St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

St. Louis Rams (6-9) at Seattle Seahawks (11-4)

The Seahawks had easily the most impressive win of the week last week, going into Arizona, where the Cardinals were 7-0 at home this season and 29-11 ATS since 2007 before the game started, and winning 35-6, despite two missed makeable field goals. Holding a Ryan Lindley led offense to a 58.64% rate of moving the chains isn’t that impressive, but moving the chains at an 80.00% rate on the road against a strong Arizona defense is pretty impressive.

The Seahawks now rank best in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 75.65% rate, as opposed to 69.49% for their opponents, a differential of 6.16%. A Super Bowl champion hasn’t repeated in over a decade, nor have they even won a playoff game over that time period. It’s so hard repeating because of complacency, personnel turnover, exhaustion, and the sheer randomness of the NFL, but the Seahawks have a good chance to at least break that playoff win drought. They look like the best team in the NFL right now and they only need to win this game to lock up homefield advantage through the NFC. That would be especially valuable to them because of how good their homefield advantage historically is.

Since 2007, the Seahawks are 47-20 at home, including playoffs and they aren’t just having success straight up as they are 45-21-1 ATS. They outscore opponents on average by 7.84 points per game at home. This is opposed to a 27-42 record away from home (31-37-1 ATS), getting outscored by 2.80 points per game, a roughly 10.5 point swing. That homefield advantage should help them here as they attempt to lock up the #1 seed. They should win here as 13 point favorites, but whether or not they cover is still up in the air.

While the Seahawks are a great team with a great homefield advantage, this line takes that into account as they are 13 point favorites. And, while their win last week was impressive, the line did move 3 points to compensate as the early line was 10. I love fading huge line movements whenever it makes sense, especially when doing so would also allow me to fade the public, which it would here. Fading that line movement might make sense. The Rams are still a decent team, moving the chains at a 69.57% rate, as opposed to 70.56% for their opponents, a differential of 1.00% that ranks 19th in the NFL. That suggests they should be about 10 point favorites here, before you take into account the Seahawks’ homefield advantage.

The issue is the Seahawks haven’t been as noticeably better at home this season as they have been in recent years. They move the chains at a 75.12% rate at home, as opposed to 68.50% for their opponents, a differential of 6.62%. On the road, they move the chains at a 76.10% rate, as opposed to 70.42% for their opponents, a differential of 5.67%. They’ve still been a tough home team, but I don’t know if a decent Rams team deserves to be 13 point underdogs here. I don’t know if the Rams deserve to be 13 point underdogs anywhere.

This game kind of reminds me of the Seahawks’ week 17 game against the Rams in 2012. They were coming off of a huge 42-13 home win over the 49ers that caused the line in Seahawks/Rams to swell all the way up to 11 and they were only able to win by 7, their first non-cover at home of the season, costing a lot of people a lot of money. I’m taking the Seahawks gun to my head, but I’m not confident at all.

Seattle Seahawks 27 St. Louis Rams 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -13

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (9-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)

The Chiefs beat the Chargers in San Diego earlier this season, but that’s because the Chargers were in a terrible spot (the worst spot I’ve seen all since), with a Thursday Night road game in Denver on deck, while the Chiefs only had a home game against St. Louis on deck. This time, the Chargers are the one in the good spot. Not only are they generally very good in December (going 26-5 straight up and 21-10 ATS in weeks 14-17 since 2007), but they’re in their 2nd of two road games, which is usually a good spot.

Teams are 84-61 ATS as road underdogs off of a road win as underdogs since 2002, including 53-38 ATS when it’s a team’s 2nd of two scheduled road games. On top of that, teams are 17-9 ATS since 1989 when that road win as underdogs came in overtime, including 11-5 ATS in the 2nd of two scheduled road games. 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 196-200 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.29 points per game, as opposed to 276-392 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.19 points per game.

