Steven Lourie

Nov 222014
 

Cleveland Browns (6-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

This is probably the game I have a least feel for this week. On one hand, the Browns are a little bit better than the Falcons and this line at 3 suggests that these two teams are even with homefield advantage. The Browns rank 17th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 70.40% rate, as opposed to 70.12% for their opponents, a differential of 0.29%. The Falcons, meanwhile, rank 20th, moving the chains at a 73.19% rate, as opposed to 75.00% for their opponents, a differential of -1.81%. However, this isn’t normal homefield advantage as Matt Ryan is 31-20 ATS at home in his career dating back to 2008. I’m taking the Falcons, but I’m not confident at all.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: None

Nov 222014
 

St. Louis Rams (4-6) at San Diego Chargers (6-4)

I’m completely split on this. On one hand, the Rams could easily be overconfident and off of a fluky win over the Broncos last week. The Broncos had more first downs (21 and 16) and an equal amount of offensive touchdowns (1), as the Rams were overly reliant on a +2 turnover margin. The Broncos moved the chains at a 68.75% rate, as opposed to 60.71% for the Rams. Road underdogs of 3 or more are 21-35 ATS since 1989 off of a win as 7+ point home underdogs. Teams can be not just overconfident, but also overvalued off of what’s usually a fluky victory.

I think the Rams are definitely overvalued here. They still only rank 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 69.76% rate, as opposed to 74.43% for their opponents, a differential of -4.67%. Meanwhile, the Chargers rank 16th, moving the chains at a 73.74% rate, as opposed to 73.10% for their opponents, a differential of 0.63%. That suggests this line should be much more than 5. It should at least be where it was last week, when the early line was 7, if not higher. I love fading big line movements because they’re often unwarranted and I think it is unwarranted here too.

On the other hand, the Chargers are in a terrible spot. While the Rams only have to play the Raiders next week, the Chargers have to go across the country and play the Ravens in Baltimore. Non-divisional home favorites are as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs since 2008, while teams conversely are 76-106 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs since 2008. Combining the two, teams are 100-61 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. I’m still taking the Chargers, but I’m not confident at all.

San Diego Chargers 30 St. Louis Rams 24

Pick against the spread: San Diego -5

Confidence: None

Nov 222014
 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6)

The Bears have a much tougher game next week against the Lions in Detroit in just 4 days on Thanksgiving after this game against the Buccaneers. Favorites of 6 or more (which the Bears are here) are just 46-80 ATS before being underdogs of 6 or more (the early line is 7) since 2002, while favorites are 36-58 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. The Buccaneers, as bad as their record looks, have had a bunch of close games this season, especially on the road where they’ve had win in Pittsburgh and Washington and close losses in Cleveland and New Orleans. They can keep this one close too against a likely distracted Chicago team.

Speaking of the Bears being 6 point favorites, they are 4-6 and teams that finish 6-10 or worse cover the spread as 6+ point favorites about a quarter of the time historically. However, the Bears do just need to go 3-3 over their final 6 games and they’re favored in 3 of those final 6 games, which would put them at 7-9. They’ve also played a bit better than their record, moving the chains at a 76.62% rate, as opposed to 75.59% for their opponents, a differential of 1.03% that ranks 14th in the NFL. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, rank 29th, moving the chains at a 70.21% rate, as opposed to 75.81% for their opponents, a differential of -5.60%. That does suggest that this line at 6 points is more than reasonable, before you take into account the bad situation the Bears are in and how the Buccaneers have played better on the road this season than at home.

The Buccaneers are also in their 2nd straight road game, which tends to be an easier road game as teams get adjusted to the road.  Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game. Teams tend to adjust to the road in their 2nd of two road games. However, the Bengals are coming off of a big upset win in New Orleans last week as touchdown underdogs and teams are 39-47 ATS since 1989 as road underdogs off of a road win as underdogs of 7 or more. They could be overconfident here after that, which would nullify any advantage they get from being in their 2nd straight road game.

However, I still think the Buccaneers can have another solid showing on the road and keeping it close against a distracted Bears team. The only reason this isn’t a higher confidence pick is because the Buccaneers have a fairly tough game next week when they host the Bengals. Teams are 57-87 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3 or more (the early line is Cincinnati -3.5). However, I still think there’s enough to be somewhat confident in the Buccaneers.

Chicago Bears 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6

Confidence: Medium

Nov 222014
 

Washington Redskins (3-7) at San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

The San Francisco 49ers are 9 point favorites here at home over the Washington Redskins, but I think that line is much too high. For one thing, San Francisco has actually played significantly worse than their record this season, as they rank 19th in rate of moving the chains, moving the chains at a 72.13% rate, as opposed to 72.35% for their opponents, a differential of -0.22%. Meanwhile, the Redskins have played significantly better than their record this season, moving the chains at a 72.78% rate, as opposed to 72.11% for their opponents, a differential of -0.68% that ranks 15th in the NFL.

