Week 3 of the NFL season brought more than its fair share of mayhem as the quarterback injuries have started to pile up.
Looking at the two biggest injuries, Big Roethlisberger and Drew Brees are worth about four and six points per game over an average QB, by EPA since 2009. The lines for their games have dropped by three and five respectively since the news broke, so oddsmakers have (unsurprisingly) done a good job adjusting. What we saw of the backups wasn’t enough to say what’s going to happen going forward, so I’ll be avoiding those games this week and waiting for a little more data.
Otherwise, we saw a lot more of the same in Week 2. The Ravens, Cowboys, Chiefs and Patriots stayed as the Top 4 offenses by EPA, though the 49ers at No. 5 after their destruction of the Bengals is not something most would have predicted.
On the other end of the spectrum, Miami may be the worst team ever and the Jets predictably struggled with Luke Falk at QB, but the remainder of the Bottom 5 offenses are all surprising: Carolina, Tampa Bay and (most surprising of all) Cleveland. Now we don’t want to move too much based on two games but certainly we’ll be keeping an eye on those teams moving forward.
NEW YORK GIANTS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-6.5, 48)
We got a win Week 1 with a bet against the Bucs offense and have another great spot here going up against rookie QB Daniel Jones and the Giants.
I mentioned in Week 1 that Tampa Bay’s defense had shown signs of life late in 2018 and they’ve more than kept that up, sitting second in defensive EPA through 2 games. We expect them to regress somewhat, but we’re still looking at an above-average defense against a rookie QB whose best healthy receiver is (I had to look it up)… Cody Latimer?
On the other side of the ball, Jameis Winston rebounded from a terrible Week 1 but did so in very safe fashion. The Bucs have yet to eclipse 300 yards or 20 points and just don’t look like the explosive offense many expected them to be. Two bad offenses, one good defense and an above average total. Stinks like Under to me.
PREDICTION: Under 48
HOUSTON TEXANS AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-3.5, 47.5)
This line has come down from 49 after the two teams combined for just 23 points in Week 2. A few things to note: first the Chargers left a lot of points on the table. Austin Ekeler fumbled at the one-yard line, Philip Rivers threw a pointless pick in the end zone and the Chargers put up well over 400 yards of offense despite only scoring 10 points.
Houston, meanwhile, went up against a very good Jaguars defense that had Deshaun Watson under pressure all day. The Chargers have just two sacks through two games and have struggled overall on defense, ranking near the bottom on the NFL by EPA so far in 2019.
It’s easy to look at last week’s scoreboard and think we have two good defenses and two bad offenses, but EPA would suggest quite the opposite.
PREDICTION: Over 47.5
NEW YORK JETS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-22.5, 43.5)
This one is a bet on the New England Patriots defense as much as anything. Coming into the season it was expected to be good and you can’t ask for much more through two games, allowing just three points and less than 500 total yards while leaving the rest of the league in the dust by defensive EPA.
It’s easy to write off last week’s destruction of the Dolphins, but they also held a healthy Ben Roethlisberger & Co. to a mere field goal in Week 1, so it looks like much of that preseason hype was warranted.
The concern here is that the Patriots do most or all of the work themselves, but last week’s scoreboard was run up in large part due to two fourth-quarter pick-6s and a garbage-time touchdown to James White.
Diving deeper, we’ve only seen 22 points scored through 49 minutes. The Jets also pose a much tougher test on defense. Miami ranks 32nd by defensive EPA (again, worst team ever?) whereas the Jets’ stop unit has kept them in games, allowing 40 points through two outings and ranking 11th by EPA.
The Jets defense isn’t going to stop the Patriots but it should offer more resistance than the Dolphins did. And until Sam Darnold’s mono improves, we’re not going to see a lot of points out of Gang Green.
PREDICTION: Under 43.5
Week 2: 1-2
Season to date: 3-3