On Giants-Broncos, and the Headaches of Extremes for Oddsmakers

David Malinsky

Friday, October 13, 2017 1:59 PM UTC

Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 1:59 PM UTC

On the historical implications of the Giants WRs vs. the Denver DBs. ... Can Jeff Tedford or Orlondo Steinauer figure out an option defense? ... A proper Kolsch pairs with just about anything.

Point Blank – October 13, 2017

There is a lively weekend menu ahead of us, and for as much as is going on across the NCAA, NFL and MLB fronts we can also call it the calm before the storm, with the NBA soon to be added, the earlier tip-off to that season (Tuesday) adding a chaos in the marketplace that might open up some opportunity.

With a lot to cover here across those various fronts it makes the jukebox essential, and for the long read ahead it is fitting to add one last chapter to the Tom Petty tribute (fans need not worry, he will remain a part of the future rotation for as long as we can still press the buttons). I found a poignancy in this one, live from London’s Hyde Park back in early July, as he did the introductions of the Heartbreakers on their 40th anniversary tour, and when the music started on came Stevie Nicks.

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Now let’s get to work, because there are some of these opportunities made available by unique circumstances. …

 Item: The challenge in power rating Giants/Broncos may work out well for us

Unusual situations can make for delicate handicapping, but across most professional sports there is an upper limit that is rarely topped, and a bottom that suffices for the overwhelming majority of situations. It is when there is a breakout either way, like the Cleveland Browns opening 2-12 ATS in 2016, including eight straight failures in one stretch, that the markets can fail in their reads. The Browns really were a different item at the bottom of the food chain, a team with more rookies on their roster than most expansion teams, and one that was under no pressure to win games. The markets did not react well.

I believe we have a matchup that goes out of the normal bounds on Sunday evening, and it has me doing something I rarely do in the NFL, laying double figures. So it will be #274 Denver (Sunday, 8:30 Eastern), with -11 having returned at a few key precincts this morning.

Let me set this up with a fundamental aspect of football science, and the specific for this game: A) A double-digit underdog faces the very real prospect of playing from behind, and needing to throw the football to get back in the game; B) The battle of the Giants WRs into the Broncos secondary is the biggest mismatch of my betting lifetime.

The foundation for this was laid out in the Tuesday review earlier in the week, New York having lost Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris, and the likely prospect that Sterling Shepard won’t make this trip. Who does that leave in terms of the WR rotation for Sunday?

Roger Lewis
Tavarres King
Travis Rudolph
Ed Eagan

That group has a pair of common denominators: A) None of them were drafted by an NFL team; and B) They also have had precious little time to assimilate with Eli Manning. Lewis has 15 career catches, King four, and the next catch for Rudolph or Eagan will be their first.  It is tough enough to get in sync with Manning over a couple of mid-week practices, but even tougher if the players aren’t all that good anyway.

The flip side of this equation is that they go up against Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, who rate among the best cover CB tandems in NFL history. Who is going to get open? But where the inclination to lay double figures gets magnified is the other offense/defense matchup. If you are going to have a difficult time through the air, how do you make up for me? By running the ball. There isn’t much chance of New York doing that well.

Back during the summer team-by-team NFL preview tour the focus point with the Giants was that their RB corps might have been the NFL’s weakest (If you click back to that link you also get to hear a little more Tom Petty).

It is playing out that way, not just in the natural inability to produce rushing yardage, but also the fact that opposing defenses don’t have to respect those RBs and can get after Manning, rendering play action fakes as meaningless. One of the best ways to chart the lack of running is through a big spike in sack rate:

Eli Manning Sack Rate
2014   4.5
2015   4.2
2016   3.4
2017   6.0

Now connect this up with the improvements in the Broncos rush defense that have been written about here earlier this season – they are allowing 50.7 YPG and 2.4 YPC, despite half of their games having been up against Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy. That YPG allowance through four games rates #8 across NFL history.

This is a defense playing extremely well, and one that has the kind of upper-end talents who know how special they can be. That is an interesting side story to follow, and something like this from Justin Simmons after beating Oakland that should be in the files: “That’s the scary part. From the outside looking in, is there is so much more that could be accomplished with this defense. It’s scary because, all in all, we played pretty well, lights out. But there are a lot of plays we left out there on the field, where they shouldn’t have scored at all.”

I’ll go into pocket with the notion of the Denver defense dominating this one, with the added element of the altitude a significant factor. There absolutely can be a conditioning issue for those Giant WRs, because it is one thing to just be in NFL shape and another to maintain their wind after running patterns across the Front Range. But what is a big issue for an offense that can’t move the ball well enough to stay on the field? Their own defense gets worn down, and that is a defense that will be without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and possibly Olivier Vernon, Jonathan Casillas and Landon Collins, who have all missed practice time this week because of various ailments.

I don’t lay double figures often, but the matchups call for it, as the matchups also call for something on the Saturday board, so let’s get to that one next. …

 Item: Can Jeff Tedford or Orlondo Steinauer figure out option defense?

For Fresno State to be favored over New Mexico this week is a pure 2017 power ratings line. As I note here often, you can beat a pure power ratings line if there are major matchup considerations. That brings me a bet this week because: A) I am not sure the power ratings are correct anyway; and B) The tactical components in this particular matchup may be substantial. So it will be #215 New Mexico (Saturday, 10:00 Eastern), going into pocket at +1 or better, still easy to find despite the Lobos already drawing some market play this week.

