How Brady Can Shred the Jags’ No. 1 Pass Defense
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tom Brady
For the 2017 NFL regular season, Ben Gretch of RotoViz contributed his Deconstructing the Vegas Betting Lines piece to FantasyLabs. In this piece I apply his methodology to the Conference Championship Vegas lines.
To get a sense of how NFL teams might score their points this upcoming Sunday, I’ve looked at the year-to-date ‘market share’ of offensive and defensive production for each team’s passing, rushing, and kicking attacks. For instance, this year the Patriots have scored 43.4, 21.9, and 32.7 percent of their points through the passing, rushing, and kicking games, and they’ve allowed 51.0, 11.6, and 31.6 percent of the points scored against them to come via the pass, run, and kick. (For this exercise I’m setting aside defensive scores, which are largely random.)
Once we know the proportional production tendencies of offenses and defenses, we can apply those rates to the Vegas lines to create market-based and phase-specific point projections.
For the people who want all of the separate point projections for each team in one table, here it is.
For the people who also want phase-specific market share data (“Pass MS%,” “Rush MS%,” and “Kick MS%”), I’ve averaged the offensive and defensive production ratios for each matchup and provided those in the three tables below.
Passing Point Projections
At the quarterback position it’s Tom Brady and then three other guys. The Patriots lead the slate with 29.0 points per game (PPG) for the season, and they’re implied for 28.0 points. Even though the Pats are facing the defense that entered the playoffs first in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), Brady will likely have high ownership. While the Jags defense is strong outside the numbers thanks to Pro-Bowl cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, they are more vulnerable in the middle of the field, ranking 11th, 15th, and 20th in pass DVOA against supplementary (slot) receivers, running backs, and tight ends. If you use our Lineup Builder to stack the Pats, consider wide receiver Danny Amendola, running backs Dion Lewis or James White, and/or tight end Rob Gronkowski.
As much as people talk about the Jags secondary, the Vikings pass defense might be just as good. Through 17 games the Vikings have allowed just 16 passing touchdowns. His ownership will be low, and he’s the cheapest starting quarterback on the slate, but this doesn’t look like a great week to stack Eagles pass catchers with Nick Foles.
Rushing Point Projections
When stud rookie running back Dalvin Cook (knee) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4, the Vikings seemed destined for another mediocre campaign. They were 2-2 and had scored fewer than 10 points in both of their losses. Since then they are 12-1 and have ridden the backfield duo of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon for 1,931 yards and 15 touchdowns from scrimmage on 369 carries and 61 receptions. Lewis will be a desired back given his three-down role, but Murray and McKinnon might offer more bang for the buck in guaranteed prize pools.
Leonard Fournette (ankle) has been dealing with injury issues for half of the year, but he’s coming off a 109-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance in the Divisional Round, and now he’s facing a Patriots defense that is 30th in rush DVOA. The Pats shut down the big-bodied Derrick Henry last week and will look to do the same against Fournette, but the Jags will likely stick with their run-heavy approach in an attempt to control the clock and keep the Patriots offense off the field, even if game script starts to go against them. The Pats have held opponents to a league-low six rushing touchdowns this year, so Fournette’s touchdown equity isn’t as great as might be expected, but the No. 4 pick still seems likely to have an abundance of opportunity. The last time Fournette failed to touch the ball 20 times in a game I was writing about my favorite Thanksgiving pies.
Kicking Point Projections
For some reason, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is not the most expensive option on FanDuel, where he’s just $400 above the minimum price. The scoring equity that Gostkowski has in comparison to the slate’s other kickers is significant, and there might be some value in the over on his player prop this weekend. The other kickers, though, all have low projections: I expect I’ll be eyeing the under for their props. While we don’t highlight kickers in our Player Props Dashboard, the projections in this table — when properly adjusted for any line movement — will likely provide actionable guidance on which way to lean assuming that the weather forecasts in our Models are favorable: There are exceptions, but kickers tend to be weather-dependent producers.
Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports