Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Chicago Bears (2-9)

Despite 5-6 record, the Titans enter this game 6th in first down rate differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a +6 point differential on the season, despite being -7 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 7 plays, they have a +54 point differential (which would be 4th best in the NFL). They have 35 offensive touchdowns on the season, as opposed to 24 allowed by their defense, a +11 differential that is only behind New England and Dallas (both at +13).

This line opened at 2.5 in favor of the visiting Titans, but it has since jumped to 5.5. That’s for good reason though, as the Bears have been absolutely decimated by injuries and suspension in recent weeks. They were as healthy as they had been pretty much all season coming out of the bye, but since then they’ve lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler, tight end Zach Miller, guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd for extended period of time with injury, while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman are both out with suspensions.

Already missing backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Bears will turn to 3rd string quarterback Matt Barkley, who will make his first career start and who struggled mightily in relief duty earlier this year in the first significant action of his career. In addition to being without Long, Sitton, Jeffery, and Miller, the Bears were already without wide receiver Kevin White, who opened the season as the #2 receiver, and could be without slot receiver Eddie Royal, who opened the season as the #3 receiver.

That means Barkley will make his first career start without his best two offensive linemen and his top 3 or 4 targets in the passing game. It figures to be an offensive nightmare. Things are better on the defensive side of the ball, but the losses of Floyd and particularly Freeman will hurt this defense. Better than people think and facing a skeleton crew Bears team, I’d have no problem laying the 5.5 with the Titans here, though I was lucky enough to snatch this at 2.5 on Tuesday before Cutler’s injury came to light.

Tennessee Titans 23 Chicago Bears 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -5.5

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

The Seahawks have always done very well in the second half of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011), going 32-9-1 ATS in games 9-16 since Carroll arrived (including 2-0 ATS so far this season). This has been very noticeable on the stat sheet for Russell Wilson, as he’s completed 66% of his passes for an average of 8.7 YPA, 67 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in the second half of the regular season in his career. Considering how well this organization is run from top to bottom, it doesn’t surprise me they get better as the season goes on. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if they went on another second half run. Russell Wilson has shaken off early season injuries and struggles and now is playing the kind of football we’re used to from him.

I’ve made big bets on the Seahawks in back-to-back weeks and I wanted to make another big bet on them this week as 6 point favorites in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers, despite a 5-5 record, rank 26th in first down rate differential. They also haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years, going just 19-39 ATS at home since 2009, including just 1-4 ATS this season. However, the Seahawks come into this game pretty banged up, which obviously hurts their chances of covering.

Defensive end Michael Bennett, who looked early in the week like he had a shot to return this week, will miss his 5th straight game with injury, while safety Earl Thomas, who injured his hamstring in last week’s win over Philadelphia, has also been ruled out. Those are two of their best defensive players. On the offensive side of the ball, the Seahawks will be without center Justin Britt, who has been their best offensive lineman this season. As long as the line is under 7, it’s still worth a bet on Seattle, but this would have been a bigger play if the Seahawks were healthier.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-6)

The Saints are just 4-6, but rank 4th in first down rate differential. They have 29 more first downs than their opponents on the season and 7 more offensive touchdowns, but are just 4-6 because of a -4 margin in return touchdowns and 5 losses by 6 points or fewer (including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer). They could easily be 6-4 or 7-3 right now if a few things had gone their way. They’re also as healthy as they’ve been all season and are subsequently playing easily their best football of the season right now. Key players like Delvin Breaux, Sheldon Rankins, and Terron Armstead have all missed time so far for the Saints, but all 3 are expected to be back on the field this week.

The Rams are as healthy as they’ve been all season right now too, but they’re not nearly as good as the Saints are when both teams are healthy. The Rams have hardly had any injuries on offense this season, but still enter this game a distant dead last in first down rate. Their defense is solid when everyone is healthy, but the Rams are still not nearly as good of a team as the Saints, despite their identical records. They enter this game 31st in first down rate differential, thanks to an offense that is nearly a full percentage point behind the nearest team in first down rate. As a result, they haven’t scored more than 10 points in any of their last 4 games, which is remarkable in the modern era of offense. The Saints’ defense has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on, so the Rams could easily have trouble scoring points again this week.

Making matters worse for the Rams, they have to turn around and play an even tougher game next week when they go to New England. The early line has them as 14 point underdogs. Underdogs of 6 or more, like the Rams this week, are 49-78 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as it’s very tough for inferior teams to play well enough to keep it close against superior teams when they have another tough game on deck. Going off of that, teams are just 41-62 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 10 or more. Big upcoming games tend to serve as a distraction for teams. This line is pretty high at 7, but the Rams are going to have a lot of trouble hanging with the Saints this week, so I have no problem laying the points.

