Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Denver Broncos (6-0)

Both the Packers and Broncos enter this one undefeated. The only other time since 1989 when two undefeated teams met this late in the season was week 9 of 2007, when the Patriots (who eventually went 16-0) visited the Indianapolis Colts. Like in that game, the home team is the underdog in this one, as the Patriots were 4.5 point road favorites in 2007 (winning by 4), and the Packers are 3 point favorites in Denver this year. That game and this one are the only instances since 1989 where 6-0 or better team is the underdog at home.

The Broncos deserve to be home underdogs though, as they’re a significantly inferior team to the Packers. The Broncos haven’t played a very tough schedule (Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland, Cleveland) and have still only won one game by more than a touchdown and have lost the rate of moving the chains battle in 3 of 6 games. On the season, they’re actually slightly in the negative in rate of moving the chains differential, despite a 6-0 record, and rank 14th in that statistic. The Packers haven’t had a tough schedule either (Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Diego), but they rank 6th in that aforementioned statistic. They’re solid on both sides of the ball, while the Broncos have a great defense, but a horrible offense.

Given that the Packers are legitimate field goal favorites here on the road in Denver, they’re in a great spot coming off of their bye. Favorites of 3+ are 41-13 ATS off of a bye since 2002. The Broncos are coming off of a bye as well, but that tends to benefit the better team more and the Packers are the better team here. I like their chances of remaining undefeated and covering this spread. I’m concerned about all of the public action coming in on Green Bay, but I’m still comfortable putting money on them.

Green Bay Packers 24 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -3

Confidence: Medium

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San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (2-5) at Baltimore Ravens (1-6)

The Ravens have had a brutal start to their season, losing 6 of their first 7 games. However, they’ve been on the road in 5 of those 7 games and they’re typically a better team at home. They are 47-13 at home since 2008, outscoring their opponents by an average of 9.87 points per game, as opposed to 36-38 on the road, outscoring their opponents by an average of just 0.80 points per game. They’re also 22-14 ATS at home as underdogs or favorites of a touchdown or less over that time period, as they are here, though just 0-2 ATS during this tough season.

However, they’re going into a bye here. That might sound like a good thing, but it’s not,as counterintuitive as that might seem. Big home favorites (6+) typically do very well before a bye (59-20 ATS since 2002), but, for whatever reason, small home favorites like the Redskins are here do not. Teams who are favored by 1-5.5 points at home going into the bye are just 37-61 ATS over that aforementioned time period, as they tend to get caught looking forward to the bye. The Chargers are in a better spot, with a relatively easy home game against the Bears on deck.

We’re also getting a significant amount of line value with the Chargers. Neither one of these teams has a good record, but, while the Ravens rank 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, the Chargers are much better than their record, ranking 8th. The Chargers’ defense isn’t very good, but their offense leads the NFL in first downs and yards. They’ve come close to beating both Green Bay and Cincinnati on the road this season and have won the rate of moving the chains battle in 5 of 7 games, including in Green Bay, arguably the toughest place in the NFL to play. Getting more than a field goal with them in Baltimore, against a Ravens team that’s in a bad spot, is a complete steal.

The only reason I’m a little hesitant taking the Chargers is because they’re pretty banged up. Left guard Orlando Franklin, middle linebackers Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman, tight end Antonio Gates, and safety Eric Weddle are all expected out for this one. Weddle’s injury is especially important because he’s one of the best safeties in the league and doesn’t have much talent around him on San Diego’s defense. Oakland moved the chains pretty easily against them last week in Weddle’s first game missed with injury. Baltimore is pretty banged up too though, obviously still missing edge rusher Terrell Suggs for the year, but are also still missing wide receiver Breshad Perriman and now are once again missing left tackle Eugene Monroe. Their offensive line really struggled without him early in the season. I’m still confident enough in the Chargers to make them by Pick of the Week.

San Diego Chargers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: San Diego +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Typically, I like fading significant line movements, because they tend to be week-to-week overreactions. This game does feature one, as the Cardinals were 4 point favorites on the early line last week, but are now favored by 6, probably as a result of the Browns’ big loss in St. Louis. However, I still like the Cardinals’ chances of winning big here on the road in Cleveland and covering this line. The Cardinals are “only” 5-2, but they rank 1st in rate of moving the chains differential. They’ve won the rate of moving the chains differential battle in all 7 games.

