Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers: 2014 Week 5 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-2)

I thought about waiting until we found out Teddy Bridgewater’s status for this one and who the starting quarterback would be for the Vikings, but I have a feeling this line is going to increase closer to game time so I want to lock it in right now at Green Bay -9. If I had to guess, Bridgewater will not play in this one, nursing a sore ankle on a short week, leaving Christian Ponder to be the starter. Once that’s announced, this line could be closer to 10.5-12. Even if Bridgewater plays, it’ll be at less than 100% on a short week after missing valuable practice time going into his 2nd NFL career start on the road. He’s clearly their most talented quarterback, but that might be too much for him right now.

I like the Packers in this one regardless as they’ve been very dominant at home recently. Aaron Rodgers is 21-9-1 ATS at home since 2010 and 27-4 straight up, with an absurd +416 point differential, meaning they outscore opponents, on average, by 13.42 points per game. They also have no distractions on the horizon with a random non-conference game against the Dolphins in Miami up next, while the Vikings will have to deal with the division leading Lions next week in Minnesota. Teams are 47-75 ATS before being 3+ home favorites since 2012 and teams are 57-87 ATS since 2002 as road underdogs before being home underdogs when their opponent will next be road favorites. The Packers should be the right side and I’m not waiting around for this line to go up to 10 or higher.

Green Bay Packers 27 Minnesota Vikings 13

Pick against spread: Green Bay -9

Confidence: Medium

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Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots: 2014 Week 5 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-2)

The Patriots are in three spots this week that have easily been auto-bets for them in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. They are 1.5 point underdogs here at home. They are coming off of a loss. And they are facing an opponent with a better record than them. Tom Brady is 31-15 ATS off of a loss in his career. Brady is also 42-18 ATS as an underdog or a favorite of fewer than 3 points in his career. This is just the 6th time the Patriots have been home underdogs since 2002. So far, they are 3-1 ATS and 3-1 straight up. Finally, he’s 30-10-1 ATS in his career against teams that have better records than his, including 18-6 ATS as an underdog. Possibly even crazier, he’s 29-12 straight up in that situation, a winning percentage of 70.7%. The rest of the league wins at a 38.6% rate.

The Patriots haven’t looked good at all this season. They rank 26th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 66.96% rate, as opposed to 72.00% for their opponents. That rate of moving the chains is 29th in the NFL, meaning only 3 teams are moving the chains at a worse rate than the New England Patriots. Those three teams include two that have benched their starting quarterback (Buffalo and Jacksonville) and one that has fired their head coach (Oakland). Not exactly good company. However, I don’t think they’re nearly as bad as they’ve looked. They still have a ton of talent on paper. They won’t be nearly this bad all season.

It helps them that they return home here. They’ve played just 1 home game out of 4 so far and that was week 3 after starting the season with two road games. They didn’t cover as 14 point favorites against the Raiders that week, but teams that start with two straight road games more often than not don’t cover week 3 at home. The Patriots have still won 10 straight home games and 12 of their last 13, going 9-4 ATS over that time period. Unlike the last time they are at home, they’re in a very good spot this week, and I’m not just referring to the trends I mentioned earlier. They have no distractions on the horizon with a trip to Buffalo on deck. They should be at least 3 point road favorites in that game and teams are 71-47 ATS before being 3+ point road favorites since 2012. On top of that, teams are 66-42 ATS as home underdogs before being road favorites since 2002.

While the Patriots have been having recent success at home, the Bengals have had issues on the road over the past couple of seasons. While they have covered in all 10 home games over the past two seasons, they are 3-5-1 ATS and 4-5 straight up on the road. That included losses in 2013 to non-playoff teams like Cleveland, Miami, Chicago, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh and a close call in Buffalo. They won in Baltimore week 1, but they only moved the chains at a 62.96% rate, as opposed to 75.68% for the Ravens. Ordinarily, I’d be more confident in the Patriots in this spot, but, again, they’ve really struggled this season. That being said, I think this line has moved far enough that we’re actually getting some value with the Patriots right now, so I think they should be the right side.

New England Patriots 23 Cincinnati Bengals 16 Upset Pick +115

Pick against spread: New England +1.5

Confidence: High

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 2014 Week 5 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) at New Orleans Saints (1-3)

The Saints are 1-3, which has caused some people to hit the panic button for them, much like they did for the Packers last week (how did that work out?). The Saints did not look good in Dallas last week, but you have to look at more than their record. Three of their first four games have been on the road and they came very close to winning two of them. They are a few plays away from being 3-1 with a couple of decent road wins. If the Saints were 3-0 going into Dallas last week, would as big of a deal be made about their loss? I don’t think so. The Saints are still moving the chains at an 81.56% rate and while their defense is allowing opponents to move the chains at a 79.20% rate, I expect what was a solid defense last season to bounce back and they’re still positive in rate of moving the chains differential, coming in at 15th.