I’m not saying that the 49ers are the 19th best team in the NFL or Washington is 15th, or even that Washington is better than San Francisco at all, but the advanced metrics suggest this line is way too high. Despite that, the public is all over San Francisco and I love fading the public whenever it makes sense (and it does here) because the odds makers always make money in the long run. This line is way too high normally, but the 49ers have a very important game with the Seahawks in 4 days after this season, which could easily provide a significant distraction for them. Since 2008, favorites are 36-58 ATS before Thursday Night Football. This game will be a lot closer than 9.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Washington Redskins 20

Pick against the spread: Washington +9

Confidence: Medium

Nov 222014
 

Green Bay Packers (7-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-6)

The Packers have scored 108 points over the past two weeks, outscoring Chicago and Philadelphia by a combined total of 108-34 in back-to-back home games. However, now they have to go on the road, which has been a much bigger challenge for them. This season, they are 5-0 at home, but just 2-3 on the road with double digit losses in Seattle, Detroit, and New Orleans. Their relative road struggles are nothing new. Since 2009, the Packers are 39-9 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 12.24 points per game. On the other hand, they are 28-22 on the road, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.46 points per game, a difference of about 9 points per game.

The Packers have no business being double digit road favorites here, as well as they’ve played in the last two weeks. They only rank 7th in rate of moving the chains, moving them at a 79.74% rate, as opposed to 75.89% for their opponents, a differential of 3.85%. As good as they’ve looked, they’ve been overly reliant on a +14 turnover margin, which is hard to rely on week-to-week. It might seem weird that they’d be just 7th, even with the turnover margin thing taken into account, considering how dominant they were over the past two weeks, but you have to remember that they had some struggles to start the season, especially on the road.

On the road, they move the chains at a 79.05% rate, as opposed to 82.94% for their opponents, a differential of -3.89% that’s nowhere near as good as they’ve been at home. They could easily struggle this week, away from Lambeau. The Vikings, meanwhile, move the chains at a 67.93% rate on the season, as opposed to 72.70% for their opponents, a differential of -4.77% that ranks 28th in the league. This line is way too high at 10. There was a significant line movement from 7 to 10 from last week to this week because of how dominant Green Bay was last week and I love fading significant line movements because they’re often unwarranted. The Packers still haven’t proven anything on the public, but the odds makers know they can jack up the line because it’s Green Bay and the public will still be all over it, which they are. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense and it definitely does this week.

Green Bay Packers 30 Minnesota Vikings 24

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +10

Confidence: Low

Nov 222014
 

Tennessee Titans (2-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-3)

Both of these teams will be divisional road underdogs next week, Philadelphia in Dallas and Tennessee in Houston, so both of them are in bad spots. Teams are 86-106 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs, while non-divisional road underdogs are 51-80 ATS before being divisional road underdogs over that same time period. However, I’m taking the Titans here because I think the Eagles are in an even worse spot because their game with the Cowboys is in 4 days. Favorites are 36-58 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. I’m not confident at all though.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Tennessee Titans 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +11

Confidence: None

Nov 222014
 

New York Jets (2-8) at Buffalo Bills (5-5) in Detroit

In case you haven’t heard, this game is getting moved from Buffalo to Detroit as a result of the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo this weekend. This line moved from 4.5 to 3 as a result, but I don’t think that’s nearly a big enough line movement. The typical line movement for homefield advantage is 3 and I think this is much more of a neutral site game than that line movement suggests. On top of that, the Bills are at a tremendous disadvantage because they’ve been unable to practice all week. There’s no way they’ll be able to be as focused as the Jets, who got a normal week of practice in this week and didn’t have to deal with a ton of snow effecting their day-to-day lives.

Some might think that because the Bills won by 20 earlier this game in New York against the Jets that the Bills should still be able to win easily here, but that game was very fluky. Easily the biggest reason for the loss was the Jets -6 turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week to week basis. Teams that have a turnover margin of -4 on average have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week. Even crazier, teams with a turnover margin of -6 or more have an average turnover margin of +0.3 the following week. The Jets actually won the chain game, moving the chains at a 67.57% rate, as opposed to 65.38% for the Bills. The Bills were way too reliant on turnovers, which they won’t be able to rely on this week.

The Jets have played better over the past 2 weeks since that game, as a result of the switch from Geno Smith to Michael Vick at quarterback. Vick isn’t great, but he’s an upgrade on the horrific Geno Smith. The Jets are actually better on the season in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 69.10% rate, as opposed to 72.79% for their opponents, a differential of -3.69% that ranks 24th in the NFL. The Bills, meanwhile, move the chains at a 64.71% rate, as opposed to 69.04% for their opponents, a differential of -4.33% that ranks 26th in the NFL. I’m not that confident in the Jets and I don’t want to put any money on this game given all the externalities effecting it that are so hard to quantify, but I feel like you have to take the points here.

New York Jets 13 Buffalo Bills 12 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3

Confidence: Low

Nov 222014
 

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) at Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

It takes a lot for me to go against Seattle at home, given how consistently good they’ve been there in recent years. Since 2007, the Seahawks are 45-20 at home, including playoffs and they aren’t just having success straight up as they are 43-21-1 ATS. They outscore opponents on average by XX points per game. This is opposed to a 24-42 record away from home (28-37-1 ATS), getting outscored by XX points per game. This home dominance has been even more pronounced over the past 3 seasons, since the start of the Russell Wilson era, as they’ve gone 21-2 straight up and 16-7 ATS at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 14.39 points per game at home and beating the spread by an average of 7.09 points per game. Russell Wilson has also been very good off a loss, going 7-4 ATS since his rookie year in 2012, including 4-1 ATS at home.

However, I’m going against the Seahawks here at home for some very good reasons. For one, I think the Seahawks’ home dominance has been priced into this line, to an extent. Obviously their home dominance is no longer a secret, especially since they won the Super Bowl, so betting them at home isn’t as good of a deal as it used to be. This season, since their Super Bowl run, they are just 3-2 ATS at home and there’s been some pretty steep lines along the way, 7.5 point favorites for Green Bay, 8.5 point favorites for Dallas, 5 point favorites for Denver. This has the looks of another one of those types of lines.

