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Vikings duck upset, but don't cover

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

October 10, 2017 12:48 AM

Minnesota edges Chicago on MNF thanks to a very late Mitchell Trubisky turnover. That plus NFL “market” power ratings and MLB playoff drama Tuesday in VSiN City.

NFL: Vikings edge Bears 20-17

The first half saw some of the worst football ever played. Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford returned from his knee injury even though he shouldn’t have. Limping, he was replaced late in the second quarter by Case Keenum. Chicago couldn’t score any offensive points despite having great field position. Minnesota led 3-2 at the half.

The second half was full of surprises!

  • After a TD, the Vikes did a “duck-duck-goose” end zone celebration
  • Chicago’s first TD came on a pass out of a fake punt
  • Later, Chicago ran a two-point conversion that should hang in the Louvre
  • With a chance to drive for the winning score at 17-all late, Trubisky threw a pass right to Minnesota to set up the game-winning field goal for his opponent. 

Apparently, there’s no rule against doing a choreographed “duck-duck-goose” celebration after a TD. Let’s hope nobody protests THAT. The final numbers…

Minnesota (-3.5) 20, Chicago 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Minnesota 4.5, Chicago 4.9
  • Third Down Minnesota 40%, Chicago 25%
  • Turnovers: Minnesota 0, Chicago 2
  • Rushing Yards: Minnesota 159, Chicago 115
  • Passing Stats: Minnesota 22-32-0-141, Chicago 13-26-1-159
  • TD Drive Lengths: Minnesota 75-82, Chicago 75-79

Let’s start with Trubisky. That passing line is inflated because the punter was 1 for 1 on a 38-yard TD pass that caught the Vikings (and much of America) napping. That means Trubisky was 12-25-1-121…and then he also fumbled the ball on a strip sack in the first half. So…he did make some plays here and there…and contributed to two long scoring drives. But that was very much a rookie night when you count up the negatives and a 3 of 12 mark on third down conversions. Remember that Sean Glennon almost beat Atlanta, and did beat Pittsburgh on this field. Chicago’s not going to make a big leap up in market perceptions with this result. 

Sam Bradford may need to sit for much longer…or may find out this week he’s going under the knife. The past few weeks of rest didn’t do much to help his mobility. He’s a sitting duck in the pocket. That only works in end zone celebrations.

Minnesota moves to 3-2, but doesn’t look like much of a playoff threat with Keenum. Chicago falls to 1-4. At least the Trubisky era has begun, which will make 2018 seem brighter for Bears fans. 

We can now update that Thursday night trend we’ve been following for weeks. Once again, BOTH of the teams that played a week ago Thursday (Chicago and Green Bay) covered their point spreads after extra rest and preparation time. That’s now a perfect 10-0 ATS this season. Kansas City and New England both covered after the first Thursday nighter…Houston and Cincinnati after the second…and so on all the way to 10-0 after the Bears snuck under the hook the day after Green Bay scored late to beat Dallas outright as a short dog. (New England and Tampa Bay are your teams to watch this Sunday.) 

NFL: New Estimated Market Power Ratings

It’s time to update our estimate of “market” Power Ratings, which are based on settled NFL point spreads. Here are the spreads we’re using as of late Monday evening. 

  • Philadelphia at Carolina (-3.5/46)
  • Cleveland at Houston (-9.5/44.5)
  • New England (-9.5/47) at NY Jets
  • Miami at Atlanta (-11/47)
  • Detroit at New Orleans (-4/51)
  • Green Bay at Minnesota (no line yet)
  • Chicago at Baltimore (-7/41.5)
  • San Francisco at Washington (-9.5/46.5)
  • LA Rams at Jacksonville (-2.5/43.5)
  • Tampa Bay (-2/44.5) at Arizona
  • Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-4/46)
  • LA Chargers at Oakland (no line yet)
  • NY Giants at Denver (-12/40)
  • Indianapolis at Tennessee (no line yet)

We use a standard home field advantage of three points to create “couplets” that are placed on the scale below. Carolina is laying slightly more than the value of home field advantage in that first listed game against Philadelphia. That tells us that “the market” sees Carolina as a half-point better on a neutral field. We round that up to one (because it takes a lot of money to move a game off the key number of three). We decided to stick Carolina at 82, Philadelphia at 81. Maybe, with more evidence, it will seem like 83 and 82 are better numbers. Or, maybe the market isn’t as high on these teams as we were guessing, and 81 and 80 is the better answer. 

