I was very frustrated watching the games I wrote up last week. The Dallas touchdown in overtime against New England when they only need a field goal put me in a foul mood.
I’m putting it behind me and looking forward to better this week. Thanks for being a member.
Miami +2.5 vs Atlanta
Miami had a 4th and 1 near midfield. Tied at 20 with Jacksonville, they chose the aggressive and analytically sound choice of going for it with less than two minutes remaining.
Miami didn’t convert, and Jacksonville took over to kick a game winning field goal. Now, Miami is an underdog to Atlanta in week 7.
Miami has been a disappointment in 2021. During the preseason, they projected as an average NFL team by my numbers and had potential upside if second year QB Tua Tagovailoa could make a jump. However, Tagovailoa got hurt against Buffalo week 2, and under Jacoby Brissett the offense looked worse than the hair cut of Raiders owner Mark Davis.
Tagovailoa came back last week against Jacksonville, and he played reasonably well without his two best receivers (WRs Will Fuller and DeVante Parker). In this game, Miami had a 46.8% pass success rate (45.8% NFL average).
While the offense might get back on track, the defense hasn’t held up their end of the bargain. They rank 19th in my passing success rate adjusted for opponent, and both starting CBs Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are banged up and didn’t play against Jacksonville.
However, they play an Atlanta team that looks stuck in NFL purgatory: not bad enough for the top pick in the 2022 draft, but with a ceiling of NFL average.
QB Matt Ryan is still around, but the pass offense ranks 20th in my adjusted success rate. The defense can’t break out of the bottom five in the NFL.
The one good thing for Atlanta: health. They have lost CB Isaiah Oliver for the season but otherwise aren’t saddled by the lengthy injury lists that plague other teams.
Atlanta is a 2.5 point road favorite at Miami. I could only make the Falcons a road favorite this large against Houston. Miami has struggled in 2021, but they are not Houston.
My numbers like Miami by 4.1 points. Even with the mediocrity of Jacoby Brissett, the adjusted metrics from only this season like Miami by 2.7 points. I like the Dolphins +2.5 and to win outright at home against Atlanta.
Fresno State -3 vs Nevada
Fresno State has had a terrific season in 2021. They have a signature win at UCLA and also gave Oregon all they could handle in a 7 point loss.
Fresno State did lose to Hawaii, which happens when a team turns the ball over 6 times. Despite that loss, the Bulldogs look great on both offense and defense by my adjusted success rate (36th on offense, 38th on defense). In addition, they are better at passing than rushing on both sides of the ball.
While Fresno State lost to Hawaii, Nevada just beat this same team last week. However, Hawaii committed 5 turnovers to 0 for Nevada.
Nevada came into the season with strong prospects for the pass offense with QB Carson Strong. However, they rank a disappointing 70th in my adjusted passing success rate (5th best in the Mountain West).
Fresno State QB Jake Haener had a lower leg injury during the Hawaii game that caused him to miss some snaps. He did play last week against Wyoming but is not 100%. It’s my only concern about this game, as Haener has led the 16th best pass offense by my adjusted success rate.
My primary model like Fresno State by 6.8 points, and the model based on data from only this year has an even bigger margin (9.6 points). This suggests value in Fresno State -3.
Michigan -21.5 vs Northwestern
Northwestern had a solid 14 point win over Rutgers last week. However, the underlying statistics don’t paint a great picture for Northwestern. They had a 30.4% success rate compared to 34.8% for Rutgers (40.8% college football average).
Northwestern had the benefit of a 64 yard touchdown pass to Malik Washington in which Rutgers missed a tackle. Success rate is a better metric than yards per play because it filters out the randomness of big plays like this.
As mentioned last week, Northwestern has struggled on both sides of the ball by my adjusted success rate (105th on offense, 104th on defense). This will be a problem against Michigan.
Michigan came into the season with questions on both sides of the ball after a 2-4 season in 2020. The questions have been most definitely answered on defense. New DC Mike McDonald seems like the answer for Harbaugh, as the defense ranks 22nd in my adjusted success rate.
In addition, the pass defense is 41st. This is a remarkable improvement considering that Michigan has mostly the same players in in the secondary as last season.
On offense, the ground game has been solid, as Michigan ranks 26th by my adjusted success rate. The passing attack hasn’t been as good with QB Cade McNamara (63rd). Michigan has brought in highly touted freshman QB JJ McCarthy for short yardage plays and long bombs, and he will most likely see more action.
Despite a close call at Nebraska in which they were gifted a late fumble, Michigan is off to a stellar 6-0 start. My best model likes Michigan by 22.6 points over Northwestern.
This season, the markets have usually made Michigan a few points more of a favorite than my model suggests. However, the markets have Michigan as a 21.5 point favorite after Northwestern’s win last week. There is value here.
In addition, my model likes Michigan by 5.1 points at Michigan State next week. The Spartans have benefitted from an unsustainable rate of big plays and gained fewer yards than Indiana with their back up QB in their last win.
Michigan State might get too much credit in the markets next week. Check my predictions when they come out Sunday night to see if there is value in Michigan for this road game.