Welcome back to The Combine Sports and another edition of the Bet of the Week article. It’s always nice to have a pressure-free bet that easily gets us to the winner’s circle, and that is precisely what the Houston Texans -4.5 granted us against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
In last week’s article, we talked about how even though the Texans are an overrated team by all statistical metrics, they would be able to effectively run the football against a Browns team that is ranked dead last in the NFL in defending explosive running plays. Lamar Miller carried the ball 19 times for 103 yards, and Alfred Blue added another 54 yards on the ground, which doesn’t include Blue’s 30-yard touchdown scamper that was taken back because of a penalty late in the game.
On the flip side of the ball, we were also accurately able to depict some of the potential struggles that Baker Mayfield might encounter on the day. The Texans came into the contest ranked second in the NFL in defending both explosive runs and passes and were the first quality defense that Mayfield had faced since his three-game explosion against the Chiefs, Falcons and Bengals, who were all ranked in the bottom four defending the run.
The ability for the Browns to get running back Nick Chubb going on the ground had been a significant advantage that Mayfield was using to get the offense performing through the air, and the inability to get a run game going put the young quarterback into some precarious positions that he had not faced in a few weeks. Mayfield’s 397 passing yards were impressive, but his three critical interceptions helped us to almost spot-on call the final score of 29-13. Hey, I predicted 30-13, you can’t be 100 percent right about everything!
The slate for Week 14 looks like a bomb went off when you first glance at some of the lines, but I believe there are some great value plays when you dive a little deeper. Early numbers show that the public bettors will be on the Chiefs, Texans, Saints, Patriots, Rams, Giants, Broncos, Cowboys and Seahawks, and the sports books will need the opposite of these games on Sunday and Monday. In the spirit of the holiday season, this week’s article will feature three games I will be covering as the bet(s) of the week. We might be rowdy as all hell here at the Combine Sports and on Santa’s naughty list, but the good little girls and boys that read this article deserve a couple of extra stocking stuffers this year. Without further ado, let’s get into our plays of the week.
Denver Broncos (-5.0) versus the San Francisco 49ers (+5.0) O/U 45.5
Part of successful gambling is making sure you get the best of the number. You aren’t always going to be accurate in gauging movements but trying to either get ahead of a line or waiting for the line to drift in your favor is a vital part of showing profit long-term.
These articles come out towards the end of the week, so it’s not always possible for us to beat the numbers on here. That is one reason why I have been trying to utilize my Twitter account to update potential movements that are going to run away from us as the week goes on. At the time of writing this, there are still some +4.5 and +5’s available in the market, but that price is on the steady decline for a couple of reasons. Key losses to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) and cornerback Chris Harris (leg) have forced the Broncos to make adjustments to their game plan for Sunday’s contest, and these two injuries are potential game-changers for Denver on both sides of the ball.
San Francisco brings with them a 2-10 record, but they aren’t metrically as bad as their win/loss total appears to state. The 49ers have outgained opponents this year and grade out as a top-15 team in a lot of efficiency statistics. What that goes and shows is that the Niners are losing games this season because of turnover mistakes and not with their on-field play production.
Before the injury to Emmanuel Sanders, Denver was still an extremely one-dimensional unit, ranking second in the NFL in run offense and a lousy 20th in passing. With the loss of Sanders, the team loses a wide receiver that was seeing a 23.8 percent target share. The next highest target share belongs to rookie Courtland Sutton, who has seen a 14.3 percent target rate — followed by Demaryius Thomas at 13.8 percent — and he only played eight weeks for the Broncos before getting traded to the Houston Texans. Neither Sanders or Thomas are walking through that door on Sunday, and the team is going to be without nearly 40 percent of their targets on the year.
The idea here is that if the Broncos can’t throw the football on the road, they are going to become a predictable offense that is going to try and rely on two rookie running backs to get the job done. Phillip Lindsay has been spectacular on the season, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt, but he isn’t a bruising back that is going to be able to carry the ball 20 plus times. Royce Freeman, on the other hand, has been awful and is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on almost 10 attempts per game in his past five contests.
