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.
The last week of the regular season is finally here. To understand how teams have performed vis-à-vis Vegas, I’ve collected the point spreads and game totals for Weeks 1-16 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.
The Rams are first in the league with 31.0 PPG and a +6.85 Vegas Plus/Minus. They’ve hit their implied Vegas expectations in a near-elite 11 games. Not even the loss of Pro Bowl kicker and should-be MVP Greg Zuerlein (back, Injured Reserve) could keep the Rams from hitting expectations in Week 16. Even though they can’t advance past the No. 3 seed, the Rams are still playing to win this week, and they’re -4.0 home favorites against the 49ers. The 49ers have been better against the running game in the second half of the season with the presence of stud rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, but they’ve still allowed 2,251 scrimmage yards to opposing backfields (eighth-most overall), and MVP candidate Todd Gurley leads the league with 2,093 total yards. This game could be full of fantasy goodness, as the 49ers themselves have a +6.25 Vegas Plus/Minus in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s four starts.
After yet another underwhelming performance, the Falcons are last in the league with a -4.33 Vegas Plus/Minus. Quarterback Matt Ryan is yet to pass for more than two touchdowns in any game. They’re -4.0 home favorites against the Panthers and are implied for 25.25 points. A win gets them into the playoffs, so the Falcons are motivated — but I wouldn’t bet on them to hit their Vegas expectation. Joining the Falcons in the basement are the Texans, who are sixth overall with a +2.10 but dead last at -6.33 (and 13.0 PPG) in the nine games not started by rookie phenom Deshaun Watson. The Colts don’t have a great defense, but the Texans will likely have a hard time hitting the 18.5 points for which they’re implied on the road.
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.
Unsurprisingly, the Chargers still lead the league with a +4.63 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus after holding the Jets to seven points in Week 16. There’s not much to say about them: Their pass defense is amazing. They have two edge defenders in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram with top-four pass rushing Pro Football Focus grades and three starting corners in Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King with top-12 PFF coverage grades — and that’s without No. 1 cornerback Jason Verrett (knee, IR). The Chargers need a win (and some external help) to make the postseason, and they have held opponents below their Vegas expectations in a league-high 11 games. The unmotivated Raiders on the road could struggle to hit the 17.5 points for which they’re implied against the Chargers.
The Texans are all sorts of horrible, last in the league with a -4.57 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. The Texans have been a mess on defense since pass rushers J.J. Watt (leg) and Whitney Mercilus (pectoral) were both lost for the season in the first half of Week 5. It doesn’t help the defense that the offense can’t sustain drives without Watson. The Texans have allowed top-three fantasy marks to quarterbacks with 21.4 DraftKings and 19.8 FanDuel PPG. The Colts at home are intriguing against the Texans. The game opened as a pick’em but has already moved to Colts -3.5, and quarterback Jacoby Brissett passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans when they last played in Week 9. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton — who is just 48 yards shy of his fifth straight 1,000-yard campaign — devastated the Texans in Week 9 with 175 yards and two touchdowns on nine targets. If you want to attack the Texans in guaranteed prize pools, use our Lineup Builder to create Brissett-Hilton stacks.
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 +6.67 Over/Under Differential, but that number contains data from the 7.5 games with Watson and is no longer representative. In the nine games started by Tom Savage and T.J. Yates the Texans have a 2-7 over/under record. After the Texans are the Rams at +5.07 — and the 49ers with Garoppolo have a +5.25. The over/under for the 49ers-Rams game has moved from 44.0 points to 45.0 with 93 percent of the bets on the over. The market is expecting a high-scoring tilt.
The Falcons (-6.40) and Chargers (-6.03) have the league’s lowest Over/Under Differentials, and that makes sense: 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 (-5.30). In their 11 games with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, the Bears have a 3-8 over/under record. They have nothing to play for, and this week they’re -12.5 road underdogs against the defense-driven Vikings, who are playing for a first-round bye. A 39.5-point over/under is fairly low, but that still might be too high for this game.
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.
After the Rams, the Jaguars are atop the league with their +7.37 Spread Differential. As their 44-33 loss to the 49ers made clear in Week 16, their success has much more to do with their defense than with quarterback Blake Bortles. Per PFF, the defense has two top-15 edge rushers in Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, two top-12 cover linebackers in Myles Jack and Paul Posluszny, and two top-six cover corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. The Jags defense is usually good enough to make up for most of their quarterback’s shortcomings — but in Week 17 they’re on the road as -6.0 dogs locked into the No. 3 seed, and they’re facing a Titans team that will make the playoffs with a win. This probably isn’t the week to back the Jags.
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s hard to determine which team is most pathetic: The Broncos, Texans, or Browns. The Broncos have a league-worst -6.0 Spread Differential. In games started by Savage and Yates the Texans have a -12.0 Spread Differential. And the Browns are last with a 3-12 record against the spread and 0-15 record straight up. The Broncos and Texans have nothing to play for. The Browns are playing to avoid eternal nothingness.