverage will occur during the playoffs. You Vegas Golden Knight fans are already getting loads of insights on VSiN’s daily programming. But we definitely wanted to take a look at the huge Thursday night meeting between the West-leading Knights on the road against the East leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Vegas (plus 150) 4, Tampa Bay 1
Shots on Goal: Vegas 30, Tampa Bay 29
Even Strength Score: Vegas 4, Tampa Bay 0
Tampa Bay’s only goal came on a power play. Vegas managed to win shots on goal despite leading the whole way. Often, in the NHL, you’ll see the trailing team attempt the most shots while the opponent tries to sit on its lead defensively. Truly dominant performance from the big road dog. A few VSiN hosts mentioned that Tampa Bay would be vulnerable coming off a bye. Congrats to everyone who made that read.
Vegas moves to 30-11-3 on the season, completely unimaginable for an expansion team in the modern sports era. Though “the Vegas flu” has certainly seemed to infect visiting teams in Nevada, this brings the Knights’ road record to an impressive 12-9-1.
Note that Tampa Bay entered the night 31-10-3 overall, 17-4-1 at home. Vegas dominated a team that had been inflicting its own visitors with “Florida flu!”
Backing Vegas in every game this season would have yielded a profit of about 20.5 units. Betting Vegas on the puck-line would have yielded a profit just above 23 units. Vegas has reached 63 accumulated points in the standings, already closing in on the betting market’s full season estimate with just under three months still left on the schedule.
Thursday night potpourri: Quick hitters from the betting world
Normally these would get their own section. No room for that today!
*Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to cover another home game, eking out a 104-103 win over Orlando as 11-point favorites. Cleveland is now 3-17-1 against the spread at home, 12-31-1 ATS overall this season. The market is being very stubborn about adjusting to Cleveland’s struggles.
*Also in the NBA, Kyrie Irving had to miss Boston’s home game with Philadelphia. The Sixers (plus 2.5) won outright 89-80. Philadelphia has bounced back from a recent bump in the road to go 7-1 straight up and ATS its last eight outings. That now includes wins over Boston, Toronto, and San Antonio. Philadelphia is 21-20 and back in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference.
*St. Mary’s (plus 7.5) shocked #13 Gonzaga 74-71, keyed largely by an 8 of 13 shooting night on three-pointers (compared to just 6 of 22 for the hosts). That will be a huge win come seeding time for the Big Dance. Gonzaga is still #6 in Ken Pomeroy’s computer ratings even after the loss.
*In another college basketball upset, #23 Michigan fell to Nebraska 72-52. The Huskers (plus 5) hit 58% of their two-pointers while winning made free throws 15-6 with the more aggressive inside attack.
College Basketball: “Running the Floor” with Greg Peterson
Previews for important Saturday matchups…
#7 Wichita State at Houston (12:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU)
Offensive Efficiency: Wichita State #10, Houston #38
Defensive Efficiency: Wichita State #49, Houston #40
Rebound Rate: Wichita State #3, Houston #12
Percent of Shots are 3s: Wichita State #112, Houston #196
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: Wichita State #102, Houston #158
Pace: Wichita State #122, Houston #184
Wichita State will look to bounce back from a rare home loss against SMU when it faces a Houston team that matches up better than most other foes on the glass. Wichita State is a team that hangs its hat on solid defense and is third in the country in overall rebounding, and runs into a Houston squad that has similar strengths.
Houston is a team that is not quite as efficient as Wichita State on offense, much of that can be due to the Cougars not taking a lot of 3-point shots. The effect is Houston playing at a bit of a slower pace and taking more time on the shot clock to try to get a clean look inside the arc.
With this game pitting two teams with similar strengths against one-another, the cover could be had or lost at the free throw line. If that is the case, the Shockers have an advantage for the year, though having to play on the road could partially nullify that.
Though the loss to SMU was tough, Wichita State should still be favorite in this one and will likely be laying around five points.
#14 Arizona at Stanford (4:00 p.m. ET on CBS)
Offensive Efficiency: Arizona #15, Stanford #161
Defensive Efficiency: Arizona #121, Stanford #152
Rebound Rate: Arizona #14, Stanford #38
Percent of Shots are 3s: Arizona #287, Stanford #281
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: Arizona #19, Stanford #274
Pace: Arizona #171, Stanford #60
Arizona has the edge in every category in this matchup aside from playing a bit slower and taking a hair fewer 3-pointers than Stanford. With that said, Arizona running into a Stanford team that appears to have turned the corner, starting 5-1 in Pac-12 play after a sluggish 6-8 start. It should be noted that two of those wins were thanks to double-digit comebacks against UCLA and USC, with the win over USC ending with Stanford hitting a 50-foot buzzer-beater to get a one-point win.
The season stats make this one look like a mismatch, especially if it comes down to free throws. The divide between where these two rank in free throw shooting percentage is 260, one of the biggest disparities you will find.
Stanford can feel good knowing that this is a game where not a lot of 3s will be taken. The Cardinal have not been a team that has been very prolific at all from 3-point range in recent years, but have been shooting at a much better clip in conference play. In a game where there may not be a lot of outside shots taken, it makes it easier to win that battle since there is less regression to the mean.
With neither of these teams being defensive stalwarts, the pace in which this game is played at will be important. Both teams post up with its big men on offense, but Arizona has more solid scoring options, which could explain why it has the slower pace of play. Stanford can only go to a few guys, so a bad shot for a guy like Reid Travis can often be better than a good shot for one of his teammates.
This game is for sole-possession of first place in the Pac-12, something few saw coming after Stanford began the year with a record of 6-8.
Though Arizona is hitting the road and Stanford is hot, lines are made on power rankings and take everything into consideration. Arizona should be somewhere in the neighborhood of a 5.5 or six-point favorite when this game opens.
Florida at #18 Kentucky (8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Offensive Efficiency: Florida #29, Kentucky #75
Defensive Efficiency: Florida #128, Kentucky #72
Rebound Rate: Florida #171, Kentucky #55
Percent of Shots are 3s: Florida #111, Kentucky #348
Free Throw Shooting Percentage: Florida #22, Kentucky #273
Pace: Florida #119, Kentucky #144
Florida is a team that despite not playing at an extremely quick pace, thrives when out in transition. Florida is at its best when its knifing to the hoop and either getting an easy layup or a wide-open 3. When Florida gets into a half court, Florida struggles much more with its offense and typically takes most of the shot clock, which is why the team does not rank higher in pace.
The Gators will look to shoot 3s a heck of a lot more than Kentucky, as the Wildcats ratio of 3-point shots is the fourth-lowest in the country. Kentucky is a team built around big men, but is left with close to zero 3-point shooting.
Kentucky has a middle of the road pace of play due to its young roster and coach John Calipari trying to figure out what he has with his freshman-laden group. Kentucky has won games scoring as many as 107 points and as few as 66.
The Wildcats figure to rely heavily on its low post play to try to pull this one out given its advantage on the glass. Florida gets in trouble when it allows second and third chances on the offensive end while those sorts of possessions are how Kentucky generates a lot of its offense.
This is a game where a good defense and a good offense will clash. If these advantages are balanced out, Florida will have a large advantage at the free throw line as Kentucky is just 273rd in the country in free throw shooting percentage.
Though Florida currently sits atop the SEC standings and Kentucky is coming off a tough loss, the Wildcats will be the favorite in this one. Rupp Arena is an incredibly difficult place to play and should make this a situation where Kentucky is laying 3.5 points.
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