Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (3-7)

The Bills have endured some truly terrible quarterback play in recent weeks. Matt Barkley played well in his start before the bye, but prior to that the Bills were a combined 75 of 121 (62.0%) for 676 yards (5.59 YPA), no touchdowns, and 7 interceptions in their previous 3 games, losing all 3 games by a combined 83 points. Barkley likely wouldn’t be able to keep that up for more than a start, but fortunately the Bills get starting quarterback Josh Allen back from injury this week. Allen hasn’t played well this season, but he should be a noticeable upgrade over the street free agents they’ve been starting in his absence. The Bills actually have a solid defense (10th in first down rate allowed) and Allen returning to stabilize the quarterback position should allow their defense to shine more, especially against easier opponents.

The Jaguars qualify as an easier opponent. Their defense hasn’t really been much worse than last season (4th in first down rate allowed), but they haven’t quite been the dominant unit they were last season and their offense has been noticeably worse due to injury. The Jaguars are missing their top-3 left tackles, their top-3 tight ends, their top wide receiver Marqise Lee, and their top offensive lineman center Brandon Linder. A year after finishing 2nd in first down rate differential, the Jaguars rank just 22nd at -2.10%. This line favors the Jaguars on the road by a field goal, but I think this line should be closer to even.

The Jaguars are also in a terrible spot. Not only did they have a crushing last second loss at home last week to the Steelers in what was their best effort in weeks, but they have another big home game against the Colts on deck, so they could easily look past the 3-7 Bills. Road favorites struggle mightily before being home underdogs, going 39-62 ATS since 2008, and the Jaguars are expected to be home underdogs for the Colts next week. The Bills are a smart bet as field goal home underdogs, as they should at least be able to push this week. The money line is also worth a bet at +150, as this game is basically a toss up.

Buffalo Bills 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 16 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +3

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (5-5) at Carolina Panthers (6-4)

A couple weeks ago, the Panthers were 6-2 and were seen as one of the better teams in the league, but they got blown out in Pittsburgh and then lost in Detroit to a last place Lions team, dropping them down to 6-4. As a result of last week’s loss in Detroit, this line shifted from Carolina -4.5 to Carolina -3, a significant shift, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal exactly. I think that line movement is an overreaction, as the Panthers would have won that game in Detroit if not for issues in the kicking game, which had not been an issue for them previously.

This line probably would have been closer to 6.5 or 7 a few weeks ago, before Carolina’s blowout loss in Pittsburgh. That was obviously a bad loss, but the Steelers are a legitimately good team and the Panthers were likely just caught off guard on the road on a short week against a strong team. The Panthers also been much better at home than on the road this season, going just 1-4 on the road, but 5-0 at home, with an average margin of victory of 9.8 points per game. Home/road variances tend to be random more than anything, but the Panthers have definitely been better this season than they’ve shown in the past couple weeks. Now back at home, they’re underrated as mere field goal favorites over the Seahawks.

This line suggests these two teams are about even, but I have the Panthers a few points better than the Seahawks, who have been an average team at best this season, ranking just 21st in first down rate differential at -1.93%. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 13th at +1.24%, despite an underwhelming couple of weeks. I think this line should be closer to the -6.5 or -7 it likely would have been a couple weeks ago. The Panthers are a smart play this week as field goal favorites.

Carolina Panthers 27 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Carolina -3

Confidence: High

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-3) at New York Jets (3-7)

The Patriots started off the season 1-2, but followed that up by ripping off 6 straight wins, putting them firmly back into Super Bowl contention once again. However, then they followed that up by getting blown out by 24 in Tennessee prior to their bye week, their biggest loss this late in the season with Tom Brady under center. Many soured on them after that loss and I think they’re underrated as a result.

They’re still one of the better teams in the league on paper and the Titans are a legitimately good team when Marcus Mariota is healthy, with one of the better defenses in the league, so that loss wasn’t as bad as it looked. The Titans got blown out in Indianapolis last week, but that was in part because they were flat after their huge upset win, in part because they lost Mariota to injury in the first half, and in part because the Colts have been quietly one of the best teams in the league over the past month.

