“Shorestein Says” 2019 NFL Week 1 Pick

“The Money Zone”:  Games that have a “Calculated vs. Actual” difference of between 2 and 6 points are considered The Money Zone.  Since 2015, games that fall within this tier have hit above 55% on a sample of just under 500 games.  I consider games in this tier to have a statistical advantage in the long run.  This is a completely objective calculation that does not account for injuries, roster changes, weather etc.  However, I believe the smartest investment is to make small bets on each one of these games and slowly increase them over time if you are successful. 

“Shorestein Says” Picks of the Week:  Each week I select between 3-5 of my favorite games and do additional analysis on them. Read below for this week’s in-depth analysis. 

The Money Zone Picks were 65-51 (56.03%) in 2018 and my Picks of the Week were 41-25 (62.12%). Sign up at Shoresteinsays.com to receive them all!!!

Tennessee +5.5 @ Cleveland:  The hype train that is the Cleveland Browns begins 2019 as nearly a TD favorite against a team that was in the playoff hunt in the AFC for the majority of 2018.  While my overall outlook on the Browns is generally positive, I think it is a tall task to be heavily favored against a tough, competitive team that has shown its ability to cover games against great competition.  The Titans 3 most impressive wins of 2018 came against Dallas, New England, and Philadelphia.  The Titans were at least a FG+ underdogs in all of these outright wins.

I think the Titans have a coaching advantage in this matchup.  Vrabel showed me a lot in his rookie campaign as a coach.  One of the most important statistics that I look at every week is Yards per Point Allowed.  Teams that perform well in this category generally commit few penalties, have strong red zone defenses and don’t give up big plays.

Now, that’s a chart that would make Bill Belichick smile!  In all honesty, I think the time Vrabel spent learning from Bill has molded his overall defensive philosophy.  The cliché, but true, “Bend, But Don’t Break Defense” was a staple in the Patriots’ defense for years.  To compare, the Patriots have finished 4th, 2nd, 1st, and 6th in Opponent Yards / Point for the last 4 years and you know where that has got them….

In this specific matchup, I think the Titans run game can be problematic for the Browns.  I think Cleveland is built to shut down high-flying pass offenses with an elite corner in Denzel Ward and the edge rushing of Myles Garrett and newly added Olivier Vernon.  The Titans simply do not have that high-flying offense which Cleveland is designed to shut down.  They should be vulnerable to the run as they allowed a 25th ranked 4.7 yards / carry in 2018.  I don’t think they’ve done a lot to address that weakness (Sheldon Richardson on the interior is not the answer in my opinion).  Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are a great combination of power and finesse.  Lewis is a dynamic receiver and I would expect him to see a ton of targets in the early going.

A lot has been made about Mariota’s struggles in the preseason and his lack of protection, but the Browns were not the dominant pass rush team that you would think as they only sacked the QB on ~5% of drop backs in 2018 which put them at 28th in the league.  Taylor Lewan’s absence is concerning, but the game plan should revolve around getting the ball out quickly and using screens to exploit the Browns aggressiveness.  Adding Adam Humphries in the slot should help Mariota with quick completions, and the return of Delanie Walker will undoubtedly help with the struggling QB’s confidence.  The Browns defense feasted on turnovers last year, but the Titans did a solid job of only giving it away 1.1 times per game which ranked 10th in the league.

Mayfield is on his way to being a top tier QB, but I don’t think he’s quite there yet.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Browns start slow on offense given all the hype and additional pressure they’ve applied on themselves through trash talk.  Pair that with one of the toughest defenses teams in the AFC, and I think you’ve got a valuable opportunity to buy low on Tennessee.

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