Steven Lourie

Oct 312014
 

Baltimore Ravens (5-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

The Steelers put up 51 points last week in an impressive 51-34 victory over a very good Indianapolis team. However, last week’s performance could easily hurt them this week. Underdogs are 12-27 ATS since 1989 after scoring 40 or more points as underdogs. It makes sense. The Steelers could easily be overconfident this week, which would be really dangerous for them considering the odds makers have deemed them underdogs in back-to-back weeks at home. The odds makers generally have a strong feel for teams, so the Steelers probably aren’t nearly as good as they probably think they are right now. The public also probably thinks they’re better than they are too as they are on the underdog here. I love fading the public, especially when they’re on an underdog. Whenever the public thinks a different team should be favored than the odds makers, it generally is bad news for them.

We’re not really getting any line value with the Ravens. The Ravens have played well this season, ranking 4th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 76.72% rate, as opposed to 71.19% for their opponents, a differential of 5.53%. The Steelers, however, are also having a solid season in that aspect, ranking 8th, moving the chains at a 76.87% rate, as opposed to 74.10% for their opponents, a differential of 2.76%. That suggests this line should be right about where it is (Baltimore -1). However, if we take into account that last week’s performance by the Steelers was a fluke, we get a little bit more line value, as the Steelers ranked 13th going into last week, with a differential of 0.87%.

The Ravens are also in their 2nd of two road games. 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. This would probably be more powerful if the Ravens were underdogs here, as teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. However, the Ravens are barely favorites here on the road and going off of that, road favorites are 34-23 ATS off of a road loss since 2008 as long as it’s the 2nd of two road favorites, including 13-7 ATS as road favorites off of a loss as road favorites. The Steelers are also divisional home underdogs in a night game, a situation teams are 30-59 ATS in since 1989.

Both teams have very easy games next week, putting them in good spots. The Ravens host the Titans, while the Steelers head to New York to take on the Jets. The Ravens will almost definitely be at least double digit favorites next week and teams are 69-55 ATS since 2010 before being double digit favorites. The Steelers, meanwhile, will almost definitely be at least field goal favorites next week on the road and teams are 79-54 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 3 or more on the road. These two things cancel out and at the end of the day I like the Ravens a decent amount this week.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 13

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -1

Confidence: Medium

Oct 302014
 

Oakland Raiders (0-7) at Seattle Seahawks (4-3)

Despite losing to the Cowboys in their last home game, the Seahawks have still been close to automatic at home recently. Since 2007, the Seahawks are 43-20 at home, including playoffs and they aren’t just having success straight up as they are 42-20-1 ATS. They outscore opponents on average by 7.49 points per game. This is opposed to a 24-41 record away from home (28-36-1 ATS), getting outscored by 3.75 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 19-2 straight up and 15-6 ATS at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 14.48 points per game at home and beating the spread by an average of 7.57 points per game.

We’ve been having to pay a serious premium with the Seahawks at home this season, as they were 7.5 point favorites for Green Bay and 5 point favorites for Denver, but I don’t think we’re doing that here. This line is really high at 15, but it’s more than justified. The Seahawks rank 12th in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 75.00% rate, as opposed to 73.79% for their opponents, a differential of 1.21%. Meanwhile, the pathetic Raiders rank dead last, moving the chains at a 66.49% rate, as opposed to 76.02% for their opponents, a differential of -9.53%. The next worst team is Tampa Bay at -8.01%.

That suggests this line should be around 13.5, before you take into account the Seahawks’ unique home field advantage and the fact that they’ll probably end the season better than 12th in rate of moving the chains. This 15 point line is more than justified and we’re not paying nearly as much of a premium as we were earlier in the season, likely as a result of the fact that the Seahawks lost in their last home game to Dallas. That’s the exception to the rule with this team at home recently though and Dallas is a very solid opponent. Remember, this team still blew out a very good Green Bay team and handed the Broncos their only loss of the season in their other 2 home games. They should be able to blow out the Raiders easily here.

The Seahawks also have a much easier game on deck as they host the Giants, while the Raiders host the Broncos next week. Teams are 69-55 ATS since 2010 before being double digit favorites, as the Seahawks will almost definitely be over the Giants next week. On the flip side, teams are 59-83 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional home underdogs. Going off of that, teams are 54-81 ATS before being 3+ home underdogs since 2012, 13-44 ATS since 2010 before being 7+ home underdogs, and 16-41 ATS since 2002 before being double digit home underdogs, as they almost definitely will be next week. 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. On top of that, double digit underdogs are 22-46 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs.

There are two reasons in favor of the Raiders that prevent this from being a big play in favor of Seattle. For one, they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 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 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. Second, teams that are 0-7 or worse are 25-7 ATS as underdogs on the road since 1989. The Seahawks should still be the right side though.

Seattle Seahawks 34 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -15

Confidence: Low

Oct 292014
 

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) at New York Giants (3-4)

The Colts surprisingly lost in Pittsburgh last week by the final score of 51-34 as 3.5 point favorites. This week, they are once again 3.5 point road favorites here in New York against the Giants, but I think the result will be different for four reasons. The first reason is that Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano, as is the case with most good quarterback/head coach combinations, have been great off a loss, going 10-1 ATS since they both took over in 2012.

Two, the Giants are in a bad spot going to Seattle next week, where they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams are 40-84 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. 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 game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. I think it’s the former here.

Three, I think last week’s loss was a fluke as the Colts are still a very good team. Who knows how the game would have gone differently if Vontae Davis (who should be fine this week) didn’t leave with injury. I don’t think they lose in Pittsburgh more than 20 times out of 100 and I think the same is true here this week in New York. Even with last week’s result, the Colts still rank 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 78.50% rate, as opposed to 71.77% for their opponents, a differential of 6.73%. Meanwhile, the Giants rank 17th, moving the chains at a 73.91% rate, as opposed to 73.73% for their opponents, a differential of 0.18%.

Four, the Colts are in their 2nd of two road games. 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. Going off of that, road favorites are 31-28 ATS off of a road loss since 2008 as long as it’s the 2nd of two road favorites, including 15-8 ATS as road favorites off of a loss as road favorites. The Colts should be the right side here.