The Patriots have also been so good throughout the years that they should get the benefit of the doubt, especially since they have played at a very high level on numerous occasions this season. They typically bounce back well after a loss, going 48-25 ATS in the Bill Belichick era, including 38-19 ATS with Tom Brady, and they are typically dominant in the second half of the season, going 65-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center.

The Patriots are also in a great spot coming off the bye against a lowly Jets team that ranks 28th in first down rate differential at -5.15%. Good teams typically beat up on bad teams after a week off. Road favorites of 4+ are 31-8 ATS since 2002 after a bye, including a ridiculous 11-1 ATS against divisional opponents. The Patriots have had two weeks to hear about how they supposedly have lost it and I expect them to come out of their bye with a statement win.

The Patriots are also much healthier going out of the bye, with right guard Shaq Mason and tight end Rob Gronkowski expected to return from short-term absences. Both were badly missed in their loss in Tennessee. This line is pretty high at -9.5, but I have the Patriots favored by 11.5 points, as this is a matchup of one of the worst teams in the league and one of the best. The Patriots should cover with ease in what should be a blowout victory.

New England Patriots 30 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: New England -9.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1) at Denver Broncos (4-6)

The Steelers have traditionally disappointed as big road favorites outside of the division, going 7-19 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of 3+ since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, frequently looking flat, especially early in games. We saw this last week when the Steelers trailed 16-0 late in the 3rd quarter in Jacksonville as 6-point road favorites. They ultimately made a huge comeback, but still only won by 4 at the last second and never had a shot to cover as 6-point favorites.

The Steelers were originally 6-point road favorites again in this one in Denver, but as a result of the Steelers’ underwhelming performance last week, combined with the Broncos’ upset victory in Los Angeles against the Chargers, this line has shifted to a field goal. The Steelers also might be more focused this week, after sleepwalking through 3 quarters against the Jaguars last week. Despite that, I still like the Broncos a decent amount in this one, as they’re a much more formidable foe than the Jaguars were last week.

The Broncos are just 4-6, but they’ve been much better than their record. In addition to their win in Los Angeles last week, they also have been competitive against the Chiefs (twice), the Rams, and the Texans, a trio of division leaders who beat them by just a combined 16 points in 4 games. On the season, they have a -7 point differential and are even better in first down rate differential, ranking 11th at 2.25%, despite having the 2nd toughest schedule in terms of opponent’s DVOA.

Their offensive line injuries concern me a little, as their top-2 offensive linemen, right guard Ronald Leary and center Matt Paradis, went down for the season a few weeks ago, but the Steelers are without stud defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt with injury for the second straight week, so they won’t be able to take full advantage of Denver’s injuries. I wish we were getting a better line, but the Broncos are worth a small play and have a good shot to pull off the straight up upset here at home.

Denver Broncos 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Denver +3

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

The Dolphins are 5-5, but they’ve been much worse than their record. While all 5 of their wins have come by 8 points or fewer, their 5 losses have all come by double digits, giving them a -57 point differential in the season, 5th worst in the NFL. In terms of first down rate differential, they are even worse, ranking 30th at -5.47%, only ahead of the Cardinals and Bills. They get quarterback Ryan Tannehill back healthy this week, but backup Brock Osweiler was not much a downgrade from him and there’s no guarantee he’s 100% after missing over a month with a shoulder injury.

The Colts are also 5-5, but they’ve been much better. They rank 8th in point differential at +49 and 8th in first down rate differential at +3.09%. They’ve also been much better over the past few weeks, after an injury plagued start to the season, winning 4 straight games by a combined 77 points and playing at a legitimately high level. Four of their five wins have come by more than a touchdown and they should be able to hand the Dolphins their 6th multiscore loss. I think we lost some line value when the Colts blew out the Titans last week (I can’t tell for sure because this line was off last week because of Tannehill’s uncertainty) and I wish we were getting a better line like -7, but I have this line calculated at Indianapolis -12, so we’re still getting line value with the Colts, who remain underrated despite their recent strong play.

