NFL Week 6 Leveraging Tails: Regression is coming for Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2RXJ861 Tampa, United States. 25th Sep, 2023. Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter (98) pressures Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Monday, September 25, 2023. Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

• These teams are not in the same tier: Both of these teams may have just one loss on the season, but they are not in the same tier when it comes to their ability to move the ball. The Lions have been the slightly better defense and are close to a whole point per drive better on offense.

• Regression in store: There is little evidence to suggest Baker Mayfield‘s playstyle is different enough that we’d believe his early 2023 numbers to be sticky. They are likely to regress, and the Buccaneers’ production on offense will likely diminish as a result.

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Many bettors place wagers in multiple markets — spreads, totals, teasers, props, etc. — where they generally get oriented by following a bottom-up approach: “Which spreads do I like?” or “Which totals stand out this week?”

However, the goal in this space is to follow a top-down approach. We will take a deep dive into one game a week and consider how bettors can best apply a specific theory on a team, player or trend and capitalize on it in the betting market.

Some bets will track more traditional markets, but we will more often look to maximize our upside in the multitude of different markets offered by sportsbooks.

Bet: Detroit Lions – 9.5 (+250)

Both of these teams may have just one loss on the season, but they are not in the same tier when it comes to their ability to move the ball. The Lions have been the slightly better defense and are close to a whole point per drive better on offense.

The above chart shows how well the Buccaneers have moved the ball in each game relative to their opponents. The dotted line represents the league average.

Two main points jump out from this graph. First, the Bucs have mustered only one average offensive performance, and that was against the putrid Chicago Bears defense. The second is that the Tampa Bay defense has been unable to stop above-average offenses (Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles) from moving the ball.

Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions certainly fit the mold of an above-average offense. They are top-10 in basically every efficiency metric on offense and have been very consistent over the first five weeks of the campaign. They should have no trouble putting up points in Week 6.

Matchup Angle

Tampa Bay’s underlying play looks iffy despite Baker Mayfield playing at career-best levels under pressure from the defense.

Mayfield has been among the very best quarterbacks under pressure this year, taking a sack on only 8% of his pressured dropbacks and producing the second-best mark in expected points added (EPA) per play.

That said, we know play under pressure is unstable. We also know that Mayfield has taken a sack on 21% of his pressured dropbacks over his career, generating only -0.05 EPA per play on those dropbacks.

There is little evidence to suggest Baker's playstyle is dramatically different enough that we’d believe these early 2023 numbers to be sticky. They are likely to regress, and the Buccaneers’ production on offense will likely diminish as a result.

This is exactly the type of matchup where we could see that regression. The Lions rank top-10 in pressure rate, and much of that is due to edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who will have a huge matchup advantage against the Tampa Bay offensive line.

Hutchinson has lined up on the interior for many of his snaps. If that continues, he will face off with Matt Feiler, who currently ranks 51st among 75 qualifying guards in PFF grade.

The Bucs should struggle to run the ball, as they are now bottom-five in basically every rushing efficiency metric and will be going up against a Lions front that has allowed only 3.3 yards per carry, the third-best mark among defenses. The group also ranks fifth in rushing success rate allowed.

This should mean plenty of long down and distance for Mayfield, presenting an opportunity for the Lions’ pass rush to overwhelm him, leading to the sacks and turnovers we’re accustomed to seeing from him when he is pressured.

The bottom line

These teams are not in the same tier, and the Bucs have some major regression coming on offense. I’m happy to take the points, given Detroit’s ability to consistently put up points and the potential for Baker to regress under pressure in a tough spot.

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