Vegas Outliers 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 13 games, and the various races for division championships and playoff spots are in full swing. To understand how teams have performed vis-à-vis Vegas, I’ve collected the point spreads and game totals for Weeks 1-14 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.
Even with their 43-35 loss to the Eagles, the Rams are first in the league with a +6.44 Vegas Plus/Minus and second with 30.46 PPG. They’ve hit their implied Vegas expectations in a near-elite nine games, but they failed to do so earlier in the year against the Seahawks, who held them to just 10 points. The Seahawks are -2.0 home favorites this week against the Rams and have received the majority of the spread bets, but the Seattle defense is in quiet disarray: Defensive end Cliff Avril (neck), cornerback Richard Sherman (Achilles), and safety Kam Chancellor (neck) are on Injured Reserve, and linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) exited Week 14 early and are questionable for Week 15. Even though the Rams have one of the most explosive offenses in the league and are expected to get back wide receiver Robert Woods (shoulder), they could be a contrarian team to stack. Running back Todd Gurley leads the league with 13 touchdowns from scrimmage and could benefit significantly if Wagner and Wright are out.
The NFL season is a beast of many colors. The Falcons are last in the league with a -3.88 Vegas Plus/Minus, but their 6-7 expectation record is just about average. The Cardinals are last in the league at 3-10, but they’re a much improved 2-2 in the four games with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. The Texans are somehow still fifth with a +3.96 Vegas Plus/Minus, but they’re dead last at -5.29 in the seven games not started by rookie phenom Deshaun Watson. Quarterback Tom Savage (concussion) is expected to miss Week 15, which means that third-stringer for life T.J. Yates will get the start. Although Yates was good in relief against the woeful 49ers secondary, throwing two touchdowns to all-world wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, he will face a much tougher opponent this week when the Texans travel to #Sacksonville to face the Jaguars, who are -11.5 favorites.
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.
I highlight the Chargers each week, but they continue to impress. They’ve won seven of their past nine games, holding opponents to just 14.67 PPG in that span. For the season they lead the league with a +5.00 Opponent Plus/Minus. The Chargers have two of Pro Football Focus’ three top edge 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-10 PFF grades at the position. The Chargers are tied atop the AFC West with the Chiefs at 7-6, and they face each other this week in Kansas City, where the Chiefs were -1.0 favorites before the line moved to Chargers -2.0. The Chiefs have averaged 32 PPG since giving play-calling duties to Matt Nagy in Week 13, but the Chargers have held opponents below their implied Vegas expectations in a league-high 10 games.
Even after their 23-0 injury-aided home victory over Josh McCown and the Jets, the Broncos are still easily last in the league with a -3.60 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. The Denver defense probably isn’t as bad as it has seemed this season — it hasn’t been helped by the offense’s inability to sustain drives — but the defense has still disappointed. The Broncos 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 have allowed opposing teams to hit their implied totals in a league-worst nine games. The Broncos are -2.5 road favorites against the Colts on Thursday Night Football and have gotten 73 percent of the early spread bets. Now might be a good time to mention that the Broncos are 0-6 straight up on the road this year with 30.5 PPG allowed.
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 +7.12 Over/Under Differential, but that number contains data from the 6.5 games with Watson and is no longer representative. In the seven games started by Savage (a.k.a. “not Watson”) the Texas have a 1-6 over/under record. After the Texans are the Lions with their +6.35 Over/Under Differential. The Lions have a league-best 9-4 over/under record, and their combination of top-five offense (26 PPG) and bottom-five defense (25.31 PPG allowed) is conducive to high-scoring games. The Packers also have an over/under record of 9-4, aided by the 4-1 mark they amassed in the first five games of the season with Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), who is eligible to return from IR this week. Rodgers has reportedly looked good in practice, and he’s expected to play if everything checks out with his CT scan.
The Falcons (-5.81) and Chargers (-5.00) have the league’s lowest Over/Under Differentials: No team has offensively underperformed expectations more than the Falcons or defensively overperformed more than the Chargers have. The team with the third-lowest mark is the Bears (-4.00). In their nine games with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, the Bears have a 3-6 over/under record. This week the Lions host the Bears. It will be fascinating to see which is stronger: Detroit’s willingness to allow points or Chicago’s struggle to score.
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 Eagles are first with a +7.69 Spread Differential, and they also lead the league with 31.08 PPG and an 11-2 record, but quarterback Carson Wentz (knee) suffered a season-ending injury against the Rams last week. While backup Nick Foles might be better than people expect, Philadelphia’s odds of winning the Super Bowl have decreased. Coming in second are the Jaguars (+7.54), who have benefited from a ridiculous NFL-high seven non-offensive touchdowns. The Jags have a great pass defense — they have a league-high 47 sacks and two of PFF’s top-four coverage corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye — but their Spread Differential is probably inflated.
It’s hard to determine which team is more pathetic: The Broncos, Texans, or Browns. The Broncos on the season have a -6.62 Spread Differential. In games started by Savage the Texans have a -8.64 Spread Differential, and it’s doubtful that Yates will be an upgrade at the quarterback position. And the Browns are last with a 3-10 record against the spread. At least Hue Jackson has a shot to become the first head coach in history to convince his team’s owner that he’s not to blame for a winless campaign.
The Week 15 Data Donkey Dogs
As I just highlighted, the Broncos are last in the league with a -6.62 Spread Differential. With Jacoby Brissett at quarterback the Colts have a -1.71. The Colts are +2.5 home underdogs on TNF — and remember that the Broncos are 0-6 straight up away from Denver.
The Bears are +5.5 road dogs against the Lions, who have a +1.27 Spread Differential. The Bears have a +3.11 with Trubisky at quarterback.
The Redskins have a -2.46 Spread Differential, while the Cardinals have a +0.25 mark with Gabbert. The Cardinals are +4.5 road dogs.
The Packers have a +3.00 Spread Differential — with Rodgers at quarterback. The Panthers have a +2.00. The Packers are +2.5 road dogs.
The Rams have a +7.46 Spread Differential; the Seahawks, +1.31. The Rams are +2.0 road dogs.
Burn your money.