Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)

I was shocked that not only did the Colts beat the 49ers, but they beat them handily in San Francisco. Previously in the Andrew Luck era, they were sweating out close wins against bad teams and getting blown out by good teams, especially on the road. Last year, they played 7 games against teams who finished .500 or better. They went 3-4 in those games, which isn’t awful, but those wins came by 3, 3, and 12, while the losses came by 20, 35, 12, and 15. They went as good as their 11-5 record would have suggested last season, because of all of those blowout losses (plus a 35-9 loss to the freaking Jets!) and because they had 7 wins by 7 points or less against teams that won 7 or fewer games.

They were especially bad on the road last season, going 4-5 on the road with a point differential of -76 and an opponent’s overall record of 64-80. They didn’t really looked any better this season before last week, barely beating the Raiders at home and then losing to the Dolphins at home. However, unless the 49ers are significantly worse than we expect them to be, the Colts just blew out a good team on the road.

It’s very possible that was just an aberration. Yes, they did add Trent Richardson, but his impact (13/35/1) was minimal on that specific game. The reason they won last week is because they dominated the 49ers with their offensive line and secondary, which is something they had never really done before. I certainly see them as a better team as I did a week ago, but I’m not totally sold on them. What if they once again struggle to blow out an inferior opponent here in Jacksonville? The Jaguars beat the Colts by 3 and lost by 17 last season, meaning the Colts only outscored the Jaguars, on average, by 7 points per game last season. The Colts also only beat the 2-14 Chiefs by 7 in Kansas City last year. It shouldn’t surprise you if the same thing happens here.

The Colts are also in a bad spot coming off of a huge upset last week. Teams are 45-66 ATS since 1989 coming off of a win as double digit underdogs. I’m not that confident in Jacksonville for three reasons though. The first one is the possibility that the Colts are a legitimately improved team over last season and the first 2 weeks of this season. The second is the possibility that Trent Richardson has a huge game against a poor Jacksonville run defense and this time around becomes the reason why the Colts blow out an opponent. The third is just the possibility that the Jaguars are so terrible that the Colts won’t have to be an improved team to blow them out. I do feel Jacksonville is the right side though, with the Colts’ lack of a consistent history of blowing out inferior opponents, particularly on the road.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against spread: Jacksonville +9

Confidence: None

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Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Denver Broncos (3-0)

Teams who have blowout wins on Monday Night Football tend to carry that over into the following week. Teams are 29-13 ATS off of a win by 21 or more points on Monday Night Football since 2002. The Broncos didn’t win by 21+ last week, because of a late fumble that immediately led to an Oakland touchdown and shrunk the margin from 23 to 16. However, they completely dominated the Raiders in a way even worse than the final score would suggest.

The Broncos had 31 first downs to just 1 punt, while the Raiders had 13 first downs and punted 6 times. The Raiders actually won the turnover battle by 2, recovering both of the Broncos’ fumbles, both of which were pretty unforced. Teams who win the turnover battle by 2 win, on average, 82.1% of the time and outscore opponents by 9.64 points per game. They might not have won by 21 or more, but they certainly dominated in a way that could be carried over into this game.

I also think this is a very poor matchup for the Eagles. Their defense has no chance of stopping Peyton Manning and company. The Broncos have 78 first downs and 13 punts this season, while the Eagles have allowed 77 first downs and forced 9 punts. There’s a very good chance that the Broncos score on almost every possession and surpass 40 points in this one. The Eagles’ offense, meanwhile, might not be able to execute their game plan as they’d like because of the altitude in Denver. They won’t be used to the thinner air and that could easily hurt their ability to run a no huddle, hurry up offense.

The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because there’s no line value. The Broncos are favored by 11 points here which is a lot considering the Eagles aren’t a terrible team or anything. This line was also a lot lower last week before the Broncos blew out the Raiders and the Eagles lost at home to Kansas City. However, the Broncos should be the right side. They are also my Survivor Pick this week.

