2022 NFL Week 8 TNF: Baltimore Ravens @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS on the season, and 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS in their last five games. But before the 'Father Time is catching up to TB12' narratives re-emerge, consider that objective analysis suggests Brady is still performing among the elite players at his position. For instance, Football Outsiders DYAR ranks Brady 5th this season (note that Lamar Jackson does not make the cut for top-10, per this measure).
Still though, their average offensive output of less than 18 points per contest is good for 26th in the League in scoring. Tampa Bay's offensive woes owe largely to an inability to move the ball on the ground, as Football Outsiders DVOA rates Tampa 26th running the ball--the Bucs are dead last in rushing yards per game and 31st in rushing 1st downs and rushing touchdowns; as a result of this inefficiency, Tampa dials up fewer running plays (as a percent of total all plays) than any other team in the League (33% of the time, versus a median 42% of the time for the NFL in aggregate).
Nonetheless, our Bet Labs dashboard is lit up like a Christmas tree in support of a Bucs' cover as short favorite versus the visiting Ravens Thursday. Supporting our play, we note that the Ravens rushing defense is 23rd in the League, so Tampa might be able to balance to implement a more balanced offensive scheme (of the Bucs' three wins, two materialized against the Falcons and Saints, both of which, like the Ravens, boast below average run-stopping capacities, per DVOA.
But in addition to the expectation that Baltimore's poor prowess facing the run will lighten Brady's load Thursday, historical context hints that the present is a solid spot to take a flyer on Old Man Brady and company for the bounce-back cover. See below for examples:
In non-division, Thursday Night Football action, backing home favorites that appeared in the prior postseason has delivered a statistically significant 53% return on investment (ROI) since 2004-05, and has recorded only two seasons with cover rates below 50%...
This system is 11-5 ATS when the spread is less than a field goal, and is 4-0 versus the number when the opposing team also made the last playoffs.
As justification for the profitability of this system, we hypothesize that better teams (as implied by their status as favorite and their appearance in the prior postseason proceedings) are more capable of performing on short rest, particularly against other divisions, whose competition is less intimately familiar with teams capacities and propensities (as a result of less frequent meetings).
Separately, in non-conference NFL action, backing teams that 1) appeared in the last postseason, 2) are supported by less than 50% of ATS bets and 3) see the spread move at least a point the other way has likewise proven extremely profitable over the long-term...
This angle has been good for a 22% ROI since 2004-05, and has recorded only four seasons with cover rates south of 50%.
We suspect this system's value owes the public's recency bias. Teams that have struggled of late are not likely to tickle the fancy of casual bettors, we suppose. We expect this generalization holds true even for quality teams (with a berth in the most recently completed playoffs serving as a proxy for quality). So as bettors pile on to fade solid teams off poor showings, bookmakers are forced to adjust spreads to accommodate the swath of action. A common result can be mispriced lines for premium teams.
Per the exhibit below from Sports Insights, the Bucs opened as 3.5 point favorites last week. The line swung as far as Baltimore -2 by a couple of days ago, but the Bucs have experienced solid buyback since, and the spread has been pressured back toward Tampa Bay -2.
The home team has captured the backing of only 30% of ATS bets by volume, as of the time of this writing, per sources tracked by Sports Insights.