New England Patriots at Houston Texans: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (4-5) at Houston Texans (2-7)

The Patriots pulled off the upset last week, beating the Ravens last week by final score of 23-17. That was a shocking result to people who left the Patriots for dead after a four game losing streak and a near defeat to the Jets, but I wasn’t overly surprised. Not only were the Ravens missing key players that made them much less than the dominant team we’re used to them being over the past year or so, but the Patriots were also much better than most people thought. Of their five losses, only one of them was a game in which they were uncompetitive and they could have easily picked up victories on the road in Seattle and Buffalo, to go with their double digit home victories over capable teams in the Dolphins and Raiders.

People are taking the Patriots more seriously after last week’s win over the Ravens, with this line shifting from favoring Houston by 2.5 to favoring the Patriots by 1.5, but line movement within the field goals like that isn’t all that valuable and I think the Patriots are still underrated. The Patriots rank 13th first down rate differential at +0.74% and that’s despite the fact that their starting quarterback dealt with illness and possibly injury for a couple weeks, their top cornerback Stephon Gilmore missed 3 games, and they’ve had a variety of injuries on the offensive line. With Newton healthy, Gilmore back in the lineup, and their offensive line being one of the best in the league now back at full strength, the Patriots rank 8th in my roster rankings, so they’re no pushover.

Even better for the Patriots’ projection going forward, their problems have been primarily concentrated on defense, which is the much more inconsistent side of the ball, as they rank 6th in first down rate over expected, but just 22nd in first down rate allowed over expected. Even on sheer regression, I would expect this Patriots’ defense to be better going forward, but getting players like Gilmore and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (returned last week) back from injury and having Bill Belichick as head coach/de facto defensive coordinator makes it even more likely that we’ll see better defensive play from them going forward. If that’s the case and their offense can remain efficient with Newton, a strong offensive line, a strong running game, and Jakobi Myers stepping up as a downfield target in the passing game, this could be a dangerous team the rest of the way, even if it’s possibly too late for them to climb back into a playoff spot.

Given that, the Patriots should be favored by more than 1.5 points here in a matchup with a Texans team that ranks 29th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -3.43%. The Texans have lost to quality opponents in all of their losses, but they haven’t been overly competitive with those quality opponents and their only two victories have come against the Jaguars, the second one coming in a competitive game in which the Jaguars had a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion late. My roster rankings have them significantly higher than that and they could be better going forward if they can underachieve less than they have, but they also aren’t well coached and even if they do play up to their talent level, they’re just 18th in my roster rankings, so they’re a good amount behind the Patriots. 

Much like all of the Texans other games against quality opponents, the Texans are likely to lose this one and it possibly won’t be competitive. The Texans will have some fans in the stadium, which will give them somewhat of a boost, but in a game the Patriots basically just need to win to cover, I like their chances of covering a good amount. The one thing that concerns me with betting the Patriots is they could be a little flat after such a big win last week (teams cover at a 41.3% rate after a home upset victory as underdogs of 5 points or more), but there is still enough here for the Patriots to be bet confidently.

Update: Laremy Tunsil will be out for the Texans with an illness, which is a huge blow to the Texans’ offense. This line has climbed to 1.5 or even 2 in some places, but as long as this line is under a field goal, I like the Patriots a lot this week.

New England Patriots 30 Houston Texans 24

Pick against the spread: New England -1.5

Confidence: High

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)

The Steelers have consistently been one of the best teams in the league throughout Ben Roethlisberger’s 17-year tenure, but one thing that they’ve consistently had a problem with is playing down to the level of their competition on the road outside of the division. Since Roethlisberger’s first season in 2004, the Steelers are just 12-26 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of a field goal or more, including 3-13 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of a touchdown or more, which the Steelers are this week in Jacksonville. Not only do the Steelers have a poor ATS record in those games, but they’ve also lost 7 of the 16 games straight up, to much lesser opponents.

The Steelers are 9-0 this year, but we saw them just a couple weeks ago almost lose in Dallas as two touchdown favorites and, while they haven’t lost a game, they aren’t exactly blowing teams out either, with just two wins by more than 10 points, both coming against divisional opponents. Their +100 point differential is still 2nd in the NFL, but they haven’t faced a tough schedule and are slightly farther down in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, ranking 5th at +2.38%. 

