Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans: Week 9 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5)

This was the toughest game of the week for me. At first glance, this looked like a trap line which is normally a good thing to bet against when sportsbetting online. There is heavy public action on Chicago and yet the line is falling (it opened at -5 and -4.5 and now it’s at -4 and -3.5). However, normally I like to find a trend or a few in the other team’s favor with potential trap lines and I had trouble finding one for Tennessee.

Tennessee is coming off a home overtime loss. Teams are 81-62 ATS in this spot since 1989. However, teams off a home overtime loss as favorites are just 44-38 ATS since 1989, which isn’t as strong. In fact, as dogs off a home overtime loss as favorites, teams are just 20-24 ATS. As home dogs, they are 3-0 ATS, which isn’t a very big sample size at all. There may be something there that says to take Tennessee, but it isn’t strong.

Often times what I like to do when I can’t find a trend for a team coming off an overtime game of any kind is I like to substitute overtime for just close games in general, meaning games decided by a touchdown or less. That didn’t help me much. Teams are 281-246 ATS off a home loss of 7 or fewer since 2002. Going down to 2008, that trend is 118-111 ATS. Off a close home loss as favorites, teams are 71-61 ATS and as dogs off a close home loss as favorites, teams are 41-30 ATS. Off a divisional close home loss as favorites, teams are 11-12 ATS as dogs the following week, including 28-34 ATS since 2002. As home dogs, that trend is 5-3 ATS and when we go back to 1989 to get a bigger sample size, the trend is just 12-14 ATS. Again, there may be something there, but it isn’t strong.

The only “strong” trend in found in Tennessee’s favor is that road favorites are just 5-13 ATS since 1989 off back to back home wins as favorites in which they failed to cover, which is the case for Chicago. Again, it’s a very small sample. To get a bigger sample size, I looked at teams in general coming off back to back home wins as favorites in which they failed to cover and teams are 15-22 ATS. When I expanded to teams coming off back to back wins in general in which they didn’t cover, that trend is 44-48 ATS. Once again, there may be something there, but it’s not strong.

Furthermore, we aren’t getting line value with the Titans. Using the traditional yards per play differential method, this line should be Chicago -1.5 because Chicago is actually a very average team in yards per play differential, so using just that method, it does appear we have line value with the Titans. A lot of sharps do use that method, which is why sharps may be on the Titans this week, but I don’t use just that method.

I created another statistic called rate of sustaining drives differential, which compares how often on a given set of downs you convert for a 1st down or a score, as opposed to how often your opponent does so. This statistic underrates teams that get a lot of big plays and/or don’t allow a lot of big plays, but those are the exact same teams yards per play differential underrates. Big plays are great, but you need to be able to stay on the field offensively or get off the field defensively. Meanwhile, sustaining drives is great and limiting your opponent’s ability to do so is great, but if your offense has no explosion and you’re allowing a lot of big plays, that’s not good. I think these statistics work really well in tandem.

Using that method, we see that Chicago should actually be -8.5. I’m not saying either one is right, but it’s smart to use both to find teams that one statistic under or overrates. In this case, there appears to be no line value either way and if there is, it’s actually in favor of Chicago, because when you average out these two numbers, you get -5.

On top of that, Tennessee has the league’s worst points differential at -95, excluding Kansas City, who surpassed them with their showing on Thursday Night Football. That’s because of their horrific defense. They rank 27th against the pass, 26th against the run, allow 32.1 points per game, 2nd worst in the league, and just made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a franchise quarterback 2 weeks ago. Going back to rate of sustaining drives, they’re one of 2 teams with an opponent’s rate of sustaining drives higher than 80% as they sit at 84.4%, meaning on any given set of downs, they allow a first down or a score 84.4% of the time. That’s worst in the league. The Saints are next worst at 82.9%. They’re horrendous. Meanwhile, Chicago is one of the top teams in the league.

