Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at New England Patriots (2-0)

Jacksonville beat the Dolphins last week in Jacksonville, but I’m still having a very tough time believing they’re not one of the worst teams in the league, especially with left tackle Luke Joeckel, right guard Brandon Linder, tight end Julius Thomas, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, and defensive end Andre Branch all out with injury. The Linder one is new and he was arguably their best healthy player. The public isn’t buying the Jaguars either, heavily backing the Patriots here as two touchdown favorites at home. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense and the Patriots have had trouble covering big lines like this at home in recent years, going 5-12 ATS as double digit home favorites since 2009, but I actually do agree with the public that this is going to be an easy New England victory.

In addition to the sheer difference in talent level between a bottom dwelling, injured Jacksonville team and a New England team that won the Super Bowl last year and has arguably been the best team in football through 2 games, the Patriots are also in a great spot as huge home favorites before a bye. Teams are 48-16 ATS since 2002 as home favorites of more than a touchdown before a bye and it makes sense that the vastly superior team would be able to cover at a high rate with a week of rest on deck, allowing them to be completely focused. The Patriots, as you can imagine, have been in this spot a fair amount of times over the years, going 8-3 ATS since 2002.

Jacksonville is in a good spot playing their first road game of the season week 3. Those teams tend to be better rested than their opponent and it shows, as they are 40-27 ATS in that spot since 1989. They’re also in a bad spot though, with another tough game in Indianapolis on deck. Underdogs of 7 points or more are 78-99 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 7 points or more. New England should be the right side here, but I can’t quite bring myself to put money on such a big line.

New England Patriots 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 16 Survivor Pick

Pick against the spread: New England -14

Confidence: Low

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Houston Texans (0-2)

Ordinarily, I love fading significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be overreactions to one week. For example, the Buccaneers were 8.5 point underdogs in this game in the early line last week, but now they’re only getting 6.5 points, as a result of an upset win in New Orleans against a Saints team that isn’t that good and whose quarterback was playing hurt. However, I actually think this line is still too high. Houston isn’t a very good team, especially with left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Jeff Adams, and running back Arian Foster all hurt. They don’t deserve to be favored by 6.5 points against anyone, especially not Tampa Bay, who proved last week that they are far from the worst team in the NFL.

One of the most powerful trends in betting is the six and six trend, which is very simple. Teams that finish with 6 or fewer wins only cover about a quarter of the time as favorites of 6 or more. It makes a lot of sense, but it’s usually very tough to know whether or not a team is going to finish with 6 or fewer wins. However, I think the Texans have a very good shot to. I had them at 6 wins in my season preview and they’ve ranked 26th in rate of moving the chains differential through 6 games, despite playing Kansas City and Carolina, who aren’t exactly elite teams. Even if the Texans do end up with 7 wins, it’ll be as a result of their weak division and I still don’t think they deserve to be favored by more than even 4 points in this one. Tampa Bay is improved over their 2-win 2014 team and also could win 7 games as a result of a weak schedule. These two teams are way more even than this line suggests, so I’m taking the 6.5 easily.

Houston Texans 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6.5

Confidence: Medium

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Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-2)

I had the Ravens winning 11 games, the AFC North, and making the playoffs coming into the season, after finishing 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential in 2014. However, they have started the season 0-2. Losing in Denver was understandable, but their loss in Oakland was shocking. Their offense bounced back from an awful game against a tough Denver defense week 1, but the same defense that held the Broncos without a touchdown week 1 couldn’t stop the Raiders all game.

You can point to the loss of Terrell Suggs for the season late in the Denver game as a reason, but they still have a very talented defense around him. Losing Suggs (along with Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee this off-season) really hurts what was arguably the best front 7 in football last season, but they still have talented players like Elvis Dumervil, Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, CJ Mosley, and Daryl Smith and they have a remade, improved, and healthy secondary behind them. Their defense should be much better than they were against Oakland this season and I still like the Ravens’ chances of competing for a playoff spot. They might be 0-2, but they could just as easily be 2-0 with two road wins right now. Besides, 0-2 teams that made the playoffs the year before are 18-9 ATS against the spread week 3 since 2002.

