What the Data Saw: NFL Week One


A Model Day

The model recommended eight bets this weekend. It had one side on TNF, six sides on Sunday, and it had the Ravens – 4 on Monday night. With seven games in the books, the model is 7-0. 

TNF Over 52Won1.1 units1 unit
Seattle -2.5Won1.1 units1 unit
San Diego -1Won1.1 units1 unit
Miami + 3Won1.1 units1 unit
Denver -2.5Won1.1 units1 unit
J Williams Over 38.5Won1.61 units1 unit
Cleveland + 6Won1.1 units1 unit
Baltimore -4Pending1.1 unitsPending
TOTALS7 units

I wish I could tell you this was par for the course. I will take 17 more weeks just like it. Of course, it is not. In addition, the model usually will produce between only 3-5 plays a week. 

As for the model’s leans, which represent sides it favors but would not bet, the picture was not as pretty. Those went 2-4-1, for – 2.4 units. 

How to Lose a Game in Two Plays, O-H- … Oh No! 

Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland. 

A fumble…

…and then a punt that they punted on…

and, just like that, it was over. 

This game was something to behold. Mayfield was sensational. Cleveland was sensational. And it was not enough. The Chiefs have Mahomes. Playing against KC is like playing tennis against a wall. One little mistake, and it is curtains. The Browns made two. 

The Browns had that same problem in last year’s playoff loss when they fumbled the ball through the endzone for a Chiefs’ touchback.

These teams are developing a fantastic rivalry. 

Kansas City’s third quarter was a masterpiece. The Chiefs ran 24 plays, held the ball for 13:24, and scored 10 points. The Browns ran four plays, had the ball for 1:36, scored zero points, and turned the ball over. The Chiefs did not panic even though they trailed significantly; they just wore the Browns defense out and froze out the Browns offense. 

I wonder about Mayfield’s pick in the Browns’ final drive. He was under duress. The play had no chance. It was first down with over a minute remaining, so no need to force it. I hope he was trying to throw the ball away and just could not get enough on it. Otherwise, the throw makes no sense.  

Still, the Browns were impressive. Just not as remarkable as the Chiefs. 

The Scoring Regression

Last season was the highest-scoring season in the history of the NFL; teams averaged 49.6 points per game in 2020. That constituted an increase of 8% from 2019 and a 5% increase over the previous highest-scoring season in 2013. 

The debate about scoring centered on two different arguments. The first group theorized that the increase in scoring was due to the absence of fans in 2020. The other group maintained that it was part of the natural evolution of the game. They point out that there was a similar 3 point jump in scoring between 2017 – 2018. 

After week one: No Fans 1, Evolution 0. 

The Cowboys and the Buccaneers started the season off with a 60 point performance.  Today we had five more 50+ performances. Still, the average scoring after one Sunday is 47.2 points per game. That is 2.4 points per game beneath last year’s numbers and right in line with the model’s prediction.  

In conjunction with the scoring increase, the “no crowds” group maintained that last year’s anomalous road winning percentage would regress as well. Not so through week one. For those scoring at home, road team success did continue as road teams went 8-7 straight up, including five road dogs: Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and San Diego.  

Unusual Animal Pairings

Whenever my granddaughter is sad, I show her the story of Tarra and Bella. I am a sucker for unusual animal pairings, and so is she. This brings me to a great one. I am referring to the Lion trapped in a vice and slowly dying. A Ram wandered by and freed the Lion. The two became fast friends. 

This is the origin story of Stafford and McVey.  I have been banging the drum in seemingly every article I have written for BLS that the play-action pass is wildly effective and that Stafford will excel in McVey’s offense.

Well, the first data has arrived, and it looks every bit as impressive as I thought it would be:

I am so digging” the Wil-dron! 

In my writeup for the Seahawks/Colts game, I intimated that Russel Wilson and new Offensive Coordinator Waldron would form an excellent relationship. I even gave the couple its official mash-up name, Wildron. Here is what I had to say:

“The model paints a picture of a world that is just and fair as we watch Wilson throwing the ball on early downs, utilizing a substantial dose of pre-snap motion, play action, and multiple personnel groupings. 

And here is what we got statistically:

Here is the stat line from Wilson’s four-touchdown performance. 

Every team in the vaunted NFC West won today. The 49ers vaunted defense surrendered an inexplicable amount of points to Goff’s Lions. The Rams, Cardinals, and Seahawks were spectacular.  

Mac Jones Wins the Rookie of the Day

All three rookie starting quarterbacks lost. Jones did not play like a rookie. He possessed the highest completion percentage, the highest average, and was the only one of the three not to throw an interception. It was a struggle for Wilson and a catastrophe for Jacksonville. 

Lawrence threw three interceptions in a 51 attempt performance as the lowly Texans, with Tyrod Taylor, smoked Meyer and Lawrence all day. 

All rookie quarterbacks struggle early, but Lawrence and Meyer were eyebrow-raising bad. After one week, the inside track to OROY belongs to Jones. 

This is it, and it’s the Pitts

The model could not have been higher on the rookie, Pitts. Nor could it have been lower on Pittsburgh. The model looks ridiculous for one day anyway. 

Pitts will be fine. I am not worried. Pittsburgh was fine. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown was the margin in the game. 

I walk away from that game more concerned about Buffalo than I do impressed with Pittsburgh. We will see if the model has changed its mind on Buffalo when the data comes back.

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