NFL Week 11 Best Bets: The Broncos are worth backing on Sunday night

2T28R69 Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua (17) runs with the ball during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

• Back the Denver Broncos as small home favorites against the Minnesota Vikings: Denver is playing much better, and their value has not been adjusted properly in the market.

• Buy low on the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets: Josh Allen and the Bills should be able to get back to their winning ways against a struggling Jets squad.

• Trust Puka Nacua to go over his receptions prop: The Rams rookie receiver has an ideal schematic matchup against a zone-heavy Seahawks secondary.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

The NFL season rolls along to Week 11. In this article, we’ll be identifying a team that is playing far better than they were at the beginning of the season, which is causing them to be undervalued. We’ll also be buying low on a team that has seemingly bottomed out in the market. Let’s get into it.

Minnesota Vikings @ Denver Broncos (-3, 41)

Both of these teams are hot right now and enter this game on win streaks. It seemed like the Vikings' season was over when Kirk Cousins went down in Week 10, but newly acquired quarterback Josh Dobbs stepped in and dominated the past two weeks.

While it may seem like Dobbs will continue to thrive with his new team, I am not sold on him as a reliable NFL signal-caller. He was rated as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league on one of the worst teams in the league just a couple of weeks ago. The former Arizona Cardinal has a 58.0 PFF passing grade, which puts him right in between Mac Jones and Zach Wilson.

Dobbs’ play has been highly dependent on the type of coverage he faces. Against man coverage, Dobbs has been above average in terms of EPA per dropback but has struggled against zone, ranking fifth worst in such situations.

Unfortunately for Dobbs, he will be facing a Broncos defense that is finding its identity as a zone coverage team. From Weeks 1-5, Denver played a league-average amount of zone coverage and got torched through the air, allowing by far the highest EPA per dropback in the NFL. Since then, however, the Broncos have played zone at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL and have held opponents to the eighth-lowest EPA per dropback overall and the fourth-lowest when deploying zone coverage.

Additionally, Denver will be able to limit the broken plays from which Dobbs has thrived this season. On plays classified by PFF as “scramble drills” where the quarterback escapes the pocket and tries to make a play, Dobbs has accumulated the fourth-most total EPA. However, the Broncos' defense has been just as good at defending these types of plays and has limited opponents to the fifth-lowest EPA per dropback.

This peaking Broncos defense is a matchup nightmare for Dobbs, who should have his strengths limited and his weaknesses exposed on Sunday night.

On the other side of the ball, this matchup looks difficult for Russell Wilson. The Vikings blitz at the highest rate in the NFL, and Wilson has the greatest negative difference between his EPA per dropback when the defense doesn’t blitz and when it does. When we dive deeper into this trend, though, the matchup doesn’t look nearly as bad.

When examining Wilson’s numbers against the blitz by week, it’s clear that three horrible performances are driving those season-long numbers. These performances came against the Chiefs (twice) and the Jets, who are two of the NFL's best defenses, both overall and when blitzing.

Against the Bills last week, Wilson was dynamite against the blitz, which makes sense, given that the Bills have allowed the 10th-highest EPA per play when blitzing. Wilson’s performance against the blitz seems to be dictated by the quality of defense he is facing, rather than his own inability to beat it. Although the Vikings blitz often, they are not particularly good at it and have been below average when doing so. Wilson should be able to pick apart a poor Vikings defense that won't be able to hide its weaknesses by manufacturing pressure.

Wilson has also been far better against zone coverage, which he will see a lot of against a Vikings secondary that rarely plays man coverage.

Best Bet: Broncos -3

I’m buying the Broncos' recent success as far more sustainable than the Vikings' recent success. I love getting Denver under a field goal in a great schematic matchup.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills (-7, 39.5)

The Bills have lost three of their past four after a heartbreaking loss to the Broncos on Monday night. Josh Allen‘s turnover woes have reared their ugly head again, as he now leads the league in interceptions through Week 10. But Allen has actually been incredibly unlucky while limiting the number of plays where he puts the ball in harm's way.

The career narrative on Allen is that he takes too many risks and turns the ball over too often. While this has been true in years past, he has done a far better job this year of avoiding plays that PFF charts as “turnover-worthy” while still making those “big-time throws” that make him the elite passer that he is. In fact, Allen has by far the lowest turnover-worthy play percentage of his career this season.

The spike in Allen’s interceptions can be attributed to one pesky variable: variance. I’m focusing on the process of Allen’s decision-making and accuracy that has led to him limiting turnover-worthy plays rather than the noisy results that paint him as a turnover machine.

This Bills offense is still elite and should be able to move the ball against a great Jets defense behind Allen's efficiency.

The Jets, on the other hand, have not scored a touchdown in their past 11 quarters. There is not much to say about Zach Wilson and this offense, besides the fact that they are historically bad and incapable of producing quality drives that put points on the board. Although the Bills' defense is banged up and hasn’t played great in the past couple of weeks, that shouldn't matter a ton against a Jets offense that has been consistently making bad defenses look like the 1985 Bears.

Buffalo’s defense is also great at taking away the middle of the field, which is the only area where Wilson has generated a positive EPA per pass when passing. The Bills allow the second-lowest EPA per pass to the heart of the field and will be able to take away the easy throws that the Jets have had relative success with this season.

Best Bet: Bills -7 (to -8)

This line is in between 7 and 7.5, but I like it at anything 8 or better. In a game where the Jets may not score in the double digits, buy the Bills at their low point after a rough couple of weeks during which they were buried by a lot of negative variance.

Player Prop Best Bet: Puka Nacua o5.5 Receptions +100 (to -110)

After a historic start to his rookie campaign, Nacua has slowed down over the past couple of weeks, with just three receptions in each of his past two games. Fortunately, the Rams receiver is in a smash spot, as his strengths match up perfectly with the Seahawks’ defensive scheme.

Nacua’s target share skyrockets to a team-leading 31% against zone coverage, compared to around 22% against man coverage. That is one of the biggest differences in target shares by coverage for any pass-catcher in the league.

Seattle plays zone at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL and loves to sit back in their Cover 3 defense, which allows savvy receivers like Nacua to find holes in the defense for short-to-intermediate completions. In Week 1 in this same matchup, Nacua recorded 10 catches for 119 yards. Yes, that was without Cooper Kupp, but there are still enough completions to go around from quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is one of the best passers in the league against Cover 3.

In a game that has real shootout potential, back Nacua to rack up at least six receptions and cash this prop.

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