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 has played at least nine games, and some teams have played 10. To understand more fully how teams have performed, I’ve collected all the point spreads and game totals for Weeks 1-10 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.
The Rams are first with 32.89 PPG and a +9.22 Vegas Plus/Minus; the Eagles are second with 31.44 and a +7.06. Quarterbacked by Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the top picks of the 2016 NFL draft, the Rams and Eagles are both in the running for first-round playoff byes in the NFC, and when they meet in Week 14 the No. 1 seed could be at stake. The Rams (7-2) play the Vikings (7-2), Saints (7-2), and Cardinals (4-5) over the next three weeks. The Eagles (8-1) play the Cowboys (5-4), Bears (3-6), and Seahawks (6-3). As Lysander says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the course to Week 14 never did run smooth. The Rams are +2.5 road dogs this week; the Eagles, -3.5 road favorites.
As was the case last week, the Dolphins are last in the league with 15.22 PPG and a -4.94 Vegas Plus/Minus. On the bright side, at least the NFL hasn’t made the egregious mistake of airing Dolphins games on prime time three weeks in a row . . . checking the schedule . . . never mind. Bottom line: The Dolphins are much worse than their 4-5 record. The Texans are also presently horrible. Without the greatest rookie of all time starting at quarterback, they have predictably stagnated. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is always in play, but in three starts by Tom Savage the Texans have averaged just 9.33 PPG and a -11.92 Vegas Plus/Minus. As bad as Savage has looked, he’s been worse.
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.
Last week I highlighted the dominance of the #Sacksonville Jaguars, whose defensive unit is led by cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Like the Jags, the Saints defense is also fortified by a pair of strong corners: First-round stud rookie Marshon Lattimore and undrafted second-year surprise Ken Crawley. Lattimore is Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 cornerback, and Crawley is ranked No. 18. With Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor rushing quarterbacks from the edges, the Saints pass defense has improved dramatically. Last year, the Saints were 30th against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA); this year, the Saints are fourth. After their 47-10 road victory over the Bills, the Saints are first in the league with a +5.5 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. Given the market expectations, the Saints defense has been the league’s most undervalued unit.
Last week I also highlighted the Broncos, and on the Week 10 Daily Fantasy Flex I noted that the Denver defense is no longer one to be afraid of for the purposes of fantasy — and then the Patriots scored 41 points against the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. After ranking first in defensive DVOA each of the last two years, the Broncos have allowed 92 points over the last two weeks. They are easily dead last with a -5.69 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus and have allowed opposing teams to hit their implied totals in a league-worst seven of nine games. The Broncos almost certainly aren’t as bad as their 26.56 PPG allowed might suggest — but without former coordinator Wade Phillips their defense has massively underperformed.
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.
While a number of teams have over/under records of 6-3 or 6-4, there is one team that has reliably driven games to the under: The Steelers (1-8). Even though they have an AFC-leading 7-2 NFL record, the Steelers have significantly underperformed on offense, hitting their implied total in just three of nine games and owning a bottom-six Vegas Plus/Minus of -3.97. Their defense, though, has been strong. Only the Jags have held opposing teams to fewer points than the Steelers (16.44 PPG), and no team has held opponents below their implied totals more often (seven of nine games). The past isn’t necessarily predictive of the future — but the market has been slooow to adjust to the Steelers.
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.
Unsurprisingly the four highest Spread Differentials belong to the aforementioned Rams, Jaguars, Saints, and Eagles. The team with the fifth-highest mark is the Lions (+4.39), who are competing for a playoff spot at 5-4. Even though people believe otherwise, Jim Caldwell is a competent coach. In his five years without Caldwell, quarterback Matthew Stafford averaged 6.5 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A). In his three-plus years with him, he’s averaged a 7.3 AY/A. Caldwell is 32-25 with the Lions, whom he’s twice taken to the playoffs. In the 15 years before Caldwell’s arrival, five coaches and two interim coaches led the team to a 77-163 record (including one 0-16 season) and only two playoff appearances. Only twice have the Lions scored fewer than 24 points, and only thrice have they allowed more than 24. They’re not a real Super Bowl contender, but they have been one of the most discounted teams through 10 weeks.