Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals: 2016 Week 4 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)

One of my favorite things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements. This game has one of them, as the Cardinals were 10.5 point favorites on the early line last week, but now are only 7.5 point favorites here at home. The reason for this is obvious, as the Cardinals lost by 15 in Buffalo last week. However, outside of a -4 turnover margin (including a return touchdown), they actually played pretty well in that game. They moved the chains at a 67.86% rate, while the Bills moved the chains at a 67.50% rate.

It’s important not to fixate on turnover margin because, even in a lopsided number like last week’s, it’s still only 4 plays out of a game which has over a hundred combined snaps on both sides of the ball. Turnover margin is also very inconsistent from week-to-week. Teams that lose the turnover battle by 4, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week. They also cover against the spread about 53.4% of the time the following week. That’s likely because the public fixates on turnover margin and ends up underrating the team. The Cardinals’ aging offense doesn’t seem quite as good as it was last season, but their defense is just as good as they were last season and they’re still 5th in rate of moving the chains differential through 3 games, after finishing 1st in that metric last season.

There’s no way the Cardinals should only be 7.5 point favorites against a Rams team that is dead last in that metric, after finishing 30th in that metric last season. The Rams are above .500 this season, starting 2-1, but that’s very misleading. They were manhandled week 1 by a San Francisco team that’s been horrible in their other 2 games and, even in better performances week 2 and week 3, they still haven’t won the rate of moving the chains battle all season. Their opponents already have 30 more first downs than they do on the season, suggesting their early record is a major fluke. These two teams are very far apart talent wise.

The Cardinals are in somewhat of a tough spot here having to turn around and play in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, but they go to San Francisco for that one, which isn’t tough at all. They figure to still be very focused for the Rams this week. Favorites are 50-73 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. However, teams are 46-35 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 6+ and favorites of 6+ are 86-49 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again. As long as this line is 9.5 or lower, this is worth putting money on.

Arizona Cardinals 24 Los Angeles Rams 10

Pick against the spread: Arizona -7.5

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots: 2016 Week 4 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (1-2) at New England Patriots (3-0)

The Bills received bad news this week when Sammy Watkins had to be shut down for an extended period of time with pain in the foot he had surgically repaired this off-season. Now on injured reserve, Watkins is not eligible to return until week 12. It comes just as the Bills were getting healthier, with left tackle Cordy Glenn (2 game absence) and cornerback Ronald Darby (1 game absence) likely returning this week. Watkins is the best player on this offense, so he’s obviously a huge loss and he joins the best player on their defense, nose tackle Marcell Dareus, on the sidelines. Dareus is not eligible to return from suspension until next week. In addition, the Bills are also missing first round pick Shaq Lawson for an extended period of time and second round pick Reggie Ragland for the season, two players that were both supposed to start on this defense. They’re getting a couple guys back, but they’re far from what they could be at full strength.

The Patriots, meanwhile, are actually getting healthier. Everyone practiced on Friday and they could have 7 healthy inactives next week. Of course, this doesn’t include suspended players like Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich or players on the Physically Unable to Perform list like Dion Lewis and Sebastian Vollmer. Brady is obviously the big missing piece, but Jimmy Garoppolo has performed well in his absence and he’s expected to start this week after missing last week with a shoulder injury. In about 6 quarters this season, he’s beaten a good Arizona team on the road and put up a big lead on Miami, before getting injured. He also has a healthy Rob Gronkowski at his disposal for the first time, while linebacker Dont’a Hightower is expected to return on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots defense shut the Texans out last week even without him. This is a deep and talented team on both sides of the ball and they’re healthier now than they’ve been all season.

I think they’ll also be very focused this week, with Tom Brady’s return and an easy game in Cleveland on deck. This team knows if they can get to 4-0 before Brady even plays they’ll be in tremendous shape and a weak Cleveland team doesn’t present a distraction. They’re expected to be 10.5 point road favorites in Cleveland next week and teams are 75-55 ATS since 2008 before being road favorites of 7 or more. Buffalo, meanwhile, is in a bad spot, coming off of an upset win at home against the Cardinals. Teams are 51-75 ATS since 2008 off of a win as home underdogs. Teams tend to get overconfident off of a win against a superior team that just happened to have a bad game on the road.

The Bills’ win last week was impressive, but very fluky, as both teams moved the chains at about the same rate. The Bills just won the turnover battle by 4, but that’s very tough to maintain. Teams that win the turnover battle by 4, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week. The Patriots are also notoriously good in the turnover battle. I locked this line in earlier this week at -5, but it has since jumped to 7.5 with Garoppolo likely in and Watkins definitely out. I’d put money on it all the way up to 9.5 though. Belichick’s Patriots are dangerous off extra rest and will be very focused for their final game without Brady, with an easy trip to Cleveland on deck.

New England Patriots 24 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: New England -5

Confidence: High

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals: 2016 Week 4 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)

The Bengals could easily be 0-3 right now, if not for a missed extra point by the Jets that could have sent the game to overtime. However, they’ve had a tough schedule so far. Both the Steelers and the Broncos (their two losses) are legitimate playoff teams, while the Jets are an at least capable opponent (when they’re not turning it over 8 times). They have a big chance to bounce back in a big way this week though, against a Dolphins team that figures to be very overmatched this week.

