Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) at Detroit Lions (5-4)

After a busy off-season in which the Jaguars had among the most cap space in the NFL and spent accordingly, the Jaguars entered the season with high expectations and have had an incredibly disappointing season, falling to 2-7 last week with loss to the Houston Texans. Their last 2 losses have been especially painful, as they lost by 5 in Kansas City despite losing the turnover battle by 4 and then they last week they lost at home to the Texans by just 3 despite losing the turnover battle by 2. They’ve held the Chiefs and Texans to a combined 26 first downs and have accumulated 48 first downs of their own, but couldn’t win either game because of turnovers.

That’s been the case all season, as they rank 9th in first down rate differential, but have just 2 wins because of a league worst -14 turnover margin. Fortunately, turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For example, teams that have a -4 turnover differential in a game on average, have a +0.1 turnover margin the following week. Aside from turnovers, they’ve actually played pretty well this season and if we assume turnover neutral football going forward, they figure to have better luck winning some of these close games (4 losses by 5 points or fewer) and should win more games going forward, including possibly this game against the Lions.

Despite the fact that they’ve only had 3 losses by more than 5 points this season even with all of their turnover problems, the Jaguars are underdogs of 6.5 points at home this week in Detroit, far too many considering the Jaguars are significantly better than their record. The Lions, meanwhile, are not quite as good as their record suggests, as they enter this game 22nd in first down rate differential. All 9 of their games have been close and most could have gone either way; their biggest win came by 6 points in overtime against the Vikings. Given that, I’m not sure why they’re expected to win by at least a touchdown against the Jaguars.

The Lions are also in a tough spot as they have to turn around and play again next week on Thursday Night Football, their annual Thanksgiving home game. Favorites are 50-82 ATS before playing on Thursday Night Football since 2008. The Lions have never been good before these Thanksgiving games anyway, going 6-10 ATS since 2001 the week before Thanksgiving. The Jaguars, meanwhile, go to Buffalo next week. The early line has them as at least 6 point underdogs in that game, like they are here, and underdogs of 6 or more are 48-76 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more. However, they don’t deserve to be underdogs of that many in either game. If they have a strong performance this week, perhaps the line will shift under 6 next week. If not, I will probably be taking the Jaguars again next week. They’re one of the most underrated teams in the league because people don’t realize they’ve played well other than turnovers and a smart pick here at 6.5.

Detroit Lions 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6.5

Confidence: High




Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)

The Seahawks pulled a big upset last week, winning as 8 point underdogs in New England. Considering how well the Seahawks have played in the 2nd half of the season in recent years, that big upset shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. The Seahawks have always done very well in the second half of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011), going 31-9-1 ATS in games 9-16 since Carroll arrived. This has been very noticeable on the stat sheet for Russell Wilson, as he’s completed 66% of his passes for an average of 8.7 YPA, 66 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in the second half of the regular season in his career.

Considering how well this organization is run from top to bottom, it doesn’t surprise me they get better as the season goes on. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if they went on another second half run. Safety Kam Chancellor has returned to the lineup, while quarterback Russell Wilson is much healthier after playing through early season injuries. The Seahawks also get running back Thomas Rawls back from injury this week. He’ll split touches out of the backfield with last week’s breakout star, rookie 3rd round pick CJ Prosise.

They’re also in a great spot here with only a trip to Tampa Bay on deck. The early line has them as 6.5 point road favorites. Favorites of 6 or more are 89-50 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. With no distractions on the horizon, the Seahawks should be able to be completely focused for an inferior opponent this week. The Eagles aren’t a bad team, but the line isn’t that high either (6.5). The Seahawks could be about to go on another late season run, so I have confidence that they’ll win by at least a touchdown.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Philadelphia Eagles 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6.5

Confidence: Medium




Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

The Titans pulled off a huge home upset victory over the Green Bay Packers last week, which shifted this line from 4 in favor of the host Indianapolis Colts on the early line last week down to 3 this week, a significant shift considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Typically, I like to fade significant line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play and I also tend to fade teams coming off of home upset victories, as teams are just 59-79 ATS off of a home victory as underdogs since 2012. However, the Titans have been at the top of my underrated teams list pretty much all season and I think even after last week’s statement victory they remain underrated. Most seem to be attributing Tennessee’s win to Green Bay not being good anymore, but it’s Tennessee’s rise, not Green Bay’s supposed fall that should be the story from that game.