Indianapolis Colts 31 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -3.5

Confidence: Medium

Oct 292014
 

St. Louis Rams (2-5) at San Francisco 49ers (4-3)

The Rams were blown out last week in Kansas City as 7 point underdogs, but I have reasons to believe that they won’t get blown out here as 10 point underdogs in San Francisco. One, they are in their second straight road game, rather than last week when they were in their first road game. Teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 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 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.

Two, while the Rams were facing a Chiefs team that was in a great spot last week (with only a game against the Jets on deck), the Rams are getting the 49ers before they play the Saints in New Orleans next week. They will almost definitely be underdogs next week and double digit favorites are 51-69 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. Three, I think the Rams were facing a significantly better team last week when they faced the Chiefs than they are now facing the 49ers.

The 49ers haven’t been nearly as good this season as they’ve been in previous seasons under Jim Harbaugh, as a result of guys like NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and Glenn Dorsey being out with injury and suspension. They rank just 22nd, moving the chains at a 74.04% rate, as opposed to 75.86% for their opponents, a differential of -1.82%. The Chiefs, meanwhile, rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains. This is actually going to be a much easier game for the Rams than last week’s, even before you take into account that the 49ers are in a bad spot and that the Rams are in their 2nd straight road game.

The Rams, meanwhile, rank 26th, moving the chains at a 73.33% rate, as opposed to 77.03% for their opponents, a differential of -3.70%. The 49ers are getting healthier, with Anthony Davis returning from extended absence and Patrick Willis coming back from missing the 49ers’ last game, while the Rams are now without top offensive lineman Jake Long and top wide receiver Brian Quick, but this line should still be no higher than a touchdown when you take everything into account, including the situational trends. The 49ers usually do well as big favorites, going 25-15 ATS in the Jim Harbaugh era as favorites of 3 or more, but they are just 2-3 ATS in that spot this season and I think this is going to be another ATS loss for them.

San Francisco 49ers 20 St. Louis Rams 16

Pick against spread: St. Louis +10

Confidence: Medium

Oct 292014
 

New York Jets (1-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)

This game has had the biggest line movement from last week to this week, as the Chiefs were just 5 point favorites in the early line last week, as opposed to 10 point favorites now. The reason for that is obvious as the Jets were just blown out at home 43-23 by the Bills, a game in which Geno Smith completed 2 passes, threw 3 interceptions, and was benched for Michael Vick. I usually like fading significant line movements as there’s really no reason for a line to move that much with the exception of injury to a strong starting quarterback.

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. As a result, those teams are 28-21 ATS the following week and that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Those 28 teams that cover the spread do so by an average of 15.39 points per game, as opposed to 7.71 points per game for the 21 teams that fail to cover the spread. Underdogs who previously lost the turnover margin by 6 or more are 20-13 ATS and 16-18 straight up, despite by underdogs. 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.

That being said, I still think we’re getting line value with the Chiefs, as they’re an underrated team. The fact that they were just 5 point favorites over the Jets last week is absurd and even with the significant line movement, they should still be the right side. The Chiefs rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 77.63% rate, as opposed to 70.35% for their opponents, a differential of 7.27%. That might sound absurd considering they’re just 4-3, but they have a +48 point differential. They went into San Diego and won. They blew out a decent Miami team in Miami (34-15). They blew out a Patriots team that has looked fantastic since (41-14). Last week they blew out the Rams (31-7). Meanwhile, their three losses came by a combined 19 points and two of them came in Denver and San Francisco.

The Jets, meanwhile, rank just 25th in rate of moving the chains, despite winning the chain game last week. They move the chains at a 68.29% rate, as opposed to 71.74% for their opponents, a differential of -3.45%. The public does know how bad they are, but they haven’t really caught on to how good the Chiefs are, so we’re getting value with them. They’re also in a good spot as they have another easy game on deck, going to Buffalo next week. Teams are 79-51 ATS since 2008 as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road favorites, as those teams have no real distractions on deck.

Meanwhile, the Jets host Pittsburgh next week, a game in which they will almost definitely be 3+ point home underdogs. Teams are 53-81 ATS before being 3+ point home underdogs since 2012, including 26-56 ATS before being 4+ point home underdogs. 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 game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. I think it’s both in this situation.

I’m not that confident in Kansas City as I hate going with significant line movement, especially when doing so means being on the same side as the public. The Jets are also in a good spot on a 7 game losing streak as underdogs are 51-32 ATS since 2002 on a 7+ game losing streak, which makes sense as teams tend to be embarrassed, undervalued, and overlooked in that situation. The Jets aren’t undervalued, but they could definitely be embarrassed and/or overlooked. However, the Chiefs should still be the right side.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -10

Confidence: Low

Oct 292014
 

New Orleans Saints (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (3-4-1)

I’ve been high on the Saints this whole season, picking them to win the Super Bowl before the season and not really wavering from that a ton even as they got out to a 2-4 start. That 2-4 start was largely a result of starting the season with 4 of 6 on the road, a significant injury to Jimmy Graham (which he’s over now), a -8 turnover margin and a -3 return touchdown margin fueled by an 18.18% rate of recovering fumbles, and 3 losses by a combined 6 points. They were legitimately a few plays away from being 5-1.

Last week, they got Graham back and were able to beat a very good Packer team by 21 back at home, winning the turnover battle by 2. Now they’re legitimately a few plays away from being 6-1. However, now they have to go back on the road, which hasn’t been nearly as kind to them over recent years.  While they are 18-1-1 ATS at home over their last 20 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton, winning all 20 of those games by an average of about 19.6 points per game, they are 3-11 ATS on the road over the past 2 seasons.

I wish the Saints were still underdogs as they were with the early line last week (Carolina -1.5), as Drew Brees is 6-8 ATS as road underdogs since 2010, as opposed to 8-17 ATS as road favorites. That also would have opened up a significant trend as the Saints will be home favorites next week for San Francisco, while the Panthers will be road underdogs next week in Philadelphia (teams are 57-96 ATS since 2010 as home favorites before being road underdogs when their opponent will next be home favorites).

