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Pats, Eagles are favorites of all favorites

Jeff Fogle
VSiN City newsletter

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Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott had very different games in their matchup.

Nevada sports books are still choking on chalk. New England and Philadelphia had oddsmakers recalling the “golden era” of September as those conference powers outscored Oakland and Dallas 70-17 as twin-TD favorites.

NFL: Patriots and Eagles help extend “Sunday” favorites to 38-8 straight up, 28-15-3 against the spread over the past month
Favorite bettors who survived the early-season onslaught of underdogs have more than replenished their bankrolls thanks to a 65% chalk run over the last month of Sundays.

The most popular betting teams yesterday were the New England Patriots (-) over the Oakland Raiders…a line that flew through the key number of seven during the week, and the Philadelphia Eagles (-) over the Dallas Cowboys in a Sunday nighter that saw heavy action on the favorite until a late line of -6.5 brought some ill-advised dog buy back. The public also bet the Pats and Eagles heavily on money line parlays, and in six-point teasers which provide points they wouldn’t even need. 

We start our Sunday stat recap with those two games…in the order they were played.

New England (-7.5) 33, Oakland 8
Yards-per-Play: New England 7.2, Oakland 4.8
Third Down Pct: New England 50%, Oakland 47%
Turnovers: New England 0, Oakland 2
Rushing Yards: New England 89, Oakland 109
Passing Stats: New England 30-37-0-331, Oakland 28-49-1-235
TD Drive Lengths: New England 87-80-73, Oakland 75

You got the sense early on that only New England knew the game was going to be played at altitude (they spent the week preparing at the US Air Force base in Colorado Springs after playing at Denver last week). Then, after that, you remembered that Bill Belichick vs. Jack Del Rio is a coaching mismatch of epic proportions. Game day steam anticipated that with very heavy betting on the Patriots. New England’s defense continues to keep opponents off the board after its horrendous start to the season. Tom Brady is gold if his defense is keeping opponents off the board! New England moves to 8-2, knowing it probably will have to win at Pittsburgh to earn a #1 seed. Oakland falls to 4-6. 

Philadelphia (-6) 37, Dallas 9
Yards-per-Play: Philadelphia 6.4, Dallas 3.6
Third Down Pct: Philadelphia 36%, Dallas 21%
Turnovers: Philadelphia 0, Dallas 4 
Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 215, Dallas 112
Passing Stats: Philadelphia 14-27-0-168, Dallas 18-32-3-113
TD Drive Lengths: Philadelphia 75-75-90-85, Dallas no TDs

Dallas actually led 9-7 at the half. By midway through the third quarter, the Eagles had the game in hand. If you only occasionally checked in, it felt like Dallas had installed a defensive secondary with no arms. Runners and receivers repeatedly bounced off Dallas defenders then ran uncontested through daylight. Horrible night also for Dak Prescott, who’s much more mistake-prone when a running game can’t help him carry the load. It’s possible that the Eagles are running into teams just as they start to throw the towel in on the season. Dallas tonight, Denver before the bye, San Francisco switched to Beathard at QB the week before that. (They REALLY look great against teams who are giving up hope!) A 9-1 record puts them in the driver’s seat for top seed in the NFC. Home field is going help in those deep brackets. Dallas falls to 5-5…but just lost to Atlanta and Philly 64-16 after Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension was upheld. Tough schedule ahead too. 

NFL: Elsewhere, with a few exceptions, even the close games were ugly!
The rest of the Sunday card is presented in Nevada rotation order…

Detroit (-3) 27, Chicago 24
Yards-per-Play: Detroit 6.1, Chicago 6.5
Third Down Pct: Detroit 30%, Chicago 33%
Turnovers: Detroit 1, Chicago 1
Rushing Yards: Detroit 65, Chicago 222
Passing Stats: Detroit 21-31-0-287, Chicago 18-30-0-176
TD Drive Lengths: Detroit 87-72, Chicago 55-78-78

Rare drama, though you can see that both teams moved in fits and starts. The Bears are still emphasizing the ground game until Mitchell Trubisky gets his bearings. Detroit couldn’t move the chains, but passed for almost 300 yards in cold conditions without turning the ball over. Detroit moves to 6-4 with the win, and still has one of the more favorable remaining schedules amidst the Wildcard contenders. Chicago falls to 3-7, but looks like it could be a franchise that starts to matter in 2018. 

