Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)

It’s only one game, but I was impressed with the Titans’ offense in Ryan Tannehill’s first start last week, as they had a 40.98% first down rate for the game, compared to 32.69% in their first 6 games of the season and a 34.12% rate down rate in 2018. Tannehill isn’t great, but he really only needs to be a serviceable starter for this team to be competitive. The Titans went 6-2 in 2018 with double digit wins over the Cowboys and Patriots during the one 8-game stretch where Marcus Mariota was healthy and they went 9-7 overall despite Mariota limited with injuries and despite playing 9 eventual playoff teams (4-5). This year, they are just 3-4, but they have a +9 point differential, best among teams with a losing record, despite missing 5 field goals (second most in the NFL), and they rank 14th in first down rate differential at +1.24%.

They are led by a defense that ranks 5th in first down rate allowed and ranked 4th in that metric last season, so as long as Tannehill and the offense are serviceable, this team could go on a surprise run. Despite that, they are only 2.5-point home favorites here against the Buccaneers, suggesting the Buccaneers are the slightly better team. I have it the other way around, as the Buccaneers rank 16th in first down rate differential at +0.03% and 19th in my roster rankings, while the Titans rank 14th and 12th respectively. We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Titans, but they’re worth a bet as long as this line is under a field goal.

Tennessee Titans 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2.5

Confidence: Medium

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (2-5) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

The Colts are 4-2 and lead the AFC South, but all 6 of their games could have gone either way. Their average margin of victory is 4.5 points per game. Their average margin of defeat is 6.5 points per game. And none of their 6 games have been decided by more than a touchdown. I expect this to be another close game, with the Broncos coming to town this week. The Broncos just got embarrassed by the Matt Moore led Chiefs at home on Thursday Night Football last week, but that game was much closer than the 30-6 final score suggested. The Chiefs managed just 14 first downs and won the first down rate battle by just 2.59%, as they scored 20 points from a fumble recovery touchdown, a busted coverage long passing touchdown, an ill-advised Denver fake punt, and a long punt return, while the Broncos missed 4 points on kicks. 

Prior to last week’s loss, the Broncos’ previous 4 losses this season came by a combined 23 points, while their two wins also have come by a combined 23 points. Even with last week’s loss included, they still rank 17th in first down rate differential at -0.70%, which is actually slightly better than the Colts, who rank 18th at -0.89%. The Broncos also rank slightly higher than the Colts in my roster rankings as well. I have this line calculated at Indianapolis -2, so I like getting 5 points with the Broncos this week, especially given how close all of the Colts’ games have been this season. Even if the Colts end up winning this game, it likely won’t be by much.

Sunday Update: Despite right tackle Ja’Wuan James being active for the Broncos for the first time since week 1, this line has weirdly moved up to 6.5 this morning. I am moving this up to a high confidence pick.

Indianapolis Colts 20 Denver Broncos 19

Pick against the spread: Denver +6.5

Confidence: High

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (3-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)

The Raiders are 3-3, but they’ve been far worse than their record, as their 3 wins came by a combined 18 points, while their 3 losses came by a combined 56 points, with none coming by fewer than 18 points. It was strange they were just 4.5 point underdogs in Green Bay last week and it’s strange that they are still just 6.5 point underdogs this week in Houston, even after losing by 18 points in Green Bay last week. This line hasn’t budged since the early line last week.

That is probably because the Texans lost on the road in Indianapolis, but that was a much closer game. The Texans are still one of the top teams in the league in first down rate differential, ranking 6th at +3.75% and they also rank 7th in my roster rankings. Meanwhile, the Raiders rank 25th in both first down rate (-3.26%) and in my roster rankings. This line should be around 10, so I’m happy to lay the 6.5 points.

