Week 12, huh?
Something that I have been realizing through the year is that not every week is created equally.
Our narrative brains like to create story lines and retroactively fit weeks into boxes, but it is much more lucrative and meaningful to hone these skills before the influences of scores and results.
For instance, two weeks ago (when the Dolphins and Falcons pulled off two of the biggest upsets of the year) it would have behooved us to be cautious of the slate as it approached. If our survival instincts kicked in, then we could have avoided a trap.
On the flip side, in Week 7 (when the Cardinals, Ravens, and Saints pulled of road upsets that we here predicted and big favorites Patriots, Rams, and Bills all covered) if we could have identified how big the spot was we could have maximized profits.
In other words, liking a week (for gambling purposes) after it has finished is not very useful. Learning to identify weeks ahead of time and act accordingly is important. A good week may have one or two results you like, a great week might have three, four, five, or more.
And that’s where WORMS comes in.
It has become clear to the Night Owl and myself that WORMS is no longer a spread predictor.
No, WORMS in its current iteration is a market inefficiency finder. It is there to tell us which ones of the lines are the most susceptible. The more susceptible lines, the better the week is shaping up for us.
According to WORMS, this is a great week.
A week after only liking three games at a delta of seven or higher (a notable delta because of its correlation to touchdowns), WORMS likes SIX games at that level this week and another two at a delta of six or higher. The lowest delta of the week is three, which would have been higher than six other games last week.
In other words, last week the lines were much closer to prediction quality. There was not a large gap between what WORMS and Vegas thought about the games.
This week, that is not the case.
So, if like me, you won enough money on Baltimore last week to refill your coffers, WORMS thinks you should empty those coffers and your choice of games this week. It feels like a time to jump on a couple of games big and sprinkle in some parlays, because you never know what next week will offer.
If everything goes according to plan, our foresight and hindsight will be in lockstep and our bank accounts will be thanking us.
Here are the Week 12 Early WORMS Best Bets:
BAL @ LAR Vegas Spread: BAL -3 WORMS Spread: BAL -84 Delta: 81
Man, WORMS loves the Ravens. There’s a joke somewhere in there, but honestly, I am too tired to find it.
And instead of rattling off a million stats that again explain why Baltimore is dominant and why these spreads don’t take into account how good they are, let’s talk about what WORMS is doing here.
This line was a big point of contention between the Night Owl and myself. If you run the WORMS algorithm putting more emphasis on yearly production, this line goes down to -24. I wanted to keep it at -84 for a couple of reasons.
First of all, emphasizing recent performances is the correct way to interpret football data. For a million different reasons (injuries, scheme changes, film studying, increased chemistry, changing landscapes, shifts in weather, player streakiness, suspensions, adaptations, etc.) teams shift as the seasons goes.
Given that football is such a small sample size sport, this can get confusing. We have limited information, so the first instinct is to take into account all of it. In reality, the noisiest numbers come from the furthest away and there is little use in Baltimore’s Week 1 blowout of Miami. At that point they were playing without Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters, Lamar Jackson ran the ball three times for six yards, and the Dolphins looked destined to go 0-16.
The second reason in wanting to keep the giant delta is to emphasize the purpose of WORMS.
Although WORMS predicts scores and spreads, in its current form it is not trying to predict exact scores. Instead, as I said in the intro, it is trying to identify weak lines by signaling the degree to which it thinks the line is wrong.
This 84 is screaming at you that the Ravens should win this game by a lot and easily.
Now, WORMS isn’t factoring in an East coast team traveling 3,000 miles to play a game in LA, but WORMS is telling us that factors like that aren’t enough to make this a bad pick. The giant delta is saying that WORMS believes most factors aren’t going to shake this bet and that you should bet it with confidence.
How does that mean you should operate?
Well, as someone who believes that WORMS is best used on its higher end deltas, I’ll be jumping on this line. Last week, I put the majority of my money in play on the Ravens. I even considered an adjusted line of BAL -20 for +1000, but chickened out and am now regretting it.
But also, I think that is the way to do this. Don’t expect Baltimore to win by 84, but expect this line to appear weak in retrospect. Our job is to identify opportunity before it happens and not after. WORMS is identifying this as the biggest opportunity we’ve ever seen.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but this could be a spot we look back on and question Vegas.
DAL @ NE Vegas Spread: NE -6.5 WORMS Spread: DAL -9 Delta: 15.5
At the risk of being a broken record, here we go:
You should not read this line as “Dallas will win by nine” you should read this as “New England shouldn’t be favored by a touchdown”.
Let’s look at each of those.