Either that are Arizona is just undervalued by the odds makers. I’ve been calling them overrated for a while and I still don’t think they’re as good as their record, but they had a very impressive performance last week against a solid Detroit team, moving the chains at an 80.00% rate, as opposed to 52.38% for the Lions. That pushed them to 9th on the season in rate of moving the chains differential (including 3rd in the NFC behind only Green Bay and New Orleans), as they move the chains at a 73.18% rate, as opposed to 69.44% for their opponents, a differential of 3.74%. The Seahawks, meanwhile, rank 11th moving the chains at a 76.53% rate, as opposed to 73.22% for their opponents, a differential of 3.31%. This line is too high.

Arizona is very well coached on both sides of the ball and as much as the Palmer loss does hurt their offense, their defense has been helped by the healthy returns of Tyrann Mathieu and Calais Campbell. They rank 3rd in opponents rate of moving the chains differential and they’re coming off their most dominant performance of the year. Whether it’s Seattle’s homefield advantage being priced into the line or Arizona being undervalued, the Seahawks aren’t an auto-bet here at home as 7 point favorites.

With that in mind, the Cardinals are in a much better spot this week and are absolutely the right side here. While the Cardinals have a relatively meaningless game against the Falcons up next, the Seahawks have a trip to San Francisco on deck in 4 days on Thanksgiving. Divisional home favorites are 19-52 ATS before being divisional road underdogs since 2002 and favorites are 36-58 ATS before Thursday Night Football. On the other side, teams are 45-31 ATS as divisional road underdogs before being non-divisional road favorites.

Combining the two, teams are 100-61 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Even crazier, teams are 36-13 ATS since 2002 as road underdogs before being road favorites when their opponents will next be road underdogs, including 7-2 ATS since 1989 as divisional road underdogs before being non-divisional road favorites when their opponents will next be divisional road underdogs. I hate going against Seattle at home and I hate going with a public underdog, but there’s just too much stuff in Arizona’s favor that can’t be ignored. They should be the right side.

Seattle Seahawks 16 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against spread: Arizona +7

Confidence: Low

Nov 212014
 

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) at New York Giants (3-7)

One of the more powerful trends says that road favorites of 3 or more are incredibly dominant off of a bye, going 40-12 ATS since 2002, including 21-4 ATS in divisional matchups, like this one here. It makes sense. The Cowboys are a significantly better team than the Giants and should be very well prepared for this game with 2 weeks off and take care of business. On the season, they move the chains at a 76.01% rate, as opposed to 72.54% for their opponents, a differential of 3.48% that ranks 10th in the NFL. The Giants, meanwhile, rank 22nd, moving the chains at a 71.87% rate, as opposed to 74.45% for their opponents, a differential of -2.59%.

The Giants also don’t have quite the same homefield advantage as most teams do, at least they haven’t in recent history. In the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era, since 2004, the Giants are 51-41 on the road, getting outscored by an average of 0.51 points per game, as opposed to 50-39 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.71 points per game. The Giants seem to only be marginally better at home. This isn’t unique to them as the whole NFC East recently has had less homefield advantage than average. At home, the NFC East is 72-81 since 2010, outscoring opponents by an average of 0.96 points per game and going 57-93 ATS. On the road, they are 73-77, getting outscored by an average of 2.37 points per game and going 79-69 ATS. As you can imagine, road teams in NFC East divisional games tend to do well, going 31-22 ATS over that time period. The Cowboys are already a perfect 4-0 on the road this season and looking to push it to 5-0 this week.

There are two reasons why this isn’t a bigger play on Dallas. One, Dallas has to play Philadelphia in 4 days on Thanksgiving. Favorites are 36-58 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. Two, on the other hand, the Giants have an easy game in Jacksonville where they are currently projected to be 3.5 point favorites. Teams are 85-57 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 3 or more and home underdogs are 68-42 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites. They don’t have the same upcoming distraction that the Cowboys have. However, I still like Dallas as big road favorites off of a bye in a place that hasn’t had a ton of homefield advantage recently.

Dallas Cowboys 34 New York Giants 24

Pick against the spread: Dallas -3.5

Confidence: Medium

Nov 202014
 

Detroit Lions (7-3) at New England Patriots (8-2)

The Patriots have scored 243 points in the last 6 weeks since that embarrassing loss in Kansas City, more than 21 teams have scored all season. Over those past 6 weeks, they are moving the chains at an 82.74% rate, as opposed to 73.76% for their opponents. For comparison sake, in the first 4 weeks of the season, they moved the chains at a 66.96% rate, as opposed to 72.00% for their opponents. Their offense has gotten significantly better with the offensive line settling in and Rob Gronkowski returning to form, while their defense hasn’t really missed much of a beat without Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo. The Lions, meanwhile, haven’t been as good as their record, as their 7-3 record has been powered by a 3-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. They rank 17th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 69.90% rate, as opposed to 69.66% for their opponents, a differential of 0.24%.

As a result, the public is all over the Patriots here and I love fading the public whenever it makes sense as they always lose money in the long run. I think it does here and I’m going against the Patriots this week, despite all that because the Patriots are in a bad spot. I think this is the week they slip up a little, as they typically do as big home favorites against non-conference opponents. They have never really gotten up for these types of games in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, going 4-11 ATS as home favorites of 7 or more against non-conference opponents since 2001.

