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.
The bye weeks are over. Every NFL team has now played exactly 10 games. To understand more fully how teams have performed, I’ve collected all the point spreads and game totals for Weeks 1-11 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 a team hits its Vegas-implied expectations in a game, that counts as a win; if a team fails to hit expectations, that’s a loss.
After scoring just seven points in the first half of Sunday Night Football in Week 11, the Eagles hung 30 on the Cowboys in the second half and all but clinched the NFC East. The extent to which the Eagles have dominated is almost inconceivable. They have an NFL-high 34 offensive touchdowns, 73.5 percent red zone conversion rate, and 32 PPG. They lead the league with a +7.35 Vegas Plus/Minus and have hit their implied total in nine of 10 games. Last year Carson Wentz had a bottom-four mark of 5.7 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A). This year Wentz has a top-four mark of 8.5.
The Cardinals have hit their Vegas expectations in a league-low two games — but one of those was last week with third-stringer Blaine Gabbert starting at quarterback. He had a cushy matchup against the challenged Texans (who have now allowed the most fantasy points to the position), so we shouldn’t be too excited by Gabbert’s performance, but he had a three-touchdown outing at limited ownership. Gabbert has been great as a cheap DFS play since leaving Jacksonville in 2014. He’ll struggle in a Week 12 #RevengeGame against the Jaguars (who have the No. 1 fantasy defense against quarterbacks), but he might be better for the Cardinals than Drew Stanton (knee), who is expected to back up Gabbert until he’s “totally healthy” (per head coach Bruce Arians).
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.
It seems almost unnecessary to talk about the #Sacksonville Jags at this point, but their defense warrants attention, ranking first with 14.1 PPG allowed and a +5.23 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. They entered Week 11 with an NFL-best 10.4 percent adjusted sack rate (Football Outsiders) and then got five more sacks, four of which came from stud defensive ends Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr., and Yannick Ngakoue. With a fearsome pass rush and four starting defensive backs with top-15 Pro Football Focus grades at their positions, the Jags defense has held opponents to a league-low 3.2 adjusted net yards per pass attempt. The last defense to have a better mark than Jacksonville’s 4.5 yards allowed per play was the Super Bowl-winning Broncos unit of 2015.
Speaking of the Broncos: They were No. 1 in defensive DVOA each of the past two seasons, but this year they (and especially the secondary) are getting destroyed by seemingly every quarterback on the planet — most notably Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler. The Broncos are unable to do anything on offense, which has given their defense a league-worst per-drive starting position at their own 35-yard line. The defense, though, hasn’t helped itself out. Although the Broncos have had a stout pass defense since the arrival of cornerback Aqib Talib in 2014, this year they’ve allowed the second-most touchdown passes with 22. An epic disappointment, the Broncos have lost six straight games, and their defense looks overmatched without former coordinator Wade Phillips. They are dead last with a -5.38 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus and have allowed opposing teams to hit their implied totals in a league-worst eight of 10 games.
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.
The Texans lead the league with a juicy +10.20 Over/Under Differential, but they have a 1-3 over/under record in the games not started by quarterback Deshaun Watson (knee). Their data should be ignored. While the Lions (+5.7), Titans (+4.2), and Redskins (+2.65) are first with seven games to hit the over, there is one team that has reliably driven games to the under: The Steelers (2-8). Even though they have an AFC-leading 8-2 NFL record, the Steelers have significantly underperformed on offense (-2.15 Vegas Plus/Minus), and on defense they have held opponents below their implied totals in a league-high eight of 10 games. Only the Jags have held opposing teams to fewer points than the Steelers (16.5 PPG). The past isn’t necessarily predictive of the future — the Steelers game on Thursday Night Football in Week 11 hit the over — 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.
What’s the point in noting that the Eagles are first with a +9.65 Spread Differential and 8-2 record against the spread (ATS)? You already know the Eagles are good. The Browns, however, are the opposite of good. Although they don’t have the league’s worst Spread Differential at -4.4, they do have the worst ATS record at 2-8: As they’ve done for many years, the Browns have shown a talent for losing games they could win (or at least cover). Under head coach Hue Jackson the Browns are 1-25 straight up. The good news? For the third-straight year, they’ll have a high draft pick they can choose not to use on a franchise quarterback.
The Week 12 Data Donkey
This weekend the Colts are +3.5 underdogs, they’re at home, and they’re facing a Titans team that has underperformed ATS even more than they have (-4.05 Spread Differential vs. -5.2). Burn your money.