There are a few reasons they figure to be overmatched. For one, they’re missing a significant amount of key players. Talented center Mike Pouncey remains out, while backup center Anthony Steen will join him this week. Starting running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron are also out, though they’re not as important as Pouncey. On the defensive side, linebackers Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are both questionable on a short week. On the other side, the Bengals get linebacker stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict back from his 3 game suspension.

On top of that, the Dolphins are in a tough spot as a visiting team on Thursday Night. Home non-divisional favorites on Thursday nights are 16-35 ATS since 1989, including 9-21 ATS as underdogs of 4 or more. Thursday night games are tough enough for players, but they’re especially tough when you have to go on the road and face a superior opponent, unless that opponent is a divisional opponent that you play twice a year. The Dolphins are unfamiliar with the Bengals as an opponent and are significantly inferior talent wise.

They finished last season 31st in rate of moving the chains differential and are only 23rd in that metric so far in this young season. They would have lost to the banged up Browns if the Browns could hit a field goal. Meanwhile, the Bengals remain a legitimate playoff contender. If anything, this line is too low at 7. Either the public doesn’t realize how bad the Dolphins are or they’re mislead by the Bengals record, or both. Making matters worse for the Dolphins, they’re are coming off of an overtime game. Predictably, teams do not do well on a Thursday Night off of an overtime game, going 4-20 ATS since 1989, including 2-13 ATS on the road. This is my Pick of the Week.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -7

Confidence: Pick of the Week

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)

One of my favorite things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements. This game has a significant one, as the Chiefs were favored by 4 points on the early line, but the line has since dropped to 3, as a result of the Jets’ upset victory in the road in Buffalo last week. That might not seem like a huge movement, as it’s only one point, but about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so that point matters. The line movement is also a bit of an overreaction, as the Bills are not a good opponent, so the Jets’ road win isn’t that noteworthy. It’s definitely not noteworthy enough to warrant a significant line movement.

This line now suggests these two teams are even. That’s not far off, but I think the Chiefs are a little bit better going into this game, especially with Brandon Marshall on a snap count for the Jets, due to a knee injury. I had the Chiefs ranked a little bit higher coming into the season than the Jets and I haven’t seen anything through 2 games to suggest I was wrong about either of these teams. I don’t have a strong lean either way, but I’m taking the Chiefs. This could easily be a field goal push though.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -3

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)

Both of these two teams were high on my underrated list going into the season. The Titans have so far exceeded expectations, not just winning last week on the road in Detroit, but also moving the chains at a higher rate than their opponent in both games. They enter this contest 13th in rate of moving the chains differential (RMCD). Their loss was at home to the Vikings by 9, but the Titans actually outplayed Minnesota for most of the game, outside of two offensive plays that ended up going for defensive touchdowns the other way. That was the difference in the game, but return touchdowns allowed tend to be more fluky plays rather than something that’s a long-term problem.

Meanwhile, the Raiders haven’t had a terrible start to the season, but aren’t playing like I expected. A solid defense last season, which added a significant amount of talent in the off-season, the Raiders’ defense has been the worst in the league through 2 games this season. Their offense has carried them, as they rank 1st in rate of moving the chains so far, but this is not a team I expected to be in a lot of shootouts. Their opponents in the first two games (New Orleans and Atlanta) are teams I expected to be in a lot of shootouts though, so it’s very likely the Raiders defense looks significantly better going forward, while their offense falls back down to earth. I don’t expect them to get in a shootout with the Titans, who aren’t built for shootouts either.

Whether or not the Raiders are good enough to be the #2 seed in the AFC, as I had them before the season, remains to be seen and this game in Tennessee is tougher than people realize, because the Titans are not a bad team. They only won 3 games last season, but that was largely because of injuries (particularly to quarterback Marcus Mariota) and close losses. They added a lot of talent this off-season, both rookies through the draft and veterans through trades and free agency, and are at least an average football team. This week, they get Derrick Morgan back from injury, though talented tight end Delanie Walker is highly questionable. As long as this line is under a field goal, I’m taking the Raiders to beat a quality opponent on the road, but I’m not confident enough to put anything on it.

Oakland Raiders 19 Tennessee Titans 16

Pick against the spread: Oakland -1

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-2)

One of my favorite things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements. This game has a significant one, as the Saints were favored by 4 points on the early line, but the line has since dropped to 3, as a result of Atlanta’s upset victory in the road in Oakland last week. That might not seem like a huge movement, as it’s only one point, but about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so that point matters. The Saints are also in a better spot than the Falcons, as the Falcons have to turn around and host the Panthers on a short week next week, after this Monday Night contest. Teams are 51-93 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4, as tough upcoming home games like that tend to be a distraction.

Despite that, I’m actually going with the Falcons here, though for a no confidence play. This line suggests these two teams are even, but that’s only true if both of them are healthy. The Saints are already missing their two starting cornerbacks (Delvin Breaux and PJ WIlliams) for an extended period of time and are giving significant snaps to a pair of undrafted rookie cornerbacks (Ken Crawley and De’vante Harris). On top of that, they’re still without rookie first round pick Sheldon Rankins, one of their best defensive lineman. On the offensive side of things, left tackle Terron Armstead, one of the best in the league, is expected to miss this one. The Falcons, meanwhile, are relatively healthy, so they’re the pick here as long as we’re getting the full field goal with them.

New Orleans Saints 26 Atlanta Falcons 24

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]