It definitely helps the Ravens that they are back home now, after starting the season with two road games. They are 47-11 at home since the start of the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era, outscoring their opponents by an average of 10.33 points per game, as opposed to 35-36 on the road, outscoring their opponents by an average of just 0.97 points per game. They’re also 22-12 ATS at home as underdogs or favorites of a touchdown or less over that time period. However, they’re also in a bad spot, coming off of two road games to start their season. Teams that have their first home game week 3 tend to be less energized and it shows, as teams in that situation are 22-43 ATS since 1989.

That trend is one of many reasons why I’m actually going against the Ravens this week, despite the fact that they’re a much better team at home and despite the fact that I still think this is going to be a playoff team. The Ravens are in an awful spot this week, with a Thursday Night trip to Pittsburgh on deck. The Ravens will try to be 100% focused for this game, given that they’re 0-2 and playing a good divisional rival, but it might just not be possible. Teams are 21-56 ATS as divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs since 2002. It’s one of the most powerful trends out there that makes any sense.

Meanwhile, the Bengals host Kansas City next week in a game in which they will almost definitely be favored. Road underdogs are 104-61 ATS since 2008 before being home favorites when their opponent will next be a home favorite. Combining that trend and the aforementioned trend, teams are 5-26 ATS since 2002 as divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs when their opponent will next be home favorites. The fact that the Ravens play on Thursday Night next week makes things even tougher for them, as teams are 41-62 ATS as favorites before Thursday Night Football since 2008.

On top of all of that, it’s not like the Ravens are playing a bad team here. Even though this is a home game and the Ravens are a good team, they’re no guarantee to bounce back, even before you consider all of those trends I’ve mentioned. Even if Baltimore ends up making the playoffs, the Bengals are probably still a better team than them. The Bengals actually rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential through 2 games.

It’s only 2 games, but they finished the 2013 season 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential and now they’re finally fully healthy again, after struggling with injuries last season. AJ Green, Marvin Jones, and Tyler Eifert are all healthy after missing significant time with injury last season and, defensively, Geno Atkins seems back to his old dominant self, now two years removed from the torn ACL. The Ravens are the banged up ones, missing not just Terrell Suggs, but also left tackle Eugene Monroe and wide receiver Breshad Perriman. Their depth is awful at both of those positions and their absences have been very noticeable thus far this season. I wish we were getting a field goal with the Bengals, but they’re the better team in the much better spot and that should be able to cancel out the fact that the Ravens are a strong home team.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Baltimore Ravens 17 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +2.5

Confidence: High

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Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (1-1)

Anyone who follows me knows I love to go against significant line movements, as they tend to be overreactions to one week. This game has one of those, as the Rams have gone from 2.5 point favorites to 2 point underdogs here at home in the past week. It’s easy to understand why. The Rams lost as favorites in Washington, while the Steelers destroyed the visiting San Francisco 49ers last week. However, that was still just one week. What about the Rams’ victory over the Seahawks in St. Louis week 1? That game made everyone overreact last week, moving the line in both the St. Louis/Washington and the Green Bay/Seattle game significantly, but now everyone seems to be overreacting the other way, as the public is on the road favorite here. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense and it does here.

The line movement is still within the field goal on either side, but it’s still significant. The Steelers have had troubling getting up for these seemingly easy non-divisional road games in the past, going 8-20 ATS as non-divisional road favorites since 2007. They also just don’t really deserve to be road favorites here. This line suggests the Steelers are 5 points better than the Rams, meaning they’d be -8 at home against the Rams. Well, they were just -5.5 at home for the 49ers. I know the Steelers blew the 49ers out, but that’s still just one week. The Rams aren’t a great team because they lack much on offense around the quarterback, but they still had one of the best defenses in the league last year, a unit that is led by arguably the best defensive line in football and a unit that has played well thus far this season, and they upgraded at the quarterback position by adding Nick Foles this off-season.

The Steelers have a good offense and will get even better on the offensive side of the ball with Le’Veon Bell back from suspension, but they’re still missing center Maurkice Pouncey and wide receiver Martavis Bryant from an offense that was basically injury free last season. Meanwhile, their defense remains a huge problem and one that won’t get better with both nose tackle Daniel McClullers and middle linebacker Ryan Shazier hurt. Those are two of the few bright spots thus far on a defense that has ranked 30th in rate of moving the chains allowed through 2 games, after ranking 25th last season. The Rams, on the other hand, are healthier than they’ve been all season, with both Todd Gurley and Brian Quick seemingly set to return, in some capacity, from injury this week.

