Miami Dolphins at New York Jets: Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)

The Jets beat the Dolphins in Miami earlier this year, therefore they should beat them in New York right? Well, that seems to be what the public thinks as the Jets are a heavily public lean, but I disagree for several reasons. The first one is that Darrelle Revis went down late in that game. The Jets have done a great job of bouncing back from that loss and their subsequent 34-0 home loss to the 49ers the following week and have covered in 3 straight.

Antonio Cromartie is playing out of his mind right now since Revis went down, allowing 7 catches for 109 yards on 22 attempts, with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass deflections. The defensive and offensive fronts are playing like they have before, allowing the team’s run offense and run defense to improve. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t miss Revis, especially against a Dolphin team that hasn’t been playing too badly themselves since that game, going 2-1 SU and ATS with that one loss in overtime to the Cardinals and wins against the Bengals in Cincinnati and the Rams in Miami.

Besides, the Dolphins are in a good spot given that their previous matchup was an overtime loss. Teams are 14-8 ATS when trying to avenge a divisional overtime loss since 2008. They’re also 49-31 ATS trying to avenge a divisional loss of 1-3 points in that same period, including 27-16 ATS when the revenge game is a same season game.

On the other side, the Jets are in a bad spot. Favorites after a loss of 1-3 as 10+ dogs are 6-14 ATS since 1989. They’ll be awfully flat after coming so close to pulling a huge upset against a division rival. Meanwhile, home favorites are 10-23 ATS off a road loss in overtime, including 6-16 ATS when the previous overtime loss was as dogs.

We’re also getting line value with the Dolphins. Both measures of “real” line suggest this should be a pick em as Miami ranks 18th in yards per play differential and 17th in rate of sustaining drives differential, while the Jets rank 27th in both. We’re getting points with the better team in the better spot. We’re also getting a chance to fade a heavy public lean as the public likes the Jets. I’ve mentioned many times before I like favorites this week because I expect the favorite/dog disparity to close up (dogs are 63-39 ATS and neither dogs nor favorites have finished more than 10 games above .500 ATS in least at the last decade). However, it’s perfectly fine to make a big play on a dog as long as they aren’t a heavy public dog.

Public lean: NY Jets (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Miami covers)

Sharps lean: MIA 22 NYJ 6

Final update: 2nd biggest sharps lean of the week. I’m going to add a unit. Action on Jets, but line has fallen.

Miami Dolphins 20 New York Jets 13 Upset Pick +115

Pick against spread: Miami +2.5 (-110) 4 units

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Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears: Week 8 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (1-5) at Chicago Bears (5-1)

I normally hate laying more than a touchdown, but I like the Bears this week for several reasons. The first reason is simply that I think they’re the best team in the league in this wide open NFL (the undefeated Falcons have played a cupcake schedule and won their last 3 by a combined 12). The Bears sit at 5-1 and their only loss was in Green Bay on Thursday Night. I’m not saying don’t count that game, but you shouldn’t put too much stock into a team playing poorly on the road against a good team in short rest when they’ve played very well the rest of the time, especially when they lost running back Matt Forte early in the game.

Other than that, they’re 5-0 on the season and with the exception of last week’s game against the Lions, they’ve won all 5 games by 16 or more. Even last week’s 13-7 win over the Lions was way more lopsided than the final score indicated as they held a shutout and a 13 point lead with about 30 seconds to go before Detroit got a late garbage time touchdown.

With that exception of back door cover and the Green Bay game, they’ve covered every game this season and they would have covered this 7.5 point spread on every game as well. And they’re not playing bad teams either, with the exception of Jacksonville. St. Louis and Indianapolis look like more impressive blowouts now than when they happened. Dallas is a playoff contender and they lost by 16 at home  (24 until a garbage time score). Detroit isn’t terrible. Carolina is probably the 2nd worst team they’ve played this year.

Dating back to last year, Jay Cutler is actually 10-1 in his last 11, with that one loss being the Green Bay loss, further proof of how fluky that loss was. Those 5 straight wins he had last season before getting hurt came by margins of 29, 6, 6, 24, and 11 and the Bears covered in all 5. Dating back to 2010, Jay Cutler is 23-10 straight up over the last 2 and a half years, including playoffs. This year, they’re even better because of the addition of Brandon Marshall.

