Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9)

At first glance, the Buccaneers are in a terrible spot. After this game, they have to go to Detroit, where they could easily be double digit underdogs. The early line was 9, but after Detroit looked good on national TV on Thanksgiving that line could be pushed into double figures. Teams are 42-86 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs as a tough game like that upcoming presents a massive distraction. Even if the line ends up being 9 or 9.5, it’s still worth mentioning and the logic could still hold either way. Going off of that, non-divisional home underdogs are 99-124 ATS since 2002 before being non-divisional road underdogs, no matter what the following week’s line is.

Making matters even worse, the Buccaneers are an embarrassing 13-31 ATS since 2009 at home, including 5-20 ATS as home underdogs. This season, they are 0-5 ATS at home and haven’t won any of those 5 games despite being favored in 3 of them (Carolina, St. Louis, and Minnesota) and playing 4 of them against 4 teams that are currently a combined 11-28-1. The only team they’ve played at home this season that this currently better than 4-7 was the Ravens who blew them out 48-17.

However, despite the Buccaneers’ terrible home record and the Bengals’ reasonable road record (3-2 straight up and against the spread), the Buccaneers have actually performed better in rate of moving the chains differential at home this season than the Bengals have on the road, regardless of what the records say. The Buccaneers have won the chains battle in 3 of 5 home games this season, while the Bengals have lost it in 3 of 5 road games.

On the season, the Bengals have moved the chains at a 68.35% rate, as opposed to 75.84% for their opponents, on the road, a differential of -7.50%. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have moved them at a 71.72% rate, as opposed to 74.19% for their opponents, at home, a differential of -3.07%. It’s not enough for me to take the Buccaneers, but it’s enough for me not to be confident in Cincinnati, especially since they take on Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Denver, and Pittsburgh in their final 4 games after this random game against a 2-9 non-conference opponent and especially since the public is all over Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -3.5

Confidence: None

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Oakland Raiders at St. Louis Rams: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-10) at St. Louis Rams (4-7)

One of the most powerful trends says that teams that finish 6-10 or worse cover the spread as 6+ point favorites about a quarter of the time historically. The problem with this trend is it’s often very hard to know whether or not a team favored by 6 or more is actually going to finish 6-10 or worse. The Rams sit here at 4-7 favored by 7 over Oakland needing to go 3-2 to finish above 6-10. They’re only favored in 2 of their remaining 5 games, this one against Oakland and a week 16 matchup in St. Louis with the Giants, which suggests they are likely to finish 6-10 or worse. On top of that, they are expected to be underdogs in Washington next week and non-divisional home favorites are 77-108 ATS since 2002 before being non-divisional road underdogs.

However, the line in the St. Louis/Washington game is only 1 and could easily switch to St. Louis being favored. According to the odds makers, that game is essentially a 50/50 toss-up. I disagree because I think the Redskins are underrated, but the Rams are very far from a lock to go 6-10 or worse. The six and six trend could easily not be in play this week. The Rams are also very far from a lock to be underdogs in Washington next week, so that other trend I mentioned could easily not be in play this week.

Oakland, however, does have a very tough game next week as they head home to face the 49ers. Teams are 91-125 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being non-divisional home underdogs. Even worse, teams are 57-89 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3 or more, 29-62 ATS before being road favorites of 4 or more, and 9-24 ATS before being road favorites of 7 or more (the early line is San Francisco -7.5). That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough, important game coming up. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. Here, I think it’s both.

Speaking of the Raiders not being a very good football team, they still rank dead last in rate of moving the chains differential, even after last week’s win over the Chiefs, their first win of the season. They move the chains at a 63.48% rate, as opposed to 73.50% for their opponents, a differential of -10.02%. No one else has a differential worse than -8.55% (Tennessee). The Rams aren’t great, moving the chains at a 69.50% rate, as opposed to 74.03% for their opponents, a differential of -4.53% that ranks 26th in the NFL. However, they are good enough that I don’t have a problem taking them as touchdown favorites over the Raiders, though I’m not confident.

