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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New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)

The Patriots really lucked out by getting the Steelers at a time in which they’re incredibly banged up. The biggest injury is the one that has Ben Roethlisberger out for at least this week and likely several weeks. Instead, backup Landry Jones will start in his absence. The dropoff from Roethlisberger to Jones is as big as any starter to backup dropoff in the NFL. It’s not just Roethlisberger though, as the Steelers are also missing defensive end Cameron Heyward, their top defensive player, and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert. This line moved from even on the early line last week to 7.5 in favor of the visiting New England Patriots this week, primarily as a result of the Roethlisberger injury, but also as a result of how poorly their defense played in Miami last week without Heyward. That might be a little bit too much of a line movement, so I’m taking the Steelers, but I’m not confident at all.

New England Patriots 27 Pitsburgh Steelers 20

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +7.5

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (2-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-2)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Chargers are in a tough spot. Because of a weird scheduling quirk, this road game against the Falcons is wedged between two meetings in a three week period with division rival Denver on San Diego’s schedule. The Chargers won last week at home in upset fashion and then have to travel to Denver next week after this game, where the early line has them as 7 point road underdogs. That puts San Diego in a couple of bad spots. For one, teams are 53-76 ATS off of a win as home underdogs, as teams tend to be overconfident and/or overvalued off of a victory like that. Two, underdogs of 6 or more are 47-74 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as the Chargers likely will be next week. The Falcons are a quality opponent and the Chargers could easily not be as focused as they need to be to keep this one close, given how bad of a spot this is for them.

On the other hand, the Chargers almost never get blown out. I know this line is only 6 and a 7+ point win isn’t necessarily a blowout, but the Chargers have lost just 3 games by more than 8 points in the last two seasons combined and just 8 games by more than 6 points. They’ve been especially good on the road, where they’re 8-3 ATS in the past 2 seasons and haven’t lost been more than 7 points in any of their previous 9 road games. The Chargers enter this game incredibly banged up, with key guys like Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, and Jason Verrett out for the season, but they’re still playing pretty well. Despite their 2-4 record, they rank 7th in first down percentage differential and haven’t lost by more than 6 points all season. That’s actually one spot better than the 4-2 Falcons, who rank 8th in that metric. I’m taking the Chargers, but I’m not confident in them at all because they’re in a terrible spot.

Atlanta Falcons 31 San Diego Chargers 27

Pick against the spread: San Diego +6

Confidence: None

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Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3)

The Seahawks have a better record than the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have a first down percentage differential of 7.67% (best in the NFL) and a point differential of +49 (6th best in the NFL), while the Seahawks have a first down percentage differential of 3.47% (4th best in the NFL) and a point differential of +27 (10th best in the NFL). That’s despite the fact that the Seahawks have had arguably the easiest schedule in the league thus far. They’ve played the 49ers, Rams, Jets, and Dolphins, 4 of the worst teams in the NFL, and won by just 2 last week at home against the Falcons, easily their toughest opponent of the season. Arizona is even tougher and this time the game is on the road.

The Cardinals are without wide receiver John Brown, while quarterback Carson Palmer is reportedly less than 100% with a hamstring injury, but the Seahawks are missing safety Kam Chancellor, easily the biggest absence in this game. Despite that, this line is even. Considering the Cardinals are at least as good as the Seahawks, if not better, this line should be at least 3 in favor of the home team Arizona Cardinals. We’re getting great line value with the Cardinals, who have arguably the best defense in the NFL.

The Cardinals are also in a great spot coming off of a Monday Night Football 28-3 blowout victory over the Jets, as teams are 35-16 ATS since 2002 off of a Monday Night Football win by 21 or more. The Seahawks are in a good spot too though, with an easy road game in New Orleans on deck, while the Cardinals next travel to Carolina for an NFC Championship rematch from a year ago. The early line has the Seahawks as 5.5 point road favorites in New Orleans and teams are 81-57 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 4 or more. Still, the Cardinals are the pick here as long as the line stays under a field goal.

Arizona Cardinals 20 Seattle Seahawks 16

Pick against the spread: Arizona PK

Confidence: Medium

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Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-3)

The Titans may be just 3-3, but they actually rank 2nd in the NFL in first down percentage differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a -7 point differential on the season, despite being -4 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 4 plays, they have a +20 point differential and have quietly played very solid football this season. They’ve allowed just 9 touchdowns all season on 63 drives and have 19 more first downs than their opponents. That doesn’t mean the Titans are the 2nd 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.

