NFL Week 6 betting takeaways: How to evaluate a blowout
The difference between ratings and record is predictiveness. The Steelers started 11-0 last season, which had talking heads wondering if they might go undefeated. Since then, they are 4-8.
Anyone with a basic understanding of predictive stats could have seen that coming; winning every game but not outplaying teams on a per-play basis is likely unsustainable.
Sharp sports bettors use ratings to determine value going forward for betting against the spread. Below are my personal ratings featuring each team's current average expectation and its range - what a club is capable of, to the high and low sides, on a week-to-week basis.
What to do about a blowout ... or 7
Are any of the teams that scored blowout wins Sunday that much better than the squads they defeated? Or did most of the vanquished clubs just have bad games?
The Chargers playing to the bottom of their range (and maybe below it) on the road against the Ravens was predictable after L.A.'s previous three games. Baltimore will run an opponent over on both sides of the ball if the opposition's not ready to go. That showing from the Chargers is also why we were slow to anoint Los Angeles, even if we have been higher on it than the market since before the season.
The Rams, Bengals, and Colts are certainly better than the Giants, Lions, and Texans, but Los Angeles and Cincinnati caught already-bad opponents dealing with injuries en masse. Houston, meanwhile, lingered into the third quarter, but a poor offensive play followed immediately by a poor defensive play ended the game.
What to do about the Cardinals and their victory over the Browns? If you're looking for ratings based on wins and losses, those are called standings. We're focused on predictiveness. Arizona got big games from its running backs, the defense, and the officiating crew. But we're trying to decide whether to bet on Arizona going forward, which means we need to look deeper.
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Having backed the Cardinals as underdogs against the Titans and Rams, I'd like nothing more than to see this team as a surprise juggernaut loaded with big names. But it's been three games since Arizona outplayed a team on a per-play basis. What happens when it doesn't win the turnover battle?
It's also time to finally downgrade Cleveland; the defense has shown it can't be trusted, and injuries are piling up on offense.
The Raiders produced the day's final blowout and were impressive in doing so. The challenge for Las Vegas is to show the betting market that Sunday's victory wasn't just a dead-cat bounce following Jon Gruden's departure. The Raiders played to the top of their range at 55/100, while the Broncos must be dropped below 50 after their last three performances.
Big Ben the clock provided the backdrop as two bad teams played bad football in London. We already knew the Jaguars were that team, but our worries about the Dolphins have now been confirmed. It's time to drop Miami to the league's lowest tier.
Big Ben the quarterback, meanwhile, was his usual frustrating watch on Sunday night. But the Steelers' defense overcame some shoddy tackling to shine in overtime, with T.J. Watt saving the day. Despite the win, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. have to keep dropping. The Seahawks at 40 - the low end of their range - without Russell Wilson seems about right.
Robbing the saloon
Last week's ratings translated to the Cowboys as 1.5-point favorites on the road against the Patriots. The line opened at Dallas -4 and closed closer to -3. New England probably should have won before the game went to overtime, during which a backbreaking touchdown cost the Patriots both the game and the cover. Still, these are indications that the ratings are accurate - even if you were lucky enough to cash an ill-advised Cowboys ticket on Sunday.
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.