Denver Broncos 38 Philadelphia Eagles 20 Survivor Pick

Pick against spread: Denver -11

Confidence: Low

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Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)

The Saints have held all 3 of their opponents this season to 17 or fewer points this season, something they did a total of 3 times last season. Young stars have broken out, especially Cameron Jordan, who is playing like an All-Pro back at his collegiate position of 5-technique defensive end. The offense doesn’t look right yet, but I don’t have big concerns about that going forward. The Saints could possibly be as complete as they’ve been in years this season.

The Dolphins are also 3-0, but I haven’t really changed from my pre-season projection for them because none of their wins have surprised me all that much. Teams win 3 games in a row all the time (22 of 32 teams did last season, including these Dolphins, who finished 7-9) and it’s not usually that impressive, but it’s just so much more noticeable when it happens at the start of the season. I’m not saying the Dolphins are the 2011 Bills or the 2012 Cardinals, but they are the worst of the 3-0 teams right now.

The Dolphins are also banged up right now. Paul Soliai and Cameron Wake are both questionable for this one and might not play. This isn’t a huge, huge deal because the Dolphins have a lot of defensive line depth, but Cameron Wake is one of the best defensive players in the entire NFL. Having him out or limited is going to have a noticeable impact on the Dolphins’ defense. It’s going to make it very tough for the Dolphins to slow Drew Brees and Ryan Tannehill will be forced to keep up. Tannehill is improved, but I don’t think he can win a shootout, especially against an improved defense that can take the ball away.

I’m also not betting against the Saints in the Superdome. They’ve won and covered their last 11 instances at home under Sean Payton, dating back to the start of the 2011 season. Brees is also historically been very good on Monday Night Football as a member of the Saints, going 8-4 ATS in these situations in his career. This line is pretty high, but as long as it’s under a touchdown, the Saints are clearly the right side. I think this could easily be a blowout that establishes the Saints as contenders and knocks the Dolphins down a notch.

New Orleans Saints 27 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against spread: New Orleans -6.5

Confidence: Medium

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New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

The Patriots certainly have injuries, but the Falcons do as well. They are without starting running back Steven Jackson, talented linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, and have lost starting defensive end Kroy Biermann for the season. Meanwhile, Roddy White is limited with a high ankle sprain and has not looked anywhere near his normal self this season, catching 7 passes for 56 yards in 3 games. Left tackle Sam Baker also missed last week with injury and is listed questionable for this game. Lamar Holmes struggled mightily in his absence last week. The Falcons lost in Miami last week as 2.5 point underdogs and now they are 2 point favorites at home for the Patriots, which essentially suggests that the Dolphins and Patriots are pretty equal, which I think doesn’t make any sense.

The Patriots have had a very easy schedule thus far this year, but I’ve been impressed with their defense. They have allowed 48 first downs to 21 punts forced this season, which is one of the best in the NFL. They haven’t been challenged yet, but I like their chances of carrying that over against real competition. They were 9th in the NFL allowing 20.7 points per game last season with a very young defense so it’s conceivable they could be a borderline top-5 defense this season.

The offense clearly has not been impressive, but if you ignore that week 2 game against a tough Jets defense on a short week, they have 47 first downs to 9 punts. They have a full week to prepare for the Falcons this week and their young receivers will only continue to get better. On top of that, both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski could return. Both are questionable and there have been varying reports, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if one of them played, though I would be a little surprised if both played. Gronkowski seems more likely to play than not, while Amendola seems less likely to play than not.

Having one of both of them in the lineup, even if they aren’t at 100%, will help open things up on their offense, especially Gronkowski, who is not only more likely to return, but more valuable to the Patriots. Last season, Brady completed 65.1% of his passes for an average of 7.6 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. In his other 8 games, he completed just 58.7% of his passes for an average of 7.4 YPA, 17 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. He’ll be especially valuable in the red zone, where the Patriots have struggled mightily by not just their standards, but any standards this season. They were 3rd in the NFL last year, scoring a touchdown on 67.5% of red zone trips. This year, they are dead last, scoring a touchdown on 30.8% of red zone trips.