In terms of the power rating, I understand those believing that Fresno State has had a rebirth under Jeff Tedford, energy returning to a program that had lost it. I don’t believe the results mean all that much, however. Neither Alabama nor Washington thought of the Bulldog visit as anything but a scrimmage, and there couldn’t have been a better MWC luck of the scheduling draw that opening league play vs. Nevada and San Jose State. The Bulldogs appear better because in truth the talent is not as awful as the 4-20 of the last two seasons indicated, but they are only a work in progress, the wins of the last two weeks overshadowing how much there is to be done.

Now comes the matchup issue. If you are going to beat New Mexico, and Fresno must beat the Lobos to get the money, it comes down to handling the complexities of Bob Davie’s option schemes. That is where this one really shapes up. These teams have not met the past two seasons, so the Bulldog defenders do not have much familiarity, and as for Tedford and his staff, there is essentially none at all.

Tedford built his reputation as an offense guy, but has not been a HC since being fired at Cal following the 2012 season. He had a brief stint as OC for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 before health reasons shortened that gig, then was the HC for one season with the British Columbia Lions of the CFL, then serving as an offensive assistant to Chris Petersen at Washington last autumn. There isn’t much in his background that has prepared him for the kind of offense that New Mexico will run, which puts the onus on the DC. But in this case, I don’t expect much from Orlondo Steinauer in his first look vs. the Lobos, either.

Steinauer was a CB in college at Western Washington, then had a 13-season career as a player in the CFL. Following his playing career he coached in that league for seven more seasons, where he met Tedford and then became Tedford’s choice to run the defense at Fresno.

But now the rub – Steinauer had never coached at the college level prior to this season, and the CFL does not prepare a guy for what an attack like New Mexico will bring. With all other Fresno assistants being in their first season with the program, Tedford having literally cleaned house when he came in, this becomes a most challenging week of preparation.

It is a much different story for Davie and his team, having had a bye off of an explosive win over Air Force, a game in which the Lobos generated 56 points and 509 yards on only 50 offensive snaps. Six different Lobos have had a run from scrimmage of 40 yards or more already, and just missing that list is Lamar Jordan with 39, while likely joining it at some point is second-leading rusher Tyrone Owens, who has a long of 24 yards on his 53 attempts. I believe the New Mexico offense will be a step ahead of the Fresno defensive tactics here and will take advantage at a favorable price point.

For those of you who have the option of individual team totals available, getting 27 as a win number for the Lobos makes that worth putting into pocket as well.


Item: And on to the LCS

Much of the MLB discussion will be saved for the weekend comments thread, and clicking the grey balloon in the upper left gets you there. But first I would be remiss in not detailing an aspect of Cubs-Nationals Game 5 that should not get lost in the mix, just how remarkable it is for a team to lose a game with a -10.5 in net offense.

There is a simple formula you can use for MLB as a starting point that is much like yardage in baseball – award a team a point for a single, two for a double, three for a triple, four for a home run, and you have a base model from which advanced tables can be built from. I do not use HBP because it isn’t really a skill, but I do count .5 for a stolen base, while subtracting -1 for being caught stealing.

Washington had domination across those measures last night, 23 base-runners to just 15 for Chicago, and the only two home runs in the game. To go +8 in base-runners and +2 in home runs and lose is extremely rare, and for a team to lose with a net offense count of +10.5 is something that can usually be counted on one hand over a season.

Unfortunately the markets are not open and trading yet for Cubs-Dodgers, but I can say that Yankees-Astros has me neutral at the current pricing for both the series and for Game 1, so involvement tonight will be pitch-by-pitch as the game unfolds.

The form of Masahiro Tanaka was not good coming down the stretch, as he capped off the worst season of his NYY career, but then a switch got flipped somewhere – between his final regular-season game, and his appearance vs. Cleveland, it has been 14 scoreless innings, with a stunning count of 22 strikeouts vs. only seven baserunners allowed (six hits and one walk). Is that for real? I’ll watch a few pitches to get a feel, with In-Running as the available outlet.

While you’re watching that game unfold you should be listening to House of Yards…

 For your listening pleasure …

Matt Landes and I are back for the latest edition of HOY, digging more deeply into the key games on the NFL board, and perhaps for the third week in a row having some action emanating from our Moment of Troy segment. This week you can also get Matt’s take on a promising Kolsch that I plan to be drinking on Saturday evening, unless he decides to consume my stash on his flight to Las Vegas this morning, the Golden Knights/Red Wings game in his Friday evening plans. Read on, and more details of that beer follow.

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 And for your drinking pleasure …

Now for Matt’s tasting notes, of which I hope develop my own from experience before this weekend is done. You can follow his hopping around the various hops at Just Here for the Beer.

Brewery: Three Weavers
Beer: Seafarer
Style: Kölsch-Style Ale
ABV: 4.8%

Seafarer is fresh off a silver medal-winning performance at the Great American Beer Festival, and it's easy to see, smell and taste why. Pouring a clear, pale yellow with a thick head that likes to stick around, Seafarer has a biscuity malt, herbal hop notes, and the hallmark fruity esters of Belgian yeast.

Light and crisp on the mouthfeel, Seafarer is sessionable yet flavorful, versatile enough to complement lighter fare such as salad or sushi without overpowering, and to stand up to the bolder offerings of burgers and barbecue while refreshing the palate without withering. It's an outstanding example of the German Kölsch style from an exemplary independent brewery, founded by Lynne Weaver (right) and crafted by brewmaster Alex Nowell (left), with that new GABF medal a crowning achivement. They’re helping to put the Inglewood beer community on the map - both by land and by sea - now with the hardware to prove it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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