Written By Billy Attridge
We’re back to having a full slate for this week’s Market Moves piece, and all three games hover around the all-important key number of 3. Ultimately, no matter which side of these games you end up investing in, it’s vital to be on the right side of 3. First, we head to Motown where the Colts fresh off their bye take on a rising Lions squad full of confidence. We trek to Denver next for a battle between two AFC West foes attempting to escape the basement. Finally, I tackle the game of the week between Pittsburgh and Baltimore analyzing the early line move on the Steelers and if it will be the final move. As I say every week, this article is to help inform where the market is heading and most important, why prices have moved. These indicators shouldn’t just help this week but can be applied to how you gauge future games.
Indianapolis Colts @ Detroit Lions +3 (-110):
The look-ahead line at FanDuel had Detroit +3 against Indianapolis after their last second win against Atlanta. With both the Lions and Colts getting healthy, this game sets up to be crucial for each team’s playoff chances. The Colts get back their defensive leader Darius Leonard, who is coming off of a groin injury. Rookie wideout Michael Pittman has practiced two straight days and emerging tight end Mo Alie-Cox returned to practice Wednesday, so we’ll have to monitor both as game day approaches. The concern for Indianapolis here is the step up in competition. I’m sure you’re reading that and thinking, “Detroit? Step up?” Well, compared to the schedule Indianapolis has faced thus far, yes, it is indeed a step up. The Colts opponents have a combined record of 7-19, and if you remove Chicago from the mix you’re looking at 2-17! Indianapolis has faced the 2nd easiest schedule of defenses, but only rank 22nd in offensive efficiency. The Colts are dead-last in the NFL in rushing success rate, something baffling the minds of pro bettors when assessing the offensive line talent and the draft capitol spent on Jonathan Taylor. On the other side of the ball, Indianapolis has the metrics to support a very good defense but we must proceed with caution as once again, the Colts defense has faced the 2nd easiest schedule of opposing offenses. Now Indianapolis takes on Stafford and a talented group of weapons which will be the Colts toughest test yet. Defensively, Detroit has come out of the bye playing better with a few different wrinkles. The Lions have played more zone and blitzed at a significantly higher rate. While newly acquired defensive end Everson Griffen cannot play this week, I find the move encouraging because it shows the mentality Detroit has moving forward. Cornerback Desmond Trufant returned to practice in a limited fashion, but if he can somehow return that would be a monster get-back for Detroit. As for the number, plenty of books still have +3 available and I would be surprised if that number is there at kickoff.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos +3.5 (-115):
Before discussing injuries, matchups, and past schedules we must address the massive price adjustment from last week. The Week 7 look-ahead line was Denver +1 and we’ve seen significant professional money hit the Chargers, pushing this line out to Los Angeles -3 (-120), with many shops at -3.5. In a blustery snow storm with slick field conditions against one of the fastest offenses in the NFL, Denver floundered early and mistakes mounted. Kansas City returned a punt for a touchdown and had a pick-six from Daniel Sorensen. Denver also managed to muff a flea flicker that set Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense up inside their own 20. Admittedly, there’s been some in-fighting among Broncos players as the defense is begging the offense to start doing its part. What came after, though, is interesting. Quarterback Drew Lock and tight end Noah Fant acknowledged the shortcomings of the offense and vowed they would be better moving forward. Denver has faced the 3rd toughest schedule of opposing defenses, and while we wouldn’t say the Chargers defense is weak, they are not a Top 10 defense in many of the categories that matter most. The Chargers offense, and more specifically Justin Herbert, has looked very good and it’s possible we’re seeing the market react strongly. I contend perhaps there has been an over-reaction to the rookie quarterbacks recent success when you look at some of the defenses Herbert’s faced. A final note here; many Chargers players had to relocate at the beginning of the week due to the wildfires in California and have been staying in hotels. While this is tough to quantify, changing routine typically hinders athlete performance because they’re so regimented. While I certainly respect the early move on the Chargers, at +3.5 (-115) or +3 (EVEN), this game is an entirely different handicap and I don’t believe the final move on this game has been made yet.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens -3.5 (-115):
Another game that’s seen significant movement from the opening number and look-ahead line is the highly anticipated AFC North battle between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The look ahead line and opener installed the Baltimore Ravens as -5.5 to 6-point favorites. Immediate positions were taken on the Steelers, but as the price got to as low as Baltimore -3 (-125), a difference of opinion entered the market. Let’s start off with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. During their bye week, Baltimore managed to fortify the defense by acquiring defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to help set the edge and bolster a pass rush that’s been surprisingly bad without the aide of blitzes from defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. The hope is this addition; along with a healthy Derek Wolfe will allow Baltimore’s corners and safeties to do their job blanketing receivers so the defensive line can generate pressure naturally. Lamar Jackson also took it upon himself to hold a camp-like gathering with his receivers and tight ends to better help the cohesion of the passing game. On the opposing sideline, Pittsburgh continued to impress with a road victory against the Titans, though we weren’t sold on Tennessee being a top tier team and the Steelers wilted late. We can debate whether Pittsburgh chose to be conservative in the second half after Big Ben’s late second quarter interception, but the Steelers offense averaged just 3.8 yards per play in the second stanza. What is not debatable is over the summer this line was Baltimore -7 at FanDuel. What is not debatable is last week this line was Baltimore -5.5/6 on the look ahead at FanDuel. It’s inconceivable to downgrade Baltimore off a bye knowing John Harbaugh is 9-3 ATS and in a similar spot last year the Ravens beat up Belichick and Brady by the tune of 37-20. Expect this number to climb back towards -4.5 before kick with the stronger position being on Baltimore.
NFL Week 9 Look Ahead Lines via FanDuel SportsBook:
San Francisco -1 vs. Green Bay (TNF)
Seattle -2.5 at Buffalo
Atlanta -3.5 vs. Denver
Tennessee -6.5 vs. Chicago
Minnesota -2 vs. Detroit
Baltimore -4 at Indianapolis
Kansas City -10.5 vs. Carolina
Houston -5.5 at Jacksonville
Washington -3.5 vs. New York Giants
Los Angeles Chargers -2.5 vs. Las Vegas
Dallas vs. Pittsburgh (N/A – Andy Dalton ?)
Arizona -5 vs. Miami
Tampa Bay -4 vs. New Orleans (SNF)
New England -7.5 at New York Jets (MNF)