I hate going with huge line movement like this one (-1.5 to +2.5), but it’s all within the field goals so it’s not as big of a concern. This line is also more than justified as the line movement is simply catching up to how good the Saints have been all season. The Saints rank 6th, moving the chains at an 81.30% rate, as opposed to 78.08% for their opponents, a differential of 3.22%. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 23rd, moving the chains at a 74.10% rate, but allowing opponents to move them at a 77.04% rate, a differential of -2.94%. That suggests the Saints should be favored by at least a field goal. On top of that, home underdogs in night games are 30-58 ATS since 1989. The Saints should be the right side, but I can’t be confident in them on the road.

New Orleans Saints 31 Carolina Panthers 27

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -2.5

Confidence: None

Oct 292014
 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-3)

The Browns are at the end of one of the easiest stretches of play any team in the league has this season, as they went to 0-6 Jacksonville, hosted 0-6 Oakland, and now host 1-6 Tampa Bay. However, next week they have to go to Cincinnati for Thursday Night Football. Teams are 85-105 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional favorites, including 33-56 ATS since 1989 as non-divisional home favorites of a touchdown or more before being divisional road underdogs of a field goal or more. On the opposite side of the coin, the Buccaneers host the Falcons up next, any easier game that is going to provide significantly less of a distraction for the Buccaneers than the Bengals’ game will for the Browns. Teams are 121-90 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional home favorites.

Combining the two, teams are 57-96 ATS since 2010 as home favorites before being road underdogs when their opponent will next be home favorites. Making matters even worse for the Browns is the fact that the game against the Bengals is a Thursday Night Game, which will make that game even more of a distraction. Favorites are 35-56 ATS since 2008 as favorites before a Thursday Night Game. I like the Buccaneers chances of keeping this one close and maybe even pulling an upset (like they did in Pittsburgh) against a team in a bad situation. The Buccaneers have actually only lost two games by more than a touchdown this season, as bad as their record is. As long as the line is a touchdown, it’s a big play on the Buccaneers.

Cleveland Browns 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +7

Confidence: High

Oct 282014
 

Denver Broncos (6-1) at New England Patriots (6-2)

On the season, the Patriots are just 11th in rate of moving the chains differential, despite their 6-2 record, as they’ve been overly reliant on a +11 turnover margin. They are moving the chains at a 74.91% rate, as opposed to 73.18% for their opponents, a differential of 1.53%. The Broncos, meanwhile, are #1 in that statistic, moving the chains at a 79.49% rate, as opposed to 72.12% for their opponents, a differential of 7.36%. That suggests this line should be around 2.5 in favor of Denver here in New England, which gives us a little bit of line value with the Patriots as 3.5 point underdogs.

That’s before you even take into account that the Patriots have been playing much better football over the past four games, since that loss to Kansas City. They’ve moved the chains at an 80.99% rate over the past 4 weeks, as opposed to 66.96% in the first 4 weeks of the season. Their defense hasn’t been quite as good (74.26% vs 72.00%) and they’ll have trouble stopping Peyton Manning without Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo, but they can definitely still outscore them. I believe the Patriots will be closer to the last 4 weeks than the first 4 weeks over the final 8 weeks of the season, as Rob Gronkowski is back to full health. Over the past 4 weeks, he’s caught 27 passes for 411 yards and 4 touchdowns over the past 4 games combined on 134 routes run (3.07 yards per route run).

Their offense has always been better when they have a healthy Gronkowski on the field. Coming into this season, from 2011-2013, Tom Brady completed 65.3% of his passes for an average of 8.07 YPA, 81 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions when Gronkowski played (36 games, including playoffs) and the Patriots scored 32.8 points per game. When Gronkowski isn’t on the field, Brady completed 58.3% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 30 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions and the Patriots scored 28.0 points per game (19 games, including playoffs). Over the first 4 games of the season, Tom Brady completed 59.1% of his passes for an average of 5.77 YPA, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Over the last 4 games, he’s completed 69.6% of his passes for an average of 8.81 YPA, 14 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.

Last week was the best offensive game they’ve had yet as they moved the chains at a 90.24% rate in a 51-23 win. Despite that, they are underdogs of 3.5 here, just the 4th time in the last 25 years that a team has scored 50 points or more and then been home underdogs of 3.5 or more the following week. Those teams are only 2-1 ATS, but it’s such a small sample size and, considering how rare it happens, I don’t think the Patriots deserve to be underdogs of this much, which my above numbers also suggest.

It’s also a rarity that the Patriots are home underdogs, as this is just the 11th time they’ve been home underdogs since Tom Brady took over as the starter. In those previous 10 games, they are 9-1 ATS, winning straight up in 8 of those 10 games. That makes sense, as the Patriots are 105-22 straight up since 2001 at home, including 9-4 ATS (13-0 SU, winning by an average of 12.46 points per game) at home over the past 2 seasons. Going off of that, Tom Brady is 44-18 ATS in his career as an underdog or a favorite of fewer than 3 points, winning at an absurdly high rate in situations where he basically just has to win straight up.

Going off of that, he’s 31-10-1 ATS in his career against teams that have better records than his, including 19-6 ATS as an underdog. Possibly even crazier, he’s 30-12 straight up in that situation, a winning percentage of 71.4%. The rest of the league wins at a 38.5% rate. The Broncos are in a good spot, as they have the Raiders up next, meaning they have no distractions upcoming. Teams are 78-54 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites, including 49-30 ATS as 4+ point favorites, and 20-5 ATS as 7+ point favorites. Still, as long as this line is more than a field goal, the Patriots are my Pick of the Week.

New England Patriots 34 Denver Broncos 27 Upset Pick +140

Pick against spread: New England +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Oct 282014
 

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).