The Steelers are obviously a good team, but they’re not the dominant team their record would suggest and they’re certainly capable of playing a close game with the Jaguars if they don’t play their best football. The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league, but they have been better defensively in recent weeks since getting top linebacker Myles Jack and top edge defender Josh Allen back from injury and, while they’ll be without top cornerback CJ Henderson this week, that will somewhat be offset by the return of fellow cornerback DJ Hayden from injury.

Making the Steelers situation this week even tougher, they have to turn around and play a much bigger game on Thanksgiving on short rest against the Ravens. Favorites cover at just a 43.9% rate before Thursday Night Football, including 40.6% as favorites of more than a touchdown. The Steelers know they can beat the Jaguars even without their best effort, so why would they exhaust themselves trying to blow out a bad Jaguars team with another tough game on deck? Even if the Steelers can get out to a fast start, which they traditionally have not done in these types of games, we could see the Jaguars get a backdoor cover in the second half if the Steelers take their foot off the gas. I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet, but the Jaguars should be the right side, especially if you locked it in at 10.5 like I did earlier this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +10.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1) at Cleveland Browns (6-3)

This season has possibly been defined by all of the injury absences teams have had thus far and the Eagles have been among the most affected. However, last week coming out of their bye week, they were significantly healthier, with left tackle Jason Peters (4 games missed), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (8 games) and Jalen Raegor (5 games), right tackle Lane Johnson (3 games), running back Miles Sanders (3 games), tight end Dallas Goedert (4 games), defensive tackles Malik Jackson (1 game) and Javon Hargrave (1 game), and linebacker TJ Edwards (3 games) all suiting up. 

The Eagles still lost in New York to the Giants, but the Giants are an underrated team with a capable offense that has been made to look bad by a brutal schedule, and the Eagles will be even healthier this week, with left guard Isaac Seumalo (7 games missed) also returning, giving the Eagles back three of their four missing starters from this offensive line. In their current state, I have the Eagles ranked 15th in my roster rankings. The general public may look at the Eagles’ loss to the Giants last week and think the Eagles being healthy again doesn’t matter and that they are still a below average team, which gives us some value with the Eagles.

This week, the Eagles go to Cleveland where they are field goal underdogs against a Browns team that is 6-3, but hasn’t looked good in the process. The Browns six wins have come by a combined 45 points, while their three losses have come by a combined 73 points, giving them a -28 point differential. The Browns are even worse in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, ranking 27th at -1.92%. 

It helps that the Browns have a capable offense (16th in first down rate over expected, despite missing key players like Wyatt Teller and Nick Chubb for an extended period of time) and that their problems are primarily on defense (27th in first down rate allowed over expected), because defensive play is much less consistent on a week-to-week basis. However, it’s hard to imagine the Browns being much better defensively this week than they’ve been because they’ll be missing easily their top defensive player Myles Garrett, which offsets the boost this offense got from Teller and Chubb returning last week. With the Eagles being as healthy as they’ve been all season, I have this line calculated at even, so we’re getting good value, getting the full field goal with the Eagles. The Eagles should be a smart play.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Cleveland Browns 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

The Ravens opened as 7-point favorites in New England last week, which immediately stood out to me as too high, but I understood it. The Patriots were just 3-5 and coming off of a near loss to the Jets, while the Ravens were 6-2 and hadn’t been exposed by all of their injury absences. However, after the Ravens lost that game straight up and lost another key player to injury in Nick Boyle, I thought we’d see a significant swing on this line, after it was favoring Baltimore by a touchdown over the Titans a week ago, but the line only shifted down one point to 6. Some of that could be due to the Titans’ losing 34-17 at home to the Colts, but the Colts are a quality team and the Titans led that one in the third quarter before special teams snafus and they finished the game positive in first down rate differential at 3.99%.