The Titans also come from an inferior conference (the NFC is 20-12 against the AFC) and they will once again be missing stud left tackle Michael Roos. Replacement Mike Otto was surprisingly good in his first start last week, but there’s no guarantee that will continue, especially since he’ll be matched up with Julius Peppers this week. I can’t take Chicago because of the trap line potential, but it’s a very small play on Tennessee. If I did 0-unit picks, this would be one of them.

Public lean: Chicago (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Tennessee covers)

Sharps lean: CHI 10 TEN 8

Final update: One injury update: Michael Roos will play. I still don’t have a good feel for this game though and neither do the sharps apparently. I’d pick Tennessee if I had to, but it’d be ranked dead last in any confidence pools.

Chicago Bears 23 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against spread: Tennessee +4 (-110) 1 unit

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Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars: Week 9 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

Nate Burleson getting hurt might have been the best thing that could possibly happen to the Lions’ offense. It forced the Lions to replace the mediocre Burleson, who was averaging 8.9 yards per catch and (5.6 yards per target), with explosive 2011 2nd round pick Titus Young and it’s also given 2nd round rookie Ryan Broyles more playing time too. It’s no coincidence that their offense looked by far the best it has all season, and against a tough Seattle defense nonetheless, in their first game without Burleson last week, even with Calvin Johnson playing at less than 100%.

They already rank 8th in yards per play differential and 16th in rate of sustaining drives differential. Those two stats don’t take into account special teams yardage, which is one of their flaws. Detroit had horrific special teams earlier this season, but as you could expect, that eventually settled down. If they can get Matt Stafford going like they did last week, they’re not going to be fun to play.

Jacksonville, meanwhile, is absolutely horrible. I know the Chiefs have yet to lead in regulation, but in every statistic other than turnovers, the Jaguars are worse and turnover differential tends to be very inconsistent. If the Chiefs and Jaguars were to play on a neutral field, I’d probably pick the Chiefs. In rate of sustaining drives differential, they rank dead last at -15.0%. No one else is worse than -10.3%. In yards per play differential, they rank dead last at -1.2. No one else is worse than -0.9.

If we use rate of sustaining drives differential and yards per play differential to calculate real line, we get a real line of -7 in favor of Detroit in each instance, so we are getting some line value and that’s not taking into account that Detroit has the momentum right now and that Jacksonville is without Maurice Jones-Drew once again. Replacement Rashad Jennings has just 149 yards on 51 carries in the absence of someone who had been over 40% of their offense in the last 2 years.

It’s not a big play on Detroit though because Detroit is a heavy public lean and Detroit’s upcoming schedule is brutal (@ Minnesota, vs. Green Bay, vs. Houston). Road favorites before being dogs in 3 or more straight are 20-39 ATS since 1989. They might not be completely focused for this one, but I can’t bet Jacksonville, especially against a now underrated Lions team.

Public lean: Detroit (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Jacksonville covers)

Sharps lean: DET 7 JAX 4

Final update: No change.

Detroit Lions 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against spread: Detroit -5 (-110) 1 unit

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Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans: Week 9 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (3-4) at Houston Texans (6-1)

Despite Houston’s embarrassing loss to the Packers on Sunday Night a few weeks ago, they still rank 2nd in the league in points differential at +88. Among teams that have already had their bye, they rank 1st. Only New England, who is on bye this week and who has played an extra game, is better than them in that statistic.

Of their 6 wins, 4 have come by 20 or more. You can say they got blown out by the only good team they’ve faced (unless you count Denver before they really got going), but the Bills aren’t a good team either. The Jaguars have blown out Miami, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Baltimore. They can blow out Buffalo too. Buffalo, meanwhile, is -56 on the season, despite their 3-4 record, 4th worst in the NFL. This is because 3 of their 4 losses have come by 20 or more.

Houston is also in a good spot as double digit favorites after a bye. Teams are 14-7 ATS in this spot. Good teams tend to be extra focused off of a bye, though it’s worth noting that double digit favorites are 45-61 ATS before being dogs (Houston plays in Chicago next week). After a bye, those teams are 2-5 since 2002. If we go back to 1989 to get a bigger sample size, they’re 2-8 ATS, which still isn’t much of a sample size. These two trends should cancel out.