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 NO 190 23 14 19 13 3 0 81.30%
2 DEN 158 28 8 36 4 0 0 79.49%
3 GB 166 26 12 28 7 3 2 78.69%
4 IND 213 28 16 30 15 4 1 78.50%
5 DAL 182 23 16 27 15 1 0 77.65%
6 KC 151 19 12 28 7 2 0 77.63%
7 SD 167 23 14 35 5 2 0 77.24%
8 CHI 179 21 9 30 15 5 0 77.22%
9 PIT 186 20 15 35 8 4 0 76.87%
10 BAL 178 23 21 22 12 6 0 76.72%
11 SEA 138 18 14 29 6 2 1 75.00%
12 NE 170 22 22 34 5 4 0 74.71%
13 CAR 170 16 18 35 10 2 0 74.10%
14 SF 139 15 16 27 7 4 0 74.04%
15 ATL 166 22 10 35 14 6 1 74.02%
16 NYG 151 19 7 36 13 4 0 73.91%
17 STL 140 14 11 31 11 3 0 73.33%
18 MIA 150 16 16 26 12 7 0 73.13%
19 WAS 166 19 14 37 16 3 0 72.55%
20 ARZ 137 15 16 39 5 1 0 71.36%
21 CIN 135 17 19 31 8 3 0 71.36%
22 CLE 139 17 13 40 5 5 0 71.23%
23 DET 153 17 19 37 11 2 0 71.13%
24 PHI 154 16 15 36 17 2 0 70.83%
25 HOU 152 17 17 38 13 2 0 70.71%
26 TB 123 14 9 32 14 3 1 69.90%
27 TEN 138 15 13 41 11 4 2 68.30%
28 NYJ 153 15 15 42 18 3 0 68.29%
29 MIN 147 11 19 44 12 3 0 66.95%
30 OAK 113 12 8 40 13 2 0 66.49%
31 JAX 143 13 14 45 18 4 0 65.82%
32 BUF 135 17 19 47 11 3 1 65.24%

 

Defense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 BUF 164 15 19 43 18 3 0 68.32%
2 DET 148 13 12 45 12 4 1 68.51%
3 PHI 148 18 13 44 10 4 0 70.04%
4 KC 128 12 16 35 5 3 0 70.35%
5 MIA 133 16 13 31 14 4 0 70.62%
6 MIN 151 19 12 45 11 2 0 70.83%
7 BAL 155 13 18 32 12 5 1 71.19%
8 WAS 150 20 13 45 8 2 0 71.43%
9 NYJ 140 25 14 48 3 0 0 71.74%
10 IND 157 21 10 42 12 6 0 71.77%
11 CLE 156 17 12 39 11 5 1 71.78%
12 HOU 167 19 13 39 17 3 0 72.09%
13 DEN 146 17 11 39 8 4 1 72.12%
14 DAL 141 17 11 33 13 4 0 72.15%
15 ARZ 145 16 11 35 14 2 0 72.20%
16 JAX 166 18 18 38 8 5 0 72.73%
17 NE 173 18 17 32 16 5 0 73.18%
18 NYG 142 18 13 29 13 2 0 73.73%
19 SEA 137 15 13 31 7 2 1 73.79%
20 PIT 166 20 19 33 11 1 1 74.10%
21 SD 152 19 8 35 9 6 1 74.35%
22 CIN 171 16 19 25 12 5 1 75.10%
23 TEN 191 21 19 35 11 4 0 75.44%
24 ATL 177 23 21 30 13 0 0 75.76%
25 SF 136 18 6 30 11 2 0 75.86%
26 OAK 149 19 15 28 6 4 0 76.02%
27 CHI 166 22 21 22 12 4 0 76.11%
28 STL 142 19 13 25 8 2 0 77.03%
29 CAR 174 24 16 27 14 2 0 77.04%
30 TB 171 23 19 26 10 0 0 77.91%
31 GB 188 21 12 26 15 6 0 77.99%
32 NO 152 19 14 25 7 1 1 78.08%

 

Overall

1 DEN 7.36%
2 KC 7.27%
3 IND 6.73%
4 BAL 5.53%
5 DAL 5.51%
6 NO 3.22%
7 SD 2.89%
8 PIT 2.76%
9 DET 2.62%
10 MIA 2.51%
11 NE 1.53%
12 SEA 1.21%
13 WAS 1.12%
14 CHI 1.11%
15 PHI 0.79%
16 GB 0.70%
17 NYG 0.18%
18 CLE -0.55%
19 ARZ -0.84%
20 HOU -1.38%
21 ATL -1.74%
22 SF -1.82%
23 CAR -2.94%
24 BUF -3.08%
25 NYJ -3.45%
26 STL -3.70%
27 CIN -3.74%
28 MIN -3.88%
29 JAX -6.90%
30 TEN -7.14%
31 TB -8.01%
32 OAK -9.53%
Oct 282014
 

Against the Spread: 10-5

Straight Up: 11-4

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence: 1-0

Medium Confidence: 3-2

Low Confidence: 2-3

No Confidence: 3-0

Upset Picks: 1-1

Against the Spread: 76-44-1 (.633)

Straight Up: 82-38-1 (.683)

Pick of the Week: 5-3

High Confidence: 5-6

Medium Confidence: 29-9

Low Confidence: 17-14-1

No Confidence: 20-12

Upset Picks: 10-8

Survivor Picks: 6-2 (PHI, GB, NO, SD, DET, SEA, BAL, KC)

Oct 252014
 

Oakland Raiders (0-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-3)

The Browns lost last week in previously 0-6 Jacksonville, doing so in embarrassing fashion, losing by the finale score of 24-6 and getting dominated in the chain game. They moved the chains at a mere 46.43% rate, as opposed to 65.71% for the Jaguars, a differential of -19.29% that was the 2nd worst by a team last week. That brought the Browns down to 19th in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, as they move the chains at a 72.40% rate, as opposed to 73.56% for their opponents, a differential of -1.16%. However, we still might be getting line value with the Browns because of how bad the Raiders are. The Raiders rank dead last in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 67.74% rate, as opposed to 77.84% for their opponents, a differential of -10.09%.

The Raiders are also in a terrible spot as they have to go to Seattle next week. Teams are 40-81 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. 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 game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. I think it’s both in this situation. In spite of all this, the public is actually on the underdog, expecting the Browns to have trouble with a 0-6 team for the 2nd straight week. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense, especially when they’re on an underdog. Despite those three things, I can’t bring myself to be too confident in the Browns.

