Monday Night Football Betting Trends By Math Nerds (Week 5)
Tee-bow. Tee-bow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. TEEBow. TEEBOW. TEEBOW TEEBOW TEEBOWTEEBOWTEEBOWTBWTBWAHHHHH.
Oh yeah, and one of two undefeated teams in the entire NFL, bolstered by the best running back in the league, numberFire's #1 opponent-adjusted defense, and a passing attack worthy of being in Big 12 country. But, you know. Maybe Tebow. (I feel I'm just doing my duty as a member of the football media, here.)
Schaub for MVP?
As we mentioned last week, Matt Ryan is at the front of the MVP race, just by virtue of how many points of value over the average NFL player he has been able to add to the Atlanta Falcons so far this season. But then again, he has also had a large number of opportunities: his 158 passing attempts entering week 5 ranked 12th among all starting NFL QBs. So it stands to reason, then, that you could make a case for the QB with the greatest average NEP per pass play as well, who simply did not have as many opportunities to throw the ball. And Houston fans should rejoice because that man is Matt Schaub.
His 0.41 NEP per pass ranks tops among all NFL QBs, putting him over Ryan (0.37 entering the week), Roethlisberger (0.36), and Newton (0.30). Amazingly, his 51.95 NEP of value earned is second total, despite throwing only 127 passes, the 24th most in the NFL. But it's easy for Schaub when, in his starts, the Texans themselves have been unusually efficient. They have won three of their four games by at least 20 points and jumping out to a 10-point halftime lead in the other. He has not had to make as many risky throws as other QBs (ahem, Brees) with his comfortable lead, allowing him to cruise to seven TDs, one INT, and a 67% completion percentage. It's pure speculation, but one could argue that if he was given the same opportunities, Schaub would be right up there with what Ryan's done so far this season. Congratulations, you now live in a world where Matt Schaub is a legitimate MVP candidate. Welcome to the NFL, 2012.
Return of the Snake
On our numberFire team pages, we like to give the historical teams that current teams are most similar to. In many cases, that will simply be the previous year's iteration of the team (the 2012 Texans are 95.88% similar to the 2011 Texans? The shock!) But this year's Texans squad has even one greater similarity: the 2003 Broncos, a 96.13% match.
Don't remember the 2003 Broncos? Then you must not be a Jake "The Snake" Plummer aficionado like I am. And numberFire has it correct, because the similarities run deep. That Broncos team featured an unheralded quarterback in Plummer, which makes right now the time where you roll your eyes about Plummer-comparison Matt Schaub's MVP candidacy. The running game was a huge key on that team (Clinton Portis = Arian Foster), and the defense was absolutely stingy (the Broncos held opponents under 20 points in over half of their games). They also got out to a similar start as this year's Texans, as they won each of their first three games by at least 20 points and snuck one out against the Lions in week 4 by four points.
So I'm going to tell you that the Broncos went on to the Super Bowl or something, right? Not so fast. Because much like the current Texans, the Broncos played absolutely nobody of significance in the early part of their season; none of their first four opponents would go on to the playoffs. When they finally did face a tough team, the eventual 13-3 Chiefs, they floundered for their first loss of the season. The Broncos would go on to lose four of their next five games starting in week 5, finish the season at 10-6, and lose in the first round of the playoffs to Peyton Manning and the Colts. The question you should now be asking yourself is: do the Jets qualify as a strong, trend-busting team much like the 2003 Chiefs?
The One Where I Equate Mark Sanchez to Brett Favre
No, no you don't qualify the Jets as a strong, trend-busting team. In fact, when looking at the Jets' team comparisons, the strongest similarity is to the 2010 Vikings, a 94.71% match. Tell me if you've heard this story before: a well-publicized QB (Brett Favre) struggles to throw accurate passes (19 INTs that year), with a young, mobile backup (Tarvaris Jackson) threatening him from the bench. The team tries to pound the rock often, but it's not enough, as the defense gives up at least 20 points in seven straight games en route to a season-killing 2-5 stretch. The Vikings would end the season with a 6-10 record, Brett Favre's consecutive starts streak would end, and he would spend much of the season deflecting questions about a supposed picture of his genitalia. So, you know, wait for Eva Longoria to leak Mark Sanchez's cell phone pictures and that numberFire similarity match will shoot up to 100%.
So how did those Vikings do against the top teams in the NFL, specifically against the spread? Well, they played playoff teams in seven games that season, including twice against division foes Chicago and Green Bay. And in those games, the Fighting Favres went 1-6 straight up, with the only win coming in a meaningless week 16 game against Philadelphia. Ouch. But not nearly as ouch as their performance against the spread, where the Vikings managed to go 1-5-1. The push came in a week 1 five-point loss against New Orleans, and the win came in that very same Philadelphia game, where the Eagles were favored by 14 points and the Vikings won by 10. Against teams that ended the season with at least 12 wins, as many expect this year's Texans to do, the 2010 Vikings only played the favored-by-five Patriots and lost in week 8 by 10 points. So if the Jets keep playing like the 2010 Vikings, I would not have much confidence in them tonight.
The Houston Texans haven't exactly played the cream of the crop in offensive efficiency so far this year. Of the four teams they have played, only one, the #5 Denver Broncos, came into the week in the top half of the league in opponent-adjusted offense. The other three, the #19 Dolphins, #21 Titans, and #25 Jaguars, have mostly just been downright offensive. The Texans have shut each of them down in spectacular order, garnering the top slot in numberFire's defensive rankings even when adjusted for opponents faced. But wouldn't it make sense that you can't really get a read on them until they play another strong offense or two?
... which is why it's a good thing for the Texans defense that this Jets offense is even worse than any of the opposing offenses they have played so far this season. The Jets came into week 5 ranking #29 in offensive efficiency, ahead of only the Chiefs, Rams, and Browns. Every dog can have its day, but the odds are not in the Jets' favor. Of those bottom four teams, the Rams and the Chiefs also played top-five opponent-adjusted defenses this week. And combined, they scored 23 points and less combined passing yards (265) than nine separate NFL QBs had on their own so far in week 5. Granted, the Rams were able to pull out a win, but that was only with the luxury of also having a top-ten opponent-adjusted defense. The Jets are also not lucky in that regard, they have a bottom-ten opponent-adjusted defense at #23 according to numberFire's rankings.