Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Houston Texans (2-1)

The Panthers come into this game just 1-2, but they could easily be 3-0 right now. They lost their first 2 games by a combined 9 points, including a 3-point loss to the Rams in which they failed to recover a single one of the games four fumbles. Those games were close despite getting worse than replacement level quarterback play from Cam Newton, who was clearly not at 100% due to a foot injury and now has been shut down indefinitely. Through 2 games, Newton had the worst completion percentage above expected in the league at -9.3% and was actively hurting this team, which has a strong roster around the quarterback.

In backup quarterback Kyle Allen’s first start of the season, the Panthers got their first win of the season in a 38-20 victory in Arizona. Allen is a former undrafted free agent and only has made two career starts, but he’s played well in both starts (QB ratings of 111.3 and 144.4) and the Panthers don’t need him to be great to win games. It shouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade over what Cam Newton was for the first two games of the season, though it’s premature to suggest that he should continue playing if Newton can come back healthy. He gives them the luxury of not having to rush Newton back at less than 100%, but he may ultimately prove to be a quality backup caliber player. 

It seems like we’ve lost all line value with the Panthers as a result of Allen’s strong performance last week, as the Panthers, who were 2-point underdogs in Arizona last week, are now just 4-point underdogs against a much better Texans team. Allen should have a much tougher day against Houston’s defense than he did against an Arizona defense that is missing its two starting cornerbacks. The Panthers also have some other injury concerns, with defensive end Kawaan Short, right guard Trai Turner, and cornerback Donte Jackson not practicing on Friday. They still have a solid supporting cast without those two players, but their absences will likely be felt. My calculated line is actually Houston -4.5, so the Texans are probably the better pick for pick ‘em purposes. 

Houston Texans 22 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Houston -4

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

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

The Seahawks picked up their first loss of the season last week at home against the Teddy Bridgewater led Saints, but they actually had a better first down rate differential last week than they had in either of their two wins. They won their first two games of the season by a combined 3 points and had an even first down rate differential through 2 games. Last week, they lost by 6 points despite a +3.47% first down rate differential because they allowed a couple of return touchdowns, which swung the game on two snaps. 

Relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league, with defensive end Ezekiel Ansah back in the lineup after missing the first two games of the season, the Seahawks are an above average team that is well positioned in the NFC if they can remain healthy. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have yet to win their first game and rank just 29th in first down rate differential through 2 games. However, I actually like the Cardinals’ chances of catching the Seahawks off guard a little bit this week, because the Seahawks are in a terrible spot. 

Not only do the Seahawks have to play the Rams next week, they have to do so in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are 56-77 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football and road favorites are just 24-50 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs, which the Seahawks likely will be (+2.5 on the early line). This is an obvious look ahead spot for the Seahawks, so even though we’re not getting any real line value (I have this line calculated at Seattle -5), the Cardinals are worth a small bet this week. They likely won’t be getting the Seahawks’ best effort and they will be desperate to get their first win against a divisional rival. They’re a competent enough team to keep this close and possibly pull the upset.

Seattle Seahawks 30 Arizona Cardinals 27

Pick against the spread: Arizona +5.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0-1)

Detroit +7 is one of two lines I locked in earlier this week, along with Cleveland +7. I legitimately don’t understand this line. It was at 6 last week and I thought it might be closer to 3 following the Lions’ upset victory in Philadelphia, but instead it’s gone up to 7. I’ve thought the Lions are an underrated team since before the season started. I loved the way their defense played down the stretch last season, after the acquisition of defensive tackle Damon Harrison and the breakout of fellow defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, and then they added defensive end Trey Flowers to the mix in free agency this off-season, giving them one of the best defensive lines in the league.

Their offense slowed down around the time their defense improved last season, so no one paid much attention to their defensive improvement, but their offense struggles were in large part due to quarterback Matt Stafford playing through a broken back and not having most of his weapons healthy either. I didn’t have them making the post-season coming into the season, but that was more due to how loaded the NFC is more than anything. Off to a 2-0-1 start, the Lions could easily end up qualifying for the post-season when all is said and done. 

Given that, it’s really hard to figure out why they should be touchdown underdogs at home against anyone. The Chiefs are one of the top teams in the league and have a juggernaut offense even without top wide receiver Tyreek Hill and left tackle Eric Fisher, but their defense still has a hard time getting off the field and their average point differential on the road since the start of last season is +6.1, with just 3 wins by more than a touchdown. Why are they expected to beat an above average Lions team by multiple scores?

The one concern here is that Matt Stafford popped up on the injury report on Friday after tweaking his hip in practice. This is obviously something that I didn’t know when I locked this line in earlier this week and all sources are confirming he’ll still play (and the line hasn’t moved), but there’s a possibility he’ll be less than 100%, so that does create some uncertainty here. Unless I hear otherwise on Saturday, I’m proceeding with this as my Pick of the Week because we’re getting so much line value (my calculated line even pricing in the uncertainty with Stafford is Kansas City -1). The money line is also worth a bet, as the Lions have a great chance to pull the upset straight up if Stafford’s injury proves to be nothing.

