San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (7-0) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)

The Patriots have gotten a lot of attention for how they’ve started the season, but the 49ers have arguably been better. Their point differential (+130) is behind New England’s (+189), but they’ve also played one fewer game and they’ve been far less dependent on the turnover margin (+17 vs. +4), which tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In terms of first down rate differential, the 49ers hold the edge 12.75% to 11.61%. That’s despite the fact that the 49ers have faced a tougher schedule than the Patriots.

The 49ers’ schedule does get easier this week, as they head to Arizona for Thursday Night Football. The Cardinals are 3-4-1, but their three wins have come by an average of 3.3 points per game against 3 teams that are a combined 3-21, while their four losses have come by an average of 15.8 points per game. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 30th at -7.59%. They should have a lot of trouble with the 49ers, like they have with all competent or better competition this season. 

Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the 49ers, as this line has skyrocketed from San Francisco -6.5 on the early line last week to San Francisco -10, after the 49ers blew out the Panthers last week, while the Cardinals were blown out in New Orleans. I have this line calculated at San Francisco -12, but there’s not enough here for the 49ers to be worth betting, especially since these Thursday night games can be tough to predict.

I am also locking in TB +6 @ SEA before that line moves any more. I am considering that for Pick of the Week. 

San Francisco 49ers 26 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -10

Confidence: Low

2019 Week 8 NFL Pick Results

Week 8

Total Against the Spread: 9-6

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence Picks: 2-0

Medium Confidence Picks: 3-3

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 6-3

Low Confidence Picks: 1-0

No Confidence Picks: 2-3

Upset Picks: 0-0

2019

Total Against the Spread: 65-54-2 (54.55%)

Pick of the Week: 7-1 (87.50%)

High Confidence Picks: 12-4-1 (73.53%)

Medium Confidence Picks: 14-15-1 (48.33%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 33-20-2 (61.82%)

Low Confidence Picks: 16-18 (47.06%)

No Confidence Picks: 16-16 (50.00%)

Upset Picks: 11-11 (50.00%)

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: 910-764-49 (54.24%)

Pick of the Week: 68-41-3 (62.05%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 435-312-20 (58.02%)

Upset Picks: 143-164-1 (46.59%)

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (0-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)

The Steelers have had a strange season. On one hand, they haven’t lost by more than a field goal since their week 1 trip to New England, despite starting three different quarterbacks, even winning with third string undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges under center in their most recent game before the bye. Even with that 30-point week 1 loss in New England included, the Steelers have a -8 point differential that isn’t terrible, especially considering they’ve faced the second toughest schedule in the league by DVOA and that they are the only team in the league who have faced both the undefeated Patriots and the undefeated 49ers. This week, the Steelers get back second string quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was showing signs of progress before being concussed in the Steelers week 5 game loss to the Ravens, a game they likely would have won had he not gotten injured.

On the other hand, the Steelers have benefited immensely from turnovers and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The Steelers have a +7 turnover margin on the season that ranks 2nd only to the Patriots and is easily the best among teams with a negative point differential (the Lions are +4 at -11 and the Cardinals are +2 at -31). There have been just 18 instances of a team losing a game this season despite winning the turnover battle and the Steelers were on the losing end of 3 of those games (Seahawks, 49ers, Ravens). In terms of first down rate differential, the Steelers rank 22nd at +-.72%, which is underwhelming. In my roster rankings, they rank 21st, with their defense suffering a huge blow when Stephon Tuitt went down for the season with an injury in their last game before the bye. He had been one of the top defensive linemen in the league this season. 

Tuitt might not be missed this week though, as the Steelers’ schedule suddenly gets much easier with the Dolphins coming to town. The Dolphins are better when veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is under center, as young quarterback Josh Rosen has shown no ability to deal with the heavy amounts of pressure let up by this backup caliber offensive line, but they are still one of the worst teams in the league by a mile, regardless of who is under center. After an off-season teardown, they have few talented players remaining and those players likely aren’t giving 100% effort for a coaching staff and front office that transparently doesn’t care about winning this season. This line is about right at -14, but I’m not taking the Dolphins this season unless I have a great reason to, so the Steelers are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -14

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Giants (2-5) at Detroit Lions (2-3-1)

This one is a tough call. On one hand, the Lions are favored by 6.5 points and have yet to beat a team convincingly, with both of their wins coming by a field goal. They have a decent 2-3-1 record, but they have just a -11 point differential even with a +4 turnover margin. No team with a worse point differential has better than a +2 turnover margin and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 3rd at -3.17%. On top of that, they are also missing top cornerback Darius Slay. 

