Texans/Bengals: Have the Markets Really Bet On Andy Dalton and the Cincy Offense

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David Malinsky

Thursday, September 14, 2017 2:30 PM GMT

Thursday, Sep. 14, 2017 2:30 PM GMT

Have the Markets Really Bet On Andy Dalton and the Bengals Offense… Yes, there really is an OL problem in the NFL…Has Bob Davie made a bad turn in Albuquerque after all…

Point Blank – September 14, 2017

The focus today goes to the games being played today. There are some significant handicapping talking points involving how the marketplace is dealing with a Thursday night matchup that brings us two offenses that managed a combined seven points on Sunday, while punting 10 times, allowing 15 sacks, and turning it over nine times; and also some serious food for thought in New Mexico/Boise State. It raises the classic Bugs Bunny question about making a wrong turn in Albuquerque, this time involving Bob Davie.

When it was time to isolate the Cincinnati Bengals during the team-by-team tour here across the summer much of the attention went to an OL that struggled in 2016, and may be even worse this season, Andrew Whitworth gone and some real uncertainty at the tackle positions.

What happened to open the 2017 campaign? That OL had a rather wretched time of it vs. Baltimore, in particular when it came to protecting Andy Dalton, who was sacked on five of his 36 drop-backs, one of them leading to a fumble, and had four interceptions in the 31 times he did get the ball out. The new starting tackle combo of Cedric Ogbuehi, moved over to the left side to replace Whitworth, and Jake Fisher, got whistled for three holding penalties. To make matters worse, RG Trey Hopkins was injured in his first NFL start, and had to be replaced by T.J. Johnson.

With that set as the foundation let’s create some perspective for tonight’s Texans/Bengals clash and ask the question –

Are the markets really betting on the Cincinnati Offense?

Pinnacle opened the Bengals at -3 +102 on Sunday evening, with the total at 38.5. By the following morning -3.5 and 38 had become common. There was a trickle of Cincinnati money later in the day, then on Tuesday the surge really began, a steady progression all the way to the current -6 (there has been plenty of 6.5 showing, though some of it has been bought back), yet without the total not having moved much – some shops have gone to 37.5, but Pinny and others remain at 38 as I write this.

Was the movement a reaction to the Texans likely starting Deshaun Watson at QB, a difficult setting for a rookie to take to the road on a short practice week? There is something to be said for that, although there shouldn’t be much downgrade from Tom Savage to just about anyone. And a struggling Texans OL won’t get much help from the fact that the only TE available this evening is Evan Bayliss, who was just signed off of the practice squad yesterday. But only a trickle of money has shown to the under, compared to what has flowed towards the Bengals, which in effect means that Dalton and the offense are being backed, even if that is not the real mindset of those moving the cash across the counter.

This has had significant impact on part of the menu, it will have me in play, with #102 Cincinnati Team Total Under (8:25 Eastern). It is that particular item that has had market impact that even those betting the Bengals may not have intended - based on where the opening line was, the Bengals TT would have projected at 21, now there is 22.5 available (consider 21.5 or higher to be the value target; the key getting 21 as a win #). That is the outcome of the way the side has been pushed upwards, and it is something that I will take advantage of.

First I don’t expect a lot of pace in this game. With both team’s off of error-prone games, and in particular with Watson having to make his debut start under these circumstances, I believe both Bill O’Brian and Marvin Lewis will be looking to play clean on offense, rather than aggressive, in the early stages (in theory O’Brien should be happy to get out of the first quarter 0-0). That helps.

The biggest edge is simply the matchup – I rate the Houston defensive front as one of the NFL’s best, and the Cincinnati OL as one of the worst. It is asking a lot for the Bengals to get much advantage established at the line of scrimmage, much like vs. the Ravens on Sunday, when they only managed 14 first downs. Not much in the NFL comes easily, however, and there is some genuine risk here – Watson potentially making mistakes that could give away easy points. I believe there is enough value to overcome that, but if this ticket is lost that is the most likely way for it to happen.

Of course the NFL has an OL problem

One of the feature focus points of this week’s NFL Review session on Tuesday (link at the end of this column), was how the quality of OL play in the league has been in decline, and it has been a major PB topic since 2015. I expect to see a couple of struggling blocking corps muddle up tonight’s game, so if you want to take a deeper dive on the issue, here comes this from today’s Washington Post.

Has Bob Davie made a wrong turn in Albuquerque after all

New Mexico/Boise State has always been a more compelling matchup for me than the vast majority of football fans, the Lobos going 4-1 ATS in the series under Bob Davie, beating the spread by at least a full touchdown in each of the covers, and getting a stunner here two years ago, winning 31-24 as +30.5 in one of the most unusual games ever played. How about Boise State winning the first downs 40-11 and running 114 plays to just 52 for New Mexico, but the Lobos winning the yards per play 7.9 to 5.6? The designs of the Davie option packages against the Bronco defense has made for some fascinating football.

Tonight could offer more of the same, in particular with the Boise defense showing much more than expected so far, which leads to a rather curious break-down through two games:

Points allowed to the opposition*
Boise Defense    20
Boise Offense     21
* - Regulation play only

As always I eliminate overtime play from my tracking, but there have been three TDs scored while the Bronco defense has been on the sidelines. The play of that defense has been stellar, although tonight offers the significant challenge of not only a short practice week after a draining three-OT affair late into the night in Pullman on Saturday (into Sunday morning on the body clocks of the players), but of seeing an offense that is almost 180 degrees from Mike Leach’s Air Raid concepts.

But now comes the added curveball, and the developing news that there is an investigation going on at New Mexico into Davie’s handling of the team. But despite having done a tremendous job of turning around a floundering program on the scoreboards, the Lobos having gone 1-11 in each of the three seasons before he arrived to having his first two groups of seniors go 16-10 and earn bowl bids, might it be time to revisit the old Bugs Bunny classic -

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How should one approach this in terms of a handicap? It is a damn good question, but I don’t have the answer, because it can flow to an extreme in either direction. There is the obvious notion of it being a distraction for both Davie and his players, especially if there is some meat on the bone from what has been alleged. At the same time if there is real harmony between coach and players, this can also serve to help them bond, and make it a “win one for the coach” setting.

It is difficult to find that answer, though I will be doing a lot of reading between the lines. Should you want to dive in for more information, I would suggest going as close to the source as possible, in this case the Albuquerque Journal.

For your listening pleasure

This week’s House of Yards podcast, done with Matt Landes, is ready to go. We sort through the trash bin that Sunday’s NFL games belong in; preview all of the prime time matchups plus Cowboys/Broncos; naturally do the weekly take on his USC Trojans; as well as Beer and Best Bets -

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What a Bettor Better Know – NFL Week #1

What a Bettor Better Know – NCAA Week #2

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