Week 16 Early WORMS Best Bets



I know there’s an explanation for this phenomenon, but I don’t know what it’s called so let me describe it to you.


You witness something happen repeatedly in private, over and over, but the second you call attention to it, it fades away.


Now, this could easily be explained statistically (as I am sure the Night Owl is crying out) because the more times in a row something happens, the more due for regression it becomes. Julio Jones going five games without scoring a touchdown doesn’t actually increase his odds of scoring in the sixth game, but given a larger picture of his statistical expectations, we know his touchdowns should even out over time and so we might expect that sixth game to yield a touchdown.


If you flip a coin five times in a row and it’s heads each time, the sixth time is still 50-50, but we know that 1000 flips are going to come close to a split of 500-500 so then we might think the larger picture odds are improved.


In the case we are talking about here, however, it would be like playing Julio Jones in fantasy for five weeks, getting nothing, and benching him for the game he goes off.


Of course all of this is a not so thinly veiled allusion to the fact that WORMS was on fire until I asked people to spread the word, and the week where I had people texting me and reaching out letting me know the bets they were placing on WORMS, we had perhaps our worst week ever and everything is thrown for a loop.


The analogy that comes to mind for all of this is one of my favorite obscure movie references that can be used to describe much of life. The 1999 classic Mystery Men is a movie about a group of people who think they are superheroes, but appear to not actually possess the necessary superpowers. They all have something unique about them, but nothing that makes them seem super. One of the characters is played by Kel (of Keenan and Kel for those who grew up in the 90’s). He spend the whole movie telling people that he is invisible, but only when no one is looking. No one believes him, and I won’t spoil the movie, but sufficed to say he’s telling the truth.


And it is this phenomenon that I am trying to capture here. The notion of being special only when there is no one there to see how special you are.


So, with this jumbled logic in mind, it stands to reason that now, after a horrendous week, is when we will have a great week. First time users have been scared away and it is only the loyal among us who remain.


Sadly, however, I fear WORMS may not be fully equipped to deal with the end of season variance that comes into play when teams begin positioning themselves in playoff seeding and draft orders. (For example, last week Cincinnati did not play to win against New England, something that WORMS was not prepared for.)


What this all means, then, is that WORMS is what it always was: an imperfect system that is still better than average at picking games, but which cannot be relied upon wholly and fully.

This offseason the Night Owl and I will be working on creating something that is more reliable and predictable – a more mature WORMS – but until then, we are dealing with something that is a tool and not a solution.


To add to this perceived shrinking in confidence of WORMS is the fact that this is one of the lowest Delta weeks we have had of all time. What this means is that WORMS is less confident in its top picks this week than a typical week (remember when Baltimore had a delta of 81?!). Essentially, then, if your confidence in WORMS is shrinking, that is going to be compounded by WORMS’ lower confidence in this week’s games.


But what I am not telling you is that when Kel comes to a moment in the movie where his friends need to count on him, they have faith that he really is special. When Julio Jones has gone a while without a touchdown, he rewards fans who stick with him by scoring two. And I have faith that those who use WORMS on a weekly basis will be rewarded over the long run.


Faith is a slippery concept, one that is largely deemed intelligent or crazy based upon the horse you hitch your wagon to, so I don’t blame you for losing your faith. Just don’t come crying to us when it turns out that we really did have super powers the whole time.


Here are the Week 16 Early WORMS Best Bets:


GB @ MIN

Vegas: MIN -4 WORMS: MIN -18 Delta: 14 Spread %: 15 Moneyline %: 13


I honestly get why WORMS loves this game.


If there is any team in the league that is built on smoke and mirrors, it would be the Green Bay Packers.


As currently constituted, the Packers don’t have a number two receiver. They have a running back who leads the league in rushing touchdowns and has 17 overall despite only getting 16.6 touches per game. For reference Christian McCaffrey, who might be having the greatest running back season ever, has 18 touchdowns on 25.6 touches per game. Their point differential is +47, which is over 70 points fewer than the Vikings and on par with 8-6 teams like the Rams and Titans.