When you start breaking down the 49ers from a statistical standpoint, they are quite impressive, at least when compared to their record. They allow only 46 percent of runs to be successful — ranking them 11th in the NFL and just 44 percent of passes — good for fifth best in the league. The Niners also rank 12th in explosive run plays allowed on defense, which should prevent some of the quick-hitters that Lindsay will be looking to execute on Sunday.
The 49ers are less equipped offensively, but they are not immune to a big play or two themselves, ranking fifth in explosive runs and sixth in explosive passes. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is projected to be active after missing the previous two weeks, and his big-play ability has the potential to break open the game versus a Denver defense that ranks 25th in the NFL in allowing explosive passes. Goodwin is averaging 19.9 yards per catch and might be able to bust loose from a Denver unit that will be susceptible to the deep ball without their best defender Chris Harris.
Rowdy Bold Prediction: San Francisco 24 – Denver 20
Recommended Bet: San Francisco (+5.0)
Indianapolis Colts (+5.0) versus the Houston Texans (-5.0) O/U 50.0
A week removed from our Houston Texans selection over the Cleveland Browns, we will go back to the drawing board again with a pick involving this team. I don’t want to sound like a broken record spitting out the same statistical data as I did last week with the Texans because not much has changed with their metrics, so I’ll try to avoid being redundant while still getting the point across.
A lot of the critical factors that we ignored with the Texans in Week 13 will be the same determinants of why I believe the Colts are live dogs to spring the upset on Sunday. Houston found themselves in a prime position against Cleveland of being a runaway freight train versus a rookie quarterback that was a deer in headlights against the vaunted Texans front four. And that is to take nothing away from Baker Mayfield, but it was an excellent spot for Houston to continue their winning ways against a young offense.
No matter how you want to shake it, the Texans are an overrated team that has overachieved so far this year. Nine wins in a row after starting 0-3 is impressive, but there’s still a lot to be concerned about going forward. Houston ranks just 21st in offensive efficiency and 30th in adjusted sack rate with their offensive line. And while Indianapolis isn’t going to be a team that will apply a ton of pressure to Deshaun Watson –and I think Watson can have some success in the game — the Colts grade out as the 11th most efficient defense in football and are inside the top-10 in limiting both explosive runs and passes.
It’s tough to make a convincing argument for the Colts after they were shut out for the first time in Andrew Luck’s career last week in Jacksonville, but if you break down some of the significant plays to that game, you realize that Indianapolis missed a handful of opportunities that would have completely altered the outcome. For starters, Luck threw an interception inside the Jaguars 20-yard line on the first drive of the game, and the team also missed two critical fourth down situations — one where they decided to punt from midfield instead of going for it on fourth and one, and the other involved Indy getting stopped on fourth and goal from the two-yard line. Those are critical plays that will swing a game away from you, especially if you are on the wrong side of all of these results.
Ironically, the Texans had a completely different experience on Sunday. Cleveland managed to average 8.2 yards per play against them but outside of the 13 points they scored, the team faltered during the five other possessions inside Houston territory, coming away with zero points during those drives. The same could even be said when the Texans were able to beat the Tennessee Titans 34-17 the week before that. Marcus Mariota completed 22-23 attempts, and the game swung when the Titans failed to convert on a 4th and 1 from the one-yard line, inexplicably giving the ball to their tight end instead of Derrick Henry.
Houston has faced the second easiest schedule on the season against opposing offenses, and Indianapolis won’t be the pushover that some of these teams have shown to be. The Colts rank second in adjusted sack rate with their offensive line and grade out inside the top-10 in both run and pass success rate. The Texans are rated 16th in defensive success rate against the pass, so Luck will have a chance to thrive against a questionable secondary.