New Orleans Saints 27 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -7

Confidence: High

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) at Buffalo Bills (5-5)

Last week, I took the Jaguars as 6.5 point underdogs in Detroit for a big play and it was one of the most frustrating losses I can remember. Despite scoring on both a punt return and an interception return, the Lions led by only 4 with about 2 and a half minutes left in the game, facing 4th and 3 at midfield. The Jaguars were set to get the ball back and, even if they didn’t score on the following drive, the cover would remain intact with a 4 point Detroit win. Instead, a Jacksonville defender jumped offsides on a hard count on 4th and 3, giving Detroit another set of downs and allowing them to eventually kick a field goal to go up by 7 and get the front door cover.

Ironically, if the Lions had gotten one more first down, they would have been able to run the clock out and would have left with a 4 point victory and a Jacksonville cover, but the Jaguars’ stout run defense didn’t let that happen. Despite holding the Lions to just 14 first downs and an average of less than a yard per carry, Jacksonville ended up not only losing, but failing to cover as 6.5 point underdogs as well. It wouldn’t have been so bad if this game wasn’t also going on at the same time as Minnesota/Arizona, in which my Arizona bet failed because the Vikings had not one, not two return touchdowns of 100+ yards in a 30-24 win, the first team to have two return touchdowns of 100+ yards in the same game in 50 years. Two games in the 1 PM time slot, four return touchdowns against me, two brutal losses.

The one benefit of Jacksonville losing is we get good value with them again this week. I’m not going to let what happened last week deter me from taking them again this week, as last week’s game was an obvious case of right analysis, but wrong result. The Jaguars have one of the worst records in the league at 2-8, but are far from one of the worst teams in the league. They’ve just been killed by a -15 turnover margin. Fortunately for them, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For that reason, I love to bet on teams that have poor turnover margins, as they tend to be undervalued. If the Jaguars play turnover neutral football going forward, which isn’t crazy considering how inconsistent turnover margins are, that’s going to have a noticeable effect on the scoreboard.

Even despite their issues with turnovers, just 3 of their 8 losses have come by more than a touchdown this season, relevant because this line is at 7.5 in favor of Buffalo. The Bills are a middling team at best, so this line is way too high. The Bills are expected to get Sammy Watkins back from injury this week, but all indications are that he’s going to play a very limited role, so I’m not too worried about him. In terms of first down rate differential, the Jaguars actually rank higher than the Bills, entering this game 9th in that metric, while Bills enter in 21st. You wouldn’t know it from their record, but they have 15 more first downs than their opponents on the season.

Another good thing about Jacksonville’s loss in Detroit last week is it puts them in a good spot this week. Teams are 138-104 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 110-71 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 232-246 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.80 points per game, as opposed to 330-462 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. Jacksonville is my Pick of the Week. Hopefully I’ll have better luck this time around.

Buffalo Bills 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

When this line opened at 3 in favor of the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, I was going to put money on the Colts. The Colts have had great homefield advantage in recent years with Andrew Luck under center, going 23-11 ATS, including 8-1 ATS as home underdogs. I underestimated that fact last week against the Titans. The Steelers, meanwhile, are just 9-22 ATS as non-divisional road favorites in the Mike Tomlin era (since 2007). They’ve already fallen flat in both Miami and Philadelphia this year in that spot.

Fortunately, I didn’t do that, as Andrew Luck apparently started experiencing concussion symptoms after last week’s game and will miss this Thanksgiving game as a result. The line has shifted from 3 to 9.5 to compensate, which is a significant shift, but the dropoff from Luck to backup Scott Tolzien is tremendous. Luck has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season, on a team that has major issues defensively, running the ball, and blocking on the offensive line. Meanwhile, Tolzien is one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the league, after spending much of the last two years as the 3rd string quarterback in Green Bay. I’m still taking the Colts for pick ‘em purposes, but I’d need at least 10 to put any money on the Colts this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Indianapolis Colts 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +9.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (6-3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (9-1)

I mentioned this in my Minnesota/Detroit pick as well. Divisional road underdogs are 60-33 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites. Division rivals know each other well, so it makes sense that comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. The Cowboys and Redskins are not as comparable as Detroit and Minnesota are, as the Cowboys are an obviously better team, but that trend is still somewhat relevant here, especially since the Cowboys haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years.

The Cowboys are 31-21 ATS on the road since 2010, which is impressive, but just 19-34 ATS at home over the same time period, including 11-26 ATS as home favorites. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.02 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.13 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. That makes sense, as the Cowboys have fans throughout the country and get great support on the road.

