Super Bowl Sunday has arrived. The storyline’s are few, but the drama is certainly high. The 49ers and Chiefs get ready to kick off on Sunday night in Miami.
Pick: Chiefs ML
I’ve had high praises for the 49ers all season long. Their defense is lethal and constantly makes big plays, especially the front 7. But the Chiefs have just been so damn good offensively in the playoffs. Simply put, this Chiefs team is doing things offensively that will be talked about for years.
The 'Y-Iso' package is a staple in Andy Reid's offense.
I don’t think the Chiefs defense getting enough love. Since their November 10th loss to the Titans, the defense hasn’t been talked about much at all, which is probably a good thing considering the only time we ever talked about Kansas City’s defense was when they were getting thrashed.
A few things to watch:
What to watch #9: How often does SF use pre-snap motion ahead of runs
Why: KC’s D ranks #32 vs runs preceded by PSM
• 49ers use PSM ahead of runs #1 most often • In addition to ranking #32 vs such runs, KC is the #1 most sensitive defense in the NFL to PSM ahead of runs
This is really interesting. I talked a little bit about the pre snap motion that San Francisco uses in my post last week. PSM can confuse defenses and offer something they possibly haven’t seen on film. Expect the 49ers to use a ton of PSM to confuse Kansas City on Sunday night.
What to watch #8: KC’s 3rd down pass rush
Why: It’s #2 best in the NFL
All the talk has been about the 49ers pass rush. I shared how SF’s 3rd down pass rush was #1 in NFL.
The 49ers have got to run the ball well on first and second down. If they want to be run-oriented, it has to work more than 50% of the time if they want to win the Super Bowl. We haven’t seen Jimmy Garrappolo have to throw the ball while the 49ers are down and I’m interested to see what happens if the Chiefs get ahead early.
My post-game post will have much more analytical breakdowns and game film.
The Patriots should be resting and recovering from a brutal schedule but instead are gearing up to face a lethal Titans team.
Lethal is the only way to describe the Titans offense and the fact is the Patriots desperately need to get off to a good start offensively to keep up.
The Titans score points at large. They have the best red zone touchdown percentage (75.6 percent) in the NFL since 1991.
Good teams score in the red zone, and the Patriots could probably take some advice from the Titans.
Ryan Tannehill is a big reason why they score a lot of points.
The bad news for the Titans? The Patriots stout defense ranks first against the pass and seventh against the run, based on DVOA%.
Derrick Henry needs to get going early if the Titans want to have a chance at winning in Foxboro. New England has looked vulnerable against the run in recent weeks, so, it would only be fitting one of the best backs in the league could have a big day.
Tom Brady needs to be a better Quarterback in the playoffs. After his performance against Buffalo, Brady looked sure to have found his rhythm again. But, a bad outing against Miami has fans still scratching their head.
Brady has just a 77.2% passing rating this season according to PFF. The Patriots haven’t helped Brady by not running the ball well. Sony Michel has struggled all season to be consistent.
The Patriots key to victory will be to get the run game going and take pressure off of Brady early. The Titans can score a lot of points, and the only way the Patriots can keep up is if they control possession. The Titans key to victory is to get a pass rush going early.
The Patriots have utilized a quick pass game in order to help the struggling offensive line and if Tennessee can eliminate that, it could be a long night for Tom Brady and New England.
It should be a fun one in Foxboro today. The 2020 NFL Playoffs are here.
Ben Baldwin works for The Athletic Seattle and does great work with analytics. I have been researching how Expected Points can help predict match-ups in the NFL, thus affecting point spreads and over/unders. We used the information to predict games this weekend. You can find that here:
This has to be one of the most interesting Wild Card weekend’s in recent memory. There is a legitimate chance for every underdog in each of these games.
Could we be seeing Tom Brady’s last game in New England? Can Carson Wentz win a playoff game? Those are just two of the biggest storyline’s of the weekend.
It’s extremely interesting how unexpected these matchups are. Just a week ago, most New England Patriots fans would have been confident they would have the bye-week. Now, they are forced to play a tough Titans team. Also for the Patriots: It is not ideal that they go up against the Titans 10th ranked offense a week removed from giving up 27 points to the Dolphins.
We keep waiting for this Patriots team to flip the switch. We almost expect them to start running the ball better. Start taking shots down the field. We expect Brady to find another deep target besides Edelman. But it just hasn’t happened. And now the Patriots are in serious trouble of suffering a franchise rocking loss at the hands of Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans.
The injured riddled Seahawks and Eagles going head to head provides many questions to be answered on Sunday.
We haven’t seen Carson Wentz in a playoff game before. The Eagles have relied on Nick Foles the last two seasons in the playoffs. And Foles has delivered, winning 4 of 5 playoff games, including a Super-Bowl. But, we have seen plenty of Russell Wilson in the playoffs.