In their 2 losses, they won the first down battle by a combined 20 first downs and only lost because they had a -3 turnover margin in both games. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. On average, teams that have a -3 turnover margin in a game have a +0.1 turnover margin the following game. That’s why I don’t really like to use turnover margin as evidence for why a team is good or bad. The Cardinals, despite 2 losses, have been very dominant through the first 6 weeks of the season.

Who they’re dominating is a concern though. They haven’t played a very tough schedule, playing New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh (with Michael Vick/Landry Jones), and Baltimore. However, the Browns aren’t really better than any of those teams. They rank just 24th in rate of moving the chains differential. They get cornerback Joe Haden and safety Tashaun Gipson back from injury this week, but neither one of them was playing that well before getting hurt and the Cardinals are essentially at full strength injury wise as well. Even with this line moving up to 6, I still think we’re getting line value with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are also in a way better spot, going into the bye. Good teams tend to take care of business going into a bye and win big as big favorites. Home favorites of 6+ going into the bye are 59-20 ATS since 2002. The Cardinals, unfortunately, are not at home for this one, but 3+ point road favorites are still 39-25 ATS going into a bye, for the same reason. It’s not as powerful of a trend as the other one, but the logic behind both is the same.

The Browns, meanwhile, need to turn around and play the Bengals on Thursday Night Football next week, a game in which they’re expected to be underdogs of 9.5. Underdogs of 6+ are 40-61 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again the following week, and that’s before you even take into account the upcoming short week. The Cardinals should have no problem beating up on the Browns, as they have against many similar caliber opponents, with no upcoming distractions on the horizon going into the bye. The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because of all the public money pouring in on Arizona.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Arizona -6

Confidence: High

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Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (6-0)

Dan Campbell has looked like the best coach in the NFL through 2 games, as the Dolphins have won their last 2 games since the bye by double digits, taking big early leads in both of them. This comes after the Dolphins had an incredibly disappointing start to their season, going 1-3 (with one win on a punt return in Washington), losing in Jacksonville, and getting demolished by two divisional rivals, the Bills and the Jets, in games that both were Miami home games.

That’s why they fired Joe Philbin during the bye and replaced him with a fiery young tight ends coach in Campbell. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves with the Dolphins again, it’s important to remember that it’s been just two games against the Titans and the Texans and that Campbell only looks so good because he’s being compared with Joe Philbin, who was one of the worst coaches in the league over the past few years.

The Dolphins still only rank 21st in rate of moving the chains differential on the season. Their talent level is better than that, especially with left tackle Branden Albert and defensive end Cameron Wake now healthy off of the bye, and they have definitely found an upgrade at the head coach spot, albeit an inexperienced one, but they still have major issues, such as the offensive line and the secondary. The Patriots, meanwhile, rank 3rd in that measure, though they do have some injuries, missing defensive end Jabaal Sheard, left tackle Marcus Cannon, and possibly running back Dion Lewis, while the Dolphins are essentially at 100% injury wise.

The Dolphins should still have a much tougher time with them in New England than they did with Houston and Tennessee. The Dolphins’ recent play has moved this line from 10.5 on the early line to 8.5 this week, a number that they almost covered in a tougher spot against a much tougher Jets team last week. I love to fade a significant line movement whenever I can and this game is no exception. We’re getting line value with the Patriots, as this line should be about 10 at least.

The Patriots are also in a much better spot, hosting the Redskins next week, meaning they have no distractions on the horizon. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have to turn around off this one and go to Buffalo, who blew them out badly in Miami a few weeks ago. They should still be focused for this one, with a long week between them and Buffalo and with New England being arguably their biggest rival and toughest opponent.

However, even if the Dolphins didn’t have an upcoming distraction, the Patriots are still in a better spot because the better team tends to be the one that benefits most from not having an upcoming distraction. Favorites of 6+ are 77-37 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again, as good teams tend to take care of business and win big, unless they have an upcoming distraction. It also helps that the Patriots are 15-7 ATS since 2013. If it wasn’t for heavy public action on New England and the Patriots’ few injuries, this would be a higher confidence pick, but I have no problem putting money on New England this week.

New England Patriots 34 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: New England -8.5

Confidence: Medium

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Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers: 2015 Week 7 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-0)

The Panthers are 5-0 and rank 5th in rate of moving the chains differential, but they’re only favored by 35 points here. That’s reasonable though, considering the Eagles rank 7th in rate of moving the chains differential and considering the Eagles are in a great spot, coming off of a 20 point win on Monday Night Football over the Giants last week. That momentum tends to carry over, as teams historically cover at about 65% rate off of a MNF win of 20 of more. The Eagles have major issues on offense, but one of the best defenses in the whole NFL.