On top of that, the Steelers are in a bad spot with a Thursday Night game against Baltimore on deck. That could easily be a distraction, especially with a short week up next. Teams are 41-62 ATS as favorites before Thursday Night Football since 2008. Considering the Steelers have typically overlooked weak non-divisional opponents on the road like this in the Mike Tomlin era, the Steelers could have a very tough team getting up for this game with a Thursday Night battle against their archrival on deck. This game screams trap game and I’m happy to take the points as long as I’m getting them.

St. Louis Rams 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: St. Louis +2

Confidence: High

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San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

Not a lot of people are talking about the Chargers, but they have a good team. A borderline playoff team in 2013 and 2014, the Chargers’ secondary is significantly better than it was in 2013 thanks to the additions of Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett, while their offense is significantly healthier than it was in 2014, when they led the league in offensive adjusted games lost to injury. They’re only 1-1, but they’ve played two playoff caliber opponents, Cincinnati and Detroit.

Minnesota has also played Detroit, but lost in embarrassing fashion week 1 in San Francisco. Both of these teams have beaten Detroit on their homefield, but San Diego’s victory was more impressive. The Chargers moved the chains at an 8.97% better rate than the Lions did in their victory, while Minnesota moved the chains at a 3.69% better rate than the Lions in their victory. On top of that, Minnesota was also playing a very injured Matt Stafford, which made their life easier. The Chargers have also done a much better job in that aspect overall on the season than the Vikings, as they rank 12th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Vikings rank 23rd.

I know it’s only been two games, but that was the case in 2014 as well, when the Chargers finished 13th and the Vikings finished 27th. The Vikings are an improved team from last year to this year, with Adrian Peterson back and Teddy Bridgewater going into his second year, but they’re very banged up on the offensive line and they’re still not as good as the Chargers, who are also improved from last season, thanks to players returning from injury. This line does give the Chargers the nod as being the better team, as it’s 2.5 in favor of Minnesota at home and not 3 and I certainly would prefer it at 3, but I still think we’re getting line value with the Chargers. This line should be around even.

The Chargers are also in a great spot, coming off of a close road loss to the Bengals. Teams are 117-81 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 197-200 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.25 points per game, as opposed to 282-395 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game.

In addition to being in a great spot because of their game last week, the Chargers are also in a great spot because their game next week, as they have no upcoming distractions, with only a home game against the irrelevant Browns on deck. Minnesota, meanwhile, has to go to Denver and play one of the toughest games of their season next week. Road underdogs are 104-61 ATS since 2008 before being home favorites when their opponent will next be a home favorite. I had a tough time picking my Pick of the Week this week and I weighed a few good options, but I ultimately settled on the Chargers. I like them a good amount here in Minnesota.

San Diego Chargers 24 Minnesota Vikings 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: San Diego -2.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Washington Redskins at New York Giants: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (1-1) at New York Giants (0-2)

The Redskins entered the season as a laughing stock. Now some are predicting they’ll win the NFC East. How did that happen? Well, the Redskins have played better than people have expected through two games, beating the Rams week 2 and almost beating the Dolphins week 1. Both of those games were at home, but the Redskins were home underdogs in both games, so they weren’t games they were expected to win. They’ve also ranked 8th in rate of moving the chains differential through 2 weeks.

The Redskins’ offense has remained a problem, particularly with DeSean Jackson out, but their defense does look legitimately much improved from a year ago. They were one of the worst defenses in the league last year, 24th in rate of moving the chains allowed, but they rank 6th through 2 games this season. I know it’s only two games, but they added guys like Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea, Chris Culliver, and Ricky Jean-Francois in free agency this off-season. That’s made a huge difference and it’s something that I think they can maintain.

The other reason some think they can win the NFC East is simply what’s happened to the rest of the division. The only other team in the division that has even won a game is Dallas and they’ll be without both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant with injury for the foreseeable future, perhaps until December, drastically lessening their chances of being a good team this year. I still think both Dallas and Philadelphia are in better position to win the division than Washington. Philadelphia could be 1-1 if Cody Parkey hits a makeable go ahead field goal in Atlanta and then we wouldn’t really be taking about them as a non-contender, while Dallas still has good parts and technically has a 3 game lead over Philadelphia for the division, thanks to the head-to-head victory. Washington will make noise, but I still think Dallas and Philadelphia will finish higher than them.