NY Giants (plus 10) 12, Kansas City 9 (in overtime)
Yards-per-Play: Kansas City 5.1, NY Giants 4.7
Third Down Pct: Kansas City 27%, NY Giants 23%
Turnovers: Kansas City 3, NY Giants 1
Rushing Yards: Kansas City 134, NY Giants 112
Passing Stats: Kansas City 27-41-3-229, NY Giants 19-36-1-205
TD Drive Lengths: Kansas City no TDs, NY Giants 26

Not one to stick in a time capsule. Though, it was a historic game for Eli’s career starts streak, and a rare game where Alex Smith threw multiple interceptions. Both teams threw an interception not from their quarterback. Wait, this game should go to the Smithsonian! The Giants offense is still a mess, needing a cheap TD to even position them to be in a low-scoring overtime yawner. NYG’s defense took advantage of the very windy conditions to disrupt the Chiefs. Kansas City falls to 6-4, and no longer feels like much of a threat to New England nor Pittsburgh regardless of their “World Champions of September” trophy. Been awhile since anyone said “Wow, great game from Kansas City.” New York rises to 2-8, messing up their shot at the #2 draft pick behind Cleveland unless San Francisco loses again.

Tampa Bay (-1.5) 30, Miami 20
Yards-per-Play: Tampa Bay 5.2, Miami 7.5
Third Down Pct: Tampa Bay 23%, Miami 46%
Turnovers: Tampa Bay 0, Miami 5
Rushing Yards: Tampa Bay 53, Miami 83
Passing Stats: Tampa Bay 22-37-0-268, Miami 23-40-3-365
TD Drive Lengths: Tampa Bay 5-37, Miami 90-73

What a mess. Both teams are still doormats relatively speaking. Tampa Bay’s win was very much turnover-fueled, including a lateral-party on a fumble return TD to end the game. Miami racked up points and yards after falling way behind. For now, just shield your eyes and keep them where you had them in your Power Ratings. Tampa Bay moves to 4-6, but generally performs worse than that record would suggest on a weekly basis (particularly on defense). Miami is also 4-6, but has been properly Power Rated by market forces of late like a 2-10 caliber disaster. Note that Jay Cutler suffered a concussion in the first half. Matt Moore played the second half at QB for the Dolphins. 

Baltimore (-2.5) 23, Green Bay 0
Yards-per-Play: Baltimore 3.8, Green Bay 4.0
Third Down Pct: Baltimore 21%, Green Bay 31%
Turnovers: Baltimore 1, Green Bay 5
Rushing Yards: Baltimore 58, Green Bay 75
Passing Stats: Baltimore 22-28-1-161, Green Bay 21-36-3-190
TD Drive Lengths: Baltimore 59-3, Green Bay no TDs

Brett Hundley isn’t well-suited for cold weather football, having played his high school ball in Arizona, before attending UCLA. He has the “tools” to theoretically perform well in the cold…but he’s not exactly a ball of fire in good conditions against NFL defenses right now. Having to face a STRONG defense in BAD scoring conditions with little experience made a good day almost impossible. Instead, a debacle, with three interceptions and a lost fumble. You can see above that Baltimore’s offense didn’t do much of anything. To win, they knew they could just stand still while their opponent raced backward. Key fundamental differences were incomplete passes and turnovers. Flacco threw short safe stuff that mostly set up punts and field goal attempts. Keep this in mind for the rest of the season across the league. There will be more cold, breezy games where inexperienced (or bad) quarterbacks will be facing good defenses. You’ll be handicapping which team is going to race backward the least. Baltimore, now 5-5 and in temporary possession of the last Wildcard spot, may have another game like this next Monday vs. Tom Savage and Houston. Green Bay is also 5-5, but with a bleak remaining outlook. 

