Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (4-2) at Chicago Bears (2-4)

Minnesota is favored here by a point on the road in Chicago. That’s a pretty reasonable line. Minnesota ranks 13th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Bears rank 26th. However, the Bears are at home, which obviously helps, and they’re finally at full strength, after having starters like Jay Cutler, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, left tackle Jermon Bushrod, and safety Antrel Rolle miss significant line with injury early in the season. Meanwhile, the Vikings, who have stayed relatively healthy this season, are entering their 2nd straight game without key defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

I’m kind of hoping that the Vikings become underdogs by game time, but I have no idea if that’s going to happen. If they’re underdogs, it puts them in a way better spot than the Bears, because, while the Bears have to turn around and go to San Diego, where they’re expected to be underdogs of 4, the Vikings host the Rams next week, and are expected to be favored by 3. Underdogs are 166-94 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs.

Even if the Vikings stay favorites of a point, they’re still in a pretty good spot. Road favorites off of a road win are 42-30 ATS since 2008, as long as they are in their 2nd of two 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 204-212 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.51 points per game, as opposed to 296-411 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game.

That trend goes to 51-51 ATS if the Vikings were to become underdogs, but, combining this with the other aforementioned trend, the Vikings are in a better spot than the Bears either way this week. It makes sense if you think about it. The Vikings have an easier opponent on deck than the Bears do and are in their 2nd straight road game. That’s great for them. I feel confident enough to put money on them. This isn’t a higher confidence pick because of Floyd’s absence and all the public money on Minnesota, but the Vikings should be the right side.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -1

Confidence: Medium

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Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick in London

Detroit Lions (1-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-5) in London

Typically, the better team covers in London. This wasn’t true last week, when Jacksonville was able to beat Buffalo (favored by 4.5) in a close one, but favorites have covered in 8 of the last 11 London games (8-5 ATS all-time). It’s a small sample size, but it makes sense, as favorites also tend to be more organized teams capable of playing this type of weird game. The odds makers say the Chiefs are the better of these two teams here and I agree, as the Chiefs rank 25th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Lions rank 28th.

However, I do think this line is too high at 3.5. I have this line calculated around 1.5 and it was at 2.5 a week ago, before shifting a point, following Kansas City’s second win of the season last week and Detroit losing at home against Minnesota, falling to 1-6, and firing their offensive coordinator. It might not seem like a big shift, but 15.6% of games are decided by exactly a field goal, so it matters. These two teams are very evenly matched so it could definitely come down to a field goal, so the+3.5 is appealing to me.

The Chiefs are also pretty banged up, missing guard Ben Grubbs, defensive end Mike DeVito, and going into only their 3rd game without stud feature back Jamaal Charles. The Lions are missing outside linebacker DeAndre Levy, but he has only played 17 snaps all season (part of why they’ve been so bad) so they’re used to it. The Lions seem like the right side, but I can’t put money on a 1-6 team who is travelling across the ocean and who has just fired their offensive coordinator, especially since the public is on the underdog here.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3.5

Confidence: Low

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Atlanta Falcons (6-1)

The Falcons aren’t quite as good as their 6-1 record, as evidenced by their recent road loss in New Orleans and mere 3 point victory in Tennessee against a Titans team that was playing without Marcus Mariota. However, they still rank 7th in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 31st for the Buccaneers. Given that, this line seems too low at -7 and I think we’re getting a good amount of line value with the Falcons, now back at home.

On top of that, the Falcons are beneficiaries of a significant week-to-week line movement. This line was 9 a week ago, but now it’s down to a touchdown, likely a result of the Buccaneers’ near win in Washington and the Falcons’ near loss in Tennessee. I love fading significant line movements like that because they tend to be overreactions to one week of play and I think that’s true here. The Buccaneers are one of the worst teams in the league and should not be underdogs of any less than 10 in this one.

The Falcons are also in a better spot, with an easy road game in San Francisco on deck, a game in which the Falcons are expected to be favored by 4 points. Teams are 106-80 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites, 68-48 ATS before being 4+ point road favorites, and 42-28 ATS before being 6+ point road favorites. If the Falcons were to end up being 6+ point road favorites in San Francisco (as they were in Tennessee, against a Titans team that’s better than the 49ers), that would open up another trend as favorites of 6+ are 77-38 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again. Even if that line doesn’t end up moving past 6, this logic still holds. Good teams tend to take care of business and win big with no upcoming distractions on the horizon. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, host the Giants, a game in which they’re expected to be underdogs of a couple points at home.

It does help the Buccaneers that they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 120-86 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 98-59 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 204-212 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.51 points per game, as opposed to 296-411 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game.

However, as long as this line doesn’t go above a touchdown, I’m still confident putting money on the Falcons. They’re the vastly better team. They have no upcoming distractions. They also have the better injury situation. They are missing safety William Moore and wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, but the Buccaneers will be without safety Major Wright, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. The reason this isn’t a higher confidence pick is because of all the public action on Atlanta and the fact that the Buccaneers are in their 2nd of two road games, but I’m still pretty confident in Atlanta. Tampa Bay isn’t very good and could get down big early.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -7

Confidence: Medium

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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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