Buffalo, however, is in a bad spot as double digit road dogs before being double digit road dogs. They go to New England next week. Teams are 22-41 ATS in this spot since 2002. In general, teams are 57-95 ATS before being double digit dogs since 2008, including 25-37 ATS before being double digit divisional dogs, 42-79 ATS since 2002. Houston may be caught looking forward to Chicago, but Buffalo might be caught looking forward to a big divisional revenge game with New England. That’s even more dangerous for a bad team.

We are also getting line value with Houston, despite the big line. Houston ranks 3rd and 2nd in yards per play differential and rate of sustaining drives differential respectively, while Buffalo ranks 29th and 30th respectively. The rate of yards per play differential method gives us a real line of Houston -12.5 sustaining drives differential method gives us a real line of Houston -17.5. It’s rare to get line value with such a heavy favorite. It’s not a big play at all because I hate laying this many points, especially with a heavy public lean, but this should be a blowout so Houston should be the right side.

Public lean: Houston (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Buffalo covers)

Sharps lean: BUF 9 HOU 4

Final update: No change.

Houston Texans 34 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against spread: Houston -10.5 (-110) 1 unit

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Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts: Week 9 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Indianapolis Colts (4-3)

Both of these teams sit at 4-3, meaning this game could easily have playoff implications and one or both of these teams could make the playoffs. I bet you didn’t see that coming. I would say these teams are pretty equal. I had Miami ranked 10th in my Power Rankings and Indianapolis ranked 11th. However, for some reason, Miami is actually road favorites here of 2.5, which makes no sense.

Miami was +2 in New York to play the Jets. The Jets are 4.5 points better than the Colts? I know the Jets beat them, but that was when Indianapolis was flat off of the ChuckStrong game. The Colts are playing much better since then (they’re 3-1 in their last 4 overall) and it’s hard to believe that the Jets are now 4.5 points better than the Colts when the odds makers thought they were just .5 points better a few weeks ago (NY Jets -3.5 at home).

Yards per play and rate of sustaining drives second my opinion that these two are about even. Indianapolis ranks 27th in yards per play differential and 17th in rate of sustaining drives, while Miami ranks 21st and 19th respectively. The yards per play differential method of calculating line value gives us a real line of Indianapolis -1 and the rate of sustaining drives differential method of calculating line value gives us a real line of Indianapolis -3.5.

And that’s not even taking into account Indianapolis’ improving injury situation. Their defense is finally getting healthy after seemingly losing every good defensive player they had for some period of time (though it sounds like Vontae Davis will be out for a while). Cory Redding, Dwight Freeney, and Pat Angerer are all back and it sounds like Angerer will play in more than just a rotational role this week for the first time all season. Robert Mathis could also play this week, after missing 3 games. On the offensive side of the ball, Donald Brown is back. Their offense line is also finally healthy. The only players missing are Davis and Coby Fleener, though the latter wasn’t doing much anyway. For Miami, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be playing hurt.

At first glance, this looked like a trap line, because this line just didn’t make any sense to me, but there’s not a heavy public lean on Indianapolis, so I ruled that out. In fact, there’s a slight lean on Miami. Given that, I really like Indianapolis this week. Dogs are 86-49 ATS before being favorites since 2011. Going off of that, home dogs are 51-31 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites. Indianapolis goes to Jacksonville next week. On top of that, home dogs are 56-33 ATS off a road win as divisional dogs, 6-3 ATS when it was an overtime win and 42-20 ATS when the win was by a touchdown or fewer. It’s a significant play on the Colts.