What this all says is that the Packers are running hot to be 11-3 right now.


Meanwhile, the Vikings are running cold to be only 10-4. They have the fourth best point differential in the league behind only the Ravens, Patriots, and Niners. They only have one loss by more than a single score, and in two of those one score losses they could have/should have won. They give up the sixth fewest points per game on defense and score the fifth most points on offense.


What all this says is that the Vikings are actually one of the best teams in the NFL.


The wrinkle in this game comes from injuries. With Dalvin Cook in bad shape and his backup Alexander Mattison banged up as well, the Vikings will likely start Mike Boone at running back. While he is a preseason all-star and a freak athlete, it is also concerning that a team that relies strictly on running and play action would be weakened so much in this area. Also, considering Adam Thielen has only played one game since Veteran’s Day, the Vikings offense is looking thin.


With that being said, this is the time of the year when we can look under the hood and start to see beyond a team’s record. Wins and losses aside, this is a lopsided matchup that makes the Vikings look like the team to beat in the NFC North.


If you agree, obviously bet this line, but also bet the Vikings to win the NFC North.


And if you’re looking for long shot playoff bets, consider betting the Vikings to win the NFC.


If you’re really drinking the kool-aid throw in the Vikings to win the Super Bowl.


HOU @ TB

Vegas: HOU -3 WORMS: TB -10.5 Delta: 13.5 Spread %: 15 Moneyline %: 8


Everything I said about the previous game applies triple to this one.


Instead of spending a thousand words telling you that the Bucs have been playing out of their minds and that the Texans have been wildly inconsistent and probably deserved to lose to Tennessee, let’s focus on the status of these two teams.


Right now, Houston has never been healthier on offense. They have all their receivers available, most notably Will Fuller, which makes their passing offense lethal. Tampa Bay is one of the worst in the league against the pass.


Meanwhile. Tampa Bay is most likely going to be missing Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Scottie Miller, leaving them with just Breshard Perriman as a receiver who has played more than one game this year. To put that in perspective, the Bucs will be missing 2,500 yards of receiving and 18 touchdowns on Sunday. To put that in perspective, Philadelphia receivers (including tight ends) have 3,500 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns on the season.


The Bucs are going to be hurting.


So, despite the fact that Tampa Bay is 4-0 in their last four with point totals of 35, 28, 38, and 38, it will not be the same team that is out there on Sunday. Throw in the two losses that should have been wins, and this team would be 9-5, one game out of a wild card.


What this means is that WORMS is correctly assessing the past, but cannot account for the new factors going into this game.


You can, though, and if you trust the Bucs to not miss a beat, load them up. If, however, you see these injuries as dragging down their potential upside, then you can be your own WORM and avoid them in this spot.


DAL @ PHI

Vegas: DAL -2.5 WORMS: PHI -8.5 Delta: 11 Spread %: 12 Moneyline %: 6


Take a moment and sympathize with WORMS here.


This is an algorithm that is meant to take numbers and find the most likely scenario in a matchup between two teams. How is it supposed to do that when those two teams have the following results in a season?


Dallas – Win vs LAR 44-21, Loss @ NYJ 24-22, Loss vs BUF 26-15, Loss vs CHI 31-24

Philadelphia – Loss @ MIA 37-31, Win @ BUF 31-17, Win @ GB 34-27, Loss vs DET 27-24


Obviously there are a million reasons why these games went these ways and there are an infinite number of permutations to the effects of these games, but the point stands. Both of these teams have wild swings in execution and success.


As it stands, both teams are 7-7 despite playing in a division with two double-digit loss teams. One of these teams will make the playoffs with a worse record than a wild card team and will likely host either the Niners or the Seahawks. Both of these teams are underachieving and both of these teams would be lucky to make the playoffs.