Minnesota (-2) 24, LA Rams 7
Yards-per-Play: LA Rams 4.5, Minnesota 6.2
Third Down Pct: LA Rams 27%, Minnesota 50%
Turnovers: LA Rams 1, Minnesota 0
Rushing Yards: LA Rams 45, Minnesota 171
Passing Stats: LA Rams 23-37-0-209, Minnesota 27-38-0-280
TD Drive Lengths: LA Rams 75, Minnesota 30-71-93

Definitely a massive test-flunking for Jared Goff and the Rams. Sure, the future’s still bright for the up-and-coming quarterback, coach, and team. The present now has some question marks because those are dominant stats for the home favorite. The Rams aren’t quite ready yet to think Super Bowl, even with a 7-3 record. Minnesota is more ready than the market had been thinking, given the paltry point spread of -2 (less than the value of home field). Case Keenum had been a concern. He sparkled. If he can just drive the car while the engine and wheels do the work…Minnesota can ride its current 8-2 record deep into the postseason. Run your finger down the page category-by-category, remembering that the combined opinion of the market believed the Rams were the superior neutral field team. Total yardage was 451-254, if you’re wondering. 

Houston (-2.5) 31, Arizona 21
Yards-per-Play: Arizona 5.4, Houston 5.3
Third Down Pct: Arizona 30%, Houston 53%
Turnovers: Arizona 2, Houston 2
Rushing Yards: Arizona 48, Houston 134
Passing Stats: Arizona 22-34-2-244, Houston 22-32-1-223
TD Drive Lengths: Arizona 17-15-51, Houston 89-74-75-34

Houston won by about the right margin, though they gave away two very cheap touchdowns in the first half. You can see that the Texans won third downs and rushing yardage very handily. Both quarterbacks posted similar numbers, though Blaine Gabbert had the extra interception. Not a great year for “basic strategy” teasers as so many of the underdogs in the plus 1.5 to plus 2.5 range are losing by 10 points or more because of turnover-prone quarterbacks. Already today, Miami, Green Bay, and Arizona have failed from a teaser perspective. The Rams lost by 17 even without turnover issues. Both Arizona and Houston are 4-6, but will be Power Rated like 3-7 caliber teams because of the current quarterbacking situation. 

Jacksonville (-7.5) 19, Cleveland 7
Yards-per-Play: Jacksonville 3.7, Cleveland 3.3
Third Down Pct: Jacksonville 33%, Cleveland 23%
Turnovers: Jacksonville 1, Cleveland 5
Rushing Yards: Jacksonville 139, Cleveland 50
Passing Stats: Jacksonville 17-30-0-145, Cleveland 16-32-2-134
TD Drive Lengths: Jacksonville 33, Cleveland 66

A twin version of Baltimore/Green Bay…where the superior visitor tried to stand still while the host with an inexperienced quarterback raced backwards. Weather was similar too. The Jags covered the spread on a fumble return TD in the final moments. Clearly, handicappers are going to have to think about what approach to take in games with such helpless quarterbacks. It will come up again when Nathan Peterman joins our recap two games from now. Jacksonville moves to 7-3, a virtual lock for the playoffs in a lousy conference. Cleveland stays ahead in the backward race for the #1 draft pick with an 0-10 mark. 

New Orleans (-9) 34, Washington 31 (in overtime)
Yards-per-Play: Washington 6.8, New Orleans 8.1
Third Down Pct: Washington 33%, New Orleans 33%
Turnovers: Washington 0, New Orleans 1
Rushing Yards: Washington 156, New Orleans 160
Passing Stats: Washington 22-32-0-300, New Orleans 29-41-1-375
TD Drive Lengths: Washington 75-75-94-75, New Orleans 80-75-82

The Saints’ defense took a week off between the road games at Buffalo and the Los Angeles Rams. Tough sandwich spot. Though, this was a pretty sorry effort most of the way until the dramatic closing minutes. Saints were down 15 with a shade under three minutes to go in regulation. Drew Brees knows how to score quick when needed, particularly indoors on a fast track against a mediocre defense. New Orleans is 8-2 heading into that big game with the Rams. Washington is 4-6, meaning they’d have to win out to finish 10-6…which might not be good enough for a Wildcard anyway. 