The Eagles defense has played well, despite missing middle linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso for an extended period of time with injury. DeMeco Ryans and rookie Jordan Hicks have played very well their absence. Ryans is expected to be out this week, but Kendricks returns to play opposite Hicks, who is an early defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. The Eagles are also going to be missing wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Riley Cooper in this one, but they’re not playing well, so that doesn’t really hurt much. The Panthers, meanwhile, essentially have no injuries, with stud middle linebacker Luke Kuechly going into his 2nd game back, after missing 3 games with a concussion early in the season. This is one of the toughest games of the week for me to predict, but I’m going to fade a heavy public lean on Carolina and take the underdog, as long as the line is higher than 3.

Carolina Panthers 23 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against spread: Philadelphia +3.5

Confidence: None

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2015 Week 7 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)

Ben Roethlisberger has missed the last 3 games with injury, but he practiced some this week and has travelled to Kansas City for this game. He’s not expected to play, but the possibility that he is able to go is worth thinking about when taking a side in this one. He reportedly could talk his way into starting, but it sounds unlikely. That severely hurts the Steelers’ chances. The Steelers moved the chains at a 78.65% rate in the first 3 games of their season with Roethlisberger, but have moved them at just a 62.20% rate over the past 3 weeks.

They’ve gone 2-1 in those 3 games, but have lost the rate of moving the chains battle in all 3. They won at the last second in San Diego and could have easily lost by 10 if not for a Philip Rivers pick six, a long touchdown throw from Michael Vick, and 3 dropped Vick interceptions by the Chargers’ defense. With the exception of a few plays, they were dominated in that game. Last week, at home for Arizona, they only won because they won the turnover battle by 3, which is tough to rely on. Teams who win the turnover battle by 3, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week.

Michael Vick was awful in Roethlisberger’s absence, but it’ll be 3rd string quarterback Landry Jones in this one, as Vick is hurt as well. The Steelers have called up Tyler Murphy from the practice squad, a sign that Roethlisberger is not expected to be active, and he should backup Jones. Jones played well in Vick’s absence last week, completing 8 of 12 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. It’s worth mentioning that the Cardinals were likely just caught unprepared for Jones and Jones had never attempted a pass in his career prior to last week, but he’s got a great offensive supporting cast around him and is an upgrade over Vick, who is done.

This one is really tough to predict, as a result of the Steelers’ quarterback situation. The Steelers’ defense has been better this season than last season, to compensate for their offense, but they’ll be without breakout star Stephon Tuitt in this one. On the other side, the Chiefs could be without starters Dontari Poe and Mike DeVito on the defensive line and are also without stud running back Jamaal Charles. They rank 28th in rate of moving the chains. It’s still hard to take the Steelers as just 3 point underdogs, but they’re the side I’m taking, especially with the Chiefs going into a London game next week. Teams are just 6-18 ATS before a London game all-time.

Kansas City Chiefs 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +3

Confidence: None

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Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: 2015 Week 7 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (3-2) at Detroit Lions (1-5)

Both of these two teams are missing key defensive players for this one. The Vikings will be without Sharrif Floyd, a 3rd year defensive tackle who was one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in 2014 and who has continued that into this season. He’s played in the first 5 games, but will miss this one. On Detroit’s side, they’ll be without outside linebacker DeAndre Levy, who was one of the best linebackers in the NFL last season. The Lions are more used to being without him though, as he’s been limited to 17 nondescript snaps in one game by a hip injury thus far this season.

Despite that, the Lions don’t rank too much worse than the Vikings in rate of moving the chains differential, 27th to 20th. Both of these two teams have faced tough schedules (Detroit has faced San Diego, Minnesota, Denver, Seattle, Arizona and Chicago, while the Vikings have faced (San Francisco, Detroit, San Diego, Denver, and Kansas City) and I think the Vikings shouldn’t be favored here in Detroit, even if only by 2 points, especially since Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson is less than 100% likely to play with an illness. However, I can’t be confident in Detroit ahead of a London game next week. Teams are just 6-18 ATS all-time before a London game, as that provides a serious distraction. I’m still taking them, but this is my lowest confidence game of the season.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Detroit Lions 23

Pick against the spread: Detroit +2

Confidence: None

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Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2015 Week 7 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at New York Giants (3-3)

The Giants 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 53-42 (45-50 ATS) at home over that time period, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.64 points per game, as opposed to 54-44 (59-39 ATS) on the road over that time period, getting outscored by an average of 0.16 points per game. On the other side, the Cowboys are 22-22 at home (14-30 ATS) since 2010, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.32 points per game, as opposed to 23-20 on the road (25-17 ATS), getting outscored by an average of 0.26 points per game. The road team generally tends to do well in NFC East matchups overall anyway, for what that’s worth. The road team in NFC East divisional matchups is 37-54 ATS since 2008. On top of that, the Cowboys are 12-3 ATS as 3.5+ point road underdogs since 2010 (4-0 ATS in the division).

