Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (3-5)

This is a tough one. The Vikings are going into a bye and teams are 37-61 ATS since 2002 at home going into a bye as favorites of 1-5.5 points. This line is right at even so this game might not qualify, but it’s a point away from qualifying and teams are 2-3 ATS at home going into a bye when the line is even. The Redskins also have the significantly easier next game, as they host the Buccaneers, while the Vikings have to go to Chicago. Teams are 58-97 ATS since 2010 as home favorites before being road underdogs when their opponent will next be home favorites. This line is even and both teams have byes before those next games so it’s tough to know if this game qualifies, but the logic does still make sense and it’s a point away from qualifying.

The Redskins also are significantly better in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 72.55% rate, as opposed to 71.43% for their opponents, a differential of 1.12% that ranks 13th in the NFL. The Vikings, meanwhile, rank 28th, moving the chains at a 66.95% rate, as opposed to 70.83% for their opponents, a differential of -3.88%. That suggests that the Redskins should be favored, even before you take into account that Robert Griffin is returning from injury. However, much of the reason why the Redskins rank 13th is because of how well they played against the Jaguars, one of the worst teams in the league. If you take that game out of the mix, they move the chains at a 70.14% rate, as opposed to 73.85% for their opponents, a differential of -3.71% that would rank 26th in the NFL. Griffin could also be rusty in his first game back. I like the Redskins, but I’m not confident.

Washington Redskins 23 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against the spread: Washington PK

Confidence: None

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Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) at Houston Texans (4-4)

This line had a significant movement from last week, moving two points from an even line to 2 points in favor of Philadelphia. It’s not a huge deal considering it’s still less than a field goal, but it still doesn’t make any sense that it would move like that considering, Philadelphia lost last week in Arizona and Houston blew out the Titans. In spite of that, the public is all over from the Eagles, assuming that a team as good as the Eagles should have no problem beating Houston by a field goal, not realizing that Philadelphia isn’t as good as their record and that this line would be about 7.5 in Philadelphia. For comparison, Philadelphia was 6.5 against the Rams and didn’t even cover, despite getting a return touchdown.

The Eagles have been overly reliant on return touchdowns this season, scoring 6 times on defense and special teams, as opposed to 0 for their opponents. They can’t continually rely on that as a way to score. Their offense hasn’t played well, moving the chains at a 70.83% rate. Their defense has been solid, allowing opponents, to move the chains at a 70.04% rate, a differential of 0.79% that ranks 15th in the NFL. The Texans, meanwhile, rank 20th, moving the chains at a 70.71% rate, as opposed to 72.09% for their opponents, a differential of -1.38%. The Eagles shouldn’t be favored here, even with Jason Kelce returning from injury. I’m not confident or anything, but the Texans should be the right side.

Houston Texans 17 Philadelphia Eagles 16 Upset Pick +110

Pick against spread: Houston +2

Confidence: None

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Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-1) at Dallas Cowboys (6-2)

Tony Romo is not expected to play in this game, but I like their chances of covering this spread even without him so I’m going to lock this pick in now while the line is still where it is. If Romo ends up playing, it’ll be an added bonus. The public is all over the Cardinals as 3 point underdogs here, which makes sense as the Cardinals have one loss and the Cowboys will be rolling with Brandon Weeden under center. I love fading the public, especially when the public is on the underdog, as the public always loses money in the long run and whenever they think a different team should be favored than the odds makers it generally doesn’t end well. As long as it makes sense, I almost always go against a public underdog.

It does make sense here. I like betting on good teams in their first game missing their starting quarterback, as they tend to give 110% to make up for the loss of their quarterback, while the other team relaxing a little. The Cowboys, despite what happened last week, are a good team, moving the chains at a 77.65% rate, as opposed to 72.15% for their opponents, a differential of 5.51%. Their offense won’t be as good without Romo obviously, but they have a strong enough of an offensive supporting cast to make up for it and their defense has been surprisingly passable this season thanks to the coaching of new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

The Cardinals, conversely, are not nearly as good as their record. They move the chains at a 71.36% rate, as opposed to 72.20% for their opponents, a differential of -0.84% that ranks 19th in the NFL. They’ve been way too reliant on a +9 turnover margin this season, powered by a 61.54% rate of recovering fumbles (5th in the NFL), a 2-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, and a +2 return touchdown margin.

They’re probably the most overrated team in football, especially after beating overrated Philadelphia last week, a game in which they couldn’t move the ball much at all with the exception of two big plays. The Cowboys are also in a good spot as they only have a game against Jacksonville on deck. They are expected to be 10.5 point favorites in London next Sunday against Jacksonville and teams are 69-55 ATS since 2010 before being double digit favorites. I’m not confident, but the Cowboys should be the right side.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Arizona Cardinals 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -3

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (5-3) at Miami Dolphins (4-3)

The Chargers were blown out in Denver last week, but there are a few reasons why I see them bouncing back this week. The most obvious is that this is a much easier game than last week. As solid as Miami has been this season, they definitely aren’t Denver. The Dolphins move the chains at a 73.13% rate, as opposed to 70.62% for their opponents, a differential of 2.51%, 10th in the NFL. The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 7th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 77.24% rate, as opposed to 74.35% for their opponents, a differential of 2.89%. This line at Miami -1.5 is about right, before you take into account situational trends.

