Biggest task for bettors and SuperContest challengers in 2017? Finding good NFL quarterbacks! A recap of Thursday NFLX and weekend previews Friday in VSiN City.
NFLX: Thursday preseason yawners bogged down by shaky quarterback play
The Baltimore Ravens can’t feel very good about their future with Ryan Mallett if Joe Flacco cant’ return to 100% after his back injury. Miami is crossing its fingers with Jay Cutler. Buffalo watched Tyrod Taylor flounder in Philadelphia. Blake Bortles was booed throughout the night in Jacksonville.
Shield your eyes…it’s time to go to the numbers!
Baltimore (plus 2.5) 31, Miami 7
- Total Yards: Baltimore 382, Miami 120
- Yards-per-Play: Baltimore 5.1, Miami 2.4
- Rushing Yards: Baltimore 141, Miami 46
- Passing Stats: Baltimore 22-33-2-241, Miami 14-30-0-74
This was a blowout largely because of what happened after Mallett left the field for Baltimore, as you’ll see in a moment. Miami barely showed up as they slowly pace themselves to get up to speed for their regular season opener. Neither team managed a TD drive of longer than 55 yards. One of Baltimore’s was a cheapie of just four yards.
QB Passing Lines
Baltimore: Mallett 13-22-2-113, Woodrum 8-10-0-110, Lewis 1-1-0-18
Miami: Cutler 3-6-0-24, Moore 3-5-0-11, Fales 6-14-0-41, Doughty 2-5-0-14
Miami was in a vanilla defense…which is why Josh Woodrum (rookie from Liberty) and Thad Lewis could combine for 9-11-0-128. Mallett still can’t control his speed or accuracy. And, he’s the type to often have balls come in too hard, bounce off the receiver, and then get picked off. Just no growth or progression even though he got to learn the ropes with New England. Two more picks tonight suggest he’s not handling pressure well.
To be fair, we accused Washington of no-showing vs. Baltimore last week. It could be that the Ravens are playing very intense defense with the understanding that they’ll need to win on that side of the field. Just 3 points and 138 yards allowed last week, 7 points and 120 yards this week. Stingy!
Philadelphia (-3) 20, Buffalo 16
- Total Yards: Buffalo 408, Philadelphia 329
- Yards-per-Play: Buffalo 4.8, Philadelphia 4.8
- Rushing Yards: Buffalo 136, Philadelphia 66
- Passing Stats: Buffalo 27-53-3-272, Philadelphia 27-41-2-263
If you were only scoreboard watching, it was easy to imagine a thrilling fourth quarter where Buffalo scored a TD to take a 16-13 lead, only to see the hosts score a later TD to grab the win and the cover at the closing point spread (which had been -4 earlier in the day). What actually happened is that the Bills had a very short 9-yard TD drive to take that late lead. Then Philadelphia needed a pass-interference call on the one-yard line to set up the game saver.
QB Passing Lines
Buffalo: Taylor 8-18-2-53, Yates 9-15-1-83, Peterman 10-20-0-167
Philadelphia: Wentz 6-9-0-56, McGloin 12-20-1-131, Evans 9-12-1-92
Horrible game for Tyrod Taylor. He threw an interception on his first pass of the game, and then on the first pass of his fourth series. Carson Wentz didn’t do much on a few failed drives, but avoided major miscues. Worth noting that Philadelphia has played the two sloppiest games of the short preseason thus far. Seven combined turnovers vs. both Green Bay and Buffalo.
Tampa Bay (-2.5) 12, Jacksonville 8
- Total Yards: Tampa Bay 362, Jacksonville 295
- Yards-per-Play: Tampa Bay 5.0, Jacksonville 4.9
- Rushing Yards: Tampa Bay 130, Jacksonville 57
- Passing Stats: Tampa Bay 27-38-1-232, Jacksonville 24-38-0-238
Jameis Winston had the best night out of the quarterbacks who matter. Though, even that only led to one TD drive (and the PAT was blocked). Bettors had to sweat the point spread at the end of the game. Jacksonville had two attempted drives to steal a late win. Tampa Bay took a safety on a punt attempt to help the Jags get to eight. If you had “number of people wishing Jon Gruden a Happy Birthday” at pick-em over “number of points scored by Jacksonville,” you won that easily. Fitting that the final scoring play of the game was a Deuce.
QB Passing Lines
Tampa Bay: Winston 21-29-0-196, Fitzpatrick 6-9-1-47
Jacksonville: Bortles 8-13-0-65, Henne 6-10-0-44, Allen 10-15-0-144
Bortles has lost the Jacksonville fans, which will make it even tougher to move in the right direction. If his arm really is “tired,” (evidence continues to build), then you might as well just go with Chad Henne or take a flyer on Brandon Allen and hope the defense can keep you in some coin flips. The AFC South is a division where that can work. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be playing himself out of another job. Heck, Jacksonville could take a flyer on Fitzpatrick with a quick trade.