  • 86: New England
  • 84: Kansas City
  • 83: Atlanta, Green Bay, Pittsburgh
  • 82: Carolina
  • 81: Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver 
  • 80: Washington, New Orleans, Tennessee (with Mariota), Oakland (with Carr) 
  • 79: Detroit, Minnesota Tampa Bay, LA Rams
  • 78: Houston (after injuries), Jacksonville, Buffalo, Cincinnati
  • 77: Baltimore, LA Chargers 
  • 76: Tennessee (with Cassel), Oakland (with Manuel)
  • 75: Miami, Chicago
  • 74: Arizona, NY Jets
  • 73: San Francisco 
  • 72: NY Giants (with multiple injuries), Indianapolis
  • 71: Cleveland 

It was great to see Jon Von Tobel and Matt Youmans discussing these ratings last Tuesday on “The Edge.” Feel to drop us a note with your thoughts, or post a comment in the Facebook widget at the bottom of today’s newsletter. Remember, if you disagree about a team, you have to make the case that both that team AND its opponent this week are either underrated or overrated on our scale. (If you think Washington should be at 81 or 82, that also means San Francisco should be at 74 or 75 if you’re trying to capture the market.)

Looking backward at this season’s results, it probably feels like Kansas City is the best team in the NFL right now. They’re undefeated…against a tough schedule…and they blew out New England on the road. Power Ratings generally look forward. New England would still be favored over Kansas City on a neutral field. We can deduce that from these futures prices at the Westgate…

Westgate Odds to win the Super Bowl

  • AFC’s Best: New England 9/2, Kansas City 6/1, Pittsburgh 7/1, Denver 14/1
  • NFC’s Best: Green Bay 5/1, Atlanta 8/1, Seattle 10/1, Carolina 16/1, Philadelphia 16/1

Interesting that Carolina and Philadelphia are both 16/1 even though this week’s pricing has Carolina slightly better. Clearly, there’s consideration for the fact that Carolina still rates as a Wildcard behind Atlanta in the NFC South, while Philadelphia has the best odds of anyone from the NFC East. Better bracket positioning for the Eagles if those assessments hold true.

No line yet in a few games because of various quarterback injuries. We’ll update these rankings later in the week if solid numbers settle in those games before the weekend. We should emphasize to new subscribers that these aren’t my “personal” ratings of the teams. This is an effort to determine how the composite influences of “the market” are currently rating NFL teams. 

AL Playoffs: Houston Astros advance to ALCS, N.Y. Yankees force deciding game in Cleveland

Houston is the first team into a league championship round. Its win at Boston Monday afternoon gives them extra time to rest and prepare for the eventual winner of Yankees/Indians. 

Houston (-120) 5, Boston 4

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Houston 24, Boston 23
  • Morton: 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 1 HR
  • Porcello: 3 IP, 2 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 0 HR’s

Both starting pitchers were on a short leash, with G1 starters Justin Verlander and Chris Sale prepared to come back and contribute. Verlander would pitch 2.2 innings, allowing a go-head homer. Sale’s longer 4.2 inning stretch also saw a home run allowed, one of two earned runs that cost him the decision. 

Though today’s game turned out to be a coin flip, Houston showed offensive superiority for the four-game set.

Final Total Bases Plus Walks Drawn Counts

Houston 98, Boston 75

The ALCS begins Friday evening with Houston facing the winner of the Cleveland/NY Yankees series. Houston would host the Yankees…Cleveland would host the Astros. 

NY Yankees (-150) 7, Cleveland 3

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Cleveland 13, NY Yankees 20
  • Bauer: 1.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 2 BB, 0 HR’s
  • Severino: 7 IP, 3 ER, 9 K, 1 BB, 2 HR’s

Bauer was knocked out early despite not allowing any earned runs. He allowed FOUR unearned runs on four hits and two walks. Severino threw 113 pitches in those seven innings, giving his bullpen plenty of rest for Wednesday’s series finale. Both teams have great bullpens. It’s the Yankees who have done the better job earning offensive bases against the opposing pitching staff through four games. 

