The main story was regression to the mean for home-field advantage in Week 10 as we saw a huge correction in favor of the home teams. After barely holding an advantage over the first nine weeks, home teams went 11-3 straight up, winning by 4.5 points on average. As far as sides, the Colts were a hot side again this week and rewarded backers with a nice second-half performance to reclaim the top spot in the AFC South. The Rams were also a hot side, and they solidly defeated their division rival Seahawks at home to reward their supporters. As we saw in Week 8, wind was heavily supported as an Under angle this week. Cleveland, Green Bay, New England and Chicago were projected to have weather concerns, and all four came in Under the closing total even though wind was truly a factor only in Cleveland. The market might overreact to weather Unders down the stretch after this very hot start with the exception of Cleveland, which seems to be especially susceptible to the effects of heavy wind.
The current power numbers and rankings across the NFL are tabulated below. These are my rankings based on a weighted sum of offense and defensive efficiency as measured by EPA per play, with offense up-weighted relative to defense and passing up-weighted relative to running. At this point in the season, these rankings reflect a 2/3 weight on 2020 game data and 1/3 weight on the market consensus win total prior, generally. They have also been adjusted for known injuries as we head into the Week 11 slate. Most notably the Saints, who lost Drew Brees for several weeks, have been downgraded from + 3.5 to + 2.0, assuming Jameis Winston will get the majority of snaps.
The three biggest movers to the positive this week are Tampa Bay, the New York Giants and Las Vegas.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A week removed from their worst performance of the season, the Buccaneers found another level of greatness in the second half against the Panthers, particularly on offense, as they gained an impressive 0.35 expected points per play. This one game vaulted their offense from No. 16 to No. 12, and their overall rank surged from No. 8 to No. 3. The market was unsurprisingly trepidatious about backing the Buccaneers on the heels of their Sunday night embarrassment by the Saints. The spread and moneyline closed remarkably close to the opening numbers, which reflected a healthy downgrade. Tampa would now be expected to be favored by 4.5 points against an average team on a neutral field, a 1.0-point increase relative to last week. The Bucs head back into prime time in Week 11, hosting the Rams on “Monday Night Football.” It’s interesting that the opening number did not reflect the upward adjustment to their power number relative to the lookahead, suggesting the market is also high on the Rams after their solid outing Sunday.
New York Giants: It’s time to acknowledge that the Giants may be for real. They notched their most impressive win of the Daniel Jones era with a comfortable victory over the division-leading Eagles, who were coming off their bye. The Giants’ offense put together their first solid positive day, netting an EPA of 0.17 points per play (their previous high was 0.01). That helped move their offense up in the rankings from No. 30 to No. 28. Overall, the Giants are still No. 29 in the NFL, with their win probability against an average team improving from 33% to 35% and their power number up a point to -4.0 points against an average team on a neutral field. The improvement was modest, but with three wins in the division and the level of intensity the Giants are playing with, it is impossible to rule them out of winning the extremely poor NFC East. The Giants were not well supported heading into their contest against the Eagles and are heading into their bye week, but it will not be surprising to see them bet if they open as underdogs to Cincinnati in Week 12.
Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders have been getting it done with an aggressive, efficient offense that ranks No. 4 in the NFL. They supplemented their solid offensive play with a defensive clinic, holding Denver to -0.31 expected points per play, by far their most impressive performance of the season. But it was notably fueled by some fluky turnovers. The Raiders are trending up and find themselves at No. 14 in the power rankings with an expected edge of + 2.0 points over an average team on a neutral field, an upgrade of 1.0 point. This upgrade was also reflected in the market at the lookahead of -7 against the rested Kansas City Chiefs. It was downgraded to -6.0 before being bet back in the direction of Kansas City based on COVID-related news. A second win or even a cover against the Chiefs in prime time on Sunday night would solidify the market perception of this team as a true playoff contender, albeit via the wild card.
Honorable mention: New England was a solid winner in the eyes of the market after its deconstruction of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, earning a 2.2% increase in expected win percentage. The Colts leaped the Titans in the rankings on the heels of their solid win Thursday. The defense remains a top-5 unit in the NFL that will truly be tested with the Packers coming to town Sunday. Detroit also got a small bump after playing an efficient offensive game in its win against the Washington Football Team.
Aside from the Saints on the basis of injury, the three biggest losers of the week were Carolina, Seattle and Denver.
Carolina Panthers: The promise the Panthers have shown this season looked more like a mirage as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to town and dominated Carolina in every phase of the game. To make matters worse, starting QB Teddy Bridgewater left with a knee injury, and his status is uncertain. The defense is clearly the biggest issue with Carolina, which falls from No. 24 to No. 28 in the NFL based on its poor Sunday. Until we see the availability of Bridgewater for the Sunday game against the Lions, it is difficult to discern how the market will react. The efficiency slippage has resulted in a downgrade from -0.5 to -1.5 points against an average team on a neutral field by my power rankings.
Seattle Seahawks: Two weeks in a row the Seattle defense has struggled to get off the field and the offense has been sloppy in its attempts to play catch-up, leading to some high-leverage losses in a very competitive division. The Seahawks’ offensive efficiency falling has resulted in a downgrade from No. 2 to No. 5 in my rankings, as they now earn only + 3.5 points against an average team on a neutral field, down from + 5.0 heading into Week 10. Of even greater concern, the Seahawks now have head-to-head losses against the Rams and the Cardinals in the division, which puts them third in the NFC West. You would expect the market would also be widely unimpressed with the Seahawks’ recent performances, but the spread for their Thursday night matchup against the Cardinals is holding steady at -3.5. This may be the last stand for die-hard Seahawks backers.
Denver Broncos: Since returning from a shoulder injury in Week 6, Drew Lock has played uninspiring football, capped by his worst performance as a pro Sunday against the Raiders. The Broncos were a well-supported side until the closing bell, when late Raiders money pushed the line back up from + 3 to + 4.5. This suggests the downgrade for the Broncos will be reflected going forward, though the availability of the reinjured Lock is still an important question. After this performance, Denver falls to No. 28 with a power number of -3.5 against an average team on a neutral field. The market also reflects a half-point adjustment with the game Sunday against Miami moving from + 2.5 to + 3.0. It’s very tough to get a read on the type of team Denver will be down the stretch as the Broncos are out of playoff contention with a housecleaning potentially looming and coaches and players fighting for their jobs.
Dishonorable mention: Tennessee and Chicago get significant downgrades on the basis of bad losses in high-leverage division games at home. Tennessee is on the margins of the playoff picture now, and for Chicago, the season is all but over.