Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (4-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) at London

Typically, the favorite covers in these London games, as they have done in 10 of the last 14 London games. Playing a neutral site game overseas makes for an unusual week and it makes sense that the better team would have an advantage and would be better equipped to deal with the situation. That was definitely the case last week with the Giants as 3 point favorites over the lowly Rams, who turned it over 4 times in a loss. In this game, the Bengals are favored by a field goal. However, I’m not going to take the Bengals this week because these two teams are more or less even in my book. Usually it makes sense to assume that the favorite will both win and cover in a game like this, but only when the team that’s favored deserves to be favored, which is not the case in this game.

The Redskins actually enter this game 8 spots higher than the Bengals in first down percentage differential, as they rank 16th, while the Bengals rank 24th. The Bengals have had a tougher schedule, but it’s hard to argue they’re a significantly better team than the Redskins. There’s not quite enough here for me to take the Redskins (that changes at 3.5), but we’re getting some line value with them and they should be the right side. If the Bengals win, there’s a good chance this is still a field goal game at worst.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Washington Redskins 23

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: Low

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New York Jets at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Jets (2-5) at Cleveland Browns (0-7)

The Browns host the NFC leading Cowboys next week, a game in which the early line has them as 7 point home underdogs. Teams tend to struggle before being big home underdogs, going 95-173 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as big upcoming home games like that tend to be major distractions. However, teams that are 0-7 or worse are actually 10-4 ATS in that spot over that time period. The Browns enter this game as the NFL’s only winless team at 0-7.

Believe it or not, betting on winless teams this late in the season has actually been a winning bet in the past, as teams that are 0-7 or worse are 50-22 ATS since 1989 as underdogs. Winless teams understandably tend to be undervalued and I think that’s the case in this game, as the Browns are 3 point home underdogs against the Jets. The Browns enter this game dead last in first down percentage differential, but the Jets are just one spot better in 31st. The Jets’ record is obviously better at 2-5, but the 3 of the Browns’ 7 losses came by 6 or fewer points and they could easily have a couple wins at this point.

The Browns also get veteran quarterback Josh McCown back from injury this week, which is a bit of a boost, as he’s probably the best quarterback on their roster. They also get top cornerback Joe Haden back, though they are still missing several talented players with injury (left guard Joel Bitonio, wide receiver Corey Coleman, etc.). On paper, the Jets are the more talented team here, but I love getting the field goal with the Browns at home here, especially since about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or fewer. I’d still take them at 2.5, but I’d be much less confident in them at that number.

Cleveland Browns 23 New York Jets 20 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3

Confidence: Medium

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Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (5-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3)

The Raiders were one of my underrated teams coming into the season but, despite a 5-2 start, I’ve been very disappointed with them. Their record is misleading as their point differential is just +6 and they rank just 27th in first down percentage differential. Their offense, which ranks 11th in first down percentage, might actually be exceeding my expectations a little bit, but their defense has been horrendous, as they rank 27th in first down percentage allowed and have not played up to their talent level at all. That could still happen going forward, as they are, on paper, one of the more complete teams in the NFL, with strong talent on both sides of the ball, but it’s far from a guarantee at this point.

That being said, like I did last week when they were 1 point underdogs in Jacksonville, I’m taking them as 1 point underdogs in Tampa Bay this week, for similar reasons. The Raiders had their most impressive game of the season in last week’s win against the Jaguars, winning 33-16, hopefully a sign of more to come. The Buccaneers are a comparable team to the Jaguars. They also have had a horrible homefield advantage in recent years, going 17-31 ATS at home since 2010, while the Raiders are 14-6 ATS on the road in the past 3 seasons. Given that, this line should be around 3 in favor of the Raiders. The Buccaneers are also in a tough spot with a Thursday Night game against the Falcons on deck. The Buccaneers could easily look ahead past this non-conference game to their matchup with the division leader in 4 days. Favorites are 50-79 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. The Raiders are the pick here and are worth picking all the way up to Oakland -2.5.

Oakland Raiders 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Oakland +1

Confidence: High

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Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-3)

This line was 2.5 in favor of the Falcons on the early line last week, but the line has since risen to 3. That’s despite the fact that Green Bay won easily over the Bears, while the Falcons lost at home to the Chargers last week. A half point might not seem like a big difference, but considering 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, it is a big difference in this case. This line currently suggests these two teams are about even, which I disagree with. The Falcons have a fantastic offense (2nd in first down percentage), but a terrible defense (28th in first down percentage allowed), while the Packers are more well-rounded.

The Packers’ offense isn’t as good as it’s been in the past, but they are 9th in first down percentage, 11th in first down percentage allowed, and 5th in first down percentage differential. That’s 7 spots higher than the Falcons, who are 13th. Even with all of the injuries the Packers have, they’re still the better team and we’re getting value with them as 3 point underdogs. The Falcons are also in a tough spot with a Thursday Night game on deck. Favorites are 50-79 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. The Packers, meanwhile, have an easy home game against the Colts on deck next Sunday, so they have no upcoming distractions on the schedule. They’re worth putting money on at 3.