Public lean: Miami (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Indianapolis covers)

Sharps lean: IND 12 MIA 5

Final update: Solid sharps lean on Indianapolis. Still feeling confident.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Miami Dolphins 20 Upset Pick +115

Pick against spread: Indianapolis +2.5 (-110) 4 units

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Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints: Week 9 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5)

Andy Reid’s perfect 13-0 career record off the bye is gone. The Eagles are 3-4 and the sky is falling in Philadelphia. This line has shifted 1 point since last week. That might not seem like a whole lot, but a shift from -2 to -3 is huge because about 16% of games end with a final margin of victory of exactly 3, so field goal protection is huge. It takes a lot for odds makers to shift a line from under 2 to exactly 3. Well, I’m not so sure the sky is falling in Philadelphia.

They still rank 18th in yards per play differential and 13th in rate of sustaining drives differential. That’s not good, but it’s not horrible. They’ve always been a better 2nd half team under Andy Reid. Since he took over in 1999, the Eagles are 28-26 before the bye and 82-40 after. Just because he lost for the first time off a bye last week against an undefeated Falcons team, doesn’t mean that’s going to change. Besides, this is the exact type of game Andy Reid wins. Whenever it looks like the sky is falling, the Eagles always have a way of bouncing back. Remember when they beat the Giants after the Arizona game? In his career as underdogs, Andy Reid is 48-29, including 7-3 ATS as underdogs off a loss as favorites.

The Saints are in a good spot as well, at home, and off a loss. Drew Brees is 22-14 ATS off a loss with the Saints, including 16-6 ATS since 2008. He’s also 8-4 ATS as favorites off a loss as dogs, a number that improves to 7-0 ATS going back to 2008. He’s also 10-2 ATS at home dating back to last year. However, these aren’t the same Saints. They’ve already lost twice at home to the Redskins and Chiefs. They also almost lost at home to the Chargers, but Drew Brees’ pick six was called back by a penalty.

Brees looks the same. He’s now on pace for 5280 yards, which would be his 3rd career 5000 yard season, and he’s got a legitimate chance to do that if he continues to play this well or close to this well because of his team’s atrocious defense and running game. He’s currently on pace for 720 passing attempts, which would shatter Drew Bledsoe’s 18 year old record of 691.

However, just because Drew Brees looks like Drew Brees again doesn’t mean the Saints are the Saints again. They can’t run the ball or stop anyone. They rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards and rushing attempts and 30th in rushing yards per carry. Defensively, they rank 30th against the run, dead last against the pass, dead last in pass rush efficiency, and 30th in points per game allowed, allowing 30.9 per game. As a result, they’ve had to pass 315 times to 139 runs, not including quarterback scrambles and sacks, which were designed passes that don’t count as pass attempts.

You might not think of defense and running the football when you think of the Saints, but whenever they’ve been good, it’s something they’ve done. In 2009 when they won the Super Bowl, they ranked 6th in the league in rushing yards, 7th in the league in YPC, and allowed just 21.3 points per game. Last year, when they won 13 games, they allowed 21.2 points per game, ranked 6th in rushing yards, and 4th in YPC.

This year, they remind me a lot more of the 2008 Saints, when Drew Brees threw for over 5000 yards, but the team went 8-8 because he didn’t have any help. They ranked 28th in rushing yards, 23rd in yards per carry, and allowed 24.6 points per game, good for 26th in the league. Their defense might be even worse. This line says these two teams are comparable, but I don’t think that’s true.

In fact, while Philadelphia ranks 18th and 13th respectively in yards per play differential and rate of sustaining drives differential, the Saints rank 31st and 28th respectively, thanks, in large, part to their atrocious defense. We’re getting big line value with the Eagles as yards per play differential says they should be 3 point road favorites and rate of sustaining drives differential says they should be 1.5 point road favorites. This late in the season, it’s rare to get this kind of line value.

Two more things work in Philadelphia’s favor. Dogs are 86-49 ATS before being favorites since 2011, including 16-3 ATS off a loss as favorites. When we go back to 2008 to get a larger sample size, that trend is 50-21 ATS since. Meanwhile, Andy Reid is 15-7 ATS on Monday Night Football, for what that’s worth. Their season is on the line and this is the exact type of game Andy Reid wins, with everyone doubting them. It’s a significant play on the road team.