The Ravens were #1 offensively pretty much across the board in 2019, but they have fallen all the way to 28th in first down rate over expected this season. My roster rankings suggest they have underachieved compared to their talent level, which means they could easily be better in first down rate going forward, but even my roster rankings have this as a middling offense, as this is simply not the same offense as last year due to personnel losses, so even if they improve, they’ll be a far cry from last season’s team.

Already down stud right guard Marshal Yanda due to retirement, the Ravens lost their other stud offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley back in week 8 and then last week they lost Boyle, who is probably the best run blocking tight end in the league and a huge part of what this run heavy offense does. Boyle is legitimately a sixth offensive lineman as a run blocker, but he’s also reliable enough as a pass catcher to hurt you on play action, which made him such a valuable chess piece for this offense. This offense already hasn’t been catching teams off guard like it did last year and now down probably their best three blockers, it’s going to be so much tougher for this offense to execute the way they want to. I wouldn’t expect them to be more than a middling offense at best going forward.

The Ravens’ defensive play has remained above average, ranking 10th in first down rate allowed over expected, after ranking 7th last season, but this isn’t quite the same unit right now that they’ve had for most of the season. Cornerback Jimmy Smith may return from a 1-game absence this week, but they’ll be without starting defensive lineman Brandon Williams and, more importantly, top defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who was sorely missed against New England and will miss his second straight game this week. Defense is less predictable on a week-to-week basis than offense to begin with, but with the Ravens missing key players, it could be tough for them to avoid a regression on defense. 

The Ravens aren’t a bad team, but they’re not the kind of team that should be laying significant points against a capable opponent like the Patriots and, even more so, like their opponents this week in the Tennessee Titans. If the Ravens being favored by a touchdown against the Patriots was too much, then them being favored by 6 points against the Titans is way too much. This game is in Baltimore rather than New England, but with neither stadium allowing fans that barely matters.

The Titans have just a +14 point differential on the season, are 6-3 on the strength of a 4-1 record in games decided by one score, and rank just 19th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, but the good news is their offense has played very well, which is the more consistent side of the ball, while their defense has struggled. The Titans rank 5th in first down rate over expected at 2.48%, but just 29th in first down rate allowed over expected at 2.58%. If their defense can be even somewhat improved going forward and their offense continues to play at a high level, this is a team that could be very tough for anyone to play, like they were down the stretch last season.

I liked the Titans more earlier in the week, before their injury reports, as they will be without key players on both sides of the ball. Left tackle Taylor Lewan (5th game missed) is out for the season, but top cornerback Adoree Jackson had a shot to make his season debut this week, while edge defender Jadeveon Clowney (2nd game missed), slot receiver Adam Humphries (4th game missed), left guard Rodger Saffold (1st game missed), and possibly center Ben Jones (would be his first game missed) will be out as well. 

Even with those key players missing though, I still have the Titans slightly ahead in my roster rankings, so getting a full six points with them is a great value, especially with the Ravens being in a tough spot with another tough game against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football on deck. Favorites of a field goal or more cover at just a 43% rate all-time, which will make things even tougher for the Ravens this week. My calculated line is even, so even with the Titans’ injury situation, I like them enough to be my Pick of the Week.

Update: It doesn’t change anything since the Titans are already my Pick of the Week, but it’s good to know that Tennessee will have Ben Jones available for this one.

Tennessee Titans 24 Baltimore Ravens 23 Upset Pick +235

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

The Seahawks started 5-0 before their bye, but it wasn’t a very convincing 5-0, as four of their wins came by one score. It was very similar to last season when they went just 1-3 in games decided by more than one score, but made the playoffs because a 10-2 record in games decided by one score pushed them to 11 wins on the season. In total, the Seahawks went 14-2 in one score games over a 16-game stretch of one score games, which was highly improbable and not something that was likely to continue. Even elite quarterbacks like Russell Wilson struggle to win more than half of their one score games on a consistent basis and before that 14-2 stretch Wilson actually went just 30-34 to start his career in one score games.

