Vegas Outliers (formerly 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 12 games, and we’re officially entering the last quarter of the season. To understand more fully how teams have performed vis-à-vis Vegas, I’ve collected the point spreads and game totals for Weeks 1-13 and put them next to the year-to-date production data.
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.
Tied at the top of the league with 361 points apiece, the Rams and Eagles face each other this week in a game with major playoff implications. The Rams are -2.0 home favorites, and after their 32-point outing against the Cardinals in Arizona they now lead the league with a +6.00 Vegas Plus/Minus. In second are the Eagles (+5.06), who fell short last week but have still hit their Vegas expectations in a league-high 10 of 12 games. With a 50.5-point over/under, this could be one of the games of the year — yet 70 percent of the tickets as of writing are on the under: The Rams and Eagles are holding opponents to 18.50 and 17.92 PPG. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is priced as if the game will shoot out: He’s the most expensive passer of the Week 14 main slate.
The Falcons have hit expectations in six of 12 games, and yet they’re last in the league with a -3.63 Vegas Plus/Minus. The No. 1 scoring offense last year with 33.75 PPG, the Falcons have underwhelmed this year: When they’ve failed to hit value, they’ve really failed. Speaking of failure: The Texans are awful with Tom Savage at quarterback, averaging 14.67 PPG and a -4.96 Vegas Plus/Minus. That DeAndre Hopkins is the most expensive receiver of the main slate is a testament to his greatness — and the power of massive target volume.
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 Chargers are crushing. They’ve won six of their past eight games, holding opponents to just 14.88 PPG in that span. For the season they lead the league with a +4.81 Opponent Plus/Minus. The Chargers have Pro Football Focus’ two highest-ranked edge pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and even without No. 1 cornerback Jason Verrett (knee, Injured Reserve) the Chargers have three starting corners in Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King with top-12 PFF grades at the position. Now in a three-way tie atop the AFC West, the Chargers have a real chance to make the postseason after their 0-4 start. The Chargers have held opponents below their implied Vegas expectations in a league-high nine of 12 games.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Broncos, whose demise if anything has been exaggeratedly underreported. Last week they visited the Dolphins, who entered the matchup with a league-low -4.09 Vegas Plus/Minus — and then the ‘Fins scored 35 points. There’s no getting around this: The Broncos are bad. They were No. 1 in pass defense each of the past two seasons (Football Outsiders), but this year they’ve allowed an NFL-high 26 touchdowns receiving. Their defense is overmatched without former coordinator Wade Phillips, and they are dead last with a -5.63 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. With an 0-8 eight record since their Week 4 bye, the Broncos have allowed opposing teams to hit their implied totals in a league-worst nine of 12 games. The Broncos are now +1.0 home dogs against the Jets after opening as -1.0 favorites.
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 +8.00 Over/Under Differential, but that number contains data from the 6.5 games quarterbacked by Deshaun Watson and is no longer representative. In the six games started by Savage the Texas have a 1-5 over/under record. The Lions are first with their 9-3 over/under record and second (behind the Texans) with their +7.08 Over/Under Differential. The Lions have hit their implied total in an elite nine of 12 games, but their defense has allowed a high 25.67 PPG. The combination of those two units could continue to drive Lions games to the over. Small sample alert: In Blaine Gabbert‘s three games as the starting quarterback, the Cardinals have a +10.83 Over/Under Differential with a 3-0 over/under record. The Titans-Cardinals game this week has a 44.0-point game total: 67 percent of the tickets are on the under.
The Chargers (-5.13) and Falcons (-5.08) unsurprisingly have the league’s lowest Over/Under Differentials: No team has defensively outperformed expectations more than the Chargers or offensively underperformed more than the Falcons have. The team with the third-lowest mark is the Bears (-4.29). Averaging just 15.92 PPG, they have hit their implied expectations in a league-low three games. With Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, the Bears have somehow been even worse than they were with Mike Glennon, averaging a -4.63 Over/Under Differential.
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 (+8.67) and Eagles (+7.75) are first and third in Spread Differentials. Coming in second are the Jaguars (+7.92), who have benefited from a ridiculous NFL-high seven non-offensive touchdowns. The Jags have a great pass defense — they have a league-high 45 sacks and have allowed a league-low 10 touchdowns receiving — but their Spread Differential is inflated relative to their 7-5 record against the spread (ATS).
It’s hard to determine which team is more pathetic: The Broncos or Texans. The Broncos are on an unreal eight-game ATS losing streak and have a -9.17 Spread Differential. In Savage’s starts, the Texans have a -8.25 Spread Differential. Brock Osweiler is on the Broncos, so that’s a point against them — but the Texans gave him a four-year, $72 million deal in the first place, so . . . they both suck.
The Week 14 Data Donkey Dogs
The 49ers are +2.5 road dogs in Houston. They have a -1.92 Spread Differential. As mentioned previously, the Texans have a -8.25 in Savage’s starts.
The Bears are +7.0 road dogs against the Bengals, who have a -1.92 Spread Differential. The Bears have a -0.50 with Trubisky at quarterback.
The Browns are +3.5 home dogs against the Packers. The Browns have a -3.83 Spread Differential; the Packers, a -3.93 with Brett Hundley at quarterback.
The Cardinals are +3.0 home dogs against the Titans, who have a -3.92 Spread Differential. The Cards with Gabbert have a -2.17.
The Ravens are +7.5 road dogs against the Steelers. The Ravens have a +4.88 Spread Differential. The Steelers have a -0.67.
Burn your money.