As explained here, we are going to be placing far more bets than normal. This space is used to educate bettors on the games that they have money on. Due to the larger volume of games, these write ups will be more abbreviated than normal. If you have questions, hit me up on twitter @Firstandthirty.
Las Vegas @ Cleveland (-3)
Power Ranks: Las Vegas 24, Cleveland 16
Now that the college regular season is over, we're moving to Saturday games. The model is after both of them, starting with Cleveland giving 3 to Vegas. The Browns are in full on COVID-10 out-break mode, as a result, the line has dropped down to 1.5. On the COVID-19 list as of writing is starting QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, RG Wyatt Teller, LT Jedreick Willis Jr, DT Tak McKinley, slot CB Troy Hill, and S John Johnson. There are others as well, but they don't have a big enough role on the team to warrant me listing them. It's difficult to say at this point who will play and who wouldn't. Regardless, I made an error allowing this bet to pull through. The model threw out a predicted spread of 5.26, close to the open and pre-outbreak line. The silver lining is we have 9 wagers this weak, so we at least aren't hurt too badly by this.
A healthy Browns offense ranks 13th in DVOA and 16th in EPA/play. If Mayfield can't go, Case Keenum will take over -- the differences is somewhere around 1.5 on the spread due to Mayfield's issues this season and Keenum being a quality back up. Their offensive line, though typically dominant, will have issues if Wyatt Teller can't go -- they're already weak at RT, and Raiders DE Maxx Cosby typically lines up over the RT and leads the league in pressures. It's worth noting that the Browns are still strong at C (JC Tretter) and dominant at LG (Joel Bitonio), and the Raiders have nothing but weaknesses in their front 7 outside of Crosby. The Raiders secondary, which runs almost exclusively zone coverage, is strong at outside corner (Casey Hayward) and slot corner (rookie Nate Hobbs). However, CB Trayvon Mullen, S Johnathan Abraham, and all linebackers have struggled in coverage. The Browns being without Landry will hurt, but the Raiders are just 25th in pass defense DVOA. On the ground, the Browns are 4th in DVOA due to a combiantion of Nick Chubb and the aforementioned offensive line. The Raiders rank 16th in DVOA against the run.
The Raiders offense is 18th in DVOA and 20th in EPA/play. Derek Carr is PFF's 10th highest graded passer (78.5) while completing 68.3% of his passes (2% above expectation) and gaining 7.9 yards per attempt. He plays behind a piss poor offensive line -- LT Kolton Miller, who the Raiders took 15th overall in 2018, is an above average tackle, but everybody else is a revolving door. The weaponry is also severely depleted post deep threat Henry Ruggs's release and Darren Waller's injury. It leaves slot man Hunter Renfrow as the best receiving option, which is nobody's idea of a dream. As a result, Carr lived off of short passes last week against the Chiefs, evident by his 4.2 aDOT. Josh Jacobs is the workhorse running back. They're typically better passing the ball (16th in DVOA) than the run (28th), but that passing game dips significantly without Waller. The Browns defense is 15th in DVOA and 28th in EPA/play. Myles Garrett is PFF's top graded edge rusher. Along with Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns shouldn't have issues picking on the Raiders right side of the line to generate pressure. Their corner trio of Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and slot man MJ Stewart should be able to handle the Raiders depleted receiving core, but it's worth noting that they are weak at safety. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is also solid in coverage and against the run. They're better against the run (11th in DVOA) than the pass (20th), and as a result the Raiders should struggle to run the ball.
Update: Due to COVID-19, this game has been flexed to Monday. I wouldn't recommend betting it at this point -- I trust the market over ourselves to adjust for this craziness.
New England (+2) @ Indianapolis
Power Ranks: New England 2, Indy 10
Onto Saturday Night, where we're grabbing the Patriots as 2 point dogs in Indianapolis. The line has since moved to 2.5, so even if you were late betting it you still have time to jump on.
The Patriots offense is 7th in DVOA and 10th in EPA/play. Mac Jones is PFF's 6th highest graded QB (81.2) while completing 70.3% of his passes (3.3% above expectation) and gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. Jones essentially hasn't thrown a pass in 3 weeks -- he's coming off a bye and a Bills game where he attempted 3 passes. Rusty or well rested? We're betting on the latter. He plays behind an elite offensive line -- it's not as if there's major star power, but there isn't a single weakness to attack. The top receivers by projected targets: Jakobi Meyers, TE Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and TE Jonnu Smith -- a collection of above average talent with no star power. RB Damien Harris (hamstring) is out, leaving rookie Rhamondre Stevenson to be the workhorse back. The Patriots have relatively equal splits passing the ball (10th in DVOA) and running the ball (9th), but prefer to run -- they rank 26th in early-down situational neutral pass frequency. On the other side, the Colts are 9th in DVOA and 12th in EPA/play. They're solid up front -- rookie Kwity Paye and DT DeForest Buckner represent a solid pass rush, and LB Darius Leonard is consistently one of the better linebackers in football. Surprisingly enough, Xavier Rhodes is the lowest graded CB on the team -- with Kenny Moore playing well in the slot as always and Rock Ya-Sin having his best season of his 3 year career on the outside. The safety tandem is the weakness of the bunch, so it shouldn't be a surprise to see the Colts struggling to cover tight ends and running backs as receivers, ranking 25th and 30th in DVOA, respectively. The Colts are extremely good against the run (5th in DVOA) and not so much against the pass (17th). This could point to a signal that the Patriots will target their tight ends frequently.
