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Chiefs remain undefeated--and 2nd to Pats in power ratings

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Numbers and notes from betting markets in Tuesday’s newsletter . . . plus how you can help victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

NFL: KC vultures ATS cover on fumble return to beat Washington 29-20 
An entertaining and well-played Monday night game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins was marred (artistically speaking) by a fumble return TD on the final play. Kansas City led 23-20 with just a few seconds left. Washington tried for the one in a million “go forward 75 yards on one play by constantly throwing the ball backwards” approach. A point spread debacle that Vegas gamblers have become familiar with involving other pro and college teams ensued. Washington (plus 6.5) went from winner to loser when the home favorite picked up a loose ball and ran it in for a score. 

Great news for Chiefs backers. A very bad beat for dog investors. The total was also affected as Under 47.5 turned into an Over on that final play. 

Kansas City (-6.5) 29, Washington 20

  • Yards-per-Play: Washington 6.5, Kansas City 6.0
  • Third Down Washington 36%, Kansas City 62%
  • Turnovers: Washington 1, Kansas City 0
  • Rushing Yards: Washington 111, Kansas City 168
  • Passing Stats: Washington 14-24-0-215, Kansas City 27-37-0-261
  • TD Drive Lengths: Washington 75-75, Kansas City 73-79

Washington made up for a poor third down rate with several big plays. Kirk Cousins didn’t have any interceptions, and shocked the Chiefs with a couple of big late-game runs. Kansas City continued grinding long drives extremely well, with its fourth straight game at 6.0 YPP or better. Alex Smith still hasn’t thrown an interception this season for KC. 

Both KC and Washington had the look of playoff teams on this evening, with the Redskins’ poor season-opening loss to Philadelphia now just a distant memory. Washington is 2-2 with vulnerability elsewhere in the NFC East. Kansas City moves to 4-0. Will this be another year where a great regular season record is just a red herring leading to playoff disappointment? Or, will this version of the Chiefs finally go the distance? No trophy for being the kings of the first month. Nobody’s playing consistently as well as KC out of the gate.  

NFL: New Estimated Market Power Ratings
Tuesday means it’s NFL Power Ratings day. Here are the pro point spreads for Week 5 as of late Monday evening. From these, we’ll create couplets for arranging teams on our master scale of estimated “market” Power Ratings. 

New England (-5.5/55.5) at Tampa Bay
LA Chargers at NY Giants (-3.5/44.5)
Buffalo at Cincinnati (-3/39)
NY Jets at Cleveland (-1.5/39)
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-8.5/44)
Tennessee at Miami (no line yet)
San Francisco at Indianapolis (-1.5/43.5)
Arizona at Philadelphia (-6.5/45)
Carolina at Detroit (-3/44)
Seattle at LA Rams (-2.5/47)
Baltimore at Oakland (no line yet)
Green Bay at Dallas (-2/52.5)
Kansas City (-1.5/47) at Houston
Minnesota at Chicago (no line yet)

We use a standard three points for home field advantage. Since Cincinnati is -3 at home against Buffalo, we call those teams dead even and put them on the same line in our estimate of how “the market” is currently rating teams. 

87: New England
84: Kansas City
83: Atlanta, Pittsburgh
82: Green Bay 
81: Dallas, Minnesota (with Bradford), Seattle, Tennessee, Denver, Oakland (with Carr)
80: Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, Carolina, LA Rams
79: New Orleans, Tampa Bay
78: NY Giants, Minnesota (with Keenum), Buffalo, Cincinnati
77: Baltimore, Jacksonville, LA Chargers
76: Chicago, Arizona
75: Miami
72: San Francisco, NY Jets
71: Cleveland, Indianapolis

New England -5.5 at Tampa Bay causes problems right off the bat. It’s like the market isn’t even acknowledging the slow start of the Patriots. They grade out as 8-9 points better than the Bucs on a neutral field. We had to lift the Pats back up to 87 off a home loss to Carolina! Didn’t seem right to drop Tampa Bay to 78 or 77 off a win over the Giants. Maybe the market is punishing the Bucs for the early bye (neither Miami nor TB has sparkled in the stats). Maybe the market is giving the Pats credit for anticipated bounce back intensity. Maybe TB only gets 2 points for home field instead of 3 in the composite consciousness of market influences. 

If you calculate a simple “level of play” measure for the Pats…using scoreboard margins, a home field adjustment, and the current Power Rating of their opponents…you get 66 vs. KC, 98 at New Orleans, 80 vs. Houston, and 74 vs. Carolina. Averages out to 79.5. 

Seattle at the LA Rams causes either a big leap for the Rams, or a big drop for the Seahawks. LAR is favored by 2.5, which means only 0.5 (rounded to a full point) worse than Seattle on a neutral scale. Does that mean the Rams are now “playoff caliber” at 80? Or, are the Seahawks falling below that threshold despite obliterating Indy? We lifted the Rams up to playoff caliber. Seattle 81, Rams 80. 

We have three games with no line yet. Marcus Mariota of Tennessee is dealing with a hamstring issue. Derek Carr of Oakland suffered a small fracture of the transverse process in his lower back, and will be out at least a couple of weeks. Of course, Minnesota is still dealing with Sam Bradford’s knee problem. 

We’re likely to revisit these later in the week once the off-games go on the board. That will give us some insights to Chicago with Mitchell Trubisky as a starter, Miami after a couple of debacles, and the Raiders with E.J. Manuel as the starting QB. 

AL Wildcard: MLB playoffs begin Tuesday with Minnesota Twins visiting the New York Yankees in must-win showdown
The first of two dramatic one-game “play-in” battles to join the main baseball brackets is set for Tuesday night. The Minnesota Twins take on the New York Yankees in the Bronx. That AL opener will be followed Wednesday in the NL by Colorado Rockies visiting the Arizona Diamondbacks.

