NFL Week 15 Matchups: Statistical Advantages & Betting Lines

Now that I’ve created a statistical ranking system, I want to use it to analyze weekly matchups and see if it’s able to be predictive.

My numbers are not meant to translate into points. So “advantage” +/- does not translate into what the line should be. It’s a measure of how far above or below the median-ranked statistical team you are.

However, I’m finding that the Vegas lines are pretty similar to my net advantage numbers. (In fact, they have a correlation of r=0.92.)

But I’m not going to sit here and try to compete with the Vegas handicappers. Those guys are way smarter than I am and they’ve been doing this for a long time. Basically that’s what you’re doing when you gamble on sports: you’re saying that Vegas is wrong about the game, and you’re correct.

So do not use my advantage numbers as an alternative line to try to exploit a potential mis-judgement by Vegas. These are apples to oranges comparisons.

  • Thursday Night Football: Chargers (-3.55) at Raiders (-1.24).
    • Advantage: Raiders +2.31 🏴‍☠️
    • Line: Raiders -3.
    • Over/Under: 53.
    • Vegas-implied final score: 28-25, Raiders.
    • The Raiders are terrible on defense, and the Chargers are 4th in passing yards per game. I expect the Chargers to be able to throw on the Raiders. However, the Raiders are pretty good on offense and the Chargers are nothing special on defense. The Raiders should be able to move the ball. The thing is, you can’t trust either of these teams. The Raiders have lost 3 of 4 and should’ve lost to the Jets if Gregg Williams doesn’t make arguably one of the dumbest defensive play calls in NFL history. I could totally see the Raiders losing this game. The Chargers have more talent on their roster than the Raiders do. I think we could potentially see the Chargers pull an upset here, however the Raiders should be better at home. I’m leaning Raiders, but I’m not confident in them. Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams–the Chargers’ three best offensive skill players–are all questionable for the game. If they can’t play, I give the Chargers no shot.
  • Saturday Night Football: Bills (+2.90) at Broncos (-3.07)
    • Advantage: Bills +5.97 🦬
    • Line: Bills -6.5
    • Over/under: 50.
    • Vegas-implied final score: 28-22, Bills.
    • Broncos are actually pretty good against the pass and can get to the quarterback. However, the Steelers were also good against the pass and get a lot of sacks, and it didn’t matter against the Bills this past weekend. The Broncos should actually be able to run the ball fairly well against the Bills 22nd-ranked run defense. The Bills are red hot coming into this game, winning 6 of their past 7. It should be 7 of 7 if not for the Hail Murray. I’m taking the Bills to win and cover. I know a road favorite getting 6.5 is a tall order, especially in an environment like Denver with the altitude. Josh Allen has never played a game in Denver, but I think he’ll be fine.
  • Saturday Night Football: Panthers (-3.86) at Packers (+6.03)
    • Advantage: Packers +9.89 🧀
    • Line: Packers -8.5
    • Over/under: 51.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 30-21 Packers.
    • Aaron Rodgers is going to have a great day against the Panthers’ 23rd-ranked pass defense. However, the Panthers might be able to fare pretty well on offense. I think the Packers will eventually run away with the game, but the Panthers shouldn’t get completely embarrassed. I can see the Packers covering. If the Broncos can score 32 on the Panthers, the Packers should definitely be able to score even more.

