New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)

The Jets seemed to many to have a breakout week 1 performance on national television, beating the Lions by the final score of 48-17 on Monday Night Football. That win was not as impressive as the final score suggested though.  The Jets finished with just the 7th best first down rate differential at +5.94% that week and didn’t have a touchdown drive of more than 6 plays all game, benefitting from short fields off turnovers (5 takeaways), big plays on offense (2 touchdowns of 40+ yards), and return touchdowns (2 return touchdowns), all of which tend to be fluky and inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Since then, they’ve lost to the Dolphins and Browns, knocking their expectations back down to earth. They have upside, but on paper they have a bottom-5 roster and they could easily continue playing like it.

The Jaguars beat up on teams like the Jets all last season, playing arguably the easiest schedule in the NFL and winning 8 games by 12 points or more. They’re not in a good spot though, as they could easily overlook the Jets with the Chiefs on deck. The Jets, meanwhile, should be focused with only a home game against the Broncos on deck. Favorites are 72-120 ATS before being underdogs (which the Jaguars will be in Kansas City) when their opponent will next be favorites (which the Jets will be at home). I’m taking the Jaguars and expecting a blowout, especially with the Jaguars coming off of a disappointing home loss to a banged up Tennessee team, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. We’re not getting enough line value at 7.5.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -7.5

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)

The Bills pulled off the shocking upset in Minnesota last week, winning 27-6 and becoming the first team since 1995 to win as 16.5+ point underdogs. Despite that win, they are still -14.63% on the season in first down rate differential. Not only did they get blown out by the Ravens and Chargers in the first two weeks of the season, but they also lost the first down battle last week, picking up just 16 first downs to 21 by the Vikings.

They won last week in large part as a result of their +3 turnover margin, forcing fumbles in Minnesota territory on the Vikings’ first two drives and putting them down 17-0 early as a result, but turnover margins are unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. For example, teams with a +3 turnover margin, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week.  Given their lack of talent, the Bills will probably need to win the turnover battle to be competitive again this week, but the fact that they won the turnover battle last week makes them no more likely to win it this week.

As a result of the Bills win, this line shrunk from 14.5 on the early line last week all the way down to 9.5, which is a major overreaction. The Packers did lose last week in Washington, but the Redskins are an underrated team who I picked to win, so I don’t hold that against them too much. The Packers could easily return home and blowout a Bills team that is still one of the least talented in the league, much like they were blown out in their first two weeks. We’re getting too much line value with the Packers to not bet on them. Teams also have a poor track record historically after big upset wins, going 51-74 ATS since 1989 after a win as 10+ point underdogs.

Green Bay Packers 31 Buffalo Bills 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -9.5

Confidence: High

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (0-3)

The Cardinals threw 10th overall pick quarterback Josh Rosen into action late in the 4th quarter down by 2 against the Bears last week, pulling ineffective veteran Sam Bradford and hoping the rookie would spark them to victory. He did not, but that’s not exactly an easy situation for a rookie to be making his debut in, so it’s tough to take much away from his brief performance. He’ll get a full week with the first team this week in preparation for his first career start.

Rosen still is not in an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback, as he will have one of the worst rosters in the NFL around him. He will be at home for his first career start though and he’s facing a Seattle team that is a shell of what it was a few seasons ago. With wide receiver Doug Baldwin and center Justin Britt returning from injury, they are getting healthier, but their defense remains without talented every down linebacker KJ Wright and their offense will likely continue to struggle as long as new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer bizarrely continues to force Russell Wilson into being a pocket passer only (7 carries for 21 yards on the season). They rank 29th in first down rate differential at -5.13% and have been one of the least impressive teams in the league through 3 weeks.

The Seahawks are also in a terrible spot with a home game against the Rams on deck, a game in which the Seahawks are projected to be 7 point home underdogs. Teams understandably tend to struggle before big home games, going 39-82 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 6 or more. Road favorites like the Seahawks are this week are also just 20-39 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs. The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the league, so we aren’t getting much line value with them as 3.5 point home underdogs, but the Seahawks could easily have one eye on next week’s game and allow the Cardinals to hang around and maybe even pull off the upset.

Seattle Seahawks 17 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-1)

Both of these teams are getting healthier. The Eagles got Carson Wentz back from an ACL tear last week, while his #1 receiver Alshon Jeffery looks likely to make his season debut this week, after off-season shoulder surgery. The Eagles are also getting Jay Ajayi back from a game and a half absence with a back injury, though their defense remains without Timmy Jernigan (out for the first 6 weeks on the PUP) and is now without safety Rodney McLeod with a knee injury, although replacement Corey Graham is experienced and has played well in limited action this season.

