Pats get ready for Steelers by falling flat

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City Newsletter) 

December 11, 2017 11:09 PM
Jay Cutler (gulp) outplayed Tom Brady and the Pats.
© USA Today Sports Images

Red flag or red herring? New England seemingly took most of the night off in 27-20 loss to Miami. They can’t play that poorly from this point forward and expect a Super Bowl return. Stats and “market” Power Ratings ahead on VSiN City. 

Monday Night Football: New England played its worst game in months, but the one that MATTERS is next week

Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, who will play next week for the #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs, found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter as favorites in consecutive prime time showdowns. Pittsburgh rallied to edge Baltimore Sunday night. New England couldn’t come back from 27-10 down Monday in Miami. 

You’ll see in the game stats that this was a truly awful performance from the heavily favored Patriots.  

Miami (plus 11) 27, Miami 20

Yards-per-Play: New England 4.5, Miami 5.2

Total Yards: New England 248, Miami 362

Third Down Pct: New England 0%, Miami 29%

Turnovers: New England 2, Miami 0

Rushing Yards: New England 25, Miami 121

Passing Stats: New England 24-43-2-223, Miami 25-38-0-242

TD Drive Lengths: New England 51-53, Miami 80-46-82

New England couldn’t move the ball until it was way behind. They Pats went 0 for 11 on third downs, which Tom Brady can usually convert in his sleep. The defense made Miami’s offense look potent and versatile, while making Jay Cutler seem young and fast. Every category an embarrassment considering that New England is the market favorite to win the Super Bowl, while Miami has been priced like an aquamarine version of Cleveland the past several weeks. 

For now, this was still a meaningless game for New England (10-3). If they win in Pittsburgh next week, they move back into a tie with the Steelers and own the tie-breaker. If the Pats lose next week, a #2 seed is still very likely unless Jacksonville catches fire and Tom Brady gets hurt. This didn’t feel like a case of weaknesses being exposed. More like an unfocused bear waking up too late from a nap.

For Miami, it was a lifeline for a possible playoff berth. That shouldn’t be possible! The oft-horrible Dolphins move to 6-7, which is just one game out of the second Wildcard spot in the watered-down AFC. 

AFC Wildcard Standings (top two will qualify)

Tennessee 8-5 (7-4 in the AFC)

Buffalo 7-6 (5-4 in the AFC) 

Baltimore 7-6 (5-4 in the AFC)

LA Chargers 7-6 (4-5 in the AFC)

Oakland 6-7 (5-6 in the AFC)

Miami 6-7 (5-4 in the AFC)

Miami has two games with Buffalo left, which gives them a shot to at least chase down the Bills (though both could miss the playoffs if that happened). Miami’s other game is at slumping Kansas City…who could fall back into the Wildcard picture this week. Miami already has a long-forgotten win over the Chargers. Though, losses to Baltimore and Oakland could become tiebreaker problems even if Monday’s victory ignites some sort of miracle in December. 

Higher up, Buffalo and Baltimore won’t play this season, nor will Baltimore and the LA Chargers. The Chargers waxed Buffalo in the Peterman game, which will be the tie-breaker if only those two teams tie for a spot. Kansas City is also 7-6, but currently leads the AFC West. The Chiefs would fall into the Wildcard race if they lose at home to the Chargers Sunday. That would leave KC at 7-7 with a 5-5 record vs. AFC teams. 

Drama is drama…even if it involves mediocrity. 

NFL: New Estimated Market Power Ratings

On Tuesdays we update our estimate of how “the market” is rating all 32 pro football teams. Here are the Monday evening lines we’ll be using to build this week’s scale. 

Denver (-2/41) at Indianapolis

Chicago at Detroit (-6/43.5)

LA Chargers (-2/45.5) at Kansas City

Philadelphia (-8/40.5) at the NY Giants

Green Bay at Carolina (-2.5/45) (assumed Rodgers will return)

Cincinnati at Minnesota (-10.5/42)

Miami at Buffalo (NL pending status of Buffalo QB)

Houston at Jacksonville (-11.5/39)

NY Jets at New Orleans (-16/47) (Petty starts for Jets)

Arizona at Washington (-4/43.5)

Baltimore (-7/40) at Cleveland

LA Rams at Seattle (-1/48)

New England (-2.5/54) at Pittsburgh

Tennessee at San Francisco (-2/44)

Dallas (-3/45.5) at Oakland

Atlanta (-6/48) at Tampa Bay

If you’re new to VSiN City, we use those lines to build “couplets” that we place on a Power Ratings scale. We use a standard three points for home-field advantage. Denver is -2 at Indianapolis Thursday night. So, the Broncos must go FIVE spots higher on the ladder, because Denver -5 would be the neutral-field point spread based on Denver -2 on the road. That’s a big change from last week’s perceptions, where Denver was a 1-point home underdog to the NY Jets. Might be a market overreaction to the Denver blowout of NYJ. The Broncos’ offense was still awful in that shutout. It’s our job to make the numbers fit! So, on the scale below, you’ll see that Denver is up to 75, while Indianapolis was dropped to 70.  