Sunday Games

  • Bears (-1.76) at Vikings (-0.17)
    • Advantage: Vikings +1.59 🟣
    • Line: Vikings -3.5
    • Over/under: 46.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 25-22, Vikings.
    • Nick Foles couldn’t get much going for the Bears offense in the first matchup between these teams this year. Now Trubisky is back under center for the Bears. The Bears offense looked great against the Texans this past weekend, and although the Texans defense is terrible, the Vikings defense ain’t much better. Matt Nagy gave up play-calling to Bill Lazor a couple weeks back, so it’s possible the Bears offense has turned a corner. I don’t know right now. I’d probably stay away from this game betting-wise. It’s just not the same Bears team as they were even a few weeks ago. They might be able to have a lot more success on offense, but then again, it’s the Bears, so they have just as good a chance to put up 13 points as they do 30.
  • Lions (-6.45) at Titans (+1.48)
    • Advantage: Titans +7.93 🔵
    • Line: Titans -10.5
    • Over/under: FanDuel does not have an over/under for this game, but after a bit of research (aka Googling) I was able to find 52.5. So I’ll roll with that.
    • Vegas-implied final score: 32-21, Titans
    • It all depends on if Matt Stafford plays. If he does, he could keep the game close(ish) against a horrendous Titans defense. Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill are going to have a field day against the terrible Lions defense, though. These are two horrible defenses. I think the Lions could surprise people and make this game competitive. I don’t think they’ll win, but I don’t think they’ll get smoked.
  • Texans (-4.14) at Colts (+3.52)
    • Advantage: Colts +7.66 🔵
    • Line: Colts -7
    • Over/under: 51
    • Vegas-implied final score: 29-22, Colts
    • The Texans just got blasted 36-7 by the Bears. It’s not going to get any easier going to Indy, although the game will be indoors as opposed to outside in Chicago. Colts are clearly the superior team, and they will score a lot of points on that terrible Texans defense. But I think DeShaun Watson should be able to put up some numbers throwing the ball. The Colts are 13th against the pass, 21st on third down and only 17th in sacks. Watson will be able to throw. Might be a bit closer than people think.
  • Jaguars (-8.24) at Ravens (+3.90)
    • Advantage: Ravens +12.14 🟣
    • Line: Ravens -13
    • Over/under: 47.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 30-17, Ravens
    • Jags are 30th against the run, Ravens are #1 in rushing. Expect a heavy rushing game script from Baltimore. However, the Jags are also terrible against the pass so Lamar might be able to air it out. However, Hollywood Brown just went to the COVID list so he’s probably out for the game. That’s bad news for the Ravens passing game. They should still be able to win, but it makes me less confident in the Ravens’ ability to cover the spread.
  • Patriots (-0.34) at Dolphins (+1.28)
    • Advantage: Dolphins +1.62 🐬
    • Line: Dolphins -1.5
    • Over/under: 41.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 22-20, Dolphins
    • Nope, nope, nope. Bill Belichick terrorizes rookie QBs. He just has a way of making life miserable for young QBs who don’t have much experience in the pros. The Pats just blanked the Chargers and Justin Herbert 45-0 two weeks ago. Tua is in for a rough day against the Patriots. BUT, the wild card here is Dolphins head coach Brian Flores: he spent 10 years on the Patriots staff, specifically on the defensive side. So if there’s anyone out there who knows exactly how Bill Belichick is going to try to confuse Tua, it’s him. So maybe Flores will give Tua an advantage no other rookie QBs going up against Belichick have had. Do you want to bet on the student outsmarting the master, though? That’s really how you bet this game: if you think Belichick is going to make life miserable for Tua, then bet Patriots. If you think Flores will outsmart the master, bet Dolphins.
  • 49ers (+0.34) at Cowboys (-5.90)
    • Advantage: 49ers +6.24 🔴
    • Line: 49ers -3
    • Over/under: 45.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 24-21, 49ers
    • The statistical rankings like the 49ers a lot. The Cowboys are dead last in run defense, so expect the 49ers to run the ball a ton. The Cowboys rank 9th in passing offense, but the 49ers are #5 against the pass. The Cowboys run game has fallen off a cliff this season, so if they can’t pass, they’re screwed. The 49ers should win fairly easily.
  • Seahawks (+2.72) at Washington (+0.17)
    • Advantage: Seahawks +2.55 🔵
    • Line: Seahawks -5.5
    • Over/under: 44.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 25-19, Seahawks
