Tag Archives: Alex Smith

Week 13 Primetime Moneymakers: Four the Win

A week after having the NFL primetime schedule extended into Wednesday we will do so again in Week 13. It’s an attempt to get back on track. Week 12’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens took so long to be played that their matchups this week have been pushed back in response. Pittsburgh will play the Washington Football Team on Monday at 5:00 PM ET; technically not in primetime but the unique time lands it on the list. Baltimore will face the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday at 8:05 PM ET.

Sitting at 9-14 after a pair of brutal weeks, we finally hit it big going 3-0. We nailed Bears-Packers outright but only got Seahawks-Eagles and Steelers-Ravens covers because the spread changed. So what, we’ll take it at this point. The record now sits at 12-14 with a chance to go above .500 on the year for the first time. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster of bad beats but there’s still money to be made. If anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!

Picking Four to Win in Week 13 Primetime Moneymakers

Denver Broncos (4-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)

Spread: Chiefs -14

O/U: 51

Drew Lock should be back under center for the Denver Broncos (6-5 ATS). They had to face the New Orleans Saints with practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, a converted college quarterback. It did not go well as they lost 31-3. The Broncos average 22.7 PPG in Lock’s seven starts this season. They’ll need every bit of it with their opponent this week. Defensively they rank 10th in DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and seventh in sacks. That’s a testament to the job head coach Vic Fangio has done without Von Miller this season.

If ‘unbothered’ was a person, that person would be Patrick Mahomes. Undaunted by the reputation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense (which was largely overblown anyway), he and the Kansas City Chiefs (6-5 ATS) put up 27 fairly easy points on them. They held off a late rally to reach double-digit wins for the sixth season in a row and seventh in eight years under Andy Reid (they won nine games the other year).

Perhaps in some alternate universe Lock is developed enough. And Miller and Courtland Sutton are healthy so the Broncos can keep up with the Chiefs. In this reality, though, he and the rest of the offense aren’t equipped to take advantage. The Chiefs defense ranks 17th in DVOA and has just 20 sacks on the season. Good luck to that secondary containing Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman. No secondary is that deep. Take the Chiefs but just moneyline. For some reason, 14 points feel like too many to lay against a divisional opponent even with such a lopsided matchup.

Washington Football Team (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)

Spread: Steelers -10

O/U: 42.5

The Washington Football Team (6-5 ATS) have had a surprisingly competitive season. And that’s not just because they play in the worst division in professional football which means they still have a chance to host a playoff game. It’s also because their defense is ranked fifth in DVOA despite the offense being 27th and 24th in scoring. Alex Smith has led the Football Team to back-to-back wins but has just three touchdowns to five interceptions.

By now the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3 ATS) have to be tired of COVID as much as anyone. On top of having their own problems with the virus, they have had their games moved twice already due to their opponents handling of it. Still, they are undefeated and coming off a disappointing win (per Mike Tomlin) against a depleted division rival. Can their offense (sixth in scoring, 15th in DVOA) take a break and ride the defense (first in scoring and DVOA) to another win?

Some might be questioning the validity of Pittsburgh’s record after watching Ben Roethlisberger and co. struggle against Baltimore but that’s just how those games go. Washington will need them to play as sloppily as they did in Week 12 to have a shot because a shootout guarantees a Steelers victory. Barring that this will make it 12 wins for Tomlin’s team but maybe not by the double-digit margin predicted. The quick turnaround might lead the Steelers to run more with guys still missing in action and that would be just fine with the Football Team. Steelers moneyline seems best as does the under.

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-6)

Spread: 49ers +1

O/U: 48

If it seems like the Buffalo Bills (6-5 ATS) aren’t losing much lately it’s because they aren’t. Since back-to-back losses to the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs they have gone 4-1 with a huge win over the Seattle Seahawks included. Buffalo, led by Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, is 10th in scoring offense and eighth in offense DVOA despite not having a ground game worth mentioning. Being so one-dimensional can be detrimental to any team, especially when your defense is 16th in DVOA and 18th in scoring.

Don’t look now, but the San Francisco 49ers (5-6 ATS) find themselve very much in the playoff hunt despite all of the games they’ve lost to injury this year. They’ve gotten some key players back in recent weeks including Richard Sherman and Raheem Mostert so maybe they can start stringing wins together. They still rank ninth in defense DVOA but are just 19th offensively. Jimmy Garoppolo (and likely George Kittle) won’t be walking through that door and Nick Mullens caps this team’s ceiling.

