"Defense Wins Championships" - Part 2 - Myth or Fact for Super Bowl

Last year, I wrote a piece on whether defense wins championships in the Super Bowl. It was an interesting analysis, given that last year's Super Bowl was clearly a big offense in KC vs a strong defense in the 49ers. We busted that myth, bet on the Chiefs, and put another Super Bowl win under our belt. This year, things are a little bit different. Let's get into it. 

We have arguably the best offense in the 2020 Chiefs against the best defense in the Bucs. But the buc doesn't stop there. It's not like the Bucs have a weak offense or the Cheifs have a weak defense. The plot above has the last 31 Super Bowl winners by DVOA and take a look. You can quickly see where KC falls on the chart. Pretty close to where they were last year but better on offense. 

Read the rest at https://rokfin.com/article/3292/Defense-Wins-Championships--Part-2--Myth-or-Fact-for-Super-Bowl

Conference Championship NFL Point Spread Picks

You're not gonna like this week's picks. You could be better off betting against them. I'm sticking to the models and either going down with the ship or ending the season with a solid 3-0 ATS. They are contrarian, you could find 10 reasons why not to do it, but I'm here to tell you why I'm sticking to it.

Buccaneers +3.5

Betting against Aaron Rodgers at home? You're crazy. Betting against Aaron Rodgers (6-2 ATS last 8 games) during the playoffs is absurd. The public surely thinks so. As of Tuesday, they have 57% of the bets and 60% of the money. This means that there's no clear sharp action on the Packers but the general public are cheeseheads. He beat the Rams defense, good for him. But played a mediocre offense without its top receiver and a QB with a broken thumb. Let's see how the Bucs challenge will pan out.

  • Machine learning models (ALL of them) have the Bucs winning outright with high confidence. Through 20 years of data, the models have seen this situation 74 times and have been correct 64.9% of the time.
  • Bucs pass offense is top 3 in the league. #3 in pts/gm and #2 in pass yards/gm. The Green Bay pass defense is decently ranked #8. If they fall asleep in the back or get tricked with a play action, Brady will catch on and throw long.
  • Bucs will run the ball a lot. It worked for them last week and it did in week 6 against the Packers (158 yards and 2 TDs). Runs the clock out and keeps the game close.
  • The Bucs weakness in defense is the run, but they were able to hold their ground against Kamara last week and against the Packers in week 6 (94 rushing yards and 1 TD).
  • Will Rodgers again have a hard time against them? Possibly. The answer is in the blitz.
  • Tampa Bay had the toughest schedule in the league according to teamrankings. Green Bay's schedule is ranked #18. Point Bucs.
  • The Green Bay offense is in full speed. Against the #1 defense, they were still able to score 32 points, rushing for 188 and passing for 296. They have a lot more weapons now that the Bucs need to figure out. Point Packers.
  • Who's the real goat? I'm gonna go with the guy with 6 rings vs. 1. Aaron Rodgers hasn't won a Super Bowl in 10 years and was humiliated by SF last year who I never thought had that good of an offense. Now, although a much better team, they face an even tougher defense and top 5 offense. Brady > Rodgers.
  • LaFleur is a great coach and in two years has built one of the best offenses in the league. Arians takes more risks, sometimes not good ones. But no risk no reward. Experience > 2 year coach.
  • Trends: Since 2006 (51 games) road dogs between 0 and 4 points are 64.6% against the spread. 7-2-1 (77.8%) in the last 10 games.
  • Intangible: Tampa is one game away from playing the Super Bowl at home.
As the locals in Tampa Bay would say, Tampaaaaaaaa!

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Wild Card NFL Point Spread Picks

A historical 61% ATS during playoffs in 13 years of experience. The real ride starts this week. Up your bankroll % because we're going to win big. Wildcard weekend is here and we've found 3 solid opportunities. Let's roll!

Subscribe today. It's the best $9.99 you will invest in sports. The Super Bowl is in Feb 7th so if you subscribe today, you only have to stay for one month. That's all playoff picks + Super Bowl for $9.99. Why so cheap? Because Rokfin is the best place to monetize content. You win and I win. 

The first one is a freebie.