The Colts, meanwhile, have one of the weakest rosters in the NFL outside of the quarterback position. They enter this game 30th in first down percentage differential, only ahead of the Browns and Jets, thanks to a defense that has allowed a league worst 143 first downs. They also enter this game incredible banged up. They’ll be without #2 and #3 wide receiver Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett, starting tight end Dwayne Allen, top offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, and top defensive lineman Henry Anderson. The Titans, meanwhile, are completely healthy. The Colts have the obvious advantage at quarterback, but the Titans have the advantage at every other position. This line is way too low at 3 because this line suggests that these two teams are even and that is not the case.

The Titans are in a bad spot though, as they have to play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 50-77 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008. The Colts are coming off of a road overtime loss, which normally is a bad spot, but they’re lucky because they’re in their second of two road games here. Teams are 132-100 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 104-68 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games and 6-2 ATS in their 2nd of 2 road games off of an overtime loss. 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 222-236 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.87 points per game, as opposed to 322-448 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game. That being said, even though the Colts are in a better spot, I’m still confident enough in Tennessee at 3 to put money on them.

Tennessee Titans 27 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Medium

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Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)

Despite being just 2-4, the Bengals are favored by double digits this week. That’s even rarer than you’d think, as just 4 other teams since 1993 have been favored by double digits despite having a winning percentage of .333 or worse in week 6 or later. Teams are 3-4-1 ATS in that spot since 1989, so the Bengals’ record doesn’t neccessary mean they will fail to cover as favorites of this many points, but whether or not they deserve to be favored by 10 points here at home against the Browns is a major question.

There’s good argument to be made that they do, despite their record. The Browns are one of the worst teams in the league, arguably the worst with all of the injuries they’re dealing with right now. They lost talented left guard Joel Bitonio for the season last week and will be without top cornerback Joe Haden again this week. Meanwhile, top receiver Terrelle Pryor could miss this week’s game, meaning the Browns would be without both week 1 starting wide receivers (Corey Coleman has been out since week 2). The Browns enter this game 31st in first down percentage differential, only ahead of the Jets, and they’re even less talented than the Jets are.

The Bengals, meanwhile, rank just 26th in first down percentage, but they’ve been significantly better than the Browns in that measure, especially given how tough their schedule has been. They’re 2-4 in large part because they’ve played Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver, all of whom are division leaders. It’s concerning that they’ve been unable to beat these teams, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that they could beat the Browns by double digits. However, I am going with the Browns, as they’re in a better spot than the Bengals.

The Bengals have a London game on deck and teams understandably struggle before playing an international game, going 8-19 ATS all-time. The Browns, meanwhile, are in their 2nd of two road games, which historically has been an advantage for teams. Teams are 132-100 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 104-68 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 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 222-236 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.87 points per game, as opposed to 322-448 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Browns, but they should be the right side.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +10

Confidence: Low

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Houston Texans at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 7 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-2) at Denver Broncos (4-2)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, this line has for some reason gotten higher in favor of Denver in the past week, climbing from 6.5 to 9, even though the Texans won at home against the Colts and the Broncos lost on the road to the Chargers. Nine points is a lot of points to give with a team like Denver whose offense has disappeared in the past 2 weeks, causing the Broncos to drop back-to-back games after an impressive 4-0 start.

Ordinarily, 2 bad games after 4 good ones wouldn’t be a reason for concern, especially considering one of those games was started by a backup quarterback, but the Broncos struggled mightily on offense all last season and needed to pull off a lot of close victories to not just win the Super Bowl, but even get into the playoffs. They won just 3 regular season games by more than 7 points all last season. They’ve already won 3 games by more than 7 points this this season, but their recent offensive skid is cause for concern. Trevor Siemian is an underwhelming talent and inexperienced starter at quarterback and the league may be figuring him out. Their issues go beyond the quarterback position, as their running game and offensive line have really struggled in the past 2 weeks and they lack a capable 3rd receiver in the passing game.

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that the Broncos are not still a tough opponent, particularly at home, given how good their defense is. The Texans are not as good as their 4-2 record suggests as their 4 wins have come at home by a combined 26 points against the likes of Tennessee, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Chicago and they’ve gotten crushed in their two road games against tough opponents, losing by 27 in New England (who was playing a 3rd string quarterback) and 18 in Minnesota. They rank just 18th in first down percentage differential and are even less talented than that suggests because they’re without top defender JJ Watt for the season. I’m taking the Texans, but I can’t be confident at all.

Denver Broncos 17 Houston Texans 9

Pick against the spread: Houston +9

Confidence: None

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