Can you believe we are already at Week 14 of the NFL season? It has been a long journey, but we can’t stop hunting for value so close to the finish line. This week let’s discuss the overvalued nature of the AFC North leaders and a potential shootout brewing in Tampa.
Ravens’ Poor Play Leading To Opportunity For Bettors
When Baltimore lost outright to Pittsburgh over the weekend, it remained atop the AFC North standings. But from a betting perspective, it was another failure on a long list this season. The failed cover as 4.5-point road favorites dropped the Ravens to 5-7 ATS on the season and 3-7 ATS when laying points. On average, Baltimore has laid 5.2 points per game when closing as a favorite, and oddsmakers were ready to do it again this week before the market wised up. The Ravens were + 2.5 Tuesday at a couple of shops in their rematch with the Browns, and I could not agree more with the adjustment.
Part of the misconception with Baltimore begins with its offense and quarterback Lamar Jackson. The common complaint heard Sunday was the Ravens had the better team and that they should have taken their chances in an extra period. Do they? After last week’s contests, Baltimore is 19th in offensive DVOA, just one spot ahead of Pittsburgh. Jackson has regressed as a passer as well. His PFF passing grade this season is the lowest it has been since his rookie year, and since Week 6 he is PFF’s lowest-graded passer (45.5). Over that span he has committed 12 turnover-worthy plays, second most in the league. This is an offense living off its reputation, and so is the defense.
In the fourth quarter, the anemic Steelers were unstoppable, dropping 17 points and averaging 7.8 yards per play. Those numbers are not a blip on the radar or a random slip by a great defense — it is what this defense is. Baltimore is now 24th in defensive DVOA, 28th in defensive average depth of target and 31st in yards after catch allowed. Now the Ravens are without their best secondary member as Marlon Humphrey is done for the season. Should this team be a road favorite in a divisional game? Of course not. The Ravens are extremely flawed despite a great record, so think twice before betting on reputation.
Bills, Buccaneers Setting Up For A Shootout
For most of this season, I have been hesitant to crown Buffalo as a true AFC contender. Its schedule has been one of the easiest in the NFL, rating 31st in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings, and its average opponent ranking has been 19.75 in total DVOA. The Bills’ loss in a windstorm Monday night is hardly worth overreacting to, but Buffalo’s front had another tough day against a good run-blocking offensive line. New England ran for 4.8 yards per carry while throwing just three times in the victory. That will be something to monitor with the Bills, and this week they might have trouble with it again.
Tampa Bay comes into this week 15th in PFF’s run-blocking grading as a team, but in other categories it is a legitimately good rushing offense. The Bucs lead the league in adjusted line yards per carry (5.02) and power success rate (81 percent), and they are third in percentage of runs stuffed behind the line of scrimmage (12 percent). By EPA standards, they are fourth in Expected Points Added per play via the run (-0.02). It would not be surprising to see the Buccaneers exploit that weakness of the Bills, but Buffalo has its own strength to rely on.
When Carson Wentz and the Colts were getting nothing done on the ground two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, they went to the air. Wentz was tremendous, throwing for 306 yards and three touchdowns on an average depth of target 9.8 yards downfield. He averaged 13.4 yards per attempt on throws 20 or more yards downfield and totaled three big-time throws. The secondary has been a problem for the Buccaneers all season, and it will surely be an issue against the Bills’ passing attack. Josh Allen thrives as a deep-ball passer, averaging 16.5 yards per attempt on an average depth of target 30.2 yards downfield. Both teams could thrive on offense this weekend, but the betting market has dropped a point in some shops. Expect some buyback as these teams could put on a show Sunday.