NFLX: Minnesota Vikings are an amazing 13-1 straight up and 12-2 ATS in preseason under head coach Mike Zimmer; visit Seattle Friday
Mike Zimmer became head coach of the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2014 season. His great record in preseason action is becoming better known. How much of that is for real? And, how much is catching breaks in games that don’t matter to either team (which seemed to be the case when they beat Buffalo last week 17-10 while getting outgained 309-242 and 4.4 to 3.8)?
Here’s a quick rundown…
Minnesota (-3) beat Oakland 10-6
Minnesota (-4.5) beat Arizona 30-28 (non-cover)
Minnesota (plus 3) won at Kansas City 30-12
Minnesota (plus 1.5) won at Tennessee 19-3
Minnesota (-3) beat Pittsburgh 14-3 in the HOF game
Minnesota (-3.5) beat Tampa Bay 26-16
Minnesota (-4) beat Oakland 20-12
Minnesota (plus 2) won at Dallas 28-14
Minnesota (plus 3) lost at Tennessee 24-17
Minnesota (pk) won at Cincinnati 17-16
Minnesota (plus 2.5) won at Seattle 18-11
Minnesota (-6.5) beat San Diego 23-10
Minnesota (pk) beat the LA Rams 27-25
Minnesota (-3) won at Buffalo 17-10
What first jumps out at the top of the hunks is a sweep of openers despite lousy offense! Minnesota is 4-0 straight up and ATS in G1 of each season despite putting just 10-14-17-17 on the scoreboard. Zimmer is a defensive-minded coach. He likely has his defense up to speed faster than his offense. In that subset, the record feels a bit lucky. Not in the next one…
2014: Minnesota (plus 3) won at Kansas City 30-12
2015: Minnesota (plus 2) won at Dallas 28-14
2016: Minnesota (-6.5) beat San Diego 23-10
In the games that matter most, Minnesota is clearly prioritizing strong play on both sides of the ball. That’s 30-28-23 for the Vikings, and 12-14-10 for opponents. They covered the spread by 15, 12, and 6.5 points. Great stuff…and something to keep in mind for next week.
What does all of that mean for Friday night’s game at Seattle? Tougher call. Minnesota did win as a road dog on the same field a season ago. But, Seattle can crush people in August when they bring peak intensity. You saw that last week against the Chargers (winning yardage 458-322 and 6.9 to 5.8). This is a rare preseason game where BOTH teams may bring intensity…and BOTH may be playing the fourth quarter to win with their backups.
Might be the best game of the weekend to watch in terms of pure football. Seattle is currently -3.5 with a total of 40.5. That’s up from -3 earlier Thursday. Sharps (and the public) are aware of Minnesota’s trends…but are still hitting this home favorite hard. Any move off the key number of three is important, even in August.
MLB: A blockbuster weekend in baseball with key series all over the card
We told you yesterday that we’d have a lot of weekend previews to run through today. Let’s get to those. Remember that we use “weighted-runs-created-plus” to rank offenses in each league because it adjusts for park factors. We use xFIP for pitchers, which is a fielding-independent measure that runs along the same scale as ERA for easy reference.
Milwaukee at Colorado
- Offense (wRC-plus): Milwaukee #9 in NL, Colorado #14 in NL
- Bullpen (xFIP): Milwaukee #8 in NL, Colorado #4 in NL
- Friday: Garza (4.96 xFIP) vs. Marquez (4.24 xFIP)
- Saturday: Woodruff (5.53 xFIP) vs. Bettis (4.10 xFIP in 1 start)
- Sunday: Anderson (4.32 xFIP) vs. Freeland (4.70 xFIP)
The NL Central race just got even more interesting with the injury to Chicago Cubs’ ace starting pitcher Jon Lester. If you missed the news Thursday, he has suffered a left lat injury that might keep him out for the rest of the regular season (check with VSiN programming all day for updates!). Milwaukee is only a game out of first place…and the Cubs keep losing players that helped differentiate them from the Brewers. Colorado obviously needs to win as they keep fighting to win home field advantage in the projected Wildcard play-in game vs. Arizona. Looks like the Rockies will have an edge on the mound through the weekend in what is now an even more important series. Friday’s early line is Colorado -170 with a total of 12 (Under -115).
