San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (2-9)

The 49ers have lost 10 straight games, but are favored here on the road. To give you an idea of how rare that is, the 49ers are just the 5th team since 1989 to be favored despite being on a losing streak of 10+ games and just the 2nd team since 1989 to be favored on the road despite being on a losing streak of 10+ games. It’s not like most of those 10 losses were close either, as 7 out of 10 came by double digits and the average margin of defeat is 14.4 points. That being said, I couldn’t be confident enough in the Bears to put money on them unless we were getting a full field goal with them.

The Bears are incredibly banged up right now and might be the worst team in the league. They’re missing their top two quarterbacks (Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer), their top-3 pass catchers (Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, and Zach Miller), their best offensive lineman (Kyle Long), and three of their best defensive players (middle linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and cornerback Kyle Fuller), while outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, outside linebacker Willie Young, starting guard Josh Sitton, and slot receiver Eddie Royal are all expected to be gametime calls. Even if the Bears aren’t the worst team in the league, the 49ers are still in a better spot in their second of two road games, with an easy home game against the Jets on deck (in which they will likely be favored again). The Bears, meanwhile, have to turn around and go to division leading Detroit next week. I’m taking the points, but unless the line creeps up to 3 this is just a low confidence pick. The money line might be your best bet here at +110.

Chicago Bears 23 San Francisco 49ers 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Chicago +2

Confidence: Low

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Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (9-2)

This line at 3 in favor of the hometown Oakland Raiders seems to be confusing a lot of people, as the public is all over the favorite. That’s understandable, as the Bills are 6-5 and the Raiders are 9-2, but the Raiders have won 7 of their 9 games by a touchdown or less and have just 4 wins in regulation all season by more than a field goal. In fact, they enter this game 18th in first down rate differential, just two spots ahead of the Bills who rank 20th in that metric. With that in mind, I’m actually going to fade the public and take the points here. Not only do I love fading the public, as they always lose money in the long run, I also love betting against favorites that have to play again in a few days on Thursday Night Football, as favorites are 56-83 ATS in that spot since 2008. The Raiders could get caught looking past the Bills with a matchup with division rival Kansas City right around the corner. I wish we were getting more points and I wouldn’t recommend betting any money on it, but the Bills are the pick in pick ‘em leagues.

Oakland Raiders 19 Buffalo Bills 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +3

Confidence: None

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Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-7) at New England Patriots (9-2)

The Patriots enter this game 2nd in first down rate differential, despite the fact that they were missing starting quarterback Tom Brady for the first 4 games of the season, but there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned with them. Their defense hasn’t been the same since they controversially traded away linebacker Jamie Collins mid-season and now their offense will likely be without Rob Gronkowski with a back injury for the rest of the season. On top of that, their schedule has been remarkably easy since Brady’s return, with their only tough opponent being the Seahawks, who beat them in New England back in week 10.

Fortunately for them, their schedule doesn’t get any tougher this week, with the Rams coming to town. The Rams have managed to win 4 games, but rank 31st in first down rate differential and 27th in point differential (-66). Their 4 wins have come by a combined 18 points, while their 7 losses have come by a combined 84 points. While the Patriots will obviously miss Gronkowski this week, the Rams could miss defensive end Robert Quinn almost as much, as he is their top pass rusher and will miss this game with a concussion.

On top of that, the Patriots are in a better spot than the Rams. While the Rams have to turn around and host a good Atlanta team, the Patriots host the Ravens next week, a game in which they are expected to be double digit favorites once again (the early line has them at 10). Favorites of 6 or more are 93-52 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again, as good teams tend to take care of business when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. On the other side, teams are 41-91 ATS since 2012 before being road underdogs of 4.5 or more, which the Rams figure to be next week, as upcoming big home games tend to be a distraction for teams.

That being said, this line is too high at 13 for me to bet anything on the Patriots with confidence. They are a different team without Gronkowski and Collins. The Rams are also in a good spot, in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 140-105 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 111-72 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. 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 234-248 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.83 points per game, as opposed to 331-464 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. New England is the pick, but it’s a low confidence pick.

New England Patriots 27 Los Angeles Rams 10

Pick against the spread: New England -13

Confidence: Low

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Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (6-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-6)

The Texans are 6-5, but their 6 wins have come by a combined 36 points, while their 5 losses have come by a combined 78 points, with none of them being closer than 7 points. As a result, they have a -42 point differential that ranks 26th in the NFL and they rank 27th in first down rate differential. The Packers, meanwhile, are coming off of a huge win in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football last week and, now healthier on defense than they’ve been in recent weeks, could be ready to go on a run. They enter this game 13th in rate of moving the chains differential and have more in common with the 5 teams that have beaten the Texans (New England, Minnesota, Denver, Oakland, San Diego) than the 6 teams that have lost to the Texans (Chicago, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Detroit, Jacksonville).

The Texans will also be without outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and John Simon with injury, leaving them very thin on the edge. The problem is we’re getting no line value with the Packers, as this line has shifted from 3.5 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week, as a result of Green Bay’s win in Philadelphia and Houston’s home loss to the Chargers. The Packers should be able to give the Texans another loss by 7+ points, but I couldn’t bet money at 6.5 with any sort of confidence. The Packers are the pick in pick ‘em polls, but this is a no confidence play.

