Week 13 Monday Morning Moneyback: New England does it again

Week 13 Monday Morning Moneyback: New England does it again article feature image

Nov 26, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline against the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

If you remove the Broncos/Dolphins game that floated around a pick’em all week, NFL favorites posted a seventh consecutive winning Sunday, finishing 7-6 against the closing number. Over the past seven Sundays, favorites are a combined 52-27-5 (65.8 percent) ATS. Four of the six underdogs that did cover on Sunday also pulled out an outright victory: Jets +4, Seahawks +3.5, 49ers +2.5 and Vikings +2. Home teams turned a small profit on the day at 8-6 against the spread, and eight of the 14 games stayed under the closing total.

From an entertainment value standpoint, we did not get to see many competitive games, as illustrated by the 12.6 point average margin of victory. Only three of the 14 games were decided by less than seven points. Conversely, eight contests finished with a final margin of at least 10 points, including four blowouts of at least 20 points.

The Cleveland Browns dropped to 0-12 on the season, moving one step closer to locking up the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 2016-17 Browns joined the 1976-77 Buccaneers as the only two teams in NFL history to start 0-12 in consecutive seasons. On the bright side, at least they covered for the first time since October 22nd.

Only five teams in the NFL have a point differential greater than plus-100:

  1. Eagles +146
  2. Rams +139
  3. Patriots +125
  4. Jaguars +121
  5. Saints +110

Let’s now take a quick look at some key storylines from yesterday.

1. The Patriots’ defense dominates once again

Patriots (-7.5)  at Bills | Patriots win 23-3 (Under 49)

Nobody covers as road chalk like the Patriots, who have covered three of the last four weeks away from home as touchdown favorites, winning all three by at least 20 points.

Tom Brady had a fairly pedestrian day by his standards, but he didn’t really need to do much. New England’s defense held three Bills quarterbacks (Tyrod Taylor, Joe Webb and Nathan Peterman) to a combined 15/34 passing for 115 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. New England held Buffalo scoreless on two separate trips inside of the Patriots’ 10-yard line.

The Patriots have now allowed the fewest points in the NFL since Week 5. Remember when they ranked 31st in points allowed in October? Well, they now rank ninth in total scoring, and they haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points in eight straight games, something a Bill Belichick team had never done before. The New England defense is the unit the rest of the NFL should fear, as we already know what Brady and the offense can do.

Three stars of the game:

  1. TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) – 9 catches 147 yards
  2. RB Rex Burkead (NE) – 12 carries 78 yards
  3. DE Eric Lee (NE) – 1.5 sacks 1 INT 2 PD

2. The Eagles forgot their script

Eagles at Seahawks (+4) | Seahawks win 24-10 (Under 47)

The Eagles had a strong identity of coming out of the gates swinging, getting an early lead, and then suffocating you up front on both sides of the ball. However, for the first time this year, they seemed timid from the start. Instead of going for it on fourth and short, they punted it away. Instead of throwing it downfield against a secondary missing two-thirds of the Legion of Boom, Carson Wentz checked the ball down for the entire first half, averaging only 3.5 yards per attempt. As a result, Philadelphia allowed a touchdown in the opening quarter for the first time all season, and then played from the unfamiliar position of being behind all game.

To be fair, a few massive plays really could have changed the outcome of the game, such as the fumble/touchback or the uncalled forward pass. Additionally, Philadelphia couldn’t buy a call from the referees all night. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they came out with a different mindset than they’ve had all season.

Also, you have to give a ton of credit to Russell Wilson, who I think would deserve the MVP if the season ended today. He now leads his team in rushing, and only trails Carson Wentz for the league lead in passing touchdowns.

Three stars of the game:

  1. QB Russell Wilson (SEA) – 20/31 227 yards 3 TD
  2. DE Frank Clark (SEA) – 2 sacks 3 TFL 1 PD
  3. WR Nelson Agholor (PHI) – 7 grabs 141 yds 1 TD

3. Baltimore won the battle, but may have lost the war

Lions at Ravens (-2.5) | Ravens win 44-20 (Over 43)

For the second year in a row, the Ravens lost their rock on defense in Jimmy Smith, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. Sunday’s results put the Ravens in great position for the final playoff spot in the AFC, but Smith’s injury might cost them any real shot at making a surprise deep run, similar to 2012.