Even before you take into account that the Chargers are in a much better spot in this game than they were the first time around, the Chargers are in a great revenge spot. Divisional home favorites are 27-52 ATS since 2002 against a divisional opponent that they previously beat as road underdogs during that same regular season. It’s a weird trend and it’s a little complicated, but it makes sense when you think about it. In divisional matchups where the homefield advantage decides who is the favorite, generally those two teams are essentially even. Divisional opponents that are essentially even generally split the season series. That seems to happen even if the road team pulls the upset in the first matchup, as the road underdog wins about half the time (40-42) in the rematch and covers at that aforementioned 2/3rds rate.

The reason I’m not that confident in San Diego is because rate of moving the chains differential suggests the Chiefs are the better team, which isn’t what this line suggesting, with the Chiefs as 2.5 point favorites. The Chiefs rank 8th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 74.10% rate, as opposed to 70.56% for their opponents, a differential of 3.54%. Meanwhile, the Chargers rank 12th, moving the chains at a 74.19% rate, as opposed to 73.32% for their opponents, a differential of 0.87%. I wish this line was still at a field goal, as it was last week. I’m still going with the Chargers, but the line would have to be at least 3 points for me to put any money on it and I might not even do so if that were the case.

Update: Alex Smith has been surprisingly ruled out of this one, after doctors discovered that he suffered a lacerated spleen during last week’s loss to the Steelers. The line has moved from San Diego +3 or +2.5 to +1 as a result. Obviously I wish Smith the best, but this is good news from a gambling perspective for two reasons. One, the Chargers are still underdogs here so those aforementioned two trends still apply. Two, the line really didn’t move a ton, as two points doesn’t really do justice for the job that Alex Smith has done this season.

Smith has completed 65.3% of his passes for an average of 7.04 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, while rushing for 254 yards and a touchdown on 49 attempts. His quarterback rating of 93.4 is 14th in the NFL and Pro Football Focus has him as their 16th ranked quarterback. He’s led Kansas City’s offense to a 74.10% rate of moving the chains that ranks 13th in the NFL, despite a poor offensive line, no threats at wide receiver, and no offensive playmakers outside of under-utilized tight end Travis Kelce and running back Jamaal Charles. Those two are obviously still healthy and going to play in this one, but Chase Daniel is a steep dropdown from Smith at quarterback, especially since he’s barely practiced this week.

Daniel played reasonably well in a meaningless week 17 game against the Chargers last season, completing 21 of 30 for 200 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions, but he’s still an unproven former undrafted free agent. The Chargers have a better defense this season and will be much better prepared for Daniel this time around, especially since Daniel has minimal practice experience with the offensive starters, wasn’t expecting to start this week, and might not be equipped to deal with the pressure of a must-win game. The line value that originally made me hesitant to take San Diego is gone, so, as long as the Chargers are still underdogs in this one, I have confidence taking them.

San Diego Chargers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 17 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: San Diego +1

Confidence: Medium

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Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (11-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-4)

The Packers failed to cover in their previous home game, a 43-37 home victory over the Falcons, but that’s the only time they’ve failed to cover at home this season, en route to a thus far perfect 7-0 mark at home. On the season, they move the chains at an 81.55% rate at home, as opposed to 73.04% for their opponents, a differential of 8.50%. Conversely, the Lions have been terrible on the road, moving the chains at a 68.97% rate, as opposed to 73.18% for their opponents, a differential of -4.22% away from the Motor City.

The Packers’ home dominance is nothing new as Aaron Rodgers is 26-10-1 ATS at home since 2010 and 33-4 straight up, with an absurd +554 point differential, meaning they outscore opponents, on average, by 14.97 points per game. The Packers lost earlier this year in Detroit, but the Lions are going to have a much tougher time here in Green Bay as they seek to hand the Packers their first home loss of the season, sweep the season series, and clinch the division and a first round bye.

These two teams may have identical records, but the Packers have been significantly better than the Lions this season. They rank 5th in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a league best 79.54% rate, as opposed to 74.63% for their opponents, a differential of 4.91%. Meanwhile, the Lions rank 13th, moving the chains at a 71.08% rate, as opposed to 70.25% for their opponents, a differential of 0.83%. That’s largely because the Packers have a +128 point differential on the season, as opposed to +49 for the Lions, who have needed some lucky comebacks in close games to get to where they are. The odds makers know about the Packers’ home dominance and about how uneven these two teams are in talent level, which is why this line is 7.5, but I still don’t think it’s high enough. The Packers should be the right side.