I don’t think New York will though, as they’ve looked legitimately bad through 2 games. Yeah, they could have won both games, letting up game winning drives late in both of them, but they are currently 30th in rate of moving the chains differential. I know it’s only been two games, but they haven’t been good over the last 2 years either, thanks to injuries, and the injury bug has continued to bite them this season. Jason Pierre-Paul, William Beatty, and Victor Cruz are all out for this one again.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason returns and he’ll be a huge upgrade over Uani’ Unga, who has been Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked middle linebacker through 2 games in Beason’s absence, but Beason isn’t a very good player either at this stage of his career, after all of those injuries, so he won’t exactly be a savior. The Giants are also expected to be without rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers for this one, meaning they’ll be missing both of their intended starting offensive tackles. On top of that, Robert Ayers, arguably their best defensive player through 2 games and the saving grace of this pass rush with JPP out, will be a game time decision for this game with a hamstring problem.

In spite of that, the Giants are favored by 3.5 points here at home, suggesting that they are the better of the two teams. I obviously disagree with that. The Giants also have never really had a very good homefield advantage, at least not since 2004, the start of the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era.  They are 51-42 (44-49 ATS) at home over that time period, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.55 points per game, as opposed to 53-43 (58-38 ATS) on the road over that time period, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game.

With a slightly superior team in town and minimal homefield advantage, the Giants should only be favored by like a point, if that. On top of that, the Redskins are in a good spot having their first road game of the year week 3. This is the first time they’ve had to travel for a real game since last December and typically teams are more rested than their opponents and do well in that spot, going 40-26 ATS since 1989. The public is on the Giants, but the line has dropped from 4 to 3.5, which suggests sharp action on Washington. That could drop this line to a field goal or lower by game time, so lock in 3.5 while you have a chance. The Redskins should be the right side this week.

Washington Redskins 20 New York Giants 19 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Washington +3.5

Confidence: Medium

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2015 Week 2 NFL Pick Results

Last Week

Straight Up: 8-8

Against the Spread: 8-8

Pick of the Week: 0-1

High Confidence: 1-0

Medium Confidence: 4-1

Low Confidence: 2-4

No Confidence: 1-2

Upset Picks: 3-2

Season

Straight Up: 20-12

Against the Spread: 18-13-1

Pick of the Week: 1-1

High Confidence: 2-0

Medium Confidence: 6-2

Low Confidence: 3-6

No Confidence: 6-4-1

Upset Picks: 4-2

St. Louis Rams at Washington Redskins: 2015 Week 2 NFL Pick

St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Washington Redskins (0-1)

Last week, the Redskins were 3.5 point home underdogs for the Miami Dolphins and ended up losing 17-10. This week, they are 3.5 point home underdogs again, but to a team that I think is significantly inferior to the Miami Dolphins, the St. Louis Rams. The Rams had an impressive performance last week in a 34-31 overtime win over the Seahawks, but they likely just caught the Seahawks off guard, especially since they were missing safety Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks were on the road, where they haven’t been as good as they’ve been at home and the team that lost the Super Bowl the previous year is notoriously bad week 1. It was only a 3 point upset, but everyone is acting like it was so much more than that.

The Rams upgraded the quarterback position this off-season by bringing in Nick Foles, arguably the best quarterback they’ve had since Marc Bulger, and they have arguably the best defensive line in football, but their offensive talent around Foles is limited, especially without wide receiver Brian Quick and running back Todd Gurley, who are expected out again this week, and their defensive back 7 has plenty of issues, especially with cornerback EJ Gaines out for the season with a foot injury. The Redskins have their own injury issues with top receiver DeSean Jackson out with a hamstring problem and quarterback Kirk Cousins might be the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, but they’ve drastically improved one of the worst defenses in the league this off-season with the additions of Chris Culliver, Stephen Paea, and Terrance Knighton. They don’t deserve to be 3.5 point underdogs here. That means they would be 9.5 point underdogs in St. Louis, which I don’t think makes sense.

The Rams’ victory last week pushed this line from 2.5 to 3.5, over the key number of 3, and yet the public continues to be all over the Rams. I love betting against huge public leans whenever it makes sense because the public always loses money in the long run. In this case, I think the public is overreacting to one week and underestimating homefield advantage. The Rams could also be flat off of such a big, emotional victory. Teams are 1-10 ATS since 1989 as favorites off of an overtime win as home underdogs. I know it’s a small sample size, but it makes sense and it’s worth noting. It’s hard to be confident in the Redskins with Cousins under center and Jackson out, but they should be the right side here.