Despite 5-5 record, the Titans enter this game 3rd in first down rate differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a +13 point differential on the season, despite being -7 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 7 plays, they have a +61 point differential (which would be 4th best in the NFL). They have 33 offensive touchdowns on the season, as opposed to 21 allowed by their defense, a +12 differential that is best in the NFL. This line still suggests these two teams are even, but that’s far from the case.

Part of that is because the Colts are overrated. People remember them beating the Packers in Green Bay before their bye, but that was largely because of long returns on special teams. The Packers lost the first down rate battle by 9.50% against the Titans, but won by 5.20% against the Colts. Prior to that, the Colts were blown out at home 31-13 by a Chiefs team that has scored just one offensive touchdown in 2 games since. On the season, despite a few wins, the Colts rank just 29th in first down rate differential, thanks to a defense that is allowing the highest first down rate in the league. Outside of special teams, this hasn’t been a good Indianapolis team this season.

Prior to the Chiefs game, the Colts did beat the Titans 34-26 in Tennessee, but the Titans have still been a lot better on the season. Also, that loss puts the Titans in a good spot here, as divisional road underdogs are 60-32 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites. Comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. These teams aren’t even comparable, so the Titans should have a great chance of evening the season series. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Titans don’t really have much of a homefield advantage, so the fact that this is a road game for them isn’t that big of a deal. Since 2010, the Titans have been outscored by 5 points per game on the road and 3 points per game at home, suggesting their homefield advantage has been worth about a point over that time period.

The Titans are also in a much better spot than the Colts because the Colts have to turn around and play Pittsburgh on Thursday Night on Thanksgiving, while the Titans go to Chicago to take on a Bears team that’s been one of the worst in the league this year. The Titans figure to be completely focused to take down an opponent that has caused them a lot of trouble in recent years, while the Colts could get caught looking forward to a tough Thursday Night game. The early line has them as 3 point home underdogs against the Steelers, while the Titans are favored by a point in Chicago. Favorites are 50-82 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, while underdogs are 92-60 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. If the Colts aren’t focused, they’re going to have a very tough time defeating a team that has significantly outplayed them this season. This is not only my Pick of the Week, but also one of my favorite picks all year.

Tennessee Titans 27 Indianapolis Colts 20 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week




New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (3-6)

The Panthers lost last week by a field goal at home, their 4th loss this season by 3 points or fewer. This loss was particularly heartbreaking for them as they led 17-0 early, but blew the lead and ended up losing 20-17 on the strength of a return touchdown and a late takeaway in Carolina territory that set up the winning field goal. Even though they won the game, the Chiefs actually didn’t score a single offensive touchdown all game and lost the first down battle 22-18. As you can imagine given all of their close loss, the Panthers have played better overall than their record suggests, as they rank 14th in first down rate differential. It’s a far cry from their 2015 team, but they could easily be 5-4 or 6-3 right now if a couple things had gone their way.

The problem for them this week is the Saints are also better than their record. The Saints enter this game at 4-5, but 3 of those losses came by 3 points or fewer, including a heartbreaker last week in which the Saints’ go-ahead extra point was blocked and returned for a game winning 2-point conversion by the Broncos’ defense. The Saints enter this game 8th in first down rate differential, a few spots higher than the Panthers, and also have a better point differential (-5 vs. +2). At 3.5 in favor of the host Carolina Panthers, this line suggests the Panthers are a slightly better team than the Saints, but I think it’s the other way around.

At the very least, these two teams are even, so this line shouldn’t be any higher than a field goal. The difference between 3 and 3.5 might not seem like much, but considering 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, it’s a pretty big half point. The Saints are also in a better spot, as they host the lowly Rams next week, while the Panthers have to travel to face Oakland. Underdogs are 91-59 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Even if the Panthers win, this game figures to be close, so I’d put money on the Saints at 3.5. At +3, it’s probably worth buying the half point.

Carolina Panthers 24 New Orleans Saints 23

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3.5

Confidence: Medium