5 for 5 - Week 1, 2018
Five reasons for five picks, and the first out (6th).
Here are the lines, pulled from the Westgate Super Contest (and from very fun personal versions with good friends).
Week 1 Lines
Note: the Westgate posts these Wednesday night and players must submit by Saturday at 11am MST (Vegas has clocks?), so there may be some funky lines as the week goes on.
5 for 5
1. Cleveland +3.5 (Pit)
There is no sense saving the best for last. Let's get after 2018 with a bang. I certainly wish Westgate gave Cle more than 3.5 (as of writing most books are still 4.5), but it appears they anticipating Cle money on Sunday.
1 - Pit has a new offense coordinator and so does Clear, which happens to be Pit's former O-coordinator
2 - Cle covered both games against Pit last year. Pit still won both meetings of course, but only by 3 (in Cle) and 4 (in Pit) points
3 - The weather will likely be windy and raining, slowing down everything. That helps new Brown, Tyrod Taylor, and his conservative style more than Big Ben, who doesn't mind throwing a few more aggressive balls
4 - Pit tends to play to the opponents competition, especially on the road
5 - Cle has a good run defense and the rain will holdup Pit's passing attack
2. Cincinnati +3 (@ Ind)
1 - Ind was dead last in defensive passing DVOA last year and Cin has good WRs
2 - Ind has a new coach and a new scheme to learn while Cin (for better or worse) has the same coach and core players in place
3 - Dalton is playing well; albeit it was preseason but he is dealing over 10 yards per attempt (Note: upon further review, most of that was versus Buffalo... that is still good to Dalton throwing well but not as great as once thought. Regarding Buffalo, we will get to them soon)
4 - Cin has Geno Atkins versus an Ind line that ranked dead last in Adjusted Sack Rate last year (Luck will be under heavy, heavy pressure)
5 - Luck hasn't played in an NFL game since 2016, as good as he was at certain times, he will be rusty
3. New Orleans -9.5 (Tam)
Not a fan of big favorites, especially in week 1, but I honestly believe this line should be closer to 13 or 14. If it were played in a month, after Tam could easily go 0-4, I think it would be. Check out their schedule, it is NOT easy, and hard to find wins for Tam. It also explains at least part of the reason why Dirk Koetter is the favorite for the first coach to be fired prop.
1 - The O- and D-Line comparison from earlier this week heavily favors NO's line over Tam
2 (# 1 part 2) - The last point was more of a comparison, but in the raw numbers from FootballOutsiders.com, NO's O-Line was second in the league in ALY and Adjusted Sack Rate while on the defensive side Tam's was 20th in ALY and dead last in Adjusted Sack Rate
3 (# 1 part 3) - What do the first two points partially mean? NO will be able to run the ball and Brees will have plenty of time to throw the ball.
4 - Tam was 31st in defensive passing DVOA last year
5 - Fiztpatrick vs Brees
4. Kansas City +3.5 (@ LAC)
1 - LAC had the 7th best Adjusted Sack Rate last year but Joey Bosa is not playing in this game
2 - Andy Reid is underrated, especially after a long offseason when everyone is talking about new coaches, but has gone 4-1 in season openers as KC's head coach
3 - KC has won the last 8 games against SD / LAC (4 years running), with Reid being 8-2 (lost first two and hasn't looked back since)
4 - Mahomes took over for Alex Smith, who was really good last season (8.0 YPA, second to only Drew Brees), which was likely a roster and age move but you can' help but wonder if talent is a big part
5 - LAC doesn't have a lot of tape to prepare for him. Yes, in a data driven blog this is a weak argument, but I do believe an offensive coach with young talent that a D-coordinator doesn't have tape on is at least some kind of advantage but understandably this has concerns - see counterpoint below:
Counterpoint - KC did not have a good defense last year, ranking 30th, and dead last in rush defense DVOA; Mahomes is also a rookie and likely to make a few big mistakes
5. Chicago +7.5 (@ GB)
1 - Chi's D-Line was 8th in Adjusted sack rate last year, then they added Khalil Mack...
2 - GB should be able to run the ball well (5th in ALY) but their O-Line Adjusted Sack Rate was 28th last year
3 - Building off the last point, whoever gets the lead is in the drivers seat more than normal (GB can run the ball if ahead but will have to face a strong pass rush if they fall behind), and I think new coach Matt Nagy (previously KC's O-coordinator) will be more aggressive early and thus likely to get the lead
4 - Rodgers may be human after all: as detailed in the FootballOutsiders.com's 2018 Almanac, there is a staggering contrast in Rodgers YPA across various splits in 2009-2014 versus 2015-2017 where he used to rank #1 or in top 3 then drop into the teens and 20s. Note, 2015 and 2017 were injury years and could be a significant factor as Rodgers was 17th, 6th, and 28th in FootballOutsiders.com's DYAR QB ratings in those respective years
5 - A slow game, with lots of runs, and +7.5 is a lot; with GB likely being able to run the ball, if they get a lead they will eat up time and shorten the game; Chi is a great unknown with new coach Nagy, but as stated earlier, I think Nagy will be aggressive and keep it close
Counterpoint - It's in Lambeau, Chi hasn't beat GB since 2015, and more importantly: Trubisky vs Rodgers... dang it. I understand if you ignore this pick...
The 6th / First Out - Oakland +4 (LAR)
1 - All three of the experts on Gill Alexander's 'Beating the Book' podcast's week 1 MegaPod went with Oak
2 - Home dog in MNF; even on bad teams, players get up for primetime games (Nobody believes in us!)
3 - Oak as they appear to be a dumpster fire: Mack trade, waiving Martavius Bryant (Nobody believes in us!!!)
4 - Oak wants to prove they are good without Khalil Mack, i.e. a great Ewing Theory game (they still don't believe in us!!!!!)