On top of that, the Lions have an easy game at home against the Bears on deck, while the Patriots have arguably their toughest game of the season in Green Bay next week. Teams are 122-93 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional home favorites, while non-divisional home favorites are 76-106 ATS before being non-divisional road underdogs over that same time period. Combining the two, teams are 100-61 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, the Lions are currently projected to be favored by 7 points next week and touchdown underdogs are 62-38 ATS since 1989 before being touchdown favorites.

The Lions are also in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 110-73 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 93-51 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 186-189 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.28 points per game, as opposed to 260-376 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.29 points per game. I hate going against the Patriots as well as they are playing and I think the Lions are a little overrated, but the Lions should be the right side.

New England Patriots 23 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +7

Confidence: Medium

Nov 202014
 

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) at Indianapolis Colts (6-4)

The Jaguars aren’t the worst team in the NFL, as the Raiders are winless at 0-10 and have looked really, really bad in the process, but they’ve still been horrible over the past two seasons. They have covered just 9 of their last 27 games, dating back to week 17 of 2012. Over those 27 games, they lost 17 of them by double digits and could easily make it 18 this week on the road against a very good Indianapolis team. On the season, the Jaguars are moving the chains at a 66.67% rate, as opposed to 72.87% for their opponents, a differential of -6.20% that ranks 30th in the NFL.

The Colts, meanwhile, rank 12th, moving the chains at a 77.30% rate, as opposed to 74.23% for their opponents, a differential of 3.06%. They’ve been even better at home, moving the chains at a 76.63% rate, as opposed to 70.13% for their opponents, a differential of 6.50%. This is nothing new as they are 14-7 ATS at home since 2012, when Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck came in. They lost last week at home against the Patriots, but that was obviously a much tougher opponent and they typically bounce back very well off of a loss in the Pagano/Luck era, as most good head coach/quarterback combinations do, going 12-1 ATS off of a loss since 2012.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are in a bad spot with a home game against the Giants up next. Teams are 57-87 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3 or more (the early line is NY Giants -3.5). That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough, important game coming up. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. Here, it’s definitely the latter. I like the Colts a good amount, even as two touchdown favorites.

Indianapolis Colts 38 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -14

Confidence: High

Nov 192014
 

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) at Houston Texans (5-5)

I love fading the public whenever it makes sense. The odds makers always make money in the long run and they always have a much better sense of how good each team actually is because it’s their job to set these lines. I especially love fading the public when they’re on an underdog. They very rarely are, but if they are, chances are it’s because they’re falling into a trap by the odds makers. If the odds makers pick one team to be favored, but the public thinks another should be favored, chances are it’s not going to end well for the public.

The Bengals are a public underdog here and I can understand why. After all, Houston is just 5-5 while the Bengals are 6-3-1. However, the Texans are favored for a reason and it’s because they’re actually a better team than the Bengals, especially the Bengals on the road. The Texans rank 21st in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 70.92% rate, as opposed to 72.92% for their opponents, a differential of -2.00. The Bengals, despite their record, rank 23rd, moving the chains at a 71.43% rate, as opposed to 75.07% for their opponents, a differential of -3.64%. That gets even worse on the road, as they move the chains at a 65.71% rate on the road, as opposed to 78.00% for their opponents, a differential of -12.29%. Since the start of last season, they are 4-7-1 ATS on the road.

I’m hesitant to take the Texans because the Bengals are in their 2nd straight road game and historically teams do better in their 2nd straight road game than their 1st. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game. Teams tend to adjust to the road in their 2nd of two road games. However, the Bengals are coming off of a big upset win in New Orleans last week as touchdown underdogs and teams are 39-47 ATS since 1989 as road underdogs off of a road win as underdogs of 7 or more. They could be overconfident here after that, which would nullify any advantage they get from being in their 2nd straight road game. As long as this line is less than a field goal, I like the Texans here.

Houston Texans 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: Houston -1.5

Confidence: Low

Nov 192014
 

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-6)

The Saints have lost back-to-back home games, but that doesn’t completely erase what they’ve historically done at home in recent memory. Before these last two games, they had won 20 straight home games under Sean Payton and they are still 18-3-1 ATS at home over their last 22 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton, outscoring opponents by an average of about 16.91 points per game. Even just this season at home, they move the chains at an 82.26% rate, as opposed to 75.86% for their opponents, a differential of 6.40%. They’re even better in night games at home, going 13-3 ATS in night games at the Superdome since Drew Brees and Sean Payton arrived all the way back in 2006. They most recently blew out a Green Bay team that has done nothing but put up points in the weeks since.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are not as good on the road and haven’t been for years. While the Ravens are 44-10 at home since the start of the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era, outscoring opponents by an average of 10.52 points per game, they are just 32-30 on the road over that time period, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.34 points per game. This season, they move the chains at a 72.61% rate on road, as opposed to 75.61% for their opponents, a differential of -3.00%. On top of that, Drew Brees is typically deadly off of a loss as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline (last week was the exception), going 21-6 ATS off a loss since 2008 as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline, including 16-3 ATS at home.

The only reason that this isn’t a bigger play on New Orleans isn’t that I don’t trust the Saints after they’ve burned me in several times on big plays this season. They still have most first downs in the NFL and are much better than their record. We’re finally getting great value with them at home off of those two losses as this line went from 6 to 3 after their loss last week. However, they are in a bad spot with a trip to Pittsburgh on deck, while the Ravens host the Chargers next. Teams are 111-75 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs since 2008, while teams conversely are 76-106 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs since 2008. Combining the two, teams are 100-61 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. I still like the Saints a good amount here in a big night game at home.

