Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

The Broncos started the season 3-1 before their bye week, with wins over the Chargers, Cowboys (by 25), and Raiders, but they’ve lost back-to-back games to the Giants and Chargers since the bye and the public has soured on them as a result. They’ve been outscored 44-10 in those 2 games, but their defense has still played at a high level, allowing just 26 first downs and 3 offensive touchdowns combined. On the season, they still rank #1 in first down rate allowed at 27.95%. Despite an offense that ranks 23rd in first down rate, the Broncos have the 5th best first down rate differential in the NFL.

The Broncos offense is worse than that right now with Emmanuel Sanders likely to miss his 2nd straight game with an ankle injury, but they face a Kansas City defense that ranks just 31st in first down rate allowed at 40.75%, only ahead of the New England Patriots. They have not been nearly the same unit since losing safety Eric Berry for the season week 1 and now outside linebacker Justin Houston is dealing with a knee injury that could have him at less than 100% this week.

The Chiefs offense is what’s been winning them games, as they rank 2nd in first down rate, so the Broncos’ defense will have their hands full, but they should be able to slow them down considerably, even with right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and center Mitch Morse likely to return. They should also be able to establish their running game and make life easier for quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has been struggling mightily since losing Sanders midway through the loss to the Giants. This line is way off at 7.5, as the Chiefs are at best 1-1.5 points better than the Broncos right now. I have this line at Kansas City -3.5, so I like the Broncos enough to make them my Pick of the Week in a 13-game week.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Denver +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)

The Chargers are just 3-4, but they’ve had a more impressive season than that suggests. They lost their first 2 games by a combined 5 points, in games in which they missed a combined 3 makeable field goals, and then their 3rd loss came by just 2 points. On the season, they rank 7th in first down rate differential at +3.52% and have a +6 point differential. Making that even more impressive, they’ve done that despite the fact that their home crowds tend to be primarily road fans, meaning they’ve more or less played 7 road games thus far this season. As a result, they are 3-0 ATS in their 3 actual road games. This trend actually dates back to San Diego where they had trouble drawing crowds too. They’re 13-6 ATS since 2015 on the road, including 12-5 ATS as road underdogs.

Going into New England is no easy task, but the Chargers are used to opposing crowds and are capable of playing well despite them. The Patriots are also a little overrated right now. The common narrative is that they’ve fixed their defensive issues after last week’s 23-7 win over the Falcons, but they still allowed the Falcons to move the chains at a 39.29% rate. The Falcons just couldn’t cash in, missing two makeable field goals and failing from 4th and goal from the 1 late in the game. On the season, they rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 40.97%. The Patriots have also lost defensive tackle Malcom Brown and outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower with injuries in the past week, hurting this defense even more.

The Patriots could still figure out their defensive issues before the post-season, given how well-coached they are, but I need to see it before I believe it, especially given who they are missing defensively right now. Given the state of these two rosters, I have the Patriots as just 2.5 points better than the Chargers right now, so we’re getting some line value with the visitors at +7.5. It does concern me a little bit that the Patriots are going into a bye, as home favorites of 7 or more are 61-40 ATS since 1989, but the Chargers are going into a bye too and that record drops to 13-12 ATS when the opponent is also going into a bye. On top of that, I don’t think the Patriots deserve to be favored by this many right now, so the Chargers are worth a small bet at +7.5.

New England Patriots 24 Los Angeles Chargers 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +7.5

Confidence: Medium

Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (4-2)

Expected to be an AFC contender, the Raiders got off to an underwhelming 2-4 start, but things are looking up for them following last week’s last second home victory over the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. After getting knocked out with a back injury in a week 4 loss to the Broncos, missing a week 5 loss against the Ravens, and struggling in his return in a week 6 loss to the Chargers, Derek Carr played one of his best games last week against the Chiefs and should be close to 100% after an extended rest following the Thursday game. Despite their record, there’s a case to be made that the Raiders are still a top-10 team, given how few true contenders there seem to be this season and how talented this roster still is.

This line favors the hometown Bills by a field goal, suggesting these two teams are about even, which I don’t agree with. The Bills are 4-2, but they’ve been very reliant on the turnover margin, as they lead the league with a +10 turnover margin, but rank just 26th in first down rate differential at -3.00%. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they’ll need to do a better job of picking up first downs going forward if they want to continue having success in the win column. Their offense has major problems (29th in first down rate), so I don’t see that happening, and their defense is a little bit overrated because of how many takeaways they’ve gotten (12th in first down rate allowed). Their defense also enters this game banged up, missing cornerback EJ Gaines and safety Jordan Poyer, who have been a big part of their defensive success this season.

