After a rough week picking in the SuperContest last time, we’ll try to turn things around this week. Tonight’s game won’t make it into that list of more likely picks against the spread, but we’ll start off with a look at the Carolina-Tampa game nonetheless.
Tampa Bay’s season has been an outright disaster hidden only by the somehow greater incompetence of the Jaguars (and the surprising incompetence of the Giants, although they’re off the winless list now). The Bucs are 0-6, although to be fair they’ve had some close calls against the Jets (lost by 1 on the road), Saints (by 2), and Cardinals (by 3). They probably could have won a game or two by now with very small changes to what’s actually happened. But that doesn’t make them good by any means: Tampa sports the lowest yards per pass attempt in the league, although they’re second to last if you include sacks and sack yardage. Unfortunately for them, that stat includes time that Josh Freeman spent at QB; in the last three games against the Eagles, Falcons, and Cardinals, Mike Glennon has been even worse (and that isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of defenses). The running game hasn’t been quite as bad, but it’s still below average. On the plus side, Tampa has done an ok job of keeping track of the ball.
On defense, the Bucs have done an ok job with interceptions but are below average at sacks and pass efficiency in general (although not terrible). Their run defense has also been fairly solid, although they probably have a good sense of what’s coming given their record. Sprinkle in some other factors and the basic stats line up well with Luigi’s rankings: Tampa has the second-worst offense in the league but a reasonable defense.
Lining up against them are the Carolina Panthers. Carolina actually rates out as a top-10 team in my rankings, mostly thanks to a strong defense. The Panthers have the second-best interception rate in the league and the sixth-best sack rate. When opposing QBs get a throw off, they’re below average in yards per pass. They’re also a little above-average when it comes to stopping the run.
On offense, Carolina is more average. They’re just below in terms of rushing, and while their raw yards per pass attempt is above-average, it’s mitigated a bit by a relatively high interception rate and the fifth-highest sack rate in the league. That leaves the Panthers right at league average in terms of net yards per pass attempt. All this has come against a fairly weak set of competition; there was a close loss to the Seahawks in week 1 but since then it’s been Buffalo, the Giants, Arizona, Minnesota, and St. Louis. At least their three wins have been convincing and two of the three losses were close.
Put it all together and the Hilton line is Panthers by 6 even though they’re on the road. The models largely agree, although they think the number could be more in the 3-5 range. So it isn’t a strong preference by any means, but lean towards the Bucs to cover.
How about the actual SuperContest picks? I go with Luigi, and this week he’s taking Jacksonville +16.5, St. Louis +10.5, Oakland +2.5, Miami +6.5, and Minnesota +9.5. The Jaguars pick is somewhat iffy because they’re listed as the home team but the game is in London; the same issue came up a couple weeks ago with Minnesota and the Giants. But just like that game, the difference between the spread and the model prediction is big enough that I would probably take the Jaguars anyway. I can’t say the pick is very attractive since the Jags have only covered once, with the ludicrous Denver line. But you have to trust the process, I suppose. The Rams line could also be off with the injury to Bradford, and I think the Pats still aren’t getting a lot of respect from the model because of their low passing efficiency, which could change with the return of Gronk. But, as always, we’ll see how it goes.
Luigi’s outright picks, for those of you in pick ’em leagues, are Carolina, Detroit, Kansas City, New England, New Orleans, Philly, San Fran, Cincy, Oakland, Denver, Atlanta, Green Bay, and Seattle.
Yoshi 2 is going with the same picks for the SuperContest, and Yoshi 1 is going with St. Louis, Jacksonville, Buffalo +11.5, Cleveland +7.5, and Miami. The Jets would be next in and Minnesota behind them; it thinks the Oakland game is closer to right. On the other hand, Luigi think the Buffalo and Cleveland games are close to right. So I guess this week’s ‘consensus picks’ are the Rams, Jags, and Dolphins.