by Walter Football
We are partnering with Walter Football this season who puts out insightful football analysis and wanted to show how these insights can be applied to winning theSCOREX:NFL FREE contest for $5k or your own league that you set up with your friends or coworkers.
Here are Walt’s Buys and Sells (from Walter’s Overrated/Underrated)
Note: the dollar change is from Week 2 to Week 3.
Atlanta Falcons ($18.32 -$1.31)
Despite the loss, everyone will marvel at the Falcons’ passing numbers. Matt Ryan threw for five touchdowns, and impressive rookie Calvin Ridley snatched three of them. “With Ridley playing great, and Julio on the other side, the Falcons will be unstoppable!” I assume something of this nature will be said on national TV throughout the week.
While that statement might be true, it’s also incomplete. The Falcons could be unstoppable offensively, but the defense won’t be able to stop anyone either. Barely anyone is talking about the injury to Deion Jones, who was one of the top linebackers in the NFL. His absence has been enormous, as Atlanta hasn’t stood a chance of covering pass-catching running backs or tight ends in his absence. Jones is similar to Ryan Shazier, and we’ve seen how much the Steelers have struggled since losing him. The Falcons are going to surrender tons of yardage and points without Jones, and it’s only going to be worse in the wake of the injury to safety Ricardo Allen.
Los Angeles Rams ($26.05 +$1.03)
“But Walt, the Rams just beat the Cardinals 34-0 and killed your Pick of the Month!” Yes, exactly. Clobbering crappy teams can easily make teams overrated by the public. The Rams have looked unstoppable the combined record of the three teams they’ve beaten thus far is 1-8, and that sole victory was the Chargers beating Buffalo. The Chargers might be better than 1-2, but they shot themselves in the foot so many times Sunday. They were also missing Joey Bosa and Corey Liuget, so their defense wasn’t as good as it will be when those two players return.
Meanwhile, the Rams have suffered some major injuries to their secondary. Marcus Peters could be done for the year, while Aqib Talib is banged up as well. Despite this, the Rams-Vikings spread rose from -5 to -6.5. Call me crazy, but I think injuries to Pro Bowl cornerbacks are a big concern.
Pittsburgh Steelers ($20.68 +$1.26)
There are three teams with season win totals of 10.5 or greater at the Westgate as of mid-July: the Patriots, Eagles and Steelers. Two of those teams are great. One is mediocre.
People think of the Steelers as this dynamic, Super Bowl-contending team, and that was once the case. Pittsburgh still has terrific players like Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell (when he returns from his holdout) and Antonio Brown, as well as some other studs like Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, the Steelers suffered a major decline last year when they lost Ryan Shazier to his devastating injury. Shazier was arguably the top linebacker in the NFL, so it’s understandable why his absence would have such an impact.
How great of an impact? Prior to Shazier going down, the Steelers allowed 17.5 points per game. Following his injury, Pittsburgh surrendered 28 points per game. If your Windows calculator isn’t working, that’s a disparity of 10.5 points. And here’s the thing: Aside from Tom Brady, the list of quarterbacks the Steelers battled and couldn’t contain following the Shazier injury were Joe Flacco, T.J. Yates, DeShone Kizer, and Blake Bortles. What’s going to happen when the Steelers go up against great offenses?
Furthermore, while the Steelers went 13-3 last year, they were very lucky in many of their wins. They had five victories decided by three points or fewer. If those games went against them, they would’ve gone 8-8, which is a realistic record for them in 2018, especially if the other three teams in the division have improved.
The Steelers tied the Browns in Week 1, which had to be alarming for them and their fans. Those worries were confirmed in a double-digit home loss to Kansas City (minus a late, garbage-time touchdown.) For everyone who has been paying attention to their struggles, it’s confirmation that they’ll have severe problems reaching the playoffs this season.
Chicago Bears ($18.36 -$0.53)
The Bears are the NFL’s true dark-horse team. They went 5-11 last year but were very competitive in many of their losses. They would’ve beaten the Falcons in Week 1 had Jordan Howard not dropped a touchdown at the very end of the game. They nearly vanquished the Vikings on Monday Night Football. They were the closest team to defeating Jimmy Garoppolo, losing by just a point thanks to a last-second Robbie Gould field goal. Meanwhile, they beat the Steelers and Panthers at home, and they won in Baltimore.
All of this occurred with a rookie quarterback, a lame-duck coach, and a horrific receiving corps. Now, Mitchell Trubisky has experience and some talented wideouts to throw to. Also, Chicago’s offensive line is excellent, while its defense could be dominant this year if Roquan Smith is as good as advertised. Chicago’s stop unit was very good last year when star linebacker Danny Trevathan wasn’t hurt, and Smith and Khalil Mack can only help matters.
The Bears lost to the Packers amid an amazing Aaron Rodgers comeback, but don’t forget that they had a double-digit lead prior to Rodgers suffering an injury. The fact that they came up short will mean that the public will continue to underestimate how good they are. Last week, they nearly lost to Arizona, but Sunday of Week 3 was a day of shocking results. The Bears were flat following their big Monday night victory, but the fact that they overcame the lethargy and still won is impressive to me.
Cincinnati Bengals ($16.91 -$0.34)
The Bengals were very lucky in their first two games. They may have lost to the Colts had Jack Doyle not fumbled in the red zone on Indianapolis’ final real drive, while the Ravens lost because C.J. Mosley, Baltimore’s best defensive player, was carted off the field on the opening defensive possession. Cincinnati’s luck finally ran out in Week 3, with the ball not bouncing their way and A.J. Green going down with an injury. The Bengals were locked up in a tight battle against the Panthers prior to Green going down, so his injury made a big difference.
So, why is a team that was lucky in two games and unlucky in the third underrated? Because the Bengals, following Week 4, will be getting their star linebacker Vontaze Burfict back from suspension. The Bengals have played much worse defensively without Burfict over the years, so their stop unit will improve markedly once Burfict returns to action.
Minnesota Vikings ($21.73 -$1.37)
I’ve had the Vikings in the overrated list for a while now, but I think the case can be made that they’re underrated now. They’re listed as 6.5-point underdogs at the Rams on Thursday night, which is an indication that they’re being undervalued.
Of course, everyone will look at the Vikings’ loss to the Bills, but I wouldn’t even factor that into any sort of consideration when ranking the teams. Minnesota simply didn’t show up. The team assumed it would crush the Bills, and it was looking forward to battling the Rams in four days. Also, the Vikings were missing several key players. Dalvin Cook and Everson Griffen, two of the best players on the roster, were both out, while center Pat Elflein isn’t at full strength yet. I expect the Vikings to rebound soon.
Read more at http://walterfootball.com/overratedunderrated.php