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Josh Allen
AP
Sunday's Best

Week 15 Details, Angles and Edges

by Warren Sharp
Updated On: December 19, 2020, 1:41 am ET

Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos

When Buffalo has the ball, the key is going to be the injured secondary of the Broncos.  

Starting CB AJ Bouye was suspended after week 13.
Starting CB Bryce Callihan was placed on IR after week 13.
Starting CB Essang Bassey tore his ACL in week 13.

Last week, CBs Duke Dawson and Kevin Toliver both sustained torn ACLs.

That’s 5 CBs that played a total of 43 games this season that will be down.  Of Denver’s 5 CBs that qualify for evaluation due to min snaps played, their 3 best are all gone from this game.

Remaining are De'Vante Bausby and rookie Michael Ojemudia, who has allowed a 118 passer rating when targeted (ranking 105 of 133 qualifying CBs) and 1.5 yards per target (ranking 104 of 133).

Pay close attention to play calls for the Bills on early downs in the first half.  On early downs in the first three quarters, the Broncos defenses use light boxes (6 or fewer defenders) on 78% of offensive plays, second most in the NFL (the average is 48%)

Denver’s distribution on these early downs in the first 3 quarters:

Light box (6 or fewer):    78% (avg = 48%)
Normal box (7):        22% (avg = 37%)
Heavy box (8+ men):    <1% (avg = 15%)

Will the Bills run on these light boxes or take advantage of the missing pieces in the secondary.

You can guarantee Vic Fangio is going to make these light boxes look extremely attractive, to get the Bills to run (Buffalo’s offensive weakness and Denver’s strength) rather than pass the ball (Buffalo’s strength and Denver’s weakness).

When Drew Lock’s Broncos lead at halftime, they are 6-1.

When they trail at halftime, they are 1-5, winning only over the terribly coached Chargers this season (scored 21 in the 4th quarter).

When Lock is playing with a second half lead, he averages 9.6 YPA and a 96 passer rating, completing 69% of passes.

But when he’s playing with a deficit, he averages 6.2 YPA and a 73 passer rating, completing just 57% of passes.

He ranks as the #38 QB out of 39 qualifying QBs when playing from behind in the second half.

Let’s see if the Broncos are able to get out early, as they did against the Panthers last week, or if they fall behind and have any success.  

This line opened with the Bills as at 4.5 and 5 point favorites and was bet as high as the Bills -6 before Broncos money showed in the market.  The Bills Offense is playing lights out but the Broncos red zone defense ranks #1 in the NFL  I think Buffalo succeeds in scoring and exceeds their team total.

 

 

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

The Patriots struggle to complete forward passes, ranking 5th worst in passing efficiency this season.  However, they are the 10th most run heavy team in the NFL and have the NFL’s 9th most efficient run offense.

The Dolphins have been outstanding defending teams that want to pass, facing two straight offenses that rank top-5 in pass rate.  And their pass defense ranks 5th best in the NFL.  But where they struggle is where the Patriots will attack, and that is on the ground.  

Despite facing the NFL’s 4th easiest schedule of rushing offenses, the Dolphins run defense ranks 10th worst in the NFL.  This should give the Patriots plenty of opportunities to run early and often, so long as they don’t fall too far behind on the scoreboard.

The last 9 times Bill Belichick’s defense faced a rookie QB, he went 9-0 and his defense recorded 12 interceptions to only 6 passing TDs.

 

 

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team

Seattle’s defense has looked improved, allowing 17, 17 and 3 points their last 3 games, but keep in mind, these were games against three bottom-5 offenses in overall efficiency.

The problem is, statistically that’s where Washington ranks at the moment as well.  And if it’s not Alex Smith in there, what Washington will miss most is the not the accuracy nor timing, it’s everything before the throw.  It’s getting into the right play, pre-snap decision making, reading the coverage, accounting for Jamal Adams in the box and making the correct read.

If Haskins doesn’t turn the ball over, this game goes under.  If Haskins turns the ball over, Seattle will cover this 6 point spread.

 

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Since 2010, double digit favorites off back to back losses are 19-3 SU and 17-5 ATS (77%).

This trend favors the Steelers, and this line which opened at 11.5 or 12.5 points has been bet up to the Steelers -13.

Warren Sharp

Warren Sharp is a football and betting analyst for NBC Sports. As a leading voice in football analytics, Warren writes a yearly book previewing the upcoming season from all angles at his Sharp Football Analysis website. You can follow Warren Sharp on Twitter @SharpFootball.