GAMBLING GUIDE

Gone in 40 seconds: The Super Bowl 52 mega betting preview

Bill Belichick has two weeks to prepare for Nick Foles and the Eagles. Eagles.com

In the game of football, the game gives you life every 40 seconds.

The number 40 is one that you hear often leading up to this years Super Bowl.

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, over the hill is considered to be: past one's prime.
In your lifetime, you will hear the reference "over the hill" on various occasions. Whether it's celebrating someone's 40th Birthday, or when someone is referring to someone as old or as slowing down.

On Aug. 3, Tom Brady turned 40, leaving us looking for words to describe someone who looks far from over the hill as he ages. Brady threw for 4,577 yards while keeping a 66.3 % completion percentage this regular season. That’s his second-best completion percentage in nine years and his fourth most yardage in that time frame. This season, he became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a game at the age of 40. Not only that, but he led the league in passing attempts and completions giving merit to his arm still being what some describe as "live" and not spent. Is that what we call over the hill?

Maybe it's the same words we looked for in 2009 when 40-year-old Brett Farve threw up 4,202 yards and had a 33 touchdown to 7 interception ratio. The aged Farve led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game, defining the logic in age is a number.

2017 Brady 4,577  32 TD 8 INT
2009 Farve 4,202 33 TD 7 INT

If 40 describes the act of climbing over the hill in life, what exactly is on the other side?

Also, 40%, seems to be the percentage of needed pressure to make Brady uncomfortable. In both of the Super Bowl matchups vs. the Giants, the defense was able to create pressure on over 40% of Brady's dropbacks. The key to keeping Brady frustrated is to collapse his pocket but doing so using as few bodies as possible.

Every Super Bowl Brady has won, he has faced less than 40% pressure on his dropbacks. Just last year, the Falcons failed to continue generating pressure in the second half with the big lead opting to play slightly more conservative keeping the game in front of them.

The Blue Print is exposed, and now it's a matter of having the personnel to be able to execute it. In 2015, the top raked Broncos defense was able to do just that, holding New England to 18 total points in the AFC title game. Again, by generating pressure on over 41% of the defensive plays.

The Eagles created pressure on quarterbacks on 271 occasions this year, besting the second best opponent by 27 (Jaguars). That figure puts them over the fundamental figure of 40% in pressure created this season, transcending the mark that is kryptonite to the New England Golden Child. A huge stat the Eagles have in their favor is they hold the leagues 10th lowest blitz rate, meaning they can get to the quarterback without necessarily having to send extra players. They can do this because of the ferocious front four. Well, let me rephrase that, and this is what makes this team different. They can be described more of a front seven with the depth they have and the amount of rotating they do.

Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Chris Long act as the rushers off the edge. Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry, and Beau Allen, round out a fierce rotation of 7 players that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz thrives on keeping fresh. The Jaguars blitzed at over a rate of 41 % through three quarters in the Championship round. The lack of depth from the defensive line caught up to them in the most pivotal moments, and Brady was able to find time when he needed it.

The plan is set and coming into games teams understand the principals of Mission Attack Brady. The only dilemma is you're dealing with a champion, the best to ever do it. This year when under pressure, Brady has a passer rating of 96.6 and a 59.9% completion rate; that’s almost ten higher than his competitor's ratings.

Brady vs. Jim Schwartz’s defense

When looking how you can move the ball on the Eagles you have to find their few weak spots.

As you can see, the Eagles defense is very good in different areas of the field. Where they do struggle is in the middle of the field and against WR 3's and 4's as well as the tight end position. We mentioned how the Eagles defensive scheme allows them to create pressure without having to blitz extra bodies. What those extra men can do in coverage when asked to make a play will be vital in getting the Patriots offense off the field.

A focal point of this game; Philidelphia ranks first in adjusted line yards with 2.99, but they rank 23rd in open field rank. What this tells you is they are elite up front on the defensive line, but the second level struggles in pursuit and limiting open field yards. That’s exactly what the Patriots will thrive on.

Patriots Game Plan

So what adjustments do the Patriots have to make to exploit the weaknesses we have found in the Eagles defense?
None!  The Patriots are notorious for running 11- personnel on over 60% of their offensive snaps. Doing so will keep the extra defensive back to stay in. Look for Danny Amendola or whoever Bill Belicheck rotates in and out of the slot to have success throughout the game. Throughout the years, the popularity of teams running 11-personnel has grown due to its success.

