Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (6-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

The Falcons are 6-3 and one of the better teams in the league this season thanks primarily to a high flying offense that leads the NFL with a first down or touchdown on a whopping 43.26% of snaps, including 50% in back-to-back games against the Packers and Buccaneers coming into this game. No other offense is even close, as the 2nd place Cowboys have a first down rate of 41.74% and the 3rd place Saints are at 40.63%. The defense hasn’t been nearly as good, allowing the 4th highest first down rate in the NFL, but their offense has been good enough to compensate, so they rank 4th in first down rate differential entering this one.

The Falcons offense will probably have to play at a very high level once again this week, as the Falcons’ defense is without cornerback Desmond Trufant, arguably their best defensive player and certainly their best defensive back. Without him, an already weak defense gets even worse. The Eagles are not a great team and have fallen back to earth after a 3-0 start and sit here at 4-4, but they’re not bad either. They enter this game 16th in first down rate differential. I’m not confident either way in this game, but the Eagles are the pick as 1.5 point home underdogs against the Falcons without Trufant.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +1.5

Confidence: None

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Los Angeles Rams at New York Jets: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (3-5) at New York Jets (3-6)

These are two of the worst teams in the league so I’m not going to spend much time on this pick. The Rams are a slightly better team, as they rank 30th in first down rate differential, as opposed to 31st for the Jets, but we’re not really getting line value with them as mere 1.5 point underdogs. The Jets are in a tough spot, looking forward to a bye as small favorites; Home favorites of 1 to 5.5 points are just 30-58 ATS before a regular season bye since 2002. It’s a no confidence pick, but I’m taking the Rams.

New York Jets 17 Los Angeles Rams 16

Pick against the spread: Los Angeles +1.5

Confidence: None

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Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

The Chargers have been one of the most banged up teams in the league in each of the last two seasons. This season, the Chargers have been missing wide receiver Steve Johnson, running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Keenan Allen, middle linebacker Manti Te’o, and cornerback Jason Verrett for most, if not all of the season thus far. Joining them this week will be starting middle linebackers Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown and starting wide receiver Travis Benjamin.

The Chargers are going into a bye, which is good news from an injury standpoint, as it gives them time to get their players back, but it’s also bad news because it puts them in a bad spot this week. Home favorites of 1 to 5.5 points are just 30-58 ATS before a regular season bye since 2002, as teams tend to get caught looking forward to their week off in this spot. The Chargers are 4.5 point favorites, so they fall right in the range. That’s also too many points, given the Chargers’ injury situation and the fact that the Dolphins are a quality opponent. The Dolphins are 12th in first down rate differential, just a few spots behind the Chargers, who enter this game in 8th. Even banged up and in a bad spot, the Chargers will probably win this game, but 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so the Dolphins are the right pick if we’re getting 4.5 with them. There’s not enough for me to put money on them though.

San Diego Chargers 23 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Miami +4.5

Confidence: Low

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Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-3) at Washington Redskins (4-3-1)

When the Vikings were 5-0 on the strength of a +11 turnover margin and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that tend to be unsustainable, I thought they were the most overrated team in the league. Since then, they’ve lost all 3 games, all in upset fashion, against the Eagles, Bears, and Lions. Over those 3 games, they were +1 in turnover margin and -1 in return touchdown margin, which made a huge difference and exposed one of the most stagnant offenses in the league. They have a great defense, but they’ll never be anything more than an average team unless they can move the ball consistently. In their 3 losses, they scored just 36 points, which could be a sign of things to come.

However, now after those 3 losses, the Vikings aren’t really overrated anymore. In fact, the 4-3-1 Redskins are a little bit more overrated, as they enter this game 26th in first down rate differential, as opposed to 19th for the Vikings. That’s largely thanks to a defense that ranks 30th in first down rate allowed. Their offense ranks 6th in first down rate, but, overall, but they’ve been a mediocre team at best this season. Their only win by more than a touchdown came at home against the Browns, a game in which they didn’t even play that well, allowing 26 first downs. We’re not getting great line value or anything with the Vikings as mere 2.5 point road underdogs in Washington, but they’re the pick in pick ‘em pools.

