Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (6-9) at Chicago Bears (6-9)

I don’t have too strong of a feel for this one, but this line seems too low at a pick em. That suggests that the Lions are 3 points better than the home team Bears, which I disagree with. The Bears rank 18th in rate of moving the chains differential and have been even better when Jay Cutler has been healthy, moving the chains at a 72.18% rate in the 13 games he’s been healthy, as opposed to 56.25% in the 2 games he was hurt. Granted, those two games Cutler missed were against Seattle and Arizona, arguably the two toughest defenses they’ve faced, and they’re missing top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in this one, but I think they’re still probably more talented than the 18th place rank suggests.

The Lions also are more talented than their rank suggests, as they rank 20th in rate of moving the chains differential, but have played much better offensively since Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator. However, they’re not 3 points better than the Bears. This line should be a field goal or so and, given that, we’re getting line value with the Bears. It’s not enough for me to put money on them in a game that’s otherwise meaningless for both teams, but they’re my pick.

Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago PK

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (7-8) at New York Giants (6-9)

I want to preface this write up by saying I wouldn’t put money on either side. It’s going to be tough to know the emotional state of both of these teams. The Eagles got eliminated last Saturday with a home loss to the Redskins and then their head coach Chip Kelly was fired Tuesday. The Giants, meanwhile, were also eliminated last Saturday with that Philadelphia loss, then promptly got blown out 49-17 in Minnesota the following day, and then likely found out that this will probably be Tom Coughlin’s last game as the Head Coach of the Giants. The two-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach is expected to resign/retire, ahead of his age-70 season, after the 4th straight season in which the Giants have failed to make the playoffs. Coughlin has been in New York as long as Eli Manning, since 2004, and is the third longest tenured head coach in the league behind Bill Belichick (2000) and Marvin Lewis (2003).

However, I will be taking the Eagles for a couple of reasons. For one, I think this line is too high at 4.5. These two teams are pretty evenly matched, ranking 23rd (Giants) and 24th (Eagles) in rate of moving the chains differential and about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so getting anything more than a field goal with the Eagles is intriguing. The Giants also don’t have much homefield advantage, going 54-45 at home (outscoring opponents by an average of 2.54 points per game), as opposed to 56-47 (getting outscored by an average of 0.35 points per game), in the Coughlin/Manning era. Philadelphia is the pick.

New York Giants 27 Philadelphia Eagles 24

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +4.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (9-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-2)

I’ve thought for a while that the Cardinals were the most underrated team in the NFL. I’ve taken them in every week since week 2. Despite the fact that the Panthers didn’t lose their first game of the season until last week, I think the Cardinals have been the best team in the league for most of the year. The Cardinals rank first in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, despite having a couple losses. In those 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 to support an evaluation of a team.

Comparing them with the Panthers, they have a point differential of +206, while the Panthers are at +162, despite the fact that they have a turnover margin of +12, while the Panthers are at +19. The Cardinals are 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, but the Panthers are 6-1, accounting for nearly half of their wins, and the Cardinals rank 17th in rate of strength of schedule, as opposed to 28th for Carolina.

However, it appears the Cardinals are underrated no more, in the wake of their 38-8 win over the Packers last week, as this line has shifted from 2.5 in favor of the Seahawks to 6.5 in favor of the Cardinals, a massive 9 point shift. I actually think the line is pretty appropriate, but we’ve lost all value with the Cardinals. In fact, I’m going the other way. The Cardinals rank #1 in rate of moving the chains differential, but the Seahawks still come in 4th, despite a huge upset home loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. The Seahawks would have had a much easier time winning that game if they didn’t lose the turnover battle by 3 (including a fumble recovered for a touchdown) and I’ve already talked about how inconsistent turnover margins are.

