Just like the T.S. Eliot poem, our regular season ended with a whimper instead of a bang. We went 2-2, buoyed mainly by our Falcons wide receiver prop bets. Nevertheless, we come in with a strong +13 unit (ish) resume, heading into one of our favorite betting periods of the year: the NFL playoffs.
Ryan’s Season Totals
Best Bets: 32-23-1, Up 1258%
Best Bet #1: Darrel Williams MOST rushing yards in the postseason (+1000)
We hit big on this strategy last season with Leonard Fournette, so we are going back to the well. The play is simple, and frankly, a more profitable derivative of playing the “Super Bowl/Conference Winner” futures.
Here is how it works:
Raw, rushing yardage totals are NOT a function of value, especially not in today’s NFL. And they are mainly a result of winning games/being the running back that has the highest rushing attempt share on their team. With that, finding a rushing yardage hog for the playoffs is all about finding a team that is likely to make it to the Super Bowl, BUT NOT as a #1 seed (as they play one less game):
So, to start our journey, take a look at the Football Outsiders playoff simulation rankings:
This fits very nicely into our play, as Football Outsiders doesn’t think the Titans have much of a chance to make it to the Super Bowl, and we wouldn’t want to play their running back anyway.
Now, from this pool of Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Buffalo (highest non top seeds), we view one team that doesn’t run the ball at all (Buffalo), one team with a timeshare (Dallas, particularly one where the RB2 may be the better back), and another team who’s top RB/potential favorite for this bet is coming back from injury (not good during season for an RB). This leaves us with Kansas City.
Mind you, before we go into the RB situation, with this play’s angle mainly being about predicting a Super Bowl winner, Kansas City has a distinct and clear path to the Super Bowl that looks like this:
1. Beat a team that is ranked #24 by DVOA at home (Pittsburgh)
2. Beat either the Bengals, Bills, or Raiders at home (only Buffalo having a higher DVOA than the Chiefs in that group)
3. Beat the Patriots, Bengals, or Raiders at home or the Titans in Tennessee.
The point I am making is, given how bad the Titans are for a #1 seed (they are actually the worst ever by DVOA), means the path to the Super Bowl for the AFC likely runs through Kansas City (literally).
Because of how strong we think the Chiefs are as an AFC contender, as mentioned at the start, their lead RB is very likely to get the most rushing opportunities during the playoffs. Given that Clyde Edwards-Helaire sitting out of practice on Thursday means he likely won’t play, and it's very possible he misses time again/throughout the playoffs. Plus, we have passed the point where his value (while injured) may not be more than backup Darrel Williams, as is.
The bottom line, at +1000, you only need better than a 1% chance of this event happening to make it a positive EV bet, and we believe there is plenty of evidence here to back that up.
Bet: Darrel Williams MOST rushing yards in the postseason (+1000)
Best Bet #2: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills OVER 44 (or 43 by kickoff) (-110)
This is a bit of a unique play for us, as we are combining some of our typical angles but applying some new school methodology as well.
For starters, this game is being talked about in the media as a “terrible weather game”. Granted, it will be only three degrees and overcast, but the market typically overreacts to temperature and under-reacts to wind speed when it comes to totals, as Sharp Football explained this week. Summing up the article, temperature (believe it or not) doesn’t really affect games as much as we are told, yet the wind does. And with the forecast showing only marginal wind speeds, this is a play we are going to wait for the market to over-react, drop the number, and then pounce on the closing line value.
Beyond a base “market play”, mind you, we still have two teams that both have positive “Net Offense vs. Defense” ratings when you look at their PFF scores:
Between these two key factors, we really like this play at 43 or so, and if it does drop to 42, play it hard.
Bet: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills OVER 44 (-110)
Best Bet #3: Derek Carr UNDER longest completion 35.5 yards (-110)
This may be one of our favorite plays of the past few weeks. Carr and the Raiders offense has been explosive at times, but there seems to be a causal variable to that effect we can leverage.
Take a look at Derek Carr’s passing grade/ADOT (average depth of target) splits according to PFF when blitzed vs. not blitzed:
Not only has Carr graded far worse when the defense doesn’t bring pressure, but he seems to take far less shots.
Better yet, when blitzed and the defense plays man coverage (relative to non Blitz and zone coverage), take a look at the splits, thanks to our friends at SIS:
Clearly, Carr picks his spots, and those “spots” are high-leverage defensive calls, like blitzing while playing man coverage.
Why is all this important? According to TruMedia, the Bengals drop into zone coverage without a blitz on 60% of opponent dropbacks, the league’s eighth-highest rate. And as Ryan McCrystal noted for Sharp Football Analysis this week,
“It also appears as though the Bengals coaching staff knows this defensive look neuters the Raiders passing attack. In their Week 11 matchup, Cincinnati used the zone/no blitz combo on 76% of Carr’s dropbacks 一 the highest rate Carr faced all year, and the 29th highest rate any defense used in a game all season.”
Add it all up, and it seems we know when Carr takes shots (as do the Bengals), and he’s really not likely to do so vs. the Bengals. This all makes for a solid prop play.
Bet: Derek Carr UNDER longest completion 35.5 yards (-110)
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Ryan Newman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.