After Smith went down with an injury last year, the Ravens’ No. 1 pass defense became one of the worst units in all of football. As a result, Ozzie Newsome drafted cornerback Marlon Humphrey from Alabama in the first round and signed Brandon Carr from the Dallas Cowboys, along with a few other moves at slot to bolster their depth at corner. Consequently, I don’t think the dropoff will be as pronounced as 2016, but the unit will certainly take a step back. Jimmy Smith was playing at an All-Pro level and allowed the Ravens’ defense to run so many different exotic looks. The first real test will take place next week in Pittsburgh against Antonio Brown, a receiver Jimmy Smith has historically contained (60 yards per game over six games since becoming a starter). However, in the three games Smith didn’t play, Brown has averaged over 115 yards per game. It doesn’t get any easier after that, as the Ravens will close out the year against T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green, and Josh Gordon.

The bottom line is the Ravens are still in a great spot to make the playoffs with an elite special teams unit (No. 1 DVOA prior to this week), and a strong defense (No. 1 DVOA prior to this week) that should decrease in production without Smith. Therefore, the fate of the Ravens’ season will come down to the offense’s ability to pick up the slack as they did today for the first time all season.

Three stars of the game:

  1. RB Alex Collins (BAL) – 17 touches 98 yards 2 TD
  2. QB Joe Flacco (BAL) – 23/36 269 yards 2 TD
  3. WR Mike Wallace (BAL) – 5 catches 116 yards

4. The Vikings are the class of the NFC. Case closed.

Vikings (+1) at Falcons | Vikings win 14-9 (Under 48.5)

You might laugh off the meaningless tiebreaker that has the Vikings sitting as the one seed in the NFC, but their strength of victory truly speaks to how dominant they have been this year. The Vikings have defeated four teams that currently have winning records (the Eagles have only defeated one), and they held both the Falcons and Rams to under 10 points. The defense is as good as any unit in the NFL at every level. They ended Matt Ryan’s streak of 30 straight games with a touchdown on Sunday, and held Julio Jones to only 24 yards receiving.  In fact, in three career games against the Falcons, Xavier Rhodes has held Julio Jones to just five catches for 58 yards. They lead the NFL in third down conversion percentage on both offense and defense. Minnesota is the most complete team in the NFC, and I think they’re the clear favorite to get to the Super Bowl… in Minneapolis.

Three stars of the game:

  1. QB Case Keenum (MIN) – 25-30 227 yards 2 TD
  2. CB Xavier Rhodes (MIN) – 5 tackles
  3. RB Latavius Murray (MIN) – 19 touches 97 yards

5. The Rams’ run defense issues aren’t going away

Rams (-8) at Cardinals | Rams win 32-16 (Under 43)

You can never be too upset when you pull out a road win, especially by two touchdowns, to secure your franchise’s first winning season since 2003. However, the Rams’ run defense continues to struggle, which could be a major issue down the stretch, starting this week against the Eagles in a game with massive playoff implications. The Rams, who owned the third-worst run defense in the NFL in terms of yards per attempt coming into this week, allowed Kerwynn Williams to run for 97 yards on 16 carries yesterday.

Three stars of the game:

  1. RB Todd Gurley (LA) – 25 touches 158 yards
  2. DT Aaron Donald (LA) – 2 sacks 7 hurries
  3. WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – 10 grabs 98 yds 1 TD

6. You cannot contain both edges of the Chargers pass rush

Browns (+14) at Chargers | Chargers win 19-10 (Under 45)

There isn’t much you can really take from a game against the Browns, but I promise you that no current AFC playoff team wants to see the Chargers in the playoffs.

Three stars of the game:

  1. WR Keenan Allen (LA) – 10 grabs 105 yards 1 TD
  2. DE Joey Bosa (LA) – 7 tackles 1 sack 1 FF
  3. TE David Njoku (CLE) – 4 catches 74 yards 1 TD

7. New Orleans can ride their Kamara to Minneapolis

Panthers at Saints (-6) | Saints win 27-24 (Over 41)

How good is Alvin Kamara? I’m not sure we know yet. He continues to set the league on fire in his rookie campaign, averaging an absurd 7 yards per carry in large part due to an NFL-best elusive rating of 134.6, according to PFF.

Drew Brees is having a great year, but he is not asked to do too much. Their two-headed monster in the backfield leads the way on offense, and their defense continues to exceed all expectations. According to PFF, New Orleans didn’t miss a single tackle yesterday.