New Orleans Saints 27 Baltimore Ravens 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3

Confidence: Medium

Nov 182014
 

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Oakland Raiders (0-10)

The Chiefs beat the Seahawks last week, but this line still doesn’t reflect how good they are. They rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 77.45% rate, as opposed to 71.38% for their opponents, a differential of 6.07%. It makes sense. In addition to what they did last week, they went into San Diego and won. They went into Buffalo and won. They blew out a solid Miami team in Miami (34-15). They blew out a Patriots team that has looked fantastic since (41-14). They took care of business against the Jets (24-10) and the Rams (31-7). Meanwhile, their three losses came by a combined 19 points and two of them came in Denver and San Francisco. As long as they aren’t overconfident over last week’s win, they should be able to win fairly easily here.

The Raiders, meanwhile, are terrible, moving the chains at a 62.50% rate, as opposed to 74.30% for their opponents, a differential of -11.80%, easily the worst in the NFL (no one else is worse than -8.51%). They should be way more than touchdown underdogs here at home for Kansas City. Speaking of them being home underdogs, that actually puts them in a bad spot, as teams are 30-59 ATS as divisional home underdogs in night games since 1989.

The only reason I’m not that confident is because the Raiders are in a good spot because they’re winless and on a big losing streak. Teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that situation. Teams are 31-15 ATS since 1989 as underdogs with a record of 0-8 or worse, though only 13-12 as home underdogs. On top of that, underdogs with records of 0-5 or worse are 39-19 ATS off of a loss by a touchdown or less, though again only 15-10 ATS as home underdogs. Also, while the Raiders will be overlooked and embarrassed, they aren’t undervalued because the Chiefs are only touchdown favorites here. The Chiefs should be the right side.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -7

Confidence: Low

Nov 182014
 

Miami Dolphins (6-4) at Denver Broncos (7-3)

The Broncos suffered a shocking loss in St. Louis last Sunday, losing 22-7 as 10 point road favorites. However, that was a very fluky loss and the Broncos played a lot better than the final score suggested. The Broncos had more first downs (21 and 16) and an equal amount of offensive touchdowns (1), as the Rams were overly reliant on a +2 turnover margin. The Broncos moved the chains at a 68.75% rate, as opposed to 60.71% for the Rams. On the season, the Broncos are still first in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 77.62% rate, as opposed to 70.09% for their opponents, a differential of 7.52%.

Despite that, we’re still getting significant line value with the Dolphins as the Dolphins are better than their 6-4 record suggests. Their +69 point differential is actual the same as Denver’s. All 6 of their wins have come by 13 points or more and two of their losses came by 4 points or less against two very solid teams (Green Bay, Detroit). They rank 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 74.47% rate, as opposed to 68.44% for their opponents, a differential of 6.03%. This line is way too high, especially with Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas in doubt for the Broncos this week.

On top of that, the Dolphins have a much easier game up next, as they head to New York to play the Jets, while the Broncos have to go to Kansas City for one of their toughest games of the season. The Broncos have a way bigger distraction on the horizon, which is going to make it much harder for them to cover here. Teams are 86-106 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs since 2002. Conversely, teams are 40-31 ATS since 1989 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional road favorites.

Combining the two, teams are 100-61 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, including 36-13 ATS since 2002 as road underdogs before being road favorites when their opponents will next be road underdogs. Going off of that, teams are 85-57 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 3 or more and 54-33 ATS before being road favorites of 4 or more. The Dolphins will almost definitely be favored by 4 or more next week in New York against the Jets. As long as the line is more than a touchdown, this is my Pick of the Week.

Denver Broncos 23 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Miami +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Nov 182014
 

Last week

Against the Spread: 9-5

Straight Up: 8-6

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence: 0-1

Medium Confidence: 4-0

Low Confidence: 2-1

No Confidence: 2-3

Upset Picks: 1-1

On the season

Against the Spread: 100-60-1 (.625)

Straight Up: 106-54-1 (.663)

Pick of the Week: 7-4

High Confidence: 7-7

Medium Confidence: 39-13

Low Confidence: 23-18-1

No Confidence: 24-19

Upset Picks: 13-12

Nov 182014
 

What is this? This is rate of moving the chains, which is my primary statistic for handicapping games. It holds the assumption that the goal of any team on any given 1st and 10 (or 1st and goal) is to move the chains (or score). In order to figure out how often teams meet that goal, I take first downs plus touchdowns and divide it by first downs plus touchdowns plus failures to move the chains (successes divided by attempts). Failures to move the chains include punts, turnovers, failed 4th downs, and field goal attempts (being forced to kick a field goal is a failure). I have this sorted by percent for (to evaluate offenses), percent against (to evaluate defenses), and differentials (to evaluate teams).

