2014 NFC Quick Hits — Bet on, bet against, avoid.
I enjoyed doing my series of quick looks at 128 college football teams a couple weeks ago but judging from the number of comments, maybe you all aren’t as excited about C-USA talk in August.
Just remember who was way out front on the Terrence Broadway parade and when Marshall gets a BCS at-large berth it should surprise not Kanick readers.
Given what I expect to be a fool-proof road map to betting riches and fame, I’d be crazy not to perform the same exercise on the NFL. It’s a good exercise.
One of the parts of the exercise is to look at coaches’ records against the spread. While I think this is a more important indicator for CFB coaches, it’s still useful for NFL. Here is an important sortable table.
It’s all the active NFL head coaches ATS records. It’s useful enough that I gave it a page just in case you want to refer to it. I see you Bruce Arians and Mike McCoy and I’m not surprised by your records.
Armed with that table, the VegasInsiders previews for the NFC and AFC, the superb Kanick reader divisional previews, PFF’s unbeatable stats, Ourlads’ depth charts, and my personal hot-takes… let’s pick our darlings in the NFC for this year.
(This post, like those college posts, grew and grew. So here are jumplinks to get to the division you want to see:)
Cowboys — I’m seeing some critical reviews of the Cowboys’ off-season but what jumps off the page for me is that they passed on an undersized, dynamic mobile QB in favor of the one player not drafted by the Browns that Mike Pettine told us is sure all-pro: Zack Martin. Given that they already have an undersized,1 dynamic, mobile QB who suffered behind the 26th worst pass blocking o-line last year … I love love love the move. That’s three first round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Martin) now healthy and protecting Tony Romo’s left side. I’m a fan of Romo and I think his horrible turnover numbers are the direct result of being crushed for the last five years. Give him a good o-line and I think he’s a top ten QB, perhaps elite. Is the defense a mess? Hell yes the defense is a mess. It was iffy at first then completely went down the crapper last year when Sean Lee got injured and he got injured again. Draft pick Demarcus Lawrence is out for September and starting CB Orlando Scandrick is suspended (PEDs) for four games. But I read somewhere that Mo Claiborne was looking actually good in camp and may finally start to play like a top ten pick. I see the problems with the Cowboys, I see Garrett is 47% ATS,, but I really like Romo behind a good line.
Giants — Eli is pretty much a sacred cow — two time SB winning QBs are like that — but here is a QB who can not function without a decent line. Whether you do or don’t love the NFL’s QB rating system, the fact of only above Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith is alarming.
When you think ‘public NFL team’ you think Cowboys, but I suspect the Giants are right there too. Coughlin is generally a decent coach but cripes he’s 68. Jerry Reese I love you, but damn: you had the second worst pass blocking line in the league last year. You paid a lot for Geoff Schwartz; you invested 18M guaranteed in Will Beatty who was very not good last year. You lost Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph and are rolling with Cullen Jenkins and Jonathan Hankins. You went the ‘get a sexy playmaker in the first round’ route. Peyton Hillis figures in your offense. Prove me wrong Jerry, I don’t like what you’ve put together.
Eagles — Not sold. Not sold on Nick Foles. Not sold on Chip’s offense; defenses will catch up. Never thought Jeremy Maclin was all that. Not a bad move losing DeSean Jackson but not sure Riley Cooper is an upgrade. But on the other hand Darren Sproles is interesting. Add Malcolm Jenkins and Cory Williams to Nate Allen and you’ve got a secondary whose names I mostly know. Chip Kelley was some ungodly 60% ATS at Oregon.
Skins — Jay Gruden was just a horrible offensive coordinator. I’m not saying he failed up in the same magnitude of Pat Shurmur but it’s something like that.2 And of course there is #TheMovement. No defense; no first round impact draft pick (RG3 trade). This is a big ol’ bet against. There is nothing I like about this team. No wait, I do like Pierre Garçon. Garcon plus Jackson with a decent o-line and Griffin… ennnh.. No. Gruden will snuff out anything resembling an interesting offense. He has a track record.
NFC SOUTH.Falcons — Hearing very good things about Jake Matthews out of camp. Coach-y things like ‘centered footwork’ and ‘aggressive hands’ and ‘just cant get past him.’ That’s good and about the only thing to be jazzed about for the Falcons now that he’s anchoring the line at left tackle with Sam Baker’s season over. Was a bad pass protecting line last year and maybe it’s status quo with a rookie LT. Was a no-pass-rushing, no-covering bad defense last year so they sign Tyson Jackson then draft RaShede Hageman to ride the bench behind him. And I like Hageman, just saying it makes no sense. What’s the plan? As of the writing Steven Jackson hasn’t seen the field. His production trajectory is negative.