Because the Bears are the best team in the league, in my opinion, I feel we’re getting line value with them and the usual metrics of measuring “real” line agree, which is the 2nd reason I like the Bears this week. The yards per play method says this line should be only -3 in favor of Chicago because these two teams actually have the same yards per play differential (3 points for home field advantage). This isn’t because Chicago is bad in that statistic. In fact, they rank tied for 7th. However, Carolina is particularly good in that statistic.

Carolina is one of the reasons I decided to create a complimentary statistic known as rate of sustaining drives to use along with yards per play to determine “real” line. Yards per play overrates teams that get a lot of big plays, but struggle to stay on the field or don’t allow a lot of big plays, but struggle to get off the field defensively. Those are the exact same teams rate of sustaining drives underrates because what rate of sustaining drives cares about is how often you convert a given set of downs for a first down or a score in comparison to how often your defense allows the opponent to do so. Because of this, they work in tandem well together.

Sure enough, Carolina is really bad in this statistic, ranking 31st, while Chicago is around where they are in yards per play differential, ranking 4th. The “real” line calculated using this metric says Chicago should be -17. Again, neither one of these metrics alone is right, especially with that kind of difference, but we can use them together to get a much better estimate of “real” line. In this case, Chicago should be around -10 and that’s counting all of Chicago’s games equally, which I don’t think is the case because I feel the Green Bay game was fluky. We’re getting line value with the Bears.

The 3rd reason is all of Carolina’s injuries. Already a struggling team, Carolina will be without Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason, and Chris Gamble for this game and likely without all 3 for the season. That’s a huge loss. Ryan Kalil is not their best offensive lineman because of left tackle Jordan Gross, but he’s easily a top-3 center in the league. Beason is not the player he was 2 years ago, but his absence still hurts because it means up and down rookie Luke Kuechly will have to become an every down player and Thomas Davis will have to become a starter. Davis has had 3 torn ACLs as a pro, so it’s unclear if his knees can handle that. Meanwhile, Gamble is not only their best defensive back, but he’s also their only good defensive back and, when healthy, one of the better and more underrated cornerbacks in the league.

The 4th reason is that Carolina could be really flat this week. They had very high hopes for this season, only to start 1-4. They put everything into last week against the Cowboys off a bye and still lost a close one at home. Now their season is effectively over. Cam Newton’s body language looked really bad in his press conference and GM Marty Hurney has been fired. They’re missing key players. This game means nothing to them anymore and they could be really flat and just get blown out by a very good Chicago team that seems to be blowing out everyone.

The 5th reason is the only relevant trend I could find, but the Bears should be in a good spot off a close win over the Lions on Monday Night. Teams are 22-13 ATS off a divisional win of a touchdown or less on Monday Night, excluding teams coming off a bye. You might say, well that game wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest. That is true, but teams are 10-6 ATS off a Monday Night shutout, 5-2 ATS off a divisional Monday Night shutout. Favorites off a divisional shutout in general are 34-22 ATS.

The 6th and final reason is something I’ve referenced in most of my picks. I expect the disparity between favorites and dogs to close up. Dogs are 63-39 ATS this year. Neither dogs nor favorites have gone more than 10 games above .500 in a given year in at least the last decade. Because of that, any time you can take a favorite without betting on a heavy public lean (there’s a slight public lean on Chicago right now), you have to do it unless there’s a good reason not to. These games work double for the odds makers. They make them money (they always make money on slight leans because of the juice) and they help the disparity close so the public doesn’t start locking in on dogs. I like Chicago for a small play.

Public lean: Chicago (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Carolina covers)

Sharps lean: CAR 21 CHI 0

Final update: This is weird. I’m dropping a unit down.

Chicago Bears 31 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against spread: Chicago -7.5 (-110) 1 unit

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San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns: Week 8 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (1-6)

I normally hate taking teams that are heavily publicly backed, but that’s exactly what I’m doing by taking the Chargers this week. I’m also taking a West Coast team on the road in the Eastern Time Zone at 1 PM, a situation that is normally bad for the visiting team. Under Norv Turner, it’s been no different for the Chargers as they’ve gone 1-4 ATS when traveling 3 time zones for a 1 PM ET start.