They’re 4-1 ATS at home this year, but that’s because they’ve been underrated all season. Besides, their covers against Baltimore and Philadelphia could have gone either way, as both games were closer than the final score suggested. The Cowboys aren’t underrated anymore and might actually be a little bit overrated here, as much of their success can be attributed to how much support they get from road crowds. The Redskins are a quality opponent that the Cowboys only beat by 3 in Washington earlier this year. They might not win by much more here this week. There’s not enough here for me to put any money on it, but I like the points in what should be a close divisional matchup.

Dallas Cowboys 31 Washington Redskins 27

Pick against the spread: Washington +6.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Detroit Lions (6-4)

The Vikings lost at home to the Lions in upset fashion a few weeks ago, but the good news is comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. Divisional road underdogs are 60-33 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites and they also pull the upset and win straight up about half the time. These two teams are about as comparable as it gets, as they enter this game with identical records and one spot apart in first down rate differential.

Neither team is as good as their record, as the Vikings rank 22nd and the Lions rank 23rd in first down rate differential. The Vikings have relied on a +13 turnover margin and a +5 return touchdown margin to mask an offense that has been one of the least effective at moving the ball in the league this season, two things that tend to be very tough to rely on and very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The Lions, meanwhile, have trailed in all 10 games in the 4th quarter and don’t have a single victory by more than a touchdown. Ordinarily, these are both teams I’d bet against, but I obviously can’t bet against both here.

The Vikings have a powerful trend on their side, but they’re also only 2.5 point underdogs, which suggests they’re a little bit better than the Lions. I disagree with that, especially with the Vikings likely being without top receiver Stefon Diggs with injury. It’s only a half point, but 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal so I wish we were getting the full field goal with Minnesota. At 2.5, I’m actually going to take the Lions and hope for a field goal game, but this is a no confidence pick to start the week either way.

Detroit Lions 20 Minnesota Vikings 17

Pick against the spread: Detroit -2.5

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

2016 Week 11 NFL Pick Results

Week 11

Straight Up: 9-5

Against the spread: 5-9

Pick of the Week: 0-1

High Confidence: 0-2

Medium Confidence: 3-1

Low Confidence: 1-2

No Confidence: 1-3

Upset Picks: 0-3

Season

Straight Up: 98-61-2 (61.64%)

Against the spread: 74-79-8 (48.37%)

Pick of the Week: 8-3 (72.73%)

High Confidence: 9-9-2 (50.00%)

Medium Confidence: 26-17-3 (60.47%)

Low Confidence: 16-25-2 (39.02%)

No Confidence: 15-25-1 (37.50%)

Upset Picks: 19-14 (57.58%)

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-4) at Los Angeles Rams (4-5)

Despite a few wins, the Rams are one of the worst teams in the league. Their 4 wins have come by a combined 18 points, with none coming by more than 6 points, while their 5 losses have come by 52 points, giving them a -34 point differential that ranks just 27th in the NFL. In terms of first down rate differential, they’re even worse, entering this game 30th in the NFL in that metric. The Dolphins are a much better team, entering this game 17th in that metric, but the Rams luck out because the Dolphins are very banged up right now. They will be without starting outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins, starting left tackle Branden Albert, and starting center Mike Pouncey this week, while starting cornerback Xavien Howard remains out with injury. As long as this line is still less than 3, the Dolphins are the pick, but I can’t be confident in them as banged up as they are.

Miami Dolphins 16 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: Miami -2

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Chicago Bears at New York Giants: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (2-7) at New York Giants (6-3)

This is one of the games I’m torn on this week. On one hand, the Giants are the significantly superior team and they have an easy upcoming game, a trip to Cleveland to take on the winless Browns, so they don’t have any upcoming distractions. The early line has them at least favorites of 6 or more next week and favorites of 6 or more are 89-50 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. Meanwhile, in terms of first down rate differential, the Giants enter this game 5th, while the Bears enter in 23rd.

Things were looking up for the Bears before their bye, as they were getting guys back from injury and they pulled the home upset victory over the Vikings, but things fell apart again for the Bears last week in their first game back from the bye in a 36-10 loss in Tampa Bay. Not only did they get blown out, but they’ve since lost talented guard Kyle Long for the season with injury, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for 4 games with suspension, and possibly nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who is questionable this week after tweaking his ankle injury in his return last week. The Bears are one of the worst teams in the league, while the Giants have actually been one of the best this season.

At the same time, this line is pretty big at 7.5, after a significant line movement in the past week (the early line was 5.5). As a result, we’re not really getting any line value with the Giants. Teams also tend to bounce back off of embarrassing losses like the Bears’ loss last week. The Bears lost by 26 last week as 2.5 point road favorites, an against the spread loss of 28.5. Teams are 92-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed in that situation.

It also helps the Bears that they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 136-103 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 108-71 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 229-245 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.86 points per game, as opposed to 329-459 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.00 points per game. I’m still taking the Giants, but this is a no confidence pick.

New York Giants 27 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -7.5

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]