Green Bay Packers 30 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -7.5

Confidence: Medium

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Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

The Browns’ offense ranks 27th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 67.55% rate, and they’ve gotten progressively worse as the season has gone on. They’re moving the chains at a pathetic 63.44% rate over the past 10 games since Alex Mack went down. The returns of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon from injury and suspension respectively haven’t helped matters as both as looked less than 100% after extended absences. In week 13 and 14 combined, Brian Hoyer’s final two starts, they moved the chains at a 58.33% rate, and in week 15 and 16 combined, Johnny Manziel’s first two starts, they moved the chains at a 43.75% rate.

Now undrafted rookie Connor Shaw is expected to start this one, after being called off of the practice squad earlier this week, with both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel both hurt. Their offense isn’t going to get any better with him under center and it could get even worse. The Browns have a solid defense, which allows opponents to move the chains at a 70.81% rate, 7th in the NFL, but it’s not enough to make up for their completely stagnant offense. This line is way too low at 9 points as the Browns go into Baltimore.

The Ravens rank 4th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 76.15% rate, as opposed to 70.90% for their opponents, a differential of 5.25%. They’ve been even better at home, moving the chains at a 78.67% rate, as opposed to 68.18% for their opponents, a differential of 10.48%. This home dominance is nothing new as, since Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh came in before the 2008 season, the Ravens are 46-11 straight up, outscoring opponents by an average of 10.33 points per game, at home, as opposed to 34-33, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.04 points per game on the road, a swing of about 9-9.5 points. The Ravens are 31-25 ATS at home over that time period and, while they’re just 9-13 ATS as home favorites of 7 or more, their home dominance is still worth mentioning.

This line moved from 7 to 9 over the past week, to adjust for the Browns’ terrible showing in Carolina (though the final score was 17-13, the Browns lost the first down battle 27-8) and the fact that Connor Shaw will likely be starting. I normally like to fade significant line movements, but I don’t think the line moved enough nor do I think that it was high enough to begin with, when it was at 7 last week. The reason the line only moved 2 points was because the Ravens lost in Houston last week to the Texans and 4th string quarterback Case Keenum.

I think that’s an overreaction to that loss, which wasn’t quite as bad as the final score suggested. The Ravens’ offense looked horrible, moving the chains at a 56.67% rate, but their defense held the Texans to a 55.88% rate. It’s not a tremendous accomplishment for the defense, considering who the Texans’ quarterback was, but it still suggests that the game was closer than the final score. The Ravens do well off of a big loss in the Harbaugh/Flacco era anyway, going 9-2 ATS since 2008 off of a double digit loss. Last week’s loss was on the road anyway and, as I mentioned earlier, the Ravens are much better at home.

The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because the Browns are in their 2nd of two road games. This puts them in a good spot. Teams are 113-77 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 96-55 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. 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 196-200 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.29 points per game, as opposed to 276-392 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.19 points per game. However, I still like the Ravens’ chances of bouncing back in a big way off of last week’s fluky defeat for all the reasons I outlined earlier.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Cleveland Browns 9

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -9

Confidence: Medium

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Houston Texans (8-7)

This game involves a significant line movement as the Texans were 7.5 point favorites according to the early line last week, while they are now 10 point favorites. I love fading a significant line movement whenever it makes sense, as significant line movements are usually overreactions. It makes sense here. The Texans rank just 22nd in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, moving the chains at a 69.57% rate, as opposed to 71.37% for their opponents, a differential of -1.80. Meanwhile, the Jaguars rank 29th, moving the chains at a 65.35% rate, as opposed to 72.61% for their opponents, a differential of -7.26%.

This line is too high because you even take into account that the Texans are essentially down to 4th string quarterback Case Keenum, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, and Tom Savage all out for the season. Keenum was able to lead this team to victory last week, but that was mostly because they got an uncharacteristically good performance from their defense, which held a previously efficient offense to a 56.67% rate of moving the chains. They can’t count on that again this week.

