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Explaining why Cubs and Panthers are favored tonight

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Hail Gregorius, Yankees victorious! Plus…the Nats force Game 5 with the Cubs…and a preview of a great Thursday night NFL showdown featuring the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers. 

AL Playoffs: Two home runs from Didi Gregorius lead the Yankees past the Indians into the ALCS
It was supposed to be impossible! No way the New York Yankees would win three straight games from the Cleveland Indians after falling behind 2-0 in the series. That wasn’t going to happen against the AL juggernaut that went WEEKS without losing three games not too long ago. (“Adjusted” series prices offshore were around Cleveland -1200 to -1400, Yankees plus 800 to plus 900 heading to G3). 

But…as they’ve been saying for years in this sport…anything can happen in the playoffs!

NY Yankees (plus 180) 5, Cleveland 2

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: NY Yankees 17, Cleveland 7
  • Sabathia: 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 9 K, 0 BB, 0 HR’s
  • Kluber: 3.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 2 HR’s

Corey Kluber will very likely win the AL Cy Young Award after a fantastic 2017 campaign. He was anything but a star in this series. He followed up a disastrous performance in Game 2 (where he was bailed out by his teammates), with another lemon in the series finale Wednesday. Didi Gregorius took him deep with a solo shot in the first inning and a two-run homer in the third that would build an insurmountable lead. 

That continued a trend that saw the Yankees outperform the Indians offensively all series. A final look at “Total Bases Plus Walks Earned” from the offense’s perspective…

  • Game 1: Cleveland 15, NY Yankees 7
  • Game 2: NY Yankees 26, Cleveland 21 (Indians won anyway)
  • Game 3: NY Yankees 13, Cleveland 9
  • Game 4: NY Yankees 20, Cleveland 13
  • Game 5: NY Yankees 17, Cleveland 7

That’s four separate games with an advantage of at least four, and a composite advantage of 83-65 for the Bronx Bombers.

Both teams came into the series relatively evenly matched in terms of offensive and bullpen skill sets (as we discussed back in the series preview). Home field advantage plus getting to throw Kluber twice made Cleveland the market favorite. He turned out to be a negative influence instead of a positive one. That by itself was enough to swing the advantage the other way. The differences are that slight when elite teams square off.

New York will take on the Houston Astros in the ALCS. That series begins Friday night in Houston. The Astros have already announced they plan to start Dallas Keuchel in Game 1, followed by Justin Verlander in Game 2. We’ll preview that ALCS opener for you tomorrow in VSiN City. 

NL Playoffs: Nationals force deciding fifth game with 5-0 win at Wrigley Field
The defending World Series Champs are now one game away from elimination, as the Chicago Cubs missed an opportunity to wrap up their divisional round battle with the Washington Nationals in the friendly confines. 

Washington (pick-em) 5, Chicago Cubs 0

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Washington 21, Chicago Cubs 7
  • Strasburg: 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 12 K, 2 BB, 0 HR’s
  • Arrieta: 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 4 BB, 0 HR’s

Great stuff from Steven Strasburg, who wasn’t confirmed as the starter until a few hours before first pitch. It was just a 1-0 game heading to the eighth inning. Washington had wasted early opportunities, getting only one run out of seven baserunners in four innings off Arrieta. With two outs in the top of the eighth, and nobody on base (just after Ryan Zimmerman had been picked off following a single off Jon Lester), this sequence won the game and extended the series...

  • Daniel Murphy singled off Lester
  • Anthony Rendon walked off Carl Edwards Jr.
  • Matt Weiters walked off Edwards Jr.
  • Michael Taylor homered off Wade Davis (grand slam)

Three Cubs different pitchers, no outs when one was desperately needed. Here’s an updated look at Total Bases Plus Walks in this series…

  • Game 1: Chicago 9, Washington 5
  • Game 2: Washington 18, Chicago 16
  • Game 3: Chicago 9, Washington 5
  • Game 4: Washington 21, Chicago 7

That’s now 49-41 for Washington, despite the split in games. 

No day off before the decider because of the earlier postponement. The Cubs and Nats go at it again Thursday night in the nation’s capital. 

Chicago Cubs at Washington (8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on TBS)

  • Early Line: Chicago Cubs -125, Washington plus 110
  • Run line: Chicago Cubs -1.5 runs (plus 125), Washington plus 1.5 runs (-145)
  • Over/Under: 7.5

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks is getting a lot of respect in the line. Remember, Washington was the pre-series favorite…yet the Nats are a dog on their home field in Game 5 based on the early number. Hendricks did throw a gem back in G1, and thrived down the stretch of the pennant race. As of late Wednesday evening, Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to start for the Nats. Though, staff ace Max Scherzer should be able to contribute in relief, as should projected (but scratched) Game 4 starter Tanner Roark. 

  • Hendricks (Cubs): 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
  • Gonzalez (Nats): 2.96 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

The classic stats were pretty even this season. Both pitched in good luck based on the more advanced “true true outcome” stats we like to use as indicators.

  • Hendricks (Cubs): 3.76 xFIP, 21.6 K%, 7.0 BB%, 1.10 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Gonzalez (Nats): 4.24 xFIP, 22.7 K%, 9.6 BB%, 0.94 HR’s per 9 IP

This is where Hendricks grabs the advantage in the eyes of stat-minded sharps. Though, that K-rate is a bit lower than they’d prefer. Gonzalez has issues with walks (by elite playoff standards), which could be a difference-maker when every baserunner matters. 

