Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-10) at New England Patriots (11-2)

The Titans rank just 26th in rate of moving the chains differential, but have been pretty solid offensively, outside of the 2 games that talented rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota missed with injury. In those 2 games, they moved the chains at a 53.57% rate, as opposed to 72.78% in Mariota’s 11 starts. The Titans have more injuries around the quarterback now than they’ve had all season though. Cornerback Jason McCourty obviously remains out for the season and wide receiver Kendall Wright, safety Da’Norris Searcy, and wide receiver Kendall Wright are all out as well, all key contributors.

The Patriots are pretty banged up too though. Getting tight end Rob Gronkowski back from injury last week was huge and linebacker Dont’a Hightower and guard Josh Kline are expected back this week from 2 and 1 game absences respectively, but offensive tackle Nate Solder and running back Dion Lewis are out for the season, with running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Dominique Easley joining them after going down last week. Also going down last week was safety Devin McCourty, who is expected to miss this game with a high ankle sprain. On top of that, Julian Edelman will miss his 5th straight game with a foot injury. This line is probably too high at 14.

The Lions are helped by the fact that they are in their 2nd of two road games though. Teams are 126-91 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 103-63 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. 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 222-222 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.45 points per game, as opposed to 317-433 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.75 points per game. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Titans, but they should be able to keep this one within 2 touchdowns.

New England Patriots 31 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +14

Confidence: Low

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Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (11-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

The Cardinals rank first in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, despite having a couple losses. In those 2 losses, they won the first down battle by a combined 20 first downs and only lost because they had a -3 turnover margin in both games. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. On average, teams that have a -3 turnover margin in a game have a +0.1 turnover margin the following game. That’s why I don’t really like to use turnover margin as evidence to support an evaluation of a team. Last week’s Thursday Night game against the Vikings was actually the first of the season in which the Cardinals lost the rate of moving chains battle and they did so just barely (77.42% to 78.13%), in a field goal victory. They’ve won that battle in all 12 games they’ve played this season on more than 4 days rest.

The Eagles rank just 21st in rate of moving the chains differential, so I think we’re getting some line value with the Cardinals. However, I’m not confident in the Cardinals for three reasons. For one, close to 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. Despite that, the public is all over the Cardinals and I typically like to avoid taking heavily publicly backed sides, as the public always loses money in the long run, which is the second reason. The 3rd is that the Eagles host the Redskins next week, a game in which they’ll be favored, so they won’t have any distractions. Teams are 92-65 ATS since 2012 as road favorites before being favored again, if their opponent will be underdogs again the following week. All other road favorites are 71-95 ATS over that time period. Because the Eagles will be favored next week, the Cardinals fall into the 2nd category. Still, I like the Cardinals, who are already 4-2 ATS as road favorites this year, to continue their dominant season and win big here.

Arizona Cardinals 24 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Arizona -4.5

Confidence: Low

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Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (4-9) at New Orleans Saints (5-8)

The Saints were favored by just 1.5 points over the Lions on the early line last week, but have since jumped to 3 point favorites, following their upset victory in Tampa Bay and the Lions’ upset loss in St. Louis. That’s a significant line movement, considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Ordinarily, I love to fade significant line movements whenever it makes sense, as they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play, but it doesn’t really make sense here, as the Saints are a better team, ranking 15th in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 24th for Detroit. This line suggests these two teams are even.

The Lions are helped by the fact that they are in their 2nd of two road games though. Teams are 126-91 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 103-63 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. 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 222-222 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.45 points per game, as opposed to 317-433 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.75 points per game. I’m still taking the Saints, but this is a no confidence pick. This game has a high likelihood of a push.

New Orleans Saints 31 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3

Confidence: None

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Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (6-7) at Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

The Colts lost 51-16 in Jacksonville last week, but the good news is that teams are 51-27 ATS since 2002 off of a loss of 35+ points. It’s counter-intuitive, but it makes sense, as teams tend to be embarrassed, overlooked, and undervalued in that spot. The Colts lost by 35 the week prior as well, in Pittsburgh, and that didn’t help them last week, but that’s just one data point against a trend that’s historically been successful and that makes logical sense. Besides, teams that have lost back-to-back games by at least 21 points are 44-27 ATS over that same time period, for the same reasons.

The Colts also historically cover at home, against divisional opponents, and against sub-.500 opponents, in the Chuck Pagano era, dating back to 2012. They are 21-10 ATS at home, 18-7 ATS against sub-.500 opponents (week 4 or later), and 16-6 ATS against divisional opponents over that time period. Combining all three, they are 5-2 ATS at home, against sub-.500 divisional opponents in week 4 or later, since 2012. The Texans fit all three criteria.

The Texans are the better team, ranking 11th in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 23rd for the Colts, but much of the league is bunched up in the middle and the Texans are actually closer to 23rd than 6th, so the difference isn’t as big as it seems. Besides, the Texans are missing starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, while stud defensive lineman JJ Watt is playing through a broken hand, which seemed to limit him against New England last week. As long as this line stays under 3, I’m taking the Colts. I wouldn’t put money on it though, because the Texans are in a good spot too. Divisional road underdogs are 55-31 ATS in a same season regular season rematch against a team they previously lost to as divisional home favorites, since 2002. Revenge is far from uncommon in divisional matchups similar to this one and the Colts beat the Texans in Houston earlier this year.