Cleveland Browns 23 Oakland Raiders 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -7

Confidence: Low

Oct 252014
 

Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1)

The Seahawks failed to even win last week as significant favorites in St. Louis and now they’re significant favorites again here in Carolina. I like their chances of bouncing back and getting back in the win column here though. For one, this is the Seahawks’ 2nd of two road games, which tends to be an easier time for teams than a team’s first game on the road. Teams are 177-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.20 points per game, as opposed to 252-363 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.29 points per game. Going off of that, road favorites are 33-22 ATS off of a road loss since 2008 as long as it’s the 2nd of two road favorites, including 15-7 ATS as road favorites off of a loss as road favorites.

The Seahawks also generally do well off of a loss, going 7-3 ATS in the Russell Wilson era. Sure, they were coming off of a loss last week and didn’t get it done, but they could easily have a different result here. The Seahawks are also in a great spot as teams are 68-53 ATS before being double digit favorites since 2002. The Seahawks have an incredibly easy game next week at home for the Seahawks. Sure, they were in a good spot last week before being significant road favorites and didn’t get the job done, but history still suggests they’re due to turn it around here.

However, while I like the Seahawks’ chances of bouncing back and getting the win here, I’m not confident they’ll cover this 5 point spread, even with all of the aforementioned trends in play. This line might just be too high for a Seattle team that has been fairly average this season. They rank just 14th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 75.14% rate, as opposed to 74.59% for their opponents, a differential of 0.55%. Sure, they’re the Seahawks and could easily get it together and end up much higher by the end of the season, but there are no guarantees. Super Bowl winners have disappointed over the past decade and the Seahawks are dealing with significant injuries to guys like Max Unger, Bobby Wagner, and Byron Maxwell.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are moving the chains at a 74.78% rate, as opposed to 77.39% for their opponents, a differential of -2.61% that ranks 22nd in the NFL. That’s not great, but purely looking at rate of moving the chains suggests we’re getting significant line value with the Panthers. I’m certainly not confident because the trends suggest the Seahawks are the right side and the Seahawks could at any bounce back and become what they were last season. This is still a scary football team. The Panthers are my pick though.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Carolina Panthers 20

Pick against the spread: Carolina +5

Confidence: None

Oct 252014
 

Buffalo Bills (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6)

This line shifted from even last week to now the Jets being favored by a field goal. The primary reason for that has to be the Percy Harvin trade, as people don’t seem to realize that Harvin wasn’t doing much in Seattle this season and that he probably doesn’t know the entire Jets playbook yet or have chemistry developed with quarterback Geno Smith. It’s disappointing that this line shifted so much as it robbed us of an opportunity to fade a Bills team that isn’t as good as their record.

The Bills are somehow 4-3, though with 3 last second wins by a combined 5 points. In terms of rate of moving the chains differential, they rank just 24th, moving the chains at a 65.22% rate, as opposed to 68.44% for their opponents, a differential of -3.23%. That being said, we’re actually now getting line value with the Bills as this line suggests these two teams are even, while in reality the Bills have played better this season. The Jets rank 26th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 68.42% rate, as opposed to 72.55% for their opponents, a differential of -4.13%. I have no confidence in the Bills though, especially since they’re a public underdog, but they’re my pick here as I’m going with fading line movement and picking the better team over fading the public.

New York Jets 17 Buffalo Bills 16

Pick against spread: Buffalo +3

Confidence: None

Oct 252014
 

Indianapolis Colts (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

The Colts are arguably the best team in the NFL right now, or at least they’ve played like it through 7 games. With the exception of a 3 point home loss as 3 point home favorites to the Eagles, the Colts have covered every game this season. Both of their losses came against teams that currently have one loss and they came by a combined 10 points. Last week, they completely dominated Cincinnati 27-0, beating a solid team in embarrassing fashion, forcing 8 straight three and outs to start the season.

Andrew Luck is playing like the type of quarterback he was expected to become, completing 65.9% of his passes for an average 7.72 YPA, 19 touchdowns, 7 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground on 30 carries. The defense has held up as well. Through 6 games, they are moving the chains at a 78.44% rate, as opposed to 67.65% for their opponents, a differential of 10.79% that is best in the NFL by over 3 percentage points (7.40% is the next best).

The Steelers, meanwhile, move the chains at a 74.11% rate, as opposed to 73.24% for their opponents, a differential of 0.87% that ranks 13th in the NFL. That suggests we’re getting significant line value with the Colts as mere field goal favorites here, even on the road. The Colts should be the right side, but I don’t like the idea of betting on such a heavy public favorite (more than 90% of the action is on Indianapolis) without a powerful trend supporting them, as the odds makers always come out on top.

Indianapolis Colts 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Pick against spread: Indianapolis -3

Confidence: Low

Oct 252014
 

Houston Texans (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (2-5)

The Texans are road favorites here, but they could easily be home underdogs next week when they host the Eagles. Road favorites are 76-118 ATS since 1989 before being home underdogs, including 18-27 ATS as divisional road favorites before being non-divisional home underdogs, as that upcoming game tends to be a major distraction. Even if that game has an even line (as the early line currently is) or the Texans are favored by 1-2 points, the logic still stands.

We’re also getting some line value with the Titans because the Texans aren’t as good as their 3-3 record suggests, as they move the chains at a 69.95% rate, as opposed to 73.39% for their opponents, a differential of -3.44% that ranks 25th in the NFL. The Titans aren’t good, moving the chains at a 69.35% rate, as opposed to 75.51% for their opponents, a differential of 6.16% that ranks 29th in the NFL, but the Texans shouldn’t be favored by a field goal on the road against anyone other than Oakland.

I’m not that confident in Tennessee because they’re starting unproven 6th round rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback. It’s possible he’s an upgrade over Charlie Whitehurst, who has started the last few games for them, but he’s a complete wild card and the track record of late round rookies starting at quarterback isn’t great. It’s very possible Mettenberger is head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s next Ryan Lindley. The Titans should be the right side though.

Houston Texans 17 Tennessee Titans 16

Pick against spread: Tennessee +3

Confidence: Low

Oct 252014
 

St. Louis Rams (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3)

The Chiefs have proven to be the real deal this year. A year after relying on weak competition, an unsustainable turnover margin, and no injuries to go 11-5, the Chiefs have now knocked off New England and San Diego and come within a touchdown of both Denver and San Francisco on the road, 4 teams that could easily be playoff teams when everything is said and done, despite suffering several significant injuries and having a -2 turnover margin on the season. They also blew out the Dolphins in Miami by a score of 34-15 and their victory over the Patriots was by a whopping 27 points.

