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Ravens look like they have enough to make playoffs

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

Baltimore’s staring contest with Tom Savage’s turnover tendencies finally paid dividends late in a 23-16 win over the Houston Texans. That plus NFL “market” Power Ratings and early betting tendencies in college football’s Championship Week right now in VSiN City.

Monday Night Football: Baltimore solidifies Wildcard position with win over Houston  
You got the sense that the Baltimore Ravens figured if they just waited long enough, turnover-prone quarterback Tom Savage of the Houston Texans would make miscues that would grant them a victory. 

It took all night. But it worked! Baltimore lost almost every stat but turnovers to move above .500 and into the second Wildcard position in the AFC.

Baltimore (-7.5) 23, Houston 16
Yards-per-Play: Houston 4.7, Baltimore 4.5
Total Yards: Houston 303, Baltimore 294 
Third Down Pct: Houston 43%, Baltimore 21%
Turnovers: Houston 3, Baltimore 0
Rushing Yards: Houston 66, Baltimore 139
Passing Stats: Houston 22-37-2-237, Baltimore 21-33-0-155
TD Drive Lengths: Houston 90, Baltimore 50-46

Houston started the game going 90 yards in 9 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Texans wouldn’t score another touchdown. Baltimore kept squeezing out field position points. All three Houston turnovers were committed by Savage…two picks and a lost fumble. Savage’s last pick allowed the Ravens to run out the clock. 

Though the favorite didn’t cover, it wasn’t a great result for many sportsbooks. Baltimore was -7 much of the week, meaning many Ravens’ backers are refunded after a push. Underdog support for Houston at plus 7.5 cashes. Only bettors who laid -7.5 (or -8) on the Ravens suffered losses. Plus, “basic strategy” teaser bets that featured Baltimore at -1.5 of -2 also won that leg of their investment. 

Houston falls to 4-7 on the season, all but mathematically out of the Wildcard race because they’d have to close 5-0 (with a turnover-prone QB) just to finish 9-7. Baltimore moves to 6-5, currently in possession of the final Wildcard spot.

AFC Wildcard Standings (top two will qualify)
Jacksonville 7-4 (7-2 in the AFC)
Baltimore 6-5 (5-3 in the AFC) 
Buffalo 6-5 (4-3 in the AFC)
Cincinnati 5-6 (5-5 in the AFC)
Oakland 5-6 (5-5 in the AFC)
LA Chargers 5-6 (3-5 in the AFC)

Baltimore won’t play Buffalo this season. So, that tie-breaker would come down to conference record if they deadlock. Baltimore currently gets that nod. 

The Chargers are a real sleeper because they’ve improved throughout the season, and are now also just a game out of fading first-place Kansas City in the AFC West. The tie-breaker sure isn’t smiling on LAC, so they’d better focus on chasing down the Chiefs.

The Ravens have to feel good about this fairly manageable remaining schedule…

Sunday: home favorite vs. Detroit
December 10: dog at Pittsburgh
December 17: favorite at currently winless Cleveland
December 23: home favorite vs. Indianapolis
December 31: home favorite vs. Cincinnati

Nobody’s automatic to win the games they’re favored in. But 3-2 might be enough to get in (meaning a 9-7 finish) given the mediocrity of their main competition. The soft trio finale makes that very achievable. 

NFL: New Estimated Market Power Ratings
Time for our weekly Tuesday estimate of how “the market” is rating all 32 pro football teams. Here are the Monday evening lines we’ll be using to build the scale…

Washington at Dallas (-1.5/44)
Detroit at Baltimore (NL pending MNF)
San Francisco at Chicago (-3.5/39.50
Minnesota at Atlanta (-3/47.5)
New England (-8.5/49) at Buffalo
Denver at Miami (pick-em/38) 
Houston at Tennessee (NL pending MNF)
Indianapolis at Jacksonville (-9.5/41)
Tampa Bay at Green Bay (NL pending status of Winston)
Kansas City (-3.5/44) at the NY Jets
Carolina at New Orleans (-4/48)
Cleveland at the LA Chargers (-13.5/42.5)
LA Rams (-6.5/45.5) at Arizona
NY Giants at Oakland (-7.5/44.5)
Philadelphia (-5/47.5) at Seattle
Pittsburgh (-6/43) at Cincinnati 

If you’re new to VSiN City, we use those lines to build “couplets” that we place on a Power Ratings scale. We adjust the numbers you see above three points as a standard for home field advantage. Minnesota is plus 3 at Atlanta on Sunday. With HFA being worth three, that means the teams are seen by the market as dead even on a neutral field. We put the Vikings and Falcons on the same line. Here’s our good-faith estimate at the moment. 

