Solid week all around as Bob goes 3-2 bringing his record to 19-16. He's taking this more seriously each week as he gives more and more of his pay picks to try and chase me down. To see all of his picks go to Dr. Bob Sports.
I went 4-1 last week bringing my record to 21-10-4. Pretty gaudy. Hope I can keep it up for another 10 weeks.
On to this week's picks... First Dr. Bob...
Minnesota (+5 ½) 20 NEW ENGLAND 21
Brett Favre's status for this game is in question, but his play has been so poor this season (5.7 yards per pass play and 10 interceptions) that the Vikings would actually be slightly better off with backup Tavaris Jackson playing (5.9 yppp career average, a lower interception percentage and good running ability). I'll assume Favre will play but I hope he doesn't (which would also result in the line going up). The pass attack has been better since Randy Moss was acquired from the Patriots, as Moss has averaged 7.2 yards per pass thrown to him while the rest of the Vikings' wide receivers have averaged just 6.3 ypa this season. Moss also keep WR Percy Harvin from being double-teamed, which helps him get open. The Vikings pass attack has been just 0.2 yards per pass play worse than average with Moss and the offense is now 0.2 yards per play better than average. Favre's interceptions are a problem, but he's probably not going to continue to get picked off on 5.6% of his passes going forward given his career interception rate of 3.3% (I project him at 3.7%). New England has given up 6.1 yppp or more in every game this season and their defense overall is 0.3 yppl worse than average so the Vikings should be able to throw the ball pretty well regardless of who the quarterback is. New England does defend the run well (0.4 ypr better than average) but Minnesota is 0.5 ypr better than average offensively, so they should be able to run at a decent rate as well.
While Moss has helped Minnesota's offense it appears as if his departure has hurt the Patriots, as Tom Brady has averaged just 4.8 yards per pass play in 2 games without Moss (against teams that would allow 5.7 yppp to an average team). Some of that is probably just variance, but Brady's numbers are just average for the season (6.1 yppp against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp) and the Patriots' pass attack is probably a bit worse than average without Moss. New England's rushing attack is only 0.1 ypr better than average and overall the Pats are no better than average offensively and will have a tough time against a solid Vikings' defense that is 0.5 yppl better than average while being equally good against the run and the pass.
There is no doubt that Minnesota has the advantage from the line of scrimmage in this game even if Favre doesn't play, and New England's edge in projected turnovers (+0.64 projected), special teams (0.9 points), penalties (1.0 points) and home field isn't enough to overcome the Vikings superior play from the line of scrimmage. New England has been out-gained by an average of 327 yards at 5.4 yppl to 380 yards at 5.7 yppl this season and their +1.0 turnover margin average isn't going to continue. Minnesota, meanwhile, has out-gained a tough schedule of teams and they aren't likely to continue to be as bad as -1.0 in turnover margin per game. My math model favors Minnesota by 1 point in this game, but how effective Brett Favre will be if he plays is a concern and will keep me from making this game a Best Bet. However, if Favre is declared out then this line will probably go up to +7 and then I'd certainly like the Vikings as a Best Bet with Jackson at quarterback getting 7 points.
Kentucky 26 MISS ST (-6 ½) 27
Kentucky could be the better team in this match-up, so taking points looks like a solid play. The Wildcats are good offensively, averaging 6.2 yards per play (against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team) and they're 0.8 yppl better than average with top RB Derrick Locke coming back this week after missing 2 ½ games. Mississippi State is 0.4 yppl better than average defensively (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would combine for 5.5 yppl against an average defense) so the Wildcats have a 0.4 yppl advantage when they have the ball. Mississippi State's offense is better than average for the season (5.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl), but the Bulldogs haven't been good since starting the season with 571 yards at 8.8 yppl against a horrible Memphis defense. Quarterback Tyler Russell had a great game against Memphis (16 pass plays for 256 yards) and Russell was seeing a lot of action early in the season, but he hasn't played at all in the last 2 games, as his time was cut after throwing 5 interceptions on just 58 passes. Russell, however, has also averaged 9.7 yards per pass play while Relf has averaged just 5.1 yppp (against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average QB). Mississippi State's offense is 0.2 yppl worse than average without Russell's contributions (although with fewer chance of interceptions) and Kentucky is average defensively (5.9 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl), so the Wildcats have a 0.2 yppl edge when Miss State has the ball. Kentucky not only has advantages on both sides of the ball, but the Wildcats are also projected to run more plays. Without Russell the Bulldogs do have an edge in projected turnovers, but my math model gives Kentucky a solid 55% chance of covering at +6 ½ points in this game.