The situational trends all favor San Diego. The second reason why they’ll bounce back this week is that they’re in their 2nd straight road game.  For one, they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game.

The third reason is that teams tend to cover the spread when coming off of a Thursday Night blowout loss, as teams are 24-14 ATS as underdogs off of a Thursday Night loss of 14 or more. This makes sense as they’ve had extra time to hear about how bad they are and to regroup. They also have far less of a distraction with their upcoming game, as they go into their bye and then play the lowly the Raiders, while the Dolphins head to Detroit next week.

Teams are 72-104 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road underdogs. Going off of that, teams are 58-97 ATS since 2010 as home favorites before being road underdogs when their opponent will next be home favorites. The Chargers have a bye in between, which could throw that trend off. There isn’t as much data on teams that have byes in between the game they are favorites and underdogs, but teams are 38-26 ATS in that spot since 1989 and the logic still holds. The Chargers should be the right side, but the trend uncertainty with the Chargers going into a bye keeps this from being a high confidence pick.

San Diego Chargers 27 Miami Dolphins 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: San Diego +1.5

Confidence: Medium

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1)

Overall on the season, the Bengals really haven’t played well, as they rank way down at 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 71.36% rate, as opposed to 75.10% for their opponents, a differential of -3.74%. However, they’ve been much better at home, moving the chains at a 78.83% rate, as opposed to 73.28% for their opponents, a differential of 5.55%. This is nothing new for them as, since the start of last season, the Bengals are 11-1-1 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 12.85 points per game, going 11-2 against the spread.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, rank 29th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 65.82% rate, as opposed to 72.73% for their opponents, a differential of -6.90%. Given that and how well the Bengals play at home, this 10.5 point line is justified, but we’re not getting the same kind of line value as we normally do with the Bengals at home because they’re still so overrated. They overall aren’t as good as their record and, while they are expected to get AJ Green back, there’s no guarantee he’ll be anything other than a decoy in his first game back from a toe injury. The Bengals are also missing several other key players, including Kevin Zeitler, Vontaze Burfict, and Giovani Bernard.

The Bengals are in a bad spot with a Thursday Night Game with the Browns coming up. Favorites are 35-56 ATS since 2008 before a Thursday Night Game. The Jaguars aren’t in a much better spot though with a game in London against the Cowboys on deck. Teams are 40-84 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs (the early line is currently 10.5). That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough, important game coming up. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. Here, I think it’s both. I’m going with the Bengals, but I’m not confident at all.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -10.5

Confidence: None 

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Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (5-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

The Steelers put up 51 points last week in an impressive 51-34 victory over a very good Indianapolis team. However, last week’s performance could easily hurt them this week. Underdogs are 12-27 ATS since 1989 after scoring 40 or more points as underdogs. It makes sense. The Steelers could easily be overconfident this week, which would be really dangerous for them considering the odds makers have deemed them underdogs in back-to-back weeks at home. The odds makers generally have a strong feel for teams, so the Steelers probably aren’t nearly as good as they probably think they are right now. The public also probably thinks they’re better than they are too as they are on the underdog here. I love fading the public, especially when they’re on an underdog. Whenever the public thinks a different team should be favored than the odds makers, it generally is bad news for them.

We’re not really getting any line value with the Ravens. The Ravens have played well this season, ranking 4th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 76.72% rate, as opposed to 71.19% for their opponents, a differential of 5.53%. The Steelers, however, are also having a solid season in that aspect, ranking 8th, moving the chains at a 76.87% rate, as opposed to 74.10% for their opponents, a differential of 2.76%. That suggests this line should be right about where it is (Baltimore -1). However, if we take into account that last week’s performance by the Steelers was a fluke, we get a little bit more line value, as the Steelers ranked 13th going into last week, with a differential of 0.87%.

The Ravens are also in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game. This would probably be more powerful if the Ravens were underdogs here, as teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. However, the Ravens are barely favorites here on the road and going off of that, road favorites are 34-23 ATS off of a road loss since 2008 as long as it’s the 2nd of two road favorites, including 13-7 ATS as road favorites off of a loss as road favorites. The Steelers are also divisional home underdogs in a night game, a situation teams are 30-59 ATS in since 1989.

