Chiefs-Patriots and the Tale of Turnovers

David Malinsky

Thursday, September 7, 2017 2:12 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017 2:12 PM UTC

Chiefs-Patriots and what is luck and what isn't when it comes to turnovers. … You need to look through all of the numbers to note the proper shade of Jon Gray (as the markets continue to struggle with catching down to the Dodgers).

Point Blank – September 7, 2017

A lot of the focus here at PB over the football season will be isolating particular games not just to find an edge for that particular scoreboard, but also detailing key handicapping concepts that will matter across all other games. We have a classic across a major theme in Foxboro this evening, so I will bring it front and center.

Turnovers are tough to interpret. They just are, which is why there will rarely be a week pass by in which there isn’t a focus on these pages about how they impact scoreboards, stats and of course the betting markets. With Kansas City-New England set to kick off the NFL season, it is also an opportune time to say that you just can’t make assumptions. Let’s go to work.

Yes, there is a lot of luck involved in the turnover categories, fumbles especially being random and fumble recoveries being off-the-charts random. There was a take on that latter category in the comments section a few weeks ago – there were 13 teams over the last three NFL seasons that either recovered more than 60 percent of all available fumbles, or less than 40 percent of them, and all 13 of the teams regressed towards the 50-50 level the following season. And there are successful handicapping systems that take advantage of that luck factor, looking for bounces to gradually even out.

But it isn’t all luck, some of those numbers are indeed the “residue of design” that Branch Rickey so eloquently stated, and that is why you have to be so careful with the two teams playing tonight. If you begin your 2017 NFL handicapping with the idea that teams with TO differentials that were a bit too positive may regress, that is a degree of logic there. There is also a trap, and that trap happens to be the Chiefs and Patriots.

2016 NFL TO Margin
Chiefs        +16
Raiders      +16
Patriots      +12
Falcons      +11
Vikings       +11

There is some luck to be found in this chart, especially for Oakland. But before you begin to look at Kansas City and New England as candidates to have the bounces reverse, consider this:

Chiefs TO differential in Andy Reid Era (four seasons): +45

Patriots TO differential Last 10 Seasons: +139

To go +16 for one season can appear to have been good fortune, stretch that out to +45 over four and it is instead damn good design and execution. And to turn it into +139 over 160 regular-season games is football sorcery.

Want something particularly astounding for the Chiefs in the Reid era? They have scored 30 touchdowns via special teams or defense in those 64 games, while only allowing three. That is stunning; assuming all PATs were made it was an advantage of 3.0 points per game on the scoreboards. But when it extends that long it can’t be written off as just luck, especially because those some plays make the stat col

Let me go back to a point what was made here on Monday regarding Miami O.-Marshall, and the notion that you need to adjust the box scores up any time that you take the scoreboards down in a game with high turnover/special teams impact. And it is one that I will make a lead topic next week, a sentimental reference back to long-time partner “Old Joe” and the “800-yard field.” In order to understand the Chiefs properly, you need to grasp this.

By using the scoreboards and cumulative stats only, it would appear that the Chiefs were a mediocre team that has been so very lucky by both scoring too many TDs from its defense and special teams and having the opponents score too few. But here is why you need to go beyond those basic counts of first downs and total yards:

Kansas City net plays in the Reid era: -255

You are not going to win the stat battles when the opponents get that many added chances to produce yards. While added TDs were inflating the scoreboards, they were taking the air out of the stat columns. That is an important balancing act if you want to win, and it is one that I have seen trip up so many folks through the years.

For the Patriots there is naturally a “duh” factor – they will win the turnover columns annually because the gap between Tom Brady and other QBs in terms of taking care of the ball is so wide. The Pats were only +1 in net fumbles in 2016, but +11 in net interceptions, and that is not a story of luck, either.

This little exercise will help you understand both of these teams a bit better over the course of the season, but I know many of you also want to be in play in some form tonight. Is there an edge out there? I believe so.


In the Sights, Chiefs-Patriots ...

The markets have taken the side from -7.5 to -9, and I already see some 49 showing as the total climbs as well. What that has done is open up 28 as a win number for #452 New England Team Total Under (8:30 Eastern), with 28.5 common in the Thursday morning trading, and that will go into pocket.

The first key comes from the earlier parts of today’s analysis – by not making mistakes easy points are not readily available against the Chiefs; in only seven of the 64 regular-season games of the Reid era has the opposition reached 30. But it goes beyond playing smart to also playing slow. Here is where the KC offense has placed in terms of tempo (I used Seconds-Per-Snap, or SPS, as the guide) in the Reid years:

Kansas City Offensive Tempo
2013 - #29
2014 - #31
2015 - #29
2016 - #25

If you play smart, and also slow, it forces the opponent to have a high level of execution in order to have a break-out game, and as noted here on Tuesday, when the team-by-team tour focused on the New England offense, that may not be the case in the early going.

I don’t expect to see that offense in midseason form perhaps until it really is midseason. In terms of tonight, Bob Sutton mixes up his looks about as much as any DC in the NFL, and some of those instinctive check-downs that have made Brady so effective through the seasons may not be in place yet.


In the Sights, Thursday MLB ...

There are some market elements struggling mightily to adjust to the Dodgers right now, which led to an easy Team Total Under ticket cashing last night, Chris Taylor’s opening double, which deflected off of the glove of Arizona 3B Jake Lamb into foul territory, leading to the only LAD run of the game. It is now a 1-11 slide in which the only win came by a 1-0 count, which means an 0-12 run as -1.5, the Dodgers scoring one run or less in half of those games.

I will stay in play and change the particular route tonight with #911 Colorado Rockies Run Line (10:10 Eastern), the rare “plus plus” being available of not only getting the +1.5 to work with, but also that coming at an underdog return (there is as high as +120 out there, and plenty of +115 as I write this).

Jon Gray’s baseball outcomes for the Rockies may have folks yawning to this point, a 16-16/4.64 that appears to be under-achieving for someone that was the #3 pick in the 2013 draft, but take a deeper look. FIP calls those same pitches 3.47 and xFIP 3.54, and after missing significant time this season to injury he brings a freshness at 80.1 IP that ordinarily would not be there, with 25 strikeouts vs. 21 hits allowed over his last four starts.

Offense won’t come easily against Clayton Kershaw, but every bit of his skill level has been built into this price point, which opens the door to exploit a Dodgers offense that is playing back to a more proper level, after soaring high across the MLB atmosphere for such an extended stretch.

For your listening pleasure

The start of the season also means the debut of “House of Yards”, a fun concept I will be working on with Matt Landes – Football, Betting and Beer, and what could be wrong with that? There is a lot of potential here, but it is also going to be a work in progress, so feedback is most appreciated as we work out the possibilities –

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And if you were listening while traveling, and couldn’t take down the proper beer notes do not worry – each Friday I will be incorporating Matt’s Beer of the Week right here into Point Blank.


You can find the Point Blank archive here.

And if you want to know when PB is ready to go each day, as well as following along for some of the most important Sports Betting news as in unfolds, make @Vegaspointblank a part of your routine. Also ... we embeded the 'House of Yards' Podcast below for your listening pleasure!



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