The Raiders are also banged up in the secondary, missing rookie slot cornerback Gareon Conley for the 6th time this season, in addition to cornerback David Amerson (2nd game) and safety Karl Joseph (1st game). However, their secondary isn’t as important to their success as the Bills’ secondary is to their success. They have easily the better offense, especially with Carr rounding back into form, and are about 2 points better than the Bills in my roster rankings. The Bills are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 59-92 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. I locked this line in at -3 earlier this week on my Thursday pick, but I would take 2.5 if I had to. I also like the Raiders’ chances of the straight up upset.

Oakland Raiders 24 Buffalo Bills 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: High

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Miami Dolphins (4-2)

The Dolphins are 4-2 and went 10-6 last year, but both of those records were the result of close wins and an easy schedule. Last season, 8 of their 10 wins came by a touchdown or less and 5 of them came against the Jets, 49ers, Browns, and Rams, who were among the worst teams in the league last year. Of those 5 wins, just one came by more than a touchdown. They did defeat the Steelers by double digits in week 6 of last season, but that was their only win over a playoff team and it came in a game in which Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. With a healthy Roethlisberger, the Steelers defeated them 30-12 in the first round of the post-season. They also lost by double digits to the Patriots, Titans, Bengals, and Ravens in the regular season.

This season, their 4 wins have come against the Chargers, the Titans, the Jets, and the Falcons, by a combined 14 points. The Falcons were a tough opponent, but they got caught looking forward to New England the following week. The Chargers missed 2 makeable field goals in a 2-point loss. The Titans were without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and the deciding score was a return touchdown. The Jets, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in the league. Despite that, the Jets were still able to beat the Dolphins by 14 in their first meeting. The Dolphins’ other loss came in London against the Saints by 20, so they have a point differential of just -20, 25th in the NFL. In first down rate differential, they rank 29th at -4.10%.

In their victory last week against the Jets, the Dolphins had to come back from down two scores in the second half and likely would not have been able to if Jay Cutler had not gotten hurt. That injury allowed Matt Moore to take over at quarterback and he should have been their starter since Tannehill tore his ACL in the pre-season. Paying Jay Cutler $10 million to come out of retirement to be their starting quarterback was a questionable move, considering Moore is an experienced backup who knew the system with whom they had no drop off in offensive performance in 4 starts in 2016, and that move looks even more questionable given how much Cutler has struggled thus far this season. Moore isn’t the best quarterback in the world, but he should be an upgrade given how poorly Cutler was playing.

That being said, I still have the Ravens about a point and a half better than the Dolphins, given that the Ravens got key defensive lineman Brandon Williams back from injury last week. They should also be healthier in the receiving corps this week after being without their top-3 wide receivers in Minnesota last week. At the very least, they should be getting #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin back from a 2-game absence. The Ravens are far from a great team, but they are the better of these two teams. This line suggests they’re about even at -3, so we’re getting some line value with the hosts.

The Ravens are also in a good spot as the hosts in a non-divisional matchup on Thursday Night Football. Non-divisional home favorites are 28-15 ATS all-time on Thursday Night Football as long as both teams are on short rest, which makes sense because it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week to face a comparable or better opponent, unless that opponent is a familiar divisional opponent. The Dolphins are relatively unfamiliar with the Ravens, so they should be at a huge disadvantage on the short week, especially since they are installing a new starting quarterback. This is worth a small bet if you can get the line at -3.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

DEN +7.5 @ KC (I would also take +7)

OAK +3 @ BUF

Baltimore Ravens 19 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3

Confidence: Medium

2017 Week 7 NFL Pick Results

Week 7

Straight Up: 14-1

Against the Spread: 9-4-2

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence: 1-0

Medium Confidence: 2-1

Money Picks (Medium confidence and higher): 4-1

Low Confidence: 1-3-2

No Confidence: 4-0

Upset Picks: 1-0

2017

Straight Up: 65-41

Against the Spread: 59-44-3

Pick of the Week: 4-3

High Confidence: 7-3-1

Medium Confidence: 14-14

Money Picks (Medium confidence and higher): 25-20-1

Low Confidence: 17-14-2

No Confidence: 17-10

Upset Picks: 8-8

Since 2013

Straight Up: 741-429-4 (63.29%)

Against the Spread: 611-532-31 (53.36%)

Pick of the Week: 44-31-2 (58.44%)

High Confidence: 66-51-4 (56.20%)

Medium Confidence: 180-133-5 (57.39%)

Money Picks (Medium confidence and higher): 290-215-11 (57.27%)

Low Confidence: 162-159-11 (50.45%)

No Confidence: 159-158-9 (50.15%)

Upset Picks: 96-119 (44.65%)

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)

This is the toughest call of the week. Both of these teams enter this game pretty banged up. The Chargers got first round pick wide receiver Mike Williams back from injury last week, but could be without top wide receiver Keenan Allen and above average starting defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who both missed practice late in the week this week. The Chargers were already without starting cornerback Jason Verrett and middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, both big losses on this defense.

