Monday Night Football Betting Trends (Week 7)
Entering the 2012 season, there was a distinct pantheon of NFL Betting Words of Wisdom. I view the breakdown thusly:
1. Never trust Norv Turner in a pressure situation.
2. When in doubt, always remember that Seattle's homefield advantage is real, and it's spectacular.
3. Warning: the 49ers don't like safeties. (OK, maybe I added this one in late.)
4. Just when you start to trust Jay Cutler, he will throw up a stink bomb in the biggest way possible.
You've already seen one Cutler stink bomb this season, back in Week 2 against the Packers. But otherwise, the man's been pretty good. His 0.15 NEP per pass ranks 10th among all NFL QBs, he has scored a touchdown in all but one of his games this season, and he only has three combined interceptions in the Bears' four wins. But is he due for another Laguna Beach-esque meltdown again in Week 7? That's just one key stat we're looking at this week.
The Cutler Crisis
So is it possible to predict when Cutler is going to have a meltdown? I decided to look at Cutler's past off days using his lowest NEP totals, and the results are a mixed bag. This season, his two lowest NEP totals came against the Packers and Rams, numberFire's #11 and #9 defenses, respectively. Last season, his low games came against New Orleans, Green Bay, Carolina, and Detroit. While Detroit measures up to the standard of "great defenses", the Saints, Packers, and Panthers each found themselves in the bottom half of defenses at the end of last season.
Cutler's off days may be erratic and tough to predict, but here's the thing: it may not even matter how Cutler plays. You know those six games I mentioned up there? Cutler's Bears only lost three of them. His absolutely worst outing, the Carolina game last year in which he went for only nine completions, 102 yards, and no touchdowns, was a rousing(?) 34-29 victory. Another one of those victories was his last game against these very Lions, in Week 10 last season. And this year, the St. Louis 17-point victory is Cutler's only game without a touchdown.
For the record, numberFire sees Cutler having an average day, with 239.97 passing yards, 1.57 TDs, and 0.68 INTs. But it's easy to perform well when you have the #1 opponent-adjusted defense...
Breaking Through the Wall
... which is exactly what the Lions will have to deal with tonight. And if historical comparisons are any indication, it may be rough going.
According to numberFire's analytics, the closest historical comparison to this current Lions team is the 2000 Kansas City Chiefs, a 94.92% match. And that's not just because Matthew Stafford is the next Elvis Grbac (I hope that's the first time that has ever been said ever), but because when your leading running backs are Kimble Anders and Frank Morneau, you caused just as many headaches for fantasy owners as the current Lions backfield.
To determine whether the Lions can hang with the Bears, we decided to take a blast from the past. How did the 2000 Chiefs do against the top half of defenses according to football-reference.com's defensive Simple Rating System?
|Week 1||(+3) vs. IND||L, 14-27|
|Week 2||(+8) vs. TEN||W, 14-17|
|Week 7||(-3) vs. OAK||L, 17-20|
|Week 10||(+3) vs. OAK||L, 31-49|
|Week 14||(-1) vs. NE||L, 24-30|
|Week 15||(-2) vs. CAR||L, 15-14|
The easy answer is: bad. Very bad. With three of the other four teams in their division below the halfway threshold, and three of the five teams in the opposing NFC West being the same, the 2000 Chiefs only played six games against teams with even above-average defenses. But in those games, the Chiefs went an abysmal 1-5 against the spread, and even that only victory (against Tennessee) was a cover rather than a straight up victory. It seems that even defenses as low as #15 (Carolina) confounded that offense, while the Chiefs beat up on teams in the lower half of the defensive rankings. Considering the Lions' offensive struggles so far this season, that's not too far-fetched a comparison to make.
Why Last Years' Chargers/Bears Game Matters
numberFire analysts have run the numbers for the most similar historical games to this particular matchup as well, seeing trends with particular games that register closely. And lucky for me (since I really, really wanted to compare Matthew Stafford to both Elvis Grbac and Philip Rivers in the same article), the closest game was last year's Bears/Chargers matchup, an 89.77% match. As those of you with a memory that hasn't already been destroyed by booze (if only...) may recall, the Bears not only took that game, but they trounced the Chargers 31-20. That also was the last game Cutler played in last season before being lost to injury.
It isn't just that game that favors the boys in slightly darker blue, though. Of the top seven most comparable games, five favor the Bears covering the current seven-point spread. Six favor the Bears winning straight up. And only a Giants/Cowboys matchup from 2010 (the fourth-highest match at 88.19%) sees Detroit even making a solid game of this one.
However, for as clear a statement the past games make about the spread, they muddy the totals line to a terrible degree. Three of the top four game comparisons favor the over winning... but each of comparisons #5 through #11 favor the under winning.
In case you couldn't tell, we're pretty confident that we know what we're talking about. History doesn't lie - if you were a subscriber to our Premium package, you would have known to take both the Tennessee Titans to beat the Steelers outright and the Giants to beat the 49ers outright as well. In fact, we're returning a ridiculous +18.2% ROI on picks just like that all season - so sign up today and pad that wallet!