Keenum completed just 20 of 42 for 185 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception last week and the offense moved the chains at a 55.88% rate. Not only does that suggest that the Texans’ victory last week wasn’t as impressive as the final score suggested, which would make that line movement a huge overreaction, but it suggests that the Texans offense could really struggle to cover this spread this week. Keenum could be better in his 2nd start, as he’ll have more time with the offense in practice this week. Last week’s start was just a week after being called off of St. Louis’ practice squad and he only had a week of practice with the offense since September, after he was a final cut of the Texans after the pre-season. However, he shouldn’t be favored by 10 points over anyone. I have a good amount of confidence in the Jaguars as long as this line is 10 or more.

Houston Texans 16 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +10

Confidence: Medium

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New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-12) at Miami Dolphins (8-7)

The Jets said it themselves (or at least safety Calvin Pryor did). Last week’s game at home against the Patriots was their Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Jets, they can’t even win pretend Super Bowls, but they did only lose by 1, the 4th straight Patriots/Jets game decided by 3 or fewer points and the 5th in the last 6. This week, going into Miami, the Jets could be completely flat after coming so close and falling short in their Super Bowl.

On top of that, this line is way too low. I don’t understand this at all. The Dolphins were 7 point favorites in New York a few weeks ago and now they’re only 5 point favorites at home in Miami. Sure, they didn’t cover last time around, but they still did get a tough road victory. The Dolphins haven’t been great in recent weeks, getting blown out at home by the Ravens and on the road in New England, but they had a strong performance last week at home against the Vikings. The final score says they only won by 2, but they won the first down battle 36-20.

Now on the season, the Dolphins rank 10th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 75.56% rate, as opposed to 73.15% for their opponents, a differential of 2.40%. The Jets, conversely, rank all the way down at 27, moving the chains at a 67.97% rate, as opposed to 72.08% for their opponents, a differential of -4.11%. We’re getting a lot of line value with the Dolphins, who don’t have any distractions during week 17 with their coach’s future publicly assured and should be able to take care of a drastically inferior opponent who could be flat off of last week’s close loss with Rex Ryan likely to be fired after the game.

Miami Dolphins 27 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Miami -5

Confidence: Medium

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Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (6-9)

The Bears made a curious move last week, benching big money quarterback Jay Cutler for journeyman backup Jimmy Clausen. Cutler wasn’t necessarily living up to his contract, but the offense wasn’t the issue with the team, as they were moving the chains at a 74.43% rate in Cutler’s 14 starts, which was 11th in the NFL over that period of time (the defense was way worse). Clausen, meanwhile, was horrible in his only NFL action in Carolina in 2010 and did not seem to be a viable long-term solution or any sort of short-term upgrade. It was likely just a last dish effort for head coach Marc Trestman and his coaching staff to save their jobs.

It didn’t work at all. Not only did Clausen struggle in a 20-14 home loss to the Lions, completing 23 of 39 for 181 yards for 2 touchdowns and an interception, leading the Bears’ offense to a 67.86% rate of moving the chains. On top of that, Clausen suffered a serious concussion, spending the night in the hospital and forcing Trestman to go back to Cutler this week. It’s not going to help Trestman save his job because he’s probably gone regardless of the result of this game, but Cutler probably gives them the best chance to win this game.

It’s possible that Cutler would have struggled just as much as Clausen did last week as the Lions have one of the league’s best defenses, but the Bears’ offense was pretty solid through the first 14 games and even if you take last week’s game into account, we’re still getting a significant amount of line value with the Bears here. The Bears rank 23rd in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, moving the chains at a 74.04% rate, as opposed to 76.02% for their opponents, a differential of -1.97%. Meanwhile, the Vikings rank 28th, moving the chains at a 69.68% rate, as opposed to 74.19% for their opponents, a differential of -4.52%.

Despite the fact that the Bears rank significantly better in that aspect, the Vikings are 6.5 point favorites here. We’re getting significant line value with the Bears. There aren’t a ton of good situational trends in play in games this week as most of them rely on upcoming distractions on the schedule, which obviously aren’t a factor week 17, but the Vikings are in a bad spot. Teams with losing records are 41-63 ATS as favorites off of 3 straight covers. It’s a weird one, but it does make some sense.