88: Philadelphia, New England
85: Pittsburgh
84: Minnesota, Atlanta, LA Rams
83: New Orleans
82: Carolina
80: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Kansas City, LA Chargers, Seattle
79: Baltimore, Detroit 
78: Washington 
77: Buffalo, Dallas (no Elliott), Oakland
76: Cincinnati 
75: Houston, Tampa Bay (w/Fitzpatrick)
74: NY Jets, Denver, Green Bay, Arizona
73: Indianapolis, Chicago
72: San Francisco (with Garappolo), NY Giants
71: Miami
70: Cleveland, San Francisco (with Beathard)

A few notes…

  • A leap for Philadelphia that makes sense based on recent form. The Eagles are laying -5 at Seattle Sunday night. We’ve dropped Seattle down to 80, and put the Eagles at 88. Note that Philadelphia has covered EIGHT straight games, by margins of 4, 21, 8, 5, 10, 21, 22, and 14. If those Las Vegas lines had been an additional three points against them, they still would have covered eight straight. If the market had adjusted SEVEN points against them, the Eagles would still be 6-2 ATS in those eight games, having covered four in a row. Just a huge sustained underestimation, over the past month in particular. 
  • Dropped both Washington and Dallas a point because the Redskins weren’t getting much market respect vs. NYG, and the Cowboys have fallen off the map. We’ll need to see the following week’s lines for additional context. The Cowboys are playing more like a team in the 60’s since Elliott’s suspension began (67, 56, and 55 in “performance levels” based on scoreboard margins and the current Power Ratings of Atlanta, Philadelphia, and the LA Chargers). Elliott’s not worth THAT much, so something’s amiss. 
  • The market seems to be thinking that Jimmy Garappolo will get the call for San Francisco this week, as the Bears are only -3.5 at home vs. SF. Remember, last week we talked about Philly -14 over Chicago being too low for this scale to reflect accurately. Either Chicago had made a jump off a loss to Detroit (which wouldn’t make any sense), or Philly still wasn’t seen as truly elite after obliterating Dallas (ditto). This week’s lines have corrected that anomaly.  
  • The Giants were another anomaly last week. Their Thanksgiving night point spread was much closer to Washington than precious pricing would have suggested. Their road dog price at fading Oakland looks to have corrected that…though it’s possible that both Washington and the Raiders are about equally irrelevant these days in the eyes of the market, and I was slow to accept how far those two had fallen.

We’ll update these later in the week if needed. 

College Football “Market Watch”: Championship Weekend Showdowns
Because this is such an important week in the college football betting markets, we’re going to keep a daily eye on line movements in the major conference championship games. We’ll hold off on our estimated college “market” Power Ratings until their usual slot on Wednesday. For now, let’s focus on early betting. 

Pac 12 Championship: USC vs. Stanford in Santa Clara, CA
Opener: USC by 3, total of 57
Tuesday morning: USC by 3.5, total of 59

This game is Friday night…the rest are Saturday. USC is a conceivable choice for both sharps and the public…which is why the line didn’t stay on the key number of three very long. USC won the first meeting handily, and catches Stanford in a tough fatigue spot after a stretch that included upsets of Washington and Notre Dame along with a rivalry nailbiter with California. Dog lovers may need to see at least plus 4 to take the Cardinal (which we can deduce because they didn’t jump in with the hook). It’s possible that even larger numbers will come into play if a bandwagon of USC money gets rolling. Sharps do like the Over based on the early two-point move. The public typically doesn’t bet opening totals in college football. Early moves are sharp moves. 

SEC Championship: Auburn vs. Georgia in Atlanta, GA
Opener: Auburn by 3, total of 51
Tuesday morning: Auburn by 2.5, total of 49

Here we moved in the other direction off the key number, and it HELD. That tell us that sharps like the underdog very strong at plus 3. Georgia’s a logical “situational” play for sharps because of revenge, and the letdown spot for Auburn off the super-intense upset of Alabama. Very telling that professional wagerers didn’t bother waiting to see if they could get a better number after public betting. They wanted the three and took it. Looks like pro bettors are expecting a defensive struggle given the two-point drop on the total. 

ACC Championship: Clemson vs. Auburn in Charlotte, NC
Opener: Clemson by 7.5, total of 48
Tuesday morning: Clemson by 9.5, total of 47.5

Wow…oddsmakers anticipated Clemson interest by opening with a hook, yet the line STILL rose even higher. That’s a lot of disrespect for Miami from the most important early betting influences. Given that 10 is a key number, you would expect Miami money to start coming in at plus 10 if the line goes gets there before kickoff. Small move to the Under. Not surprising that Clemson support would show up for “defense” rather than explosive scoring. (Tomorrow, we may have to drop Miami down into the high 70’s in our “market” Power Ratings given this expensive line.)

