Three games interest me: Commanders vs. Falcons, Saints vs. Texans, and Patriots vs. Raiders.
For your best bets, you should wager on all three underdogs. I personally like to invest three-quarters of a unit in the underdog ATS and the remaining quarter in the underdog ML.
Sunday, October 15, 2023 – 01:00 PM EDT at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Avoiding Recency Bias
It’s tempting to bet against the Commanders because of how bad they looked in their last game, but we need to remember that things often change from week to week.
This Commander’s team, before getting blown out by Chicago, took still undefeated Philadelphia to the brink.
I contend that the Commanders, after being humiliated on national television, will bounce back.
Is the Defense Fixable?
Washington’s defense is behaving like a typical Jack Del Rio-led defense. In its season opener, it displayed its capacity for success by limiting the Cardinals to 16 points, a point total to which San Francisco is the only other team to hold them. Since then, the defense has underachieved.
Giving up 40 points to Chicago is embarrassing, but the Commanders have the capacity to improve. They also have the determination. Their head coach articulated their determination to play with more discipline and to avoid trying to do too much.
Washington’s defense has tried to do too much by hunting for turnovers. Its aggressiveness has induced its cornerbacks to bite on double moves and otherwise to get burned for big plays downfield. Washington’s defense will improve because its pass defense is going to be more cautious.
Even if we grant that the Commanders’ secondary is vulnerable, it faces just the right quarterback.
Ranking number 24 in air yards, Desmond Ridder often struggles to make big plays and is often disinclined to do so.
Moreover, Ridder is going to struggle against Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s proclivity for a zone. Ridder ranks 32 in completion percentage against zone and 31 in passer rating against zone.
Commanders’ Defensive Line
The product of multiple first-round draft picks, Washington’s defensive line is stacked. With pass rushers like Chase Young, the Commanders own the NFL’s sixth-best sack rate.
Pressure will be useful against Ridder, who is also one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks at completing passes under pressure. Washington also has the personnel to control the trenches, which is an area where Atlanta struggles, as evident in its last game in which Houston held Atlanta to 2.7 YPC.
The Falcons now rank 19th in YPC, which is problematic because they need to rely on their running backs.
In the passing game, both teams want to lean on their tight ends, but it’s Atlanta’s pass defense that is most vulnerable to tight end productivity.
From Carolina’s Hayden Hurst in Week 1 to Houston’s Dalton Schultz last week, tight ends repeatedly thrive against the Falcons.
NFL Pick: Commanders +2.5 (-110) at Bet365
NFL Pick: Commanders ML (+120) at Bet365
Sunday, October 15, 2023 – 01:00 PM EDT at NRG Stadium
Saints’ Offensive Limitation
The Saints might seem to have exploded offensively last week in New England because they scored 34 points, but they only gained 304 total yards of offense.
Their main limitation is quarterback Derek Carr, who still appears to be dealing with a shoulder injury. This injury is hindering him from throwing downfield. As a result, he has failed to exceed 183 passing yards in any of his last three games.
While he favors throwing to running backs, his top wide receiver Chris Olave has suffered. He has been targeted a total of eleven times in his last two games and yet he has mustered 16 receiving yards.
His lack of productivity and the lack of a tight end who can replicate Atlanta’s success with its tight ends last week will make the Saints’ pass attack rather easy to contain.
Texans’ Run Defense
Close to half of New Orleans’ offense last week came from its ground game, but relying on running the ball is problematic against a Houston run defense that just held an Atlanta team that prides itself on its running back duo to 2.7 YPC.
The Texans have held their last three opponents – Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta – to below 15 points per game.
While they allow the occasional 20-yard run that inflates opposing YPC totals, their run defense has been stout.
Texans’ Rush Attack
It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but Houston’s rush attack finally got going in the latter stages of its game last week.
Houston does boast a good running back in Dameon Pierce, who as a rookie last year ranked eighth in rushing yards per game and also poses a threat as a pass-catcher. The problem has been continuity in the offensive line, whose improving health is resolving this problem.
With better blocking, as Texans run-blockers gel together, Pierce will build off his momentous finish to last week’s game.
In its worst defensive game, New Orleans allowed Tampa Bay running back Rachaad White to have his second-best game as a runner and a pass-catcher. Pierce will have similar success.
As measured by points per game, Houston will be the toughest offense that New Orleans will have faced this season.
Getting to face guys like Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill and Carolina’s Bryce Young has flattered the Saints’ pass-defense statistics, but CJ Stroud is an accurate quarterback for Houston who is increasingly comfortable throwing downfield to his wide receivers.
He has been especially comfortable at home, where he thrived against the Colts before, more impressively, achieving a passer rating against the Steelers that is almost 30 points higher than their average passer rating allowed.
NFL Pick: Texans +1.5 (-110) at Bet365
NFL Pick: Texans ML (+105) at Bet365
Sunday, October 15, 2023 – 04:05 PM EDT at Allegiant Stadium
Raiders Won’t Score Enough
The Raiders’ offense makes Vegas an unreliable favorite. They have yet to exceed 18 points in a game all season. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, they lack a downfield pass attack.
Garoppolo is unsuited to attack a defense vertically – he ranks 30th in deep ball completion percentage. His inaccuracy downfield deters him from attempting to throw downfield much. This is the case even with star wide receiver Davante Adams.
Granted, Adams is hurt. He played through pain to face his former team on Monday Night Football. As he openly admitted, his shoulder is limiting his effectiveness.
Especially with Adams hurt but also with Garoppolo’s deficiencies as a passer, the Raiders will be unable to take advantage of the absence of New England’s top cornerback.
Key injuries do not prevent New England’s defense from being among the NFL’s best.
Last week’s scoring output from New Orleans is misleading because the Saints only managed 304 total yards of offense despite the extent to which they possessed the ball.
The Patriots rank top ten at limiting opposing passing and rushing efficiency.
Last Sunday, the Patriots allowed so many points because their offense was terrible, but quarterback Mac Jones is primed to bounce back, as now he’s playing for his job.
Jones was highly efficient and otherwise more productive against Miami and Philadelphia, showing that he is capable of helping his team secure around 20 points even when encountering stronger secondaries that are laden with bigger names than the one he’ll encounter on Sunday.
Expect him to return to stronger form against the Raiders, who rank just above average in pass defense. Jones will also get more help this week. Tyquan Thornton, a speedy option at wide receiver, will return to open things up downfield.
The Raiders have allowed much more productivity to tight ends than New England’s last opponent, which means that Jones can resume his reliance on a big target in tight end Hunter Henry.
DeVante Parker is another big target, a reliable possession receiver who, alongside Henry, will find himself more open for intermediate throws as Thornton stretches the field.
NFL Pick: Patriots +3 (-105) at Bet365
NFL Pick: Patriots ML (+150) at Bet365
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