89: New England

85: Minnesota, New Orleans 

84: Pittsburgh, Atlanta

83: Philadelphia (with Foles), Green Bay (with Rodgers), LA Rams

82: LA Chargers, Carolina

81: Jacksonville, Seattle

80: Baltimore, Dallas

79: Tennessee 

78: Detroit, San Francisco (with Garappolo)

77: Kansas City, Cincinnati 

76: Buffalo, Washington 

75: Denver (?), Chicago, Tampa Bay, Arizona

74: Oakland 

73: Miami, Houston (Savage doubtful)

72: NY Jets (Petty), NY Giants

70: Indianapolis, Cleveland

There’s so much to talk about with this week’s numbers.

Because the college basketball schedule is light during exam periods, we’ll take advantage of the extra space to put together some quick game-by-game comments.

Denver (75) at Indianapolis (70): We discussed this one already. The market’s kind of scrambling down on the crummy end of the spectrum. Doesn’t make much sense for Denver to be plus 1 at home to the Jets but -2 on the road at Indy. That would mean the Jets with McCown would have been -6 at Indy. Seems steep. 

Chicago (75) at Detroit (78): These two haven’t been this close in a long time. Detroit was just -3 on the road at Chicago back in Week 11. Now it’s -6 at home with playoff need, suggesting home field advantage is only worth 1.5. Did the Bears get better or the Lions worse? 

LA Chargers (82) at Kansas City (77): Wow, the Chargers are now see as FIVE points better than the Chiefs on a neutral field? That’s such a big leap from past assessments that it’s hard to know what to do with it. Sure, the Chargers are playing well lately, and have been competitive with quality all season (the close home loss to Philadelphia looks better now than it did back then). Kansas City has been in a free fall, but did settle in last week vs. Oakland. We think that 82-77 best captures why the market would make the Chargers -2 on the road. Tough to buy the high end of 83-78, or the low end of 81-76. 

Philadelphia (83) at the NY Giants (72): Has to be confusing to sports fans that some in Vegas were reporting the “look-ahead” line for this game back when Carson Wentz was healthy was Philadelphia -9. Now, with Nick Foles, the game is -8. Is the difference between Wentz and Foles only one point? Those look-ahead lines have been too low on the Eagles for weeks. Once the game is more widely available at larger limits…the market would settle in at a more logical, higher spot. Given that Dallas was -4 at the NYG Sunday, and Philadelphia with Wentz was recently -6 at Dallas (in a game they won huge), something around -12 to -13 would have made a lot more sense for a look-ahead. And, the general assessment that Foles was 3-4 points worse than Wentz would have logically settled in when the line with Foles came up. 

How do we get to that?

Dallas was -4 at NYG this past Sunday

Philadelphia equates to 9 better than Dallas if the Eagles were -6 in Big D

Ergo, Philadelphia would be about -13 at NYG 

Or, the Giants were just plus 10 at home against Kansas City not too long ago, and Philadelphia’s been perceived as better than KC for weeks. Or, the Eagles have been priced as a Super Bowl team for a few weeks now, while NYG has been priced as a distant doormat…and, the distance this year between Super Bowl and doormat isn’t as tight as that “look-ahead” line had suggested. 

Anyway, we’re going with “83” as the number for “Philly with Foles” while we wait for future lines vs. other opponents.  

Green Bay (83) at Carolina (82): Maybe 84 and 83 would have been better…but we need to allow for some rustiness for Aaron Rodgers. Unless the line moves to Carolina -3 and sits there solidly, we need to keep the Packers a rung higher than the Panthers. 

Cincinnati (77) at Minnesota (85): Cincinnati feels like it's trending worse than that. But, that’s where the market has the Bengals in relation to Minnesota with this week’s line. 

Houston (73) at Jacksonville (81): It’s assumed Savage won’t come back, so a teensy drop. Probably not much of a real-world difference between T.J. Yates and Savage, which the market already knows. 

NY Jets (72) at New Orleans (85): The Jets fall back with Petty to the place many would have had them at the beginning of the season

Arizona (75) at Washington (76): Maybe 76 and 77 would be better. The Chargers jumped up higher than expected this week with that -2 line at Kansas City. Washington was just plus 6 at LAC. Would feel better about lifting Arizona if it had scored a TD in the upset of Tennessee. 

Baltimore (80) at Cleveland (70): Cleveland’s probably a 74 in the first three quarters of each game, and a 65 in the fourth quarter. How do you capture that? Could easily be 79 and 69 in this matchup, or possibly even 81 and 71. If I had to move off 80-70, it would be one higher for both. 

LA Rams (83) at Seattle (81): Could be talked into 84 and 82. But, Seattle hasn’t been getting much market respect lately…closing as home dogs on this field to Philadelphia and Atlanta. 

