SNF Odds: Patriots favored by touchdown over Lions

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It’s not unusual for the New England Patriots to lay a touchdown as a road team – it just normally comes later in the season, which might raise a red flag about the underdog Detroit Lions.

The Patriots, with quarterback Tom Brady behind centre, are 7-point road favorites against the Detroit Lions with a 53.5-point total for Sunday Night Football, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Over the last three seasons, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, the Patriots are 8-1 straight-up and 6-3 against the spread as a road favorite of 6.5 or more points, but this is only the second time they have had such a large line before October 1. The Lions, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS in their last five games as an underdog.

The primetime matchup sees Patriots head coach Bill Belichick match wits with Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who was previously New England’s defensive coordinator. Under Belichick, the Patriots are 12-6 SU and 11-7 ATS in matchups against teams whose head coach once worked for the Patriots.

The main question offensively with the Patriots, 1-1 SU and ATS, is whether Brady’s complement of wide receivers, which includes Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett, are dangerous enough to draw attention away from tight end Rob Gronkowski. The good news for New England is the Lions have yet to show they can stop the pass or the run, ranking fifth-worst in the NFL in yards per pass allowed and third-last in opponents’ passer rating, and dead last in rushing yards allowed.

Newly acquired wide receiver Josh Gordon (hamstring) is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report for the week. Since 2000, the Patriots are 21-6 ATS after a double-digit defeat. They lost 31-20 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.

The Lions, who are 0-2 SU and 1-1 ATS, have had to play catch-up during both of their games due to the aforementioned dismal defense and the offense having six turnovers. The fact that the Lions are 7-2 SU in their last nine games at home after losing their most recent home game offers some reassurance that quarterback Matthew Stafford and his supporting cast of wide receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate should have a strong night.

The Patriots defense has also been leaky so far, ranking 13th in yards per pass allowed but 25th in yards per rush, so Detroit has an opportunity to use running backs LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick effectively and keep Stafford out of desperate down-and-distance scenarios.

This is already the Lions’ second prime-time game of the season, but they are 5-12-1 ATS in 18 games at night with Stafford as their quarterback.

The total has gone UNDER in eight of the Patriots’ last 10 road games when they were favored by at least 6.5 points, but all of those games were played outdoors on October 15 or later in the fall. The total has gone OVER in eight of the Lions’ last 10 games at home, with an average combined score of 51.1.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

 

Five NFL players who could become stars in 2019

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By Sam Monson, PFF Senior Analyst

One of my favorite aspects of PFF data and grading is how it can spot the obvious coming when it’s still some ways off on the horizon—getting ahead of the curve and identifying talent before it becomes self-evident. Every year there are players who excel in limited snaps before ultimately being handed a larger role and workload for their teams. When they continue dominating, we wonder how they were ever seen as anything other than superstars.

Case in point: When Joey Porter was a star and the sack leader for the Miami Dolphins back in 2009, coming off a 17.5-sack season, we at PFF were clamoring for his backup –- a former undrafted pass-rusher who had not long before been playing in Canada -– to get more snaps because he was generating pressure at a far greater rate than Porter. Cameron Wake ultimately went on to be one of the best pass rushers of the past decade and looked it from Day 1 if you were seeing beyond the box score numbers.

Such examples are everywhere, and each year it’s always an interesting exercise to take a look through the PFF grading and predict the players that could take that next step if they get the right opportunity. This past week we unveiled our PFF 50—a list of the best 50 players in football entering the season—but in this case let’s look a year from now and predict some players who could make that list in 2020.

Levi Wallace, CB, Buffalo Bills: If there’s a player with the backstory to rival Wake’s, it’s Wallace. With precisely zero scholarship offers coming out of high school, Wallace walked on at Alabama, and eventually earned a starting job. Then he had to do it all over again when he went undrafted before signing as a collegiate free agent with Buffalo. As a rookie in 2018, he earned the highest PFF grade of any first-year cornerback, along with the highest coverage grade, and wasn’t beaten for a catch longer than 29 yards all season. Though he played far fewer snaps than first-round selection Denzel Ward of Cleveland, Wallace looks like a potential star in the making if he’s given greater opportunity in year two.

Vita Vea, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: At the other end of the scale, you’ve got Vea, a player who went in the first round in 2018 but fell off the radar a little because he began the season injured, then took a little while to get going and ultimately didn’t produce the box score production people want to see. Vea ended up with only three sacks, but had 23 additional pressures as a pass-rusher, 17 of which came in the final six weeks of the season. Over that stretch of play, his overall PFF grade was 86.4, and he had a top-20 grade at his position, hinting at what’s to come.

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Minnesota Vikings: Changing positions in the NFL can be a significant adjustment, and sometimes it takes time. The Vikings drafted Alexander in 2016’s second round and moved him inside to the slot after he principally played outside at Clemson. His transition wasn’t smooth, but he has now seen his overall PFF grade improve each year of his NFL career: from 47.5 as a rookie, to 54.1 in 2017, climbing to 78.1 last year. Over the final half of the season, he was the highest-graded cornerback in the league at 88.2, surrendering just 80 receiving yards in a seven-game span. Alexander could emerge as a force with the right opportunity in 2019.

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Another former first-round pick, Howard has yet to top 600 receiving yards or 35 receptions in a season, even while tight ends are breaking receiving records across the NFL. Dive deeper into the numbers, however, and Howard looks primed for a huge season with an uptick in opportunity. His overall PFF grade last season was 89.4, higher than any other tight end outside of San Francisco standout George Kittle. And on a yards per route basis, he was third behind only Kittle and Kansas City star Travis Kelce. His average depth of target was 11.3 yards downfield, a top-five mark in the league, and now the vertical threat he brings is being linked up with new Bucs coach Bruce Arians and an offense that lives down the field.

Jon Halapio, C, New York Giants: The Giants are revamping their offensive line in a major way, but one of the unsung components of the rebuild is at center, where Halapio could emerge as a foundation piece to the new-look front. He began last year as New York’s starter before going down with an injury after just 116 snaps of action. But in those snaps, he didn’t allow a single pressure, despite almost 50 pass-blocking snaps against the Jaguars and their array of pass-rushing weapons. With vastly improved players beside him, Halapio could prove to be a significant upgrade as a player who isn’t being talked about much heading into 2019.

Why Jameis Winston could win NFL passing title in 2019

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By Pro Football Focus

We think Jameis Winston will challenge for the passing yardage title in 2019. Last year he trailed only Josh Allen in average depth of target. These throws put Winston in a position to do great things at times (he was second among quarterbacks in the percentage of throws we grade as “positive”), as well as bad things (he was 21st in limiting negatively-graded throws). New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has a track record of succeeding with high-variance quarterbacks like Winston.  In 2015 Carson Palmer had an MVP-caliber season under Arians, posting roughly the same average depth of target as Winston in 2018 and leading the league in percentage of positively-graded throws.  With Mike EvansChris Godwin and O.J. Howard a very capable trio of pass catchers, look for Winston to either make good on his 2015 draft position or give the Bucs no other option but to find his replacement the following year.