Wilson is an impressive 8-5 in the postseason as the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. Although the offense has struggled as of late, he has put together an impressive 2019 season. He has thrown for 31 touchdown’s, and has had to be the focal point of the offense as the Seahawks backfield is banged up.
I’m interested to see how the Eagles offense can hold up without left guard Brandon Brooks on Sunday. Brooks, the highest rated guard in the NFL by PFF with a 92.9 overall grade, separated his shoulder last Sunday against the Giants. Brooks has only allowed one sack all season and has been a rock for the right side of the Eagles offensive line along side Lane Johnson.
PICKS: Eagles ML, Titans +5
Editors note: The Titan have the highest rated 2019 draft class as rated byPFF. Led by AJ Brown, the Titans rookies have been impressive.
The Buffalo Bills head to Houston to take on the Texans. The Texans opened as a 3 point favorite but now the line is at 2.5. I think I like the Bills to win this game. Josh Allen has been seriously impressive this past season.
The Bills have completely changed their EPA in just one year, and it’s due to Buffalo adapting to Allen’s strengths as a quarterback.
Last but not least, the Minnesota Vikings travel to New Orleans to face the Saints. The Saints opened as an 8 point favorite but are now favored at -7.5.
This line is a little bit unexpected. Although the Vikings did not have a strong end to the season, losing to the Packers at home in a division clinching game, I expected them to get some love from Vegas for having a strong season.
Nonetheless, both of these teams did not have a strong end to the season. The Saints could not clinch the bye and the Vikings could not win the division. I expect the Saints to cover, although it will be close.
Analytics have been becoming more and more popular when it comes to gambling on and analyzing football games. DVOA% is a stat that has caught my eye in the recent history. I think its important to test out theories before I try them, so I decided to research how DVOA% can predict who will cover the spread. This is my work:
For those who don’t know, let me explain to you what DVOA% is.
From Football Outsiders: DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.
DVOA, simply put, measures how teams do on certain parts of the field during certain situations. It’s a measuring device for success. And when I started studying this stat, I asked myself, can this be a main source when picking spreads and overs/unders? So, I decided to test it out.
**DVOA is 1/2 offense, 3/8 defense, and 1/8 special teams, so offense outweighs defense in the formula.
Here is a look at the best DVOA %’s in the league:
Well, if DVOA% can study one thing, it’s certainly wins. Almost every single team in the top 10 has a playoff spot or is fighting for one (The LA Rams are the only team not in a playoff spot). This stat also shows how good Kansas City has been, it just hasn’t amounted to wins every week. So, although not perfect, DVOA% seems like a good stat to use for gambling. Lets take a look at the Week 14, 2019 season board to actually test it out.
I made a graph comparing DVOA% with two teams and then bet the team with the highest DVOA% or the non-favorite if it was close in percentage.
I picked a handful of games that I bet on last weekend (Week 14) using DVOA%. If you notice, every game is covered by the team with the DVOA% to back it up. The Broncos should have covered +8 because they are so close to the Texans in DVOA%.
It gets confusing, with all the numbers I have been seeing. I made a tool to help clear confusion when trying to pick which team to gamble on.
SCENARIOS – BETTING NFL MATCHUPS USING DVOA% TIPS
Teams with negative DVOA% – bet against
Both teams have negative DVOA% – bet the one thats higher, if it’s too close – bet the non-favorite with the points.
Higher DVOA% – ALWAYS bet team with higher DVOA% if it’s 5% better or more. Under that – calculate.Bet favorite with spread if not sure.
DVOA% within 5% – consider betting non-favorite plus the points. If not sure, take favorite minus the points.
Two top 10 teams with similar % – consider using other stats, like team efficiency and player statistics to help your decision. Or go with gut.
I will use this as an example, as it is a crucial game for two teams that have the same record in the same division. I am going to use DVOA% to predict who will win the matchup.
Let’s check out where Tennessee and Houston place on the DVOA% rankings for Week 14.
Here’s a simple graph to show where each teams ranks. As you can see, Titans (3.5% DVOA) have a .5% better DVOA% than the Texans (-4.0%DVOA). The 2% difference in Offensive DVOA% is telling. The Titans are 6.7% while the Texans are 4.1%.
The Titans offensive success has to be credited to Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. As you can see above, the Titans have had success when their two stars have success. Tannehill has been a mirage of what we saw in Miami in 2018. He is finally looking like the QB that was projected to be a long-time starter. The Titans being top 10 in offensive DVOA at 6.7% has a lot to do with how good Tannehill has been this season.
The Texans high powered offense with Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins has been extremely inconsistent this season. Although they rank 11th in points per game (24.4 PPG), I would tend to rely on Ryan Tannehill and the Titans offense in this game. The Titans have been hot as of late, scoring 37.5 PPGover their last 4 games.
Using my DVOA% research, I predict the Titans will cover at -3.
I will update with results.
Outside the Box – NFL Pick EM podcast up every Friday. I use DVOA% among other tools to predict games. I don’t go in depth into it in this podcast but will in the future.