Thursday Night Football: Week Two (Over or Under?)

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Thursday Night Football- Week Two (Over or Under?)

The NFL is putting its best foot forward for Thursday Night Football. (Sarcasm) Two teams from the NFC East! (More sarcasm) I am not sure the NFC East is playing the type of football the league should be showcasing. And the matchup between Heinickie and Jones (No, not that Jones. Not Mac Jones, this is Daniel Jones) is not exactly an A-list cast. This division has a difficult enough time providing watchable inter-divisional games with the proper amount of rest. 

This could be a wildly forgettable evening of football.  

New York Giants v Washington (-3, 41)

Both teams are coming off home losses to the AFC West. The Redskins lost Fitzpatrick for six to eight weeks with a hip injury. It appears Barkley will be working under a play limit once again. 

Line Movement

This line moved quite a bit and across the key number of 41. The model was on the under in this game when the total stood at 42.5. The line moved quickly to 40.5 as a result of sharp money pounding the line. 

If the line edges back up to 41 before kickoff, It should be a play.  

What The Model Says About This Game

The Giants are not efficient on offense. The model ranked New York’s (in)efficiency last week as 28th in the league. The inefficiency is easily explained but nearly impossible to fix this season. The Giants missed on a quarterback and drafted a running back far too high in the draft. To compound those problems, the General Manager, Gettleman, hired Judge who hired Jason Garrett as OC.

I am not picking on the Giants. They really do have terrible management, including its personnel department. Jones is not very good and has not shown any signs of improvement. 

Similarly, Barkley has not been great either. (I understand he was injured. He will be on limited reps again this game). What follows are Barkley’s career stats. The stats of the back that Gettleman called so special that he was worthy of the number two overall pick.

The Giants passed on players like Denzel Ward, Bradley Chubb, and Quenton Nelson. All three could help this Giants team immensely. If they wanted to run the ball, Nelson would have been the wiser choice. He, along with Zack MArtin, are the best two guards in the league. 

To make matters worse, The Washington defense, while overrated in general, is well above average. They were very good last week against the Chargers. The model ranked Washington as the fourth most efficient defense last week. However, they did have some turnover luck on a Herbert fumble. The Giants should struggle to score. 

When Washington is on offense, they will be led by Heinicke after the injury to Fitzmagic last week. Heinicke ranked as the 21st rated passer in week one. Washington as a whole ranked just below the median in offensive efficiency. The Giants’ defense ranked slightly better than the median. 

There is not a lot of data on Heinicke:

However, we can glean some information. Heinicke played for Rivera in 2018 while in Carolina. We can assume that Rivera is comfortable with him. In 2018, Heinicke played six games. He averaged 9.5 attempts per game. He got the start in the playoff game last season, aired the ball out 44 times, and ran well on seven scrambles. 

I am surprised Rivera limited him to 15 attempts last week. My only guess is that the gameplan they installed did not fit Heinicke’s strength which is rolling out on bootlegs and putting pressure on the defense with his legs and arm. I suspect we will see a game plan similar to what Rivera utilized in the playoffs on Thursday. 

I am also surprised the Washington offense did not target McLaurin more often last week. Heinicke targeted him four times. McLaurin caught all four passes and averaged 15.5 yards per reception. He should be targeted early on Thursday night.  

The Model’s Side

The model is on the under at 41.5. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, this is an inter-divisional game that has been historically low-scoring. Since this is a Thursday Night game, the teams will be operating on shortened rest. There is a 20-30% chance of wind and rain at kickoff. The fear of going under such a low total is always the unexpected score—the defensive or special teams touchdown. There is the ever-present fear that Barkley breaks of a 60+ yard touchdown run. I will live with those improbable outcomes. 

Unfortunately, the line continues to sink like a stone with smart money pushing the total all the way down to 40.5. The model endorses the side if the total touches 41, or certainly 41.5, again before kickoff. 

Since the side is no longer available, the model suggests some player props for you to consider. These are straight value plays. Although I have not painted a pretty picture of Daniel Jones, he is getting tremendous value on over 1.5 touchdown throws. He is going off at +152 at Pinnacle. The model believes the correct odds are +110. The model also finds value in the following plays:

Shepard over .5 yards rushing +115

Shepard under 4.5 receptions + 126

Dyami Brown under 2.5 receptions +127

So if you regularly bet player props, you may want to consider those listed above. If the line gets to 41, bet the under. 

The Model is taking the Under at 41

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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