St. Louis Rams 23 Oakland Raiders 13

Pick against the spread: St. Louis -7

Confidence: None

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Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-7)

This line is right about where it should be at 2.5 in favor of the Vikings. The Panthers are a little bit better than the Vikings on the season, moving the chains at a 71.84% rate, as opposed to 76.04% for their opponents, a differential of -4.21% that ranks 25th. For comparison, the Vikings are two spots down at 27, moving the chains at a 68.65% rate, as opposed to 73.81% for their opponents, a differential of -5.16%. However, as long as this line is under 3 in favor of Minnesota, we’re not getting any real line value with the Panthers, especially since Star Lotulelei will likely remain out with an ankle injury for Carolina.

However, I do like the Panthers for a low confidence pick this week. I think this game will mean more to them as they look to end a 5 game losing streak. Adding in the tie in Cincinnati, the Panthers haven’t won since week 5 and have one win since week 2. They’re the more desperate and embarrassed team and can take advantage of a Minnesota team that could be flat after playing the Packers so close and losing last week. Teams are 74-54 ATS since 2002 on a 5+ game losing streak. On top of that, teams are 24-9 ATS since 1989 on a 5+ game losing streak off of a bye. They’ve had 2 weeks to regroup and I expect them to get back into the win column this week, though I’m not that confident as long as the line is under 3.

Carolina Panthers 20 Minnesota Vikings 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Carolina +2.5

Confidence: Low

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Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (2-9) at Houston Texans (5-6)

The Titans are in their 2nd of two road games which is typically a good spot for teams. Teams are 110-74 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 93-52 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 187-191 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.36 points per game, as opposed to 262-380 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.34 points per game.

However, I’m going to go the other way this week for two reasons. For one, the Texans are also in a good spot this week. Divisional home favorites are 115-84 ATS since 1989 before being divisional road favorites and the Texans have a trip to Jacksonville on deck. The early line for that game is 3.5. Teams are 87-57 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites and 55-33 ATS before being 4+ point favorites. The Texans have no distractions on the horizon and should be completely focused to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

Speaking of the Titans being an inferior opponent, this line isn’t nearly high enough. The Texans aren’t a great team, but they are significantly better than the Titans, ranking 24th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 70.36% rate, as opposed to 73.24% for their opponents, a differential of -2.88%. The Titans, meanwhile, rank all the way down at 31st, moving the chains at a 67.55% rate, as opposed to 76.10% for their opponents, a differential of -8.55%. We’re not getting any line value whatsoever with the Titans so I can’t take them this week. I’m not confident in Houston, but they should be the right side.

Houston Texans 23 Tennessee Titans 13

Pick against the spread: Houston -6.5

Confidence: None

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New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (3-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)

At first glance, as bad as the Jaguars are, this line does make sense. The Jaguars rank 30th, moving the chains at a 65.53% rate, as opposed to 73.01% for their opponents, a differential of -7.48%. However, the Giants aren’t exactly great, moving the chains at a 73.08% rate, as opposed to 74.79% for their opponents, a differential of 1.71% that ranks 21st in the NFL. That suggests that this line (2.5 or 3 depending on where you go it) is right around where it should be.

However, that doesn’t take into account that the Giants are typically cover the spread on the road in the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era. Since 2004, the Giants are 51-41 on the road, getting outscored by an average of 0.51 points per game, as opposed to 50-40 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.64 points per game. The Giants seem to only be marginally better at home (about 3 points), but the odds makers have never really caught on to that. As a result, they are 55-37 ATS on the road over that time period, including 14-7 ATS as non-divisional road underdogs, as they are here.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are in a bad spot with the Texans coming to town next. Non-divisional home underdogs are 33-53 ATS since 1989 before being divisional home underdogs. On top of that, teams are 57-89 ATS before being 3+ point home underdogs since 2012. 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. The Jaguars are a bad team and could easily be distracted by a divisional opponent coming to town next week and overlook this random non-conference opponent.

The only reason this isn’t a higher confidence pick is that the public is all over the Giants at an alarming rate. I hate siding with heavy publicly backed sides because the odds makers always make money in the long run. The public doesn’t see how the Giants could not win by 3 or more and this could very well be a trap game because it’s too good to be true. There are enough reasons for me to side with the public with this one, but I’m worried I’m missing something. This is a medium confidence pick at 2.5 and a low confidence pick at 3.