Public lean: New Orleans (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Philadelphia covers)

Sharps lean: PHI 13 NO 0

Final update: Another heavy sharps lean lining up with my pick. I’m feeling really good about this week. The last time I agreed with the sharps this much was week 4, my 2nd best week ever (+25 units). I’m adding an extra unit here. I love getting a 50-21 ATS trend and getting Andy Reid in a must win game as dogs.

Philadelphia Eagles 31 New Orleans Saints 27 Upset Pick +145

Pick against spread: Philadelphia +3 (-110) 4 units

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Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks: Week 9 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-4)

I think I preface every single one of my picks on Seattle’s game by saying I love picking their games because of their huge home/road disparity. Dating back to 2007, they are 30-14 ATS at home and 16-30 ATS on the road. They’ve lost their last two after an impressive 4-2 start, including wins over Green Bay, Dallas, and New England at home, and now everyone thinks the sky is falling for this team. The sky isn’t falling. They just went on the road.

We’re not getting any line movement away from Seattle from last week to this week, however, because everyone thinks the sky is falling for Minnesota as well. In fact, this line has actually shifted from -3 and -4. However, they may be right when they say the sky is falling for Minnesota. It’s tough to knock a team, especially such a young team, for a bad game on a short week, but, Christian Ponder will need to step it up. In his last 3 games, he’s completed 62 of 104 for 661 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, all less than stellar team performances (0-2-1 ATS).

In spite of that and Seattle’s home prowess, I don’t love Seattle or anything this week because Minnesota has some things in their favor. First, they’re rested. Teams are 114-93 ATS on Sunday after Thursday Night. Second, dogs are 86-49 ATS before being favorites since 2011, including 16-3 ATS off a loss as favorites. Going back to 2008 for a bigger sample size, that trend is 50-21 ATS. They host the Lions next week.

We’re also getting line value with the road team. Minnesota actually ranks better in both yards per play differential and rate of sustaining drives differential than Seattle, ranking 6th and 15th respectively, while Seattle ranks 10th and 20th respectively. Those statistics give us “real” lines of Seattle -1.5 in each instance, though it’s definitely worth noting that the momentum is not on Minnesota’s side. I’m still taking the home team, but it’s a small play.

Public lean: Seattle (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Minnesota covers)

Sharps lean: SEA 7 MIN 7

Final update: No change.

Seattle Seahawks 17 Minnesota Vikings 10

Pick against spread: Seattle -4 (-110) 1 unit

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Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants: Week 9 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2)

Last week, the Giants won in Dallas in the exact type of game they normally win. They are now 18-7 ATS as road favorites under Tom Coughlin. On the road in general, they are 50-25 ATS under Tom Coughlin, as opposed to 34-38 ATS at home. As home favorites of more than 3, which they are this week, they are 18-26 ATS under Tom Coughlin. This is the exact type of game they normally have trouble with.

This is also the exact time of year they struggle. The Giants are now 53-19 in the first half of the season under Tom Coughlin, but they are also just 27-37 in the 2nd half of the season. Looking at their schedule, we could see something similar happen. This week, after a tough game with the Steelers, they go to Cincinnati, host the Packers, go to Washington, host the Saints, go to Atlanta, go to Baltimore, and host the Eagles. As home favorite of more than 3 after week 8, Tom Coughlin is 5-15 ATS.

Meanwhile, we’re also getting line value with the Steelers. The rate of sustaining drives differential method suggests this line should be New York -4.5, while the points per play differential method suggests this line should be Pittsburgh -1.5. If we average those out, we get New York -1.5, so we’re getting 2 points of line value with the Steelers. We’re also getting the Steelers in a good spot. Dogs before being favorites are 86-49 ATS since 2011. They host Kansas City next week.