Losing teams obviously aren’t good teams, but they can be overrated by the odds makers off of 3 straight covers, especially if they’re favorites. In the Vikings past 3 weeks, they’ve kept it close with Miami and Detroit and beat the Jets by 6. It’s not unimpressive, but it’s not enough for them to deserve to be 6.5 point favorites here. They were only 5 point favorites against the Jets and they still needed a pick six and an 86 yard touchdown in overtime to even cover by 1 point. I have a decent amount of confidence in the Bears.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6.5

Confidence: Medium

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Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (2-13)

The Colts were embarrassed last week in a 42-7 loss in Dallas. I had Colts +3 as my Pick of the Week and I messed up big time. I failed to take into account the Colts’ relative road struggles, their struggles with quality opponents in recent years, including this year, and the impact that the absence of TY Hilton would have. I was desperate for a Pick of the Week in a tough week for games and I didn’t want to go with a team like Washington, Chicago, or Houston, the types of teams that had burned me in the past few weeks, even though everything I had told me they were the right side and I was still up big on the season (all 3 covered and Washington and Houston won straight up as big home underdogs).

I apologize for straying from what’s gotten me this far and not trusting what I do. Looking back, I should have made another team Pick of the Week and made Indianapolis a lower confidence pick (Dallas was still 7-23 ATS as home favorites since 2010 going into that one). However, I really like the Colts chances of bouncing back in a big way this week for a number of reasons. There a lot of differences between this week’s game and last week’s game and I feel really good about this one. This is Indianapolis as Pick of the Week take 2.

For one, TY Hilton is expected back after missing last week with a hamstring problem. Teams generally bounce back off of a blowout loss like the one the Colts suffered last week anyway, going 49-25 ATS since 2002 off of a loss by 35 or more. It might seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it as teams are often overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot. The Colts might not necessarily be overlooked by the 2-13 Titans, but they should be embarrassed after what happened last week (and they’re 13-1 ATS off of a loss since Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck arrived in 2012 anyway) and I also think they’re undervalued, as just 6.5 point favorites here.

Despite what happened last week, the Colts still rank 7th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 75.33% rate, as opposed to 71.43% for their opponents, a differential of 3.90%. Tennessee, meanwhile, has been horrible this year, moving the chains at a 66.50% rate, as opposed to 75.39% for their opponents, a differential of -8.89% that ranks 31st in the NFL. This line is too low. Speaking of Tennessee being horrible, the Colts have always beaten up on bad teams in the Luck/Pagano era, going 17-4 ATS against teams with .500 or worse records since 2012, as long as it’s week 4 or later (.500 or worse teams in the first few weeks of the season aren’t always necessarily bad). The Colts have had a lot of trouble with good teams like the Cowboys over the past 3 years, but they shouldn’t have much trouble blowing out the Titans.

On top of that, the Colts are in their 2nd straight road game this week, as opposed to last week when they were in their first. This puts them in a good spot. Teams are 82-63 ATS as road favorites off of a road loss as underdogs since 2002. 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 196-200 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.29 points per game, as opposed to 276-392 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.19 points per game.

The only thing the Titans really have going for them is their long losing streak, as they’ve lost 9 straight. Teams are 32-20 ATS since 1989 as underdogs off of a losing streak of 9 or more games. Again, this is a counterintuitive one, but it makes sense for the same reasons why teams covering off of blowout losses makes sense, teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed in this spot. However, we’ve already established they aren’t undervalued and, while they may be embarrassed, I don’t see the Colts overlooking the Titans after what happened last week. I’m still confident enough in the Colts to make them by Pick of the Week as long as this line is less than a touchdown.