(11 man= one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers).


 

The popularity has expanded with teams seeing the success. In 2016 the Patriots were ranked 1st in DVOA but were off the charts efficient when in 11 man personnel.


The Patriots will look to exploit the Eagles defense with 11 man personnel while moving Gronkowski around. Word is getting out that Malcolm Jenkins may shadow the tight end. If thats the case, look for New England to split Gronk out wide frequently, creating one on one and moving an extra run stopping safety away from the middle of the field.

Special teams

The Patriots lead the league in opponent starting field position. The league average is opponents starting drives at the 28-yard line. Just last week, Jacksonville had four drives start inside the 16-yard line, three of which were inside the 10 yards line. Since 2009, every year the Patriots special teams have ranked inside the top six overall according to football outsiders.  In the Championship round, the Jaguars started their drives on the 20-yard line the league average is 28. This year the Patriots special teams rank third overall weighted DVOA, while the Eagles sit at 16th.

The game will start somewhat conservative, and the halftime adjustments will be critical. In a game that will be won by in-game adjustments, I have to lean to the Dark Side. Patriots struggle in the beginning but Tom Brady will eventually beat the blitz, forcing Nick Foles to be relied on to make plays. With two weeks to gameplan for the one hit wonder backup, Bill Belichick gets the last laugh.

Patriots -4
First Quarter Under 9.5
Eagles Team total under 21.5
First Half under 24

7 point Teaser
Pats+3
Under 55.5

Any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter.

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What do the numbers say about him? Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Carlos Correa endeared himself in the heart of Astros fans during his 2020 postseason run. He talked the talk off the field, and he walked the walk on the field. Correa slashed .362/.455/.766 in the postseason, hitting more home runs in 13 postseason games than he did in 58 regular season games. His performance has sparked discussions about whether or not the Astros should seek an extension with him this offseason.

Aside from the gaudy postseason numbers, he asserted himself as a team leader. The images and stories of Correa talking to Framber Valdez on the mound, telling Dusty Baker he was going to hit the walk off, and saying this is the most fun he's ever had playing baseball are fresh in everyone's minds.

However, that's just thirteen games out of a 667 game career (counting the postseason). The postseason games are the most important, and Correa seems to show up when the lights shine brightest, but the Astros have to assemble a team good enough to play under the bright lights for Correa to get that moment to shine. What do the numbers say about him?

Hard Hit % - 41.8%

Barrel % - 5.9%

K% - 21.8%

BB% - 7.3%

Chase % - 31.8%

(Numbers from 2020)

By the numbers, Correa didn't have the greatest regular season in 2020. He slashed .264/.326/.383 with a 97 wRC+, meaning he was 3% worse in run production that the average hitter. He was tied for 14th amongst qualified shortstops with Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Francisco Lindor (100 wRC+) was one spot ahead of Correa, while Orlando Arcia (96 wRC+) was one spot behind. His Hard Hit % was in the 65th percentile in MLB, and his Barrel % was in the 34th percentile.

His expected numbers suggest that the dip in performance wasn't a matter of bad luck. His .256 xBA is slightly worse than his actual batting average. His .406 xSLG is slightly better than his actual .SLG, but not by much. Correa had a wOBA of .305 and a nearly identical xwOBA of .306. Lastly, his .324 BABIP was actually a .021 point jump over last year, and it's a touch above his career mark of .316.

Correa likely struggled during the regular season because of a downturn in production to the opposite field. Correa pulled the ball 49% of the time in 2020. That was 16th amongst qualified hitters, and it's a complete outlier for him in his career. It was 14.4% higher than 2019, and it was 15.6% higher than his career average. In 2019, Correa had a 9% HR% on batted balls to the opposite field. He had an average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH with an average launch angle of 27°. His batting average was .368 with a xBA of .349 to that part of the field. In 2020, Correa had a 0% HR% to the opposite field (meaning he didn't hit one). He had an average exit velocity of 86.8 MPH with an average launch angle of 30°. His batting average was .382, but his xBA was .259. Keep in mind, Correa missed most of the 2019 season with injury, so the sample sizes aren't all that different (57 AB's in 2019 versus 34 AB's in 2020).

It's a similar story for the straightaway portion of the field. In 2019, Correa had an 11% HR%, 90.4 MPH avg. exit velocity, 8° avg. launch angle, .370 BA, and .424 xBA between the gaps. In 2020, Correa had a 5% HR%, 88.5 MPH avg. exit velocity, 4° avg. launch angle, .349 BA, and .362 xBA.

