SportsGrid Betting Model NFL Week 1 Picks
Welcome to the first edition of the SportsGrid-DailyRoto Model picks. Each week we will outline some of the favorite picks of the SportsGrid NFL Model, developed by Arturo Galetti. Last season was our first year using this model, and we got off to a successful start. The model, previously on DailyRoto and now exclusively on SportsGrid, finished sixth in last year’s FantasyPros betting accuracy contest. We had an overall record of 75-59, which included both picks against the spread and total selections.
Philadelphia (-10) vs. Washington, Total 45
5-star pick: Philadelphia
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This is the largest spread on the board Week 1 and our only 5-star pick of the entire week.
Washington is in trouble in this one. Case Keenum regressed in a big way last season in Denver when he saw a big drop off in weapons and was forced to throw the ball more often. Keenum’s sack rate and INT rate increased while his YPA and TD rate fell meaningfully. His job only gets tougher with this Washington squad.
Trent Williams is holding out, leaving 36-year old Donald Penn to start at left tackle. Penn has been good historically but is aging. He was atrocious in two full games to start the season and then only played parts of two others before hitting Injured Reserve. This Washington line will have its hands full against the likes of Fletcher Cox (seventh in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush productivity metric last season) and Brandon Graham.
When you look at Keenum’s weapons in the passing game, things stay pretty ugly. There are some positives in the form of Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed. However, running back targets are largely inefficient (Thompson), and Jordan Reed is still in concussion protocol as of Thursday, September 5th. At wide receiver, DailyRoto, our DFS wing, is projecting targets to go to Trey Quinn, Paul Richardson, and Terry McLaurin. The trio has a total of 206 career targets (196 from Richardson). As a result, DailyRoto projects Washington to average a lowly 6.4 yards per attempt in this contest.
Meanwhile, we are projecting a Philadelphia team that has one of the deepest rosters in the league, has Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked offensive line headed into the season, and returns star Quarterback Carson Wentz from injury to average 7.8 yards per attempt. That’s a somewhat conservative projection and still represents a large and meaningful gap between the two teams.
Averaging YPA in 2018 by winning team: 8.1
Average YPA in 2018 by losing team: 6.8
In almost any NFL game, you can quickly find who won the game by finding which team averaged more yards per pass.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 6, 2019
New Orleans Saints (-7) vs. Houston Texans, Total 52.5
3-star pick: OVER
The first of the two Monday night games Week 1 should be a thrilling cross-conference contest between two of the league’s better offenses.
In an ideal world for the over, Houston is able to score early in this contest and keep the Saints throwing or at least balanced. The concern for betting the over is that the Saints try to control the clock, which is something they did last season when they ranked 29th in seconds per play run. However, in situation neutral contexts, Football Outsiders had the Saints jumping all the way up to 13th in pace (Houston ranked ninth).
We’re hopeful then, that Houston can do their part to keep the pace in this game up. The Lamar Miller injury may lowkey be a good sign for this happening. Passing is more efficient than rushing the football and also speeds up the pace of play. With Houston losing their primary rusher a couple of weeks before the season and replacing him with a back known more for his skill as a pass-catcher (Duke Johnson), Houston may be pass-heavy out of the gate.
They certainly have the weapons to be successful in a pass-oriented offense. DeShaun Watson has averaged a really impressive 8.3 yards per attempt over his career and 6.1 yards per attempt on the ground (QB scrambles are the most effective form of rushing the football). He’s now entering his third season with likely his best supporting the cast. The offensive line isn’t good, but should be better than last year (addition of Laremy Tunsil helps quite a bit). DeAndre Hopkins is in his prime. Duke Johnson is an upgrade over Lamar Miller. Kenny Stills has been efficient most of his career and adds depth (needed with Keke Coutee likely limited or out to begin the year).
And then there’s Will Fuller. It sounds like Fuller is fully recovered from last season’s ACL tear. If that’s indeed the case, he has the best chance of anyone to pull a “2018 Tyler Lockett” and record a historically efficient season. Using the RotoViz Game Splits App, we can see just how good Will Fuller has been when DeShaun Watson has been at the helm:
On the New Orleans side of things, it really comes down to play-calling, This is a team equipped to play many different styles, and we’re hopeful, as stated above, that Houston’s offense forces New Orleans’ hand a bit and keeps them throwing. Drew Brees has been over 8 YPA each of the past two seasons. The efficiency will be there. Last season when he had to throw the ball more than 35 times, the final total scores were 80, 88, 59, and 80. That’s admittedly cherry-picking statistics a little bit, but you get the idea.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that these two teams finished last year ranked in the Top 10 in Football Outsiders’ weighted defense. Does that concern us? Not too much. Year-over-year offensive performance is much more stable than defensive performance.