Indianapolis Colts 16 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -1

Confidence: Low

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Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (6-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8)

This line was even a week ago on the early line, but the Jaguars have since become field goal favorites, a significant line movement, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. I love fading significant line movements whenever it makes sense because they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play. The line movement isn’t a surprise, considering the Falcons got clobbered in Carolina last week, 38-0, but the Panthers are arguably the best team in the NFL, far better than the Jaguars. Plus, teams are 51-27 ATS since 2002 off of a loss of 35+ points. It’s counter-intuitive, but it makes sense, as teams tend to be embarrassed, overlooked, and undervalued in that spot. The Falcons could easily be all 3.

The Jaguars are coming off of a huge victory, 51-16 over the Colts, also a big part of the reason why the line moved, but they still rank just 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 17th for the Falcons, suggesting this line is too low at 3, especially with the Jaguars missing running back TJ Yeldon and defensive lineman Ryan Davis. The reason this isn’t a bigger play is because the Falcons have to turn around and play the Panthers again next week, this time at home, a game in which the early line has them as 6.5 point home underdogs. Teams are 23-56 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 6+. Atlanta’s the pick though.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 Atlanta Falcons 23

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3

Confidence: Low

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Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) at Baltimore Ravens (5-8)

This has been the season from hell for the Ravens. After going 11-5, winning a playoff game, and finishing the season 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential a year ago, the Ravens lost outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak this off-season. And then during the season, they’ve lost 1st round pick wide receiver (and Torrey Smith replacement) Breshad Perriman, wide receiver Steve Smith, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, center Jeremy Zuttah, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, quarterback Joe Flacco, and running back Justin Forsett for the season with injury.

As a result, they are 5-8, rank 29th in rate of moving the chains differential, and are even less talented than that suggests. In the 3 games since losing Flacco and Forsett, they’ve moved the chains at a 64.77% rate, as opposed to 68.95% in their previous 10 games. Matt Schaub will start for the Ravens this week, after a one week absence with his own injury. He’ll be an upgrade over Jimmy Clausen, who started last week, but not by much and talented tight end Crockett Gillmore now could be out for the season with a back injury. Even if he’s not, he’ll miss his 2nd straight game with injury this week, leaving Schaub with little talent around him on offense, not exactly a recipe for success. The Ravens’ defense is capable, but this is arguably the least talented offense in the NFL right now.

Still, this line does seem high at 6.5, in favor of the visiting Chiefs. The Chiefs rank 10th in rate of moving the chains differential and are missing their top defensive player, Justin Houston, with injury. 2014 1st round pick Dee Ford has played well over the past 2 games in his absence, but Houston is borderline impossible to replace so his absence is definitely still notable. The Ravens are also in a solid spot, as teams are 76-52 ATS as home underdogs off of a home loss, since 2002.

However, the Chiefs are in a great spot, hosting the lowly Browns next week, against whom they’re expected to be favored by 11.5 points, while the Ravens host the Steelers. Teams are 92-65 ATS since 2012 as road favorites before being favored again, if their opponent will be underdogs again the following week. All other road favorites are 71-95 ATS over that time period. Going further, favorites of 6+ are 81-43 ATS before being favored by 6+ points again, since 2012, as superior teams tend to take care of business and win big when they don’t have an upcoming distraction. I could go either way on this one, but I’ll take the Chiefs as long as the line is under a touchdown.

Kansas City Chiefs 17 Baltimore Ravens 10

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -6.5

Confidence: None

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Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers: 2015 Week 15 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) at San Francisco 49ers (4-9)

The 49ers are the worst team in rate of moving the chains differential by a mile, coming in at -11.92%, while no one else is worse than -7.14%. That was on display last week, as they lost 24-10 in Cleveland, against a terrible Browns team. The Bengals, meanwhile, rank 4th, but they’re also been remarkably injury free this season. Now they’re missing quarterback Andy Dalton, tight end Tyler Eifert, and safety George Iloka, three key players. The biggest injury is Dalton’s, as he was playing at a high level, the best football of his career, and backup AJ McCarron is a 2014 6th round pick who has never made a start and who struggled in relief of Dalton last week against the Steelers.

That being said, McCarron could definitely be better now with a full week of practice with the first team to prepare, against a much easier defense. The Bengals are still favored by 6 points on the road, as the line shifted just 1 point in the past week to compensate for the injuries, largely because of the 49ers’ embarrassing performance in Cleveland. We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Bengals, as a result of that, but I don’t have a problem laying 6 points with the Bengals. McCarron has a great supporting cast still and the 49ers are awful. The 49ers are also in a tough spot, as the early line has them as 7 point underdogs in Detroit next week. Teams are 42-67 ATS as 6+ point underdogs before being 6+ point underdogs again, since 2012. I’m not going to put money on the Bengals, because it’s really hard to trust a first time starting quarterback, because the public is all over the Bengals, and because the 49ers have been decent at home this season (4-2 ATS), but they should be the right side.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 San Francisco 49ers 9

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -6

Confidence: Low

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