CENTRAL FLORIDA (-7 ½) 30 East Carolina 16
Both of these teams are 5-2 and riding 3 game win streaks, but Central Florida is the better team and the Golden Knights apply to a very strong 123-42-6 ATS home momentum situation. East Carolina has scored a lot of points this season (37 per game), but the Pirates are actually just average offensively from a compensated yards per play perspective (5.8 yards per play has come against teams that would combine to allow 5.8 yppl to an average team). Central Florida will be the first really good defense that East Carolina has faced and the Knights' stingy stop unit (4.2 yppl and 15.0 points per game allowed to Division 1A teams that would average 5.0 yppl to an average team) should limit the Pirates to around 300 total yards and 4.5 yppl. Central Florida's offense is 0.3 yppl worse than average but East Carolina has been 0.3 yppl worse than average defensively this season and my math model projects close to 400 total yards for the Knights at 5.5 yppl. In addition to out-gaining ECU by about 100 yards, UCF is also far less likely to turn the ball over (but ECU is better in special teams) and my math model favors the Knights by 10 points. East Carolina's defense has improved since their week 4 bye week, but using those improved numbers would still result in UCF by 7 ½ points mathematically, so the line is at least fair even if the Pirates' defensive improvement is real and not just variance.
NEBRASKA (-7 ½) 34 Missouri 20
Missouri has actually been slightly better than Nebraska when you look a compensated point differentials, but I have no doubt that the Cornhuskers are the better team. Nebraska's offense has averaged 7.6 yards per play with quarterback Taylor Martinez in the game (against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team). Missouri's defense, meanwhile, is just 0.4 yppl better than average, allowing 4.9 yppl to Division 1A opponents that would combine to average 5.3 yppl against an average defensive team. Nebraska should be able to move the ball at a very good rate with their 1.7 yppl advantage over Missouri's defense.
Missouri's offense is 0.7 yppl better than average (5.9 yppl against teams that would allow 5.2 yppl) but Nebraska has yielded just 4.7 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yppl against an average team, so the Cornhuskers have a slight advantage in that match-up. My math model projects Nebraska with 427 yards at 7.1 yppl to 337 yards at 4.9 yppl for Missouri in this game and the Huskers also have edges in projected turnovers and special teams.
So why do the Tigers look better from a compensated points perspective? Missouri has allowed just 14.3 points per game in those 6 games against Division 1A foes despite being just 0.4 yppl better than average defensively. The reason for the discrepancy is the Tigers' average of just 2.9 points per opponent's trip into the red zone allowed, which is a figure is nearly impossible to maintain and is mostly just random variance. Missouri should be giving up about 20 points per game and their impossibly good points per red zone allowed average is why the Tigers could be a bit overrated. Beating Oklahoma could also have them overrated, but you know I don't think that much of the Sooners and my math model favored Missouri to win that game. Nebraska's 10 point win over an underrated Oklahoma State squad was actually more impressive. My math model gives Nebraska a solid 55.4% chance of covering at -7 ½ points and there are strong technical angles favoring both sides in this game (a 123-42-6 ATS situation favoring Nebraska and a 76-28-3 ATS statistical profile indicator that favors Missouri).
HAWAII (-14 ½) 41 Idaho 20
Hawaii is now 7-1 ATS and I've been on them twice for Best Bet winners, and last week as a Strong Opinion in their 45-7 win at Utah State. The Warriors still appear to be underrated even though they continue to be among the best offensive teams in the nation (7.5 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average attack). Idaho's defense is 0.3 yppl worse than average, but the Vandals have been torched by decent offensive teams this season while shutting down bad teams. Idaho gave up just 3.6 yppl to bad offensive teams UNLV, Western Michigan, and New Mexico State, but the Vandals allowed 8.0 yppl to Nebraska, 7.3 yppl to an average Colorado State offense, and 7.4 yppl to a mediocre Louisiana Tech offense. Hawaii should again ring up great offensive numbers in this game.
Idaho is averaging 31 points per game and 5.6 yppl but the Vandals aren't really that good offensively, as they have faced teams that would allow 32 points and 6.0 yppl to an average team. Hawaii's defense started the season by allowing 8.4 yppl and 49 points to USC's great attack, but they've improved with the insertion of big play LB Aaron Brown into the lineup. Hawaii has yielded just 4.8 yppl and 21 points in their last 5 games against Division 1A opponents that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team. My math model gives Hawaii a 56% chance of covering at -14 ½ point.
Now on to my picks...
GB +6 @ New York Jets
QB Aaron Rodgers is a difference maker and he will make the right reads to keep the ball moving for GB against a Jets team that has more bark than bite.
Miami +1.5 @ Cincy
Like the Dolphins who are really a solid team against a Cincy team headed in the wrong direction. Palmer will turn the ball over and Miami will leave with a big road win.
Bills +7.5 @ KC
As tough a place as Arrowhead is to play, I think KC doesn't deserve to be a 7.5 point spread against anyone. The NFL has reached parity and this game will be closer than most people think.
NO -1 vs. Pittsburgh
NO has been up and down and I think the Steelers are the best team in the NFL but this is a good spot for the Saints and a potential letdown spot for the Steelers. The Steelers really have not faced an elite passing team yet and their defense will be tested.
Houston +5.5 @ Indy
Houston finally got over the hump against the Colts in week 1 and they were built to beat this beat up Colts team.
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