The Colts on offense are 7th and 6th in EPA/play. Carson Wentz, the ultimate entertainer, likes to keep the world guessing on who is going to show up and play QB that day -- he has a collection of both masterpieces and stinkers throughout the season. In total, he's 20th in PFF passing grades (71.7) while completing 63.3% of his passes (0.9% below expectation) and gaining 7.0 yards per attempt. His offensive line has battled injuries, but are now healthy and solid across the board. Michael Pittman has turned into their number 1 receiver while TY Hilton has taken on a more complimentary role. Zach Pascal takes on the majority of the slot routes -- though he's PFF's 124th ranked wide receiver out of 130 qualifiers. Jack Doyle, Mo Allie Cox, and Nyheim Hines will pitch in as pass catchers, while Jonathan Taylor is the workhorse back. Taylor, running behind an effective line, has been a beast, catapulting the Colts to the top rank in rushing DVOA, while Wentz's inconsistency has them ranked 18th in DVOA throwing the ball. The Patriots on defense are 2nd in DVOA and EPA/play. They have contributors all over the field -- DE Matthew Judon and rookie DT Christian Barmore represent a solid pass rush. JC Jackson and slot man Myles Bryant have been excellent corners. Devin McCoury, Adrian Phillips (assuming he can play), and Kyle Dugger are all above average safties. Even Jalen Mills, who has been the weak point on the defense, has now put together back to back quality performances against the Titans and Bills. They're 3rd in DVOA against the pass and 6th against the run. The Colts have a slight advantage in the trenches and will likely try to get the run game going early, but that is far from an easy task.
Carolina @ Buffalo (-10.5)
Power rankings: Buffalo 4, Carolina 27
Carolina's offense -- how do I put this nicely -- is a fucking shit show. The offensive coordinator, who apparently didn't run the ball enough with an offensive line that is an across the board mess and an injured running back, has been fired. Old friend Cam Newton is back at QB -- or former XFL star PJ Walker when he gets benched. Newton is without question a dynamic runner, particularly in the red zone, but has been a disaster passing the ball -- he has a PFF passing grade of 55.8 and is completing 58.7% of his passes. As mentioned above, the offensive line is a wreck -- they'll be fighting it out with the Giants and Dolphins as the worst unit in football. RT Taylor Morton is solid, but the other 4 couldn't withstand an SEC pass rush. With Robby Anderson having a poor season, DJ Moore is left as the lone positive weapon. The Panthers are 30th in DVOA overall on offense and dead last in DVOA throwing the ball. Meanwhile, the Bills are 1st in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play on defense. Yeah, a tad bit one sided. The Bills defensive line projects to consume the Panthers offensive line -- Jerry Hughes, Ed Oliver, and Mario Addison represent a pass rush that is second in the league in pressure rate. DT Harrison Phillips and LB Matt Milano are both solid against the run. Jordan Poyer and Michah Hyde are perhaps the best safety duo in all of football. The weak point is the cornerback room, particuarly since Tre'Davious White tore his ACL. DJ More should win his one on one matchups, but with safety help it shouldn't be a concern.
The Bills offense sits at 14th in DVOA and 7th in EPA/play. Josh Allen is 13th in PFF passing grades (76.2) while completing 65.8% of his passes (1.1% above expectation) while gaining 7.1 yards per attempt. The offensive line is the biggest negative on the offense -- there's weaknesses everywhere outside of RT Daryl Williams. The top projected receivers are Stef Diggs, Cole Beasley, Grabriel Davis, and TE Dawson Knox. Absent is Emmanuel Sanders, who will miss with a knee injury. Devin Singletary has been leading the way in the backfield with Matt Breida chipping in, and Allen himself is always a threat to run. They're 13th in DVOA throwing and 14th running. The Panthers defense sits at 10th in DVOA and 5th in EPA/play. Led by Brian Burns, they generate pressure more than any team in the NFL. This is partially due to a 32.5% blitz rate, which ranks 5th in the NFL. Allen has been much better this season when he isn't blitzed -- this area is the one advantage the Panthers will have. Since returning week 8, Stephon Gilmore has been one of the league's better corners, but CJ Henderson (outside) and Myles Hartsfield (slot) both struggle. The Panthers are far better vs the pass (6th in DVOA) than the run (21st).