Given all this, you might think I’m going to take the Steelers. Well, it was going to, until I found out that because of the hurricane, the Steelers will not be able to stay in a hotel in the North Jersey area before the game, which means they’ll have to fly in Sunday Morning to play this afternoon game. That puts them at a huge disadvantage in terms of game prep for a team that already has had its share of struggles on the road over the past couple years (not as much as dogs). They’re also pretty banged up as Troy Polamalu is out once again and Ryan Clark looks like he’ll join him. I don’t love the Giants or anything, but I can’t take the Steelers.

Public lean: Pittsburgh (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if NY Giants covers)

Sharps lean: PIT 14 NYG 4

Final update: The sharps like Pittsburgh and I get it, but I can’t take the Steelers given that they have to travel on game day. I don’t like the Giants much either, but they’re the pick here, gun to my head. Also, some good news on the injury front for the Giants. Kenny Phillips is expected to return this week. Stevie Brown played very well in his absence, but because Antrel Rolle moves to corner on passing downs, 3 safeties usually get significant action for them on a weekly basis, so having Phillips back, with Brown playing well, is a good thing. Also for Pittsburgh, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall are both expected to miss this week, meaning Isaac Redman will get the start at running back. They’ve played well in their last few weeks because they’ve run the ball well, but when they haven’t this year, they’ve typically lost.

New York Giants 26 Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Pick against spread: NY Giants -3.5 (-110) 1 unit

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Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers: Week 9 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (4-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)

This is what I said about the Cardinals after their 3-0 start. “Almost every year, there’s a team that gets off to a good start and then fades away and misses the playoffs and makes their believers look dumb (“This Ryan Fitzpatrick is the real deal.” “Rex Grossman is a legitimate franchise quarterback.”).Winning 3 in a row at any point in a season isn’t that impressive, but when teams do it to start the season, it’s much more noticeable and you get idiots like Michael Silver putting them first in his Power Rankings (Really? Kevin Kolb is going to win the Super Bowl?). This is essentially the same team that finished last year 8-8 and I expect them to finish somewhere around there this year. Bettors should ride the correction.” They haven’t covered since and have lost 4 straight.

Now with Kolb out, John Skelton is actually a downgrade, believe it or not, despite their records last season. Skelton was 6-2 in the 8 games he played the majority of the snaps, while Kolb was 2-6, but Skelton had the luxury of playing most of his games supported by better defensive play. In Skelton’s 8 games, the Cardinals allowed 19.0 points per game and in Kolb’s they allowed 24.5. Skelton was actually the inferior of the two quarterbacks last season. He led 100 drives last season and the Cardinals scored 16 touchdowns and 11 field goals (129 points, 1.29 points per drive) on those 100 drives. Kolb led 91 drives, leading to 20 touchdowns and 6 field goals (138 points, 1.52 points per drive).

Kolb also outplayed him statistically. He completed 146 of 253 (57.7%) for 1955 yards (7.7 YPA), 9 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Skelton completed just 151 for 275 (54.9%) for 1913 yards (7.0 YPA), 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. This year, Skelton is completing 57.9% of his passes for 5.9 YPA, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions, while Kolb is completing 59.6% of his passes for an average of 6.4 YPA, 8 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. Until Kolb returns, this team is really going to struggle. Meanwhile, the offensive line is one of the worst I’ve ever seen and it might be the worst ever. They’re on pace to allow 89 sacks, which would shatter the NFL record of 76 set by the Texans in 2002. They’re still a good team to bet against going forward. Teams are 13-20 ATS off of 5 straight ATS losses as 10+ dogs.

Now they’re in a bad spot coming off a 17+ point loss on Monday Night Football. Teams are 22-37 ATS off a Monday Night Football loss of 17 or more. 5 days is just not enough time to bounce back mentally from a devastating loss and it’s not enough time to fix the problems. Meanwhile, the Packers are touchdown plus home favorites before a bye. Teams are 35-12 ATS in this spot since 2002, winning, on average, by 16.4 points per game. Good teams tend to be extra focused heading into a bye.