So, understanding all of that, you might infer that this is a game I prefer to stay away from than bet. You’d be right, but this isn’t about me, this is about WORMS.


WORMS likes the Eagles in this game for a couple of simple reasons. The biggest is that after three straight losses, the Eagles have to strong wins. What WORMS doesn’t know, though is that Philly was down three with under a minute left against Washington before winning by ten. The numbers are throwing off WORMS, but we can adjust ourselves.


Dallas, meanwhile, has only won one game coming off of three straight losses. The difference between that one win and that two wins is what is pushing the Eagles ahead in WORMS’ eyes. Between two inconsistent teams, the more consistent team is going to be preferred.


What we can see that WORMS can’t, though, is that in each of these cases these two teams are not ones who perform similarly on a week to week basis.


You are free to act as you see fit, but it is my belief that not even WORMS can predict what will happen in the NFC EAST.


DET @ DEN

Vegas: DEN -7 WORMS: DEN -14.5 Delta: 7.5 Spread %: 8 Moneyline %: 11


Alright, now this is a game I can get behind!


Without going too deeply into the inner workings of WORMS, it can sometimes take a couple of weeks for the algorithm to fully incorporate major lineup changes. For instance, when Matt Stafford went down, his impact was still a part of the data that was being used for the Lions projections.


At this point, however, we have had enough of the David Blough experience for his impact to be the central component to the WORMS output.


And the inverse is true for Drew Lock outperforming his predecessor in Denver.


So, while other lines may be yet to adjust to these changes, this line is a real and accurate picture of this game. Which is good, because I believe WORMS is spot on here.


Since Blough took over in Detroit (and without their top running back, tight end, and number two wide receiver) Detroit is averaging 14.7 points per game – second worst in the league. He has thrown three touchdowns, five interceptions, and has yet to record a win.


In Denver, it has been the exact opposite. Lock has thrown for five touchdowns, three interceptions, and has taken home two wins in his three games as starter. Denver is averaging a full touchdown more than Detroit in that span, at 21.3 points per game.


Defensively, the difference is just as stark. Detroit is coming off of a game in which they gave up 450 passing yards to Jameis Winston despite the fact that he played the second half without three of his top four receivers. Denver, meanwhile, is twelfth in the league over its last three games in points per game.


So, with two teams heading in opposite directions and a lot of games this week affected by unpredictable influences, this stands out as one that is fairly stable.


Nothing screams big money bet like stability.


JAX @ ATL

Vegas: ATL -7.5 WORMS: ATL -14.5 Delta: 7 Spread %: 8 Moneyline %: 11


Remember when I said Detroit was the second worse offense over the last three weeks? Well, Jacksonville is the worst.


Despite beating the Raiders in their last game in Oakland, Jacksonville is still having one of the worst stretches in football history.


Prior to Week 15, Jacksonville had lost five in a row. Four of those were by 20 or more points and the other was by 17. Their total point differential in those games was -117. After beating Oakland, there point differential over their last six is -113.


The point here is that we should not overreact to a win against a team that has a seasonal point differential somewhere between the Giants and Washington.


So now that we have established that Jacksonville is still a bad team, let’s look at Atlanta.


Much was made of their rough start to the season, and the certainly underperformed, but Atlanta has been one of the better teams in the league since the start of November.


In their last six games, the Falcons are 4-2 despite playing the Niners, Bucs, Panthers twice, and Saints twice. Every one of those teams currently has an equal or better record than the Falcons.


And what’s more impressive is that in those games (especially their wins over the Saints and Niners) the Falcons have been doing it as much with defense as with offense. Over their last three they are allowing 22.7 points per game, but two of those came against league best offenses in the Saints and Niners.


Over their past six, they have allowed 19.2 points per game and that includes 35 to the Bucs.


Essentially, then, the numbers indicate that despite records and total season success, Atlanta is playing like a top flight team and Jacksonville is playing like one of the worst teams in the league.


A spread of seven isn’t small, but given those performances it isn’t close to big enough.

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