The main reason I’m doing this is because the Chargers are road favorites off of a bye. Those teams tend to cover at an incredibly high rate, going 42-14 ATS since 2002. On top of that, as I’ve mentioned in other picks, I do expect the disparity between favorites and dogs to close up. Dogs are 63-39 ATS this year. Neither dogs nor favorites have gone more than 10 games above .500 in a given year in at least the last decade.

Because of that, it’s no longer a bad idea to take a heavily backed team, so long as they are favorites. It’s not going to be a big play or anything like that, but I like the Chargers to get a road win here and cover in Cleveland as long as the line is 3 or fewer. The Chargers are coming off a bye and have had to listen to how bad they are for 2 weeks after that embarrassing loss against the Broncos. Well how about this? Favorites are 29-15 ATS since 1989 after blowing a lead of 10 or more to a divisional opponent. After a bye, there’s obviously fewer cases, but teams are 4-1 ATS.

Public lean: San Diego (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Cleveland covers)

Sharps lean: SD 12 CLE 7

Final update: No change.

San Diego Chargers 27 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against spread: San Diego -3 (-110) 2 units

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers: Week 8 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3)

So apparently Chad Henne is worse than Blaine Gabbert? I didn’t even know that was possible. Before he got hurt, Gabbert looked serviceable against Oakland’s terrible secondary last week, completing 8 of 12 for 110 yards and a touchdown. However, then Henne came in and went 9 of 20 for 71 yards as the Jaguars blew a lead in Oakland. Gabbert is back this week, so the Jaguars will probably only lose by 25 in Green Bay instead of 30.

The bad news for the Jaguars injury wise is that Maurice Jones-Drew is out at least this week and possibly many more as he’s being described as out indefinitely. He is their best player by far. Last year, he accounted for 47.7% of their yards from scrimmage, most of any non-quarterback since OJ Simpson in 1974. This year, he was at 39.9% heading into last week’s game. As good as Rashad Jennings looked in the preseason, he managed just 44 yards on 21 carries last week against an Oakland run defense that was allowing 4.4 YPC coming in, which would have been 23rd in the league this week. They now rank 8th because of Jennings’ terrible game.

This line is huge (biggest one all year), but we might actually be getting line value with the Packers. The yards per play method of calculating line value suggests this line should be Green Bay -15.5, while rate of sustaining drives differential suggests it should be -17. And Green Bay doesn’t even rank among the elite in the league in those stats, ranking 11th in yards per play differential and 9th in rate of sustaining drives differential. The Jaguars are just so horrible.

The Jaguars’ yards per play differential is -1.6. No one else is worse than -1.1. Their rate of sustaining drives differential is -16.8%. No one else is worse than -11.2%. Even against Oakland in their near win, they had half as many first downs as Oakland and managed a measly 3.4 yards per play to Oakland’s 4.7. With Maurice Jones-Drew out, they don’t stand much chance of keeping this one close unless Green Bay comes out asleep.

I hate laying more than a touchdown with a team and I certainly hate laying more than two touchdowns with a team, but Green Bay is the right side this week. This line is completely legitimate and Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind right now, completing 54 of 67 for 680 yards, 9 touchdowns, and no interceptions in his last 2 games. The Packers aren’t as good as they were last year because their offensive line and running game isn’t as good and their defense isn’t forcing as many turnovers. They’re also dealing with injuries as Greg Jennings is still out and Jordy Nelson may join him. Meanwhile, defensively, starters Nick Perry, Sam Shields, and Charles Woodson are out this week, though BJ Raji is expected to return.

In spite of that, it’s once again become reckless to bet against Aaron Rodgers. As a starter, Rodgers is 44-29 ATS, including 36-22 ATS since the start of the 2009 season. As home favorites of 10 or more, he’s 8-3 ATS. He’s playing angry right now and I don’t expect this team to be asleep. I instead expect them to come out firing on all cylinders and get a blowout win here at home over by far the league’s worst team missing its best player. Remember, at 4-3 in the loaded NFC, every game counts so they don’t have time to take a game off. Plus, the loaded NFC is 17-11 ATS against the AFC this year.

Plus, the favorite/dog disparity is eventually going to close. Dogs are 63-39 ATS this year and neither dogs nor favorites have finished more than 10 games above .500 over the course of a whole season in at least a decade. It’s not a big play on the Packers because I hate laying this many points, but I like them. On top of that, they’re also my survivor pick of the week because I’ve somehow managed to not use them at all this year. I’d be stunned if they lost. Only 4 teams have ever lost as 15 point favorites and none since 1995.