Offense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 NO 265 31 16 32 19 4 0 80.65%
2 GB 212 36 17 33 8 3 2 79.74%
3 DEN 230 37 11 49 11 6 0 77.62%
4 KC 210 27 15 42 10 2 0 77.45%
5 NE 232 32 25 40 8 4 0 77.42%
6 PIT 259 29 20 45 14 5 0 77.42%
7 IND 252 34 22 39 16 6 1 77.30%
8 CHI 224 25 10 36 20 10 0 76.62%
9 SEA 211 27 21 37 9 5 1 76.53%
10 BAL 218 28 22 35 14 6 0 76.16%
11 DAL 216 28 20 36 18 2 1 76.01%
12 MIA 222 23 25 35 16 8 0 74.47%
13 SD 195 24 17 49 9 3 0 73.74%
14 ATL 207 25 18 45 15 6 1 73.19%
15 ARZ 198 23 18 55 7 1 0 73.18%
16 WAS 207 23 18 44 20 4 0 72.78%
17 SF 200 20 23 45 12 5 0 72.13%
18 NYG 210 25 10 52 21 9 0 71.87%
19 CAR 228 22 22 54 19 3 0 71.84%
20 PHI 223 26 19 50 25 4 0 71.76%
21 CIN 191 24 23 46 14 3 0 71.43%
22 HOU 196 21 22 49 15 3 0 70.92%
23 CLE 203 23 19 58 10 8 0 70.40%
24 TB 178 20 15 43 20 5 1 70.21%
25 DET 183 19 24 46 13 4 0 69.90%
26 STL 185 18 18 50 16 4 0 69.76%
27 NYJ 190 18 19 50 18 6 0 69.10%
28 TEN 166 19 14 53 14 4 2 68.01%
29 MIN 181 16 22 54 13 4 0 67.93%
30 JAX 182 18 15 57 22 6 0 66.67%
31 BUF 169 18 25 55 14 6 2 64.71%
32 OAK 149 16 13 64 20 2 0 62.50%

 

Defense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 MIA 175 18 20 41 19 8 1 68.44%
2 BUF 204 19 22 54 21 3 0 69.04%
3 ARZ 190 19 15 52 20 5 0 69.44%
4 DET 186 16 15 54 14 4 1 69.66%
5 DEN 201 24 20 59 12 4 1 70.09%
6 CLE 216 21 20 56 18 6 1 70.12%
7 PHI 209 27 17 59 16 6 0 70.66%
8 BAL 191 20 18 46 15 5 1 71.28%
9 KC 196 16 21 46 8 10 0 71.38%
10 WAS 186 26 15 55 9 3 0 72.11%
11 SF 189 23 10 45 21 5 0 72.35%
12 DAL 183 23 11 44 17 6 0 72.54%
13 MIN 196 25 15 50 14 4 0 72.70%
14 NYJ 185 29 18 54 7 1 0 72.79%
15 JAX 205 26 21 48 11 5 1 72.87%
16 HOU 221 24 15 48 23 5 0 72.92%
17 NE 216 23 20 38 19 11 0 73.09%
18 SD 189 23 14 46 10 7 1 73.10%
19 SEA 194 22 17 44 14 3 1 73.22%
20 PIT 217 27 24 48 14 1 1 73.49%
21 IND 212 30 11 51 15 7 0 74.23%
22 OAK 213 27 24 47 8 4 0 74.30%
23 STL 204 23 17 43 14 4 0 74.43%
24 NYG 211 28 21 40 18 3 0 74.45%
25 ATL 222 27 25 39 18 1 0 75.00%
26 CIN 236 23 23 41 15 6 1 75.07%
27 CHI 197 29 26 29 14 4 0 75.59%
28 TB 229 28 28 38 15 1 0 75.81%
29 GB 231 24 14 34 22 11 0 75.89%
30 CAR 240 33 21 45 17 3 0 76.04%
31 TEN 238 26 21 44 12 4 0 76.52%
32 NO 210 26 19 40 10 1 1 76.87%

 

Overall

1 DEN 7.52%
2 KC 6.07%
3 MIA 6.03%
4 BAL 4.88%
5 NE 4.33%
6 PIT 3.93%
7 GB 3.85%
8 NO 3.78%
9 ARZ 3.74%
10 DAL 3.48%
11 SEA 3.31%
12 IND 3.06%
13 PHI 1.10%
14 CHI 1.03%
15 WAS 0.68%
16 SD 0.63%
17 CLE 0.29%
18 DET 0.24%
19 SF -0.22%
20 ATL -1.81%
21 HOU -2.00%
22 NYG -2.59%
23 CIN -3.64%
24 NYJ -3.69%
25 CAR -4.21%
26 BUF -4.33%
27 STL -4.67%
28 MIN -4.77%
29 TB -5.60%
30 JAX -6.20%
31 TEN -8.51%
32 OAK -11.80%
Nov 162014
 

Houston Texans (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (6-3)

This is a tough one because I don’t really have any significant trends for either side. The Browns are the better team and we’re probably getting some line value with them as mere 3.5 point favorites, especially with Arian Foster out. The Browns rank 15th, moving the chains at a 70.53% rate, as opposed to 69.36% for their opponents, a differential of 1.17%, while the Texans rank 24th, moving the chains at a 70.19% rate, as opposed to 73.33% for their opponents, a differential of -3.14%.

However, I’m worried about taking the Browns after they’ve had 10 days to listen to the media blow smoke in their ass after their win over Cincinnati. While they’re better than the Texans, they’re still not as good as their record so that could be very dangerous for them. The public is also on the Browns and hate taking a publicly backed side unless I have good reason as the odds makers always make money in the long run. The fact that this line is 3.5 instead of 3 also scares me as this could easily be a field goal game. I’m still taking the Browns, but I’m not confident at all.