Big 10 Championship: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin in Indianapolis, IN
Opener: Ohio State by 5.5, total of 53.5
Tuesday morning: Ohio State by 6, total of 53

Earlier Vegas estimates had Ohio State in the -3.5 or -4 range. But it’s now assumed the public is going to want to lay points here. And many analytics-based approaches LOVE the Buckeyes because of their tendency to run up the score when things are going well (which didn’t happen vs. Michigan, but did vs. Michigan State in recent action). Wisconsin money might bide it’s time to see if something even better comes into play. Though, if you’re skeptical of Ohio State because of the big-game lemons vs. Oklahoma and Iowa, plus 6 is probably enough to make you a Badgers backer.  

Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma vs. TCU in Arlington, TX
Opener: Oklahoma by 7, total of 61.5
Tuesday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5

The only move here is on the total, with unsurprising support for more scoring from Oklahoma’s fast break football style indoors on a speedy track. Whenever a line sticks on a key number like seven for a few days, you can assume that sharps will fade any public move off the line. Sharps must not like Oklahoma at this price or it would have already risen. If it does rise, they’ll want TCU plus 7.5 (or more if the public hits the Sooners hard this weekend). USC went up, Clemson went up, Ohio State went up…Oklahoma DIDN’T go up. Means something. 

More college coverage tomorrow with our Power Ratings update. 

Monday NBA: Cleveland makes another road statement vs. potential playoff opponent
In the LeBron James era, the Cleveland Cavaliers are known for coasting through the regular season before finding an extra gear (or two, or three) once the playoffs start. That’s been happening again early in the 2017-18 NBA season. Cleveland is currently 7-12-1 ATS through its first 20 games. But Monday night provided another example of how good they can look when sending a message to an Eastern Conference opponent they might see next spring. 

Cleveland (plus 2) 113, Philadelphia 91
2-Point Pct: Cleveland 54%, Philadelphia 49%
Three Pointers: Cleveland 15/37, Philadelphia 3/28
Free Throws: Cleveland 16/20, Philadelphia 16/20
Rebounds: Cleveland 45, Philadelphia 53
Turnovers: Cleveland 12, Philadelphia 14

Philadelphia has made huge strides this season, and is very likely to reach the playoffs barring a slew of injuries to its young stars. Yet…Monday…as a home favorite…NO MATCH for the Cavs! Cleveland won every quarter. LeBron James had 30 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. 

You can see that Philadelphia’s long-range shooting might be an issue in big games down the road. You can’t rally from a deficit going 3 of 28 on treys. 

Interesting that Cleveland’s 7-12-1 mark against market prices breaks down as 7-3 ATS on the road, 0-9-1 ATS at home. Below are the five  road covers that came vs. potential Eastern playoff opponents. 

Cleveland (plus 1) won at Milwaukee, 116-97
Cleveland (plus 3.5) won at Washington 130-122
Cleveland (-1) won a Charlotte 115-107
Cleveland (-1.5) won at Detroit 116-88
Cleveland (plus 2) won at Philadelphia 113-91

The five road covers vs. Eastern contenders beat the market by 20, 11.5, 7, 26.5, and 24 points. Something sports bettors should continue monitoring.    

Monday College Basketball: Big 10-ACC Challenge begins 
The ACC took the first two games of the annual Big 10-ACC Challenge Monday night when Syracuse (-2.5) edged Maryland 72-70, and #18 Virginia survived a wrestling match with Wisconsin. Let’s run the numbers from the latter since it featured a ranked team and two likely Dance entries. 

#18 Virginia (-7) 49, Wisconsin 37
2-Point Pct: Wisconsin 43%, Virginia 43%
Three Pointers: Wisconsin 3/20, Virginia 3/14
Free Throws: Wisconsin 4/7, Virginia 0/0
Rebounds: Wisconsin 30, Virginia 39
Turnovers: Wisconsin 14, Virginia 12

Well, they aren’t all works of art. The referees didn’t seem very keen on blowing their whistles, given the amazing lack of free throw attempts. Sure, there was a very slow pace. But somebody had to be attacking the basket because there were 26 combined turnovers and Virginia only launched 14 treys. The home favorite dominated the glass (57% to 43% in rebound percentage) to earn a cover at a medium price even when points were scarce. 

Already the fourth loss of the season for Wisconsin. But all four opponents were ranked at the time (Xavier, Baylor, UCLA, and Virginia). Virginia is undefeated at 7-0. Its first road test will be December 5 at West Virginia. 

VSiN college basketball aficionado Greg Peterson will be back with us Wednesday to help explain how Arizona went from the second-best team in America to the eighth-best team in the Bahamas! Important for bettors to understand what happened to the Wildcats this past weekend when they missed the market by 18.5, 13, and 26 points in straight up tournament losses to NC State, SMU, and Purdue. Arizona hosts Long Beach State Wednesday night, then has very big games coming up Saturday at UNLV, and next Tuesday at home vs. dangerous Texas A&M. 

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. Vital for college basketball!

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