New York Giants 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against spread: NY Giants -2.5

Confidence: Medium

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Miami Dolphins at New York Jets: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (6-5) at New York Jets (2-9)

The Jets were blown out last Monday, losing 38-3 in Detroit to the Bills in a game that had both its time and its location moved by a snow storm in Buffalo. Teams generally don’t do well off of a Monday Night blowout loss, going 18-28 ATS since 2002 after a loss on Monday Night by 21 or more. However, it’s unclear if the same type of thing will happen here because that game wasn’t nationally televised so it wasn’t as embarrassing.

The Jets also play again on Monday Night Football here, so they’ll have an extra day to regroup that they wouldn’t have otherwise had. There’s almost no data on teams playing back-to-back Monday Night games because the NFL doesn’t schedule those for teams. It takes a special act of nature for something like this to happen so that kind of leaves us in the dark in terms of what the Jets’ mental state will be this week and whether or not they’ll be able to bounce back. We do know that teams generally do well off of a blowout loss by 35 or more in general, going 47-25 ATS since 2002. This makes sense as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot.

However, on the other hand, divisional home underdogs do not do well in nationally televised night games, going 31-59 ATS since 1989. They’re also the significantly inferior team here as the Dolphins remain better than their record, especially after coming close to knocking off the Broncos in Denver last week. They still rank 4th, moving the chains at a 75.76% rate, as opposed to 70.94% for their opponents, a differential of 4.82%.

The Jets, meanwhile, rank 28th, moving the chains at a 68.22% rate, as opposed to 73.54% for their opponents, a differential of -5.31%. Making things even worse for the Jets, Muhammad Wilkerson is expected to be out for this game and he’s one of their few good players. As high as this line is at 6.5, it’s not quite high enough so while the Jets could be overlooked and embarrassed, I don’t think they’re undervalued. There’s not enough here for me to be that confident in Miami, but they should be the right side.

Miami Dolphins 27 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: Miami -6.5

Confidence: Low

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Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (7-4) at Buffalo Bills (6-5)

I’m completely split on this one. On one hand, the Browns are in their 2nd of two road games, which tends to be a good spot for teams. Teams are 46-26 ATS since 2008 as road underdogs off of a win as road underdogs. 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 187-191 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.36 points per game, as opposed to 262-380 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.34 points per game.

On the other hand, the Bills are coming off of a Monday Night Football blowout win. Teams are 33-15 ATS since 2002 off of a win on Monday Night Football by 21 or more. Teams tend to carry that momentum into the next week. However, it’s unclear if that will still happen because the Bills played a weird Monday Night game last week, beating the Jets 38-3 in Detroit in a game that started at 7 PM ET and that wasn’t nationally televised, as a result of a snowstorm forcing to location and the time of the game to be changed. That adds uncertainty to the situation this week.

Both of these two teams have tough games next week, as the Bills head to Denver and the Browns host the Colts. Non-divisional home favorites are 73-99 ATS since 2002 before being non-divisional road underdogs. Even worse, the Bills could be double digit underdogs in Denver next week. Teams are 42-86 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs as a tough game like that upcoming presents a massive distraction. The early line is 9.5 so that trend might not be in play, but it’s still worth mentioning and the logic could still hold either way.

On the Browns’ side, non-divisional road underdogs are 92-126 ATS since 2002 before being non-divisional home underdogs. On top of that, teams are 57-89 ATS before being 3+ point home underdogs since 2012. The early line is right at 3 and may end up being less than 3, so that trend isn’t definitely in play, but again it’s worth mentioning and the logic still holds. The Browns are the better of these two teams, moving the chains at a 71.19% rate, as opposed to 70.73% for their opponents, a differential of 0.46% that ranks 17th in the NFL. The Bills, meanwhile, rank just 22nd, moving the chains at a 66.25% rate, as opposed to 68.22% for their opponents, a differential of -1.97%. However, this line is under 3 so we’re not really getting any real line value with the Browns. I’m going to take the Bills and hope the home team wins by a field goal and continues their momentum from last week, but I’m not confident at all.

Buffalo Bills 16 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -2.5

Confidence: None

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