As we like to do here at Owl Eats Football, we are changing things up.
In looking back over the What Didn’t Happen articles, they were becoming lists of touchdowns called back by penalty, bad coaching, and missed opportunities. As useful as this can be when looking week to week, the reality is that sometimes these are indicators of things that will regress to the mean in the future while other times they are just a sign of who a team is.
For example, a touchdown getting called back one week thanks to a holding is something that we can take into account in the future, but if a team has a touchdown called back for a holding every week, then that is now what we should be expecting.
Because of this, we are trying something new this week: we are going to look at what isn’t happening for teams so that we can appropriately dispel the perception we have of teams in order to see they true identity.
Here is what isn’t happening through five weeks for three teams.
What isn’t happening: The Arizona Cardinals aren’t scoring
I can’t officially quit the Cardinals as they won me money this week, but I can take them to task for being a poorly managed and downright ugly offense.
Arizona is averaging 20 points per game with an offense that prides itself on playing fast and throwing the ball as much as possible. They have a running back who is also a top-flight receiver, they have a receiver who trails only Jerry Rice in receiving yards, and they have a quarterback who can scramble and make plays at any moment.
With this arsenal, the Cardinals continue to play not to lose and Sunday was just another example of this (even though they won).
In the final moments, Zane Gonzalez kicked his fourth field goal of the day, a 31 yarder. This was also his long of the day. All three of Gonzalez’ other kicks were from somewhere in the twenties, and they represent a theme for Klif Kingsbury that is troubling to say the least.
You may remember reading something like this on this very site already. Good memory. In Week 2, when the Cardinals covered the spread but lost to what was then a dominant (more on this later) Ravens team, Kingsbury had his team kick three more field goals from inside the 10. That means in two games, both of which were close and had the ability to go either way, Kingsbury decided to take the safe road with his offense and put the pressure on his defense.
With a team loaded with offensive firepower and burdened by a defense that does not equate to an optimal strategy. There is certainly something to be said for a Cardinals offense that keeps reaching fourth down in the red zone, but the truth is the Cardinals route to winning games is through their offense, and taking them off of the field to play it safe is not going to beat anybody.
Moving forward, we need to remember that Arizona playing it safe is probably going to lead to some closer games but almost always lead to losses as well.
They have made us some money this season already, but remembering this will make us even more.
What isn’t happening: The Baltimore Ravens aren’t dominating
There is a fascinating theory in the fantasy football community called (something like) Anchor Syndrome.
The idea behind this theory is that often people are centered on (or weighed down) by their first impression of the season. Whatever the first experience a person has with a team or a player is their starting point, and the prevailing theory is that they are never able to separate reality from this point.
They never drift too far from their anchor.
The good news is that knowing this is the case is half the battle, the bad news is that even when you know it is hard to beat. Case in point: my bet on the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.
To get our feet wet here, let’s take a look at how Anchor Syndrome may apply to Marquise Brown so far this season. In many people’s minds, when they think of Brown they see his first game against Miami where he exploded for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns. We consider him a viable fantasy player and someone who can have a big game at any time. The truth is, however, that in his next four games he has average below 50 yards a game and has scored only once more.
If Brown’s big game had come in his third start, we might be anchored somewhere else, but since it was his first game, our boat is floating in “Marquis Brown is a legitimate #1 receiver” cove.
This is almost the exact same scenario as the Ravens as a whole. After beating up on the worst team in recent memory in their first game, Baltimore has done little to back up the notion that they are world beaters who can ride a new wave offense to the playoffs. If you remove their 59 point explosion from the numbers, the Ravens are averaging about 25 points per game while giving up about 29 per game.
You may be ready to jump to their defense by citing strength of schedule, but the truth is that they have played three teams that could have been rolled over. Removing the Chiefs game, Baltimore has gotten blown out by the Browns and beaten the Steelers (with their 3rd string QB) and the Cardinals by one score.
There have certainly been injuries involved, and there was always some regression to the mean coming, but too many people see this team as good. They play the Bengals next weekend, so we should be prepared for those suffering from Anchor Syndrome to go deeper down into the depths.
In the meantime, though, we need to haul up our anchor and sail for calmer waters where the Ravens are a decent team who don’t deserve to be treated like the elite teams in the league. I have a feeling there might even be some money floating around for us when we get there.
What isn’t happening: Backups aren’t failing
“One of the finest pieces of Journalism this decade was the Owl Eats Football Good Team Bad Team article” - Hopefully Someone.
Whether or not one of the Owl Hive actually said this, it is a piece I am extremely proud of, and one that has delivered us some fruitful nuggets. In this section, we are going to expand on that article and remind people of the central idea from the piece: Winning a total, structural effort.
A lot of times, we as fans can reduce a game to the quarterbacks snapping the ball. In fact, the words backup quarterback might be the scariest words to many fan bases in the country. The reality, however, is that there is a lot more at play than the person hiking the ball. Having a coach, a running game, a defense, or a scheme can deliver wins to any organization.
This season, there are four teams who have won multiple games with a backup: Saints, Panthers, Jaguars, and the Colts. Beyond that, the Steelers won a game with their backup and the Bears won with their backup playing the majority of the game.
The point here, is that often we need to look way beyond just the surface appeal of the person snapping the football. If we want to make money (like we have been on these teams) we need to see their value as a whole.
So far this season, we have made money betting on the Colts and the Panthers multiple times and the Saints once. Each of these teams has a defense that can stifle an opponent, a running game that can control the clock, skill position players who can win individual matchups, and a coach who has the ability to utilize all of these elements in concert.
We can’t sit here and say that quarterbacks don’t matter, but something that IS happening this season is that good teams with backup QBs are being undervalued by Vegas. For us, if we can see their true worth, they’ll repay us over and over.