Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Denver Broncos (6-0)

Both the Packers and Broncos enter this one undefeated. The only other time since 1989 when two undefeated teams met this late in the season was week 9 of 2007, when the Patriots (who eventually went 16-0) visited the Indianapolis Colts. Like in that game, the home team is the underdog in this one, as the Patriots were 4.5 point road favorites in 2007 (winning by 4), and the Packers are 3 point favorites in Denver this year. That game and this one are the only instances since 1989 where 6-0 or better team is the underdog at home.

The Broncos deserve to be home underdogs though, as they’re a significantly inferior team to the Packers. The Broncos haven’t played a very tough schedule (Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland, Cleveland) and have still only won one game by more than a touchdown and have lost the rate of moving the chains battle in 3 of 6 games. On the season, they’re actually slightly in the negative in rate of moving the chains differential, despite a 6-0 record, and rank 14th in that statistic. The Packers haven’t had a tough schedule either (Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Diego), but they rank 6th in that aforementioned statistic. They’re solid on both sides of the ball, while the Broncos have a great defense, but a horrible offense.

Given that the Packers are legitimate field goal favorites here on the road in Denver, they’re in a great spot coming off of their bye. Favorites of 3+ are 41-13 ATS off of a bye since 2002. The Broncos are coming off of a bye as well, but that tends to benefit the better team more and the Packers are the better team here. I like their chances of remaining undefeated and covering this spread. I’m concerned about all of the public action coming in on Green Bay, but I’m still comfortable putting money on them.

Green Bay Packers 24 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -3

Confidence: Medium

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San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (2-5) at Baltimore Ravens (1-6)

The Ravens have had a brutal start to their season, losing 6 of their first 7 games. However, they’ve been on the road in 5 of those 7 games and they’re typically a better team at home. They are 47-13 at home since 2008, outscoring their opponents by an average of 9.87 points per game, as opposed to 36-38 on the road, outscoring their opponents by an average of just 0.80 points per game. They’re also 22-14 ATS at home as underdogs or favorites of a touchdown or less over that time period, as they are here, though just 0-2 ATS during this tough season.

However, they’re going into a bye here. That might sound like a good thing, but it’s not,as counterintuitive as that might seem. Big home favorites (6+) typically do very well before a bye (59-20 ATS since 2002), but, for whatever reason, small home favorites like the Redskins are here do not. Teams who are favored by 1-5.5 points at home going into the bye are just 37-61 ATS over that aforementioned time period, as they tend to get caught looking forward to the bye. The Chargers are in a better spot, with a relatively easy home game against the Bears on deck.

We’re also getting a significant amount of line value with the Chargers. Neither one of these teams has a good record, but, while the Ravens rank 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, the Chargers are much better than their record, ranking 8th. The Chargers’ defense isn’t very good, but their offense leads the NFL in first downs and yards. They’ve come close to beating both Green Bay and Cincinnati on the road this season and have won the rate of moving the chains battle in 5 of 7 games, including in Green Bay, arguably the toughest place in the NFL to play. Getting more than a field goal with them in Baltimore, against a Ravens team that’s in a bad spot, is a complete steal.

The only reason I’m a little hesitant taking the Chargers is because they’re pretty banged up. Left guard Orlando Franklin, middle linebackers Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman, tight end Antonio Gates, and safety Eric Weddle are all expected out for this one. Weddle’s injury is especially important because he’s one of the best safeties in the league and doesn’t have much talent around him on San Diego’s defense. Oakland moved the chains pretty easily against them last week in Weddle’s first game missed with injury. Baltimore is pretty banged up too though, obviously still missing edge rusher Terrell Suggs for the year, but are also still missing wide receiver Breshad Perriman and now are once again missing left tackle Eugene Monroe. Their offensive line really struggled without him early in the season. I’m still confident enough in the Chargers to make them by Pick of the Week.

San Diego Chargers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: San Diego +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Typically, I like fading significant line movements, because they tend to be week-to-week overreactions. This game does feature one, as the Cardinals were 4 point favorites on the early line last week, but are now favored by 6, probably as a result of the Browns’ big loss in St. Louis. However, I still like the Cardinals’ chances of winning big here on the road in Cleveland and covering this line. The Cardinals are “only” 5-2, but they rank 1st in rate of moving the chains differential. They’ve won the rate of moving the chains differential battle in all 7 games.