We are getting line value with the Cardinals, however. The yards per play differential method gives us a real line of Green Bay -7 and the rate of sustaining drives method gives us a real line of Green Bay -6.5. And its not because the Cardinals grade out well in those two statistics, ranking 24th and 18th respectively. It’s the Packers. They’re not the same team they were last year. They don’t run the ball well at all. Their offensive line isn’t good. They miss Greg Jennings and several other injured contributors. And they don’t consistently win the turnover battle anymore. They rank just 11th and 10th in those statistics respectively.

However, I still like the Packers. The Cardinals are heading in the wrong direction and are starting a truly inferior backup quarterback, while the Packers have some momentum. That slowed last week against Jacksonville, but they are expected to get Jordy Nelson back, which will help. The Packers are still good enough for the touchdown plus favorites after a bye trend to be in play. I hate laying this many points, especially on a public lean, and not getting line value, but the Packers should be the right side.

Public lean: Green Bay (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Arizona covers)

Sharps lean: ARZ 9 GB 2

Final update: I’m dropping down to 1 unit for 3 reasons. The first one is that the Packers may hold Jordy Nelson out another week, with an easy opponent this week and a bye next week. The second one is that, while 7+ home favorites tend to cover at a high rate going into a bye, 10+ home favorites are just 11-7 ATS (home favorites of between 7 of 10 are 24-5 ATS before a bye). It seems good teams tend to cover going into a bye, so long as they don’t have to cover a massive spread. The third reason is that the sharps like Arizona. Green Bay should still be the right side, but I’m not really confident and I hate laying this many points.

Green Bay Packers 27 Arizona Cardinals 12

Pick against spread: Green Bay -11 (-110) 1 unit

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Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins: Week 9 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (1-6) at Washington Redskins (3-5)

This is one of two trap lines I identified this week. According to this line, the Redskins and the Panthers are comparable teams with Washington as 3 point home favorites. However, Washington is at 3-5 and the Panthers are at 1-6. Because of that, the action is on Washington and yet, the line is still falling as it opened at -4. As is almost always the case, when something is too good to be true with betting, it usually is. Let’s look at some reasons why this line makes more sense than it first appears to.

For one, the trends are against Washington. Favorites before being dogs off a loss as dogs are 56-81 ATS since 2008. That makes sense. This type of game tends to be a breather game. They’ve just suffered a loss to a tough opponent and they have enough tough opponent coming up. They could easily see this is an “easy win” game just to get back on track and get caught overlooking their opponent. The Redskins are coming off a loss to the Steelers and in their next game they host the Eagles and they probably will be dogs in that one.

The Redskins are going on bye next, but that doesn’t seem to have much effect on this spread. Teams in this situation before a bye are 2-6 ATS since 2008. Going back to 1989 to get more of a sample size, teams are 22-33 ATS in this spot. Anyone can win on any given Sunday in the NFL and the Redskins aren’t good enough to overlook an opponent and still win. They are really just Robert Griffin. As we saw against Pittsburgh, they live and die with him. Carolina was the exact same way last season and they still are this year, with Cam Newton. Newton is struggling this year, but you have to like his chances to get back on track against Washington’s crappy defense. If that happens, the Panthers can definitely win a shootout.

The Panthers are in a good spot as road dogs off of a road loss. Teams are 77-47 ATS as road dogs off a road loss. Off a road loss of 1-3, teams are 17-6 ATS as road dogs, including 14-5 ATS when their previous game was one in which they were dogs. If we go back to 2002 to get a larger sample size, those trends are 39-23 ATS and 32-17 ATS respectively.

Looking at the methods of calculating real line, this line makes sense. Using the yards per play differential method, this one should actually be Carolina -0.5 thanks to Carolina’s 5th place rank in yards per play differential. However, Carolina is one of the reasons I decided to create a complimentary statistic known as rate of sustaining drives to use along with yards per play to determine “real” line.