Panthers — A lot of writers have been burying the Panthers after the off-season and I’m one of them. But… taking a second look at the WRs in particular… the Panthers traded Hixon (out for year), Ginn (still just a punt returner), LaFell (I kinda like him but he’s just ok), and Steve Smith (same (corrosive?) attitude at 35) for physical specimen Kelvin Benjamin. He is built like Megatron and uncoverable WRs are useful in the red zone. Early pre-season reports look good and he’ll start. So you’ve dumped four limited ok players for a guy with a Megatron or VJax ceiling… not totally dumb. Probably the best off-season move was re-signing Rivera (57% ATS). Newton looked rusty in first game back from ankle surgery. I think people were slow respect the Panthers last year and I think they’re probably still underrated.
Saints — Brandin Cooks “looks like an absolute steal since the Rams had no prayer of staying in front of him. ” Interesting because from what I’ve read, that Saints move up for Cooks threw a wrench in the Browns plans leading to the Manziel pick. Payton and Brees plus Cooks and keeping Graham.. yeah that offense is gonna work. About the defense though, picked up Byrd and Bailey to add to KLewis and Vaccaro, that’s a strong secondary. All the PFF numbers from last year check out positive except Run Defense. Sorry I can live with mediocre run defense. Go ahead and beat the Saints with your run game. I dare you.
Bucs — My favorite draft. Not only Mike Evans but also Austin Sefarian-Jenkins in the second round.3 Evans, ASJ, and VJax = unstoppable in red zone. UN. STOP. A. BULL. Don’t care who the QB is. YOU can convert TDs throwing to those three. Defense is shaping up beast mode. Add Mike Johnson and Verner to GMcCoy and LDavid; Barron and Goldson at safety and Lovie Smith coaching them up. This could be a bad ass defense. Not quite in Carolina’s class but approaching. Even with Mike Shannahan available the Bucs went with first time ever in the NFL, former failed Cal HC Jeff Tedford as the new OC. Probably says more about Shannahan than Tedford.
Bears — Trestman is last among active HCs against the spread. Just one year, but yowch 28%. And it’s easy to see why: the 2013 Bears had an historically bad defense. Just look how much worse they grade out compared to the 31st worst team.
When you dig deeper and see the individual ratings 33 yr old Lance Briggs got the only ‘green’ rating with Tim Jennings right behind him. Now I love Kyle Fuller… but you have an epicly horrible defense and you drafted four defense players in the first four rounds and only the 4th round pick (Brock Vereen) is able to crack the starting lineup (per current Ourlads depth chart). This bodes ill. On the other hand Cutler to Marshall/Jeffery. They’ll win games but will not be a cover machine with that defense.
Lions — Schwartz was 46% ATS in 81 games, so that’s not great and sounds about right (actually it sounds high). Caldwell is 51%. Meh. That Ebron pick. Don’t get me wrong I like him and think he’ll be good but you’ve got Pettigrew and Fauria. You spent your #10 pick on a third string tight end. Yes I know you wanted Justin Gilbert but you could’ve had Fuller or Dennard or Roby. I don’t see a lot of off-season improvement. But they weren’t a bad team last year; just goofy and sloppy. I really respect both sides of their line of scrimmage. Hate their secondary. Don’t get Matt Stafford.
Pack — Rodgers looked in mid-season form against Rams: 11-13, 130 yds, 1 TD, 0 int, 0 sacks. Andrew Quarless seems to be the heir to Jermichael Finley’s statistics (I’d jump on him in fantasy if I came close to caring about that.). McCarthy is 4th among active coaches with a 58% ATS cover rate. Yeah the defense was not good but first off, when you don’t have Aaron Rodgers for nine games, then you don’t have a drive-constructing, non-3-and-out-going probably best QB in league spelling your defense. Losing Aaron Rodgers makes your defense worse. I like Clinton-Dix, think he was good value (he better beat out Micah Hyde to start this year). But I’m quite interested to see if Davante Adams can beat out Randall Cobb. Regardless, and even with lackluster David Bahktiari at LT… healthy Rodgers means…
Vikes — Matt Cassel is reportedly looking very sharp in camp. Had nice numbers against Arizona’s #1s. Bridgewater had nice numbers against the #2s. But Cassel’s performance and his ownership of the huddle should have the Vikings in good hands. Defense will benefit from adding Linval Joseph to run stuff and Anthony Barr to do everything. He’s off to a good start with a sack and forced fumble in the Arizona game. Will start immediately. I wasn’t that big on Norv Turner’s offense here but I loved that he unloaded on Banner after the Chud firing. I’m leaning to bet on the Vikes but I want to how Zimmer gets them in game shape. Also not sold on Cassel, definitely not sold on Bridgewater. Thus.