Public lean: Green Bay (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Jacksonville covers)

Sharps lean: GB 10 JAX 5

Final update: No change.

Green Bay Packers 38 Jacksonville Jaguars 16 Survivor Pick (HOU, NE, NO, BAL, SF, ATL, CHI)

Pick against spread: Green Bay -15 (-110) 1 unit

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New England Patriots at St. Louis Rams: Week 8 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (4-3) “at” St. Louis Rams (3-4)

What’s wrong with the Patriots? That’s what people have been asking for 2 weeks. Last week, the answer to that question was nothing. Losing in Seattle to a tough Seahawks team is not an embarrassing loss or a huge upset as some were calling it. Green Bay and Dallas both lost there as well. However, after the Patriots struggled at home to put away the Jets, that question has some more merit. The Patriots didn’t deserve to win that game. If you win the turnover battle, get a safety, and get a special teams touchdown at home, you shouldn’t need overtime to beat the Jets. They should feel like they just lost because they pretty much did.

Patriots fans should be hoping they feel like they lost because Tom Brady is 26-14 ATS off a loss and Bill Belichick is 35-20 ATS. The good news is that they’re also equally good off of overtime, as Belichick is 9-2 ATS off overtime and Brady is 7-1 ATS. More good news: Tom Brady is very good after games where he doesn’t play well, regardless of outcome. After games in which he has 15 or more incompletions, Tom Brady is 23-13 ATS, including 13-5 ATS off a win. Off a win by 3 or fewer, Tom Brady is 14-9 ATS and Belichick is 16-10 ATS.

It’s hard to imagine the Patriots, given how consistently well they play, having another bad game this week off a loss and a near home loss. This is a huge game for them to shut up the media doubters, even after a win. They’ve played a tough schedule in their first 7 games. Their easy games were against the Bills and Titans, both of whom they blew out. The Jets were a only little bit harder last week, but other than that, they’ve played quality opponents. Seattle, Denver, and Baltimore could all easily be playoff teams and Baltimore was a legitimate Super Bowl contender before injuries struck. Arizona, meanwhile, looks like a much more explainable loss now than when it happened, especially since they lost Aaron Hernandez, a huge part of their offensive game plan, during that game and didn’t have time to adjust.

Now the schedule gets easier for the Patriots, starting with an admittedly underrated Rams team this week. After this, they get a bye (more on that later), they’re home for Buffalo and Indianapolis, go to the Jets and Miami, host Houston and San Francisco, then go to Jacksonville and host Miami. Only Houston and San Francisco are better than average teams and both of those games are in Foxboro. In 2010, they started 6-2 before ripping off a stretch of 8 straight wins before a playoff loss and last year they started 5-3 before ripping off a stretch of 10 straight wins before a playoff loss. We could see something similar happen this year.

Back to that bye, that’s another reason why the Patriots will be extra focused this week. Favorite of 7 or more going into a bye are 44-20 ATS since 2002. That makes sense. Good teams tend to be distraction free and take care of business going into a bye. The Patriots also have an advantage given that this game is in London. Having to travel that many time zones is an experience you simply can’t prepare for unless you’ve done so before and the Patriots have not only done so, playing in London in 2009, they blew out the Buccaneers 35-7. The Rams, meanwhile, have never played in London.

Playing in London is also comparable to playing on Thursday Night on short rest and favorites normally do well on Thursday Nights. That makes sense since favorites tend to be experienced, veteran, well coached teams and it makes sense that those types of teams would be better prepared on short rest. Favorites are 68-48 ATS on Thursday Nights. There’s not enough data to include if the same is true in international games, but the logic makes sense. The veteran, experienced, well coached team should have the edge and in this game, that’s the Patriots and that’s not even counting their past experience in London.

One injury note is that Aaron Hernandez did not make the trip for the Patriots and will not play. This doesn’t change my pick, however. In the 3 full games he missed, the Patriots averaged 37.3 points per game. If anything, they’ve been playing worse since he returned. I’m not saying Hernandez being healthy HURTS them, but Tom Brady has always been a next man up guy in the receiving corps and has never been affected by missing receivers, so long as the injury doesn’t happen during a game like the last time Hernandez got hurt.