Three stars of the game:

  1. RB Alvin Kamara (NO) – 14 touches 126 yds 2 TD
  2. RB Mark Ingram (NO) – 20 touches 122 yds 1 TD
  3. WR Michael Thomas (NO) – 5 grabs 70 yds 1 TD

8. The Jaguars finally have a confident quarterback

Colts at Jaguars (-10) | Jaguars win 30-10 (Under 41)

The defense is elite, as we all know. Sacksonville features one of the most ferocious pass rushes in all of football, led by Calais Campbell, who set the Jaguars’ single season franchise sack record yesterday. We also know the the secondary can lock any group of receivers down, led by Jalen Ramsey.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Jaguars wanted to feature Leonard Fournette in the running game and ensure Blake Bortles didn’t lose them games. However, after their recent success, Bortles has started to develop into a more confident quarterback in an environment with much less pressure. He is throwing the ball with more conviction and is making smarter throws. His performance yesterday (26/35, 309 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) will go a long way in helping to develop that confidence, as Jacksonville will need Bortles to produce if they want to compete on the second weekend in the AFC. Don’t forget that Jacksonville lost their No. 1 receiver earlier in the season.

Three stars of the game:

  1. QB Blake Bortles – 26/35 309 yards 2 TD
  2. WR Marqise Lee – 7 catches 86 yards 1 TD
  3. LB Paul Posluszny -14 tackles 2 TFL 1.5 sacks

9. The Titans cannot sustain this type of success

Texans at Titans (-7) | Titans win 24-13 (Under 42.5)

First of all, Godspeed if you bet the Texans +7.

Tennessee did get the win, but this team just doesn’t look right. I’m alarmed at how they started at home in a game they needed to stay on top of the division against a Houston team playing its second consecutive road game on a short week. The Titans almost let Tom Savage, who threw for 365 yards, steal a win in their house. Luckily, Ka’imi Fairbairn missed two field goals.

I just don’t think Tennessee can keep winning in comeback fashion once the competition improves, especially if Marcus Mariota doesn’t significantly increase his production. They have won five of their last six games, but those five wins have come by a total of 25 points against the Colts, Ravens, Browns, Bengals and Texans. They are 5-1 over their last six games with a net point differential of plus-2.  I think the Titans are a prime candidate to fade away down the stretch.

Three stars of the game:

  1. QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) – 15/23 150 yards 1 TD
  2. RB Derrick Henry (TEN) – 11 carries 109 yards 1
  3. TE Delanie Walker (TEN) – 5 grabs 63 yards 1 TD

10. The Chiefs are broken

Chiefs at Jets (+3.5) | Jets win 38-31 (Over 44)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a collapse quite like this without injuries. After starting 5-0 with wins over New England and Philadelphia, the Chiefs have dropped five of six to fall to 6-6 on the season. Their only win during their last six games came against the lowly Broncos.

Don’t blame Alex Smith, who accounted for almost 450 total yards of offense. Blame the defense, especially the secondary, and the lack of discipline from top to bottom. Marcus Peters looks like he doesn’t care anymore, and the energy of this team looks off. Their schedule is favorable, but it has been for the last few weeks, and Kansas City still found a way to lose four straight against the Cowboys, Giants, Jets and Bills.

Three stars of the game:

  1. WR Jermaine Kearse (NYJ) – 9 catches 157 yards
  2. QB Alex Smith (KC) – 19/33 366 yards 4 TD
  3. WR Robbie Anderson (NYJ) – 8 grabs 107 yards

11. The Packers found a back, now just need Rodgers back

Buccaneers at Packers (-3) | Packers win 26-20 (Over 45)

The Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with an enormous overtime win in Lambeau on Sunday. They still essentially need to win out to even have a chance, but Aaron Rodgers could return for Carolina in two weeks, which could mean Brett Hundley only needs to find a way to win in Cleveland next week. However, that might not be as easy as you might assume. The Browns, still desperate for their first win, can shut the run down as well as any team in the NFL. Hundley will need to actually throw the ball down the field, as his 13-22 for 84 yards performance on Sunday will not get the job done, even against a winless team. The Packers ran only 30 offensive plays through the first three quarters and truly had no business winning that game. Cleveland should be a live home dog next week.

The other potential good news for the Pack is they may have found something in the backfield with Jamaal Williams, who ran for 113 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. He played almost every snap of the game in the backfield.

Three stars of the game:

  1. RB Jamaal Williams (GB) – 23 touches 123 yds TD
  2. DE Dean Lowry (GB) – 4 tackles 1 sack 1 TD
  3. RB Peyton Barber (TB) – 27 touches 143 yards

12. Beast Mode returns to form for the Raiders

Giants (+10) at Raiders | Raiders win 24-17 (Under 43)

The Raiders have a number of glaring weaknesses, starting with their historically awful pass defense that only has one interception through 12 games. On the offensive side of the ball, Derek Carr has been inconsistent, and his weapons have dealt with injuries and drop issues.