In their 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 for why a team is good or bad. The Cardinals, despite 2 losses, have been very dominant through the first 6 weeks of the season.

Who they’re dominating is a concern though. They haven’t played a very tough schedule, playing New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh (with Michael Vick/Landry Jones), and Baltimore. However, the Browns aren’t really better than any of those teams. They rank just 24th in rate of moving the chains differential. They get cornerback Joe Haden and safety Tashaun Gipson back from injury this week, but neither one of them was playing that well before getting hurt and the Cardinals are essentially at full strength injury wise as well. Even with this line moving up to 6, I still think we’re getting line value with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are also in a way better spot, going into the bye. Good teams tend to take care of business going into a bye and win big as big favorites. Home favorites of 6+ going into the bye are 59-20 ATS since 2002. The Cardinals, unfortunately, are not at home for this one, but 3+ point road favorites are still 39-25 ATS going into a bye, for the same reason. It’s not as powerful of a trend as the other one, but the logic behind both is the same.

The Browns, meanwhile, need to turn around and play the Bengals on Thursday Night Football next week, a game in which they’re expected to be underdogs of 9.5. Underdogs of 6+ are 40-61 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again the following week, and that’s before you even take into account the upcoming short week. The Cardinals should have no problem beating up on the Browns, as they have against many similar caliber opponents, with no upcoming distractions on the horizon going into the bye. The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because of all the public money pouring in on Arizona.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Arizona -6

Confidence: High

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Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2015 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (6-0)

Dan Campbell has looked like the best coach in the NFL through 2 games, as the Dolphins have won their last 2 games since the bye by double digits, taking big early leads in both of them. This comes after the Dolphins had an incredibly disappointing start to their season, going 1-3 (with one win on a punt return in Washington), losing in Jacksonville, and getting demolished by two divisional rivals, the Bills and the Jets, in games that both were Miami home games.

That’s why they fired Joe Philbin during the bye and replaced him with a fiery young tight ends coach in Campbell. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves with the Dolphins again, it’s important to remember that it’s been just two games against the Titans and the Texans and that Campbell only looks so good because he’s being compared with Joe Philbin, who was one of the worst coaches in the league over the past few years.

The Dolphins still only rank 21st in rate of moving the chains differential on the season. Their talent level is better than that, especially with left tackle Branden Albert and defensive end Cameron Wake now healthy off of the bye, and they have definitely found an upgrade at the head coach spot, albeit an inexperienced one, but they still have major issues, such as the offensive line and the secondary. The Patriots, meanwhile, rank 3rd in that measure, though they do have some injuries, missing defensive end Jabaal Sheard, left tackle Marcus Cannon, and possibly running back Dion Lewis, while the Dolphins are essentially at 100% injury wise.

The Dolphins should still have a much tougher time with them in New England than they did with Houston and Tennessee. The Dolphins’ recent play has moved this line from 10.5 on the early line to 8.5 this week, a number that they almost covered in a tougher spot against a much tougher Jets team last week. I love to fade a significant line movement whenever I can and this game is no exception. We’re getting line value with the Patriots, as this line should be about 10 at least.

The Patriots are also in a much better spot, hosting the Redskins next week, meaning they have no distractions on the horizon. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have to turn around off this one and go to Buffalo, who blew them out badly in Miami a few weeks ago. They should still be focused for this one, with a long week between them and Buffalo and with New England being arguably their biggest rival and toughest opponent.

However, even if the Dolphins didn’t have an upcoming distraction, the Patriots are still in a better spot because the better team tends to be the one that benefits most from not having an upcoming distraction. Favorites of 6+ are 77-37 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again, as good teams tend to take care of business and win big, unless they have an upcoming distraction. It also helps that the Patriots are 15-7 ATS since 2013. If it wasn’t for heavy public action on New England and the Patriots’ few injuries, this would be a higher confidence pick, but I have no problem putting money on New England this week.

New England Patriots 34 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: New England -8.5

Confidence: Medium

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