Are the New York Giants secretly one of the best teams in the NFL? They're definitely a popular early NFL pick for Sunday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 4: 17-8 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 10-13 Total
Somewhere in a parallel universe close to ours, the New York Giants are 4-0 SU and ATS. All it would have taken in this world was some better decision-making in fourth quarter. In fact, the Giants almost screwed it up again this past Sunday. The Giants were up 14 points on the Buffalo Bills (–6.5 at home, as it turned out) in the dying minutes, with the ball in the red zone, and they decided to throw. Buffalo CB Stephon Gilmore intercepted an Eli Manning pass at the goal line to keep the Bills in the game.
It didn't matter in the end. New York prevailed 24-10 to move to the top of the NFC East at 2-2 (3-1 ATS). On top of the NFC East! Okay, that doesn't mean a whole lot, but what if we told you the G-Men – the ones living in our universe – are one of the best teams in the league? At the very least, the market thinks highly enough of the Giants to make them 7-point home favorites on the NFL odds board for Sunday's matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) with the San Francisco 49ers. Our consensus reports show 63 percent of early bettors on New York.
So we're looking at the Simple Rating System over at Pro-Football Reference. SRS is based purely on point margins, then tweaked to account for the average point margins of the other teams in the league. Simple, right? Using this method, the Giants end up at +13.4 SRS through Week 4. That's third in the NFL, behind only the New England Patriots (+18.1 SRS) and the Atlanta Falcons (+15.4 SRS).
Meanwhile, the 49ers (1-3 SU and ATS) are near the bottom of the league at –10.5 SRS. If we wanted to be incredibly lazy and not very good at making NFL picks, we could take the SRS difference between New York and San Francisco (23.9 points), give the Giants a possibly-generous 2.6 points for home-field advantage, and presto, you get New York –26.5 as a more realistic spread for Sunday night.
“More realistic” indeed. But it does speak to the way both teams have performed thus far. The Giants have played Dallas (with Tony Romo) and Buffalo on the road, as well as undefeated Atlanta and occasionally-tough Washington at home. The Niners have also faced a challenging schedule: Pittsburgh and Arizona on the road, Minnesota and Green Bay at home. Even factoring in the opposition, San Francisco comes out as 10.5 points worse than the average NFL team, and nearly 24 points worse than New York.
Those SRS numbers will naturally get closer to zero as the season progresses – unless the Niners keep losing by two touchdowns or more, as they have in each of the last three games. In the meantime, Football Outsiders will soon have its Week 5 DVOA numbers ready to roll, and those will factor in strength of schedule for the first time this season. Let's see what they have to say when we come back for our football picks against the spread and total.