If you were to look at this and say “Dallas favored by nine in New England?! That’s crazy!” then you would probably dismiss this out of hand and move onto the next site that has an animal themed brand and betting algorithm.
In doing so, though, you would be missing the real point.
This New England team has struggled in recent weeks and Dallas has the potential to make this game closer than Vegas is indicating, and perhaps even win.
A note before we dive into why this might be true. Remember that Vegas sets lines based on action as much as prediction. Given how popular New England is and given the narrative that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL, then a higher line here can still get action, even if Vegas believes these teams to be closer.
And the numbers do indicate that these teams could be close.
The main reason for this is the large gap between these offenses. Despite some bumps along the way Dallas is currently leading the league in yards per play, first downs per game, and total yards per game.
New England is 24th, 11th, and 16th in those categories.
And in the meantime, while these two teams are second and third in points per game on the season, over the last three games Dallas is second in the league with 32.0 points per game while New England is tied for 16th at 21.3. Just for reference, they are tied with the Detroit Lions who lost their starting quarterback three weeks ago.
You wouldn’t be wrong to combat this argument with a reference to the Patriots number one defense, but again, recent numbers are a little different.
Allowing 10.8 points per game on the year, New England is allowing 20 points per game over its last three. Dallas is ranked just seven spots behind them at 24.3 points per game. Dallas is allowing just three more yards per game over the last three games as well.
Next, you might point to the schedule as the reason for this.
Yes, New England has played the Ravens which is skewing their numbers, but outside of that they competition has been fairly equal. Outside of common games against the Eagles, the Patriots have played the Ravens, Browns, and Jets over their last four; the Cowboys have played the Vikings, Lions, Giants.
You can argue that New England’s is tougher, but by how much is a matter of opinion, and mine is that is it not by much. Against the common opponent, the Eagles, Dallas won 37-10; New England 17-10.
There is not magic formula here to say definitively that Dallas has a better chance against New England than Vegas thinks.
It is a game in Foxboro in cold November weather. The Patriots are getting back Isaiah Wynn that will bolster a poor offensive line. Dallas has shown the propensity to buckle against good defenses and with suspect play calling.
But if we are in the business of looking forward and spotting lines that jump out as mis-predicting the future, then this is line makes Vegas look like a fortune teller looking into a bowling ball.
WORMS thinks this is closer than the line indicates, and the numbers back it up. With that said, your future is in your own hands.
SEA @ PHI Vegas Spread: PHI -2 WORMS Spread: SEA -10 Delta: 12
While the last line might have come as a surprise, this one should not be.
Almost everyone who looked at these lines was flabbergasted to see an 8-2 Seattle team as the underdogs against a 5-5 Philly team. The fact that the Patriots were favored by four last week adds insult to injury for Seahawks fans.
In reality, though, it probably makes sense to discredit the Seahawks 8-2 record a little bit. They are missed Rams and Niners field goals away from being 6-4 and tied but behind LA for a wildcard berth. In that alternate universe, this game would be a “winner boosts their playoff chances by a lot” type of game. But we live in our reality, and it is more of a “if Philly loses they might be done kind of game”.
So overall, these two teams aren’t a million miles apart. With that being said, there is clear data that shows that Seattle has some advantages in this games.
The first and the biggest is in the passing game. It is no secret that Philadelphia has had secondary troubles all year, and no one exploits secondaries quite like Russell Wilson. On top of this, what might even be underrated by taking a season long view of Wilson and the Seahawks is his stable of weapons.
Tyler Lockett has always been a great wide receiver but he has emerged as a true number one this year. DK Metcalf was meant to just be a straight line freak, but has shown the ability to get open and make plays; he leads the NFL in end zone targets. Josh Gordon showed that he is healthy and immediately becomes the most dangerous third wide receiver Wilson has ever had. Jacob Hollister is a legitimate pass-catching tight end. Chris Carson has expanded his pass catching work.
So by any metric, the Seahawks will trot out at least five weapons capable of causing mismatches for Philly. Add in Wilson’s legs and that might be six.
For the Eagles, the case is the opposite. Alshon Jeffery is in danger of missing another game and Desean Jackson is already out for the foreseeable future. This means Philly starts Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, and their two tight ends.
That would be bad enough if they weren’t also potentially missing left tackle Lane Johnson. Johnson left Sunday’s game early with a head injury and is questionable for Sunday. In that game against the Patriots, Carson Wentz was on fire before Johnson went out (their first drive which resulted in a TD) and ineffective without him (all the rest of their drives which resulted in a FG). These splits are also representative of Wentz’s career without Johnson. Per Bill Barnwell of ESPN, Wentz has a 98.1 passer rating with Johnson on the field and a 79.8 with him off the field. Oh, and Seattle has Jadaveon Clowney rushing the passer, so Johnson becomes even more important.