Having said all of that, they now find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West after picking up a win against the Giants thanks to Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 100 yards in a game for the first time in over two years. He appeared to have his rhythm and burst back; therefore, with all of the problems the Raiders have on both sides of the ball, leaning on a rushing attack led by Beast Mode might give them the best shot at trying to make a run into the postseason down the stretch.

Three stars of the game:

  1. LB Khalil Mack (OAK) – 11 hurries 4 tackles 1 sack
  2. RB Marshawn Lynch (OAK) – 17 carries 101 yds TD
  3. TE Evan Engram (NYG) – 7 catches 99 yards TD

13. The 49ers can build an offense around Jimmy G

49ers (+2.5) at Bears | 49ers win 15-14 (Under)

San Francisco has found their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo, who led an 86-yard game-winning drive in the final minutes on the road in his first start as a Niner. The 49ers actually looked like they had a somewhat competent passing offense, as illustrated by their five of 10 conversions on third downs of 8 or more yards. Jimmy G also shouldn’t shoulder any of the blame for the one interception he threw, as it was ripped out of his receiver’s hands. This was still one bad football team beating another, but the throws and poise were all there.

The other primary story of this game involved the revenge of Robbie Gould, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the final seconds to beat his old team. Gould, who made all five of his field goal attempts, personally outscored the entire Bears team by himself. In a rather lifeless effort, Chicago only finished with 147 yards of total offense.

Three stars of the game:

  1. K Robbie Gould (SF) – 5/5 FGs & game winner
  2. QB Jimmy Garropollo (SF) – 26/37 293 yards
  3. RB Tarik Cohen (CHI) – KO return for a TD

14. The Broncos may have quit 

Broncos at Dolphins (PK) | Dolphins win 35-9 (Over 41)

Miami entered this game with a bottom-three offense and a bottom-three defense. The Browns were the only team with a worse net point differential than the Dolphins at the start of this week. Miami had Jay Cutler under center, a historically bad rushing offense that now centered around their third string running back, and a historically bad passing defense. And, yet, the Broncos still found a way to get their doors blown off by 26 points to extend their losing streak to eight games.

Denver, who didn’t score a single point on offense, became the first team since 2011 to allow two safeties in the same game. Trevor Siemian finished the day 19-of-41 for 200 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Bad games happen, but it was the effort that was most concerning. The Broncos entered the day No. 1 in the NFL in rush yards per attempt allowed, but somehow allowed Kenyan Drake to run for 120 yards. If you dig a little deeper, you will find that 104 of his 120 yards came after first contact, which speaks directly to effort, as do the careless snaps, botched punt returns and sloppy interceptions.

The Broncos became just the fourth team since 2003 to fail to cover eight consecutive games, and I saw absolutely nothing on Sunday that makes me want to get in front of that streak anytime soon.

Miami is still a horrendous football team, but it at least looked like they still wanted to compete. However, that could easily change later this month on the road in the cold after they are officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Three stars of the game:

  1. RB Kenyan Drake (MIA) – 26 touches 141 yds 1 TD
  2. WR Kenny Stills (MIA) – 5 catches 98 yards 1 TD
  3. CB Xavien Howard (MIA) – 2 INT

Key Injuries on Sunday:

Bears G Kyle Long – Shoulder (?)
Bills QB Tyrod Taylor – Knee (?)
Bills DE Shaq Lawson – Ankle (?)
Bills CB Tre’Davious White – Concussion(?)
Bills CB Leonard Johnson – Knee (?)
Browns CB Jabrill Peppers – Knee (?)
Browns DT Danny Shelton – Ribs (?)
Chiefs C Mitch Morse – Foot (?)
Dolphins CB Cordrea Tankersley – Shoulder (?)
Dolphins C Mike Pouncey – Hamstring (?)
Eagles TE Zach Ertz – Concussion (?)
Falcons G Andy Levitre – Trciep (?)
Giants LB B.J. Goodson – Ankle (?)
Giants RB Wayne Gallman – Hip (?)
Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey – Hamstring (?)
Lions QB Matthew Stafford – Hand (?)
Lions T Rick Wagner – Ankle (?)
Lions G T.J. Lang – Foot (?)
Packers LB Jake Ryan – Ribs (?)
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski – Potential suspension (?)
Rams LB Alec Ogletree – Elbow (?)
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith- Achilles (IR)
Texans WR Bruce Ellington – Hamstring (?)
Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz – Concussion (?)
Titans DE DaQuan Jones – Elbow (?)

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