Houston Texans 30 Oakland Raiders 20

Pick against the spread: Houston -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (5-1)

This was maybe the toughest game of the week to decide, as it’s tough to know what to make of either team. The Bills are 5-1, but they have faced the second easiest schedule in the NFL, with their wins coming against the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans, and Dolphins. Some of their games have been close, most concerningly their home win over the Dolphins last week in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, but they have a solid +30 point differential overall (9th in the NFL). Most impressively, they’ve had that point differential without the benefit of consistently winning the turnover battle, as they are -1 on the season. The 8 teams ahead of them in point differential have an average turnover margin of +4.6, but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. 

The Bills join the 49ers as one of two teams in the league to have multiple wins in which they lost the turnover battle (Jets and Titans) and in their only loss of the season (at home against New England) they could have easily won if not for a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in an eventual 6-point game. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bills rank 5th at +6.13%, which is very impressive even against a relatively easy schedule. However, in my roster rankings, the Bills come in just 17th.

The Eagles, meanwhile, look like the much better team on paper, but they haven’t played like it (20th in first down rate differential at -1.71%) and the injuries are starting to pile up. They are missing starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, starting left tackle Jason Peters, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, starting outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, and their 3 of their top-4 defensive tackles, including week 1 starter Malik Jackson. Perhaps more importantly, they seem to have serious problems in the locker room, which would explain why they’ve underachieved thus far.

Of course, all their problems now being out in the open could be what motivates them to play better and prove everyone wrong, which just adds another layer of uncertainty to this game. They could also be exhausted in their 3rd straight road game, a 45% cover spot all-time. The line I ultimately came up with is Buffalo -3, so I’m taking the Bills as 2-point favorites, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Buffalo Bills 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -2

Confidence: None

Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

Chiefs fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when they found out that what looked like a potential season ending knee injury for Patrick Mahomes turned out to be relatively minor, with Mahomes even returning to practice in limited fashion this week. It sounds like Mahomes has a good shot to return next week, about two and a half calendar weeks after the initial injury, and the time off will give Mahomes an opportunity to rest the sprained ankle that was limiting him before the knee injury, but in the meantime the Chiefs will really miss their franchise quarterback in a tough home matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

Mahomes is also far from the Chiefs’ only player that is out with injury. While the Chiefs do get wide receiver Sammy Watkins back from a two-game absence, they are still without starting left tackle Eric Fisher, starting left guard Andrew Wylie, top defensive player Chris Jones, top cornerback Kendall Fuller, and add starting defensive end Frank Clark to the injured list this week. In their current state, I have the Chiefs ranked 31st in my roster rankings, only ahead of the Dolphins, and yet they are just 4-point home underdogs against the Packers.

This line is probably only at 4 because the Chiefs beat the Broncos 30-6 last week even with Mahomes getting hurt in the second quarter, but it seems to forget that the Chiefs lost at home to the Colts and Texans and almost lost to the Lions even with Mahomes before that game in Denver. Even in that game in Denver, the Chiefs barely won the first down rate battle by 2.59%, with the Broncos essentially handing the Chiefs 20 points on four plays: a fumble recovery touchdown, a busted coverage long passing touchdown, an ill-advised fake punt, and a long punt return allowed. I’m not convinced at all from that performance that the Chiefs as they currently are stand any chance against a top level team like Green Bay. I have this line calculated at Green Bay -10, so I love the value we’re getting at -4. This is my Pick of the Week.

Green Bay Packers 27 Kansas City Chiefs 16

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -4

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (2-5) at Chicago Bears (3-3)

I’ve picked against the Chargers every week this season except their blowout win against the hapless Dolphins because I’ve thought the Chargers, who won 12 games last season, were overrated by a public that didn’t understand the value of the players this team has been missing with injury, including stud safety Derwin James, their top-2 offensive linemen Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey, and talented starting edge defender Melvin Ingram. So far, it’s been a good strategy because I am 7-0 ATS picking Chargers games this season, but I think we’re now getting value with the Chargers. 

