This seems to happen every year, but maybe this time the panic for Patriot fans is warranted. The offense hasn’t looked good all year (as we’ve mentioned several times) and the defense, while still great, has predictably regressed from the ridiculous heights of the first half of the season. This week let’s dig into the numbers and see if we can shine some light going into Week 15.
As mentioned, the defense has been excellent. It remains on pace to be a top 5 defense of the decade by EPA and is fresh off holding Patrick Mahomes to 23 points despite the offense doing nothing for most of the game. And that’s the problem; despite ranking 8th in points scored, the offense ranks 20th by EPA and just 17th in scoring percentage.
Perhaps most concerning is the way it’s happened. No matter the cast, Brady has always found a way to methodically move the ball, always ranking near the top of the NFL by success percentage. This year? The New England ranks 24th, just ahead of Cleveland and Miami.
Let's dive into the Week 15 picks.
HOUSTON TEXANS AT TENNESSEE TITANS (-3, 50)
Ryan Tannehill is having a renaissance in Tennessee. The Titans have put up 30 or more points in four straight games and Tannehill sits No. 1 in quarterback rating on the season at 118.5. The question is, is this the real deal? I’m putting my money on no. Tannehill for his career sits as a below average NFL quarterback.
His lifetime rating is 89.1, and in terms of EPA per dropback since 2009 he ranks right below Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown and Mitch Trubisky. All those quarterbacks have had their brief stretches of brilliance, but over time have fallen well short of that mark.
Also, despite these last few games scoreboards, Tennessee’s gameplan isn’t to win shootouts; they’ve run the second fewest offensive plays in the NFL and rank near the bottom in scoring percentage. It just so happens that in the last few games, they’ve made several huge plays that aren’t likely to repeat. In those four games with 30 or more points, they’ve scored eight 40+ yard touchdowns. The average NFL team gets a 40+ yard touchdown once every 3-4 games.
PREDICTION: Under 50
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (-6.5, 45.5)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The vaunted Jags D hit rock bottom Week 14 with a complete self-destruction against the Chargers. They now rank 25th by EPA (and points allowed) on the season and are trending in the wrong direction.
The good news for Jags fans is that they have the better defense in this game. The Raiders rank 31st by EPA, 31st in net yards per pass, and are allowing 28 ppg.
Now these aren’t exactly world beater offenses, though the Raiders have shown flashes and sit 13th by EPA. The Jags sit 26th but mainly due to their inability to do anything versus competent defenses, and an inability to convert yards to points. The Jags rank 16th in total yards on offense but just 28th in points per game. Against the porous Raider defense, the Jags should have an easier time as they hope to recoup some of the Minshew magic from earlier in the season.
PREDICTION: Over 45.5
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS (+9.5, 40.5)
As alluded to in the intro, it’s time for an Under bet on the Patriots. The defense has allowed 51 points in the last two games which has likely pushed this total a little higher than it might otherwise be. But this is still an elite defense facing Andy Dalton and the Bengals.
The Bengals have looked a little better of late, but during that two game “hot streak” they averaged 1.5 total offensive EPA against the Jets and Browns. Not exactly a performance that wows you. Facing the best defense in the NFL, my biggest concern from Andy Dalton and company is that he puts up points for the other team.
We’ve also seen a lot of commitment to the run from the Patriots, likely due to the O-line being unable to protect Brady. Despite losing two of their last three contests (and the other being close the whole way) the Patriots are averaging more than 25 rushes per game. Expect a lot of Michel and Burkhead as the Patriots cruise in this one.
PREDICTION: Under 40.5
Week 14: 2-1
Season to date: 16-26
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