Final Update: Matt Stafford seems like he’s going to be fine, but the Lions will be without top cornerback Darius Slay, who practiced all week in limited fashion, but was ruled out before gametime when his hamstring injury tightened. That hurts the Lions’ chances of pulling the upset, but they should still be able to keep this close game and cover this inflated spread.

Detroit Lions 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +255

Pick against the spread: Detroit +7

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (1-2) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

I typically like to bet against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This line has climbed all the way from Baltimore -4 on the early line last week to Baltimore -7 this week and it really doesn’t make sense why. In the past week, the Ravens lost in Kansas City in a game that was not close most of the way, while the Browns lost at home by a touchdown to the Rams in a game they had a chance to send to overtime at the end. The Browns have injury concerns, with starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams both unlikely to play again this week, but the Browns are in better shape injury wise than last week, with starting safety Damarious Randall set to return and possibly right tackle Chris Hubbard as well, and they’re pretty deep at cornerback, so that’s the one position where they can afford to have some injuries.

The Ravens aren’t exactly healthy either, set to miss starting cornerback Jimmy Smith once again. They had already lost fellow starting cornerback Tavon Young for the season before the year began and before that they had already lost 5 of their top-11 in terms of defensive snaps played from 2018 in the off-season. The Ravens had one of the best defenses in the league last year, which carried them to the post-season with a developing Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but, with a few exceptions, this is almost a completely different defense than last year. The addition of Earl Thomas at safety is big, but he can’t mask all of their other losses by himself. Last year, they were one of the few defenses that gave Kansas City trouble, nearly leading to the upset in Kansas City. Last week, they allowed the Chiefs to pick up a first down or score a touchdown on 48.44% of their offensive snaps.

The Ravens are obviously better on offense this year with Lamar Jackson seemingly making a second year leap and they could make the playoffs even with their defense being a shell of what it was, but Jackson has also faced a very easy slate of defenses so far this season, as the Dolphins, Cardinals, and Chiefs are all likely to finish among the worst defenses in the league this season. Jackson got lucky with an easy slate of defenses last year as well, with 5 of his 8 starts coming against teams that finished in the bottom-10 in first down rate allowed. Even at less than 100%, the Browns’ defense is better than what Jackson has been used to facing thus far in his career. I have the Ravens a little higher than the Browns in my roster rankings right now, but not nearly enough to justify this line being a full touchdown. This should be a close game and it wouldn’t shock me if the Browns were able to win outright, so I like the Browns +7 a good amount.

Final Update: The Ravens lost key defensive lineman Brandon Williams, one of four remaining healthy starters from 2018, to a late week knee injury. This just solidifies my pick of Cleveland. With Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Williams out, the Ravens have comparable injury problems to the Browns, who are without safety Morgan Burnett, linebacker Christian Kirksey, and tight end David Njoku in addition to their two-top cornerbacks, but do get back safety Damarious Randall and right tackle Chris Hubbard.

Baltimore Ravens 23 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7

Confidence: High

Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (2-1)

The Colts have gotten off to a 2-1 start with new starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but they are one of the most banged up teams in the league right now. On offense, top wide receiver TY Hilton is doubtful, while their defense will be without their best player linebacker Darius Leonard, it’s best defensive back safety Malik Hooker, and possibly starting cornerback Pierre Desir, who only got a limited practice in on Friday, and expected starting defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who was yet to play this season and only got limited work in practice this week. 

Despite that, this line has jumped to Indianapolis -7 after the Colts’ narrow home victory over the Falcons last week, a game in which they lost the first down rate battle. On the season, they rank just 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.70%. The Colts don’t have a tough opponent this week, with the Raiders (26th in first down rate at -4.75%) coming to town, but, without the Colts’ roster as banged up as it is, I only have this line calculated at Indianapolis -4, so we’re getting pretty significant line value here. 

On top of that, this could be a look ahead spot for the Colts ahead of a trip to Kansas City next week. Favorites of 7+ are just 13-30 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 7+ and the Colts are currently 8.5-point underdogs on the early line. They could easily overlook the Raiders, something that could really hurt them at much less than 100%. This should be a close game, so I like the Raiders a lot this week.

Indianapolis Colts 27 Oakland Raiders 24

Pick against the spread: Oakland +7

Confidence: High

Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers: 2019 Week 4 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0)

Typically, playing on a short week benefits the home team significantly, as they don’t have to travel, which gives them more preparation time on a short week. There are a couple exceptions. The first exception is when it’s a divisional matchup, as teams tend to be much more familiar with divisional opponents than non-divisional opponents and not need as much preparation. The second exception is when the road team is better than the home team, as better teams tend to handle the short week better. 