Buffalo -6.5 Saturday 12pm CST
Buffalo is unstoppable right now and there are no signs of stopping. We have picked them 2 weeks in a row now out of a 8-0 ATS streak their in. Now they face noodle arm Philip Rivers and the Colts as a 6 and a half point home favorite. Although most of my models hover around a 10 point win for Buffalo, here are some reasons why I think this could get ugly for the Colts quick:
  • The Colts have had the easiest schedule of all the teams. Of their 11 wins, only 3 were against playoff teams (Bears, Titans, Packers).
  • Josh Allen's story of being rejected by universities (Fresno State) over and over until Wyoming gave him a chance is amazing. The guy is a fighter and will continue to prove his haters wrong. Captain Class type of guy.
  • My favorite angle here is that the Colts weakness in the defense is in the pass while we all know the strength of the Bills offense is in that same spot. Colts rank 19th in pass D while the Bills are 3rd in the league.
  • The Bills D is playing much better as of late especially against the run game. 
  • Home teams favorite between 6 and 7 are 57% ATS in the last 216 games. That's a big sample! About the same percentage in 2020.
Buffalo rolls past the Colts, Philip Rivers retires.

Get all picks at rokfin.com/nflpickles

Week 16 NFL Point Spread Picks

Great week last week 3-0 ATS and two push. Keep it rolling. Huge upsets last week, are they creating recency bias? Some teams are checked out and we capitalize on it. Let's break down 4 solid picks for week 16.

Miami -3

Looks like Derrek Carr is back at the helm this week. With 5 interceptions in last 4 complete games, looks like Miami's defense which ranks #2 in interceptions will have itself a feast. The Raiders are one of those teams that seem to have checked out of this season. Although Miami is winning in ugly ways, Tua is getting better. The covering machine of the Dolphins are 11-3 ATS and are only a 3 point favorite against a bad defense. Couple more points for why I like the Dolphins in this spot:

  • Raiders defense ranks 29th in the league and 30th against the rush
  • Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ryan Guenther showing signs of a debacle of the team
  • Not only is Miami good ATS this year, but Brian Flores is 20-6 ATS since he got the head coaching job
  • The statistical models predicted the Dolphins last week right on the nose. This week posted it at 6 but models fluctuate more closely to 10 and 13 point differential
  • Since 2010 road favorites by 3 are 54.4% ATS across 190 games. This year they are 11-1 ATS.
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Week 14 NFL Machine Learning Picks

3-1 for the top picks and 10 of 15 ATS all games last week. Better days are around the corner and we started rounding the corner last week. This week I got 5 top picks the models are excited about and a few others worth mentioning for teasers. Let's get right to it.

Atlanta -2.5

The Chargers are done and out. Usually, I wouldn't be too excited to bet against a team that just lost 45-0, but in the case of the Chargers I think they're hanging up the towel while Atlanta players want to put up stats. After an 0-5 start, the Falcons are 4-3 and interim coach Raheem Morris is probably thinking the same. Julio Jones as usual is questionable so we'll have to monitor that. Atlanta will need all its weapons. The Chargers D is ok ranking 9th in pass yds per game and 6th in pass yds per attempt. Yet they still allow over 28 points per game. On the other hand, the Falcons are ranked 29th in passing D which is the Chargers strong suit. Yet the model is up to something here and the momentum seem to be on the visiting team.

Green Bay -9

Don't overthink it. Detroit sucks. Galloday is out. The Packers are eyeing that #1 spot in the conference. The Packers are blowing out their opponents. Their offense is ranked #2 in DVOA and #1 in points scored. They are +80 point differential, 4th in the league. Aaron Rodgers is leading in TDs and passer rating and their rushing attack isn't something to dismiss either. All my models had this game over 10 points. Catching it at a single digit is a blessing. I believe the line quickly moved to 9 after opening at 7.5.

All other picks on my Rokfin channel.

Week 13 Machine Learning Picks

Totally forgot to post this here last week...I'll post week 14 right after 

Great teaser opportunities this week with some heavy favorites. A dog money line is screaming bet me based on recency bias and players returning. We discuss 4 opportunity games and 3 honorable mentions that are worth some units.

Arizona should've covered last week. We on the right side of a game where everything that had to go wrong did. Vegas was a bad pick. I should've seen it coming when I saw the Raiders sack rate and how they weren't going to get close to Matt Ryan, lesson learned. Seattle was money if you bet it before Sunday at 5 and even 6.