Green Bay Packers 31 Atlanta Falcons 30 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +3

Confidence: Medium

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Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-1-1) at New Orleans Saints (2-4)

The Seahawks are 4-1-1, but have been underwhelming this season. Their defense has been fantastic once again, entering this game 2nd in first down percentage allowed, but their offense ranks just 29th in first down percentage and is coming off of a horrendous offensive showing in last week’s tie in Arizona. The Seahawks’ offense moved the ball a little bit better in overtime, but didn’t cross midfield until a late 4th quarter blocked punt that set up their only score of regulation. They picked up a first down on just 11 of 57 offensive plays in the game. Their defense played incredible, but the Seahawks still needed a number of Arizona special teams mistakes to even get the game to overtime.

The Saints are basically the opposite of the Seahawks, as they have a great offense (3rd in first down percentage), but a terrible defense (32nd in first down percentage allowed). The Seahawks rank 7th in first down percentage differential, while the Saints rank 22nd, but the gap between 1st and 7th is bigger than the gap between 7th and 22nd. There are a bunch of teams bunched up in the middle this season and the Seahawks’ statistical advantages can be largely explained by the fact that they’ve played a pretty easy schedule thus far. The Cardinals were a tough opponent last week, but they didn’t look good against them. Atlanta and Miami both played them tough in Seattle. And their other 3 games came against the Jets, 49ers, and Rams, who are among the worst teams in the league. Their .393 combined opponent record is the easiest strength of schedule in the league.

The Seahawks also come into this game very banged up. Russell Wilson has clearly not been healthy all year, dealing with a number of different injuries behind the worst offensive line in the league. Their offensive line gets even worse this week as the Seahawks will be starting undrafted rookie George Fant at left tackle in place of the injured Bradley Sowell. Sowell is not good at all, but Fant is a collegiate basketball player who hasn’t started a game of football since 8th grade. He played some tight end in college, but figures to be wildly overmatched in his first NFL defense.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seahawks will be without safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Michael Bennett, two of the best defensive players in the league. It doesn’t help matters that the Seahawks are coming off of playing 5 quarters in a tie. Teams are just 5-11 ATS after a tie since 1989, as teams are predictably tired after such a long, hard fought game. This line is way too high at 3 in favor of the visiting Seahawks. With the Seahawks as banged up as they are, I’d argue the Saints should be favored in this game, but we’re getting a full field goal; 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. The Saints are also in a great spot, with an easy trip to San Francisco on deck; they don’t have any upcoming distractions on the schedule. Home underdogs are 76-43 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites. The Saints are my Pick of the Week at 3 and I’d still take them at 2 or 2.5.

New Orleans Saints 27 Seattle Seahawks 24 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)

The Titans may be just 3-3, but they actually rank 4th in the NFL in first down percentage differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a -15 point differential on the season, despite being -5 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 5 plays, they have a +19 point differential and have quietly played very solid football this season. They’ve allowed just 12 offensive touchdowns all season on 74 drives (two of which came after recovered onside kicks) and have 19 more first downs than their opponents. In offensive touchdowns, they have a +6 advantage (18 to 12).

That doesn’t mean the Titans are the 4th best team in the NFL or anything, but they’re better than their record suggests. Much healthier and more talented than they were in 2015, the Titans run the ball well, have a great offensive line, and play strong defense. They’ve just had a lot of bad luck thus far. The Jaguars, meanwhile, rank 19th in first down percentage differential, very much in line with their 2-4 record. Despite the mere half game separating these two teams, the Titans have a significant advantage and should be favored by more than a field goal at home. This line suggests these two teams are more or less even on a neutral field. As long as this line is 3, Tennessee is worth a bet, though I’d lay off at 3.5 because of how common field goal games are.

Tennessee Titans 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Medium

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers: Week 7 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (1-5)

The 49ers are one of the worst teams in the league and there are very few teams I’d predict them to defeat, but I think the Buccaneers might be one. The Buccaneers enter in 28th in first down percentage differential and are very banged up. They’re missing their top-2 running backs, Doug Martin and Charles Sims, starting wide receiver Vincent Jackson, starting left guard JR Sweezy, starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and top pass rusher Robert Ayers. With those players, this is one of the 5 least talented teams in the league.

That being said, the 49ers are probably still an inferior team (25th in first down percentage differential despite an easy schedule), so we’re not getting great a value with this even line. The 49ers get top cornerback Jimmie Ward back from injury this week, but lose starting running back Carlos Hyde on the offensive side of the ball. He’s been by far their most effective offensive weapon this season. I couldn’t be confident in the 49ers, but I am picking them to win their 2nd game of the season here at home against a banged up Tampa Bay team.

San Francisco 49ers 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: San Francisco PK

Confidence: None

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