2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 131/198 (66%) [Last week:1/2]
Line Betting: 53/97 (55%) [Last week: 1/2]
2016 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 71%
Line Betting: 54%
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NRL Finals Week Three Tips and Previews
Storm v Broncos
Offense VOA: Storm 42.77% (1st), Broncos 19.87% (3rd)
Defense VOA: Storm -44.52% (1st), Broncos -5.81% (7th)
After two cracking weeks of finals football, don’t be surprised if the NRL’s penultimate weekend turns into a bit of a letdown.
It’s not that the Broncos aren’t a good football team. They are. However, ‘good’ is a relative term. The Broncos are ‘good’ compared to, say, Penrith or Parramatta (and compared to the Titans, they’re exceptional). Compared to the Storm, though… not so much.
The Broncos are an excellent attacking team. We have them ranked 3rd in the entire league in Offense. However, objectively, we also consider the Storm twice as good. On defense, the Broncos are marginally above average (on their day; when not on their day, they’re dreadful). Compared to the Storm? Melbourne are about 8x better. Put simply, it’s difficult to imagine exactly what the Broncos will be bringing into this match-up besides hope.
Last week, the Broncos scrapped away to a 13-6 victory at home, against a Penrith team who wouldn’t hold a candle to the Storm. Worryingly for the Broncos, their offense – which is unarguably their greatest strength – was held to just 13 points by the Panthers, whose defense is significantly inferior to the Storm’s. In Melbourne, it’d be difficult to imagine the Broncos performing any better, and there’s a fair chance they could even do worse. In Melbourne, they’ll run into a Storm defense who haven’t conceded over 16 points in a match since Round 18, a game in which they were without all their Origin stars. Indeed, the Broncos themselves actually played the Storm the week prior to that game. They lost 42-12. At Suncorp.
And if they’re kept to two tries (heck, even if they score three tries), there’s every possibility that the Broncos will get totally, comprehensively destroyed. The Storm roll into this match averaging 9.5 line breaks per game over their past four matches (no, that’s not a typo). Those are video game numbers, and go a long way to explaining how the Storm have amassed a ridiculous 158 points over that period. For context, that’s over a third of the entire season points total of 7 of the 15 other NRL teams. In just four games.
We’d love to sit here and give the Broncos a sporting chance of snatching the win, but it feels like that would just be cruel to their fans. Outside of some freak occurrence (you know, like the Titans’ 38-36 win over Melbourne in Round in Round 10, during which the Titans were out-pointed for line breaks 7-2), it’s almost inconceivable that this Broncos team could somehow beat Melbourne.
Brisbane are ‘good’. We’re not for one second suggesting that they’re not. But this Storm team is two matches away from being considered among the best of all-time.
Our unrealistically specific tip: Storm 28-12
Roosters v Cowboys
Offense VOA: Roosters 17.24% (4th), Cowboys -13.78% (13th)
Defense VOA: Roosters -20.15% (2nd), Cowboys 11.51% (12th)
If someone were to hold a gun to our heads and demand that we select one of this weekend’s outsiders as the ‘most likely’ to pull of an upset, we’d select the Cowboys. That said, if you’ve read this far, you’ll be aware that that’s hardly a strong endorsement.
We said last week that for the Cowboys to pull off an upset over the Eels, they’d require about 54% of the possession – and the Eels obliged, courtesy of a diabolical 15 errors; saving one of their worst efforts of the year for their biggest game of the season (in fairness, it’d be hard to top their Round 23 flogging from Newcastle for ‘worst effort of the season’, but by golly, they gave it a red hot go). This week, the Cowboys will need a number closer to 58%, and even then, we’d give a slight edge to the Roosters.
The reasoning is that the Cowboys simply aren’t very good when you start comparing apples to apples. Are they brave? Yes. Has Paul Green done a fantastic job of coming up with ways to win, despite missing his best attacking weapons? Of course. But it’s hard to overlook facts.
Like, for example, the fact that the Cowboys have conceded 20 or more points in 5 of their last 8 matches. That, despite winning the possession count in all but 2 of those 8 games. With the ball in hand they’re even worse, hitting 20 points themselves just twice over the same period. In fact, the Cowboys haven’t scored more than 4 tries in a match since Round 17 – and they needed 60% of the ball in order to do it.
So how likely is it that the Roosters will be as accommodating as the Eels? Not very, in large part because they’ll need to be even worse than Parramatta for the Cowboys to get up here, and it’s hard to imagine any NRL team not coached by Stephen Kearney being worse than last week’s Eels. It is possible – the Roosters are reknowned for their discipline issues, and have made more errors this season than anyone else. But if they do need to give up 58% possession to lose, then they should be OK – they’ve only given that up 3 times all year (and they somehow actually won one of those matches, in Round 25 against the Sharks).
And without a stack of ball, it’s really difficult to imagine the Cowboys troubling the scorers. While they’re not a widely recognised defensive force, the Roosters have quietly climbed to 2nd in our Defense VOA rankings. The Roosters defense is much better than most people would realise, so it should come as no surprise that the Roosters have only lost 2 matches all year to teams ranked lower than 6th in Offense (and in one of them, they had just 39% of the ball). The point we’re making is this – unless you’re an elite offense, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll score enough points to beat the Roosters. And even the most one-eyed Cowboys fan would admit that this particular Cowboys team is not an elite offense.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it. If the two sides get an even share of the ball, the Cowboys are likely to get walloped. If they win the possession count (which they probably will), they can be competitive. And if they get a really, really lopsided possession count, they can win.
But don’t hold your breath.
Our unrealistically specific tip: Roosters 30-12