Indianapolis Colts 34 Tennessee Titans 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13)

The Saints were eliminated from the playoffs last week with their 5th straight home loss, a loss to Atlanta which dropped them to 6-9 on the season. However, they’ve played well enough this season to suggest that if they played an infinite amount of 16 game seasons, they’d make the playoffs more often than not. It didn’t work out that way for them this year, but they’re still better than their record, which gives us value with them here as mere 3.5 point favorites in Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have been absolutely terrible this year, moving the chains at a 66.42% rate, as opposed to 74.75% for their opponents, a differential of -8.33% that ranks 30th in the NFL. The Saints have a horrible defense, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 76.99% rate, but their offense has moved the chains at a significantly better rate than their opponents, as they’ve moved them at a 79.17% rate, among the best in the league, led by quarterback Drew Brees, who leads the NFL in completion percentage at 69.6 and has an outside shot of finishing with his 3rd career season of 70%+ completion percentage, as many as every other quarterback in NFL history combined. The Saints differential of 2.19% ranks 11th in the NFL. This line is way too low, especially when you take into account the Buccaneers’ home struggles in recent years. They are 14-32 ATS at home since 2009, including 0-7 straight up and 2-5 ATS this season. This season, they move the chains at a 67.20% rate at home, as opposed to 74.19% for their opponents, a pathetic differential of -6.99%.

Why are the Saints 6-9 if they move the chains so well? Well, their defense has been horrible, but we’ve already established their offense has done more than enough to make up for it, so why isn’t it showing up in the standings? Well, a -11 turnover margin, a -4 return touchdown margin, and a 2-5 record in games decided by a touchdown or less have a lot to do with it. Fortunately, those are much easier problems to fix than pure talent level, even from one week to another. Drew Brees is 23-7 ATS off of a loss with Sean Payton on the sideline since 2008 anyway. That talent level should shine through here against a drastically inferior opponent with minimal homefield advantage. I have a lot of confidence in New Orleans.

New Orleans Saints 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3.5

Confidence: High

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Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9)

This line has flipped from Philadelphia being favored by 3 to New York being favored by 3 over the course of the past week, a huge line movement. I love fading huge line movements whenever it makes sense and it does here. Would this line have moved 6 points if Cody Parkey, who had missed 2 field goals all year coming in, didn’t miss 2 makeable field goals last week in Washington and the Eagles had won? Probably not.

The Eagles moved the chains at a 82.50% rate last week, as opposed to 77.42% for Washington, and could have won easily if not for those 2 missed field goals and a couple of 50/50 balls to DeSean Jackson going the Eagles way. Teams tend to cover off of huge upset losses anyway, going 88-61 ATS since 1989 off of a los as 6+ point road favorites. That’s largely because those upsets are often fluky, yet still precede huge line movements, as is the case here.

After last week’s 30 first down performance, the Eagles now move the chains at a 72.29% rate on the season, as opposed to 71.46% for their opponents, a differential of 0.83% that ranks 14th in the NFL. They now have a very similar rate of moving the chains in games started by Nick Foles (72.34%), as compared to games started by Mark Sanchez (72.22%), though Sanchez has faced an easier schedule and had a healthier offensive line in front of him.

The Eagles weren’t the type of team that deserved to be 8 point favorites in Washington last week, nor were they the type of team that deserved to be 3 point favorites in New York this week, but this line has shifted too much the other way. The Giants rank 17th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 72.60% rate, as opposed to 72.65% for their opponents, a differential of -0.05%. This line suggests these two teams are even and that not quite the case, even before you get in to the fact that the Giants have historically not had the same type of homefield advantage that the average team has, at least not in the last decade in the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era.

Since 2004, the Giants are 53-42 on the road, getting outscored by an average of 0.09 points per game, as opposed to 51-40 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.74 points per game. The Giants seem to only be marginally better at home (about 3 points), but the line has never really adapted to compensate. This isn’t unique to the Giants, as the whole NFC East recently has had less homefield advantage than average recently. At home, the NFC East is 76-86 since 2010, outscoring opponents by an average of 0.89 points per game and going 62-97 ATS. On the road, they are 79-82, getting outscored by an average of 1.91 points per game and going 85-74 ATS. As you can imagine, road teams in NFC East divisional games tend to do well, going 26-15 ATS over that time period as divisional road underdogs. The Eagles should be the right side here.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: Medium

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