Washington Redskins 20 Minnesota Vikings 19

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +2.5

Confidence: None

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Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (2-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

The Bears are just 2-6, but things are not that bad for them right now. Despite a rash of injuries, the Bears were better than their record suggested in the first 8 games of the season and enter this game 20th in first down rate differential. They also enter this game as healthy as they’ve been all season coming off of their bye, with nose tackle Eddie Goldman, left guard Josh Sitton, and right guard Kyle Long, 3 key trench players, all returning this week. Prior to the bye, the Bears got back players like middle linebacker Danny Trevathan, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, and quarterback Jay Cutler back from injury. With the players they currently have healthy, the Bears are not a bad team.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are not as good. They enter this game just 27th in first down rate differential, despite not having as many injuries as the Bears. They’ve also lacked any sort of homefield advantage in recent years, going just 18-39 ATS at home since 2009. The problem is this line is at 2.5 in favor of the visiting Bears, so we’re not really getting any line value with them. They’re still the right side here in pick ‘em pools as long as the line is under 3, but this is a no confidence pick.

Chicago Bears 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Chicago -2.5

Confidence: None

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Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at Carolina Panthers (3-5)

Ordinarily, I love fading significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play. This line has moved from 2.5 in favor of the Panthers on the early line last week to 3 this week, which doesn’t seem like a huge line movement, but it is when you consider that 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. This time though, the line movement is legitimate, as the Chiefs will be without top receiver Jeremy Maclin and starting defensive end Jaye Howard with injury.

In fact, I think we’re still getting good line value with the Panthers, who are the better of these two teams, despite their records. This line suggests these two teams are even, but the Panthers rank 14th in first down rate differential, while the Chiefs rank 24th. Three of the Panthers five losses have come by 3 points or fewer, so they are legitimately a few plays away from being 5-3 or even 6-2 like the Chiefs. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are 6-2 with the help of a 3-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a league leading +12 turnover margin, two things that tend to be unsustainable long-term. There’s not enough for me to put money on the Panthers at 3, especially since the Panthers are hosting the Saints in 4 days on Thursday Night Football (favorites are 50-80 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football), but I would consider it if this line dropped to 2.5.

Carolina Panthers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 19

Pick against the spread: Carolina -3

Confidence: Low

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San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-7) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)

The Cardinals have been one of the most underrated teams in the league this season. I didn’t bet heavily on them in their last game as 3 point underdogs in Carolina because they were coming off of a 5-quarter tie (which is usually a tough situation) and because Carolina was also underrated. I was hoping the Panthers would beat the Cardinals so we could get even better value with the Cardinals coming out of their bye in week 10. The Panthers did beat the Cardinals, 30-20, but the Cardinals also lost left tackle Jared Veldheer and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu for an extended period of time with injuries in that game. Those two are critical players for this team. On top of that, they’re still 13.5 point home favorites here because their opponents, the 49ers, have been so terrible this season, so we’re not really getting good line value with the Cardinals either, especially when you take into account their injury situation.

That being said, I’m still taking the Cardinals here. Despite their 3-4-1 record, they rank 6th in point differential and 1st in first down rate differential. Their losses to New England and Los Angeles were both very close, while their tie to Seattle could have been a win if one of a number of different things had gone their way. They have won the first down battle in 7 of 8 games and are legitimately a few plays away from being 6-2 right now, after finishing 13-3 and in first place in first down rate differential in 2015. Their offense isn’t what it was last season, but their defense has been even better. Their special teams have been problematic, but, even without Veldheer and Mathieu, this is still one of the best teams in the league.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have lost their last 7 straight by an AVERAGE of 17.29 points per game, so all of a sudden this line at 13.5 doesn’t seem so high. Just two of their losses came by fewer than two touchdowns. One of those 2 losses by less than two touchdowns was a 12 point home loss to these Cardinals week 5, even though the Cardinals were starting backup Drew Stanton in place of injured starting quarterback Carson Palmer. With Palmer back, the Cardinals should be able to win big here at home.

The Cardinals are in a tough spot as they have to turn around and play a much tougher Minnesota team next week, a game that could have significant playoff and playoff seeding implications. The Cardinals will almost definitely be road underdogs in Minnesota next week and favorites of 10 or more are just 54-73 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs, as teams can overlook significantly inferior opponents with a tough game on deck. That being said, the 49ers are also in a tough spot as they have to turn around and host the Patriots next week, a game in which they’re whopping 14.5 point home underdogs on the early line. That could be a major distraction for the 49ers. Underdogs of 10 or more are 48-79 ATS since 1989 before being underdogs of 10 or more again, while teams are 37-89 ATS since 2012 before being 4.5+ point home underdogs. There’s not quite enough here for me to be confident in putting money on the Cardinals as home favorites of this many points, but they should be the right side.

Arizona Cardinals 27 San Francisco 49ers 10

Pick against the spread: Arizona -13.5

Confidence: Low

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