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Week 9 NFL picks using the Golden Rules 2015


Laying down a few bucks in Vegas on the Week 9 lines? Or, maybe, it’s you and 49 other colleagues at the firm all staring curiously at the spreads wondering how to get a leg up in the office pool. Regardless of the reason, the Golden Rules are for you.

During the 2014 NFL season, I provided weekly insights for those betting NFL games against the spread (ATS). It’s what I like to call The Golden Rules. And I’m back for the 2015 regular season hoping to build on my 39-25 (61%) regular season record from a year ago.

There is no guarantee you can pick the winner by analyzing historical data from the past five, ten or 20 NFL seasons. But can you gain a competitive advantage? Sure you can. The Golden Rules are about asking the right questions, identifying differentiating factors and having faith that you are increasing the likelihood of success.

HOW HAVE TEAMS PERFOMED AGAINST THE SPREAD FOLLOWING A 6+ PASSING TOUCHDOWN GAME BY THEIR QUATERBACK?

Sunday November 8, 2015 – Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints (-8.5)
Sunday November 8, 2015 – New York Giants (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We can all agree that the NFL has become pass-happy over the past decade. Consider the countless earth shattering six and seven touchdown performances since the 2013 season kicked off. The current crop of quarterbacks bring the game to astonishing new heights every week. But Week 8 saw two quarterbacks duel amid a firefight that long ago was unimaginable and seems hard pressed to be repeated.

Eli Manning directed the New York Giants to six touchdowns, all through the air. Ironically, it was a Trumaine McBride pick-six that put the G-Men up by seven midway through the fourth quarter. That’s right. After seven touchdowns, New York was only one score up on the New Orleans Saints. What can you do when your counterpart, Drew Brees, responds by tossing the seventh of seven touchdown strikes to tie the game? The record-tying output from Brees was validated shortly thereafter when the Saints booted the game-winning field goal in a 52-49 thriller.

The amount of six or more passing touchdown performances is on the rise. There have only been 25 occurrences (including playoffs) since 1978, but 16 of these instances have been over the past ten years. It happened once during the 2012 regular season, twice throughout 2013 and on four occasions last season.

The chart below divides each six or more passing touchdown game into five year buckets starting from 1978. Not only can you see the increased prevalence over the past decade, but the last bar is only represented by the most recent two and a half seasons. In fact, quarterbacks have accomplished this feat 11 more times since 2008 than they did the entire 25-year period from 1978 through 2002.

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The table below lists each six or more passing touchdown game since 1978 along with the quarterback who was under center. These memorable games include a Super Bowl record (Steve Young), a season opener against the reigning Super Bowl champions (Peyton Manning), a few losses (Dan Marino, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning), a mid-October snowstorm (Tom Brady) and a Week 17 replacement (Matt Flynn).

NFL 6+ Passing Touchdown Performances (since 1978)

Date

Score

Quarterback (TDs)

11/22/1981

Chargers 55 Raiders 21

Dan Fouts (6)

9/21/1986

Jets 51 Dolphins 45

Dan Marino (6)

9/28/1986

Vikings 42 Packers 7

Tommy Kramer (6)

10/14/1990

49ers 45 Falcons 35

Joe Montana (6)

9/8/1991

Bills 52 Steelers 34

Jim Kelly (6)

11/10/1991

Redskins 56 Falcons 17

Mark Rypien (6)

1/29/1995

49ers 49 Chargers 26

Steve Young (6)

9/28/2003

Colts 55 Saints 21

Peyton Manning (6)

11/25/2004

Colts 41 Lions 9

Peyton Manning (6)

9/16/2007

Browns 51 Bengals 45

Carson Palmer (6)

10/21/2007

Patriots 49 Dolphins 28

Tom Brady (6)

9/28/2008

Jets 56 Cardinals 35

Brett Favre (6)

9/13/2009

Saints 45 Lions 27

Drew Brees (6)

10/18/2009

Patriots 59 Titans 0

Tom Brady (6)

1/1/2012

Packers 45 Lions 41

Matt Flynn (6)

1/14/2012

Patriots 45 Broncos 10

Tom Brady (6)

10/14/2012

Packers 42 Texans 24

Aaron Rodgers (6)

9/5/2013

Broncos 49 Ravens 27

Peyton Manning (7)

11/3/2013

Eagles 49 Raiders 20

Nick Foles (7)