Yards per play overrates teams that get a lot of big plays, but struggle to stay on the field or don’t allow a lot of big plays, but struggle to get off the field defensively. Those are the exact same teams rate of sustaining drives differential underrates because what rate of sustaining drives differential cares about is how often you convert a given set of downs for a first down or a score in comparison to how often your defense allows the opponent to do so. Because of this, they work in tandem well together.

Sure enough, Carolina is really bad in this statistic, ranking 29th. Still, in spite of that, that metric gives us a real line of just Washington -9. If we average those two out, we get right between -4 and -4.5. We’re getting a line bit of line value with the Redskins, but not much and it still makes this line make a lot more sense. Washington is awfully banged up right now and the trends favor Carolina. I’m not going to fall for this trap line, so I’m taking the road team.

Public lean: Washington (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Carolina covers)

Sharps lean: CAR 7 WAS 5

Final update: This is one of my only big plays that doesn’t coincidence with a heavy sharps lean, but I have no reason to change this pick. I still like Carolina.

Carolina Panthers 28 Washington Redskins 24 Upset Pick +160

Pick against spread: Carolina +3 (-100) 4 units

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Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals: Week 9 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)

The Broncos rank 2nd in the league in yards per play differential at 1.4, just .1 behind San Francisco, who has looked untouchable for weeks in that category. No one else is above 0.7. They rank just 9th in rate of sustaining drives differential, thanks to a 3rd down defense that’s 20th. However, they were much better in this area against the Saints in a complete, shut down victory. New Orleans went just 1 of 12 on 3rd down.

The Broncos rank 6th in the league against both the pass and the run on a per play basis and Peyton Manning is playing like vintage Peyton Manning right now, if not better, as he’s completed 107 of 142 for 1289 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 1 interception in his last 4 games. On the season, he’s completing 68.5% of his passes for an average of 8.2 YPA, 17 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions, all ahead of career averages. And they’re doing this all against the league’s toughest schedule so far, in terms of opponent’s winning percentage.

The Bengals, meanwhile, have yet to beat a playoff team in the Andy Dalton era, unless Washington, Cleveland, or Jacksonville make the playoffs this year (I’m going to go with no). They lost to 8 such teams last year and probably 1 or 2 this year (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Miami). Besides, I’m not even sure they’re as good as they were last year. Last year, they were 9-0 against non-playoff teams. This year, they lost to Cleveland and Miami (though Miami might end up being a playoff team).

Every year, one team goes from the playoffs to 5 wins or fewer. As the league’s worst playoff team last year, the Bengals were my preseason favorite to be that team. Now they stand at 3-4, after a 3-1 start, and they play possible playoff teams in 7 of their final 9 games, including here. This is the exact type of team Andy Dalton has trouble with. He completed 55.6% of his passes for an average of 6.5 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in those 8 games against playoff teams last year.

Against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Miami, he is a combined 62 of 108 for 560 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions this year. Jay Gruden’s scheme can mask his deficiencies well against average or worse teams, but scheme alone won’t do it against good defenses. The Broncos defense just made Drew Brees struggle, so I don’t think they’ll have much trouble with Dalton this week.

I mentioned where the Broncos stand in yards per play differential and rate of sustaining drives differential, the Bengals rank 12th and 25th in those two statistics respectively. Like the Broncos, they rank significantly better in yards per play differential. However, the yards per play differential method gives us a “real” line of -5.5, while the rate of sustaining drives method gives us a “real” line of -2.5. This line is right where it’s supposed to be, right in the middle at -4, if you don’t consider that the Broncos have all the momentum, which they do. I don’t have any trends for either side, but I don’t expect Dalton to beat his first playoff team this week. It’d be a bigger play if the public wasn’t pounding Denver.

Public lean: Denver (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Cincinnati covers)

Sharps lean: DEN 12 CIN 8

Final Update: No change.

Denver Broncos 27 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Pick against spread: Denver -4 (-110) 2 units

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