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ injury problems have been primarily in the receiving corps. Already missing 3rd round rookie Carlos Henderson for the season and valuable depth receiver Cody Latimer, the Broncos lost 5th round rookie Isaiah McKenzie and starting wideout Emmanuel Sanders last week, leaving only Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor behind Demaryius Thomas on the depth chart and Thomas is dealing with his own injury issues. He’s still expected to play, but might not be 100% after being knocked out on a couple occasions with leg injuries in last week’s loss to the Giants.

I have the Broncos about 1.5 points better than the Chargers, but the Chargers have next to no homefield advantage since they attract primarily road fans, so they shouldn’t be getting more than a point for homefield advantage, if anything. I expect most of the fans at this game to be supporting the Broncos. This line is even, which is right around where I’d calculate it, so this game is basically a coin flip. I’m taking the Chargers only because Allen and Liuget have the potential to play, while the Broncos’ injured receivers do not.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Denver Broncos 19

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers PK

Confidence: None

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (2-4)

The Jaguars are just 3-3, but they’re still tied for the league lead in point differential at +46. They’ve had an easy schedule and they have the league’s best turnover margin at +10, which they won’t always be able to rely on, but they still rank 4th in first down rate differential and their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week when they go to Indianapolis to face the Colts, who are one of the worst teams in the league. The Colts rank 31st in first down rate differential, dead last in point differential (-76), and are a bottom-5 team in my roster rankings.

That being said, it’s tough to be confident in the Jaguars as field goal road favorites, considering their injury situation. Already without top wide receiver Allen Robinson and starting center Brandon Linder, two of their best offensive players, the Jaguars could be without breakout rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury. At the very least, he won’t be at 100% and could split carries with backup Chris Ivory. Without him at full strength, this offense should have some trouble moving the ball, even against the Colts’ weak defense. The Jaguars obviously have the advantage on defense, but this is just a no confidence pick at -3.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3

Confidence: None

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-1)

This is the most confusing line of the week. The Eagles were 6.5 point home favorites on the early line last week, but now this line is -4.5, despite the fact that the Eagles won in Carolina and the Redskins nearly lost at home to the 49ers. These two teams are also going in different directions injury wise. The Redskins lost promising rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen for an extended period of time last week, adding to an injured list that includes top cornerback Josh Norman and stud left tackle Trent Williams, who were both injured in week 4 before the Redskins’ bye. Williams played through the injury last week in the Redskins’ first game after the bye, despite not practicing much, and will probably do that again this week, but he’s clearly not 100%, while Norman remains at least another week away.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the season. Their 5-1 record is even more impressive when you consider they’ve dealt with injuries to defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and right tackle Lane Johnson, two of the better linemen in the NFL. They will still likely be without top cornerback Ronald Darby this week, but he has a chance to suit up after returning to practice this week for the first time since week 1 and he should be back next week. Even without him, the Eagles top my roster rankings, so it’s tough to understand why they are mere 4.5 point favorites against a banged up Washington team.

I have these two teams about 6 points apart, so I have this line calculated at -9. We’re getting good line value with the hometown Eagles, who remains underrated despite a strong start to the season. The Eagles are also in a much better spot as they only have to face the 49ers next week, while the Redskins have another tough divisional game against the Cowboys, so I really don’t understand why this line is so low. The Eagles are easily my favorite pick of the week.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Washington Redskins 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) in London

The Rams are 4-2, but their 4 wins have come against the Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, and the Cowboys without Sean Lee, so I’m not as sold on them as the general public seems to be. The Cardinals have their own issues, but they ran the ball much better last week in Adrian Peterson’s first game with the team and I only have the Rams about 1.5 points better than them, so we’re getting some line value with the Cardinals at +3 on this neutral field in London. It’s not enough for me to bet them confidently, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 19 Arizona Cardinals 17

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Low