10/26/2014

Steelers 51 Colts 34

Ben Roethlisberger (6)

11/2/2014

Steelers 43 Ravens 23

Ben Roethlisberger (6)

11/9/2014

Packers 55 Bears 14

Aaron Rodgers (6)

11/30/2014

Texans 45 Titans 21

Ryan Fitzpatrick (6)

11/1/2015

Saints 52 Giants 49

Drew Brees (7)

11/1/2015

Saints 52 Giants 49

Eli Manning (6)

But how do quarterbacks and, perhaps more importantly, oddsmakers react the following week? In 2014, Ben Roethlisberger became the first quarterback to throw six or more touchdowns twice in the same season since Y.A. Tittle in 1962. After Big Ben’s rout of the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh’s veteran gunslinger repeated the six touchdown performance and covered the spread against a second consecutive tough AFC opponent, their rival, the Baltimore Ravens. But history couldn’t repeat itself the following week. Roethlisberger tossed more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one) and the favored Steelers fell to the New York Jets.

What does this mean for Drew Brees and Eli Manning this season in Week 9? The table below summarizes the ATS performance in the regular season of quarterbacks following six or more passing touchdown performances. Note that I have excluded games that followed the two playoff games and Matt Flynn’s improbable 2011 Week 17 slugfest with the Detroit Lions.

ATS Performance by NFL Teams in Games
Following Quarterback Throwing 6+ Touchdown Passes (since 1978)

Date

Team

Opponent

Quarterback

Favorite/Underdog

Spread

ATS Result

11/29/1981

Chargers - 34

Broncos - 17

Fouts

F

-4.0

Win

9/28/1986

Dolphins - 16

49ers - 31

Marino

F

-3.0

Loss

10/5/1986

Vikings - 0

Bears - 23

Kramer

U

12.5

Loss

10/21/1990

49ers - 27

Steelers - 7

Montana

F

-10.0

Win

9/15/1991

Bills - 23

Jets - 20

Kelly

F

-9.5

Loss

11/17/1991

Redskins - 41

Steelers - 14

Rypien

F

-7.0

Win

10/6/2003

Colts - 38

Buccaneers - 35

P. Manning

U

4.5

Win

12/5/2004

Colts - 51

Titans - 24

P. Manning

F

-12.0

Win

9/23/2007

Bengals - 21

Seahawks - 24

Palmer

U

3.0

Push

10/28/2007

Patriots - 52

Redskins - 7

Brady

F

-14.5

Win

10/12/2008

Jets - 26

Bengals - 14

Favre

F

-8.0

Win

9/20/2009

Saints - 48

Eagles - 22

Brees

F

-2.5

Win

10/25/2009

Patriots - 35

Buccaneers - 7

Brady

F

-15.5

Win

10/21/2012

Packers - 30

Rams - 20

Rodgers

F

-5.0

Win

9/15/2013

Broncos - 41

Giants - 23

P. Manning

F

-4.0

Win

11/10/2013

Eagles - 27

Packers - 13

Foles

F

-1.0

Win

11/2/2014

Steelers - 43

Ravens - 23

Roethlisberger

F

-2.0

Win

11/9/2014

Steelers - 13

Jets - 20

Roethlisberger

F

-4.0

Loss

11/16/2014

Packers - 53

Eagles - 20

Rodgers

F

-4.0

Win

12/7/2014

Texans - 27

Jaguars - 13

Fitzpatrick

F

-7.0

Win

Roethlisberger may have been 1-1 straight-up and against the spread in such contests last season; however, as you can see, he does not follow the historical norm. In fact, Roethlisberger was the first such quarterback to lose against the spread since Jim Kelly in 1991 – 24 years ago! In other words, over the past 20 seasons, quarterbacks who toss six or more touchdowns in the regular season have been 12-1-1 against the spread in their next game. Dating back to 1978, they have been 15-4-1.

The chart below looks at games following six or more touchdown performances a little differently. The purple bars symbolize a straight-up victory. The team with the six-touchdown pivot from the prior game won outright the following week if the bar is raised above zero; if the bar drops, they lost. Also, the size of the bar is in relation to the margin of victory. The yellow dots indicate the margin of victory net of the spread. If the dot is above the “zero” line, the six or more touchdown quarterback covered the following week; similarly, they failed to beat the spread if the dot is under. The further the dot is above or below zero means the further the ATS result was from being a push.