Thursday’s winner will advance to the NLCS to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. That series begins Saturday in Chavez Ravine. Clayton Kershaw will be rested and ready for LAD. Friday, we’ll recap G5 of Cubs/Nats, and preview G1 of the NLCS.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles visit Carolina Panthers in potential playoff preview
The showcase game of the week in the NFC features a pair of 4-1 teams who are both in fine form and exceeding market expectations to this point in the 2017 season (both are 3-2 against the spread). Let’s go deep into the numbers to see if we can figure out who’s going to reach 5-1 straight up and 4-2 ATS in an attraction that just might be a preview of a January postseason rematch. 

Philadelphia (4-1) at Carolina (4-1)

  • Las Vegas Line: Carolina by 3.5, total of 45.5
  • Estimated Market Power Ratings: Carolina 82, Philadelphia 81  

It was a common position in the mainstream media to pick Philadelphia as “best in the NFC” heading into last week’s game vs. Arizona. There was a logjam of “pretty good” in that conference. Who’s to say that the Eagles weren’t at the top of the heap?

This week, despite Philadelphia’s 34-7 blowout of the Cardinals, the betting markets are making it clear that a composite of sharp influences DOESN’T see the Eagles as best in the NFC. Philadelphia wouldn’t be getting plus 3.5 points at Carolina if they were perceived as better than Carolina! Home field advantage is usually worth about three points in the NFL. This is not considered a particularly strong home field for the Panthers in terms of crowd impact or other factors. If Carolina is laying more than the value of home field, they would be a slight neutral site favorite. 

Why would the market slot Carolina above Philadelphia? Let’s get to work…

Yards-per-Play

  • Philadelphia: 5.8 on offense, 6.0 on defense (vs. #5 ranked schedule)
  • Carolina: 5.2 on offense, 4.8 on defense (vs. #15 ranked schedule)

Philadelphia has a negative yardage differential this season (even with a big 6.5 to 5.1 edge over Arizona last week). Once you account for strength of schedule (using the schedule rankings posted by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today), the Eagles would probably nudge past break even. Carolina has played roughly a league average schedule…so that differential of plus 0.4 holds true as a key indicator. If you’re new to YPP averages…once you get this deep into the season, differential adjusted for schedule is typically a GREAT indicator stat. Winning teams show a positive differential, lesser teams a negative. Looks like we have two legit playoff contenders at the moment. 

Key Passing Stats 

  • Philadelphia: 7.7 yards-per-pass attempt, 10 TD’s, 3 interceptions thrown
  • Carolina: 8.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 8 TD’s, 5 interceptions thrown

You probably would have guessed that Carson Wentz and the Eagles had the better yards-per-pass attempt average. But Carolina has gone deep often enough to crack EIGHT. Cam Newton has been more INT prone though, which is something to remember against quality pass defenses. Does Philadelphia have a quality pass defense? 

Pass Defense 

  • Philadelphia: 7.6 yppa allowed; 8 TD’s allowed, 3 interceptions
  • Carolina: 6.4 yppa allowed; 7 TD’s allowed, 1 interceptions

No! Philadelphia is worse than average (which is 7.2 league wide). This could be a real issue for the Eagles when facing quality. The defense just isn’t scaring opposing quarterbacks…and they will be facing good opposing quarterbacks if they reach the playoffs. Carolina uses a defensive approach that keeps the action in front of them. So, only one pick all season (very low for five games), but just 6.4 yards allowed per pass…which is much better than average. 

Impact Defense 

  • Philadelphia: 35% third down pct-allowed, 8 takeaways, 12 sacks
  • Carolina: 38% third down pct-allowed, 3 takeaways, 17 sacks

Carolina is better at getting “coverage sacks,” while the Eagles have been better at pure takeaways against the superior schedule. Both teams are stingy on third downs (league average is around 41%). 

Add it all up, and it looks like this:

  • Carolina’s defense will try to contain Carson Wentz by keeping all the action in front of them. Philadelphia will likely have to break through with TD passes to spring the upset. You can cover kicking a lot of field goals…but it’s harder to win outright that way on the road.
  • Philadelphia’s defense is vulnerable to the big play given its disappointing pass defense numbers. They will aim to make up for that by forcing turnovers.

The “market score” off a line of Carolina -3.5 and 45.5 is Carolina 24.5, Philadelphia 21. How you decide to bet the side and total should be guided by how well you can visualize the offenses hitting those targets. 

  • If you think both will get there, the Over is vulnerable
  • If you think neither will get there, the Under makes sense
  • If you think one will, and the other won’t, bet the team that will!

Is 24.5 too high for Carolina to reach in a short preparation week? Can the Eagles get to 21 on the road in a short week against a defense that will to force dinks and dunks? Good luck in your efforts to find a smart investment. Be sure you watch VSiN programming all day Thursday for additional insights from our hosts, our oddsmaker contributors, and our special guests. 

That wraps up this Thursday edition. Back Friday to continue our MLB playoff coverage…to check in on continuing profit potential for backers of the Vegas Golden Knights (who take home ice again Friday against the Detroit Red Wings)…and to take a peek at some college football. 

If you haven’t had a chance to sign up for the FREE weekday subscription to VSiN City, please click here to do so. You also get access to those handy South Point betting sheets every day. Those are already indispensable and the NBA is about to start! 

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See ya’ Friday!

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