Sure enough, since their week 6 bye, the Seahawks have dropped 3 of the past 4 games, including an 0-2 record in one score games. Once seemingly the favorite for the #1 seed in the NFC, the Seahawks are suddenly in a 3-way tie for the NFC West lead, ahead of a crucial Thursday Night Football matchup with the Cardinals, who currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a 37-34 victory in Arizona back in week 7. On top of that, of the three teams tied for the NFC West lead, the Seahawks have statistically been the worst, as they have just a +24 point differential and rank just 15th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +0.48%.

There is some good news for the Seahawks though. For one, they typically finish seasons better than they start. They lost last week in the first game of the second half, but since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012, the Seahawks are 42-21-2 ATS in games 9-16, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8. On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team, which is a good thing because offensive performance tends to be much more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 3rd in first down rate over expected, so if their defense, which has ranked 25th in first down rate allowed over expected, can be even a middling defense the rest of the way, this team is going to be tough to beat.

This is also a great spot for the Seahawks, off of back-to-back losses. Not only does it give us a better line, with the Seahawks shifting from being 5.5-point favorites on the early line last week to being 3-point favorites this week, but they’ve typically done well off of a loss in the Russell Wilson era at 27-12-3 ATS and have been even better off of back-to-back losses, going 7-1 ATS with no 3-game losing streaks in Wilson’s 137-game career. The Seahawks figure to be fully locked in for this game, especially having lost to the Cardinals earlier this season, while the Cardinals could be a little flatter, having already beaten the Seahawks once and coming off an insane last second win against the Bills last week.

All that being said, I was hoping for a better injury report for the Seahawks, as their defense may need to get at least mostly healthy to be a middling unit. They got safety Jamal Adams back a couple weeks ago and have added veterans Damon Harrison and Carlos Dunlap to give them a much needed boost on the defensive line, but they’re still missing both of their cornerbacks, Shaq Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, who will miss their fourth and second game respectively this week. 

On offense, the Seahawks get #2 running back Carlos Hyde back from a 3-game absence, but will be without lead running back Chris Carson for the 4th straight game and, with center Ethan Pocic out, this is their 6th straight game missing at least one starting offensive lineman. Injury problems have been part of the reason for the Seahawks regression in recent weeks, so I was hoping that at least one of the aforementioned absent players would return. 

Without them, it’s hard to justify placing a bet on the Seahawks as field goal favorites, given that they’ll have no real homefield advantage without fans in the stands. This line suggests the Seahawks are about 2.5 points better than the Cardinals, giving them a half point for homefield advantage. I would say 2.5 points is about right, as the Cardinals are in many ways a slightly lesser version of the Cardinals, with a strong offense and a defense that has struggled. I still think the Seahawks should be the right side because I don’t envision them losing three straight games, especially on a short week when the more veteran, better coached team usually wins, but a 1-3 point win wouldn’t really surprise me, so I wouldn’t recommend placing money on the Seahawks.

I am locking in TEN +6 @ BAL and JAX +10.5 vs. PIT now before the lines shift. I will have a full write-ups as usual with the rest of my picks this weekend.

Seattle Seahawks 29 Arizona Cardinals 24

Pick against the spread: Seattle -3

Confidence: Low

2020 NFL Pick Results (Through Week 10)

2020

Pick of the Week: 6-4 (60.00%)

High Confidence Picks: 9-6 (60.00%)

Medium Confidence Picks: 21-20-1 (51.19%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 36-30-1 (54.48%)

Low Confidence Picks: 26-24 (52.00%)

No Confidence Picks: 7-21-2 (26.67%)

Total Against the Spread: 69-75-3 (47.96%)

Moneyline Upset Picks: 5-7 (41.67%)

All-Time (Since 2013)

Total Against the Spread: 1048-910-58 (53.42%)

Pick of the Week: 79-47-5 (62.21%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 505-372-24 (57.38%)

Moneyline upset Picks: 159-181-1 (46.77%)

2020 Week 10 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

MIN -3 @ CHI

High Confidence Picks

TB -5.5 @ CAR

WAS +4.5 @ DET

NO -9.5 vs. SF

Medium Confidence Picks

NE +7 vs. BAL

DEN +3.5 @ LV

SEA +3 @ LAR

BUF +2.5 @ ARZ

Low Confidence Picks

LAC +1.5 @ MIA

PIT -7 vs. CIN

CLE -4 vs. HOU

No Confidence Picks

PHI -4 @ NYG

JAX +13.5 @ GB

TEN -1.5 vs. IND

Upset Picks

SEA +135 @ LAR

BUF +125 @ ARZ

LAC +110 @ MIA

Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) at Green Bay Packers (6-2)