They could also get Julian Edelman back this week, someone they didn’t gave the last time Hernandez was out, which would allow them to run more 3-wide receiver sets, or they may opt to run more often, which is what they did when Hernandez was out the last time. Brandon Bolden is also expected out, but Shane Vereen looked good in his absence last week.

Either way, I don’t expect the Hernandez injury to affect things much and I still like the Patriots, given the reasons I’ve mentioned and the fact that the favorite/dog disparity is eventually going to close. Dogs are 63-39 ATS this year and neither dogs nor favorites have finished more than 10 games above .500 over the course of a whole season in at least a decade. I like the Patriots for a significant play as long as the line doesn’t go over a touchdown.

Public lean: New England (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if St. Louis covers)

Sharps lean: STL 7 NE 5

Final update: Sharps seem hesitant to bet this game at all because it’s international. I get that, but I still think I have a strong feel on it.

New England Patriots 34 St. Louis Rams 17

Pick against spread: New England -7 (-110) 3 units

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New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

This line opened as Cowboys -1 and I was ready to make a big play on the Giants for several reasons. For starters, in the Tom Coughlin era, they are 39-21 ATS as a dog. Also in the Tom Coughlin era, they are 49-25 ATS on the road and 34-38 ATS at home. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows anything about this team. They play their best when people don’t believe in them and that’s often the case when they’re road dogs. Vice versa, they have a reputation for falling flat when expectations are high.

The 3rd reason has to do with the 1st half/2nd half disparity in the Tom Coughlin era, with regards of halves of the season. In the first 8 games of a season in the Tom Coughlin era, they are 52-19 SU, as opposed to 27-37 SU in the 2nd half of the season. Even last year, when they won the Super Bowl, they started 6-2, but finished 3-5 to end up at 9-7. In 2007, their first Super Bowl year, they did the same thing, starting 6-2 before finishing 4-4 to end up at 10-6.

Their schedule this year suggests they could have that type of year once again. After they play the Cowboys, the Giants host Pittsburgh, go to Cincinnati, go on a bye, host Green Bay, go to Washington, host New Orleans, go to Atlanta, go to Baltimore, and host Philadelphia. However, while the Cowboys opened as 1 point favorites, they are now 2 point dogs, a 3 point in week swing and a 4 point swing from when they were -2 last week.

The reason for that is the injury to middle linebacker Sean Lee. Lee is one of the best linebackers this year and was playing out of his mind this year. Only San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman ranks higher at middle linebacker on ProFootballFocus than Lee. Losing him for the year will definitely hurt, but I don’t know if it’s worth a 3 point line movement by itself. That type of line movement is normally reserved for injuries to quarterbacks. It’s also worth noting that the public is still pounding the Giants.

In spite of that, I won’t be switching my pick to the Cowboys. I’ll simply be dropping units down to 1 unit on the Giants. Lee’s absence will hurt and the Giants are still on the road and in the first half of the season. Besides, the Giants are 17-7 ATS in the Tom Coughlin era as road favorites, surprisingly. And as much as I hate betting on a heavy public lean, it’s worth noting that the line movement is consistent with the action, so there’s no threat of a trap line. Besides, as I’ve mentioned, I love favorites this week because eventually that disparity between dogs and favorites (dogs are 63-39 ATS this year) will close. Neither dogs or favorites have finished over 10 games above .500 over the course of a whole season in at least the last decade.

Public lean: Oakland (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Kansas City covers)

Sharps lean: NYJ 18 DAL 8

Final update: One of just 4 clear sharps leans this week. I’m going to add a unit on the Giants. I like the Giants as road favorites a lot (17-7 ATS) and like favorites in general this week.

New York Giants 31 Dallas Cowboys 27

Pick against spread: NY Giants -2 (-110) 2 units

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Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: Week 8 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)

Before the bye, I made a big play on the Chiefs to win in Tampa Bay because I felt they were undervalued because of their terrible turnover differential. I noted how they were on a record worst pace in turnover differential and that, at the very least, that would slow. I also noted how they were recovering a very low percentage of all fumbles that hit the ground, how they were throwing interceptions at a rate far higher than Matt Cassel’s career rate, and how they weren’t forcing a lot of interceptions because of the caliber quarterbacks they had faced. I also brought up the inconsistency of turnovers.

