Your weekly does of sports betting tips and news, every Saturday at 10am Eastern.
Divisional Props – On Edward’s weekly appearance on BetQL Daily, the group went over which player this weekend would have the most passing, rushing and receiving yards. If you are not creating your own model or extracting yardage projections from game forecasts, one approach to consider is an Ensemble Method.
fantasypros.com used three different resources for this weekend’s projections (STATS, numberFire and FFToday). If you do not add any additional sources, this site says betting value can be found with Joe Burrow (+600 per FanDuel Sportsbook), Derrick Henry (assuming something close to a usual workload at +300) and Cooper Kupp for chalk (+450) or Mike Evans as a long shot (+1200).
The Likelihood of Upsets – Let’s look at the top seeds in the NFL Playoffs that get a bye heading into the Divisional playoff over the past two seasons:
- 2020 – Green Bay -7 vs Los Angeles Rams
- 2020 – Kansas City -8 vs Cleveland
- 2019 – San Francisco -7 vs Minnesota
- 2019 – Baltimore -10 vs Tennessee
- 2019 – Kansas City -10 vs Houston
- 2019 – Green Bay -4.5 vs Seattle
Of these teams with a bye, only Baltimore in 2019 lost as a favorite. As of Saturday morning, here are the market spreads for the two top seeds with a bye this season.
- Green Bay -5.5 vs San Francisco
- Tennessee -3.5 vs Cincinnati
These spreads are small compared to past years, which enhances the likelihood of an upset. Based on the moneyline values at FanDuel on Friday night, there is a 57.1% chance that Tennessee or Green Bay (or both) loses.
Injuries – These are double checked with the ESPN NFL injuries page. For the second week during the playoffs, Buffalo has a remarkably clean bill of health.
- Cincinnati Bengals – DT Larry Ogunjobi, who played in all 17 games and had 26 QB hurries, was placed on IR.
- Green Bay Packers – WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling is doubtful with a back injury. CB Jaire Alexander questionable with a shoulder injury he suffered during Week 4. LB Za’Darius Smith may return after only playing in the season-opener. OT David Bakhtiari is questionable with a knee injury despite playing 27 snaps against Detroit in their final regular season game.
- San Francisco 49ers – QB Jimmy Garoppolo is dealing with a shoulder sprain in addition to a thumb injury. He will start. DE Nick Bosa is questionable with a concussion but probably plays. CB Ambry Thomas, who has played well the past four games by PFF grades, is questionable with a knee injury.
- Los Angeles Rams – OT Andrew Whitworth (ankle/knee) has been ruled out for Sunday. S Taylor Rapp will also not play because of a concussion.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – C Ryan Jensen, OT Tristan Wirfs, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting and WR Cyril Grayson are all listed as questionable. RB Ronald Jones II will not play with an ankle injury, while RB Leonard Fournette was reportedly spotted during practice Thursday.
The Highest-Scoring Game of the Weekend – If you go by totals, your immediate reaction might be to keep reading for pithy analysis of Bills/Chiefs. However, The Power Rank has a higher projected total for Rams/Buccaneers.
Each quarterback should have an advantageous matchup. Next Gen Stats highlights a few reasons why.
For Los Angeles’ Matthew Stafford, no one had a higher total EPA, especially when it came to vertical routes; think corner, go, post and wheel routes, which is interesting given his favorite target in Cooper Kupp runs more hitch routes than anything else. Also, while Tampa Bay’s defense blitzes about as much as any, Stafford has the most pass EPA against the blitz since 2016.
For Tom Brady, his sack rate of 3.0% is the lowest among all qualifiers (and as we know, sacks are a quarterback stat). His ability to avoid pressure should come in handy against Aaron Donald and company. He also is elite at quick passes (taking less than 2.5 seconds from snap to throw), as he has more completions, yards and touchdowns than any other gunslinger.
Finally, Rams/Bucs is +280 with the second-lowest odds as the highest-scoring game on the FanDuel Sportsbook.
Market Movement – During the Wild Card playoff, the markets veered sharply towards Philadelphia as the underdog at Tampa Bay. While the Bucs had been a 8.5 point favorite most of the week, the markets closed at 7.
On The Football Analytics Show, Fabian Sommer, a data driven football handicapper, explained this market movement as the result of an influential betting group that liked Philadelphia all season. He also shared his analysis that the mean absolute error of the closing spread at Pinnacle sports book was the highest since 2014, which suggests that the late market movement might not be as accurate as in past seasons.
However, Fabian and host Ed Feng agreed that one NFL season is a small sample size, and you should still strive for closing line value. Fabian also did a great job breaking down all four Divisional playoff games.
It Will Get Better – If Super Wild Card Weekend felt anything BUT super, you’re not alone. The average margin of victory was more than 17 points. However, as @DataWithBliss pointed out, it usually means two things: future Wild Card weekends will be more competitive and the divisional round should also be more competitive:
It’s perhaps one of the reasons why every spread this weekend is within a touchdown. However, it is worth noting in seasons like 2016-17 that two Divisional playoff games were decided by at least double-digits, so historical betting trends should often be taken with a grain of salt.
Return of the Zags – Now that Gonzaga has returned to the top of The Power Rank’s Elo and ensemble rankings, once again we can ask if they can make the NCAA Tournament without suffering another blemish.
While a meeting with BYU and two games against St. Mary’s are usually what get circled, another formidable foe is actually a team Gonzaga just beat: San Francisco. The Dons have the 20th best defensive efficiency per The Power Rank and will host the Zags in the penultimate regular-season game.
Also, for what it’s worth, bracketmatrix.com projects all four of these teams making the NCAA Tournament. This fantastic site is another example of an Ensemble Method of combining the predictions from a large number of bracket prediction sites.
Data driven betting information
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