New York Giants (3-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1)
Coming out of their week 11 bye, the Giants are an underrated team, especially on offense. The Giants are generally considered to be a weak offense and in terms of first down rate they rank just 28th at 31.76%, but they’ve also faced a brutal schedule, somehow facing top-10 defenses in terms of first down rate allowed over expected in nine of their ten games, facing Pittsburgh (1st), Tampa Bay (2nd), the LA Rams (4th), Washington twice (5th), Chicago (6th), San Francisco (9th), and Philadelphia twice (10th). The Giants first down rate is 2.22% below average, but their schedule suggests they should be 2.96% below average right now, so the Giants actually rank 15th in first down rate over expected at +0.74%.
That’s despite the fact that the Giants have had some absences on offense and are now mostly healthy, most importantly top wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who they have been noticeably better with on the field this season. The Giants haven’t been as good on defense, ranking 27th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.09%, but defensive play tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offense, so their defensive concerns aren’t as much of a problem as you’d think, especially since my roster rankings suggest they’re more talented on that side of the ball than they’ve played.
Given that they’re underrated compared to their 3-7 record, I was expecting to bet the Giants frequently over the rest of the season, but we’re not getting quite the line value I was expecting with them in their first game out of their bye, as they have ballooned to 6-point favorites in Cincinnati in the wake of Joe Burrow’s season ending injury, a massive swing from being 2.5-point underdogs on the early line last week. The Bengals have one of the worst backup quarterback situations in the league with Ryan Finley and presumed starter Brandon Allen both being borderline NFL quarterbacks, but an 8.5-point swing like that is normally reserved for an MVP caliber quarterback getting hurt, so this line isn’t that attractive.
That’s not to say I’m going to be taking the Bengals though, as not only are the Giants underrated, but the Bengals are truly dreadful without Burrow. Even with Burrow in the lineup for most of the season, the Bengals rank just 30th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -3.82%, including a defense that ranks 31st in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.64%. Without Burrow, the Bengals rank on the same level as the Jaguars and Jets in my roster rankings, so, even if I disagree with a 8.5 point swing, I actually think this line is about right, as the Bengals would have been very overvalued as 2.5-point favorites with Burrow.
The Giants are also in a great spot as big road favorites off of a bye, as teams are 61-33 ATS as road favorites of 3.5 or more off of a bye since 1989, including an 8-4 ATS record by teams with a sub-.500 record like the Giants. There’s not enough here for the Giants to be worth betting, but I would probably bet on them if this line drops back down to 5.5. Either way, the Giants should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes, as they should win this game pretty easily.
Update: This line has dropped to 5.5 in some places, so this is worth a play.
New York Giants 26 Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pick against the spread: NY Giants -5.5