The Titans, meanwhile, got left tackle Taylor Lewan back last week from a one game absence with a concussion and his bookend right tackle Jack Conklin will make his season debut this week, after missing the first 3 games of the season recovering from an ACL tear. Lewan and Conklin have been arguably the best offensive tackle duo in the NFL when healthy. Marcus Mariota will also make his first start since week 1, though he did play last week after Blaine Gabbert got concussed.

Mariota might not be 100% with his elbow injury and he has never proven he can play well while hurt, but he should be improved over last week after a full week of practice and even at less than 100% he’s an improvement over Gabbert, especially with his full offensive line in front of him. The Titans’ defense has been strong so far this season, allowing the 6th lowest first down rate at 31.25%. If their offense can take a step forward now that they’re healthier (currently 30th in first down rate at 28.42%), the Titans could easily be a solid team going forward.

As 3.5 point home underdogs, I think we’re getting some line value with the Titans, who are also in a great spot with only a trip to Buffalo on deck. Home underdogs tend to cover before easy road games, going 36-18 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites. The Titans should be completely focused this week, while the Eagles may have one eye on an NFC Championship rematch with the Vikings next week. This isn’t a big play, but the Titans should be able to keep this one close at home.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Tennessee Titans 23

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (0-3) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)

The Texans, a trendy Super Bowl pick at the start of the season, have begun the year 0-3. They’ve been better than their record suggests though, as all 3 losses were close. Last week’s upset loss to the Giants is concerning, but they lost week 1 in New England and lost week 2 in Tennessee because of a fake punt, in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 7.27%. On the season, they are just -0.07% in first down rate differential, much better than their record suggests, and it’s likely they’ll improve going forward, as Deshaun Watson continues to work back from his ACL tear.

They have a good shot at their first win this week in Indianapolis. The Colts have gotten surprisingly decent play from an inexperienced defense, but their offense has been sluggish and overall they rank 27th in first down rate differential at -3.75%. Their offense could improve going forward as Andrew Luck continues to work back from shoulder surgery, but they remain without starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo and are now without starting right tackle Joe Haeg, so I would expect them to continue struggling at least until Castonzo returns. On defense, it remains to be seen if they can continue playing at the level they’ve been playing.

I wish we were getting more line value with the Texans, who are mere 1.5 point underdogs on the road here in Indianapolis, but they’re in a great spot. Not only are they desperate for their first win, but they don’t have any upcoming distractions, with only a home game against the Cowboys on deck. The Colts, meanwhile, have to turn around and go to New England on a short week for Thursday Night Football. Not only are favorites 48-68 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football, but favorites are 72-120 ATS, over that same time period, before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. The Colts could easily get caught looking forward to next week a little bit. The Texans are worth a small bet this week.

Houston Texans 20 Indianapolis Colts 17 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Houston +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

Teams typically struggle before these Thursday night games, especially favorites, who are 48-68 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2012. The Rams and Vikings were both favorites last week, but had opposite results. The Vikings were shockingly blown out 27-6 at home by the lowly Bills, while the Rams dominated a good Chargers team 35-23, picking up 33 first downs to the Chargers’ 16.

While the Rams win was definitely legitimate, the Vikings loss was not nearly as bad as the final score showed, as the Vikings had 21 first downs to 16 for the Bills. The Vikings lost because of a -3 turnover margin, including two early turnovers in their own territory that got them down big early and forced them to completely abandon their game plan, but turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. For example, teams with a turnover margin of -3, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.1 the following week. Just because the Vikings turned the ball over against the Bills doesn’t mean they will against the Rams. The Vikings will also be much more focused this week after getting caught looking ahead last week.

The Rams will be focused too though, and they don’t need to win the turnover battle to win this game, as they have a league best +16.92% first down rate differential. That’s more than double the Ravens who are in 2nd at +8.01 (most of which comes over their week 1 blowout game over the Bills). Behind the Ravens are the Redskins at +6.67% and both the Ravens and Redskins lost the first down rate battle in week 2 losses. The Rams have won all 3 of their games by at least 12 points and have won the first down rate battle by at least 8.85% in all 3 games. It’s early and they haven’t had the toughest schedule, but they’ve been the undisputed best team in the league through 3 games and they have the talent to suggest they can continue playing at a high level all season long.

We got some line movement as a result of the Vikings’ loss, as the line moved from 4 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week, but we’re still not really getting any line value with the Vikings. The Rams have lost their top two cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib with injury, but the Vikings are at less than 100% as well, with top edge rusher Everson Griffen out for the second week in a row and feature back Dalvin Cook looking 50/50 at best on a short week, as he deals with a lingering hamstring pull. The Vikings really missed both of those players against the Bills.

The Rams are also in a good spot at home on a short week. Excluding games between familiar divisional opponents and games where the road team is favored, home teams are 31-15 ATS on Thursday Night Football. Playing on a short week is tough enough, but when you have to travel as well, it puts you at a disadvantage. There’s not enough here to take the Rams confidently and I might even switch my pick to the Vikings at 7, but Rams are my pick at 6.5.