Location, location, location. The 49ers might appreciate the change of venue for this one since they’ve allowed 15 touchdowns at home compared to just 10 on the road. Their offense has also scored more on the road. Buffalo sees a drop in their offensive scoring, mostly in rushing scores. But their defense actually improves away from Bills Stadium. Additionally, even though it’s a small spread it’s worth mentioning the 49ers haven’t covered the spread in any game they haven’t won outright this season and that isn’t to be expected here. Take Buffalo and don’t be shocked to see over hit even with San Francisco so undermanned.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Check back soon once the line is set for this game to get the pick!

Kyler Murray: The NFL’s Next MVP

Kyler Murray will be the Most Valuable Player in the NFL in 2020. Yes, we are months out from training camp, let alone the regular season. So much can change from basic cuts and trades to devastating injuries. But the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 is uniquely outfitted to bring the award to the desert.

Sure, this sounds crazy now. The Arizona Cardinals just finished a 5-10-1 season. It was their fourth-straight losing season, and seventh in the past decade. But there were some mitigating factors (on top of Murray’s inexperience) that played a large part in that. Not the least of which is the defense that allowed the fourth-most points in team history.

Since this is about the MVP, an individual award, we can (somewhat) take his team’s success with a grain of salt and focus on Murray and why he makes sense for 2020 MVP.

Kyler Murray Will Be the Next MVP

History

Before we get into the numbers that Murray put up himself, let’s do a quick skim of the history of the MVP in the NFL. And we don’t even have to look too deep to recognize the pattern that has developed over the years. One that has shown a clear bias towards who will and won’t win the most-coveted individual award in the League.

Established in 1957 (yes, the award pre-dates the AFL-NFL merger of 1970), the MVP award has been awarded to the player thought to be the most indispensable to his team. That has usually been an offensive player.  More often than not, that has meant awarding a quarterback. More specifically, 38 quarterbacks have been named MVP compared to just 16 running backs.

That pattern has through recent times as quarterbacks have won every MVP since Adrian Peterson won it back in 2012. Before him, it was Shaun Alexander (05) and LaDainian Tomlinson (06) winning back-to-back. But this isn’t the biggest historical factor leading to this proclamation. We only need to look at the past few years to find that.

The past two winners of the coveted award were Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Aside from both sharing the NFL’s glamour position, they both won the award in their second season. Unlike either Jackson or Mahomes, however, Murray started every game of his rookie campaign, perhaps giving him a leg up in development.

His Story

Murray enjoyed a fantastic collegiate career at Oklahoma playing for Lincoln Riley. His dynamic skill set made him the perfect fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid scheme and he proved it in 2019. It was an uneven start but it didn’t take long for the jitterbug passer to show what made him special.

The Cardinals quarterback threw the sixth-most passes (542) in for a rookie in NFL history and joined some notable company in doing so, including a Hall of Famer. He joined Cam Newton and became just the second rookie ever to throw for over 3700 yards and run for over 540 yards, and the ninth player overall to do so.

Arizona, as mentioned, was bad on the whole and the porous offensive line allowed the sixth-most sacks. But they still managed to rank 10th in rushing. That was thanks in no small part to Murray who finished 36th overall in rushing yards. His dual-threat abilities were on full display during a three-game stretch where he averaged 10 carries per game.

He did all this with the terrible blocking, yes. But he was also the victim of depleted weaponry. His All-Pro running back David Johnson has been reduced to a shell of his former self. He saw himself replaced by his backup Chase Edmonds and later (and for good) by Miami Dolphins castoff Kenyan Drake. His top receiver was the ageless Larry Fitzgerald. That’s not good.

The Sooner the Better

Murray finished the season 15th in passing yards and completion percentage despite all the shortcomings around him. He’s in a system that is geared towards his strengths, something else he has in common with Jackson and Mahomes. This system has never featured the run and the defense will still be bad next season. In other words, he’ll need to throw a lot.

An infusion of talent is on the horizon via free agency and the draft. Depending on how they feel about young pass-catchers Christian Kirk, Damiere Byrd, and KeeSean Johnson they could focus heavily on the offensive line. They could also focus on cornerback and pass rush help because they will want to at least try to stop their opponents.

The success of Mahomes has been the result of the perfect marriage of a great situation and superb individual talent. And he still sat for a season behind Alex Smith. Baltimore overhauled their coaching staff to implement a system that would best utilize Jackson’s abilities (a novel concept, right?). But only after his rookie season.

Murray will enter his sophomore campaign with far more experience than either of those two. He’ll also have a system in place that was seemingly designed for him and that he won’t have had to learn in one offseason. All this along with the organization assumedly having a better understanding of what pieces he needs around him only enhances his prospects.

Kyler Murray, 2020 MVP

This is speculating to the extreme. No one knows how anything in the offseason will play out. But Murray answered two very important questions last season. He proved he could play in the NFL and he proved he can survive a 16-game season at his size. The next step will be improving his consistency and turning drives into points. If he does that, he will certainly be the MVP in 2020.