St. Louis Rams 17 Washington Redskins 16

Pick against the spread: Washington +3.5

Confidence: Low

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San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2015 Week 2 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (1-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)

This is one of the toughest games of the week for me, but I’m going with the Chargers for two reasons. For one, I think San Diego is a little bit better. Going into the season, I had them as a 10-win playoff team with the Bengals just outside of the playoffs with 9 wins. Even though right guard DJ Fluker is out for this game with an ankle injury, the Chargers should still have fewer injuries on offense than they did last season, when they had the most offensive adjusted games lost to injury.

Their offensive line and running game are much improved and their receiving corps is more than equipped to deal with the loss of Eddie Royal in free agency and Antonio Gates to suspension, thanks to the addition of Steve Johnson, Danny Woodhead’s return from injury, and talented backup tight end Lardarius Green, all of whom had big games in San Diego’s 33-28 win over Detroit last week. Defensively, they still have major issues in the front 7, but they get Jason Verrett back from injury and have a strong trio of defensive backs in Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett, and Eric Weddle.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, started off the season with a 33-13 victory in Oakland in a game that was 30-0 before garbage time. Their receiving corps is much healthier than last season, with AJ Green, Marvin Jones, and week 1 star Tyler Eifert all back from injury. They have a strong offensive line and will have a full season of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard working in tandem at running back, as they did so well to end last season. Andy Dalton might not be the best quarterback in the world, but this is his best offensive supporting cast.

Defensively, they add Michael Johnson to a defensive line that really needed it and should get a better season from Geno Atkins, who was one of the best defensive players in the game prior to a 2013 ACL tear, from which he’s now almost 24 months removed. They still have problems on the defensive line, in the linebacking corps, and in the secondary and they’ll be without talented linebacker Vontaze Burfict for at least the start of the season, but they’re a solid squad. It’s hard to pick a team between these two, but I like San Diego. The 2nd reason I’m going with the Chargers here is because the line has moved off of the key number of 3 to 3.5, so we’re not getting field goal protection with the Bengals anymore. I’m not confident, but the Chargers are my pick.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 San Diego Chargers 24

Pick against the spread: San Diego +3.5

Confidence: None

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San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2015 Week 2 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

The 49ers had an impressive week 1 victory, beating the Vikings 20-3, but I still think they could end up being a 5 or 6 win team. It’s very possible that their week 1 play isn’t representative of how good they’ll be this season and that they were able to take advantage of a Minnesota team that isn’t as ready to take the next step as people think, after losing two key offensive linemen for an extended period of time (center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt) before the season even started.

On paper, the 49ers just don’t look that good, after an 8-win season in 2014 and all they lost this off-season. They lost right tackle Anthony Davis, middle linebacker Chris Borland, middle linebacker Patrick Willis, and defensive end Justin Smith to retirement, left guard Mike Iupati, cornerback Perrish Cox, and cornerback Chris Culliver, outside linebacker Dan Skuta, and running back Frank Gore to free agency, and outside linebacker Aldon Smith and defensive end Ray McDonald with off-the-field issues.

They did add wide receiver Torrey Smith in free agency and they get cornerback Tramaine Brock, defensive end Glenn Dorsey, defensive tackle Ian Williams, and middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman back from injury. They have solid depth, good young players like running back Carlos Hyde, outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, and cornerback Kenneth Acker, and they should have fewer injuries this season, but this still isn’t a very good team.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, won’t be as good offensively this season, after having the fewest offensive adjusted games lost in the league last season, already without center Maurkice Pouncey for an extended period of time with injury. They’ll especially struggle to maintain high level offensive play early in the season with stud running back LeVeon Bell and promising young wide receiver Martavis Bryant suspended. On the defensive side of the ball, they struggled week 1 against the Patriots, as they did all of last season.

However, I still think we’re getting line value with the Steelers as mere 6.5 point favorites here, especially with cornerback Brandon Boykin expected to play, after surprisingly missing the first game of the season. Boykin is one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL and only didn’t play week 1 because he was recently acquired in a trade from Philadelphia and hadn’t gotten the defense down yet. This line suggests that the Steelers are just 3.5 points better than the 49ers, which I disagree with. As long as the line stays under a touchdown, I’m comfortable putting money on Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 San Francisco 49ers 17

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -6.5

Confidence: Medium

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