Top 4 Thursday Night Football Best Bet Trends (Week 4)
Nothing quite says "Thursday night excitement!" like the game with the largest spread of the week. The Browns make like it's 1996 and travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in a battle that will likely decide absolutely nothing about the AFC North. The Ravens come into this one off of a game where they beat the Patriots 1.5 times (the other half being the one the refs tried to take away) for a hypothetical record of 2.5-1. The Browns, meanwhile, have lost all three of their games the old-fashioned way: a hard-fought lack of execution. There's a reason the Ravens are favored by 12 points in this game. They come into this game with numberFire's #4 offense and #18 defense this season, while the Browns are in the bottom half of the league in both categories with the #30 offense and #17 defense. It's the NFL Network's worst nightmare, but could it be your best game ever? numberFire is watching for four specific trends tonight.
High Flyin' Thursday Night
On the surface, trying to figure out the trends of the totals line (currently at 44.0 points) is like trying to shift through the rubble of Cleveland Municipal Stadium at the bottom of Lake Erie. The Ravens have the potential to put up the 44 points themselves the way their offense has been going; they did just that in the only other game they played against a defense in the bottom half of the league, and their worst game was a 23-point outing against numberFire's #3 defense. The Browns haven't exactly been inept either; they have put up at least 14 points in each of their three games, including two against top-ten defenses. On the flip side though, these two teams have not combined for over 44 points since a November 2008 Ravens victory. But if you look closer, you'll realize just how close they've been to that mark. Each of their past four matchups and five of the past six, these teams have combined for 30 points or more. And in each of those matchups, Cleveland was about the same skill level, but Baltimore was a clearly different team. The Ravens offense hasn't ended the year above #9 over the past three seasons, and their defense hasn't been below #6 in the same span.
The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall
Only three games so far this season have seen spreads reach double digits: Chicago/Indianapolis Week 1 (Bears covered), Houston/Miami Week 1 (Houston covered), and New England/Arizona Week 2 (bahahaha Gostkowski). Good luck trying to find a trend from those three games. Instead, we look back to last season's lines. I consider a spread "large" if it's over 10 points, double-digits. And in those large spreads, the favored team went 16-22 against the spread, winning only 42% of the time. There was at least one game with a large spread in 16 of the 17 weeks; the favored teams only had a winning record in weeks 11, 16, and 17. And in week 16, where the favorites went 2-1, the only non-covering team that was favored by more than 10 points was (say it together now), the Ravens against the Browns. Before week 11, when the teams were still being sorted out, favorites went an even worse 6-13 against the spread, or only 32% of all games. Perhaps just as interesting is the amount of underdogs in those games who won straight up as well: seven out of 46 (or 15%) of the underdogs beat their opponents. And six of those seven underdog upsets came in the first ten weeks of the season (32% of those games), including the underdog San Francisco 49ers (that seems weird to say now) over the Eagles in week 4 last year.
The Throwing Machine?
One of the most interesting prop bets this week is Joe Flacco, Under 1.5 Touchdown Passes (+150). If Vegas thinks there is only a 40% chance that the Delaware hurler is going to throw one TD or less, should you jump on it? Perhaps you should take a look at these stats. numberFire projects Flacco to throw for 1.68 TDs this week. Those 1.68 TDs against the Browns is actually about middle-of-the-road for what we expect from him this season; numberFire thinks he'll have a better chance to throw a high TD mark in weeks 10, 14, 16, and 17. Historically, he only threw for multiple TDs in six games last year (37.5%) and nine games in 2010, his best statistical season (56%). While those numbers show an ability for Flacco to do it, neither of those historical percentages top the 60% chance Vegas gives Flacco to do it this week.
Press B to Stop Weeden From Evolving
The other interesting prop bet I'm looking at involves the QB from the other sideline, Brandon Weeden. Think the Browns passing attack is going to be chucking a ton of balls up this week against the Ravens? Perhaps going for Brandon Weeden, Total Completions Over 21.5 (+115) would interest you? He has indeed hit the mark in the past two weeks against the Bills and Bengals, going for 27 and 26 completions, respectively. However, the Bengals defense is currently ranked #29 in the NFL by numberFire, and the Bills defense is better at #10, but it took Weeden a sixth-most in the NFL 43 attempts to get there. In his only game against a comparable defense, back against the Eagles in week 1, Weeden put up an historically bad stink-bomb: 12-35, 118 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT, 5.1 QB Rating. The Ravens have given up at least 22 completions in each game so far this season, but it hasn't been by much: 22 to Andy Dalton, 23 to Michael Vick, and 28 in a shootout to Tom Brady. And just for reference, numberFire has Weeden at 18.9 completions this week.