Indianapolis Colts 31 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -7.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (3-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

The Eagles had a week from hell last week. Not only did they get blown out in New Orleans, losing 48-7, but they also suffered numerous mid-game injuries. Center Jason Kelce is not listed on the injury report this week after leaving with an elbow injury early in the game last week, but the Eagles also lost every down linebacker Jordan Hicks and numerous cornerbacks. Already without top cornerback Ronald Darby and starting safety Rodney McLeod, the Eagles are now starting a trio of bottom of the roster talents at cornerback and have just one week 1 starter left in their secondary, safety Malcolm Jenkins.

As a result of last week, this line adjusted in a significant way, as the Eagles went from being favored by 9.5 points on the early line to being favored by 5.5 points this week, the kind of week-to-week swing that’s usually reserved for a quarterback injury. While about 50% of games are decided by 9 points or fewer, just 30% of games are decided by 5 points or fewer, so it’s a very significant swing, crossing key numbers of 6 and 7.

Typically I love going against these kind of significant week-to-week line movements and this game is no exception. Obviously the Eagles looked terrible last week, but they’ve been competitive in all their other losses and Saints are playing at another level right now, especially at home. Teams also typically bounce back from a blowout loss, going 57-35 ATS since 2002 off of a loss by 35 points or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and undervalued in that spot. Most recently, we saw the Bengals cover in a close loss as 6-point underdogs in Baltimore last week, after the Saints blew them out the previous week.

I can’t say for sure that the Eagles will be overlooked or embarrassed, but they are definitely undervalued, as this line suggests they’re just a few points better than the Giants. Despite being 4-6 and coming off of a blowout loss, the Eagles still rank 10th in first down rate at +2.32%, while the Giants rank 26th at -4.08%. The Eagles could easily be 6-4 or so right now, in which case they’d likely be favored by at least a touchdown in this game, even coming off of a blowout loss with all of the injuries they have.

The injuries in the Eagles’ back 7 are definitely concerning, but they still have a strong defensive line and should dominate this game in the trenches, much like they did in the first matchup, when they blew out the Giants 34-13 in New York as 3-point road favorites. Their offense should also be a lot better this week with Kelce back in the lineup, at home against an underwhelming Giants defense. They should win this game by multiple scores and cover with relative ease.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -5.5

Confidence: High

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6)

The rule of thumb with the Lions in the Matt Stafford era is to bet against them when facing good teams. They are 20-38-2 ATS and 20-40 straight up against teams with winning records since Matt Stafford’s first full season as starter in 2011. Most recently, they went 1-11 against eventual playoff teams between 2016 and 2017. I know the Lions have wins against the Patriots, Packers, and Panthers this season, but the Packers and Panthers would have both won if not for several missed kicks and the Patriots have also lost on the road in Tennessee and Jacksonville this season.

That win against the Panthers came last week, but the Lions had a -5.98% first down rate differential in that game, pushing them down to 25th at -3.78% on the season. Their defense has gotten better in recent weeks with top edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah returning from injury, but their offense has taken major hits, trading away slot receiver Golden Tate, and losing wide receiver Marvin Jones, running back Kerryon Johnson, and right guard TJ Lang with injury. The Bears, on the other hand, rank 1st in first down rate differential at 7.00%, as they’ve been even better than their 7-3 record suggests, losing those 3 games by a combined 11 points and winning the first down rate battle in two of them.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would bet on the Bears in this one, but these are not ordinary circumstances. Not only are the Bears in a bad spot playing in an early game on Thursday Night Football against a last place team that they already beat two weeks ago after getting their biggest win of the season on Sunday Night Football last week against the Vikings, but they’re also missing quarterback Mitch Trubisky with injury.