We’re planning to preview action on game days. Let’s jump right into Twins/Yankees, and save Rockies/D-backs for Wednesday.

Minnesota at the NY Yankees (8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on ESPN)

  • Money line: NY Yankees -230, Minnesota plus 190
  • Run line: NY Yankees -1.5 runs (-110), Minnesota plus 1.5 runs (-110)
  • Over/Under: 7.5 runs

Casual market followers were expecting a lower price. Two staff aces. “Anything can happen in baseball.” Why are the Yankees roughly 68% to win (no juice), and pick-em to win by two runs or more? Let’s see if we can figure that out using key indicator stats we’ve been discussing all summer here in VSiN City. 

We start with offense. Since everyone’s played their full 162-game slates, a focus on the 81-game road performances will give us a great sense of “neutralized” scoring. Nobody benefits statistically from playing home games in a hitter’s park, or is penalized by playing home games in a pitcher’s park. Here are rankings and runs-per-game marks in road offense.

AL Road Offense
1…Houston 6.2 runs per game
2…Cleveland 5.1 runs per game
3…NY Yankees 5.0 runs per game
4…Boston 4.9 runs per game
5…Minnesota 4.8 runs per game

You hear all the time that pitching carries the greatest importance when it comes to baseball success. Worth noting that the five AL playoff teams had the best five road offenses! Winning baseball features both run prevention and run production. Only a slight edge to the Yankees with the bats if you’re comparing the teams head-to-head in a neutral environment.

We move to the bullpen, where we’ve been using reliever xFIP all season, a fielding independent measure designed to run along the same scale as ERA. Here, again, are league rankings and marks (according to fangraphs). 

AL Relievers xFIP
1…Cleveland 3.41
2…Houston 3.69
3…Boston 3.77
4…NY Yankees 3.80
11…Minnesota 4.49

The top four bullpens belong to the four best teams in the league. Though, Houston’s home games are played in the best pitcher’s park in baseball…which is polluting that a bit. Still, solid for the “big four,” but a relative disaster for the Twins. They don’t measure up, and will be in trouble if the starting pitchers “cancel each other out” for the first 6-7 innings. 

To this point we have home field advantage, and a much superior bullpen favoring the Yanks. Are the starting pitchers likely to cancel out? A quick glance at traditional stats suggests that it’s very possible. 

  • Santana (Twins): 3.28 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
  • Severino (Yanks): 2.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP

Slight edge to Severino…but not enough to justify a price as high as -230. Why is the market so bullish on the Yankees? 

The line is so high because the modern market is driven by analytics rather than “old school stats.” The most important influences pay more attention to the pitching categories we talked about through the summer. Those are xFIP, strikeout percentage, walk percentage, and home run tendencies. 

Using THAT data, fangraphs is showing this…

  • Santana (Twins): 4.77 xFIP, 19.3 K%, 7.1 BB%, 1.32 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Severino (Yanks): 3.04 xFIP, 29.4 K%, 6.5 BB%, 0.98 HR’s per 9 IP

Analytics are suggesting that Santana has been pitching in very good luck this season…luck that’s not likely to continue. Severino is the real deal…much more able to control his own destiny because of a significantly better K-percentage and less HR vulnerability. 

The line is Yankees -230 because of home field advantage…a fractionally superior neutral field offense…a significantly superior bullpen…and a big edge in starting pitching based on the stats that have the most predictive value. 

Minnesota can definitely win because anything can happen in a nine-inning sprint under high pressure conditions. But the “likelihood” favors the Yankees in a way that’s not shown by the ERA and WHIP of the starting pitchers.

Aftermath: How you can help

If you watched or listened to “My Guys in the Desert” Monday afternoon, you heard Vinny Magliulo reference the “Las Vegas Victims Fund” site created on GoFundMe by Steve Sisolak. He’s the Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas. The site had already raised more than $1 million by mid-afternoon Monday, and more than $2.5 million by the end of Redskins/Chiefs. Please click here if you’d like to make a contribution.

The South Point, home of the VSiN studios, is one of many Las Vegas locales offering free rooms for family members or friends of victims of Sunday evening’s tragedy that took the lives of at least 59 and injured more than 500. 

Sheriff Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department made the announcement Monday. Please click on this report from the Los Angeles Times for more details

If you’re travelling to Las Vegas for the purposes stated above, please contact the South Point for reservation assistance at 1-702-796-7111…or 1-866-791-7626; or LasVegas.com at 1-866-287-2028.

For continuing Las Vegas-based coverage, you can click here to go to the home page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow public safety reporter Rio Lacanlale on twitter by clicking here. VSiN’s Mitch Moss also has informative follow-up tweets…follow Mitch by clicking here

Back with you Wednesday to run some numbers for Colorado/Arizona, and to further set the stage for the coming playoffs. We’ll try to squeeze in a tutorial too…and some notes on college football.

If you’re reading today’s newsletter entry on our website home page, you can subscribe to VSiN City for weekday email delivery by clicking here. Subscribers are also sent links to very handy betting sheets from the South Point. Those are about to become even more important with the imminent start of the NHL regular season, and the pending start of the NBA in the near-future. October is a great sports betting month!

Football fans will enjoy our comprehensive weekly handicapping reference source Point Spread Weekly. The cost is just $9.99 per week, or $99.99 for the rest of the season. Click here to subscribe.

Click here to download the new VSiN app. Click here to follow us on twitter. If you’d like to drop us a note with questions or comments about anything in the VSiN universe, please click here or post a comment in the Facebook widget below. 

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