BSN Against the Spread

Breaking down a hard-to-project Wild Card Week in the NFL

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]


We’re in full playoff mode here at BSN ATS and from here on we’ll break down every game from a bettors perspective. This Wild Card Week might not be all that…well, wild, considering the AFC bracket is greatly affected by quarterback injuries. In fact of the four teams playing only the Pittsburgh Steelers have the luxury of starting who they'd like to while everyone else is limited to playing their de-facto backup or even third-stringer.

Because of this, we need to use some caution and put our metrics in perspective given that a quarterback change could greatly affect our numerical projections.

On the NFC side, things are a bit more clear-cut, with some real intrigue particularly in the re-re-match of the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers a duel that’s seen the G-men come out on top the last two times and take that momentum all the way to the Super Bowl.

Will there be a repeat? let’s see what the numbers have to say as always focusing on our two metrics (YPP and EW's) suggested spreads.

Our bet of the week

New York Giants +5 at Green Bay Packers

We had to start with this one considering the Giants and Packers aren’t limping into the playoffs like some of these other teams here, they’re storming into the postseason playing some of their best football.

New York has done it before with this group and their defensive revival in the 2016 season seems to have them poised to do it again. The bigger question for the Giants will be on offense where they’ve shown a good amount of inconsistency. Eli Manning has been classically up and down this season in dealing with lots of Cover-2 looks that his run game is struggling to take advantage of - they rank 29th in the NFL per rushing yards. Because of this New York is the 17th ranked passing offense in the NFL but is only averaging 19.4 points per game, good for only 26th best in the league. Their offense ranks 21st in the NFL with a 5.2 YPP average right behind the Jets, not an encouraging rank.

All this means that much of this matchup will be defined by the other side of the ball and by YPP’s 10th ranked offense (the Packers) versus the league’s fifth-best defense (the Giants). After starting slow the Packers are on a roll like few other teams in the NFL having won their last six and rising all the way to the fourth highest scoring offense in the league at a 27 point per game clip.

With Aaron Rodgers on fire, Green Bay is hard to beat particularly with Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams playing some great football right now.

That’ll be a big test for New York’s secondary that’s played well of late but ranks only 23rd in the NFL per passing yards allowed. Because of this, the Giants will have to play their best upfront and keep the pressure on Rodgers constant something they've done fairly well with 35 sacks on the season.

What gives us confidence in New York is the lacking production from the Packers defensively this year where they’ve been far from impressive allowing 24.3 and playing as the second worst passing defense in the NFL behind only the New Orleans Saints - while allowing 269 yards per game in the air. That should be just enough for the one-dimensional Giants attack to get things cooking and at least make this closer than the 5 point spread here.

YPP likes Green Bay as a 2 point favorite and would have the Giants favored in a neutral field site by 1.5 points, while EW has these teams as evenly matched with the Pack being -3.5 point favorites at home. The margins aren’t huge but given the limited choice, this is by far the clearest cut of the games to bet on this week.

Give us the Giants to make it three for three as underdogs at Lambeau Field.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
NYG 0.1 0.5 3 1.5
@GB -5 -0.2 -1 3.5 -2 -3.5

Quarterback uncertainty makes the AFC tricky to project

Houston Texans -3.5 vs. Oakland Raiders

The Texans are actually able to start their “starting” quarterback this week though he wouldn't be their first choice anymore at this point. But due to Tom Savage being entered into the concussion protocol Brock Osweiller will be starting, which for the sake of our numerical projections is just fine by us.

With Osweiler, the Texans have been fairly painful to watch as they rank 31st in the NFL per offensive YPP with a miserable 4.7 average.

That’s in stark contrast with the Raiders who have the 11th ranked offense per the metric and have the seventh highest scoring attack in the NFL this year averaging 26 per game. However, that was all with Derek Carr and his big arm which took advantage of Oakland’s explosive outside receivers. Which in turn had also opened up space for the ground attack that’s been averaging an impressive 120 yards per game, good for sixth best in the league.