LA Chargers (-7) 54, Buffalo 24
Yards-per-Play: Buffalo 6.3, LA Chargers 5.9
Third Down Pct: Buffalo 43%, LA Chargers 50%
Turnovers: Buffalo 6, LA Chargers 0
Rushing Yards: Buffalo 173, LA Chargers 146
Passing Stats: Buffalo 21-39-5-220, LA Chargers 25-37-0-283
TD Drive Lengths: Buffalo 34-78-75, LA Chargers 64-46-15-57-58

Here we have that “experienced QB vs. inexperienced QB” dynamic…but played in great weather with a rookie making the first pro start of his life. So, the scoreboard blew up big rather than plodding through the cold. Nathan Peterman threw 5 interceptions in 14 passes before getting benched. The Chargers turned that into a 37-7 halftime lead. The whole second half was garbage time. In retrospect, it’s amazing how many “experts” of all stripes had strong opinions about how Peterman would perform, when it was IMPOSSIBLE to know (and foolhardy to be optimistic) how a 23-year old rookie who was the EIGHTH quarterback taken in the last draft would play in his first start! Some pundits said there wouldn’t be much drop off from Tyrod Taylor, a 28-year old who served a multi-year apprenticeship before making 36 career starts. That looks crazy in retrospect. Others thought there would be a huge drop-off because Taylor is an unrecognized star (a case you can only make if you ignore how Buffalo has always had to protect his glaring weaknesses). The Bills are obviously in a free fall right now. They can’t have confidence in either quarterback. And the players appear to have lost confidence in their head coach. The Chargers move to 4-6 with a win, which is just a game out of the last Wildcard spot. Buffalo falls to 5-5 (tied with Baltimore for the last spot but losing the tie-breaker), one of many teams currently being Power-Rated way below what their won-lost record would suggest. (It feels like three-fourths of the AFC is just sliding down the Power Ratings ladder with their feet on the sides like they’re in a Jackie Chan movie.)

Cincinnati (plus 2.5) 20, Denver 17
Yards-per-Play: Cincinnati 3.6, Denver 4.3
Third Down Pct: Cincinnati 47%, Denver 57%
Turnovers: Cincinnati 0, Denver 2
Rushing Yards: Cincinnati 49, Denver 112
Passing Stats: Cincinnati 15-25-0-141, Denver 23-42-1-229 
TD Drive Lengths: Cincinnati 1-75-44, Denver 75-75

Not quite as extreme as the rest of today’s QB theme…but we do have the more experienced and superior quarterback mostly playing it safe while his team hoped the mistake-prone opposing quarterback would hand them the game. Denver threw an early interception in the end zone that was returned near the other end zone. Cincinnati took a lead on that cheap TD and managed to stay ahead the rest of the way. If you were only scoreboard watching here while paying attention to other games, the Bengals weren’t playing nearly as well as “staying ahead” the whole way would have suggested. Denver won total yardage 341-190. Cincinnati does stay in the ugly Wildcard race with a 4-6 record. Denver falls to 3-7, continuing a multi-week fall from grace. 

Today’s “Big Money Monday” showcase is Atlanta at Seattle…arguably the best Monday Night matchup of the entire season. A full game preview (plus additional stats and trends) for that matchup is available in Point Spread Weekly. Be sure you join VSiN programming all day for comprehensive coverage of Falcons/Seahawks, and early lines for all the upcoming holiday action. 

Back Tuesday with updated “market” Power Ratings in the NFL, and a stat summary from Atlanta/Seattle.

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