A ton of money changes hands in Las Vegas sportsbooks on NFL Sundays.
They have crack teams of number crunchers who are way better than me and you when it comes to guessing likely scores of NFL games.
Many sports fans have joked about a team kicking a late field goal to finish just under or over the betting line, as if the game was fixed or something. And, well, the game bettors play is kind of fixed, because those aforementioned number crunchers are so darn good at what they do.
It would be foolish for the fantasy football community to ignore these experts. We are better when we take the sums of many parts to form our opinions about players and situations, and Las Vegas betting odds need to be one of the primary parts of the equation.
Here are the projected scores using the current (early) over/under and betting odds for Week 14 of the 2015 NFL season.
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Projected scores for Week 14
|Sun Dec 13||New Orleans Saints||23.25||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27.25||1:00 PM||50.5|
|Sun Dec 13||Pittsburgh Steelers||23.25||Cincinnati Bengals||26.25||1:00 PM||49.5|
|Sun Dec 13||Buffalo Bills||24||Philadelphia Eagles||23||1:00 PM||47|
|Thu Dec 10||Minnesota Vikings||19.25||Arizona Cardinals||27.25||8:25 PM||46.5|
|Sun Dec 13||Atlanta Falcons||19.5||Carolina Panthers||27||1:00 PM||46.5|
|Mon Dec 14||New York Giants||24||Miami Dolphins||22.5||8:30 PM||46.5|
|Sun Dec 13||San Diego Chargers||17.75||Kansas City Chiefs||27.75||1:00 PM||45.5|
|Sun Dec 13||New England Patriots||24||Houston Texans||21||1:00 PM||45|
|Sun Dec 13||Washington Redskins||20.5||Chicago Bears||23.5||1:00 PM||44|
|Sun Dec 13||Oakland Raiders||18||Denver Broncos||25.5||4:05 PM||43.5|
|Sun Dec 13||Dallas Cowboys||18.25||Green Bay Packers||25.25||4:25 PM||43.5|
|Sun Dec 13||Tennessee Titans||18||New York Jets||25||1:00 PM||43|
|Sun Dec 13||San Francisco 49ers||19.75||Cleveland Browns||21.25||1:00 PM||41|
|Sun Dec 13||Detroit Lions||20.25||St. Louis Rams||20.25||1:00 PM||40.5|
|Sun Dec 13||Indianapolis Colts||0.75||Jacksonville Jaguars||-0.75||1:00 PM|
|Sun Dec 13||Seattle Seahawks||3||Baltimore Ravens||-3||8:30 PM|
Games are listed from Las Vegas-implied highest- to lowest-scoring based on over/unders. No teams on bye.
Well, this is a first this season. There are two games that have odds, but no over/unders — Indianapolis at Jacksonville and Seattle at Baltimore.
There’s another game that’s a pick’em –Detroit at St. Louis — meaning the oddsmakers aren’t sure who’s going to win.
I’ll have to revisit these scores later this week . I feel like that Colts-Jaguars game should have a pretty high over/under. All games have huge fantasy implications now that we’re in the playoffs.
On top of those oddities, we also have a whopping six games expected to be decided by a touchdown or more. All of the favorites are at home, too. Which we know can mean big things for running backs and defenses. Even though we don’t have an over/under, we know the oddsmakers think the Seahawks win by just an extra point fewer than a touchdown. They are the one team out of the bunch that’s on the road.
There’s only one game with an over/under above 50 — New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers comes in at 50.5. Although the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals comes close at 49.5. How awesome is that game going to be, Ninja? I can’t wait for Sunday.
That Lions-Rams game has the lowest posted over/under of the week, too, coming in at 40.5. The San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns is a close second with 41.
Let’s get into the blowouts and close games.
As always, remember a team expected to have a big lead, especially playing at home, usually represents a great matchup for its running back and defense. Quarterbacks and receivers on the losing end of a blowout are prime candidates for garbage time, again, especially at home. Meanwhile, in games that are expected to be close means we can expect the game script to follow suit. Top talents and matchups should be in full effect.
We use composite odds and over/unders from Vegas Insider to generate the projected scores. I will reference Defense-adjusted Value Over Average a lot, it is a Football Outsiders’ metric which can be a better predictor of future success than fantasy points allowed. All team rankings and yards allowed to receivers are referenced from Football Outsiders’ Defense Efficiency page. This is one of our first features of the week, so keep an eye out for late injuries and lineup changes.
