Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: 2017 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

Carolina Panthers (11-5) at New Orleans Saints (11-5)

The Saints are my pick to come out of the NFC. With the Eagles losing Carson Wentz for the season, the Saints are now the most complete team in the NFC, with the Rams and Vikings following close behind. I give the edge to the Saints because quarterback Drew Brees is better and more experienced than either Jared Goff or Case Keenum. The Saints also get to open their post-season at home against a Carolina team that they’ve beaten twice so far this season. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Saints are definitely going to win a 3rd time, as teams are just 4-2 in the post-season against a team they defeated twice in the regular season, but the Saints have had a significant edge over the Panthers in their first 2 matchups, winning both by double digits.

The Panthers also finished the season significantly behind the Saints in point differential and first down rate differential. The Saints had a point differential of +122 and a first down rate differential of +3.73%, while the Panthers were +36 and +1.85% in those two metrics. Both teams finished at 11-5, but the Panthers got to 11-5 on the strength of a 8-1 record in games decided by 8 points or less, so they easily could have finished 9-7 and out of the post-season if a few things had gone differently. Their point differential is 3rd worst among playoff teams and worse than two non-playoff qualifiers, the Chargers and the Ravens. We aren’t getting enough line value with the Saints to bet on them this week, but they should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes.

New Orleans Saints 27 Carolina Panthers 19

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -6.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

The Chiefs won the AFC West at 10-6, but I think they are one of the weaker qualifiers, given how reliant they were on winning the turnover battle this season. Despite having the 2nd best turnover margin in the league at +15, they finished just 10th in point differential at +76. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, so the Chiefs won’t be able to rely on that going forward. For example, teams that finish the regular season with a turnover margin of +15 or better, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.3 per game in the postseason and are just 28-41 ATS as a result. The Chiefs’ turnover margin was driven in large part by a 63.64% rate of recovering fumbles, 3rd in the NFL, which more luck than anything.

The Titans, on the other hand, have had terrible fumble luck, as they rank dead last in the NFL with a 33.33% rate of recovering fumbles. As a result, they had a turnover margin of -4 in the regular season, so, unlike the Chiefs, they were not overly reliant on winning the turnover battle this season. They did have a very easy schedule, but they went 4-2 against teams with a winning record, so they’ve been competitive with tough teams. They also have just 3 losses by more than a touchdown all season. Kansas City’s defense has a lot of problems getting off the field if they can’t force takeaways, so the Titans should be able to keep this one close and possibly pull the upset.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +8

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

Buffalo Bills (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

The Jaguars finished with the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2017, in terms of opponents record. Ordinarily, that would make them a smart team to bet against in the post-season, but they played at a very high level across that easy schedule, finishing 3rd in point differential at +149 and 2nd in first down rate differential at 5.95%. On top of that, they get to face the weakest playoff qualifier in their first game, with the Buffalo Bills coming to town, potentially missing stud running back LeSean McCoy.

Not only were the Bills the last team to clinch a playoff spot, sneaking into the AFC’s 6th seed at 9-7 on a strength of schedule tiebreaker, but they were not as good as their record suggested this season, as they finished with a -57 point differential that is not only the worst among playoff teams, but also worse than 9 other non-playoff teams. Five of their 7 losses came by more than 10 points, as opposed to just 1 win by more than 10 points. The Jaguars, meanwhile, won by more than 10 in all but two of their wins and have a good chance to get another one here this week. I wouldn’t recommend betting on this because the line is pretty steep at -8, but Jacksonville should win this one relatively easily.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Buffalo Bills 10

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -8

Confidence: Low

2017 Week 17 NFL Pick Results

Week 17

Total Against the Spread: 8-8

Pick of the Week: 0-1

High Confidence Picks: 1-0

Medium Confidence Picks: 2-1

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

Low Confidence Picks: 2-5

No Confidence Picks: 3-1

Upset Picks: 0-1

2017

Total Against the Spread: 132-116-8 (53.13%)

Pick of the Week: 11-6 (64.71%)

High Confidence Picks: 19-10-3 (64.06%)

Medium Confidence Picks: 33-33-1 (50.00%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 63-49-4 (56.03%)

Low Confidence Picks: 41-36-4 (53.09%)

No Confidence Picks: 28-31 (47.46%)

Upset Picks: 19-24 (44.19%)

All-Time (Since 2013)

Total Against the Spread: 684-604-36 (53.02%)

Pick of the Week: 51-34-2 (59.77%)

High Confidence Picks: 78-58-6 (57.04%)

Medium Confidence Picks: 199-152-6 (56.58%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 328-244-14 (57.17%)

Low Confidence Picks: 186-181-13 (50.66%)

No Confidence Picks: 170-179-9 (48.74%)

Upset Picks: 107-135 (44.21%)

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (7-8) at Detroit Lions (8-7)

The Packers’ season was derailed by an injury to Aaron Rodgers earlier in the season, but that’s not the only injury they are dealing with now. The Packers will also be without wide receivers Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson, outside linebacker Nick Perry, right guard Jahri Evans, and possibly outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who was missed last week’s game against the Vikings and was limited all week in practice. Given everyone that they are missing, they are currently one of the worst teams in the entire league.

The Lions, meanwhile, get right tackle Ricky Wagner and right guard TJ Lang back this week, after both missed last week’s loss in Cincinnati. That being said, I can’t be too confident in the Lions as 7-point favorites, as they really haven’t had that many blowout wins over the past couple years. Just 6 of their 17 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by more than a touchdown, which is particularly relevant given where this line is. They’ve also been worse than their record has suggested in general, finishing last year with a -1.90% first down rate differential despite a 9-7 record and having a -4.25% first down rate differential this season despite a 8-7 record. They still have a good chance to cover this line against a terrible opponent, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on it.

Detroit Lions 27 Green Bay Packers 17

Pick against the spread: Detroit -7

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

The Cardinals’ season was derailed by injuries, particularly on offense, where they have lost quarterback Carson Palmer, running back David Johnson, and their three best week 1 starting offensive linemen (left tackle DJ Humphries, left guard Mike Iupati, and right tackle Jared Veldheer) for the season. I’ve bet against the Cardinals frequently since they have had all these injuries, but I won’t be doing that this week because I’ve been underrating their defense.

Their defense has remained strong throughout the season, as they rank 7th in first rate allowed at 31.90%, despite losing outside linebacker Markus Golden and safety Tyvon Branch for the season earlier this year. Young players like Budda Baker, Olsen Pierre, and Kareem Martin have stepped up in big ways, though the Cardinals will be without talented safety Antoine Bethea in this one. I’m still taking the Seahawks as 9-point home favorites this week because of the Cardinals’ abysmal offense with Drew Stanton under center, but I only have this line calculated at Seattle -9.5, so we aren’t getting any line value with them.

Seattle Seahawks 20 Arizona Cardinals 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -9

Confidence: None