This week we take advantage of back up QBs, recency bias, and note some key players returning. Here we go!

Miami -11.5

That's a lot of points, but this spread should be 14 when Cincinnati has Brandon Allen as its QB. The difference here will be the Miami defense which allows 18pts per game and is ranked 9th against the pass. Fitzpatrick gives the Dolphins an even better chance to cover. He throws deeper and has thrown for 417 yards against these Bengals last year.
  • Miami is 6-1 ATS the last 7 games
  • Cincinnati with a back up QB against a tough hungry top 5 defense
  • Cincinnati's defense is bottom 5. 3.2% sack rate ranks 29th
  • More confident if Fitzpatrick starts the game
  • Both teams have had easy schedules
  • Models very confident on spotting a blowout in this game

Las Vegas -9

Vegas gets blown out last week but have beaten the Chiefs (almost twice) and yet they are a single digit favorite against the spread? This spread should also be 14. Huge recency bias here.
  • Sam Darnold sucks, no need to say more.
  • Vegas has played the toughest schedule in the league
  • Vegas is 6-0 ATS when they score more than their average (26.8)
  • Vegas is 7-4 ATS and the Jets are 3-8
  • Road teams favorite by more than 6 are 62% ATS since 2015 in 106 games

Cleveland +5.5

I'm not a money line guy but this games screams upset. Although the model displayed below with a confident of 57% has Tennessee winning anywhere between 3 and 4, most of the other ones had Cleveland winning. Note also that Tennessee is coming off a big win last week.
  • Myles Garret is back in the line up and will add to his 9.5 sacks for the year
  • These are similar teams in terms of overall defense and offensive rushing yards
  • The only risk is Baker, he does need to step up against a Titans defense that allows more than 268 yards in the air and are ranked 30th in adjusted sack rate
  • Titans coming off two big wins against the Colts and the Ravens screams recency bias

Indianapolis -3.5

What happens when Watson has no one to pass to? He scrambles and throws the ball away. This Houston team just lost its steam because Fuller took some PEDs. The 3.5 spread is an indication that the books want you to take Houston but it doesn't seem to be working as Indi is getting 68% of the bets and 90% of the money. Usually that would be something to worry, but this spread should've moved more when Houston's number 1 and 2 target are out. Easy money!

Week 12 Machine Learning Point Spread Picks

This week we stick to the strategy that made us winners last year. Find games with crappy teams facing tough teams with a single digit spread. The models certainly found some and we're going to make money off of it. 

I can't hide that it has sucked this year so far. But I know it will get better and hoping it does this week and the coming ones to build confidence to make big bets during the playoffs. Mistakes last week included putting money on single digit weak teams like the Eagles and the Patriots. Miami was a tough one, not sure if I would've changed it except that Tua is a small sample QB and now even smaller. Lessons learned, moving on to week 12.

I'm going to be very short and concise this week and just stick to the models. Mostly because I've had a lot of work this week and can't wait to sit back and eat turkey with the family. Next week I'll be back with more detailed analysis. Also, I might bring back high-stakes poker player for a short podcast tomorrow to debate these 3 picks and the 3 honorable mentions. 

Las Vegas -3

The Raiders look good and should've beaten the Chiefs again. Not sure how Derek Carr got so good from one year to the next but he's being real smart. Vegas has something to play for but not the Falcons. The models range anywhere from 5 to 15 point estimate for Vegas. Go Raiders!

All picks available here: https://rokfin.com/article/2307/Week-12-NFL-Point-Spread-Picks

Week 11 NFL Machine Learning Point Spread Picks

Home team favorites are covering 45% ATS this year. Models detect two opportunities in this trend. Two other picks find undervalued teams. First week where all the data used to predict is in 2020. Models are 58% ATS overall since week 5. We bet all top picks and honorable mentions this week. Let's dig in.

Last week wasn't great. Only one of the top 3 picks hit and 2 of the 3 honorable picks. Seattle's crumbling and the weather in Baltimore didn't help and we paid for it. We did bank on fading the 49ers and Indy on TNF. My Chicago-born wife told me to never bet on the Bears and she was right. On MNF their offense looked as bad as their DVOA or worse. This week, we make all seemingly good picks official picks and we got 4 solid ones.