Now 2-5 a year after going 12-4, the Chargers have been better than their record has suggested, as their five losses have all come by seven points or fewer. They’ve also had bad turnover luck, with a league worst 23.81% fumble recovery rate leading to a -4 turnover margin that is the 5th worst in the NFL. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and in terms of first down rate differential the Chargers actually rank 11th at +2.21%. They’re also getting back some of the aforementioned injured players, as both Melvin Ingram and Russell Okung are expected to play, though the latter is expected to be on a snap count in his season debut. 

Despite that, the Chargers are the biggest underdogs they’ve been all season this week and it comes against a Bears team that also hasn’t been nearly as good as they were a year ago when they went 12-4. The public might not have fully caught on because the Bears’ 3-3 record isn’t horrible, but a year removed from finishing 1st in first down rate differential at +6.64%, the Bears rank just 26th at -3.51% this season. 

Their defense is still strong, ranking 9th in first down rate allowed, but without free agent losses Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, departed ex-defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and injured defensive end Akiem Hicks, they are merely good defensively this year, as opposed to last year’s dominant unit. On offense, they rank 28th in first down rate, as Mitch Trubisky has seemingly regressed behind an offensive line that has definitely regressed and none of their skill position players outside of Allen Robinson can get anything going. Add in a tougher schedule after playing one of the easiest in the league last season and it’s not a surprise that the Bears have been underwhelming this season. 

Earlier this week I locked in this line at Chargers +4.5 because I thought it would continue to fall, after being +6 on the early line last week and opening at +5 this week. It did fall slightly to +4, but the Chargers had top wide receiver Keenan Allen suffer an injury during the week and he’s expected to be on a snap count if he plays at all. That doesn’t scare me off from taking the Chargers at +4.5 or +4, as I still have the Chargers slightly higher than the Bears in my roster rankings, but I’m no longer considering this as my Pick of the Week. If this game were in Los Angeles, I’d probably pick the Bears because the Chargers have no homefield advantage there (6-12-1 ATS since moving in 2017), but they are 13-6-2 ATS on the road over that time period. Even if the Chargers are unable to pull off the upset in Chicago, this should be another close game for a Chargers team that has been competitive in every game this season. 

Chicago Bears 20 Los Angeles Chargers 19

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +4.5

Confidence: Medium

New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)

The Jets got embarrassed at home by the Patriots and their defense last week, managing just a 22.64% first down rate in a 33-0 shutout loss, but that wasn’t really a surprise. The Jets and their offense looked good against the Cowboys the previous week in Sam Darnold’s return from illness, but the Patriots have a juggernaut defense (23.10% first down rate allowed) that can eat young quarterbacks alive and the Jets have issues on offense far beyond the quarterback position. 

Outside of running back Le’Veon Bell, the Jets may not have a single above average starter on their entire offense and running back is not one of the more valuable positions. They had a 42.59% first down rate against the Cowboys, but just a 27.27% first down rate in Darnold’s first start of the season at home against the Bills before his illness and a pathetic 18.01% first down rate in 3 games in his absence. A good quarterback can mask a lot of other flaws, but Darnold is still young and has yet to consistently resemble the player he was against the Cowboys, especially against tougher defenses.

Fortunately, Darnold gets a much easier matchup this week in Jacksonville against a Jaguars defense that is not close to what it was in 2017. With Jalen Ramsey gone and Marcell Dareus on injured reserve, the Jaguars have just four of their top-14 in snaps played remaining from that dominant 2017 defense and rank 14th in first down rate allowed at 35.67%. Offensively, as much as sixth round rookie Gardner Minshew has gotten hype, they rank just 26th in first round rate at 32.43% and Minshew seems to be regressing weekly. 

The Jaguars are also in a much worse spot than the Jets this week. While the Jets should be fully focused with a trip to Miami on deck, the Jaguars have a much bigger game next week in London against the division leading Texans. Favorites are just 68-30 ATS since 2016 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Earlier this week I thought I would be making a big play on the Jets at +6, with the line shifting from +4 on the early line as a result of the Jets’ blowout loss, but I don’t like them nearly as much without linebacker CJ Mosley, who is out with injury. His absence only shifted this line up to 6.5 and I would need a full touchdown to bet the Jets without him. They’re still the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but unless the line shifts to 7 this is a low confidence pick.

