NFL Betting 2023: Matchup angles to bet in Week 4, including New England Patriots under team total

2RXCB84 New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) huddles with the offense against the New York Jets during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Throughout the years, PFF data scientists have developed and conducted numerous studies to better understand and predict performance.

While many of these seminal works have furthered the conversation and certainly linger in the background, the goal in this space is to identify how the findings manifest in particular weekly matchups and to source the matchups or interactions the betting market has overlooked.

Some bets will track traditional markets, but others will look to more exotic markets to ensure we utilize the best market for the particular thesis or angle. 

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

Angle: A lack of explosive plays tilts the game to the under.

• By any estimation, this is a matchup between two of the best defenses in the NFL and two offenses that have struggled to start the campaign. But that is already fully incorporated into the market's pricing, as the total sits at a lowly 40.5.

• Even with the low total, there is reason to still see value on the under. In a 2022 data study, PFF found that generating explosive plays is essential for drive success. So, even if composite offenses and defenses are bad, teams that can generate explosive plays in any game can put up a decent point total on the backs of those plays.

• This matchup features two teams that are among the best at limiting explosive plays and among the worst at generating explosive plays.

• This means that each team will need to sustain long drives if they are to have any success on offense, a tall order given the defenses.

• This angle also plays into the tendencies these quarterbacks have for taking sacks, as Watson and Jackson rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the percentage of pressures resulting in sacks.

While sacks are often a function of holding the ball too long — the trade-off is often explosive plays — this matchup would tilt things in favor of more sacks and fewer big plays.

Bets: Under 40.5 and alt unders

New England Patriots @ Dallas Cowboys

Angle: The Cowboys cornerbacks get the better of the Patriots wide receivers in man-to-man coverage.

We're going back to the well with our go-to man-zone angle, the impetus for multiple same-game parlay wins last year (Week 2 and Week 8).

This research suggests that man coverage, more so than zone, reflects the talent on the field — it's coverage where good receivers beat inferior cornerbacks and vice versa.

Dallas has played the most man coverage in the NFL — for good reason, as this secondary has been among the best in rthe league.

This matchup against New England is maybe the best for a man-coverage team, as DeVante Parker is dead-last in separation vs. man coverage, and no Pats wide receiver is above average in separation vs. man coverage. It is perhaps for this reason that Mac Jones has struggled so mightily against man coverage this season.

Jones ranks last in expected points added (EPA) per play against man coverage, as his receivers cannot generate much separation. Couple the lack of separation with a ferocious Dallas pass rush, and this matchup sets up as one the Cowboys defense should win in a bounce-back.

Bets: I’ll be looking to sell the New England offense, betting the under 17.5 points, Jones under 213 passing yards and adding some Cowboys sack props.

Los Angeles Rams @ Indianapolis Colts

Angle: Matthew Stafford‘s traits elevate his outlook in the matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

One of the main themes in our study on quarterback scrambling is how certain QB traits interact with other facets of the game and which situations elevate certain QB skills over others.

 Stafford rarely scrambles, which our research suggests makes him far more situation-sensitive. In other words, we want to target games in which Stafford is not facing a dominant defensive line or secondary and in spots where he has a good complement of weapons.

 The Rams boast two top-20-graded wide receivers, with rookie sensation Puka Nacua standing out in a big way to start the year. The Rams are going up against PFF’s seventh-worst coverage unit, and considering Indy's personnel, it spells a big game for the Rams pass-catchers once again.

While the Rams' offensive line is a bit banged up, this matchup against the Colts' interior is not one to be particularly worried about, as they rank a bit below average in generating quick pressure, right in line with the Rams' base rates so far this season.

Bets: I’ll be betting on the Rams moneyline, Stafford passing yards and parlays of Stafford alt passing yards and Rams alt spreads.

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