Trubisky is not the primary reason why the Bears are winning games and the line compensated for his absence, shifting from Chicago -4.5 to Chicago -3, but Chase Daniel is a bit of a mystery as an injury replacement. Despite pocketing over 28 million over a 10-year NFL career, Daniel has thrown just 78 passes in his career and has made just 2 starts. Obviously he’s doing something right behind the scenes to keep getting jobs, but I don’t know how much I trust him on a short week on the road favored by a field goal, especially if the rest of the team is flat on a short week after last week’s big win. The Bears are my choice, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago -3

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at New Orleans Saints (9-1)

The Saints have had an incredible 3-week stretch. They started as home underdogs week 9 against the Rams, but ended up winning that game by 10, handing the Rams their first loss and putting themselves in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed in the NFC. They then had a pair of potential letdown spots, going on the road to Cincinnati week 10 after that big win over the Rams and then playing a sub-.500 Eagles team at home week 11 with this divisional clash looming just 4 days later, but they won both games by a combined 78 points, becoming the third team in the past 30 years to win back-to-back games by 35+ points.

There are reasons to like the Falcons in this one as 13-point underdogs. Quarterback Matt Ryan is playing as well as he ever has and should be perfectly capable of getting a backdoor cover late against a Saints defense that has been inconsistent this season. They also almost beat the Saints in Atlanta earlier this year and are in a good spot in a same season divisional rematch. Divisional road underdogs are 68-40 ATS since 2002 in the regular season against a team that previously beat them as underdogs.

Despite that, I’m taking the Saints, who are playing well enough right now to be favored by two touchdowns in this one. The Falcons gave up 43 points in the first matchup and their defense remains one of the worst in the league with linebacker Deion Jones still sidelined. This could be a blowout that gets out of hand early, like the Saints’ past two games. Matt Ryan and this Falcons offense could keep it somewhat competitive, but I’d feel comfortable having the Saints in this one for pick ‘em purposes.

New Orleans Saints 38 Atlanta Falcons 24

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -13

Confidence: None

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (6-4) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

A week ago, the Redskins were 5-point underdogs in Dallas on the early line, but the line has since shifted to a full touchdown. The obvious reason for that is the Redskins losing quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a broken leg, but backup Colt McCoy might not be much of a downgrade. Smith was not exactly lighting it up, ranking 22nd among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus, and backup Colt McCoy is a veteran with years of experience in the system. He also has similar skill set to Smith, as an accurate underneath thrower with mobility to escape the pass rush, but limited deep throwing ability.

The bigger concern for the Redskins’ offense is their lack of talent on the offensive line in the receiving corps. Even with Smith healthy up until the second half of last week’s loss at home to the Texans, the Redskins have only gotten a first down or touchdown on 34.06% of offensive snaps this season, good for 24th in the NFL. On top of that, the supporting cast has recently gotten worse with season ending injuries suffered by de facto #1 receiver Paul Richardson and stud right guard Brandon Scherff.

The Redskins do get talented left tackle Trent Williams back from a 3-game absence this week though and an already solid defense is expected to get starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar back from a 2-game absence as well, so it’s not all bad news on the injury front for the Redskins, even with Smith going down. Given that, this line has shifted a little bit too much, giving us a little bit of line value with the Redskins. The Cowboys are the better team and should win this game at home, but they’re also offensively changed and have just one win by more than a touchdown on the season. There’s not enough here to confidently take the Redskins, but I like their chances of keeping this close.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Washington Redskins 17

Pick against the spread: Washington +7

Confidence: Low

2018 Week 11 NFL Pick Results

Week 11

Total Against the Spread: 7-3-3

Pick of the Week: 0-1

High Confidence Picks: 2-0-1

Medium Confidence Picks: 1-2-1

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 3-3-2

Low Confidence Picks: 2-0

No Confidence Picks: 2-0-1

Upset Picks: 1-1

2018

Total Against the Spread: 96-59-6 (61.49%)

Pick of the Week: 5-5-1

High Confidence Picks: 11-7-1

Medium Confidence Picks: 27-17-1

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 43-29-3 (59.33%)

Low Confidence Picks: 21-14

No Confidence Picks: 32-16-3

Upset Picks: 13-11-1

All-Time (Since 2013)

Total Against the Spread: 787-667-42 (54.01%)

Pick of the Week: 56-39-3 (58.67%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 373-275-17 (57.37%)

Upset Picks: 120-147-1 (44.96%)