This is a tough call. On one hand, I think this line is a little high at 13.5. The Jaguars rank 31st in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -5.78%, but their defense should be better going forward. Not only will their defense likely be better by default, given that they currently rank dead last in first down rate allowed over expected at 4.27% and that defenses tend to be very inconsistent week-to-week, but they’re also healthier than they’ve been, with their top cornerback CJ Henderson, their top linebacker Myles Jack, their top safety Jarrod Wilson, and their top edge defender Josh Allen all missing time early in the season and having since returned. 

Their offense which ranks 26th in first down rate over expected at -1.51% might not be improving going forward, especially with sixth round rookie Jake Luton under center now in place of the injured Gardiner Minshew, even though Luton did show some promise last week, but if their defense can be better going forward, they should be more competitive as a team than they’ve been. The Packers, meanwhile, obviously have a good offense, but their defense is middling at best and, without fans in Lambeau, it’s hard to justify them being favored by this many points over anyone except the Jets.

On the other hand, the Jaguars have to turn around and play another tough game against the Steelers next week and it’s tough for inferior teams to keep it close against a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. Since 2014, underdogs of a touchdown or more are 50-77 ATS before being underdogs of a touchdown or more the following week, which the Jaguars almost definitely will be next week. Earlier today when the line was -13, I was going to take the Packers, but the line has moved to 13.5, so I’m now on the Jaguars. That’s how close this one is for me.

Green Bay Packers 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 21

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +13.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)

The Bengals are 2-5-1, while the Steelers are the league’s last remaining unbeaten team at 8-0, but the Bengals have been competitive in most of their games, losing just once by more than a touchdown, while the Steelers haven’t been blowing people out, with just one win by more than 10 points and five wins by one score or less. That’s despite the fact that the Steelers haven’t faced that tough of a schedule, including close contests with the Texans, the Jeff Driskel led Broncos, and the Garrett Gilbert led Cowboys. 

Given that both of these teams play a lot of games and that this line is 7, you might think I’m leaning strongly towards the Bengals, but the Bengals are worse than their box scores suggest, as their close losses to the Colts and the Browns came in games in which the Bengals lost the first down rate battle by 8.20% and 5.56% respectively. The Bengals lost to the Colts despite winning the turnover battle and they needed to go 5 for 5 on 4th down and get a last second garbage time touchdown to cut it to a single score against the Browns. They’ve also faced a relatively easy schedule and, in total, rank just 29th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -3.10%.

The Steelers, meanwhile, rank 6th in schedule adjusted first down rate at +2.22%. They’ve been carried by a defense that ranks 3rd in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.21%, while their offense ranks 28th in first down rate over expected at -1.99%, and typically defensive led teams are not as good of bets as offensive led teams because defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance, but the Steelers have been one of the best defenses in the league for a year and a half now and, even if they have some regression from their defense going forward, they should be able to more than compensate for it with improved offensive play, as my roster rankings suggest they’ve significantly underperformed their offensive talent this season. 

My calculated line is Pittsburgh -9, so we’re getting some line value with the Steelers at -7, and Pittsburgh is also in a good spot, with only an easy game against the Jaguars on deck. Since 2014, favorites of a touchdown or more are 56-31 ATS before being favorites of a touchdown or more again the following week, which the Steelers almost definitely will be again next week. It’s very tough for inferior teams to keep it close with superior teams when the superior team is focused without any upcoming distractions on the schedule. In a normal week, I might consider a bet on Pittsburgh, but with Ben Roethlisberger and others missing practice this week due to control tracing protocols, I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers 26 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -7

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)

A couple weeks ago, coming out of their week 7 bye, I compared the Vikings to the 2019 Atlanta Falcons, who went 1-7 before their bye week before going 6-2 in their final 8 games. The Falcons had a first down rate differential of +1.33% in their first 8 games, but had a turnover margin of -11 that was the 2nd worst in the league at the time, which made winning any games very difficult, leading to the 1-7 record. Likewise, the Vikings had a schedule adjusted +2.73% first down rate differential, but struggled to win games for other reasons and went just 1-5 in their first 6 games.

