Dec 212012

Oakland Raiders (4-10) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

One of my favorite trends is the six and six trend, which says that teams who finish with 6 wins or fewer are 23-64 ATS since 2002 as favorites of 6 or more. So far this year, teams that are currently 5-9 or worse are 2-5 ATS as favorites of 6 or more this season. The Eagles failed to cover week 1 as 8.5 point favorites in Cleveland. The Lions failed to cover as 6 point home favorites against the Rams week 1, then again as 7 point home favorites against the Colts a few weeks back, and then once again in Arizona last week as 7 point road favorites last week. The Raiders failed to cover as home favorites of 6 against the Jaguars earlier this year. The Bills and Browns covered as 6 point home favorites against the Jaguars and Browns respectively recently.

I didn’t go against the Eagles week 1 because there was really no way to know they’d be this bad. I went against the Lions week 1, but for different reasons. I went against the Raiders even that early in the year because they were 1-4 at the time. I went against the Lions last week in Arizona, but not against them at home against Indianapolis because the line was -4.5 when I took it. I went against both the Bills and Browns seeing them as obvious six and six candidates, but that didn’t work out.

It doesn’t always work out, but that’s a pretty powerful trend and it’s definitely in play here. The Panthers are at 5-9 and they are not just 6 point favorites, but 8.5 point favorites, just the 4th time since 1989 that a 5 or fewer win team has been favored by this much this late in the season since 1989 (1-1-1 ATS in the previous 3 instances). Unless the Panthers can win here (likely) and in New Orleans next week (unlikely), they’re an obvious six and six candidate.

They may also be caught looking forward to that New Orleans game next week, which is pretty much their Super Bowl. They probably won’t get up for crappy Oakland, an unfamiliar non-conference opponent. Non-conference favorites are 34-63 ATS before being divisional dogs since 2002. Oakland has a more important game next week in San Diego, a divisional rival, but they’re less likely to not get up because they are dogs here. Non-conference dogs are 71-88 ATS before being divisional dogs (including 45-52 ATS before being divisional road dogs), which isn’t that bad.

This is a significant play, but there are some reasons why it’s not a bigger play. The Panthers aren’t an ordinary 5-9 team. Because they’ve just lost 2 games by more than 6 points, they are 21st in net points per drive at -0.20. They’re even better in DVOA, ranking 13th in regular and 11th in weighted and they are playing really solid football of late, winning 3 of 4, only losing to the Chiefs the day after the Jovan Belcher incident. If you take the difference between their net points per drive and the Raiders’, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that this line is right where it should be at 8.5, before even taking DVOA into account.

The 2nd reason is I’ve been burned a lot with the Raiders as they’ve covered a lot of games in situations they should have covered. They do have a tendency to not show up on occasion and here on the East Coast, where West Coast teams tend to struggle at 1 PM (the Raiders are 1-3 ATS there this year), in between two divisional games, that might happen. However, this is just too many points and it’s worth noting that the public is all over the Panthers and they always lose money in the long run. Worst case scenario, I like the Raiders’ chances of a backdoor cover.

Public lean: Carolina (80% range)

Sharps lean: CAR 11 OAK 5

Final thoughts: No change.

Carolina Panthers 24 Oakland Raiders 20

Pick against spread: Oakland +8.5 (-110) 3 units

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