Current Total Bases Plus Walks Drawn Counts

  • NY Yankees 66, Cleveland 58

If wins were based on this stat, the Yanks would have closed out a 3-1 series victory already. After taking Tuesday off for travel, the Yanks and Indians will play the finale Wednesday night in Cleveland. Scheduled starting pitchers are currently C.C. Sabathia and Corey Kluber in a rematch from Game 2. We’ll talk more about that matchup in our Wednesday report. 

NL Playoffs: Cubs take 2-1 series lead in another nailbiter, Dodgers finish sweep

Plenty of drama in Cubs/Nats, if not offense…

Chicago Cubs (even) 2, Washington 1

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Washington 5, Chicago Cubs 9
  • Scherzer: 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB, 0 HR’s
  • Quintana: 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, 1 BB, 0 HR’s

Great pitchers' duel, with the Cubs managing to scrape across an extra run. Max Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the seventh, and was removed as soon as he gave up a hit (98 pitches). Reliever Sammy Solis immediately gave up the hit that scored the tying run. Manager Dusty Baker will be second-guessed about that move forever. But it just goes on a career list that’s already very lengthy for that particular skipper.

This has been the only “pitchers’” series so far. Through three games, Chicago leads offensive TB W by a count of 30-28. You just saw that Houston/Boston’s stand-alone count in G4 was 24-23 for the Astros. Diamondbacks-Dodgers was 26-24 back in G1 of that series. 

Cubs lead the running scoreboard 8-7. But six of those seven Washington runs came in G2.

The teams come right back for Game 4 late Tuesday afternoon…

Washington at the Chicago Cubs (5:35 p.m. ET, 2:35 p.m. PT on TBS)

  • Money line: Chicago Cubs -150, Washington plus 130
  • Over/Under: not posted until game day at Wrigley Field

As of late Monday night, the scheduled pitchers are Tanner Roark for the Nats, and Jake Arrieta of the Cubs. The overnight line is based on that matchup. We know managers can get cute in the postseason. Be sure you monitor the markets through the day Tuesday (and VSiN programming!) for the latest. 

  • Roark (Nats): 4.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
  • Arrieta (Cubs): 3.53 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

That looks like a big edge for the Cubs. They have home field, plus the superior pitcher in classic stats. Let’s check out the “three true outcome” numbers we’ve been focusing on all season. If you’re not familiar with xFIP, it’s a fielding independent measure that’s designed to run along the same scale as ERA.

Roark (Nats): 4.15 xFIP, 21.4 K%, 8.3 BB%, 1.14 HR’s per 9 IP

Arrieta (Cubs): 4.11 xFIP, 23.1K%, 7.8 BB%, 1.23 HR’s per 9 IP

Wow…things are MUCH closer here…suggesting Roark has been pitching in a bit of bad luck this season. Arrieta does have the better K/BB percentage differential. He’s slightly more HR prone, which might only be a factor if the wind is blowing out. 

LA Dodgers (-120) 3, Arizona 1

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: LA Dodgers 22, Arizona 6
  • Darvish: 5 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 0 BB, 1 HR
  • Greinke: 5 IP, 3 ER, 4 K, 5 BB, 2 HR’s

Zack Greinke was very lucky to be down only 3-1 when he was pulled in the top of the sixth. He allowed 9 baserunners including those two home runs…yet only three runs were on the board. You can see that Dodgers pitching completely shut down the D-backs. The hosts barely threatened outside of a solo homer run.

The Dodgers sweep, and now sit and wait for the winner of Cubs/Nats. The NLCS is scheduled to start Saturday in Los Angeles. 

Whew…busy Monday! If you haven’t yet taken advantage of our FREE subscription to the VSiN City newsletter you’re reading right now, please click here. You’ll receive every issue in your morning email, along with links to very handy betting sheets from the South Point. 

Thanks to all of you who have subscribed to our comprehensive weekly handicapping magazine Point Spread Weekly. We appreciate your support! The cost is just $9.99 per week, or $99.99 for the rest of the season. Click here to subscribe if you’re just now finding out about it.

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