The Vegas Report provides a quick snapshot of year-to-date Vegas trends and their daily fantasy implications for the week’s slate of NFL games. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
Every NFL team (except for the Lions and Packers, who play on Monday night) has played at least eight games, and some teams have played nine. There are officially fewer games to play in the regular season than games already played. With nine weeks of data (again, minus the Lions-Packers game on Monday night), we should have a solid sense of all 32 teams. To understand more fully how teams have performed, I’ve collected all the point spreads and game totals for Weeks 1-9 and put them next to the production data so we can see how teams have done vis-à-vis Vegas.
I’ve created a Vegas Plus/Minus metric (similar to our proprietary daily fantasy Plus/Minus metric) that compares actual production in points per game (PPG) with the totals implied by the Vegas data. A positive number means that a team scores more points than its implied total; a negative number, fewer points. If in a game a team hits its Vegas-implied expectations, that counts as a win; if a team fails to hit expectations, that’s a loss.
After their 51-17 annihilation of the Giants in Week 9, the Rams lead the league with 32.88 PPG and a +9.81 Vegas Plus/Minus. For Week 10 the Rams are implied for a slate-high 29.25 points as -11.5 home favorites against the Texans, whose data without world-beating rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson (knee) can be ignored. The Eagles have most consistently outperformed their Vegas expectations with their 8-1 implied record. That quarterback Carson Wentz had such low ownership in Week 9 is ridiculous. For a forward-looking review of Wentz’s Week 9 usage, see this week’s Forward Pass.
The Dolphins are last in the league with 14.5 PPG and a -6.28 Vegas Plus/Minus — and they just traded away their best player in running back Jay Ajayi to teach him a lesson. In his first game with the Eagles, Ajayi turned eight carries into 77 yards and a touchdown as the team scored 51 points. Lesson learned: The ‘Fins suck. In quarterback Tom Savage‘s two starts, the Texans have averaged 10.5 PPG for a horrid -13.13 Vegas Plus/Minus — and Savage’s Week 9 start came against a Colts defense allowing the most PPG in the league: Without Watson, the Texans also suck.
Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus
When thinking about game script, spreads, and over/unders, we should take defensive performance into account, so I’ve created a Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. A positive number means that a team allows fewer points than its opponent’s implied total; a negative number, more points. If a team holds an opponent below its implied total, that’s a win; if a team allows an opponent to hit expectations, that’s a loss.
The #Sacksonville Jaguars are first in the league with 14.63 PPG allowed and a +5.47 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. Defensive ends Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr., and Yannick Ngakoue have combined for 23 sacks, weakside linebacker Telvin Smith is Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 run defender at his position, and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are both top-10 PFF cover men. The Jags defense is legit — as is the Chargers defense, which is second with a +4.91 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. As the football gawds have it, the Jags host the Chargers in Week 10. The total for that game — 41.5 points — is one of the lowest totals on the slate for good reason.
The Colts have given up the most points this season with 28.89 PPG allowed, but the team that has most underperformed its defensive Vegas expectations is not the Colts but rather the almighty Denver Broncos, who have a -4.53 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. The Broncos defense isn’t bad, but it misses former coordinator Wade Phillips, who has turned the Rams defense into a top-10 unit. While the Broncos have an inflated Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus because of the 51 points allowed to the Eagles in Week 9, they are last in the league with a 2-6 defensive implied record. To this point, the Broncos haven’t just been a team not to fear: They’ve quietly been a team to target with offensive players.
Offensive production within an NFL contest is often correlated across teams. As a result, many sharp DFS players stack games (instead of just teams) in guaranteed prize pools. To highlight teams that tend to play in games that fall short of or surpass the Vegas total, I’ve created an Over/Under Differential metric. A positive number means that a team on average participates in games that hit the over; a negative number, the under.
Sadly, we should ignore that the Texans lead the league with a 54.63-point game total and +11.63 Over/Under Differential. Without Watson, the Houston Savages (think “Van Hagar” — except with no hits) have a low 35.0-point game total and -6.5 Over/Under Differential. Those numbers might improve as Savage accrues more practice and playing time, but the Texans are very much not themselves without Watson.
While the Chargers have a league-worst -8.25 Over/Under Differential — again, pay attention to the Week 10 total for the Chargers-Jags game — it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their Week 9 bye who are last in the league with a 1-7 over/under record. With a defense that allows the second-fewest PPG (16.38) and an offense that owns a bottom-eight Vegas Plus/Minus (-3.38), the Steelers might offer some value to under bettors in the second half of the season.
The point spread is the go-to number for Vegas and DFS, as it is predictive of game script and outcome. I’ve created a Spread Differential metric so we can see how teams have done on a PPG basis relative to the spread. A positive number means that a team on average overperforms the spread; a negative number, underperforms.
The Rams and Jags are the only teams in the league with double-digit Spread Differentials (+11.75 and +11.5), but both have been inconsistent, winning multiple games by at least three touchdowns and creating defensive scores but losing some games they perhaps should’ve won. The Eagles, though, have been much more consistent, leading the league with the 7-2 record against the spread (ATS) and ranking third with their +8.28 Spread Differential. With a +6.5 Spread Differential and 6-2 ATS record, the Saints have been a top-four Vegas team through the first half of the season. Riding a six-game winning streak and relying on the running game, this year’s team looks very much like the Super Bowl-winning Saints squad of 2009.
The Cardinals are last in the league with their -8.25 Spread Differential and are without their starting quarterback and running back in Carson Palmer and David Johnson, neither of whom is likely to return this year. The Cardinals are lucky to be 2-6 ATS. Their two Vegas victories have come against the Buccaneers and the 49ers. The Bucs have a league-worst 1-6-1 ATS record, and the Niners have a league-worst 0-9 straight-up record. The Cardinals host the Seahawks this week as +5.5 dogs on Thursday Night Football. It will be hard to trust a 33-year-old backup quarterback in Drew Stanton, a 32-year-old running back who’s still learning the offense in Adrian Peterson, and a 34-year-old slow-moving slot receiver in Larry Fitzgerald with limited time to recuperate and prepare for a Seattle team looking to bounce back from an embarrassing 14-17 home loss. If I were to bet this game, I doubt I’d pick the Cardinals.