Cleveland Browns 17 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -3.5

Confidence: None

Nov 162014
 

Denver Broncos (7-2) at St. Louis Rams (3-6)

The Broncos are the best team in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 78.53% rate, as opposed to 70.99% for their opponents, a differential of 7.54%. However, this line still might be too high at 10. The Rams rank 26th, moving the chains at a 70.72% rate, as opposed to 75.09% for their opponents, a differential of -4.37%. That’s not good, but they’re definitely better than the Raiders and they can give the Broncos way more of a game than the Raiders did last week. Remember, the Broncos have not played well on the road this season, losing in Seattle and New England and needing a late pick six to win by more than a touchdown in New York against the Jets. Last week was the exception, but the Raiders are a special kind of terrible this season.

Even before you take into account the Broncos’ relative road struggles, I still don’t think this line should be higher than 9. We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Rams obviously and I’m not confident in them at all, but the public is all over the Broncos (predictably so) at a very high rate. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense as the odds makers always make money in the long run and I think it makes sense here, even if I’m not confident.

Denver Broncos 28 St. Louis Rams 20

Pick against the spread: St. Louis +10

Confidence: None

Nov 162014
 

Oakland Raiders (0-9) at San Diego Chargers (5-4)

I’m completely split on this one. On one hand, this seems like a perfect spot for the Chargers to bounce back off of back-to-back big losses on the road in Denver and Miami. Despite those two losses, they are still significantly better than the Raiders, to the point where I think we’re getting some line value with them as only 10 point favorites. The Chargers still rank 17th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 75.19% rate, as opposed to 75.46% for their opponents, a differential of -0.28%. Meanwhile, the Raiders rank dead last, moving the chains at a 64.20% rate, as opposed to 75.68% for their opponents, a differential of -11.49%. No one else has a differential worse than -7.93% (Tennessee).

In addition to still ranking relatively high in rate of moving the chains differential despite those two losses, the Chargers are also still above .500 despite those two losses, which brings in another trend that support the theory that they’ll have a bounce back week. Teams with a winning record are 49-28 ATS since 1989 at home off of back-to-back road losses. On top of that, the Chargers had an embarrassing loss in their last time out, losing 38-0 and teams tend to bounce back off of those as teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed. Teams are 46-24 ATS off of a loss by 35 or more since 1989, including 4-0 ATS off of a bye.

The Raiders, meanwhile, have another tough game against the Chiefs on deck. Teams are 56-85 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3 or more, 28-60 ATS before being road favorites of 4 or more, and 8-22 ATS before being road favorites of 7 or more (the early line is Kansas City -7.5). That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough, important game coming up. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. Here, I think it’s both.

However, there is one very powerful trend on Oakland’s side that can’t be ignored. Teams that are 0-8 or worse (the Raiders are 0-9) cover at a very high rate as road underdogs historically, going 17-3 ATS since 1989. That’s because no one wants to bet on a team that is 0-8 or worse so the odds makers know they can boost the spread as high as they want. I don’t know that that’s happening here because the Chargers are coming off of a rough stretch as well, but the public is all over the Chargers and I like to fade the public whenever it makes sense. At the end of the day, I still like the Chargers to bounce back and cover this spread, but I’m not confident at all.

San Diego Chargers 34 Oakland Raiders 23

Pick against the spread: San Diego -10

Confidence: None

Nov 162014
 

Detroit Lions (7-2) at Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

The Cardinals have the NFL’s best record at 8-1, but they’re also the most overrated team in the NFL I believe. They rank just 14th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 72.56% rate, as opposed to 70.71% for their opponents, a differential of 1.85%. They’ve been way too reliant on a +12 turnover margin this season, powered by a 68.75% rate of recovering fumbles (1st in the NFL), a 2-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, and a +3 return touchdown margin.

Meanwhile, the Lions are the better team, ranking 11th in that aspect. They move the chains at a 71.27% rate, as opposed to 68.68% for their opponents, a differential of 2.59%. On top of that, while they are getting healthier with Calvin Johnson coming back from injury to give this offense a boost, the Cardinals just lost their starting quarterback Carson Palmer for the season. Palmer was playing well before going down, completing 62.9% of his passes for an average of 7.26 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. The Cardinals have had some success in the games that backup Drew Stanton has started, but not because of him as he’s completed 49.5% of his passes for an average of 6.60 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The Cardinals shouldn’t be favored here, even if it’s only by a point.

The Cardinals are also going into their toughest game of the season next week as they head to Seattle. Non-divisional home favorites are 86-106 ATS before being divisional road underdogs since 2002. The Lions have a tough game in New England next week, but teams are actually 96-70 ATS as non-divisional road underdogs before being non-divisional road underdogs since 2002. The only reason this isn’t a bigger play on Detroit is because the Cardinals have been tough at home recently, going 27-11 ATS as home underdogs or favorites of less than 3 since 2007. The Lions should be the right side and win straight up.

Detroit Lions 16 Arizona Cardinals 13 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Detroit +1

Confidence: Low

Nov 152014
 

San Francisco 49ers (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6)

The 49ers won last week in emotional fashion in New Orleans. You’d think that would put them in a bad spot for this week, but it historically hasn’t, as teams are 70-44 ATS off of an overtime win as underdogs of 3 or more since 1989, including 48-28 ATS when that overtime win was on the road. On top of that, the 49ers are in a good spot as they are in their 2nd straight road game. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game. Teams tend to adjust to the road in their 2nd of two road games. Going off of that, road favorites are 49-33 ATS off of a road win since 2008.

