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Isaiah’s Methods & Opinions (IMO) No. 4: Pass Rush, Pass Blocking & Bengals-Chiefs

Each installment of Isaiah’s Methods & Opinions (IMO) is brought to you by No House Advantage, a cutting-edge daily fantasy site that allows users to risk little and win big in over 30 states. Bet VS. THE HOUSE to win up to 21x your money or play in PICK’EM CONTESTS against other users! New players can secure up to a $100 deposit match by registering with No House Advantage today! This week’s column will focus on evaluating a team’s pass rush and pass blocking before applying those insights to Sunday’s AFC Championship between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals

The Conference Championships are fast approaching, so it’s time for yet another installment of Isaiah’s Methods & Opinions (IMO)! Twice each week, I’ll be here to break down the betting trends and sports news that will give you an edge on the sportsbooks.

No sports bettor can hit every bet, but the key to profitable sports gambling is to develop a successful process — or method — for identifying sharp wagers. It’s the application of sharp opinions to that method that separates the wheat from the chaff in the sports gambling world. If your priors are wrong, you’ll end up sweating more bets than you must.

This column will help bettors develop sharp methods and come to well-informed opinions.

The legal gambling age is 21+ in most states. Gambling Problem? Call or text 1-800-GAMBLER.

Isaiah’s Methods: Evaluating Pass Rush & Pass Blocking | Sponsored by No House Advantage

It’s a tale as old as time. A proven star quarterback like Aaron Rodgers squares off against a younger, less-experienced opponent like Zach Wilson. The spread opens at -9.5 or so and square bettors rush to back the superstar-led team. “It’s Rodgers, man!” they say as they pay up to back the Packers.

But then sharp money trickles in on New York. The spread ticks down by a half-point. Then another. By kickoff, the closing number sits at only -7.5. Some square bettors who bit early may bite again — it is Rodgers, after all. Then the game kicks off, the Packers can’t seem to build any early momentum. The teams return to the locker room in a 3-3 tie. Perhaps some look to back Green Bay on the live markets.

The Packers will go on to lose by 17. Rodgers will never successfully get the ball moving against the Jets. He will take four sacks for a loss of 36 yards while facing pressure on 20% of his dropbacks. New York easily covers as a 7.5-point road underdog and cashes moneyline tickets for those bold enough to buy them.

Quarterbacks can only do so much. They rely on their offensive lines to successfully stop opposing pass rushers. Sometimes those pass rushes feature game-breaking athletes like Quinnen Williams, who tormented left guard Jon Runyan that day on Lambeau Field. Runyan surrendered four pressures. Right guard Royce Newman didn’t help — he allowed another five pressures and gave up a sack.

Handicapping football requires deep knowledge of every team’s strengths and weaknesses, especially their performance in the trenches. Those who were paying attention to the right numbers could have identified the upset spot.

The Jets excelled in the pass rush this year. Their defensive front ended up ranked third in pressure percentage (25.4%) and 10th in pass-rush win rate (44%). Heading into Week 6, the Jets had just pressured Miami’s quarterback, Skylar Thompson, on 48.6% of his dropbacks. They had pressured Pittsburgh’s then-starter, Mitch Trubisky, 29.4% of the time. Pittsburgh pulled him at halftime.

In contrast, the Packers struggled to keep Aaron Rodgers upright early in the season. Rodgers ended the year ranked ninth-best in pressure percentage (18.4%) but 14th-worst in sacks taken (32). His line ranked fifth in team pass-block win rate (66%). However, the New York Giants had just pressured Rodgers on 24.4% of his dropbacks in Week 5. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had done so on 25% of his dropbacks in Week 3. The Minnesota Vikings started their season with a huge upset over Rodgers after pressuring him 28.9% of the time.

Quantifying a team’s defensive performance can be difficult. But bettors must know better than to blindly back the better quarterback in matchups — opposing defenses can limit them in profound ways, especially with an advantage in the trenches. A look at teams’ performances against the spread reveals the significance of an effective pass rush.

Of the seven teams that covered 57.5% of the time or more, four — the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys — owned a pass rush that ranked top-12 in pressure percentage. A fifth, the Cincinnati Bengals, ranked 13th. Five of the top-six teams in the metric made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs: the aforementioned Giants and Cowboys, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Likewise, of the eight teams that covered 42.5% of the time or fewer, four — the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos — ranked bottom-12 in pressure percentage.  Only two teams that ranked bottom-12 in pressure percentage even made the playoffs: the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings. Both lost in the first round.

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Isaiah’s Opinions: Joe Burrow Will Get Run Over By the Kansas City Chiefs

Joe Burrow led the Cincinnati Bengals to last year’s Super Bowl despite taking a combined 13 sacks in their three wins. He faced pressure on no less than 23% of his dropbacks in those games. However, the Los Angeles Rams ultimately overpowered him in the Super Bowl because of their electric pass rush. The Rams sacked Burrow nine times and pressured him on an incredible 41.5% of his dropbacks. A similar result is in the cards for Burrow on Sunday evening.

The Bengals have already ruled out two of their starting offensive linemen, left tackle Jonah Williams and right guard Alex Cappa. Right tackle La’el Collins remains on injured reserve. Although their backups performed well against the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo’s pass rush had struggled mightily since losing Von Miller. The Bills ended the year ranked an unimpressive 14th in pressure percentage (22.2%). The Ravens, who the Bengals defeated in the opening round, ranked 24th (19.2%).

Burrow must now face a Kansas City Chiefs defense that ranked fifth in pressure percentage (24.9%). The unit sacked Burrow only once after pressuring him on only 2.8% of his dropbacks in Week 13. Defensive tackle Chris Jones, who led the NFL in pass-rush win rate at his position, frequently faced double teams from Cappa and center Ted Karras and struggled to get to Burrow. No one else could get home, and Burrow escaped relatively unscathed. Those who backed Burrow at No House Advantage pocked some pizza money.

The Chiefs should have an edge on Cincinnati’s offensive line come Sunday afternoon because the Bengals will start three backups. The majority of the unit that stymied Jones in Week 13 won’t see the field — including Cappa, one of the players often responsible for double-teaming him. Cappa recorded a PFF grade of 67.6 this year. His replacement, Max Scharping, earned a grade of 59.9 in his last full season as a starter and a 52.1 the year before. He owns a grade of 48.7 through 132 postseason snaps.

The Bengals have downgraded at tackle as well. Backup Jackson Carman took over at left tackle following the injury to Jonah Williams. Carman played 462 regular-season snaps last year and recorded a PFF grade of 56.3, down from the 61.2 Williams recorded this year. His current playoff grade, 55.7, sits right around last year’s number. Hakeem Adeniji took over for La’el Collins on the right side during the regular season and recorded a grade of 54.1 through 220 snaps. He owns a grade of 51.8 thus far in the playoffs.

Neither center Ted Karras nor left guard Cordell Volson have played well enough to compensate for Cincinnati’s depleted offensive line. Karras recorded a PFF grade of only 62.6 this year. His grade of 71.5 through two playoff games feels unsustainable.  Volson scored 51.6 for his performance in the regular season. That number has ticked up to a still-bad 58.5 in the postseason.

The Kansas City Chiefs have an easy path to limiting Cincinnati’s offensive production: exploit a banged-up offensive line. The defense must do everything it can to help injured quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Although the Chiefs may falter on offense, the defense should keep this one close — and probably help them secure another Super Bowl bid. As a result, players at No House Advantage should consider buying the under for some of Burrow’s player props.

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