Despite their 3-3 record, the Chiefs rank 5th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 77.42% rate, as opposed to 71.59% for their opponents, a differential of 5.83%. On top of that, their point differential is +21. All of this is despite the fact that they’ve played a fairly tough schedule thus far this season. The Rams, on the other hand, do not represent a tough opponent. They are moving the chains at a 74.87% rate, as opposed to 76.70% for their opponents, a differential of 1.84% that ranks 21st in the NFL. This line is too small at just a touchdown.

The Chiefs are also in the much better spot. While the Rams have another tough game in San Francisco next week, the Chiefs get to remain at home and take on the 1-win Jets. Non-divisional road underdogs are 51-78 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs. On top of that, teams are 52-81 ATS since 2010 before being divisional underdogs of a touchdown or more, which the Rams almost definitely will be in San Francisco next week (the early line is 7.5). That could easily serve as a huge distraction.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have no distraction next week and they will almost definitely be touchdown favorites over the lowly Jets. Teams are 31-54 ATS since 2008 before being touchdown underdogs when their opponent will next be touchdown favorites, as teams in that situation are at such a disadvantage schedule wise. Going off of that, teams are 77-62 ATS as touchdown favorites before being touchdown favorites since 2008, while touchdown underdogs are 70-91 ATS before being touchdown underdogs over that same time period. Making matters even worse for the Rams, they’re coming off an emotional win over divisional Seattle. Teams are 37-53 ATS since 1989 off of a win by 3 or fewer as divisional underdogs of 6 or more. Teams also don’t have a strong track record of covering after beating the defending Super Bowl champion. The Chiefs should win easily here and are my survivor pick.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 St. Louis Rams 13 Survivor Pick

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -7

Confidence: Medium

Oct 252014
 

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

I’m completely split on this one. On one hand, the Jaguars are in a bad spot, having to go to Cincinnati next week where they will almost certainly be double digit underdogs (the early line is 11). Teams are 40-81 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. 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 game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. I think it’s both in this situation.

The Jaguars rank just 30th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 65.70% rate, as opposed to 73.13% for their opponents, a differential of -7.43%. They have covered just 8 of their last 24 games, dating back to week 17 of 2012. Over those 24 games, they lost 15 of them by double digits and could easily make it 16 this week against a solid Miami team. The Dolphins are moving the chains at a 73.63% rate, as opposed to 71.27% for their opponents, a differential of 2.36% that ranks 9th in the NFL. That suggests this line should be around a touchdown, which gives us a little bit of line value with Miami -6.

On the other hand, the Jaguars have been playing much better football of late. Blake Bortles has proven to be an upgrade over Chad Henne at quarterback (which isn’t hard) and head coach Gus Bradley, the ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator, has this defense playing a lot better recently. They haven’t lost by double digits in any of their last 3 games (which is an accomplishment for this franchise) and they dominated a decent Browns team last week.

Over the past 4 games, since benching Henne, they are moving the chains at a 69.60% rate, as opposed to 65.74% for their opponents, a differential of 3.86%. That’s much better than their first 3 games, when they moved the chains at a 59.76% rate, as opposed to 79.83% for their opponents, a differential of -20.08%. On top of that, the Dolphins have a much tougher game next week against the Chargers back in Miami, where they could easily be home underdogs. Non-divisional road favorites are 22-40 since 1989 before being non-divisional home underdogs, as that upcoming game tends to be a major distraction. Even if that game has an even line (as the early line currently is) or the Dolphins are favored by 1-2 points, the logic still stands. I’m taking the Dolphins, but I’m not confident at all.

Miami Dolphins 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against spread: Miami -6

Confidence: None

Oct 252014
 

Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) at Arizona Cardinals (5-1)

I’m not happy that these two teams are playing each other because I think they’re two of the most overrated teams in football. Neither is as good as their record and yet one will advance to 6-1, though I guess that’ll make for easier betting situations in the future. The Eagles are 5-1 on the strength of a +6 margin in return touchdowns and a 3-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. It’s hard to rely on those things long-term. In terms of pure rate of moving the chains, they are 17th in differential, moving the chains at a 70.50% rate, as opposed to 70.53% for their opponents. Their defense has surprisingly held together well and their offense will get better when they get Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis back from injury, as those are two of the best offensive linemen in football, but for right now they’re nowhere near as good as their record.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals have been overly reliant on a +7 turnover margin and a 63.64% rate of recovering fumbles. They are moving the chains at a 72.13% rate, as opposed to 72.13% for their opponents, a differential of +0.00% that ranks 16th in the NFL. Unlike the Eagles, they probably aren’t going to get much better. While Calais Campbell should return from injury soon (maybe in a limited role this week) and Tyrann Mathieu will only get healthier, they are still missing Karlos Dansby, John Abraham, Daryl Washington, and Darnell Dockett from last year’s 10-6 team for a variety of reasons. However, for right now, these two teams are basically even, as this line suggests, though probably not even in the way many people seem to think.

That being said, the Eagles should be the right side as they’re in the better situation, with a non-conference trip to Houston on deck, while the Cardinals have to play fellow 1-loss Dallas next week in Dallas. Teams are 71-103 ATS since 2008 as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs. The Eagles aren’t necessarily going to be road favorites in Houston next week (the early line is even), but if they are, that brings a very powerful trend into the mix. Going off of that, teams are 94-56 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, including 36-12 ATS since 2002 as road underdogs before being road favorites when their opponents will next be road underdogs.

Even if the Eagles end up being even or 1 point underdogs in Houston, the logic is still there. They’re going to be able to be way more focused for this one than the Cardinals. There are two reasons this isn’t a bigger play. The first reason is because we don’t know for sure if the Eagles will be road favorites next week. The second reason is that the Cardinals have been very solid at home recently, going 26-14 ATS at home since 2007 as underdogs of favorites of 3 or more. The Eagles should still be the right side though.