So while one team has gotten stronger in recent weeks, the other is floundering and thin across the board on offense. Over their last three games, Seattle is averaging 31.3 points per game, 3rd in the NFL, while Philadelphia is averaging 21, 18th in the NFL.
Perhaps you don’t think these two teams are that far apart, and you may be right. Given the circumstances and the line, however, this could be a good chance to jump on Seattle.
We can’t rewrite the past and make these two teams records match, but we can use the past to look at the future. Right now that future is all Seahawks.
JAX @ TEN Vegas Spread: TEN -3 WORMS Spread: TEN -11 Delta: 8
Here’s the dirty little secret of the NFL: outside of one or two great teams and one or two terrible teams, all of the other teams can win and lose interchangeably.
The middle class of the NFL is volatile and unpredictable, and it results in difficult to predict games every week. Add in the changes each team will undergo in a season and the results can be downright impossible to see through all of the noise.
In this game, however, we at least have a clear view of the place each of these teams is in: Jacksonville is spiraling and Tennessee is ascending. Will this hold up? No idea. But WORMS has highlighted this game for us because past performance, and more importantly recent past performance, indicates these two teams have a wide margin between them.
Over the last two games, Jacksonville has scored 16 points and allowed 59 points in back-to-back 20 point losses to division rivals. Prior to that they beat the Jets and the Bengals by 10 and 14 points respectively. The point here being that Jacksonville has lost the games that were against competitive teams and racked up wins against the soft underbelly of their schedule.
Now, they travel to face a Tennessee team that seems to have found itself on offense. After scoring more than 20 points twice in its first six games, Tennessee has now scored 20+ in four straight. They are 3-1 in that span and are coming off of a huge win against Kansas City before their bye last week. Their only loss was to the Panthers in a game in which Christian McCaffrey totaled 160 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Jags have no McCaffrey.
That last four week sample size is not meaningless either, as it directly coincides with the benching of Marcus Mariota and the starting of Ryan Tannehill. The Titans have looked like a different team during that stretch and have hit their stride at just the right time to make a playoff push.
To further illustrate the direction of these two teams, Tennessee is tied for 6th in points per game over the last three games (with the Chiefs!) and Jacksonville is 28th (right ahead of Chicago and Washington!).
So in a matchup of two teams heading in opposite directions, we should not be surprised that WORMS wants us to put more stock in the team rising. You can certainly look at some defensive statistics that make the Titans look susceptible to players like Nick Foles and DJ Chark, and the Titans offense can be fragile if they lose some of their passing game production and rely too heavily on the run game.
In the end though, part of identifying future possibilities is looking at past and present trajectories. Although these two are part of a muddled middle class, they are each pushing a different boundary of that group.
If we trust WORMS, then we can see each one continuing their trends this weekend.
MIA @ CLE Vegas Spread: CLE -11 WORMS Spread: MIA -3 Delta: 8
This is the exact inverse of the Jacksonville-Tennessee game, but for entirely different reasons.
We have made a good amount of money in the past betting on Miami when they have been massively discredited, and WORMS thinks we can do the same in the future.
The good news for the Dolphins is that after having a point differential of -117 through the first three games of the season good for -39 points/game, they have dropped that all the way down to -16.6 points per game on the season. In the last three they have an average scoring margin of -1.7.
And in spite of their streak of covering coming to an end last Sunday against the Bills, it was not all bad news for the Dolphins. They put up 20 points on a difficult Bills defense despite getting a total of 23 yards rushing in the game. You could look at this as a warning sign that the Dolphins are one-dimensional, but there seems to be an obvious fix in benching Kalen Ballage who has not broken a run longer of eight yards on 64 carries this season.
But hypothetical lineup changes aside, WORMS is likely noticing that the Dolphins have made a big turnaround from the days of getting blown out by four touchdowns.
The problem in my thinking is that the Browns may be making a similar turn around. After an inexcusable loss to Denver that looks a little better after the Broncos pushed the Vikings to the brink, the Browns beat those very same Bills in Buffalo and then beat the Steelers on Thursday Night.
That’s two really good defenses in a row and Miami is decidedly not a good defense.
While I may agree that this line is too high, I can’t in good faith tell you I feel as strongly as WORMS (but you’ll have to tune in on Saturday to find out for sure).
What I can tell you is that WORMS thinks this game needs to be closer than Vegas does. Betting on Miami plus double digits has worked in the past, and our algorithm thinks it will work in the future.
What do you think?