The Giants aren’t exactly a tough opponent though, ranking 26th in my roster rankings, and, even with the Lions being underwhelming thus far this season, I still have this line calculated at Detroit -5. We’re getting some line value with the Giants, but not a significant amount, and the Giants are also in a tough spot, with a bigger game against the Cowboys on deck. Teams tend to struggle before big home games, going 42-74 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6+ and the Cowboys are currently -7.5 on the early line. Underdogs of 6+ are also just 58-90 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again, as it’s tough for an inferior team to hang with a superior team if they have another tough game on deck. I’m taking the Giants, but for a no confidence pick, as it would hardly be a surprise to see the Lions win by a touchdown.

Detroit Lions 26 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6.5

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (5-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-6)

Things have gone from bad to worse in the Falcons’ wildly disappointing 2019 season, as the Falcons not only lost at home in convincing fashion to the Rams last week, but they also lost quarterback Matt Ryan to an ankle injury. With head coach Dan Quinn likely coaching for his job ahead of the Falcons’ bye week next week, it looked like Ryan was going to play at less than 100% in an otherwise meaningless game, but they couldn’t get him ready for action and will turn to backup Matt Schaub instead, snapping Matt Ryan’s 154-game consecutive start streak, the 5th longest streak in NFL history.

As disappointing as this season as been for the Falcons as a whole, Matt Ryan has still produced at a high level, completing 70.9% of his passes for an average of 7.61 YPA, 15 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, while leading the Falcons to a 40.82% first down rate that ranks 5th in the NFL. Now they’ll have to turn to a backup in Matt Schaub who is one of the worst in the NFL. Schaub is plenty experienced with 92 career starts, but he hasn’t been a productive starter since 2012 and, now in his age 38 season, has thrown just 16 regular season passes since his last regular season start in 2015.

Ryan gets a lot of help from a strong receiving corps, but has been pressured on 37.7% of his dropbacks, above the league average, and the Falcons rank just 25th in yards per carry with 3.66, so Schaub doesn’t have a great supporting cast, especially with Mohamed Sanu getting traded. The bigger problem is the defense, which has allowed opponents to move the chains at a 42.13% rate and has not allowed the Falcons’ offense to keep up, especially with top cornerback Desmond Trufant sidelined with an injury. Now without Ryan, the Falcons suddenly have major problems on both sides of the ball.

Despite that, I am actually taking the Falcons as 8.5-point home underdogs this week, although that’s more of a fade of the Seahawks than anything. The Seahawks are 5-2, but four of their five wins have come by 4 points or fewer, including narrow victories over the Bengals and Steelers, who are a combined 2-11. Even with the Falcons in the bottom-5 of my roster rankings without Ryan, I still have the Seahawks calculated as just touchdown favorites, as there’s a good chance the Falcons are able to give the Seahawks a game like almost everyone else has. That’s not nearly enough line value to bet on Matt Schaub with any confidence this week, especially since the Falcons could quit on their lameduck coach if they get down big early, but the Falcons are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Atlanta Falcons 16

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +8.5

Confidence: None

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) at New Orleans Saints (6-1)

The Saints won 5 straight games with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under center, but it’s still big for the Saints to be getting Drew Brees back from his thumb injury this week. Since taking over for Drew Brees in the first quarter of their week 2 game, Bridgewater has led the offense to 113 first downs and 12 offensive touchdowns on 366 snaps, a 34.15% first down rate that isn’t bad, but that is a far cry from last year’s 43.48%. The biggest reason why they’ve been winning has been the play of their defense, which has allowed just a 29.52% first down rate in 4 games since getting defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins back from injury. With Brees re-joining this offense, this team is incredibly dangerous. 

The news that Brees will be playing has pushed this line up to New Orleans -12, but I still like the Saints a lot this week. Their opponents the Arizona Cardinals have gotten some attention for their 3-game winning streak, but those 3 wins have come against teams that are a combined 3-18 and they came by a combined 10 points. Their 3 losses, meanwhile, have come by a combined 41 points. They rank 24th in the NFL in point differential at -31, 29th in first down rate differential at -5.67%, and 23rd in my roster rankings. As big as this line is, I think it should be bigger, calculating it at New Orleans -15. 

The Saints are also in a great spot going into a bye, as big home favorites tend to take care of business before a week off. Home favorites of 7+ are 35-14 ATS before a bye since 2002. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are in a tough spot, needing to turn around and play the division leading 49ers in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, a game in which they are 6.5-point home underdogs on the early line. It’s very tough for big underdogs to cover before being big underdogs again, as underdogs of 6+ are 58-90 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again. On top of that, teams are 42-74 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6+. The Saints should be able to win with ease and cover the spread as well.

New Orleans Saints 30 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -12

Confidence: High