They should not be underdogs in Atlanta against the banged up Falcons. The Falcons’ 13 wins last year were done largely with smoke and mirror. 7 of those 13 wins came by a touchdown or less as they went 7-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less, something that tends to even out in the long run. It was also unlikely that the Falcons recover 64.3% of fumbles that hit the ground this season. They also faced just 2 playoff teams in the regular season last year.

The Falcons also lost a lot this off-season. They return just 2 starters in their original spot on an offensive line whose biggest strength was continuity, with the loss of right tackle Tyson Clabo being the biggest. They downgraded from John Abraham to Osi Umenyiora and also lost defensive tackle Vance Walker. Now they are getting killed by injuries. They have no business being favored here. On top of that, Tom Brady is 28-13 ATS as an underdog in his career. They’re being overlooked right now and could easily play by far their best game of the season against their toughest opponent yet.

This would be a bigger play or even a Pick of the Week if I knew the status of Amendola and/or Gronkowski and if the Falcons weren’t coming off of a loss. They are 18-4 ATS off of a loss since 2008. They are also very good at home, as Matt Ryan is 34-7 at home in his career and 25-15 ATS and 22-12 ATS as home favorites. However, I feel like this line is so far off that those trends don’t matter as much. The Patriots should be the right side.

New England Patriots 23 Atlanta Falcons 16 Upset Pick +110

Pick against spread: New England +2

Confidence: Medium

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Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1)

The Seahawks are a significantly better team at home than on the road and have been for years. Since 2007, they are 34-18 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 7.1 points per games and going 36-15 ATS. Meanwhile, on the road, they are 16-37, getting outscored by an average of 6.4 points per game and going 21-31 ATS. However, the Seahawks are 7-6 ATS as road favorites in that time frame. They’re also are playing so well right now that I’m not picking against them as mere field goal favorites in Houston.

They started last season poorly on the road, losing in St. Louis, Arizona, Miami, and Detroit. However, they’ve won 11 of their last 13 overall dating back to the middle of last season, as Russell Wilson has completed 209 of 318 (65.7%) for 2888 yards (9.1 YPA), 25 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. They’ve outscored opponents by an average of 17.5 points per game over last 13 games overall, including 8.2 points per game on the road. They are 4-2 on the road over that stretch, including 5-1 ATS. They’re playing too well right now to bet against them unless the lines start to skyrocket. If anything, they’re underrated right now.

The Texans, meanwhile, are still pretty overrated. This is simply not the same team they were last season when they started out so well. The Texans could easily be 0-3 right now, needing comebacks to beat both the Chargers and Titans, two supposedly inferior opponents. They haven’t really played that well dating back to last season. Over their last 16 games (including playoffs), a full season’s worth, they are 10-6, but also -10 in point differential. I’m not confident in the Seahawks because of how they started last season on the road, but they should be the right side.

Seattle Seahawks 16 Houston Texans 10

Pick against spread: Seattle -3

Confidence: None

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Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2)

The Browns won last week in Minnesota, but they will find live a lot tougher this week against the Bengals. For one, they probably won’t be as successful if they try trick play again, like they did last week, when their punter threw an 11-yard touchdown and a special teamer had a 34 yard run. Take away that 34 yard run and a 22 yard run by Josh Gordon, they had just 47 rushing yards on 15 carries in their first week without Trent Richardson and that was against the Vikings. The Bengals run defense is much tougher and will make life very hard for the trio of Willis McGahee, Bobby Rainer, and Chris Ogbonnaya.

That’s going to make live tougher for Brian Hoyer, who was going to find live harder anyway against a Cincinnati pass defense that is much better than Minnesota’s. Hoyer had a solid week last week, but he also completed just 55.6% of his passes, averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt and threw 3 interceptions so he’s hardly the Browns’ savior. Throughout his career, he’s completed just 58.0% of his passes for an average of 6.3 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He’ll be overmatched against the Bengals, even with Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson expected out for the Bengals. Their front 7, particularly their defensive line, will help mask their absence.

The Bengals generally play well against bad teams in the Andy Dalton era, as they had an 18-4 record in 2011 and 2012 combined against non-playoff teams. They’re even better this year, coming off a statement win over the Packers, a likely playoff team. They were 1-11 against such teams in 2011 and 2012, but they beat the Packers despite losing the turnover battle by 2. Teams win just 17.9% of the time when losing the turnover battle by 2 historically.