But there was one thing I forgot to take into account: Brady Quinn. I’m not saying I didn’t know he was going to start. I factored him into the equation by basically saying that Quinn’s career interception rate was much lower than Cassel’s this season so even if you didn’t believe that Cassel’s interception rate would eventually go towards his career mark that you had to agree Quinn would be less likely to throw interceptions than Cassel would have.

The issue, however, is Quinn’s career YPA. Quinn’s career YPA is 5.4, more than a yard per attempt lower than not only Cassel’s career YPA, 6.6, but also his season YPA, 6.5. I cited yards per play as one of the statistics that showed the Chiefs were undervalued, but completely forgot to take into account that even though Quinn would be less likely to turn the ball over, he’d severely hurt their yard per play differential and stagnate their offense. That’s exactly what happened as the Chiefs were even in the turnover battle, but managed just 3.8 yards per play on offense. They also surrendered a whopping 9.1 yards per play defensively thanks to several big plays in a 38-10 losing effort.

If Cassel had been the one starting this game, I would have once again used the same argument to call the Chiefs undervalued, citing their yards per play differential in the games Cassel started and that their turnover differential would almost definitely improve for the reasons I listed above. However, for some reason, the Chiefs have chosen to go with Brady Quinn and that stagnant offense once again here this week. As a result, the Chiefs might actually be worse off than yards per play would suggest.

And yards per play doesn’t even suggest they are very good anymore, not after that abysmal showing in Tampa Bay, as they now rank 31st in the league in yards per play. I don’t think their defense will play as poorly as they did in Tampa Bay from here on out. That was an outlier. However, their offense will continue to be as stagnant as long as Quinn is the starter so I think that 31st place ranking is fair at best and possibly even overvalues them.

Using the yards per play method of determining line value, we get that Oakland, who ranks 17th with an even yards per play differential, should be 4.5 favorites here in Kansas City. I don’t just use that method anymore because it undervalues teams that don’t have a lot of big plays and undervalues teams that give up a lot of big plays (like the Chiefs did against Tampa Bay). Instead, I also use rate of sustaining drives differential, which compares how often, on any given set of downs, you convert for a first or score, as opposed to how often your defense allows the opponent to do so.

The Chiefs are better in this statistic because it doesn’t put as much value on the Chiefs’ defensive showing in Tampa Bay as yards per play differential does, as they rank 25th at -4.0%, while Oakland ranks 26th at -4.5%. That suggests that Kansas City should be -3.5 point favorites here at home, but it’s reasonable to expect the Chiefs to sink in that statistic with Quinn under center, stagnating this offense.

Right now, there are 8 teams in the league (Arizona, Seattle, Miami, Oakland, Cleveland, Carolina, Buffalo, Jacksonville) with a worse rate of sustaining drives than Kansas City, who convert for a first or a score on 72.3% of their downs, but most of that is Matt Cassel’s doing and won’t continue under Quinn. Against Tampa Bay, they converted just 60% of their sets of downs for first downs or scores, with 15 first downs, 2 turnovers on downs, 2 turnovers, and 6 punts. Either way we look at it, I think we’re getting line value with the Raiders and the Chiefs do not deserve to be home favorites.

Two trends work against the Chiefs here as well. For one, they’re divisional home favorites before being divisional road dogs as they head to San Diego to play the Chargers next week. Teams are 14-46 ATS in this spot since 2002. It certainly won’t help that they play San Diego on Thursday Night, just 4 days after this game. Meanwhile, Oakland hosts Tampa Bay next week and is expected to be favored. Dogs before being favorites are 84-46 ATS since 2011.

The Raiders seem like the right side, but it’s not a significant play for two reasons. One, picking Oakland means picking a publicly backed underdog and you’d have to be crazy to pick a publicly backed underdog this week for a significant play because eventually the favorite/underdog disparity will close (dogs are 63-39 ATS this year). If you can bet a favorite and simultaneously fade the public, you have to do it unless there’s a good reason not to (like that doing so means picking Brady Quinn as a favorite).

The 2nd reason is that crappy teams seem to be extra focused out of a bye. Since 1989, teams with 0 or 1 wins are 47-25 ATS out of their bye as long as it’s week 7 or later (those are the super crappy teams). As favorites, those teams are 8-2 ATS as favorites and 23-9 ATS in the division. I just can’t take Brady Quinn as a favorite, especially as a home divisional favorite before being a divisional dog and against a dog that will be a favorite next week. If Matt Cassel were starting, it probably would have been a unit on the Chiefs. Instead, I’m taking the Raiders. Instead of putting a unit on the money line and a unit on the spread, I’m going to put both on the money line. It’s never worth the 15 cents to have protection against a 1 point loss.