Despite that loss, the Seahawks have still won 7 of 9 since a 2-4 start. They are 26-7 ATS in the second half of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011), including 5-2 ATS this season. Well run teams like the Seahawks always seem to get it together down the stretch. Losing running back Marshawn Lynch, tight end Jimmy Graham, and running back Thomas Rawls with injuries has made this team more one-dimensional, but Russell Wilson has been playing arguably the best football of his career.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are missing cornerback Tyrann Mathieu for the season with a torn ACL and he was playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate before going down. They obviously didn’t seem to miss him last week against the Packers, but it’s possible they just had a really spirited performance to compensate for Mathieu, something that’s going to be tough to do every single week. They’ll definitely miss him. The Seahawks are also in a great spot as divisional road underdogs are 57-31 ATS in a same season regular season rematch against a team they previously lost to as divisional home favorites, since 2002. Revenge is far from uncommon in divisional matchups similar to this one and the Cardinals beat the Seahawks as underdogs in Seattle earlier this year. I can’t put money on the Seahawks, but I’m going with them.

Arizona Cardinals 24 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Seattle +6.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (12-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-10)

The Patriots are traditionally very good off of a loss, going 34-17 ATS all-time off a loss with Tom Brady as the starting quarterback. However, I’m going to go against them this week for three reasons. For one, teams are 81-105 ATS since 1989 off of a road loss in overtime, 60-85 ATS if we exclude road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games. The Patriots lost in New York against the Jets in overtime last week. Two, the Patriots also traditionally struggle to cover the spread as double digit favorites, going 9-16 ATS when favored by 10 or more points since 2008.

The Patriots are favored by too many points anyway, the third reason I’m going against them. The Patriots are favored by 10 points. They rank 6th in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 31st for the Dolphins, but they are so banged up right now. They’re not the same team that started the season 10-0 and won’t resemble that team until maybe their first playoff game in 2 weeks. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley, running back LeGarrette Blount, left tackle Nate Solder, and running back Dion Lewis are all out for the season, while right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, defensive end Chandler Jones, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, and wide receiver Julian Edelman have already been ruled out for this one. On top of that, safety Devin McCourty, wide receiver Danny Amendola, and safety Patrick Chung are all likely going to be game-time decisions. I can’t be confident going against New England, but I’m taking Miami.

New England Patriots 24 Miami Dolphins 16

Pick against the spread: Miami +10

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (5-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

I’m completely torn on this one. On one hand, the Ravens are in a good spot because divisional road underdogs are 57-31 ATS in a same season regular season rematch against a team they previously lost to as divisional home favorites, since 2002. Revenge is far from uncommon in divisional matchups similar to this one and the Ravens lost as home favorites against the Bengals earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Bengals are in a tough spot, as teams are 81-105 ATS since 1989 off of a road loss in overtime, 60-85 ATS if we exclude teams that were road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games the following week. The Bengals lost by a field goal in Denver last week.

On the other hand, the Ravens are in a bad spot, coming off of a huge upset victory at home over the Steelers as 10.5 point underdogs. That was an impressive victory, but teams are 46-72 ATS since 2012 off of a win as home underdogs and 50-70 ATS since 1989 off of a win as double digit underdogs. They could be overconfident after winning their Super Bowl last week and get caught off guard by the Bengals this week.

We’re also not really getting any line value with either side. The Bengals come in at 5th in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 26th for the Ravens, which suggests that the Bengals should be favored by more than the 9.5 points they’re currently favored by. However, the Bengals are still without quarterback Andy Dalton. Backup quarterback AJ McCarron has been serviceable and has been able to put up decent production because of a strong supporting cast. The Bengals also get safety George Iloka and tight end Tyler Eifert, key players, back from injury. It’s tough to lay this many points with them with any sort of confidence though, especially since both teams are in bad spots. In fact, I’m going to go the other way and take a Baltimore team that has lost just twice by more than 8 points all season, though I can’t be confident because the Bengals are talented enough to make that three times.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 Baltimore Ravens 9

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +9.5

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (8-7) at Dallas Cowboys (4-11)

Ordinarily, I would be all over the Redskins as 3.5 point underdogs here in Dallas, for three reasons. The first is that the Cowboys tend to struggle as hosts, particularly as home favorites, going 8-25 ATS as home favorites since 2010. The second is this is a big revenge spot for the Redskins, who were upset at home by the Cowboys earlier this year.  Divisional road underdogs are 57-31 ATS in a same season regular season rematch against a team they previously lost to as divisional home favorites, since 2002. Revenge is far from uncommon in divisional matchups similar to this one, especially in matchups like this where one team barely has any homefield advantage (Dallas).

