2021 NFL Week Five: Projections, Sides, and Analysis (Part One)

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2021 NFL Week Five- Projections, Sides, and Analysis (Part One)

KNISH UPDATE (10-7-2021): I am adding one play. Saints -1.5 (1 Unit). After initially wanted to force the game to Washington, and sitting it out when I could not, I have just accepted that the Saints are the side.


Now that we are through NFL Week Four, the model is starting to have enough current data to utilize its power rankings. From this point forward the model will rely on simulations as well as its power rankings to find weak spots in the market. 

Since the power rankings are referenced often below, I include the latest power rankings here:

You can use the power rankings to create a raw expected spread (RES) for each game by by simply combining the score for each team. Remember that is the RES on a neutral field. Home field advantage is not included in the power rankings.  

And now for something completely different

The model is placing a two-team 6 point Round Robin Teaser at -110 on the following sides. Normally, I would deem this approach misguided. However, the model has all four teams over, at, or near 77% to cover with the 6 points. That results in a 59.29% chance to win each bet, a 6.91% edge on each ticket. Too much to pass. If you can only find -120, then the model says it still has value, 4.74% edge.

Dallas -7.5

Seattle +2.5

Minnesota -7.5 

Cleveland +2

Bills +2.5

That is a total of 10 bets at ½ unit each. As long as you are teasing down from 7.5 to 8.5, or up from 1.5 to 2.5 the model finds value. Otherwise, just bet the team straight at the number. I debated long and hard about leaving Seattle off this list. The model finds them more likely to lose significantly than any other team. But it still has the game most likely decided by three.

What follows will only be single sides. 

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks (2, 54.5)

Rams 27.58 – Seahawks 27.44

The model’s power ranking algorithm makes this line the Rams -2.49 on a neutral field. The model’s simulations have the game an essential tie. 

There is a good opportunity to tease the Seahawks. At -120 each leg of a teaser must hit at a clip of 74% in order to be profitable. As long as the Seahawks remain under three, you can tease them through the three and the seven. This is worth 23% of value and brings your expectation in line with the 74% win percentage you need. Minnesota is a great option to pair with Seattle as is Dallas -7.5, Bills +2.5, or the Browns +2. 

The model is not taking a side in this game. 


New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons (-3, 46)

Jets 19.61 – Falcons 23.99

This game is in London

The model’s power rankings have the Falcons favored by 2.56 on a neutral field. The simulations on Atlanta’s home-field have the Falcons covering by a hair.  The model also believes is numbers on Wilson are soft because of the quality of the defensive coordinators he faced in his first three weeks – Rhule, Belichick, and Fangio. It was not surprising to see Wilson have success last week. His success should continue against the Falcons. 

The line is moving toward the Jets. If the model were going to take a position in this game, it would have been Jets +3.5. However, now that the line is 3, the model does not see enough value. The under is attractive, but with two erratic teams and the game in London, there are too many unknowns.

The model is not taking a position in this game.


Miami Dolphins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10, 48)

Miami 19.35 – Tampa Bay 26.43

The model’s power ranking algorithm makes the Buccaneers a 7.91 favorite on a neutral field. The simulations a Tampa Bay victory of only 7.18 points. 

This is primarily due to the disturbing trend of Tampa Bay wasting early-down opportunities. The Bucs ran 87% of the time on early downs against the Patriots and it nearly cost them the game. This was their same problem early last season when they were 7-5. 

The model is not taking a position in this game. 


Philadelphia Eagles v Carolina Panthers (-3.5, 45.5)

Eagles 21.41 – Panthers 26.45

The model’s power rankings have the Panthers favored by 3.88 on a neutral field. The simulations have the line Panther -4.04. 

This is the last game the model’s simulations want a part of it. The Panthers are overrated, especially on defense. Hurts is like an EKG, wildly up and then down. There is just too much variance in this game. Still, I am going with the RES power rankings and taking the Panthers.

The model is taking the Panthers -3.5


New Orleans Saints v Washington (1.5, 44.5)

Saints 23.49 – Washington 21.85

The model’s power rankings create a RES of Saints -3.77. The simulations in DC have the most likely final margin as Saints -1.64.  

I was optimistic that the model would find value on Washington. The Saints desperately want to run the ball and keep the game out of Winston’s arm. I trashed Washington’s defense the first three weeks of the season and called them horribly overrated, now I am expecting them to breakout. I would be inclined to take the ML with Washington. 

The model is not taking a position in this game. 


Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars (4, 48.5)

Titans 26.42 – Jaguars 19.43

The model’s power rankings create a RES of Titans -7.28. The model sees a Titan spread of -6.99. That is consistent and in line with expectations. The Jaguars are apparently getting the fill 3 for HFA from the books. 

There is a sentiment that this is the time to back the Jags. Lawrence looked much better last week, especially early. Meyer’s latest screw-up may actually galvanize the team. There are also injury concerns particularly in the Titans receiving corps. 

I will watch the injury report and update this position Friday. 


Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings (-7.5, 49.5)

Lions 17.87 – Vikings 28.50

The model’s power ranking algorithm has this game at Vikings -7.5 on a neutral field. Minnesota has one of the best home-field advantages in football. After the simulations and accounting for schemes, the model says the Vikings -10.67 is the correct number. 

This game is ripe for a tease. To make money on a -120 teaser you need to be successful 74% of the time. (A teaser at -120 requires a win percentage of 54.55%. Since there are two teams, at least, in teaser .74% times .74% equals 54.76%) Since the number is -7.5 and we can tease Minnesota across both the 7 and the 3, we pick up approximately 23%. We just need a dance partner for the Vikings. As stated earlier that is Seattle. 

The model is not taking a side in this game. 


Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5, 41)

Broncos 15.41 – Steelers 11.79

This game gets complicated. The model’s RES is Broncos -2.53 on a neutral field. Bridgewater is out at quarterback, and that likely means Drew Lock. The model simulations still have the Broncos winning on the road in a blatant sign of how little it thinks of the Steelers. 

The under at 41 was too good to pass, but that number appears gone now.

The model is on under 41, but that side is no longer available.  


Green Bay Packers v Cincinnati Bengals (3, 49.5)

Packers 28.16 -Bengals  21.50

The model’s RES has the neutral field line at Packers -3.27. The simulations see the game differently. The simulations are far better at discounting the Packers’ week one debacle, and has the line Packers -6.66 Ominous?!?)

This is an auto-play for me on the Packers. 

The model is taking the Packers -3 (1.5 units). 

About the author:

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I write about data and sports. I created my first model in 1997 using nothing more than Excel. Currently, I have data-driven models for the NFL, NBA, and World Cup Soccer.

Mathematics is the music of reason.
— James Joseph Sylvester, English mathematician

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