Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions (10/14/19): NFL Betting Picks, Lines

This Week: 5-10
All-Time Results: 41-39, +5.2 Units

Green Bay Packers -3.5 vs. Detroit Lions (-107) – 1 Unit

Green Bay Packers -1.5 vs. Detroit Lions (-175) – .175 Units

Green Bay Packers -12.5 vs. Detroit Lions (+290) – .1 Units

Why are the 4-1 Green Bay Packers only giving 3.5 at home tonight?  The Packers came into the season power rated anywhere from 5-7 points higher than the Lions by the Vegas market.  Additionally, Home Field Advantage is worth 3-4 points in the NFL, and maybe more at Lambeau.

So what’s changed? Have the 2-1-1 Lions really impressed us enough for us to say they are essentially even teams with the Packers?  Maybe. It is always worth it to pause when you don’t understand a line – usually its because you’re missing something.  What could explain the Lions surge in the market?

Does the Bye Week advantage for the Lions boost them a couple of points? Unlikely. Bye week teams are 41-40 ATS when playing on MNF, essentially .500.

Does the Davante Adams injury subtract a couple of points from the Packers rating? Again, unlikely.  Last week, when Adam’s status went from Questionable to Out the spread in their game against the Cowboys moved 1-point at most.

So what is it?

Underlying Statistics Obscuring the Packers Strengths

green bay packersMy theory on this line: NFL Sharps on this one too clever by half.  The Packers are a public darling that have started the season well, despite not having the statistical profile of other top teams in the league.  Sharp bettors – who always want to focus their analysis on statistics rather than standings – have wrongly attributed Green Bay’s success to luck.  In reality, much of their bad stats actually have more to do with their winning late-game strategy, which takes the air out of the ball to a larger degree than other teams.

Statistics say Aaron Rodgers is an average Quarterback this year.  Do you believe that?  Many sharp betters do.  I do not.  I think his play is actually a great microcosm of this team.  He understands what it takes to win, and feels no need to make higher leverage plays that result in more yards if plays with less variance more readily secure the bag.

Net Yards Per Play tells us Green Bay is the 25th best team in the league.  They lose about a half yard per snap. Conversely, the Detroit Lions are 17th in this category.

Contrary to popular belief, statistics do lie.  They may lie less than the scoreboard or the season standings – but they nonetheless deceive.  The best example is the Victory Formation, which carries along with it not only a 99.9% chance of ensuring victory but also a 100% chance of losing about 1 yard per play.

Accounting for obvious plays like these helps analytic websites such as Football Outsiders correct for more accurate data. Their DVOA metric, for example, has the Packers at 9th and the Lions 11th, closer to the current market price of each team.

I think the statistics in this case, however, are even more misleading than analytic-sites account for.  Oftentimes in an effort to get better more predictive data, we look past the point of these contests.  We play to win the games, not to generate the most number of plays adjudged to be successful by a historical algorithm.

The Packers have been a different team in 2nd halves this season.  Playing extremely vanilla on offense and playing bend but don’t break (too quickly) defense, they have been outscored 49-37 in the 2nd halves.   Any computer would deduce that the Packers have simply been bad in 2nd halves – not gaining many yards on offense and giving up twice as many the other way.  Last week, for example after getting up 31-3 against the Cowboys, the Packers yielded 14 yards of total offense, while allowing 250.  However, they still left Arlington with 100% of potential wins per game gained.

We end where we began.  The Packers are 5-1 for a reason.  While they may have not played their best in 2nd halves this year – I think it’s been much more about strategy than talent.

We see these statistics skewed for other teams, as well.  The only undefeated teams in the NFL – the Pats & 49ers – are 18th and 11th respectively in yards gain per play.  I don’t think this is because they are middle of the pack offenses.  I think each team makes a conservative effort to secure wins and improve for the future, rather than to maximize their successful play percentage.

The Cowboys packed the box in the 2nd half last week, daring Green Bay to throw against them despite a 20-point lead.  The Packers didn’t take the bait.  They ran three times into a crowded box and punted.  And nonetheless won the game.

Don’t see the Lions in the same class as the Packers.  I expect a decisive victory.

One more thing…

I don’t think teams go far enough with practicality.  When a team is up by 28 with 5 minutes to go in the 4th, I never understood: why don’t they just kneel down on every play and punt? An entertainment product at heart, maybe the NFL has internal measures to stop such shrewdness.

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Born in Chicago, born for Las Vegas, Mackenzie is a graduate of Yale University with a BA in English & Creative Writting. Mackenzie runs AlternativeStats.blog, which seeks to by-pass the minutiae of commonly cited sports statistics and expose the heart of what drives athletic success. After several successful years investing in Las Vegas real estate, Mackenzie is excited to transition in 2019 into betting on sports full time, as well as documenting his thought process as he further learns the craft.

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