Blowouts (touchdown or more)
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-10) — The Chargers defense is second-worst in the NFL against the run and fourth-worst in the NFL against the pass according to DVOA, meaning this could be another huge week for the Chiefs. San Diego has been tenderized by tight ends in the last five weeks, giving up the third-most points to the position. Travis Kelce should feast this week. The Chargers only allow 66.2 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers and in the last five weeks they’ve allowed the seventh-least PPR fantasy points to wide receivers. I still think Jeremy Maclin is a decent play — he’s been going bananas. He’ll be going in my season-long lineups, for sure. And I’ll have an Alex Smith–Travis Kelce–Jeremy Maclin stack in daily fantasy as well. The Chargers have allowed the 12th-most PPR fantasy points to running backs in the last five weeks, so the duo of Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware could get some extra run this week. Things look pretty bleak on the Chargers side. On top of a banged up receiving corps and a complete lack of a running game, they face the Chiefs who rank fifth in pass DVOA and seventh in run DVOA. The one bright spot is that the Chiefs have allowed 101.8 yards per game to opposing No. 1 wide receivers. But we’ll need to wait until closer to Sunday to have clarity and know who that might be this week. Hopefully it’s Steve Johnson. Considering the blowout potential and the Chargers aerial tendencies with Philip Rivers at QB, it could be a sneaky good play in daily fantasy.
Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals (-8) — Save for last week’s Russell Wilson-fueled blowout loss to the Seahawks, the Vikings have been pretty good against the pass but been susceptible to the run. Carson Palmer and his elite receiving corps have proven they are virtually matchup proof as long as all the pieces are on the field. Because the Vikings have a 26th-ranked run defense according to DVOA, it’s also another great spot for rookie David Johnson to shine. The Cardinals have one of the stingiest defenses in the league and I’m not sure I’m even going to test them at home with the likes of all-universe running back Adrian Peterson. However, if I’m the Vikings, the only way to win is to keep the ball out of Palmer’s hands, which means I probably feed the ball to Peterson 30 times. He gets that many carries, I think he breaks one against any defense.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-7.5) — The Julio Jones–Josh Norman matchup should be one to watch. Imagine how much more anticipated it would be if Julio had gotten into the end zone in the last four weeks. He’s been good, but not elite. That’s not how you want to go into a matchup against one of shutdowningest corners in the league. Matt Ryan has also struggled. Devonta Freeman, thanks in large part to his part in the passing game, has been serviceable, but nothing like he was when he first got the job. Now they face the Panthers, the only unbeaten team in the NFL, with the No. 2 pass and No. 3 run defense according to DVOA. Carolina has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends in the last five weeks, which indicates it might be a good spot for Jacob Tamme. Carolina is operating on all cylinders right now. The question we need to answer is who, beyond Superman Cam Newton, is going to benefit this week. Atlanta is susceptible to No. 1 wide receivers and tight ends, so we should bump up Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Olsen a bit this week. They’ve also given up 62.1 receiving yards per game to running backs, most in the NFL. So, cue up Jonathan Stewart for an above average week. He also gets that home running back in a blowout advantage we talked about above.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-7.5) — The Broncos defense is the best in the NFL, according to DVOA, so Brock Osweiler can keep being a game manager. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do a little more this week. The Raiders have allowed huge games to No. 1 wide receivers, hello Demaryius Thomas, and tight ends, Owen Daniels. We’ll need to monitor C.J. Anderson‘s health this week, but both he and Ronnie Hillman should be considered against a defense that’s allowed the eighth-most points to running backs in the last five weeks. If Anderson can’t go, Juwan Thompson might be a sneaky start in daily fantasy. The Broncos have allowed 64.8 yards per game to opposing tight ends, one of the highest totals in the NFL and they’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position in the last five weeks. That could mean more work for Clive Walford who scored a touchdown last week.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (-7) — It’s difficult to trust many players on either of these teams right now, but we shouldn’t leave stones unturned, so let’s get to it. The Cowboys have the 26th-ranked DVOA run defense, but we’re dealing with this James Starks–Eddie Lacy thing. It’s gross and I’m not going to worry about it. Dallas also has allowed one of the highest yardage totals in the NFL to No. 1 wide receivers, but Randall Cobb has been disappointing. If Green Bay is expected to win by seven, Aaron Rodgers will likely do some work. He’s still one of the absolute elite quarterbacks in the NFL. His most reliable target this season has been tight end Richard Rodgers, who gets, like, five catches for 25 yards a game. However, two of those end up being touchdowns more often than they should.