The Giants, meanwhile, are in a bad spot as they have a tough game at home next week against the Cowboys. Teams are 14-29 ATS as non-divisional home underdogs before being divisional home underdogs since 2002. Going off of that, teams are 56-85 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3 or more and the early line is currently 4. The Giants haven’t been great at home in the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era anyway. In the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era, since 2004, the Giants are 51-41 on the road, getting outscored by an average of 0.51 points per game, as opposed to 49-37 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.81 points per game. The Giants seem to only be marginally better at home.

The 49ers are a West Coast team playing a 1 PM ET game on the East Coast here, which is usually a bad spot for teams, but they are 5-0 ATS in this spot since Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011. That’s a small sample size, but it’s definitely worth noting. The 49ers also have had a lot of success in the Jim Harbaugh era as favorites of 3 or more, going 25-16 ATS in that spot since 2011, including 11-5 ATS on the road. They should be the right side here as 4 point favorites.

San Francisco 49ers 27 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4

Confidence: Medium

Nov 152014
 

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-7)

The Steelers fell flat on the road in New York last week, losing to the previously 1-win Jets 20-13. That was a surprise for a lot of people, but the Steelers have had a lot of recent struggles as non-divisional road favorites. They are 7-19 ATS since 2007 (when Mike Tomlin took over) as non-divisional road favorites, including 4-14 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of a field goal or more. They are once again in that situation here as 6 point road favorites in Tennessee. However, they are coming off of a loss, which is a different dynamic as the Steelers are 3-3 ATS as non-divisional road favorites off of a loss. It’s a small sample size, but it’s definitely worth noting. It’s also worth noting that this is their first time as non-divisional road favorites off of a loss as non-divisional road favorites in that time period.

The Titans are also really bad so this line might not be high enough. The Titans rank 31st, moving the chains at a 67.47% rate, as opposed to 75.40% for their opponents, a differential of -7.93%. Meanwhile, the Steelers rank 10th, moving the chains at a 76.49% rate, as opposed to 73.46% for their opponents, a differential of 3.03%. They also have another tough game on the horizon in Philadelphia, where they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams are 22-46 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2012. I’m still taking the Titans out of principle, especially with the public all over Pittsburgh, but I’m not confident at all.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6

Confidence: None

Nov 152014
 

New England Patriots (7-2) at Indianapolis Colts (6-3)

The Patriots are usually an auto-bet as a small favorite or an underdog, as Tom Brady is 45-18 ATS in his career as an underdog or a favorite of fewer than 3 points. However, the usual conditions that accompany the Patriots being in this situation are not in play. They aren’t coming off a loss. They’re not playing a team with a better record than them. They’re also on the road, where they haven’t been that good recently, going 4-9 ATS on the road since the start of last season. Even in situations where they are underdogs or small favorites on the road, they are 3-4 ATS on the road in that time period.

On the flip side, the Colts have been great at home recently, going 14-6 ATS at home since Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano came in before the 2012 season. The Patriots are in a good spot as they will be home favorites next week, but the Colts are also in a good spot with a much easier game against the Jaguars on deck. Teams are 109-74 ATS as non-divisional road underdogs since 2008 before being non-divisional home favorites, while teams are teams are 98-79 ATS since 2008 before being double digit home favorites.

The Colts are the better team in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 77.84% rate, as opposed to 71.48% for their opponents, a differential of 6.36% that ranks 3rd in the NFL, while the Patriots rank 13th, moving the chains at a 75.25% rate, as opposed to 73.33% for their opponents, a differential of 1.92%. However, the Patriots have been significantly better moving the chains over the past 5 games since Rob Gronkowski has returned to form, moving the chains at an 80.43% rate, as opposed to 66.96% in their first 4 games. Their defense has been as good without Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo (72.00% vs 74.29%), but they’ve still been a much better football team of late and are at least comparable to the Colts, if not better. We’re not really getting any line value with the Colts as 3 point favorites. I’m taking the Patriots on principle as underdogs, but I’m not that confident as there’s a lot going on here.

Indianapolis Colts 24 New England Patriots 23

Pick against spread: New England +3

Confidence: Low

Nov 152014
 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) at Washington Redskins (3-6)

The Redskins stand at 3-6, but they are still favored by 7.5 points here over the Buccaneers. They’re almost definitely going to finish 6-10 or worse and teams that finish that badly almost never cover as a favorite of 6 or more, doing so only about 25% of the time historically. I don’t see the Redskins finishing 4-3 or better over their final 7 games. The Buccaneers aren’t good, but they’ve played some decent games on the road this season, including a win in Pittsburgh and close losses in Cleveland and New Orleans. The Buccaneers have actually only lost three games by more than a touchdown this season, as bad as their record is.

The Redskins also have a tough game next week, going to San Francisco. Teams are 76-104 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs since 2008. Going off of that, touchdown favorites are 37-74 ATS since 1989 before being touchdown underdogs, which the Redskins almost definitely will be next week. The Buccaneers will also be road underdogs in Chicago next week, but teams are actually 96-70 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being non-divisional road underdogs.

The only reason this isn’t a high confidence pick is because the Redskins are better than most 3-6 teams as they rank 16th in rate of moving the chains differential. They are moving the chains at a 73.08% rate, as opposed to 72.53% for their opponents, a differential of 0.55% and they should only get better offensively with Robert Griffin back from injury (though losing Orakpo defensively is a big loss). RG3 looked fine in his return before the bye in Minnesota and now he goes into his 2nd start back from injury after a bye. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers rank 29th, moving the chains at a 70.50% rate, as opposed to 76.38% for their opponents, a differential of -5.88%. However, they should still be the right side.

Washington Redskins 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +7.5

Confidence: Medium