That all changed in the postseason.

Here is an overlay of Correa's spray charts from postseason games in which he hit home runs. Five of his six postseason homers were to center field, and three of the five to center field were on the opposite field side of second base.

Correa also made some physical changes at the plate over the course of the season, particularly late in the season, which means that the uptick in offensive performance is related to a physical change, not just some sort of ability to turn it on in the postseason. Correa mentioned that he and Alex Cintron compared video to his rookie season to look at hand positioning, and Correa started to mimic that. Then, there's the already-famed story of Correa and Cintron running to the cages mid-game to open up his shoulders and be less closed off. All of those changes are clearly visible on video.

On the left is Correa early in the 2020 season when the Astros were in San Diego playing the Padres. In the middle is Correa's first career home run in 2015. On the right is Correa's walk-off homer against Tampa Bay. There are four clear and obvious changes. First, he's holding the bat nearly straight up, which he wasn't doing at the beginning of the season. It supports Correa's claim that he and Cintron were looking at video from 2015 and trying to mirror that swing again. Then, there's the change with Correa's shoulders. In the first photo, if it weren't so grainy, you could read "C-O-R-R-E" in Correa. Same deal with the second photo, except it's even more clear. In the third photo, you can only read "C-O" which also supports the story of that mid-game adjustment with Cintron. Third, Correa has a lot less forward body lean with his torso. Correa hasn't spoken as to why he made that change, but it is probably tied to shoulder and bat orientation and helps him feel more comfortable. Lastly, Correa opened his stance, which is almost always going to help with vision.

The changes all probably help Correa feel more free when he swings. His postseason swing was much more North-and-South than East-and-West. His hands are able to work freely underneath his shoulders, and he has to do a lot less work to clear space for his hands to work. It's encouraging that the uptick in performance is clearly tied to physical work in the cage.

Correa did bring solid defense to the table as well. He's a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award at SS along with Niko Goodrum of the Detroit Tigers and J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners. Correa will likely win the award. However, the defensive metrics are mixed on his performance.

Errors don't count as an advanced statistic, but they still bring value to the table. There's a direct correlation between making errors and giving up free bases. Now, just because a player doesn't make many errors doesn't mean he's an elite defender, but it's hard to be an elite defender if you make lots of errors. Correa takes care of the baseball, as his one error was tied for the least amongst shortstops. Correa also performed glowingly by DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). His DRS of 8 was second amongst shortstops, second behind only Dansby Swanson. However, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) had Correa at -0.7, which is below average. His OAA (Outs Above Average) of 0 roughly agrees with his UZR rating. Essentially, the numbers say Correa makes the routine plays about as well as anybody, but he isn't particularly rangy. His arm is also impressive and brings a lot to the table. Correa isn't a bad defensive shortstop by any means, he's above average, but this is probably the only Gold Glove he'll ever be nominated for, much less win.

When Correa is healthy and on his game, he is one of the most electric players in baseball. The problem is he hasn't been healthy and on his game nearly enough in his career. Over his five full major league seasons, Correa has missed 203 out of 708 games. He's been unavailable, mostly due to injury, in 30% of games over that time. That's quite a bit. The three injuries that have caused him to miss the most time are all back and torso related. The fact that the back issues have recurred is alarming, and it's something to monitor. It is really hard to be a good baseball player with a bad back. Credit to Correa, he stayed healthy for all of 2020, but it was only a 60 game season, which means there were fewer opportunities for injury. If he has another healthy season in 2021, it'll be enough to put the injury prone label to rest, but he hasn't done it yet.

And again, there's the issue of his performance being up-and-down over the years. In 2018, Correa missed 52 games due to injury, and had a wRC+ of 100, meaning he was exactly league average. That means he's been only league average or worse in two of his six big league seasons. Correa played extremely well in 2019, racking up 3.2 WAR and 143 wRC+, but he only played 75 games.

Between COVID, injury history, and streaky performance, there's too much uncertainty to give Correa a long term deal right now. However, his peaks, leadership ability, and apparent willingness to stay in Houston certainly make him a candidate for one. 2021 will be a "prove it" year for Correa, and it will go a long way in ranking him amongst the crop of shortstops hitting the free agent market after next year. Is Correa at the top of that market with Francisco Lindor, or is he at the bottom of that market with Javy Baez?

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