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets (-7) — If you weren’t loving Ryan Fitzpatrick after last week, Ninja, you are going to after this week. Over the last five weeks, the Titans have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, the fifth-most to wide receivers and sixth-most to tight ends. Meanwhile they’ve allowed fifth least to running backs. Offenses are funneling plays to the passing game against them. Tennessee has allowed the most receiving yards to No. 1 wide receivers this season, but both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are in play in this one. On the Titans side, it could be a lot tougher road for Marcus Mariota than the last few weeks. People will chase his performance last week, but against the No. 8 DVOA pass defense and No. 1 DVOA run defense, they’ll likely be disappointed. And it’s not so much because of the DVOA, it’s because the Jets have been absolutely shut down on tight ends, allowing just 7.3 fantasy points per game to the position in the last five weeks, the least in the NFL by almost a full point, which could limit Mariota’s favorite target, Delanie Walker.
Close games (field goal or less)
Detroit Lions at St. Louis Rams (PK) — There’s a reason why this is a pick’em and one of the projected lowest-scoring games this week. There isn’t much exciting from a matchup perspective. The Rams have been generous to running backs (sixth-most fantasy points in the last five weeks), but we don’t trust Detroit’s backfield. Both teams have been susceptible to tight ends, but no part of the Rams passing offense should be considered right now and Eric Ebron hasn’t been reliable even in the best matchups. Of course, in season-long you can’t bench Todd Gurley or Calvin Johnson or maybe even Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate regardless of matchup, but everything indicates we shouldn’t expect them to carry our teams this week.
Buffalo Bills (-1) at Philadelphia Eagles — It’s projected to be a low-scoring week, but I was surprised this game came in as the projected third-highest scoring. That means we should expect some fireworks and fantasy goodness. The Tyrod Taylor to Sammy Watkins connection should be on display again against a defense that allows 91.7 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers and have allowed 12 touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers in the last five weeks. It’s also a revenge game for LeSean McCoy. If you don’t care about the narrative, care about this: McCoy has been playing very well, his team’s expected to win, the Eagles have the 20th ranked DVOA run defense and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs in the last five weeks. The Eagles pulled off a huge upset last week thanks in large part to Darren Sproles and by limiting the amount of times they let DeMarco Murray carry for one yard (or less). This could be a huge spot for Ryan Mathews and Sproles as the new lead dogs in the backfield against a run defense that has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs in the last five weeks and they rank 30th in DVOA run defense. I don’t really trust any part of the Eagles passing game so I can’t recommend starting any of them.
New York Giants (-1.5) at Miami Dolphins — I feel like the matchups matter less in this one than what kind of quarterback play we get out of Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill. Both teams are in the bottom third in pass defense DVOA. Both allow 82+ yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers and 55+ yards per game to No. 2 wide receivers. The Giants, of course, are notoriously bad against tight ends this season — that makes Jordan Cameron an interesting play, but because everyone know how bad the Giants are, he’ll probably be more owned than he should be considering his recent performances. Like I said in the first sentence, I could see this thing absolutely shoot out with multiple touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker. I also could see this thing fizzling into a 16-13 game that nobody cares about. The Dolphins put a big emphasis on the run game last week, feeding the ball to Lamar Miller. Matchups indicate that’s not a great play against the Giants, but any running back with massive volume should be considered.
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars — Again, we don’t have an over/under for this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes in pretty high. Both passing offenses have pieces that can burn and both passing defenses are likely to get burned. Blake Bortles and Matt Hasselbeck are in play, for sure. Indianapolis is particularly bad against No. 1 wide receivers, and after watching what Antonio Brown did to Vontae Davis last week, I’m all-in on Allen Robinson this week. Jacksonville has been more susceptible to tight ends, giving up 73.5 yards per game, one of the highest totals in the NFL. That means we should consider Coby Fleener as a sneaky play this week.
San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns (-1.5) — This game has the second-lowest total we know of. It’s a bit odd considering how bad both defenses are, but then again neither offense has been lighting up either. However, I think this total climbs this week. The Browns will start Johnny Manziel, who has proven he can move the ball and make plays. Thanks to unlikely contributors Blaine Gabbert and Shaun Draughn, the 49ers have surprised the last few weeks. Here are the key matchups in this one: Shaun Draughn against the Browns 29th-ranked DVOA run defense. Duke Johnson Jr. against the 49ers who rank 28th on the same list and who give up 54.2 receiving yards per game to running backs, adding to Johnson’s already high PPR floor. SF also has allowed 94.7 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers, so if Travis Benjamin can get back on the field he could have a huge day. Cleveland has been generous to both No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers, so Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith both could see an uptick in performance this week.