Los Angeles Rams 30 Minnesota Vikings 23

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -6.5

Confidence: None

2018 Week 3 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

DEN +5.5 @ BAL

High Confidence

NO +3 @ ATL

PHI -6.5 vs. IND

Medium Confidence

CLE -3 vs. NYJ

NE -6.5 @ DET

TB +1.5 vs. PIT

OAK +3.5 @ MIA

LAC +7 @ LAR

WAS +3 vs. GB

Low Confidence

CIN +3 @ CAR

SF +6 @ KC

No Confidence

TEN +10 @ JAX

NYG +6 @ HOU

SEA -1.5 vs. DAL

ARZ +5 vs. CHI

BUF +16.5 @ MIN

Upset Picks

CIN +125 @ CAR

TB +105 vs. PIT

WAS +120 vs. GB

OAK +145 @ MIA

DEN +190 @ BAL

NO +120 @ ATL

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0)

This is probably the toughest game of the week to pick. A line is posted at Jacksonville -10, but we won’t know until tomorrow if Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota will be healthy enough to play, after missing last week and being limited all week in practice with a nerve injury in his elbow. If Mariota plays, this 10 point line is probably way too big, although Mariota has struggled when he’s tried to play through injuries in the past.

If Mariota doesn’t play and Blaine Gabbert starts against the Jaguars, this line is pretty appropriate. The Jaguars don’t have any upcoming distractions, with only a home game against the Jets on deck, and favorites of 7+ are 49-29 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again, so they could easily take care of business against an inferior Tennessee team starting a backup quarterback. I’m taking the Titans for now on the off change Mariota can play and keep this one close, but I may change my pick in the morning if Mariota is ruled out.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Tennessee Titans 14

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +10

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (0-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1)

The Vikings are in a bad spot this week. Not only are they coming off of a tough tie in one of their biggest games of the season in Green Bay against the Packers, but, after this easy home game against the Bills, the Vikings have another one of the biggest games of their season in Los Angeles against the Rams. Favorites of 10 or more are 37-54 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs of 3 or more (the Vikings are 5 point underdogs on the early line), as big favorites understandably tend to struggle with a much more talented opponent on deck.

Making things tougher, that game against the Rams is on Thursday Night Football, just 4 days after this one, so it’s very possible the Vikings are not totally focused this week.  Favorites are just 47-67 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2012. The Vikings are also pretty banged up going into this one, holding out several players with an eye on next week. Already missing center Pat Elflein, the Vikings will also be without featured running back Dalvin Cook, top defensive end Everson Griffen, and valuable blocking tight end David Morgan.

Does all this mean I would recommend betting on the Bills this week as 16.5 point underdogs? Absolutely not. The Bills are one of the worst, if not the worst team in the league. Even with all of the players the Vikings are missing, I still have this line calculated at -14. The Bills also aren’t in a good spot, with another tough game against the Packers on deck. Teams are 26-39 ATS since 2014 as 7+ point underdogs before being 7+ point underdogs again. It’s entirely possible the Bills could keep this a 10 or 14 point game against a banged up Minnesota team in a bad spot, but they could still easily lose by 17 or 21. I don’t want to bet my money one way or the other, though the Bills are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Minnesota Vikings 28 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +16.5

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2)

At one point I considered these two teams potential playoff teams in the NFC, but they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries early on in the season. The Seahawks get stud middle linebacker Bobby Wagner back from a one week absence this week, but remain without stud outside linebacker KJ Wright and top receiver Doug Baldwin, two of their better players, while offensive linemen Ethan Pocic and Justin Britt are likely out this week and safety Earl Thomas reportedly may not play for personal reasons. The Cowboys, meanwhile, might get safety Xavier Woods for the first time this season, but remain without All-Pro center Travis Frederick, who is suffering from a rare illness. They’re also still missing top interior pass rusher David Irving, who was suspended for the first 4 games of the season.

I have these two teams exactly even in my roster rankings, suggesting we’re getting some line value with the Seahawks as mere 1.5 point favorites. However, I’m torn on this game for a couple reasons. For one, the Cowboys typically play pretty well on the road. While they are just 33-34 at home with an average point differential of +1.19 since 2010, they are 36-29 on the road with an average point differential of 0.26 on the road, not even a point less than at home. On top of that, the Seahawks are in a tough spot, playing their first home game of the season in week 3. Teams tend to struggle in that spot, going 26-51 ATS over the past 30 seasons. I’m taking the Seahawks, but would not recommend betting this game.

Seattle Seahawks 17 Dallas Cowboys 15

Pick against the spread: Seattle -1.5

Confidence: None