Fortunately for the Vikings (and last year’s Falcons), per play success stats like first down rate tend to be much more consistent and predictive in the long run than stats like turnover margin that only tell what happened on a small percentage of a team’s snaps. The Falcons weren’t drastically better in first down rate differential over their 6-2 stretch at +2.02%, but their turnover margin improved to +6, making it much easier for the Falcons to win games. 

The Vikings weren’t killed by the turnover margin quite as much as last year’s Falcons, but they still ranked 3rd worst in the league at -7 through week 7, as they recovered just 35.71% of fumbles, while quarterback Kirk Cousins threw interceptions at a rate 2.5 times higher than his career average and over 3 times higher than his previous 3 seasons. Both of those things were unlikely to continue. Also unlikely to continue was the Vikings allowing 19 of 19 field goals against and having -31.8% 4th down conversion rate disparity. 

It wasn’t hard to see how that had led to the Vikings losing otherwise winnable games, as they were a failed 4th down conversation away from clinching the game in Seattle and lost by 1 to the Titans in a game in which the Titans made 6 of 6 field goals, including a trio from 50+ and a 55-yard game winner. The Vikings could have easily been 3-3 over their first 6 games, despite a relatively tough schedule, and that doesn’t even take into account that the Vikings fared much better on a per play basis than the final score suggests in losses in Green Bay and Atlanta, or that the Vikings were missing top offensive player Dalvin Cook in that Atlanta loss.

Seeing the Vikings as very underrated, I bet them my Pick of the Week in back-to-back weeks and they rewarded me both times, pulling an upset by 6 points as 7-point underdogs in Green Bay and then beating the Lions by 14 points as 3.5-point favorites. Unfortunately, the public and the oddsmakers are starting to catch up, as evidenced by this line shifting from Chicago -1.5 on the early line last week to Minnesota -3 this week, but we’re still getting good line value with the Vikings, who remain at least somewhat underrated.

Despite their tough schedule, they could easily be 5-3 right now and they still have several significant stats that should improve going forward, including their league leading 95.45% opponent’s field goal percentage, Kirk Cousins’ 4.78% interception rate, which is still double his career average, and a 30th ranked 37.50% fumble recovery rate. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Vikings rank 7th and, while they might not be quite that good, they also rank 12th in my roster rankings, so they should continue playing at a high level going forward.

This line value is also in part due to the Bears being overrated. Everyone knows the Bears’ five wins have all come by one score, including four games that all came down to the final play and a pair of nearly impossible comebacks, but what’s not mentioned enough is that in three of their four losses, they were down by 16 points, 21 points, and 21 points in the 4th quarter before some meaningless late scores, against the Colts, Titans, and Rams, comparable caliber teams to the Vikings.

In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Bears rank 22nd at -0.67% and there is reason to believe they’ll be worse than that going forward. They’ve been very reliant on a defense that ranks 7th in first down rate allowed over expected to cover for an offense that ranks 31st in first down rate over expected, which is a problem because defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance. 

Their offense also may even be worse than their rank suggests, as they will be without a trio of starting offensive linemen, left guard Mike Daniels, center Cody Whitehair, and right tackle Bobby Massie, as well as feature back David Montgomery. If their defense doesn’t play well every week, this team doesn’t have much of a shot to win games and even talented defenses can be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. 

Even with this line moving to -3, I still think this line is off significantly, as I have the Vikings calculated at -6. The Bears have next to no homefield advantage in Chicago without fans and the disparity between those two teams’ is massive (Minnesota ranking 5th and Chicago 31st) on offense, which is by far the more predictive side of the ball. The Vikings should be able to win by at least a field goal pretty easily, so I’m rolling with Minnesota as my Pick of the Week for the third straight week. They’re not as underrated as they’ve been, but the Bears are overrated and there isn’t another great Pick of the Week option this week.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week