I like the Saints’ chances to bounce back this week. Not only is Drew Brees 19-5 ATS off of a loss as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline (including 14-2 ATS at home), the Saints are a much better team at home than they are on the road. The Saints are 32-10 ATS at home since 2008 in the games which Drew Brees and Sean Payton were involved.  On top of that, they are 17-0-1 ATS at home over their last 18 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. They’ve won all 18 of those games by an average of about 20.3 points per game, with just three being decided by 10 points or less and just one being decided by less than 6 points.

They should be able to win by double digits here against a mediocre Buccaneers team that has to be exhausted in their 3rd straight road game. Underdogs are 50-65 ATS in their 3rd or more straight road game since 1989 and it makes sense. Meanwhile, the Saints are going into their bye so they’ll be completely focused here at home for a depleted, mediocre football team. Big home favorites almost always dominate going into the bye, to the tune of 53-17 ATS since 2002 (as home favorites of 6 or more).

New Orleans Saints 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

Pick against spread: New Orleans -10

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants: 2014 Week 5 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2)

The Falcons’ road woes are well documented and they reared their head again last week as the Falcons lost to the Vikings and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota, a week after blowing out the Buccaneers 56-14 on Thursday Night Football. Now they are once again on the road in New York to play the Giants, but I expect a different result. Instead of being in their first road game, they are in their 2nd of two road games, which makes a huge difference.

Teams are 103-67 ATS in that situation since 2008, including 88-46 ATS when it’s their 2nd 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 173-179 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 242-349 in their 1st of one road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.22 points per game. As much as the Falcons have had road issues in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era, they’ve done well in their 2nd of two road games, going 10-4 in their second straight road game, including 6-2 ATS off of a road loss. Going off of that, Matt Ryan is 23-10 ATS off of a loss in his career. This line is a huge overreaction to things that happened last week as it was a pick ’em a week ago. We’re getting a lot of value with the Falcons as this line should be 3 points at maximum. The Falcons aren’t worse than the Giants.

As much as the Falcons have issues on the road, the Giants actually have issues at home. In the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era, since 2004, the Giants are 51-38 on the road, outscoring opponents by an average of 0.12 points per game, as opposed to 49-37 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.94 points per game. The Giants seem to only be marginally better at home. Going off of that, they are 6-15 ATS since 2004 as home favorites of 3.5 or more after winning on the road.

The Giants are also in a bad spot because they have to go to Philadelphia next week, while the Falcons head home and take on the Bears, a much easier and less meaningful game for them. They’re significantly less likely to be distracted for that reason. Since 2008, non-divisional road underdogs are 106-70 ATS before being non-divisional home favorites, while teams are 84-103 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs since 2002. Combining the two, teams are 93-55 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, including 93-56 ATS since 2008 as road underdogs before being home favorites when their opponent will next be road underdogs. This is a trap spot for the Giants and I like the underdog a good amount as long as this line is past the magic number of 4.

Atlanta Falcons 24 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick +185

Pick against spread: Atlanta +4.5

Confidence: High

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Rate of Moving the Chains – Week 5

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

Offense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 NO 103 12 5 13 7 1 0 81.56%
2 BAL 99 11 11 10 3 2 0 80.88%
3 CHI 98 10 5 14 6 1 0 80.60%
4 IND 107 15 8 14 5 3 0 80.26%
5 DAL 95 12 8 12 7 0 0 79.85%
6 KC 92 12 6 16 5 2 0 78.20%
7 ATL 96 15 5 16 10 1 0 77.62%
8 GB 79 11 6 13 3 2 2 77.59%
9 ARZ 67 5 9 9 3 0 0 77.42%
10 DEN 63 9 3 16 2 0 0 77.42%
11 SEA 65 10 5 12 3 1 1 77.32%
12 NYG 97 13 4 18 8 3 0 76.92%
13 CLE 65 8 6 16 0 0 0 76.84%
14 WAS 96 12 5 16 9 3 0 76.60%
15 PIT 92 9 10 17 5 0 0 75.94%
16 SD 81 10 10 18 1 1 0 75.21%
17 SF 78 9 8 15 5 1 0 75.00%
18 DET 79 9 9 15 6 1 0 73.95%
19 CIN 62 8 11 12 1 1 0 73.68%
20 STL 61 4 8 9 6 1 0 73.03%
21 CAR 79 7 9 20 3 0 0 72.88%
22 MIN 74 8 11 16 4 1 0 71.93%
23 MIA 90 9 9 16 8 6 0 71.74%
24 TB 66 8 4 16 10 1 0 70.48%
25 HOU 75 7 9 18 7 1 0 70.09%
26 NYJ 77 8 8 19 8 2 0 69.67%
27 PHI 81 9 9 20 9 2 0 69.23%
28 TEN 75 6 8 21 7 2 1 67.50%
29 NE 70 7 8 21 5 4 0 66.96%
30 OAK 64 6 3 23 9 1 0 66.04%
31 JAX 65 7 5 23 8 4 0 64.29%
32 BUF 63 6 11 23 3 2 1 63.30%

 