The lookahead line for this game was Houston -3 last week, and there has been nothing to warrant this movement outside of last week’s results. Indianapolis is ranked ninth in the NFL with a 65.9 percent touchdown conversion rate inside the red zone as where the Texans come in at just 25th overall at 48.9 percent. Defensively, the numbers remain just about the same. The Colts prevent a touchdown 50 percent of the time — good for sixth best in the league, and the Texans are allowing a whopping 71 percent of drives to end in a score — ranking 27th overall. I believe that Houston sees their win streak come to an end this weekend at the hands of Andrew Luck.
Rowdy Bold Prediction: Indianapolis 31 – Houston 27
Recommended Bet: Indianapolis (+5.0)
Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) versus the Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) O/U 43.0
Our last bet of the day keeps us in the state of Texas for the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Dallas Cowboys. These two teams met on November 11th in a game that saw the Cowboys steal a road victory 27-20. The contest only produced 26 points in the first three quarters but erupted for 21 points in the fourth quarter to eek past the total of 46.
The Eagles have provided a 1-6 over record this season at home, and the aforementioned first meeting was the only game of theirs that has gone over the total. However, Philadelphia has been a much different team on the road this season. Not counting the London game versus Jacksonville, the Eagles are 3-1 on overs and haven’t played in a game that has provided less than 47 points this year away from Lincoln Financial Field.
The Cowboys are the exact opposite of that trend. They are 1-5 on the road to the over this year, with the first meeting resulting in the only over they have played away from home. Nevertheless, though, Dallas games have gone over in four of the six matchups held inside their building. Both of those trends are a good sign towards the over on Sunday, but let’s dive a little deeper into the matchup to see if statistics agree with the results that have been yielded.
Sharp bettors have been ahead of the market when it comes to the Eagles secondary. Injuries have ravished the team, and if it wasn’t for Colt McCoy exiting Monday’s game and having Mark Sanchez replace him, we were looking at a potential shootout on our hands. We instead landed under the total because of an anemic performance by Washington, but Philadelphia could have provided a 40-point outburst of their own if they weren’t held to zero points on two separate occasions inside the Redskins five-yard line.
The most impressive improvement for the Eagles has been the play from Carson Wentz. The 25-year-old got off to a slow start this season after suffering a torn ACL towards the end of last year but is beginning to look like his usual self. Wentz has shown more willingness to move outside the pocket and push the ball down the field for big chunk plays, which would help to explain their sudden rise into the top-12 in offensive success rate in passing (12th) and rushing (11th).
Dallas has been experiencing a renaissance of their own here as of late. If we only look at the Cowboys since the acquisition of Amari Cooper, they have increased their passing success rate from 27th in the league to 13th. However, the perception around Dallas’ defense is going to be what drives people to the window to bet the under. The Cowboys have held teams to just 17.5 points per game in the past four contests, which includes keeping the Saints to only 10 points last Thursday.
But statistics don’t always tell the whole story. In the same four-week span, the Cowboys have graded out 21st in pass rate success defense and 25th in rush rate success defense, allowing 7.2 yards through the air per play and 4.4 yards on the ground. Sean Lee (hamstring) is on the wrong side of questionable for Sunday’s game, but his return would help the Cowboys defend the tight end position. Zach Ertz exploded with 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in their first meeting and will be a difficult matchup for the Cowboys to defend if Lee isn’t active. Dallas currently allows the sixth most receptions to tight ends this year.
For all intents and purposes, this is an elimination game in the NFC that should allow both teams to play with urgency and aggressiveness. Wentz is going to have to be aggressive to keep this game competitive, and the Cowboys should be able to do just about anything they want when they have the ball. I am not a huge over bettor historically but am very encouraged by the way this game sets up for points to hit the board. I would anticipate this number creeping up as the week goes on and wouldn’t wait long to get my wager placed.
Rowdy Bold Prediction: Dallas 27 – Philadelphia 24
Recommended Bet: Over 43 Points