Philadelphia Eagles 16 Arizona Cardinals 13 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +1.5

Confidence: Low

Oct 252014
 

Washington Redskins (2-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-1)

Last week I picked against the Cowboys when they planned the Giants here at home in Dallas. That didn’t work out as the Cowboys won 31-21 as 6.5 point favorites, but it could have easily been a different result (against the spread). The Giants led 14-7 earlier and the game would have been a lot closer if not for two Larry Donnell fumbles after the catch, two very fluky things. Even after last week, the Cowboys still have a lot of issues historically when favored, especially heavily favored, at home.

The Cowboys are 13-23 ATS as home favorites since 2009, including 6-12 ATS as home favorites of 6.5 or more. This isn’t just a Dallas thing. NFC East teams are just 20-34 ATS as divisional home favorites since 2008. This is probably too big of a line for the Cowboys to cover. They have a way of disappointing when they’re supposed to win big and what better situation for them to do it in than on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys are 1-8 ATS on Monday Night Football since 2006.

We also might be getting a significant amount of line value with the Redskins. The Cowboys have played well this season, moving the chains at a 78.21% rate, as opposed to 72.11% for their opponents, a differential of 6.10% that ranks 4th in the NFL. The Redskins, meanwhile, move the chains at a 72.57% rate, as opposed to 71.15% for their opponents, a differential of 1.42% that ranks 12th in the NFL. That suggests this line should be around 7.5 instead of 10. Sure, much of the reason why the Redskins rank 12th is because of how well they played against the Jaguars. If you take that game out of the mix, they move the chains at a 69.78% rate, as opposed to 73.94% for their opponents, a differential of -4.16% that would rank 26th in the NFL. However, I still like their chances of keeping this within double digits.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Washington Redskins 20

Pick against the spread: Washington +10

Confidence: Medium

Oct 232014
 

Chicago Bears (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)

The Bears were embarrassed last week at home by the Dolphins, but that’s because the Dolphins were in a fantastic spot, with an incredibly easy game against the Jaguars up next, while the Bears were caught looking forward to this one. I like the Bears’ chances of bouncing back this week as they’ll be completely focused against a big opponent with a bye up next, while the Patriots are the ones in the bad spot this week. The Patriots have the Broncos up next and could easily be caught looking forward to that one, their biggest regular season game.

The Patriots are currently projected to be 3 point underdogs at home for Denver next week. Teams are 51-81 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point home underdogs since 2012 and teams are 54-81 ATS as home favorites of 3 or more before being home underdogs of 3 or more since 1989. While they got blown out by a team in a good spot last week, I think they can easily keep it close against a team in a bad spot this week. The public doesn’t think so, as they’re all over the Patriots, but that’s because they’re too focused on what happened last week. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense as the public always loses money in the long run and it makes sense here.

We’re also getting line value with the Bears, as the Patriots are an overrated team that has been too reliant on winning the turnover battle, going +9 in turnovers and recovering 66.67% of fumbles. In terms of pure rate of moving the chains, the Patriots rank 18th in differential, moving the chains at a 71.76% rate, as opposed to 72.20% for their opponents, a differential of -0.44. Sure, their offense has been a lot better recently as Rob Gronkowski has returned to form, but their defense has simultaneously taken huge hits losing Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones to return. Meanwhile, the Bears move the chains at a 76.92% rate, as opposed to 73.30% for their opponents, a differential of 3.62% that ranks 8th in the NFL, despite what happened last week in a tough situation. They’ll give the Patriots a game.

New England Patriots 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against spread: Chicago +6

Confidence: Medium

Oct 232014
 

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1)

The Bengals were embarrassed on the road in Indianapolis last week, getting blown out by the final score of 27-0. Now they’re favored to beat the 5-2 Ravens. You should put all your money on Baltimore as underdogs right? Well, that’s ignoring the Bengals’ home dominance and the Ravens’ recent road struggles. Since the start of last season, the Bengals are 10-1-1 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 13.67 points per game, going 10-2 against the spread. Meanwhile, 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.

On top of that, the Bengals are in the much better spot as they have a very easy game up next when they host the Jaguars, while the Ravens next play the Steelers. Teams are 46-31 ATS since 2008 as divisional home favorites before being non-divisional home favorites since 2008, a situation that the Bengals fit. On top of that, teams are 68-53 ATS before being double digit favorites since 2002.

There are two reasons why this isn’t a big play on the Bengals. For one, the Ravens are in a big revenge spot as divisional road underdogs are 51-26 ATS against teams that they previously lost to as home favorites that season. Meaning, if two evenly matched divisional opponents meet and the road underdog win, the losing teams usually gets the other team back the next time they play as long as it’s that same season. Not only do they cover about 2/3rds of the time, but they also straight up win half the time, even as underdogs.

The second reason is that, at least this season, the Ravens have been significantly better than the Bengals. The Ravens are moving the chains at a 77.35% rate, as opposed to 70.53% for their opponents, a differential of 6.82% that ranks 3rd in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Bengals are moving the chains at a 70.65% rate, as opposed to 75.57% for their opponents, a differential of -4.91% that ranks 27th in the NFL. Sure, it was significantly different last season, but both teams have undergone significant changes in their coaching staffs. I’m still going with the Bengals at home though. They’ve moved the chains at a 79.63% rate, as opposed to 73.79% for their opponents, at home this season, which is very good.

Cincinnati Bengals 19 Baltimore Ravens 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -1

Confidence: Medium

Oct 232014
 

Green Bay Packers (5-2) at New Orleans Saints (2-4)

The Saints have been incredible at home over the past few years. They are 32-11 ATS at home since 2008 in the games which Drew Brees and Sean Payton were involved.  On top of that, they are 17-1-1 ATS at home over their last 19 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. They’ve won all 18 of those games by an average of about 19.5 points per game, with just four being decided by 10 points or less and just one being decided by less than 6 points. The Saints are also 12-3 ATS in home night games since 2006. Meanwhile, the Packers haven’t been nearly as good on the road as they’ve been at home recently. Since 2009, the Packers are 37-9 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 11.19 points per game. On the other hand, they are 28-21 on the road, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.94 points per game, a difference of about 8 points per game.