Both teams have very easy games next week, putting them in good spots. The Ravens host the Titans, while the Steelers head to New York to take on the Jets. The Ravens will almost definitely be at least double digit favorites next week and teams are 69-55 ATS since 2010 before being double digit favorites. The Steelers, meanwhile, will almost definitely be at least field goal favorites next week on the road and teams are 79-54 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 3 or more on the road. These two things cancel out and at the end of the day I like the Ravens a decent amount this week.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 13

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -1

Confidence: Medium

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Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (0-7) at Seattle Seahawks (4-3)

Despite losing to the Cowboys in their last home game, the Seahawks have still been close to automatic at home recently. Since 2007, the Seahawks are 43-20 at home, including playoffs and they aren’t just having success straight up as they are 42-20-1 ATS. They outscore opponents on average by 7.49 points per game. This is opposed to a 24-41 record away from home (28-36-1 ATS), getting outscored by 3.75 points per game. This home dominance has been even more pronounced over the past 3 seasons, since the start of the Russell Wilson era, as they’ve gone 19-2 straight up and 15-6 ATS at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 14.48 points per game at home and beating the spread by an average of 7.57 points per game.

We’ve been having to pay a serious premium with the Seahawks at home this season, as they were 7.5 point favorites for Green Bay and 5 point favorites for Denver, but I don’t think we’re doing that here. This line is really high at 15, but it’s more than justified. The Seahawks rank 12th in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 75.00% rate, as opposed to 73.79% for their opponents, a differential of 1.21%. Meanwhile, the pathetic Raiders rank dead last, moving the chains at a 66.49% rate, as opposed to 76.02% for their opponents, a differential of -9.53%. The next worst team is Tampa Bay at -8.01%.

That suggests this line should be around 13.5, before you take into account the Seahawks’ unique home field advantage and the fact that they’ll probably end the season better than 12th in rate of moving the chains. This 15 point line is more than justified and we’re not paying nearly as much of a premium as we were earlier in the season, likely as a result of the fact that the Seahawks lost in their last home game to Dallas. That’s the exception to the rule with this team at home recently though and Dallas is a very solid opponent. Remember, this team still blew out a very good Green Bay team and handed the Broncos their only loss of the season in their other 2 home games. They should be able to blow out the Raiders easily here.

The Seahawks also have a much easier game on deck as they host the Giants, while the Raiders host the Broncos next week. Teams are 69-55 ATS since 2010 before being double digit favorites, as the Seahawks will almost definitely be over the Giants next week. On the flip side, teams are 59-83 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional home underdogs. Going off of that, teams are 54-81 ATS before being 3+ home underdogs since 2012, 13-44 ATS since 2010 before being 7+ home underdogs, and 16-41 ATS since 2002 before being double digit home underdogs, as they almost definitely will be next week. That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough, important game coming up. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. Here, I think it’s both. On top of that, double digit underdogs are 22-46 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs.

There are two reasons in favor of the Raiders that prevent this from being a big play in favor of Seattle. For one, they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game. Second, teams that are 0-7 or worse are 25-7 ATS as underdogs on the road since 1989. The Seahawks should still be the right side though.

Seattle Seahawks 34 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -15

Confidence: Low

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Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) at New York Giants (3-4)

The Colts surprisingly lost in Pittsburgh last week by the final score of 51-34 as 3.5 point favorites. This week, they are once again 3.5 point road favorites here in New York against the Giants, but I think the result will be different for four reasons. The first reason is that Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano, as is the case with most good quarterback/head coach combinations, have been great off a loss, going 10-1 ATS since they both took over in 2012.

Two, the Giants are in a bad spot going to Seattle next week, where they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams are 40-84 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. I think it’s the former here.

Three, I think last week’s loss was a fluke as the Colts are still a very good team. Who knows how the game would have gone differently if Vontae Davis (who should be fine this week) didn’t leave with injury. I don’t think they lose in Pittsburgh more than 20 times out of 100 and I think the same is true here this week in New York. Even with last week’s result, the Colts still rank 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 78.50% rate, as opposed to 71.77% for their opponents, a differential of 6.73%. Meanwhile, the Giants rank 17th, moving the chains at a 73.91% rate, as opposed to 73.73% for their opponents, a differential of 0.18%.

Four, the Colts are in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game. Going off of that, road favorites are 31-28 ATS off of a road loss since 2008 as long as it’s the 2nd of two road favorites, including 15-8 ATS as road favorites off of a loss as road favorites. The Colts should be the right side here.

Indianapolis Colts 31 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -3.5

Confidence: Medium

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St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

St. Louis Rams (2-5) at San Francisco 49ers (4-3)

The Rams were blown out last week in Kansas City as 7 point underdogs, but I have reasons to believe that they won’t get blown out here as 10 point underdogs in San Francisco. One, they are in their second straight road game, rather than last week when they were in their first road game. Teams are 108-70 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 92-48 ATS when it’s their 2nd straight (and not 3rd straight) road game and they next play a home game. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 181-184 in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game, as opposed to 254-364 in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.28 points per game.

