Total Domination: Week 10
A weekly look at games that could exceed or fall short of betting market expectations. Bettors can leverage recommendations at the sportsbook, while DFS players can use the specific player recommendations mentioned to their advantage. Steve Repsold deep dives each recommendation and advises us the level of bet confidence expressed in units (example: 2u = 2 units).
Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) at Cleveland Browns Over 50.5 1.5u
The Falcons shot out of their Week 8 bye like a flaming arrow and proceeded to burn down what had been a very tough Redskins defense. Their dominance in the run game was unreal. Coming into that game, the Redskins had shut down Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott among others, only to be demolished by Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith, or more accurately, by the Falcons’ offensive line. Coleman and Smith combined to average an astounding 4.96 yards before contact on their runs.
Atlanta continued its relentless passing attack much as it had preceding the bye – with the notable exception of a Julio Jones touchdown – but the real story of the game was the 154-yard eruption of an Atlanta ground game that hadn’t broken the century mark since Week 2. The Browns’ defense overall has been volatile, but the way to beat them has always been on the ground, most recently demonstrated by Kareem Hunt.
After thrashing a really good defense last week, Coleman has blowup potential against one that has struggled to contain running backs. Ito Smith remains a threat to his workload, but the effort the Falcons put into getting Coleman passing game work (and the dividends it paid) makes me think they came out of the bye with him as their #1, not #1a.
Between all the overtime games (4), the quick pace (third-fastest), and the Browns’ offense being unable to sustain drives for much of the year, the defense has been out there for 650 plays – 29 more than second-place Kansas City and 52 more than third-place New England. They’re worn out. Evan Silva noted that they’re on pace for the most defensive plays in the NFL since the 1999 Browns, but it’s possible a rejuvenated offense under Freddie Kitchens will help bring that down.
I was optimistic about the Cleveland offense last week, picking that game to go over the total (it did). I knew I had made the right call the moment the Browns went for it on fourth down in the first quarter, regardless of what the score ended up. It’s that kind of aggressiveness, which we never would have seen from Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, that makes the potential for this offense exciting. They even used some ingenuity to get the ball into freak-athlete-but-drop-artist “(player-popup #breshad-perriman)Breshad Perriman”:/players/breshad-perriman-21551’s stone hands on end-arounds and let him use his blistering 4.3-flat speed to gain yards.
All those positive signs make me think they’ll have no problem putting up points on a still-broken Atlanta defense. Last week, Washington came in missing multiple important players including their left tackle and top receiving back, lost two guards and their top remaining receiver during the game, had their top-end run game negated by bad game script, and they still managed to score two touchdowns on the Falcons. This game should be much faster-paced; Atlanta is dead median in seconds per play, but Cleveland is top 5, making this one of the most up-tempo matchups of the week.
Los Angeles Chargers (-10) at Oakland Raiders Under 50 2u
On the complete opposite end of the pace spectrum, we have this matchup of the slowest team (Chargers) visiting the fourth-slowest team (Raiders). This is even slower than last week’s under pick, the clock-devouring Chargers at Seahawks game, which hit. Admittedly, I cut that one a bit closer than I would have liked. Had David Moore caught that last-second touchdown, the extra point would put the game half a point over, and left me seeking a guest spot on SportsCenter’s Bad Beats.
Luckily, this week Vegas and the gambling gods have gifted me a slower opponent with a much worse offense and an extra point and a half on top of it. The Raiders are tanking and it’s pathetic. Any semblance of talent has been injured, traded, or had their spirit broken. Derek Carr behind his offensive line looks like a scared cat behind a parked car, ready to bolt. After taking the fourth-most sacks, he has good reason. Carr’s 6.1 average depth of target is over two yards below his 2017 average and 57% of his total passing yards have come after the catch.
Those numbers support what is visually evident in every Raider’s game: Carr is passive, has no faith in his offensive line, and is more interested in getting out of a play without taking a hit than he is with making a play. In other words, he’s not a man who’s going to lead his team to score 20+ points against a very good defense. He didn’t in Week 5, when he had a better supporting cast but only managed 10 points. The Raiders haven’t hit 350 yards of total offense since Week 4.
The Chargers, on the other hand, haven’t scored less than 20 points all season. They’ve been dominant on the ground and they’ve used that whenever possible to control the clock and slowly strangle the life out of opponents. They have the fourth-fewest pass attempts and the lowest turnover rate in the league. They don’t give up control of the ball and run it down their opponents’ throats with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, who both average over five yards per carry for the season, and they do it slowly enough that the clock melts away like a Dali painting.
Gordon is an underrated DFS play, who’s likely to be forgotten among the Alvin Kamaras and Kareem Hunts of the slate. The Chargers’ offense has largely flowed through him this year and in recent weeks he’s taken back some of the volume that had gone to Ekeler. He had his most inefficient game of the season last time against the Raiders (3.05 yards/carry) and he still went for 120 total yards and a score with only four targets.
With a 50 total, I don’t see the Chargers scoring enough points to make up for the Raiders’ offensive ineptitude and obvious tanking.
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