Public lean: Oakland (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Kansas City covers)

Sharps lean: KC 12 OAK 9

Final update: No change.

Oakland Raiders 17 Kansas City Chiefs 13 Upset Pick +105 2 units

Pick against spread: Kansas City +1 (-110) 0 units

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Dallas Cowboys extend S Barry Church

If you’re wondering who Barry Church is, don’t feel bad. He’s a 2010 undrafted free agent who has made 4 career starts and is currently on IR after tearing his Achilles week 3. Apparently, the Cowboys felt it was urgent to give him a 4 year extension worth 12.4 million with 3.9 million guaranteed before actually making sure a player who less than 3 years ago went undrafted could actually play. I don’t get this move at all. I get that they see him as a starter in 2013 once he returns from injury, but at least make the guy prove it first. He’s not an unrestricted free agent until 2014.

They made a similar move signing one time future starter Orlando Scandrick to a 5 year, 27 million dollar extension worth 10 million guaranteed before he proved anything in 2011. He struggled to nail down a starting job and the Cowboys gave up on him before the 2012 season, signing Brandon Carr to a 50 million dollar contract and trading their 1st and 2nd rounders to move up to grab Morris Claiborne so Carr and Claiborne could start for years to come, leaving Scandrick as a depth corner in sub packages. They may be making a similar mistake here, albeit with less money.

Grade: D

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New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos: Week 8 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Denver Broncos (3-3)

Drew Brees looks like Drew Brees again. He struggled, by his standards, in his first few games out of the gate, but you had to figure that eventually he’d get it together, even without Sean Payton, because he’s just too talented. In his last 3 games, he’s completed 91 of 136 for 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He’s now on pace for 5592 yards, which would break his own record set just last year, and he’s got a legitimate chance to do that if he continues to play this well or close to this well because of his team’s atrocious defense and running game. He’s currently on pace for 728 passing attempts, which would shatter Drew Bledsoe’s 18 year old record of 691.

However, just because Drew Brees looks like Drew Brees again doesn’t mean the Saints are the Saints again. They can’t run the ball or stop anyone. They rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards and rushing attempts and 26th in rushing yards per carry. Defensively, they rank 29th against the run, dead last against the pass, dead last in pass rush efficiency, and 29th in points per game allowed, allowing 30.3 per game. As a result, they’ve had to pass 273 times to 122 runs, not including quarterback scrambles and sacks, which were designed passes that don’t count as pass attempts.

You might not think of defense and running the football when you think of the Saints, but whenever they’ve been good, it’s something they’ve done. In 2009 when they won the Super Bowl, they ranked 6th in the league in rushing yards, 7th in the league in YPC, and allowed just 21.3 points per game. Last year, when they won 13 games, they allowed 21.2 points per game, ranked 6th in rushing yards, and 4th in YPC.

This year, they remind me a lot more of the 2008 Saints, when Drew Brees threw for over 5000 yards, but the team went 8-8 because he didn’t have any help. They ranked 28th in rushing yards, 23rd in yards per carry, and allowed 24.6 points per game, good for 26th in the league. Drew Brees might look like Drew Brees, but the Saints aren’t the Saints, even though people do seem to think they’re back. As a result, they’re a heavily backed underdog at +6 in Denver this week.

In order to see how overrated the Saints are, we need to look at where they rank in terms of yards per play differential and rate of sustaining drives differential. The former measures pure yards per play as opposed to their opponent’s, while the latter measures how often they convert any given set of downs for a first down or score, as opposed to their opponents. They rank just 26th in yards per play differential and 23rd in rate of sustaining drives differential.

Denver, meanwhile, ranks 2nd in yards per play differential and 13th in rate of sustaining drives. We can calculate “real” line using those two numbers and we get a real line of Denver -13.5 for the yards per play differential method and Denver -6.5 for the rate of sustaining drives method. The disparity is the reason I use both numbers because some teams can get a lot of big plays, but struggle to sustain drives or vice versa (and the opposite defensively), but both suggest we’re getting line value with the Broncos. This line is at -6 and the Saints are still a heavy publicly backed dog.