Sunday Update: +7 has showed up Sunday morning, so I am putting a small bet on the Jets. This line is too high for an underwhelming Jaguars team that is in a bad spot.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +7

Confidence: Medium

Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (1-6) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

This line is pretty big at Minnesota -16, but it’s completely understandable, as this is a matchup between one of the best and one of the worst teams in the league. The Vikings rank 4th in first down rate differential at +6.23% and are the only team in the league in the top-10 in both first down rate and first down rate allowed. Meanwhile, the Redskins rank 30th at -7.51%, only ahead of the Jets, who have been without their quarterback for most of the season, and the Dolphins, who are arguably the worst team of all-time and have given the Redskins their only win. 

This matchup should be even more lopsided on a short week in Minnesota, as it’s very tough for an inferior team to go on the road on a short week and compete on the road against a non-divisional foe. Teams are just 16-36 ATS all-time as non-divisional road underdogs on Thursday Night Football, including 1-10 ATS as underdogs of 10+. I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet because we’re not really getting any line value with the Vikings, especially with Adam Thielen questionable, but I have no problem laying this many points in this situation, as history suggests this is very likely to be a blowout.

I am also locking in one game early before the line moves. I will have a full write-up this weekend.

LAC +4.5 @ CHI

Minnesota Vikings 31 Washington Redskins 10

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -16

Confidence: Medium

2019 Week 7 NFL Picks

2019 Pick Results

Pick of the Week

GB -4.5 vs. OAK

High Confidence Picks

DEN +3.5 vs. KC

Medium Confidence Picks

DAL -2.5 vs. PHI

TEN -2 vs. LAC

HOU +1 @ IND

ATL +3 vs. LAR

NO +4 @ CHI

Low Confidence Picks

NE -10 @ NYJ

CIN +4 vs. JAX

MIN -2 @ DET

No Confidence Picks

SEA -3 vs. BAL

WAS +10 vs. SF

BUF -17 vs. MIA

ARZ +3.5 @ NYG

Upset Picks

NO +170 vs. CHI

ATL +140 vs. LAR

DEN +150 vs. KC

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-0) at New York Jets (1-4)

It’s tough to know what to make of the Jets. Week 1, they lost at home to the Bills, despite winning the turnover battle by 3, posting a -12.41% first down rate in the process. Then they lost quarterback Sam Darnold and top defensive player CJ Mosley for and had a -14.45% first down rate over 3 games. Last week, however, the Jets got Darnold back and pulled the surprising upset against a Cowboys team that had won the first down rate battle in each of their first 5 games. Even though they only won that game by 2, the Jets actually won the first down rate battle by 5.26%, so it was an impressive showing in Darnold’s return. 

This week, the Jets could be getting CJ Mosley back, but even if he does return they are far from 100%. They will be without their left side of the offensive line, with both Kelvin Beachum and Kelechi Osemele injured, while center Ryan Kalil and right guard Brian Winters are both questionable after being limited in practice on Friday. Also questionable after being limited in practice are wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, cornerback Darryl Roberts, and nose tackle Steve McLendon, while defensive end Henry Anderson, tight end Chris Herndon, and middle linebacker Neville Hewitt are all doubtful.

The Jets also host a tough Patriots team that won the first down rate battle against them by 21.48% in their meeting in New England a few weeks ago. Being at home and having Darnold and Mosley back will definitely help, but with everyone else the Jets are missing, they could still have trouble keeping this game close. The Patriots haven’t faced a tough schedule, but they’ve won all 6 games by an average of 23.7 points per game and lead the league with a very impressive +13.11% first down rate differential. I actually have this line calculated at New England -14, but I wouldn’t bet on the Patriots unless this line falls below 10 because there’s a lot of uncertainty with the Jets and because the Jets could give a big effort at home on Monday Night and keep this closer than expected.

New England Patriots 23 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: New England -10

Confidence: Low