Monday Night Football Best Bets Strategies - Week 12
There is exactly one bet that I am actively searching for today: over/under on the number of times the MNF crew will cut to the sidelines and show Andy Reid frowning. Since the Vegas oddsmakers are utterly failing me right now, I will put the early line at 6.5. If Andy Reid simply looks angry, disappointed, or simply has his normal face while failing a two-minute drill scenario, it will count as frowning for the purposes of this bet. Who's taking the bet?
But alas, there is actually more to talk about with this game, despite what the talking heads and the Panthers' and Eagles' combined 5-15 record would have you believe. For our official predictions, you'll need to check out our numberFire premium selections. But for a sneak peek into our thought process and some key stats we're looking at for this game, read on.
Foles and Brown: The Eagles' Fading Hopes
In direct contrast to the *cough* Super Bowl winning offense *cough* led by Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy at the beginning of the season, the Eagles come into this game being led by Nick Foles at quarterback and Bryce Brown at running back. And despite the Eagles' misgivings at these positions early in the season, these replacements could turn out worse. Much worse.
Through his 84 pass attempts and one rush attempt this season, Nick Foles has already lost the Eagles 17.46 Net Expected Points (NEP) through his play. That means that if the Eagles ran an exactly league-average play on every down that Foles attempted to throw or run, Philadelphia would have been expected to score almost three touchdowns more total. That figure is good for 492nd among all skill players who have been involved in at least one NFL play this season. There have been only 508 of those players. That's bad. Foles's total NEP was worse entering Week 12 than Jason Campbell, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Cassel, Byron Leftwich, and even Our Lord and Savior Tebow.
Bryce Brown hasn't been much better as the Eagles' backup. In 32 rush attempts, Brown averages -0.17 NEP per rush. Only 10 of his 32 rushes can be considered successful increasing Philadelphia's chance of scoring, a below-average 31.3% success rate. For comparison's sake, McCoy has registered -0.16 NEP per rush in many more carries this season, but his success rate is much higher at 35.6%. But as a whole, the Eagles may just want to stay away from the rush all together: their -48.25 NEP rushing the ball this season was the worst total among all NFL teams entering Week 12.
The Strong Panthers D
Because of the extreme strength of a few defenses (hello Chicago) and the relative offensive explosion this year in the NFL, only seven defenses have allowed less net expected points than the league-average team given our data since the Year 2000. You have your usual suspects - the Bears, Broncos, 49ers, and Texans. The Cardinals and Seahawks may come as somewhat of a shock, but both had stifling defenses early. And then you have the Panthers. Yes, the 2-8 Panthers, who have allowed 17.58 points less than expectation so far this season.
It's been the secondary that has carried Carolina so far this season. As passing is more efficient than running, most teams will allow a large number of points to the pass over the expected play. And that's why, against passing plays this year, Carolina has allowed... only 1.24 points over the average play. Total. That's good for fourth in the entire NFL; only the Bears, Cardinals, and Texans have been better against the pass. Think about that next time you're making fun of the Carolina defense.
Against the Eagles especially, that strong unit should be a huge bonus. The Eagles are 1-2 in games against numberFire's top ten opponent-adjusted defenses so far this season, and they have not put up 20 points in a single one of those games. Only a 19-17 victory over the No. 9 ranked Giants D can be considered successful; Philadelphia lost by double digits to both Arizona and Atlanta.
Playoffs? I'm Not Talking About Playoffs
Some times, there are certain external factors that effect games more than the stats can account for, especially late in the season. There are usually playoff considerations and outside hopes of sneaking in to account for. This is clearly not one of those games.
Entering Week 12, the Panthers have a 0.0% chance of making the playoffs. For the quick among us, you'll notice that means that numberFire believes there is a less than 1/1000 chance the Panthers will make the playoffs. With a 2-8 team in a tough NFC, that makes sense. But to some Eagles fans, it might come as a surprise that the Eagles aren't much better, only registering a 0.1% chance of stealing a playoff bid. Despite only being three games back of both the division and the wild card entering Week 12, our analytics see very little chance of the Eagles making the miracle comeback. Part of that is their upcoming schedule (have fun against Tampa, Cincinnati, and the Giants in three of your last five games), but the other big part is simply that our analytics don't see the Eagles turning around quickly from how ineffective they've been.