Defense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 MIA 73 10 8 20 8 3 0 68.03% 2.36%
2 DET 67 7 4 22 5 2 1 68.52% 9.59%
3 KC 74 8 8 22 3 2 0 70.09% 6.46%
4 CIN 67 4 5 14 7 3 1 70.30% 7.03%
5 NYJ 70 10 7 24 2 0 0 70.80% 4.20%
6 BUF 91 6 8 21 8 3 0 70.80% 8.11%
7 BAL 72 5 11 16 4 0 0 71.30% 2.62%
8 PHI 90 11 12 21 5 2 0 71.63% -4.23%
9 NE 82 8 10 16 8 1 0 72.00% 3.26%
10 HOU 85 8 4 21 9 2 0 72.09% -0.06%
11 WAS 77 11 6 23 4 1 0 72.13% 3.09%
12 NYG 78 9 8 14 9 1 0 73.11% 3.81%
13 IND 82 11 7 20 7 0 0 73.23% 1.14%
14 SD 75 8 3 15 6 5 1 73.45% 4.46%
15 CHI 76 10 11 9 8 2 0 74.14% -0.80%
16 ARZ 60 6 2 14 5 2 0 74.16% 1.76%
17 SEA 65 7 5 15 3 1 1 74.23% -0.21%
18 MIN 81 9 6 20 4 1 0 74.38% 5.43%
19 ATL 87 12 11 15 7 0 0 75.00% 3.39%
20 SF 80 8 4 14 9 2 0 75.21% -5.72%
21 OAK 85 10 10 14 5 2 0 75.40% -4.90%
22 DAL 78 9 5 12 8 3 0 75.65% -2.45%
23 CLE 73 8 7 14 4 1 0 75.70% 3.71%
24 TEN 97 12 9 17 6 2 0 76.22% -7.14%
25 PIT 89 10 10 16 3 1 0 76.74% -2.01%
26 DEN 78 8 6 12 3 3 1 77.48% -1.12%
27 TB 92 12 10 14 6 0 0 77.61% -2.40%
28 CAR 87 11 7 14 6 1 0 77.78% -8.72%
29 STL 55 8 6 8 3 0 0 78.75% -5.04%
30 JAX 102 15 11 15 3 2 0 79.05% -9.36%
31 NO 88 11 9 16 1 0 0 79.20% -14.77%
32 GB 98 10 6 9 7 2 0 81.82% -7.50%

 

Overall

1 BAL 9.59%
2 KC 8.11%
3 IND 7.03%
4 CHI 6.46%
5 DET 5.43%
6 WAS 4.46%
7 DAL 4.20%
8 NYG 3.81%
9 MIA 3.71%
10 CIN 3.39%
11 ARZ 3.26%
12 SEA 3.09%
13 ATL 2.62%
14 NO 2.36%
15 SD 1.76%
16 CLE 1.14%
17 DEN -0.06%
18 SF -0.21%
19 PIT -0.80%
20 NYJ -1.12%
21 HOU -2.01%
22 PHI -2.40%
23 MIN -2.45%
24 GB -4.23%
25 CAR -4.90%
26 NE -5.04%
27 STL -5.72%
28 TB -7.14%
29 BUF -7.50%
30 TEN -8.72%
31 OAK -9.36%
32 JAX -14.77%

2014 Week 4 NFL Pick Results

Against the Spread: 8-4-1

Straight Up: 9-4

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence: 0-0

Medium Confidence: 1-2

Low Confidence: 5-1-1

No Confidence: 1-1

Upset Picks: 2-0

Against the Spread: 39-21-1

Straight Up: 36-25

Pick of the Week: 3-1

High Confidence: 1-3

Medium Confidence: 14-4

Low Confidence: 11-6-1

No Confidence: 10-7

Upset Picks: 5-4

Survivor Picks: 4-0 (PHI, GB, NO, SD)

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New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs: 2014 Week 4 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)

This is another game where there’s been significant line movement as the Patriots were 6.5 point favorites last week in this game and now they’re 3.5 point favorites, after the Patriots barely beat the Raiders in New England and the Chiefs won big time as underdogs in Miami. There are reasonable explanations for both as the Patriots were coming off of two straight road games (a tough spot for a team week 3) and the Chiefs were in their 2nd straight road game (usually a spot where teams cover). Some line movement was warranted, but 3 points seems a little much.

That being said, I’m hesitant to bet on the Patriots as big favorites. Tom Brady has been showing his age much more over the past two seasons than he was pre-2013. Things will get easier for him once Gronk returns to form, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll do so this week. On top of that, Brady’s arm strength seems close to gone and his mechanics have been slower. Declines can get guys fast and, now 37, I’m concerned that’s happening with Brady. Not helping matters is how poorly his offensive line has been playing. It’s why I didn’t take the Patriots as double touchdown favorites last week. I’m taking the Patriots this week, banking on their defense allowing them to bounce back and not have back-to-back disappointing performances and fading the line movement and the public underdog on principle, but I’m not confident.

New England Patriots 20 Kansas City Chiefs 13

Pick against spread: New England -3.5

Confidence: None

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