Speaking of the Saints being a heavy publicly backed underdog, I mentioned in earlier picks this week that, with one exception and one borderline exception, you’d have to be crazy to pick a public underdog this week. Underdogs are 63-39 ATS this year. Eventually, that will even out. It always does. Neither dogs nor favorites have finished more than 10 games over .500 ATS in the last decade at least. If you can get a situation where you can pick a favorite this week and simultaneously fade the public (the odds makers always win in the long run), you have to take it unless you have a really good reason not to. Given that the Saints are overrated right now, there isn’t a good reason not to here.

I also like Denver at home more than I like them on the road because they can run the hurry up in the thin atmosphere and tire out opponents. They’ve gotten 2 double digits wins at home this year, including a blowout over the Raiders, and hung close with the Texans. The Saints don’t travel well anyway. The Broncos have also played an awful tough schedule early playing the Steelers, Falcons, Texans, Raiders, Patriots, and Chargers. They’re better than their record would suggest.

Public lean: New Orleans (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Denver covers)

Sharps lean: NO 14 DEN 6

Final update: No change.

Denver Broncos 34 New Orleans Saints 24

Pick against spread: Denver -6 (-110) 2 units

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Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions: Week 8 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-3) at Detroit Lions (2-4)

I feel like I say this about the Seahawks every week when I pick their game, but I love picking their games because they have such a big home/road disparity. On the road, they are 16-29 ATS since 2007, as opposed to 30-14 ATS at home. As dogs, their record is even worse on the road as they are 12-23 ATS. On the East Coast at 1 PM, as is typically the case with west coast teams, they really struggle, going 4-14 ATS.

That being said, the Seahawks have some things going for them. The first and most obvious is that they are rested. Teams are 114-92 ATS on a Sunday the week after Thursday Night since 1989. They’re also road dogs off of a road loss. This is a strong trend in general as teams are 93-58 ATS in this spot since 2007. Teams tend to be better adjusted to playing on the road directly off another road game.

Even the Seahawks have some success in this spot, at least as compared to what they normally do on the road, going 3-2 ATS on the road as dogs off a loss since 2007. In their 2nd straight road game in general, they are 5-4 ATS. The Seahawks covered in this spot a couple weeks ago in Carolina. The Seahawks are also dogs before being favorites as they host Minnesota next week. Teams are 84-46 ATS in this spot since 2011.

I still like Detroit this week, but it’s for a smaller play. There are several reasons for that, aside from Seattle’s road struggles. For one, both metrics, yards per play differential and rate of sustaining drives differential suggests that Detroit is actually the better team. They’re 4th in the league in yards per play differential and 16th in rate of sustaining drives, while Seattle ranks 16th in yards per play and 20th in rate of sustaining drives. In the yards per play differential method of determining real line, Detroit is -6.5 and in the rate of sustaining drives differential method, Detroit is -4.5.

Neither of those metrics includes special teams, where Detroit has been horrible this year, and that’s one of the flaws with those two metrics. However, I don’t think Detroit’s special teams will be this bad all year because they’re on by far a record pace for futility. Detroit is better than their record. They’ve lost 4 games by 8, 3, 7, and 6. They’re also struggling with turnovers, with a turnover differential of -5, but that tends to even out over time (for more click here). I think we’re getting line value with the Lions, especially given Seattle’s road struggles. The 2nd reason I like Detroit is because this is a do or die game for a team that made the playoffs last year. This is their last stand, so they could easily play their best football game of the year. I don’t have a trend for this, but I like betting on former playoff teams in must win games.

The final reason I like Detroit is because favorites are evenly going to even things out. Dogs are 63-39 ATS this year, but the odds makers probably want to close that gap before the season is done so bettors don’t catch on and start picking all dogs. Neither dogs nor favorites have finished 10 games over .500 ATS in a single season in the last decade at least. Seattle actually has a slight public lean this week, so they’re a public dog. Even if it’s only barely, it still makes Detroit a good play because Detroit can cover without losing the odds makers money, which is obviously what they want. It’s always a good thing to want the same things as them. I like Detroit as long as the spread is 3 or lower.

Public lean: Seattle (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Detroit covers)

Sharps lean: DET 15 SEA 13

Final update: No change

Detroit Lions 20 Seattle Seahawks 13

Pick against spread: Detroit -2.5 (-110) 2 units

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