    • I’m expecting Russell Wilson to have a tough day against the Football Team. Washington ranks 4th in sacks and 9th in QB pressure, while Seattle ranks 29th in sacks allowed. Washington is also #3 against the pass. Seattle is pretty good at running the ball (11th) but Washington is 9th against the run. The question is whether Washington will be able to score on Seattle. Washington isn’t good on offense, but Seattle is dead-last against the pass. If Washington is going to win they’re going to need it to be low-scoring. Fortunately the Giants just beat Seattle two weeks ago by a score of 17-12, so it can be done. Washington is going to need a game like that. I expect a close one. I can see Washington scoring 19, but I don’t know if the Seahawks will get to 25.
  • Bucs (+6.17) at Falcons (-2.21)
    • Advantage: Bucs +8.38 🔴
    • Line: Bucs -6
    • Over/under: 50.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 28-22, Bucs
    • The Falcons are the type of team the Bucs usually blow the doors off of. Falcons are 30th against the pass so Brady should have a field day. However, the Falcons are 6th in passing yards per game and pass defense is a major weak point for the Bucs, as they rank 21st. It has just been announced that Ronald Jones is going to the Covid list. The Bucs aren’t a great running team to begin with, but they do have Leonard Fournette who is now going to have a much heavier workload. I don’t think the Bucs were planning on running a ton against the Falcons, but Arians did say recently he wanted to run more in general.
  • Jets (-10.45) at Rams (+7.0)
    • Advantage: Rams +17.45 🐏
    • Line: Rams -17.5
    • Over/under: 43.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 31-13, Rams
    • Not much to say about this one. Rams are going to curb-stomp the Jets. They’ll probably be covering by halftime.
  • Eagles (-1.48) at Cardinals (+4.24)
    • Advantage: Cardinals +5.72 🔴
    • Line: Cardinals -6.5
    • Over/under: 49.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 28-22, Cardinals
    • The Eagles are a complete wild card right now with Jalen Hurts. They are not the same team they were with Carson Wentz. Their defense held the Saints scoreless until the middle of the 3rd quarter. Even before Hurts took over, the Eagles were pretty competitive and lost a lot of close games. I could see them covering. Other than the Giants game last week, the Cardinals have not been great in recent weeks.
  • Chiefs (+5.55) at Saints (+5.52)
    • Advantage: Chiefs +0.03 🔴
    • Line: Chiefs -3
    • Over/under: 51.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 27-24, Chiefs
    • You have to expect the Saints are going to run the hell out of the ball. That’s the one area the Chiefs can be exploited. However, it all hinges on whether the Saints can keep the game close, because if you fall behind to the Chiefs by 14+, you’re probably abandoning the run. That’s what most of their opponents have done. So it’s not an easily-exploitable weakness. The Saints have the #4 ranked pass defense, so we’ll see if they’re able to hold up against Mahomes and all those weapons. I do wonder, however, if maybe people are a little too down on the Saints after their loss to the Eagles this past week. The Saints are back at home after a 3-game roadtrip, and Sean Payton is one of the best coaches in the business. I can’t fully fade New Orleans, but I also don’t see the Chiefs losing.
    • UPDATE 12/18: Drew Brees has surprisingly been activated and will start the game for the Saints. Most people were not expecting this. This is a big boost for the Saints, however Michael Thomas has been ruled out for the game. So what’s the net effect of Brees coming back but Thomas being out? I don’t know. This one gets more confusing by the day. I still think I’m leaning Chiefs, but I might stay away from this one.
  • Sunday Night Football: Browns (+0.52) at Giants (-2.34)
    • Advantage: Browns +2.86 🟤
    • Line: Browns -4.5
    • Over/under: 45.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 25-20, Browns
    • Potential for a let-down game for the Browns? It was a big, emotional loss for them against the Ravens, plus it was on Monday night so they have a bit shorter week to prepare. It’s a road contest against a team that many consider on the rise, and the Giants defense is pretty decent. However, I think the Browns rely heavily on the running game and get the win. Baker has been phenomenal the past two weeks and he may have turned a corner not only this season but in his whole career. I think this one will be pretty close, probably closer than the 4.5 Vegas is giving the Giants.
  • Monday Night Football: Steelers (+5.59) at Bengals (-10.14)
    • Advantage: Steelers +15.73 🟡
    • Line: Steelers +12.5
    • Over/under: 40.5
    • Vegas-implied final score: 27-14, Steelers
    • This is a slumpbuster for the Steelers. The Bengals were terrible even when they had Joe Burrow, and now they have Brandon Allen at QB. The Cowboys held Cincy to 7 points last week. The Steelers, as bad as they’ve looked lately, are gonna roll.

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