However, this line has moved from 5.5 in favor of the Giants last week in the early line to 3.5 now. That cost us a lot of line value. This line is probably still a little bit too high, considering how well the Cowboys typically travel, how little homefield advantage the Giants have, and the fact that the Cowboys rank 17th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Giants rank 19th. We’re just not really getting enough value with the Cowboys to be too confident in them, especially considering the Cowboys are a publicly backed underdog (which I like to avoid), and considering the Cowboys host the Seahawks next week. The Cowboys are expected to be 5.5 point underdogs in that one. Teams are 71-116 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3+, 40-78 ATS over that same time period before being 4+ point home underdogs, and 39-84 ATS over that same time period before being 6+ point home underdogs. I’m still taking the Cowboys, but I’m not confident at all.

New York Giants 23 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: None

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Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars in London: 2015 Week 7 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) in London

The Bills lost at home 34-21 to the Bengals last week and are in a mess of a situation injury wise, missing quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running back Karlos Williams, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, wide receiver Percy Harvin, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are arguably as healthy as they’ve been all season. While they have lost right guard Brandon Linder to injury for the season, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, safety John Cyprien, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, left guard Luke Joeckel, and tight end Julius Thomas have all missed time with injury thus far this season and will all play this week.

However, the Bills could still easily bounce back and cover as 4.5 point favorites here. This is technically a Jacksonville home game, but it’s in London, so it’s a neutral site game. The better team typically covers in London, going 8-4 ATS all-time, including 8-2 ATS in their last 10. It’s a small sample size, but it makes sense. Teams must hate travelling to London to play a game, but if you’re actually in contention it makes it easier to get up for this game. It doesn’t help Jacksonville’s morale that they have to give up a home game for this. Favorites also tend to be more organized teams capable of playing this type of game.

The Bills aren’t very good, ranking 22nd in rate of moving the chains differential and in a rough injury situation, but the Jaguars are even worse, even though they have improved health, as they rank 29th in rate of moving the chains differential. The Bills are 3-3 and still in the AFC playoff race so they should be able to get up for this game and beat the Jaguars by at least 5. I’m not confident at all though, as long as the line is higher than 3. Hopefully it falls before the game, but I’m not banking on it.

Buffalo Bills 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -4.5

Confidence: None

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins: 2015 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at Washington Redskins (2-4)

The Redskins are going into a bye here, but that’s not a good thing, as counterintuitive as that might seem. Big home favorites (6+) typically do very well before a bye (59-20 ATS since 2002), but, for whatever reason, small home favorites like the Redskins are here do not. Teams who are favored by 1-5.5 points at home going into the bye are just 37-60 ATS over that aforementioned time period. Perhaps it’s that they get caught looking forward. That could easily happen to the Redskins here at home against the Buccaneers.

The Redskins are also pretty banged up right now, missing starting cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver and top wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but that’s nothing new for this team. Bashaud Breeland has played well as their top cornerback and their defensive front 7 has been great, as their defense has ranked 9th in rate of moving the chains allowed. Their offense has had problems without DeSean Jackson, ranking 26th in rate of moving the chains, but they still rank 16th overall in rate of moving the chains differential and their offense does get left tackle Trent Williams back this week. They really missed him in a road loss to the Jets last week. Prior to that, they almost beat the Falcons in Atlanta, losing on a pick six in overtime. They could have also beaten Miami if not for a return touchdown.

They’re way better than Tampa Bay, who has the 5th worst point differential in the NFL and who ranks 31st in rate of moving the chains differential. Even with that trend working against them and all their injuries and the Buccaneers relative lack of injuries (only defensive tackle Tony McDaniel), I still like the Redskins this week. There is too much of a talent disparity between these two teams for the Redskins to only be favored by 3.5 points at home. It’s not enough for me to put money on the Redskins, but they should be the right side.

Washington Redskins 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

Pick against the spread: Washington -3.5

Confidence: Low

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