There’s no way the St. Louis Rams would ever be favored over the New England Patriots on a neutral field (as long as we’re not talking about Super Bowl XXXVI), but that’s exactly what Brian Burke’s game probability model says should be the case in NFL Week 8 action in London.
Crazy, you say? Well, probably.
I won’t claim that the efficiency model’s preference for St. Louis is correct, but I’ll illustrate why the numbers work out the way they do.
Put simply, New England has a very poor defense, and St. Louis’s has been much better than most people realize. St. Louis’s stats have come against a tougher slate of opponents, too.
Although the Patriots have a clear edge on offense, the Rams have the bigger edge on defense. New England has given up a full yard per pass attempt more than the league average, while St. Louis has given up a half yard per pass attempt less than average. When all these numbers are weighted according to how well they predict game outcomes, the Rams come out on top.
New England, of course, is a heavy favorite in this matchup at Wembley Stadium, hovering right around a touchdown at most sportsbooks.
Burke then goes on to explain that the Patriots’ “bend but don’t break” defense tends to hurt them in the probability models when perhaps it shouldn’t. But his overall point is probably one of which we should take note: “I doubt the Rams are the real favorite in this game … but I suspect their defense will make this game more competitive than many of us expect.”
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We thought it’d be interesting to take Burke’s game probability models, convert them to point spreads, and then compare them to the actual point spreads currently available.
(It’s interesting that there are four more cases besides Patriots-Rams where the favorite would be flipped.)
All actual point spreads courtesy of YouWager.
|MATCHUP||BURKE SPREAD||ACTUAL SPREAD|
|Patriots-Rams||St. Louis -2.5||New England -7|
|Colts-Titans||Tennessee -2.5||Tennessee -3.5|
|Jaguars-Packers||Green Bay -10||Green Bay -14.5|
|Chargers-Browns||Cleveland -3||San Diego -3|
|Falcons-Eagles||Philadelphia -2.5||Philadelphia -3|
|Seahawks-Lions||Detroit -2.5||Detroit -2|
|Dolphins-Jets||Miami -1.5||New York -2|
|Panthers-Bears||Chicago -3||Chicago -9|
|Redskins-Steelers||Pittsburgh -2.5||Pittsburgh -4.5|
|Raiders-Chiefs||Oakland -3.5||Kansas City -1.5|
|Giants-Cowboys||Dallas -2||New York -2|
|Saints-Broncos||Denver -11||Denver -6|
|49ers-Cardinals||San Francisco -4||San Francisco -7|