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Looking back to 2007, I observed that most of the following week’s victories were substantial. The lowest straight-up margin of victory was ten points and five games were won by 20 or more. Likewise, seven of the 12 contests had a spread-adjusted margin of victory that exceeded ten points. These results show that the confidence each quarterback carried into the following week has typically outweighed the points added to the spread by oddsmakers after their historic performance the week before.

Golden Rules say to take New Orleans and the New York Giants

WHICH CURRENT STARTING QUARTERBACKS PERFORM THE BEST AGAINST THE SPREAD?

Sunday November 8, 2015 – St. Louis Rams at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5)
Sunday November 8, 2015 – Washington at New England Patriots (-13.5)
Sunday November 8, 2015 – Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) at San Francisco 49ers

Continuing on the theme of quarterbacks, I decided to look further and identify which pivots have had the best regular season performance straight up and against the spread since 2010. ATS success, specifically, isn’t always about winning games, but is more related to a quarterback’s general under appreciation and confidence among the betting public. Could there be any Week 9 starters that have had above average ATS success? And if so, the ideal matchup would be against a quarterback with below average ATS performance.

The chart below shows the straight-up winning percentage of the current AFC starting quarterbacks in comparison to their performance against the spread. For this purpose, I have only included quarterbacks with a minimum of 16 starts.

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The quarterbacks in the AFC exhibit very consistent ATS results ranging between a .430 and .590 winning percentage. One way to isolate over and underachievers is to compare the straight-up and ATS results. The two quarterbacks that stand out are Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Houston’s Brian Hoyer. Flacco tends to find ways to win, but struggles to cover the spread more often than any of his AFC peers. Hoyer has flown under the radar since his days with the Browns and has continued to exceed expectations, including those of bettors, by winning nearly 60% of his starts against the spread. All that being said, neither Flacco nor Hoyer play this week thanks to Week 9 byes.

The next chart is similar as it examines the current roster of NFC starting quarterbacks. One name certainly stands out above the rest.

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Since taking over starting duties in Week 4 last season, Teddy Bridgewater has posted an incredible 14-4 mark against the spread. In fact, he has failed to cover only once as an underdog – a 21-13 loss last season against Chicago. The 5.5 point underdog Vikings came only 2.5 points shy that afternoon.

Along with Bridgewater, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson have maintained strong ATS results since 2010; however, Rodgers and Wilson have the best straight-up winning percentages in the conference. Cam Newton and Matt Cassel can be considered Bridgewater’s closest NFC comparators among the underappreciated. Whereas, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford appear to be afforded higher spreads that they deserve.

In order to evaluate which are the best bets in Week 9, I compared the ATS winning percentages of the quarterbacks facing off this week. The chart below displays the three matchups with the largest gap between the starters. As expected, Bridgewater’s historical advantage over Nick Foles is an obvious choice even if Foles has covered the spread more often than not.

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The next largest discrepancy in ATS winning percentage was between Tom Brady (.558) and Kirk Cousins (.438). Taking Brady and the Patriots over most opponents is usually a safe bet, regardless of the opposing quarterback’s historical ATS performance; however, this week’s 13.5 point spread is a hefty mark to overcome. I will continue to rely on the impact of the gap between quarterbacks and stick with New England even though Brady has only recorded a 5-10 ATS record as a double-digit favorite since 2010.

The final game features Atlanta’s steady Matt Ryan, with his .600 straight-up winning percentage and .517 ATS mark, versus Blaine Gabbert who takes over behind center for San Francisco with a rather forgettable track record. The former Jacksonville first round pick has won fewer than 20% of the games he’s started and has only beaten the spread in slightly over 40% of his starts. Among current starting NFL quarterbacks, only Stafford has a worse ATS record since 2010.

Golden Rules say to take Minnesota, New England and Atlanta

Bob Sullivan writes periodically for SportingCharts.com and can be followed on Twitter at @mrbobsullivan.

The Golden Rules were 2-1 during Week 8 and are 16-19 for 2015

You can access last week’s 2015 Weekly Golden Rules Analysis below.

- Week 8 NFL Picks Using the Golden Rules

NOTES:

Historical data on NFL spreads was accessed via Sunshine Forecast, whose latest source was scoresandodds.com, or accessed from scoresandodds.com directly. Spreads were collected by Sunshine Forecast as close as practicable to game time.



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