LA Angels at Baltimore
- Offense (wRC-plus): Angels #14 in AL, Baltimore #7 in AL
- Bullpen (xFIP): Angels #5 in AL, Baltimore #11 in AL
- Friday: Heaney (first start) vs. Hellickson (5.28 xFIP)
- Saturday: Ramirez (4.47 xFIP) vs. Gausman (4.43 xFIP)
- Sunday: Bridwell (4.84 xFIP) vs. Miley (4.56 xFIP)
The Angels are starting to feel like a more serious threat because they’re well-positioned despite having a horrible offense. If they only pick up the pace a little…they’re suddenly much better than most of the other contenders. Baltimore is a great place to pick up your offensive pace! Andrew Heaney makes his first start of 2017 as he returns for the Angels from Tommy John surgery. Looks like xFIP is expecting some run scoring through the weekend. Friday’s early line is Baltimore -135 with a total of 10.5. Don’t forget that Baltimore justified recent market respect in a home series vs. Kansas City.
Seattle at Tampa Bay
- Offense (wRC-plus): Seattle #4 in AL, Tampa Bay #8 in AL
- Bullpen (xFIP): Seattle #13 in AL, Tampa Bay #14 in AL
- Friday: Ramirez (4.72 xFIP) vs. Pruitt (4.22 xFIP)
- Saturday: Miranda (5.26 xFIP) vs. Odorizzi (5.13 xFIP)
- Sunday: Gallardo (5.08 xFIP) vs. Snell (5.04 xFIP)
Two of the worst bullpens in baseball. Starting pitchers that don’t exactly knock your socks off are scheduled to go. It would be easy to expect a high scoring series if Tampa Bay’s bats hadn’t been in hibernation for so long. Challenging series to handicap because both have fizzled in recent litmus tests (Seattle got swept at home by the Halos!). Friday’s early line is Tampa Bay -130 with a total of 9.
NY Yankees at Boston
- Offense (wRC-plus): Yankees #2 in AL, Boston #11 in AL
- Bullpen (xFIP): Yankees #3 in AL, Boston #4 in AL
- Friday: Montgomery (4.39 xFIP) vs. Pomeranz (3.88 xFIP)
- Saturday: Sabathia (4.37 xFIP) vs. Sale (2.62 xFIP)
- Sunday: Gray (3.41 xFIP) vs. Fister (4.99 xFIP)
A rematch from last weekend. And, it’s always great to see these teams play each other when both are good and the games matter. Boston’s offense has been better than the ranking would suggest lately (5-10-3-3-10-3-8 their last seven games). The Yankees aren’t really second best on offense in the AL when Aaron Judge is striking out this often. Boston has the better starting pitcher xFIP in two of the three games. Friday’s early line is Boston -135 with a total of 9.
Cleveland at Kansas City
- Offense (wRC-plus): Cleveland #3 in AL, Kansas City #15 in AL
- Bullpen (xFIP): Cleveland #2 in NL, Kansas City #10 in AL
- Friday: Kluber (2.44 xFIP) vs. Kennedy (5.03 xFIP)
- Saturday: Bauer (3.59 xFIP) vs. Vargas (4.82 xFIP)
- Sunday: Salazar (3.19 xFIP) vs. Hammel (4.94 xFIP)
Wow…are those numbers stacked for Cleveland! Basically, raw numbers are saying that Cleveland should probably have a record up near Houston’s, while Kansas City should have a record down near Detroit’s. Yet, the AL Central lead for the Tribe is just 5.5 games. Kansas City could sweep and cut that to 2.5. Of course, how are they going to sweep against Kluber-Bauer-Salazar with a crappy offense and mediocre pitching? Friday’s early line is Cleveland -200 with a total of 8.5. The market is pricing this like Houston at Detroit, if Houston had Cleveland’s pitchers! (Quick aside…there’s obviously reason to rave about Cleveland’s pitching top-to-bottom…just remember that they also have an elite offense).
Arizona at Minnesota
Offense (wRC-plus): Arizona #8 in NL, Minnesota #10 in AL
Bullpen (xFIP): Arizona #2 in NL, Minnesota #10 in AL
Friday: Godley (3.33 xFIP) vs. Santana (4.78 xFIP)
Saturday: Greinke (3.19 xFIP) vs. Berrios (4.68 xFIP)
Sunday: Shipley (6.72 xFIP) vs. Colon (5.14 xFIP)
Two studs for the D-backs followed by the struggling Shipley. Probably best to think of the Twins as about the tenth best team in the AL, in a season where that still keeps you in the Wildcard picture in mid-August. Friday’s early line is Arizona -120 with a total of 9.
That wraps up another week in VSiN City. But, SuperContest Weekend at the Westgate has just started! Day Two will bring more great interviews and an even busier backdrop as more Vegas visitors reach town for their weekend activities. Be sure you join us Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Las Vegas time (2 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET), and then Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. locally (3 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET).
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Make the most of this big weekend…good luck in the drawing…and we’ll see you again Monday in VSiN City!