The third is that the Redskins are much better than the Cowboys. They rank 13th in rate of moving the chains differential and have been playing great football since wide receiver DeSean Jackson returned from injury. They’re playing their best football at the best time and are relatively healthier than most of the league. The Cowboys, meanwhile, rank 17th and are missing key players with injury. With Tony Romo out for the season, Kellen Moore will make the 2nd start of his career this week, the 4th quarterback to start for the Cowboys this season. The Cowboys have moved the chains at a 66.46% rate in the 11 games Romo has missed, as opposed to 72.80% in the 4 games Romo played, and will also be without top wide receiver Dez Bryant and possibly top linebacker Sean Lee with injury in this one.

However, this game is meaningless to the Redskins with the division already wrapped up and the #3 seed out of reach. Win or lose this game, they’ll be the #4 seed and host the better of the two wild card teams next week in Washington. As a result, they’re not expected to play their starters for the full game. I can’t take Dallas, one of the worst teams in the NFL, favored by 3.5 points at home, where they traditionally struggle, in a bad spot, but, because I don’t know how much the Redskins will be playing their starters, I can’t put any money on them.

Dallas Cowboys 17 Washington Redskins 16

Pick against the spread: Washington +3.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos: 2015 Week 17 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (4-11) at Denver Broncos (11-4)

The Chargers are just 4-11, one of the worst records in the NFL, but rank 11th in rate of moving the chains differential. How can that be? Well, their record is largely the result of a 3-7 record in games decided by a touchdown (3-8 in games decided by 8 points or fewer), a -8 turnover margin, a -5 return touchdown margin, a -6.5 yards per kickoff return margin, and a -2.8 net punt margin. On the season, they’ve actually outgained their opponents by 344 yards.

None of those things suggests anything deeply wrong with this team, but rather that they have the framework of a decent team and just need to clean some things up. They’ve won the rate of moving the chains battle in 9 of 15 games and could easily be 6-9, 7-8, 8-7, or even 9-6. This team reminds me a lot of the 2012 Lions, who went 4-12 that season, but then 7-9 the following year and 11-5 two years later, with essentially the same framework of the team. They don’t have a tremendous ATS record on the season because they were pretty highly valued to start the season, but they’ve covered 4 of their last 5.

They’ve also been way better on the road than at home. At home, they were just 2-6 ATS this season, as they seemingly have no fans. As a result, their stadium has been overrun with visiting fans pretty much every game this year, meaning they’ve essentially had to play 16 road games this season. I feel bad for the few Chargers fans who do show up because they’re going to lose their team, but the Chargers have a borderline obligation to move up to Los Angeles at this point. It’s not fair to the team to not have any true home games and it also really hurts their chances of signing key free agents, as nice as San Diego weather is.

Meanwhile, on the road, they are 5-2 ATS on the season, with one of those non-covers being a 5 point loss as 3 point underdogs in Cincinnati week 2, against a Bengals team that turned out to be one of the best in the NFL. They have just one road loss by more than a touchdown, relevant considering they’re underdogs of 9 points here in Denver. If they can keep it within a touchdown against the likes of the Bengals, Packers, and Chiefs, they can do so here in Denver. All 3 of those teams rank higher in rate of moving the chains differential than the Broncos, who come in 12th.

Despite a 7 game lead over them in the standings, the Broncos actually rank one spot below the Chargers in rate of moving the chains differential. They’ve benefitted an 8-3 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, have lost the rate of moving the chains battle in 5 of 15 games, and have just three victories of more than a touchdown. They beat the Chargers by 14 earlier this year, but that was in San Diego and that would have been a touchdown game if not for a return touchdown. The Broncos had just one offensive touchdown in that game. This figures to be a pretty close game, so getting 9 points with the visitor seems like a good deal.

It does hurt the Chargers that they’re coming off of a road overtime loss, as teams are 81-105 ATS in that spot since 1989. However, they’re also in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 130-94 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 106-64 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 225-227 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 321-438 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.75 points per game. Road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of an overtime loss are 21-20 ATS since 1989, so those two trends cancel out. It’s just too many points to pass on.

Denver Broncos 17 San Diego Chargers 13

Pick against the spread: San Diego +9

Confidence: Pick of the Week

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]