New England (89) at Pittsburgh (84): This breaks the recent closeness of the two teams, and is a bit hard to justify if you focus on Pittsburgh’s best performances. The problem with that is…it’s been awhile since Pittsburgh has played great. The Steelers are coming off three non-covers in straight up wins by 1, 3, and 3 points over Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. Models that emphasize recent form, or take into account injury impact could conceivably be dropping the Steelers below some of the others in the championship hunk. Maybe 90 and 85 is better (I had that first then switched). New England’s going to have to prove to me they should be a 90 with a clean win here. Monday night’s dud didn’t help the case that New England should be this far clear of the field. 

Tennessee (79) and San Francisco (78): The market lifted San Francisco again after its second good showing under Garappolo. It’s possible Tennessee has fallen down to 78 and SF should only be 77. The Titans were -3 at Arizona last week though, which wouldn’t jibe with Titans at 78 now. 

Dallas (80) at Oakland (74): These teams are racing in opposition directions the past couple of weeks. The Cowboys just beat Washington and the NY Giants handily, which has the market believing that they’ve stopped tanking. Oakland couldn’t beat the Giants with Geno Smith handily and then cured Kansas City’s woes. Feels extreme because New England was only -7 over Oakland at a neutral site. Now, Dallas is -6 in Oakland? Cowboys and Raiders have to be six apart based on this exercise…tough to push the Cowboys higher than 80 unless they keep closing well. 

Atlanta (84) at Tampa Bay (75): A week ago, we had the Falcons lower than this because New Orleans was pick-em in Atlanta at publication time. The Falcons closed -2…which made more sense based on prior pricing. The Falcons are in the championship conversation despite the home loss to Minnesota. Market is chasing Tampa Bay down the ladder, as the Bucs are 3-9-1 against the spread this season. 

We’ll only update these later in the week if something dramatic happens. 

College Football Market Watch: Early Final Four and major bowl betting

Time for another look at early betting in the highest profile college football postseason action. Most moves at this time on the calendar are caused by sharp action. The general public is more likely to be influentially active closer to game day. Tourists wouldn’t bet now unless they’re coming back to Las Vegas again soon. Locals are more likely to…but are still prioritizing the NFL. A true FLOOD of public money will come in between Christmas and New Year’s.

Rose Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Georgia 

Opener: Oklahoma by 3, total of 60

December 5: Oklahoma by 1, total of 60

Tuesday morning: Georgia by 1.5, total of 60

We’ve flipped favorites since our last report. Many sharps like Georgia’s side of the matchup because it has the superior defense and a dynamic running game. Market openers misjudged that by a good bit. College games can’t end in a tie, so there’s not much value consideration in these two most recent numbers. Nothing yet to trigger an Oklahoma buy back. Would seem more likely at two. The public may be interested in backing Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield as an underdog the closer we get to kickoff. 

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Clemson

Opener: Alabama by 1, total of 47

December 5: Alabama by 1.5, total of 47

Tuesday morning: Alabama by 2.5, total of 47

Some movement here in the past week as well. We’re still below the key number of three. It’s assumed sharps who prefer the dog are waiting to see if that comes into play. Not outlandish to think that the public will take the perceived superpower in a revenge spot off last year. Sharp Clemson money will be patient because that three is so important. Sharp quants getting math gradings to the Tide knew they needed to get their money in before the public. 

A few tweaks for the highest profile bowls we first outlined last week…

  • Ohio State is up from -6.5 to -7 against USC
  • Penn State is down from -2.5 to -2 vs. Washington
  • LSU is up to -3 from -2.5 vs. Notre Dame

The first and third games involve favorites getting pushed to key numbers. No surprise there. Penn State moving AWAY from a key number is actually a major development. Sharps preferring Washington decided NOT to wait to see if the three came into play. Sharps generally don’t do something like that unless there’s a level of confidence the dog is going to win straight up. Clemson money is waiting to see if the public drives Alabama to -3. Washington money isn’t waiting to see if the public drives Penn State to -3. Interesting. 

Here’s an update of estimated “market” Power Ratings for the marquee matchups…

Estimated “market” Power Ratings for the highest profile bowls

Sugar: Alabama -2.5 vs. Clemson (Alabama 90, Clemson 88)

Rose: Georgia -1.5 vs. Georgia (Oklahoma 87, Georgia 88)

Cotton: Ohio State -7 vs. USC (Ohio State 90, USC 83)

Fiesta: Penn State -2.5 vs. Washington (Penn State 86, Washington 84)

Orange: Wisconsin -6.5 vs. Miami (Wisconsin 84, Miami 78)

Peach: Auburn -9.5 vs. Central Florida (Auburn 86, UCF 76)

Citrus: LSU -3 vs. Notre Dame (LSU 81, Notre Dame 78)

That’s it for Tuesday. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of our free subscription to the VSiN City newsletter, please click here. You’ll receive every issue in your weekday morning email, along with links to those very handy betting sheets from the South Point. Are you trying to keep track of college football and basketball without those betting sheets? 

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