Cards — Your number ATS NFL HC: Bruce Arians. A staggering 71% cover rate with a 28 game sample. But they lost Dansby and Washington from that really good defense. Oh wait, they lost Darnell Dockett with a torn ACL yesterday too. Welp,, they didn’t lose Calais Campbell or Patrick Peterson. I never hated Frostee Rucker when he was here and he’ll just get more snaps now. A lot more. Carson Palmer runs a smooth offense, Ellington is supposedly a star on the rise, Fitz is Fitz, and the third round WR from Pittsburg State — John Brown — might surprise. I am undeterred! All the losses on defense just push the spreads down for Arians to jump over.
Niners — The behind the scenes shit show wherein your GM does not extend the contract of his 41-14, 63% spread-covering, two time NFC Championship Game participant, almost SB-winning head coach is starting to show in front of the scenes. 34-0 ass whipping is not how you christen a beautiful new stadium in Santa Clara. I just think it’s a team in disarray. No leader. Disgruntled stars. I guess Vernon Davis finally showed, but Alex Boone…? he gone. Aldon Smith is looking at a six to eight game suspension. The talent is there for this team. But I know Harbaugh’s act wears thin on me and I only watch him on TV from the other coast. Imagine what he’s like to work for every day? Lookit, I love their off-season; love their roster. It just looks like a team spinning apart. They’re so respected that there will be many opps to..4
Seahawks — Russell Wilson looks in mid-season form (11-13, 130 yds vs Chargers). I like the Pryor pickup. Turbin looks good. Lynch will be ready. But that defense. Remember up above where show how statistically deviant the Bears defense was in its horrible-ness? Same thing for the Seahawks but in reverse:
Pete Carroll’s a safe 55% spread coverer. I’m sure not betting against the Seahawks and why avoid such a steady team with the league’s bet defense. I’m growing more convinced that the good defense teams are the teams that cover.
Rams — Stafford is supposedly looking very sharp in camp. (9-12, 100 yds, 1TD, 0 int vs Green Bay.) If you want to trust that, that’s fine. I’m skeptical. “Rookie running back Tre Mason showed terrific burst and drew praise from Rams legend Marshall Faulk on the St. Louis broadcast.” Not skeptical about that, not at all. Aaron Donald will turn Rams’ front of Quinn-Brockers-Long into a new Fearsome Foursome. That’s good because Greg Robinson seems to be struggling.5 Still nothing out of Tavon Austin.6 And then there’s Jeff Fisher who was a flat-out dick when Bernie got it right last year in his in-game analysis and for Bernie’s truth telling, Fisher saw to it that the Browns would not rehire him. Petty, small dick you are Jeff Fisher. Hey they should be a good team but I don’t trust their QB or coach and they play in a dome. I’m going to walk away.
Summing it up for our NFC picks:
- Bet on: Cowboys, Panthers, Saints, Bucs, Pack, Cards, Seahawks.
- Bet against: Giants, Skins, Falcons, Bears, Niners.
- Avoid: Eagles, Lions, Vikes, Rams.
The growing table of all the teams into these three buckets is here.
I’ll be back with the AFC later this week.
- Actually, Romo is 6’2″. [back]
- I surely do not understand the allure of the Gruden name. If John Gruden’s act hasn’t worn thin for you by now,, I don’t know what. [back]
- My Browns draft would have been Evans at 4, once Cooks and Martin and Fuller and Dennard were off board, probably ASJ with the late first pick. Then Garoppolo with the Bitonio pick. Billy Turner in the third round. [back]
- Ooooohhh!! Cowboys +5.5 vs Niners at home for the opener!! Potential moneypick! [back]
- Didn’t Acto counsel without ambiguity that Jake Matthews was the top lineman, don’t overthink it, move on? Yes, I’m sure that he did. [back]
- LOL. [back]