New England Patriots (-3) at Houston Texans — You know who you don’t want to face? Angry Tom Brady. However, the Texans have the 10th-best DVOA pass defense and the Patriots offense has been decimated. Imagine what the odds would be if Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski were healthy. The Texans have been one of the stingiest defenses against all positions in fantasy over the last five weeks. Brady and the Patriots can change that, but in their current state I’d say the probability is low, but Brady should still have a decent game. Houston, of course, has arguably the best wide receiver in the game in DeAndre Hopkins. He should have a decent game, which means Brian Hoyer should be decent, too. But things would have to go kind of haywire compared to the matchups for players from this game to have a huge impact on games this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3) — I’m not a Steelers fan or a Bengals fan, but this i my favorite game of the week. In division rivalry games, matchups often get thrown out and anything can happen. But we still need to do our homework and see what the best plays are. The Steelers have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and the most points to wide receivers in the last five weeks, so cue up Andy Dalton. No. 1 and No. 2 receivers have had success against them, so A.J. Green and Marvin Jones are both in play. It’s not a great tight end matchup, but if Dalton’s going to have a big game, don’t be surprised if Tyler Eifert (who returned to practice this week) gets in the end zone. The matchups are far more bleak for the Steelers. The only real advantage for them is at tight end, but if Heath Miller can’t come back I’m not sure the Steelers will be able to capitalize. It’ll be interesting to see how the Bengals handle the Steelers, who all-of-a-sudden have three wide receivers opposing defenses have to account for. We’re all playing Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger this week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton get loose a couple times and end up outscoring Brown.
Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears (-3) — The run games may be in the spotlight here. The Bears have the worst run defense in the NFL, according to DVOA. The Redskins rank much higher on that list, but they’ve given up the 11th-most fantasy points to the position in the last five weeks. The Bears have given up seventh-most. The one issue we have here is that both teams are using committees with strong running backs. In daily fantasy, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Matt Jones, Matt Forte, Jeremy Langford or Alfred Morris had the kind of performance that wins somebody a lot of money. Both passing offenses have been completely underwhelming of late and no individual matchups stand out. However, the Redskins have given up seven receiving touchdowns and the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in the last week, which means a healthy Alshon Jeffery might have an opportunity for a big game.
Highest projected scores
Teams with a higher projected score should also have higher projected fantasy points, so it doesn’t hurt to see which teams are expected to go bananas and which ones are supposed to drop an egg.
There are only two games that doesn’t fit into either the blowout or close category this week: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens.
I think the Seahawks will come in with a projected score in the range where we need to talk about them, so let’s talk about both games:
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs are projected for the second-highest point total of the week, playing at home against what is considered the worst defense in the NFL. DVOA backs it up, and Football Outsiders’ receivers chart indicates the key spots to attack their defense is at No. 1 wide receiver, tight end and receiving running back, so Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Charles Sims are all in play. The Saints have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, so Doug Martin could run all over them. Of course, if every part of the offense has a favorable spot we’re going to make Jameis Winston one of the centerpieces of our daily fantasy ranks this week. Buccaneers opponents have struggled to run, but have found quite a bit of success. Some success to No. 1 wide receivers mostly, which means Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks both need to be on our radar.
Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens — No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks or running backs in the last five weeks than the… Baltimore Ravens. Yep, the Ravens, not the Seahawks. That doesn’t bode well for Seattle. However, Russell Wilson proved last week that he is nearly matchup proof. And if I’m starting him in daily fantasy, I’m probably going to pair him with Doug Baldwin who has been an elite receiver for a few weeks. Thomas Rawls may be in for a better day than we might expect based on those Ravens figures as well. Baltimore gave up 113 rushing to Lamar Miller last week and 66 yards and a touchdown to Todd Gurley two weeks ago. Seattle has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in the last five weeks, including Markus Wheaton‘s 200-yard game and 100-yard games by both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. They also gave up 93 yards to Anquan Boldin during the stretch. All of those players with the exception of Wheaton are better than Kamar Aiken, but there are enough references here that we have to consider the possibility he or Chris Givens have one of those out-of-nowhere weeks.
|Kansas City Chiefs||27.75|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27.25|
|Green Bay Packers||25.25|
|New York Jets||25|
|New York Giants||24|
|New England Patriots||24|
|New Orleans Saints||23.25|
|St. Louis Rams||20.25|
|San Francisco 49ers||19.75|
|San Diego Chargers||17.75|