NFL Week 15: The Largest Play To Date

The model continues to roll with another 4-1 week, this time good for +9.455 units. We even picked up a win on the SEA -3 play highlighted in last week’s newsletter, which was a nice touch. After it was all said and done, the model moved to 66-34-4 for the season with a +101.44 unit yield and a 25.89% ROI.

This week, I wanted to cover a play that will be the model’s largest of the season thus far. We’re going to take a look at another Monday Night Football game and take a deeper look at the Week 15 matchup between the New Orleans Saints (11-2) and the Carolina Panthers (6-7). On the surface we have a Saints team who rallied last week from a first half 14 point deficit to clinch the NFC South and a Panthers team who has now lost five straight games by a combined 48 points. Looks like the perfect spot to take the Superbowl contender Saints against the faultering Panthers, right?

Wrong.

Yes, the Panthers have fallen quite a bit as of late. But sometimes it’s not about if you fall, but rather where you fall from and where you end up landing. Prior to their skid, the Panthers hit their peak in the model following their Week 9 win against Tampa Bay. Their expected wins total at the time was 10.64, which had them as the fifth best team in the league. That same week, the Saints dismantled the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams which brought their expected wins total to 10.79, making them the fourth best team in the model at the time. At that point in the season, a neutral field game between the two would have given the Saints a 50.4% chance of winning and the Panthers a 49.6% chance of winning.

But a lot has happened since. The Saints in the five weeks since have seen a marginal drop in the model. In Weeks 10-12, the Saints whooped up on three teams (Bengals, Eagles, and Falcons) who have lost a combined 5.27 expected wins since their games against the Saints. In other words, the Saints’ wins against these teams haven’t been retroactively all too impressive in the model and they did not add much to the Saints strength as a result. In Week 13 the Saints lost a Thursday Night Football game against the Cowboys, which stunned many including the overwhelming majority of public bettors who sided with the Saints in what was the largest bet game for many sportsbooks. This result didn’t surprise the model nearly as much, however, as it had the game as DAL +0.6 before kickoff. And whatever “harm” was done to the Saints in the model from that game was mostly made up by their performance in the following week in which they pulled out an impressive victory against the Buccaneers, who the model has repeatedly viewed as being undervalued, backing them in 8 out of their 13 games for a 5-2-1 record and a +12.34 unit yield. In summation, the Saints haven’t changed much since their Week 9 win over the Rams despite a 4-1 record during that stretch, having kept them within 0.15 total expected wins over that span.

On the other side, we have the Panthers and their five game losing streak. Obviously losing five in a row is never good, but sometimes losses and losing streaks are more than what they look like on the surface. Across those five losses:

  • Four were on the road
  • Two were on tail ends of a back-to-back road spot
  • Two were against playoff-bound teams
  • One was as the road TNF team against PIT
  • One was against SEA, who was coming off extended rest

Mind you, all of these games also came at a time when Cam Newton was clearly playing through an injury, which has been documented wide and far by various reporters. But that’s not to be excused, and any dips in the underlying data that came from suboptimal play stemming from Cam’s injury or elswhere would show in the model. And it does, as the Panthers expected win total has decreased by 1.53 over the course of this losing streak.

Bringing it all together, the model currently gives the Saints a 53.9% chance of winning on a neutral field and the Panthers a 46.1% chance. This makes the neutral field spread CAR +2. Now usually I blow through the game-specific factors but this week’s game actually has a little extra sauce on it. First off, we have the Saints on their third straight road game, which is a rare scheduling stretch to have (there are only two other instances this year). Granted, this stretch includes an extended rest period between the DAL and TB games, as well as an extra day between the TB game and this Monday Night Football game.

But even so, there is one more situational element to this game: the Panthers are seeking revenge for their playoff loss in last year’s postseason in which the Saints beat them 31-26 in the Wild Card round. This year alone, teams seeking playoff revenge are 5-2 straight up with all five teams being underdogs on the opening line. Against the spread, those teams are 6-1 and the six teams who covered did so by an average of 10.83 points. The model has backed three teams seeking playoff revenge this season and went 3-0 for +11.8 units in those games. Needless to say, playoff revenge spots are noteworthy and worth accounting for.

When it’s all said and done, the model makes the Panthers -2.8 for their Monday Night Football showdown with the New Orleans Saints. With the line currently CAR +6, there is an astounding 8.8 points of difference between the model and the Vegas spread. This disagreement is the model’s largest of the season, making a wager on CAR +6 -101 risking 8.924 to win 8.8 units the model’s largest play of the season. Now I know the vast majority of you are sensible, responsible bettors. But I think it’s my responsibility to tell you that this is not a “MEGA LOCK OF THE YEAR” or an “IF IT LOSES, YOU’LL BE REFUNDED” type play. This is just one numbers-driven play that happens to be larger than any before it. At the end of the day, the point of the model is to take every quantifiable edge in order to generate the most positive EV over the course of the sample. Let me repeat: It is NEVER about the result of any singular play, it’s about the accumulation of value.

Thanks for reading! As always, you can find the rest of the model plays by following me on Twitter. I hope the model can turn in another great week, and even if it doesn’t, we’ll stay the course and keep finding the edge.

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