New England @ Cincinnati
Recommended Wager: CIN +9.5
Cover Probability: 53.95%
Cover Edge: 2.99%
New England Patriots: (Week 10 bye)
-C Ted Karras (knee) was INACTIVE week 14. He is QUESTIONABLE after being limited all week.
IR: C David Andrews (illness), K Stephen Gostkowski (hip)
Cincinnati Bengals: (Week 9 bye)
-WR AJ Green (foot) has not played this season.
-DE Sam Hubbard (knee) was INACTIVE week 14. He will return.
IR: RG Alex Redmond (ankle), DE Dre Kirkpatrick (knee)
Spread Breakdown: The line opened at 10 before stabilizing at 9.5 where the model grabbed it. It’s since moved back to 10, so there’s still value out there if you haven’t bet yet.
When the Patriots have the ball:
This Patriots offense isn’t anything like what we’ve come to expect. They’re about average in PFF grades, DVOA, and EPA. Their offensive line has been below average, particularly run blocking, and at this point it’s pretty clear that losing C David Andrews before the season began was a massive hit. Their backup center, Ted Karras (inactive last week with a knee issue and is questionable), isn’t even close to the same level as Andrews. What’s more is their skill position players have massively struggled. Julian Edelman isn’t just the top dog on the offense, he’s the only dog. Teams have figured out that if you bracket Edelman and devote a safety to him, the Patriots don’t have any other answers. They traded a second round pick to get Mohamed Sanu, but he’s been both banged up and poor. They drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round, but he’s also had his injury issues. When on the field, it’s clear that Harry still has the same separation issues that he had at Arizona. Though he’s great after the catch and extremely talented at contested catches, the Patriots have to scheme to get him open. I’d never doubt the coaching staff here, but they have their work cut out for them to figure out how to get these guys open. It’s week 15. Time is running out.
Typically with the Patriots the skilled positions weren’t as important because they have Brady to bail them out. That’s simply no longer the case. The 42 year old is still playing solid football, but he isn’t god-like to the point where he can make up for his receivers deficiencies. The MO on Brady used to be that you couldn’t blitz him — he’d simply identify the mismatch at the line of scrimmage and get the ball out quickly. That just isn’t happening. Brady ranks 27th in the NFL in QB rating when pressured — which is probably a combination of the receivers not being able to win at the line of scrimmage, trust issues Brady has with his receivers (outside of Edelman), and perhaps father time making it more difficult to throw without his feet being set. When you add it all up, it’s easy to see why the offense hasn’t been anywhere near it’s normal dominant self.
You’re probably already aware of this, but the Bengals are a bad football team. Their defense is no exception. They rank 30th in DVOA – with splits of 30th vs the pass and 28th against the run. They have some skills along the defensive line, where guys like Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard, and Carlos Dunlap can generate pressure and win one on one match ups. That’s literally it. Their corners and safeties are all below average, as are there linebackers. Having like 3 solid players on your entire defense that all do the same thing is a recipe for a terrible defense. That’s what this is.
When the Bengals have the ball:
The Bengals will continue with the Red Rocket at QB after giving Ryan Finley a few games at QB. This is, without question, the better option if you’re betting the Bengals. Finley put together a stretch of games that ended up 5.4 yards per attempt and a 47.1% completion percentage. The dude somehow averaged 4.4 yards per attempt from a clean pocket. That’s almost impossible. Not that the rocket is able to do much in this offense — he’s completing 59.9% of his passes and averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. But still, Andy D gives you a shot — Finley is just conceding the game.
The Bengals offensive line features at least 3 players that probably shouldn’t be in the league. Their running game has talent, but running backs aren’t enough to overcome a bad line. Dalton will be throwing to speedster John Ross and slot man Tyler Boyd. If they actually had AJ Green, Ross and Boyd would be solid #2 and #3 receivers. At the end of the day, they’re not good enough to be the top dogs. This offense sucks, guys.
The Patriots defense is another story. Their secondary is the best in the league — they use Stephon Gilmore to shut down your top option, with Jason McCourty and Jon Jones as very capable corners. The safeties — Devin McCoury, Pat Chung, and Daron Harmon, are all very good. They don’t have much talent on the line to generate a pass rush by just winning battles, but their secondary is so damn good that they can blitz at a high rate. It’s much easier to scheme pressure when you’re secondary plays at this level (see Ravens, Baltimore) and that’s exactly what the Patriots do. It should be no surprise that they’re the top defense in Football Outsider’s DVOA ratings.
Keep it within 10 on the road, Rocket.
That’s it for now, bitches.