None of those exceptions are in play this week, as the Packers are favored here at home against an Eagles team who they haven’t played since 2016. Non-divisional home favorites are 35-15 ATS all-time on Thursday Night Football (excluding week 1), so the Packers should have a good chance to cover this spread. They’ve also been a dominant home team with Aaron Rodgers under center over the past decade or so, going 40-19 ATS at home in games Aaron Rodgers has started and finished since 2011. 

Unfortunately, we’re not getting any line value with the Packers, with this line shifting from Green Bay -3 on the early line last week to now Green Bay -5 this week. The line moved because the Eagles lost at home to the Lions, but the Lions are an underrated team who can be a legitimate playoff contender in the NFC and the Eagles actually won the first down rate battle in that game by 6.23%. 

Now the Eagles seem to be underrated. I’ve liked the Packers since the off-season and I think they’re one of the top few teams in the league, but I still have this line calculated at only Green Bay -4. The homefield advantage on a short week should help them significantly, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this ended up being a really close game, so I’m probably not going to bet on Green Bay at -5. I may reconsider tomorrow. I am also locking in a couple picks I love this week before the lines move. One of those games is likely to be my Pick of the Week.

CLE +7 @ BAL

DET +7 vs. KC

Final Update: Za’Darius Smith is questionable after suffering a hamstring injury in practice on Tuesday. He’s expected to play, but could be limited. The free agent acquisition been one of the best edge defenders in the league thus far this season and he’s been a big part of why the Packers have been so good defensively this year, so it would definitely hurt the Packers if he couldn’t play at full strength. I’m going to leave this as a low confidence pick, even though the Packers are in a great spot.

Green Bay Packers 24 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -5

Confidence: Low

2019 Week 3 NFL Pick Results

2019

Total Against the Spread: 24-22-2

Pick of the Week: 2-1

High Confidence Picks: 5-2-1

Medium Confidence Picks: 5-6-1

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 12-9-2

Low Confidence Picks: 5-7

No Confidence Picks: 7-6

Upset Picks: 5-3

2018

Total Against the Spread: 154-102-11 (59.74%)

Pick of the Week: 10-6-1 (61.76%)

High Confidence Picks: 21-13-2 (61.11%)

Medium Confidence Picks: 41-27-1 (60.14%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 72-46-4 (60.66%)

Low Confidence Picks: 35-28-1 (55.47%)

No Confidence Picks: 47-28-6 (61.73%)

Upset Picks: 25-17-1 (59.30%)

All-Time (Since 2013)

Total Against the Spread: 869-732-49 (54.15%)

Pick of the Week: 63-41-3 (60.28%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 414-301-20 (57.69%)

Upset Picks: 137-156-1 (46.77%)

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (1-1) at Washington Redskins (0-2)

This was the toughest game of the week for me to decide. The Bears did well against bad teams last year, going 10-3 with an average margin of victory of 13.6 points per game, but they lost a pair of key contributors in the secondary this off-season (safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Bryce Callahan) and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky seems to be regressing in his third season in the league. Last week, they barely won in Denver in a game in which they lost the first down rate battle. They haven’t faced the easiest schedule, but it’s very concerning that their offense has put together just one touchdown drive in two games. 

This week, the Redskins are a step down in competition, but I only have this line calculated at Chicago -5.5, so we’re not getting much line value with them at Chicago -4 and the Bears are also in a potential look ahead spot with the Vikings on deck. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them look past the lowly Redskins a little bit, but the Redskins are getting healthier on defense with defensive end Jonathan Allen and cornerback Fabian Moreau set to return from injury and are fully capable of giving the Bears a game if the Bears don’t bring their best effort. I’m taking the Bears for pick ‘em purposes, but I can’t be confident in them at all.

Chicago Bears 21 Washington Redskins 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago -4

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-0)

The Seahawks are 2-0, but they’ve been far from impressive, winning those two games by a combined 3 points, despite facing a Bengals team that was demolished the following week by the 49ers and a Steelers team that lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to an injury in the first half. In first down rate differential, the Seahawks are at an even +0.00%. Their good luck continues as they now get to face a Saints team that is without starting quarterback Drew Brees for 6 weeks, but the Seahawks could still have a hard time covering as 4.5 point home favorites.

The Saints still have a strong supporting cast around the quarterback and a pair of backup quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill that Sean Payton and the coaching staff like and can build a game plan around. Even without Brees, I have the Saints ranked just behind the Seahawks in my roster rankings, so we’re getting some line value with the Saints at +4.5. There’s not enough here to bet the Saints confidently, but they should be the right side.

Seattle Seahawks 23 New Orleans Saints 20

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +4.5

Confidence: Low