Two, while the Rams were facing a Chiefs team that was in a great spot last week (with only a game against the Jets on deck), the Rams are getting the 49ers before they play the Saints in New Orleans next week. They will almost definitely be underdogs next week and double digit favorites are 51-69 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. Three, I think the Rams were facing a significantly better team last week when they faced the Chiefs than they are now facing the 49ers.

The 49ers haven’t been nearly as good this season as they’ve been in previous seasons under Jim Harbaugh, as a result of guys like NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and Glenn Dorsey being out with injury and suspension. They rank just 22nd, moving the chains at a 74.04% rate, as opposed to 75.86% for their opponents, a differential of -1.82%. The Chiefs, meanwhile, rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains. This is actually going to be a much easier game for the Rams than last week’s, even before you take into account that the 49ers are in a bad spot and that the Rams are in their 2nd straight road game.

The Rams, meanwhile, rank 26th, moving the chains at a 73.33% rate, as opposed to 77.03% for their opponents, a differential of -3.70%. The 49ers are getting healthier, with Anthony Davis returning from extended absence and Patrick Willis coming back from missing the 49ers’ last game, while the Rams are now without top offensive lineman Jake Long and top wide receiver Brian Quick, but this line should still be no higher than a touchdown when you take everything into account, including the situational trends. The 49ers usually do well as big favorites, going 25-15 ATS in the Jim Harbaugh era as favorites of 3 or more, but they are just 2-3 ATS in that spot this season and I think this is going to be another ATS loss for them.

San Francisco 49ers 20 St. Louis Rams 16

Pick against spread: St. Louis +10

Confidence: Medium

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New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs: 2014 Week 9 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)

This game has had the biggest line movement from last week to this week, as the Chiefs were just 5 point favorites in the early line last week, as opposed to 10 point favorites now. The reason for that is obvious as the Jets were just blown out at home 43-23 by the Bills, a game in which Geno Smith completed 2 passes, threw 3 interceptions, and was benched for Michael Vick. I usually like fading significant line movements as there’s really no reason for a line to move that much with the exception of injury to a strong starting quarterback.

Easily the biggest reason for the loss was the Jets -6 turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week to week basis. Teams that have a turnover margin of -4 on average have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week. Even crazier, teams with a turnover margin of -6 or more have an average turnover margin of +0.3 the following week. As a result, those teams are 28-21 ATS the following week and that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Those 28 teams that cover the spread do so by an average of 15.39 points per game, as opposed to 7.71 points per game for the 21 teams that fail to cover the spread. Underdogs who previously lost the turnover margin by 6 or more are 20-13 ATS and 16-18 straight up, despite by underdogs. The Jets actually won the chain game, moving the chains at a 67.57% rate, as opposed to 65.38% for the Bills. The Bills were way too reliant on turnovers.

That being said, I still think we’re getting line value with the Chiefs, as they’re an underrated team. The fact that they were just 5 point favorites over the Jets last week is absurd and even with the significant line movement, they should still be the right side. The Chiefs rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving them at a 77.63% rate, as opposed to 70.35% for their opponents, a differential of 7.27%. That might sound absurd considering they’re just 4-3, but they have a +48 point differential. They went into San Diego and won. They blew out a decent Miami team in Miami (34-15). They blew out a Patriots team that has looked fantastic since (41-14). Last week they blew out the Rams (31-7). Meanwhile, their three losses came by a combined 19 points and two of them came in Denver and San Francisco.

The Jets, meanwhile, rank just 25th in rate of moving the chains, despite winning the chain game last week. They move the chains at a 68.29% rate, as opposed to 71.74% for their opponents, a differential of -3.45%. The public does know how bad they are, but they haven’t really caught on to how good the Chiefs are, so we’re getting value with them. They’re also in a good spot as they have another easy game on deck, going to Buffalo next week. Teams are 79-51 ATS since 2008 as non-divisional home favorites before being non-divisional road favorites, as those teams have no real distractions on deck.

Meanwhile, the Jets host Pittsburgh next week, a game in which they will almost definitely be 3+ point home underdogs. Teams are 53-81 ATS before being 3+ point home underdogs since 2012, including 26-56 ATS before being 4+ point home underdogs. That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you have a very tough game coming up that serves as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. I think it’s both in this situation.

I’m not that confident in Kansas City as I hate going with significant line movement, especially when doing so means being on the same side as the public. The Jets are also in a good spot on a 7 game losing streak as underdogs are 51-32 ATS since 2002 on a 7+ game losing streak, which makes sense as teams tend to be embarrassed, undervalued, and overlooked in that situation. The Jets aren’t undervalued, but they could definitely be embarrassed and/or overlooked. However, the Chiefs should still be the right side.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -10

Confidence: Low

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