The Model Speaks: 2021 NFL Week Three Betting Analysis (Part 1 of 2)

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THE MODEL SPEAKS 2021 NFL Week Three Projections and Analysis- Part 1 of 2

According to the model, this was a week to bet early. There is always a dilemma, but that is especially true with COVID. Betting early, you risk horrible news on the final injury report, betting late, and you miss, especially this week, some significant value. The model found sides in Cincinnati (+4.5), Washington (+9), Chargers (+7), Tampa Bay ML dog, Green Bay (+4.5), and Philadelphia (+4). 

Since all those numbers have disappeared, we will go through the current lines using MGM this week and look for value using the model as our guide.

Before we begin another word about teasers, I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but since this sets up as a big teaser week, I thought it should be repeated. Teasers are typically priced at -120 now. Those odds demand that each leg of your teaser covers at a clip of 74%. 

A -120 line requires a win percentage of 54.55% to break even. To determine the probability of two independent results, you multiply their individual probabilities. Consequently, if both independent events are 74% to occur individually, the probability that they both occur is .74^2 = 54.77%. You get your win probability to 74% by using the additional points the teaser gives you. If you cross key numbers three and seven, you are getting about 23% of the value. If you are not, and you are getting less value, either do not bet the teaser or bet the game individually.  

Washington v Buffalo Bills (-7.5, 45.5)

Although the spread did not cross a key number, The model took this game at Washington +9 but would still take it at 7.5. Be aware you are losing 3.65% on the number eight and 1.56% on a push at nine.

The model does not believe there is a significant dropoff between Heinicke and Fitzmagic. It even seems Heinicke has his own magic with the finish last Thursday night against the Giants. We are still waiting to see that vaunted Washington defensive line, and this might be the game it shows up. Buffalo’s line struggled against Pittsburgh, and I would expect to see Washing try the same approach. 

Josh Allen’s accuracy issues are quickly becoming the story of the early part of the season. I wrote about it this week on BLS. He has had four consecutive sub-par games dating back to last season. Do not be fooled by the Bills’ success last week in Miami. Allen did not play well. If he is not more accurate this week, Washington will be neck and neck with Buffalo. 

All of the money is on Washington, and yet the line has moved down. The books are heavily backing Washington in this game.

The model is on Washington +9, but still likes it at +7.5

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots (-3, 42)

The Saints are the wildest team in the NFL right now. Week one, they blow out Green Bay. Last week they lost outright as a three-point favorite. Every person I know was on the Panthers last week. With two outlier performances in two games, it is reasonable to feel uncertain about betting on or against the Saints. 

As with many things in life, the truth about the Saints most likely is somewhere in between their two extreme performances. As my mother used to say, a pendulum spends most of its time in the middle. The problem the model sees with the Saints is that they may be far closer to the team that Carolina rolled over last week than the team they appeared to be against Green Bay. 

Mac Jones does not have the touchdowns yet, but neither does he have any interceptions. His stats are wholly impressive for a rookie. We can question the level of his competition to date, the Dolphins and the Jets. He will have to do more through the air this week as the Saints have one of the best five run defenses in the NFL.

In two games, he has made six elite-level throws. He is completing 74% of his passes, and when we account for on-target throws, his adjusted completion percentage is in the low 80s. He has an average depth of target of 5.7 and a yards per attempt of 6.8. The concern is that he played far better in the first game against the Dolphins than in the second game against the Jets.

I am considering a player prop on Winston, no interceptions at +160 or better, and a prop on Jones to throw the pick at +115. This is a personal suggestion and not a product of the model. I am also considering Jones to throw his first pick.  

The model is not taking a position in this game, but it would lean Saints and strongly lean under. 


Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns (-7, 46)

This is the official start of the Justin Fields era in Chicago. I am excited for Bears’ fans because the model believes that he will be an exceptional quarterback. The model is not interested in this game. 

The model will not take the Bears, and it will not lay the 7 with the Browns. Confidence is too low. 

The model is not taking a position in this game. 


Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 50)

Last week the model took the 49ers when it was unpopular, and this week the model is fading the 49ers when it is unpopular. 

Green Bay will want to use the same game plan they employed against Detroit last week. A heavy dose of RPO leaning on the run early. Green Bay opened it up in the second half, but that may not be as easy against the 49ers as the Green Bay offensive line will have trouble holding up. Still, Rodgers will find a way to take some shots at this secondary. 

The 49ers are still injured, and they have struggled in both of their two wins. Those struggles came against Goff and Hurts. While Hurts has been impressive, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He only completed eleven passes last week. In any event, neither quarterback is in Rodgers’ domain.  

This line will continue to get worse for the Packers. If it sits at three, you can still grab it.

The model is taking the Packers +3.5


Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Los Angeles Rams (1, 55)

This game, unbelievably, opened with the Rams as the favorite. If plus money is available on the team that you believe to be the best in the NFL, you take it. Even if they do lose, I will gladly take the same position next time the situation arises. 

I have been a vocal backer of the McVey-Stafford union. I argued that Stafford offered the best MVP value before the season. I am high on the Rams and have some futures tied up in them. I share my model’s belief that they are the best team in the best division. I will not be surprised if they win this game. Still, like the late, great Anthony Bourdain, I have no reservations fading them in this spot. 

Everyone has the same approach to Tampa, a 75/25 pass to run split. The Cowboys did it, the Falcons did it, and both kept the game close for a minute. This is going to be a boat race. Neither team will let off the gas. It is a monster total, but I still have it going over by fractions of a point. If you are interested in the total, I would look for value in-game. If Brown is out, then the matter becomes markedly more difficult for Brady. Donald will need to get a ton of pressure on Brady.

This is overwhelmingly a “public” side. The model has no problem with that position. The public is right at times as well. But really, it is more simple than that…I go with the Buccaneers not just because of Brady but because they are so well built. They are a red zone nightmare. And the Rams cannot seem to keep anyone, let alone Brady, out of the red zone. This team can close. For the Rams come out of this game with a victory, Stafford will have to play an exceptional game.  

The model is on Tampa Bay +105 MLB. It likes them -1 as well. Finally, many have suggested that one should parlay Tampa Bay this week -1, with Tampa Bay next week -4.5 against New England. The model thinks this idea has value as we expect the Buccaneers line to be significantly higher when it reopens against the Patriots. 

The model is taking Tampa Bay -1

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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