I still think Andy Dalton is a limiting factor on this team, but his previous 1-11 record in 2011 and 2012 against eventual playoff teams doesn’t seem relevant at this point. His supporting cast is definitely good enough to mask his flaws, especially their defense. His supporting cast will make life easy for him this week against a weaker opponent. The Bengals should be able to establish their game plan easily against the Browns, as they usually do against weak opponents. This would be a higher confidence pick if the line were below the key numbers of 3 and 4, but I still feel pretty confident the Bengals get a big win here.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 Cleveland Browns 10

Pick against spread: Cincinnati -4.5

Confidence: Medium

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New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs: 2013 Week 4 NFL Pick

New York Giants (0-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)

The Giants are an NFL worst -9 in turnovers, while the Chiefs are an NFL best +9 in turnovers. Therefore, the Chiefs should dominate the turnover battle and win this game right? Well, that’s not necessarily true. Turnover margin tends to be very inconsistent on a week to week (and year to year) basis. For example, teams who win the turnover battle by 4 one week, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week. Teams who lose the turnover battle by 4 one week, same thing, an average of+0.0 the following week.

Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception on 105 attempts this year, but that’s not going to continue. He simply hasn’t really been tested and, as a result, hasn’t had to make a lot of high risk throws. He’s attempted just 18 of 105 passes more than 10 yards through the air and just 4 more than 20 yards through the air. He also hasn’t completed a single pass outside the hash marks longer than 10 yards downfield all season.

Eli Manning, meanwhile, has thrown an interception on 7.0% of his pass attempts, which also won’t continue. This is a guy who has thrown an interception on 3.3% of his 4571 career pass attempts. This stretch is just a fluke and a lot of the interceptions haven’t been his fault. The Giants are also unlikely to continue recovering just 22.2% of fumbles all season, while the Chiefs are also unlikely to recover just 85.7% of fumbles all season. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Giants won the turnover battle in this one. As a result, I feel the Giants are undervalued, while the Chiefs are overvalued.

The Giants are also in a good spot as road dogs coming off of a road loss, a situation teams are 89-54 ATS in since 2008. Teams recover in this situation about 65% of the time historically, regardless of what year you use to cut off your sample size. They’re also coming off of a blowout loss, losing 38-0 in Carolina last week. Teams are 43-22 ATS since 2002 off of a 35+ point loss. Teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed in that situation. That’s very likely the case here. The Giants are 0-3 here and their season is pretty much over if they lose, while the Chiefs, who are 3-0, could overlook them.

The Giants have also historically been a better road team than home team, going 50-31 ATS on the road since 2004, the start of the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era. They are especially good as road dogs, going 32-18 ATS in that situation in the aforementioned time frame. This team has always thrived when overlooked and when nobody believes in them and I think that’s definitely the case this week. They’re especially good as road dogs early in the season, going 17-7 ATS as road dogs before week 10 since 2004.

They’re generally a better team in the first half of the season anyway. Since 2004, the same season as Eli Manning became the starter, the Giants are 53-22 in the first 8 games of the season and 30-42 in the second 8 games of the season. Clearly that hasn’t been the case here so far this season, but I think it’s still worth noting. The Giants starting a season 0-4 would be pretty ridiculous considering their history. It’s not my primary reason for taking them here, but it works well with everything else I’ve mentioned.

We’re not getting a ton of line value here, with the Chiefs only as 4.5 point favorites, but I think the odds makers are keeping the line intentionally low as a kind of trap line, and the majority of the action is on the Chiefs. That just reinforces my belief that the Giants are the right side and fortunately this line has passed the critical numbers of 3 and 4. That’s important because 29% of NFL games are decided by 4 points or less. That’s a pretty good cushion with the Giants in case they can’t win. As long as this line is 4.5 points or higher, it’s my Pick of the Week.

New York Giants 24 Kansas City Chiefs 17 Upset Pick +175

Pick against spread: NY Giants +4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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