The Packers represent a much tougher than average opponent, but this line is still too low at 1. The Packers rank 11th in rate of moving the chains differential, which is impressive, but not as good as their record as they’ve been overly reliant on a +10 turnover margin and a fumble recovery rate of 56.25%. They are moving the chains at a 78.77% rate, as opposed to 76.52% for their opponents, a differential of 2.25%. The Saints, meanwhile, move the chains at an 80.36% rate, as opposed to 78.07% for their opponents, a differential of 2.28% that ranks 10th in the NFL. The reason they are 2-4, while the Packers are 5-2 is because they’re getting killed in the turnover battle (-8 in turnovers, -2 in return touchdowns, 18.18% fumble recovery) and because they have 3 losses by a combined 6 points.

They rank 10th in rate of moving the chains differential despite the fact that they’ve played 4 of 6 on the road which represent all their losses. In two home games, they’ve move the chains at an 85.00% rate, as opposed to 72.00% for their opponents, a differential of 13.00%. New Orleans is also getting Jimmy Graham to full strength back after he essentially missed 2 games (he went out early against Tampa Bay and barely played against Detroit).

Despite their records, these two teams are more comparable than you’d think and the Saints might actually be better. This line should be at least 3, even before you get into the Saints’ home dominance. On top of all that, Drew Brees is 20-5 ATS off a loss since 2008 as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline, including 15-2 ATS at home. The Packers are also public underdogs, in case you need another reason to take the Saints. I usually like to fade the public whenever it makes sense as the odds makers always come out on top, but I especially like fading the public when they’re on an underdog. If the Packers are really as likely to win as the public thinks, why do the odds makers have them as favorites? I could easily see the Saints winning by at least a touchdown.

The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because the Saints have Carolina 4 days after this one on Thursday Night Football. Teams are just 34-56 ATS since 2008 as favorites before Thursday Night football. Teams are also 86-105 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs on any day of the week since 2002. However, the Saints are barely favored here and they should be able to be completely focused on this one even with that game on the horizon because they’re coming off a loss, facing a 5-2 opponent, and will feel like they need this game to save their season. I really like the Saints this week.

New Orleans Saints 34 Green Bay Packers 27

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -1

Confidence: High

Oct 222014
 

San Diego Chargers (5-2) at Denver Broncos (5-1)

The Broncos have generally been very good at home in the Peyton Manning era, going 14-7 ATS as home favorites of 3 or more. That hasn’t been the case against these Chargers, who have covered in all 3 instances in Denver as 3+ point underdogs since 2012. However, it’s very possible that could be an anomaly as it’s just 3 data points. Peyton Manning has also generally been very good in nationally televised regular seasons games, going 32-15 ATS in such games since 2003, including a 42-17 blowout win over the 49ers last weekend on Sunday Night Football. Again, the Chargers beat them here in a similar Thursday Night Game last year, but that could just be an anomaly.

However, the Chargers’ recent success against the Broncos does concern me some. I’m also concerned that this line is too high. I wish this line was under a touchdown, instead of at 7.5. Denver is playing very well this season, obviously, moving the chains at a 78.17% rate, as opposed to 70.77% for their opponents, a differential of 7.40% that ranks 2nd in the NFL behind Indianapolis. However, the Chargers are also playing very well, moving the chains at a 76.74% rate, as opposed to 72.02% for their opponents, a differential of 4.72% that ranks 6th in the NFL. This line should be closer to 5.5 than 7.5. Brandon Flowers is out for the Chargers, which really hurts them as he’s the biggest reason by far that their defense has been significantly better this season, but I still wish it was under a touchdown. I’m taking the Broncos, but I’m not confident.

Denver Broncos 30 San Diego Chargers 20

Pick against spread: Denver -7.5

Confidence: Low

Oct 222014
 

Detroit Lions (5-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-5) in London

This is technically a home game for the Falcons, but it’s a neutral site game in London. Given that, we’re getting significant line value with the Lions as either the Lions are being overrated or the Falcons are being underrated. The Lions rank 7th in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 70.19% rate, while their defense allows opponents to move the chains at a 66.34% rate, best in the NFL. That gives them a differential of 3.85%. On the other side of the coin, the Falcons rank 23rd, moving the chains at a 72.77% rate, as opposed to 75.54% for their opponents, a differential of -2.77%. This line should be closer to 6.5 instead of 3.5. That’s significant line value.

Detroit is also in the better spot here I think as they are favorites and actually in playoff contention. It’s a small sample size, but favorites are 6-3 ATS in London games, including 6-1 ATS in their last 7. It makes sense. Teams must hate travelling to London to play a game, but if you’re actually in contention it makes it easier to get up for this game. It doesn’t help morale that they have to give up a home game for this. Favorites also tend to be more organized teams capable of playing this type of game. I like the Lions’ chances of winning by at least a touchdown.

Detroit Lions 27 Atlanta Falcons 17

Confidence: Medium

Pick against the spread: Detroit -3.5

Oct 212014
 

Minnesota Vikings (2-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5)

Last week, the Vikings lost in Buffalo on a last second touchdown. However, it was still only a one point loss. I like the Vikings’ chances of actually getting the win here this week a good amount for several reasons. One, they’re playing an inferior opponent as compared to last week. Buffalo isn’t a good football team, but the Buccaneers are worse, hence why this line is 3 instead of 6, as it was last week. Like last week, I think we’re getting line value with the Vikings.

The Vikings aren’t very good, ranking 28th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 66.83% rate, as opposed to 72.30% for their opponents, a differential of -5.47%. However, they’re better than the Buccaneers and this line suggests they are equal, which gives up value with Minnesota. The Buccaneers rank 31st in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 71.60% rate, as opposed to 79.53% for their opponents, a differential of -7.94%. They don’t deserve to be favored by a field goal over anyone outside of the Oakland Raiders.

The Vikings are also in a great spot. For one, unlike last week, they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 107-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 91-48 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 177-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.20 points per game, as opposed to 252-363 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.29 points per game.

On top of that, they have the easier game next week, hosting the Redskins in Minnesota, while the Buccaneers have to go to Cleveland. Teams are 71-103 ATS since 2008 as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs and conversely teams are 108-73 ATS in that same time period as non-divisional road underdogs before being non-divisional home favorites. Combining the two, teams are 94-56 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, including 95-57 ATS since 2008 as road underdogs before being home favorites when their opponents will next be road underdogs. I like the Vikings’ chances to get the road upset here.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week