Green Bay Packers 27 Houston Texans 20

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -6.5

Confidence: None

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Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-6)

The Saints enter this game at 5-6 and the Lions enter at 7-4, but the Saints have been much better than their record this season, while the Lions have been much worse than their record. On the season, the Saints have 43 more first downs than their opponents (the 2nd best differential in the league) and 11 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents (tied for the 3rd best differential in the league), but are just 5-6 because of because of a -4 margin in return touchdowns and 5 losses by 6 points or fewer (including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer). They could easily be 7-4 or 8-3 right now if a few things had gone their way.

The Lions, meanwhile, have trailed in the 4th quarter of all 11 games, but have managed to pull off the comeback in 7 of them. That’s impressive, but hardly sustainable. While the Saints enter this game 4th in first down rate differential, the Lions enter in 26th as they’ve allowed 12 more first downs than they’ve gained and 4 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve scored. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a ton of line value in the wake of New Orleans’ 49-21 blowout victory over the Rams last week, as this line has jumped from 3.5 on the early line to 6 this week. With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Lions here for pick ‘em purposes, as underdogs of 6 or more are 149-99 ATS since 1989 before being favorites of 6 or more, which the Lions will be next week when they host the Bears. With no real upcoming distractions, the Lions have a good chance of keeping it close against a superior opponent once again. The Lions don’t have a loss by more than a touchdown all season. I wouldn’t put money on either side though.

Update: There have been some injury developments on Saturday. Top linebacker Tahir Whitehead was ruled out for the Lions despite practicing in a limited fashion this week. Wide receiver Marvin Jones has also practiced in a limited fashion this week, but reportedly will also sit tomorrow, though he hasn’t officially been ruled out. It’s a bad sign for his chances that the Lions called another wide receiver up off the practice squad though. Despite those developments, this line has dropped from 6 to 5.5 today. It’s still a no confidence pick, but I’m switching to the Saints.

New Orleans Saints 34 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5

Confidence: None

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)

The Buccaneers got an impressive home victory over the Seahawks last week, but teams tend not to cover coming off of a home upset victory, going 60-80 ATS the following week since 2012. Teams tend to be overrated off of a home upset victory, as they happen more often than people realize and are not usually as big of a deal as they seem. In this game, the Buccaneers’ upset victory shifted the line 2 points from 5.5 last week on the early line to 3.5 this week. As a result, we’re getting line value with the hometown Chargers.

Despite having one fewer win than the Buccaneers, the Chargers are a significantly better team, entering this game 6th in first down rate differential, while the Buccaneers enter in 24th. The oddsmakers seem to realize this, making the Chargers 2.5 point favorites in Houston last week against a Texans team that was 6-4 at the time (the Chargers still covered) and originally making them 5.5 point favorites here at home for the Buccaneers, but now they seem to be overrating the Buccaneers as a result of what could easily prove to be a fluky Tampa Bay home victory. I wish this line was all the way down to 3, but I don’t expect that to happen and I have no problem putting money on the Chargers at 3.5. We’re getting good line value with the Chargers either way.

San Diego Chargers 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: San Diego -3.5

Confidence: Medium

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Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

For weeks, the Chiefs have been at the top of my overrated teams list. They’re still on the list, as they are overly reliant on winning close games (5 wins by a touchdown or fewer), winning the turnover margin (+14 on the season), and getting return touchdowns (+5 on the season), but they’re a lot healthier now than they were a couple weeks ago. Top pass rusher Justin Houston showed his All-Pro form last week in his first real game back from off-season knee surgery. Top cornerback Marcus Peters also returned from a 1-game absence last week. This week, the Chiefs get Dee Ford, their top pass rusher in Houston’s absence, back from a 1-game absence.

With Houston and Ford healthy, the Chiefs already strong defense gets even better. They rank 10th in first down rate allowed, but I think you could argue they’re on the cusp of being a top-5 defense with everyone healthy. The problem is their offense, especially with Jeremy Maclin set to miss his 4th straight game with injury. They rank 25th in first down rate and have just 20 offensive touchdowns on the year, including just 6 in the past 4 games, even with one of those games going to overtime. Despite a 8-3 record, they’ve allowed 4 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve allowed. That’s been masked by their turnover margin, return touchdown margin, and record in close games, but those types of things tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In terms of first down rate differential, the Chiefs rank 22nd in first down rate differential.

They’re better than that suggests because of their improving injury situation, but they face a tough opponent on the road this week in a tough spot. The Falcons rank 5th in first down rate differential and are still a solid team at worst even with cornerback Desmond Trufant and defensive end Adrian Clayborn hurt. They have major issues on defense, especially without those two, but they have one of the best offenses in the league. They also have a relatively easy game on deck, as they head to Los Angeles to face the Rams next week, a game in which they figure to be big road favorites. Teams are 86-63 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 4 or more, as teams tend to take care of business with no upcoming distractions on the horizon.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have to play a big divisional game against the Raiders in Thursday Night Football a few days after this one and are coming off of basically a 5 quarter game, winning in the final seconds of overtime on a field goal. The game didn’t end in a tie but it took the whole overtime period, meaning they played about as much football as they would have in a tie. Unsurprisingly, teams are 5-13 ATS off of a tie since 1989. This line is too high at 5.5 for me to be at all confident in the Falcons, but they should be the right side.

Atlanta Falcons 23 Kansas City Chiefs 17

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -5.5

Confidence: None

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