Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Before the bye, I made a big play on the Chiefs to win in Tampa Bay because I felt they were undervalued because of their terrible turnover differential. I noted how they were on a record worst pace in turnover differential and that, at the very least, that would slow. I also noted how they were recovering a very low percentage of all fumbles that hit the ground, how they were throwing interceptions at a rate far higher than Matt Cassel’s career rate, and how they weren’t forcing a lot of interceptions because of the caliber quarterbacks they had faced. I also brought up the inconsistency of turnovers.
But there was one thing I forgot to take into account: Brady Quinn. I’m not saying I didn’t know he was going to start. I factored him into the equation by basically saying that Quinn’s career interception rate was much lower than Cassel’s this season so even if you didn’t believe that Cassel’s interception rate would eventually go towards his career mark that you had to agree Quinn would be less likely to throw interceptions than Cassel would have.
The issue, however, is Quinn’s career YPA. Quinn’s career YPA is 5.4, more than a yard per attempt lower than not only Cassel’s career YPA, 6.6, but also his season YPA, 6.5. I cited yards per play as one of the statistics that showed the Chiefs were undervalued, but completely forgot to take into account that even though Quinn would be less likely to turn the ball over, he’d severely hurt their yard per play differential and stagnate their offense. That’s exactly what happened as the Chiefs were even in the turnover battle, but managed just 3.8 yards per play on offense. They also surrendered a whopping 9.1 yards per play defensively thanks to several big plays in a 38-10 losing effort.
If Cassel had been the one starting this game, I would have once again used the same argument to call the Chiefs undervalued, citing their yards per play differential in the games Cassel started and that their turnover differential would almost definitely improve for the reasons I listed above. However, for some reason, the Chiefs have chosen to go with Brady Quinn and that stagnant offense once again here this week. As a result, the Chiefs might actually be worse off than yards per play would suggest.
And yards per play doesn’t even suggest they are very good anymore, not after that abysmal showing in Tampa Bay, as they now rank 31st in the league in yards per play. I don’t think their defense will play as poorly as they did in Tampa Bay from here on out. That was an outlier. However, their offense will continue to be as stagnant as long as Quinn is the starter so I think that 31st place ranking is fair at best and possibly even overvalues them.
Using the yards per play method of determining line value, we get that Oakland, who ranks 17th with an even yards per play differential, should be 4.5 favorites here in Kansas City. I don’t just use that method anymore because it undervalues teams that don’t have a lot of big plays and undervalues teams that give up a lot of big plays (like the Chiefs did against Tampa Bay). Instead, I also use rate of sustaining drives differential, which compares how often, on any given set of downs, you convert for a first or score, as opposed to how often your defense allows the opponent to do so.
The Chiefs are better in this statistic because it doesn’t put as much value on the Chiefs’ defensive showing in Tampa Bay as yards per play differential does, as they rank 25th at -4.0%, while Oakland ranks 26th at -4.5%. That suggests that Kansas City should be -3.5 point favorites here at home, but it’s reasonable to expect the Chiefs to sink in that statistic with Quinn under center, stagnating this offense.
Right now, there are 8 teams in the league (Arizona, Seattle, Miami, Oakland, Cleveland, Carolina, Buffalo, Jacksonville) with a worse rate of sustaining drives than Kansas City, who convert for a first or a score on 72.3% of their downs, but most of that is Matt Cassel’s doing and won’t continue under Quinn. Against Tampa Bay, they converted just 60% of their sets of downs for first downs or scores, with 15 first downs, 2 turnovers on downs, 2 turnovers, and 6 punts. Either way we look at it, I think we’re getting line value with the Raiders and the Chiefs do not deserve to be home favorites.
Two trends work against the Chiefs here as well. For one, they’re divisional home favorites before being divisional road dogs as they head to San Diego to play the Chargers next week. Teams are 14-46 ATS in this spot since 2002. It certainly won’t help that they play San Diego on Thursday Night, just 4 days after this game. Meanwhile, Oakland hosts Tampa Bay next week and is expected to be favored. Dogs before being favorites are 84-46 ATS since 2011.
The Raiders seem like the right side, but it’s not a significant play for two reasons. One, picking Oakland means picking a publicly backed underdog and you’d have to be crazy to pick a publicly backed underdog this week for a significant play because eventually the favorite/underdog disparity will close (dogs are 63-39 ATS this year). If you can bet a favorite and simultaneously fade the public, you have to do it unless there’s a good reason not to (like that doing so means picking Brady Quinn as a favorite).
The 2nd reason is that crappy teams seem to be extra focused out of a bye. Since 1989, teams with 0 or 1 wins are 47-25 ATS out of their bye as long as it’s week 7 or later (those are the super crappy teams). As favorites, those teams are 8-2 ATS as favorites and 23-9 ATS in the division. I just can’t take Brady Quinn as a favorite, especially as a home divisional favorite before being a divisional dog and against a dog that will be a favorite next week. If Matt Cassel were starting, it probably would have been a unit on the Chiefs. Instead, I’m taking the Raiders. Instead of putting a unit on the money line and a unit on the spread, I’m going to put both on the money line. It’s never worth the 15 cents to have protection against a 1 point loss.
Public lean: Oakland (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Kansas City covers)
Sharps lean: KC 12 OAK 9
Final update: No change.
Oakland Raiders 17 Kansas City Chiefs 13 Upset Pick +105 2 units
Pick against spread: Kansas City +1 (-110) 0 units