MIAMI DOLPHINS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-16, 45)
We talked about this earlier in the season, but scoring is down significantly in 2019. The average game has seen 45.5 points scored (46.7 in 2018) and only 47.5% of games have eclipsed 45 points (51.6% in 2018). So, the question is, is this matchup does this matchup merit an “NFL average” total?
For me the answer is a clear no. The Patriot offensive struggles are obvious at this point, they’ve eclipsed 300 yards just twice in their 6 games since their bye. They’ve responded by becoming increasing run-heavy, especially when ahead – the last 2 weeks have seen 67 Patriot running plays and the Pats rank 24th in the NFL in yards per play.
Taking the under against Fitzmagic always comes with risk – he can put up points for either team at any moment – but the Dolphins rank 27th by EPA go up against a Pats D that still ranks top 2 in nearly all-important metrics. If we can avoid the extreme ends of the Fitzmagic distribution this looks like a clear under.
PREDICTION: Under 45
Want to hear a crazy stat? The Bucs rank 30th in points allowed – 421 through 15 games. Their rank by defensive EPA? Sixth. Turns out your quarterback setting records for most pick-6s in a season doesn’t help the defensive points per game numbers.
Their offense is the other side of the coin, they rank 3rd in PPG but just 17th by EPA, again that mix of good and terrible. So then, what to do with the Bucs and Jameis Winston? He’s already locked up No. 1 in both passing yards and interceptions and been the bane of my 2019 season picking totals.
I think it’s time to accept that EPA does a poor job with someone like Winston in the Over/Under context. Those horrendous interceptions depress the Bucs offensive EPA numbers while putting points on the board for the other team, plus they put the Bucs in situations where they need to play even riskier to make up for it.
Last week’s 5 turnovers didn’t lead to points against a struggling Texans Offense, but the Falcons have been much better. They rank 6th by offensive EPA and just 25th by defensive EPA, it’s time to finally take the over on a Bucs game.
PREDICTION: Over 48
Baltimore sits far and away the number one team by EPA and it’s due in large part to Lamar Jackson’s legs. An average NFL run is worth -0.04 points, a Lamar Jackson run is worth 0.37. Among players with 100+ rushes that’s first by a truly ridiculous amount. Second place belongs to Mark Ingram at 0.13 points, and Gus Edwards comes in 6th at 0.06 points per rush.
What does all that mean for a Ravens Offense without Jackson and Ingram? It’s likely to crater. Jackson’s presence has obviously been beneficial for all involved in the running game, and with no Ingram there’s no reason to expect much success, especially against a very good Steelers Defense (3rd by EPA and 3rd by yards per carry).
Meanwhile Pittsburgh turns back to Duck Hodges after benching him partway through their Week 16 loss to the Jets. The Steelers rank 31st by offensive EPA and while the Ravens will sit some defensive starters, they still have a well above average defense. The totally is rightfully low here, but not low enough. Unless you’re a Steelers fan, do yourself a favor and pick another game to watch.
PREDICTION: Under 37
Week 16: 1-2
Season to date: 18-30
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