Miami -3.5

The typical 3.5 trap to bet the other side. Don't fall for it. The models have the underrated Dolphins winning by almost a TD and other models have it by 2 TDs. This spread will move higher as Miami is getting lots of money from the sharps.

  • Captain + Injuries: Tua > Driskel
  • Trends: Away favorites by 3.5 are 57% ATS since 2010
  • DVOA: Denver has the worst rank offense in the NFL. They won't score much against a slightly above average and hot Miami defense.
  • SOS: One point for Denver. The Broncos have had a tougher schedule than Miami according to teamrankings.com, but it hasn't been that easy. They've faced the Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, and Bills. While the Broncos have lost against the Steelers, Titans, Bucaneers, and Chiefs.
All picks are available on Rokfin.com/nflpickles.

Week 10 NFL Machine Learning Point Spread Picks

We stick to two basic philosophies this week: 1) weak teams get beat out badly by strong teams with single digit spreads and 2) spot recency bias with strong teams that didn't perform last week. Let's dig in.

Let's be honest, the top picks weren't good last week. We hit 1 of 4 with Green Bay on TNF being the only win. The Monday morning QB in me should've known better. McCaffrey was coming back to Carolina and Thomas to New Orleans changing those teams offenses significantly. Both should've been stay away games. The more you know... The next games based on confidence covered (BUF, LV, BAL) which made me this week at least come back to these honorable mentions. 

As we know and was reinforced from last week, not everything is analytical. The analytics help detect possible opportunities, but digging deeper into the factors below and know how many of them go to the side that the anlytics point is important. Here are other factors that I like seeing agreeing with the models:

  • Injuries - This is the #1 issue. Is the team the model is picking better or worse off injury-wise when compared to previous weeks?
  • DVOA - Does the matchup make sense? A good passing offense vs a weak passing defense? etc.
  • Captain Class - We talked about this a lot last year. It's based on a book. But essentially I'm trying to see if the QB for the team we're on is a significantly better player and leader
  • Trends - Are there any significantly biased ATS trends for the situation or the team? I'm not talking 3-0 ATS in last 3 games, a bigger sample. 
  • Strength of Schedule - Analytics maybe biased if teams have had a significantly different schedule. We look at teamrankings.com for this info.
This will also help me structure the analysis around the models. I don't like long paragraphs and articles. I'm a straight to the point kind of person. Maybe one day I'll have more visual tables with check marks, for now I'll stick to bullet points. Here we go!

Baltimore -7
Quick review: Strong team vs a weak ass Patriots team who should've lost against the Jets last week. 
  • Injuries - Mark Ingram will play. The list for the Ravens is much smaller for the Patriots. Advantage: Ravens
  • DVOA - Baltimore is #1 against the run which is all the Patriots can do. 
  • Captain Class - I'll take the 2019 MVP any day over Cam.
  • Trends - The Ravens are 14-5 (73%) ATS since 2018 on the road
  • SOS - Baltimore has had a tougher schedule.
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Week 9 Machine Learning Point Spread Picks

66.7% ATS on locks last week. This week we keep pounding weak and banged up teams and find opportunities based on trends and recency bias. 

Last week we should've been perfect if Bruce Arians listened to Tom Brady and had gone on 4th & 1 at the 20. I still think it was the right spot and fortunately Daniel Jones missed so many long ball if not Tampa loses that game. This week a dug deep because there are so many injuries and new QBs that forced me out of many games. At the same time, if the models are pointing to the right direction and the team is banged up, we're going to take advantage. Which is why the first team I'm gonna talk about is Green Bay. Raiders and Chiefs were money. 

Green Bay -7 TNF 
The Packers and Aaron Rodgers coming off a loss are 31-15 ATS. The list of injured players in SF is too long for me to write. The 49ers are a totally different and weaker team than when they started this year and especially who they were last week. Green Bay couldn't stop the run last week and their defense has been pretty bad against the pass. This week Kittle is out and Bourne tested positive. Mostert is out so they won't be able to run the rock. Packers should be ok on defense. Their #2 offense will score +35 points against a pass D ranked #17 and sinking. Also, road teams on TNF this year have covered 5-2 ATS and road favorites since 2000 have gone 42-31 (57%). Not a high confidence game from a model perspective, but this week the market realizes how bad the 49ers have become.

Get all my picks at Rokfin.com/NFLpickles