Without Carr we got a taste last week of what the Raiders offense looks like against another talented defense, meaning not good.

Because of this, Houston’s ‘D’ which ranks seventh best in the NFL per YPP and is only allowing 99 yards per game on the ground should come out on top in what should be a defensively dominated matchup.

This game should come down to who’s able to manufacture a few big plays on the defensive side with some splendid pass rushers for each team.

Due to the uncertainty, this isn’t a sure thing but when we project for Oakland to have even a league average output in this game on offense Houston projects to exceed the 3.5 point spread though we don’t foresee any type of blowout.

Gun to our head Houston would be our other pick of the week though that half point should make you think twice before taking them.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
OAK -0.4 -2 0.5 -2 5.5
@HOU -3.5 -0.4 -2 3 -3

Projections without Carr 

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference
OAK -0.7 -3.5
@HOU -3.5 -0.4 -2 3 -4.5 1

Pittsburgh Steelers -10 vs. Miami Dolphins

This one is extremely hard to project since the Steelers are the one AFC team playing with their starting quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, which gives them a significant advantage. With their starter, the Dolphins rank just below the Steelers in YPP where Pitt is ninth and Miami is tenth. Both teams are heavily aided in their ranks by their offenses which are seventh (the Steelers) and eight (Miami) in the league respectively.

Meaning that with the loss of Ryan Tannehill the margins between these two should grow greatly. Projecting for the offensive output with backup Matt Moore is a bit complex as well since the Dolphins have outperformed their 5.8 average on the attack with him, averaging 6.2 in the three games Moore has started. But projecting that to continue seems like a fool's errand, particularly after they fell on their face against the New England Patriots last week averaging 4.9 yards per play in the contest.

10 points in the playoffs is a lot and our projections, had Tannehill still been starting, would have Miami as underdogs by 4 points per YPP and 8.5 per EW. But with enough uncertainty on offense, we could easily see that spread rising to 10. If like with the Raiders we project the Fins to have a league average offensive output they become 7.5 points, underdogs.

As much as the Steelers seem like an easy bet here let's not forget that one of our biggest wins of the year came with Miami beating Pittsburgh earlier in the year thanks to Jay Ajayi’s dominant performance, while Tannehill managed things to the tune of 252 yards on 75 percent completions. If Moore could replicate that the Steelers might be in trouble, though they’ve since played some much stronger defense since and now rank as the 13th best unit versus the run.

Be wary with this one.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
MIA 0.2 1 6 1.5
@PIT -10 0.3 1.5 3.5 -4 -8.5

Projections without Tannehill 

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference
MIA -0.3 -1.5 2.5
@PIT -10 0.3 1.5 3.5 -7.5

Our metrics agree with Vegas on Seattle

Seattle Seahawks -8 vs. Detroit Lions

Both these teams have limped to the finish line as Detroit’s lost their last three and Seattle has split their last six winning three, not to mention they only beat the lowly San Francisco 49ers by two points Week 17.

When looking at their YPP ranks these teams are quite different as the Seahawks are the NFL’s second-best team and the Lions are all the way down to 25th. Both our metrics are in agreement that Seattle should be 8.5 point favorites staying in-line with Vegas.

Statistically, these two teams are about even offensively with some good quarterback play and little else as both squads rank in the bottom 25 for run production. Defensively is where the Hawks show a serious advantage, though that could be deceiving as Seattle’s dropped off some since losing Earl Thomas. Thomas’ loss would be hard to handle for any team in the league as his unique skill set makes him the league’s best free safety. Another aspect worth considering in this line.

Seattle’s also not known for blowing teams out as they’re seemingly always involved in closer than anticipated affairs. The line is where it belongs with the Seahawks having their 12th man behind them.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
DET -0.4 -2
@SEA -8 0.6 3 3.5 -8.5 0.5 -8.5 0.5

Not subscribed yet? Click below to for full access: