Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at New England Patriots (10-2)

The Patriots are a very interesting team. Despite being without Tom Brady for the first 4 games of the season, they rank 2nd in first down rate. Since Brady returned, they are 7-1 with 6 of 7 wins by double digits. However, they have had a very easy schedule over those 8 games. Aside from Seattle, who beat them by a touchdown in New England, their toughest game since Brady’s return was in Buffalo. Yes, they can only play the teams that are on their schedule and they’ve done pretty well in doing so, as most of the wins have come by convincing margins, but Jamie Collins is in Cleveland, Rob Gronkowski is on injured reserve, and it’s fair to wonder how good they really are. We’ll find out a lot this week as they host the Baltimore Ravens, who are a step up in class from most of the teams the Patriots have faced in recent weeks.

After largely playing close games all season, the Ravens got their biggest win by margin of victory since 2009 last week, with a 38-6 home victory over a capable Miami team. It was out of character for this team, but boosted them to 12nd in first down rate differential and moved this line from 10 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week. As a result, we’re not getting good line value with the Ravens. However, the Ravens are in a good spot with an easy home game against the Eagles on deck, while the Patriots have to go to Denver next week. Underdogs of 6 or more points are 41-31 ATS since 2008 before being favorites of 6 or more the following week, which the Ravens are expected to be, according to the early line. It’s a no confidence pick at 6.5, but the Ravens are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 24 Baltimore Ravens 19

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +6.5

Confidence: None

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Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (11-1) at New York Giants (8-4)

The Giants gave the Cowboys their only win of the season way back in week 1, but the Cowboys have very impressively ripped off 11 straight wins since then. They enter this game 2nd in first down rate differential, while the Giants enter 8th, and they travel as well as any team in the league. Since 2010, they are 31-22 ATS on the road, as opposed to 19-35 ATS at home. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.06 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.20 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. The Cowboys also enter this game much healthier than the Giants, who have a key absence on both sides of the ball with injury, talented left guard Justin Pugh and talented defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. This line is 4 and about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so I’m taking the Giants, but this is a no confidence pick. A 3 or 4 point Dallas win seems like the most likely outcome.

Dallas Cowboys 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (5-7) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)

Five of the Panthers’ first seven losses came by 3 points or less, but their 8th loss of the season last week came in a 40-7 blowout in Seattle. Because of injuries, the Panthers are not the same team they were earlier this year. They’re down to their 3rd string center and 3rd string left tackle and are also missing top defensive player Luke Kuechly with injury. The Panthers fell to 23rd in first down rate differential with last week’s blowout loss and I think it would be hard to argue they’re not a bottom-10 team right now.

The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 6th in first down rate differential, despite their 5-7 record. All 7 of their losses have come by 8 points or fewer and they have a +15 point differential despite only having 5 wins. They also have a+19 first down differential, 7th best in the NFL. There’s not enough for me to bet any money on the Chargers with even odds, but they should be the pick because they are an underrated team and the Panthers are falling apart.

San Diego Chargers 23 Carolina Panthers 20

Pick against the spread: San Diego PK

Confidence: Low

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Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (6-5-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

The Eagles got blown out last week in Cincinnati and have been unimpressive offensively since losing stud right tackle Lane Johnson to suspension, but they still have a strong defense and they get their top-2 skill position players, wide receiver Jordan Matthews and running back Ryan Mathews, back from injury this week. They are at least as good as their opponents this week, the Washington Redskins. The Eagles have an advantage in point differential (+23 vs. +8) and in first down rate differential (20th vs. 24th). Despite that, the Eagles are 2.5 point home underdogs and the public is all over the Redskins, as a result of the Redskins’ better record (6-5-1 vs. 5-7). I love fading the public whenever it makes sense and it definitely does here, as the Eagles should be favored by a field goal. I’d need the full field goal with the Eagles to put money on the spread, but the money line is a good value either way.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 Washington Redskins 24 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2.5

Confidence: Low

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Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) at Miami Dolphins (7-5)

The Dolphins were shockingly blown out in Baltimore last week, the Ravens’ biggest win by point total since 2009. That almost definitely figures to be the worst game of the Dolphins’ season when all is said and done. Besides last week, they’ve played pretty well and are still a capable team that ranks 18th in first down rate differential. The Dolphins’ loss last week actually puts them in a good spot this week. That might sound counterintuitive, but teams are 92-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more (the Dolphins lost by 32 as 3.5 point underdogs).

It makes sense when you think about it, as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot. On top of that, the Dolphins have a very easy game on deck as they head to New York to take on the Jets next week, a game in which they will almost definitely be road favorites. Home underdogs like the Dolphins are here (by 2 points) are 79-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites, as teams tend to be very focused in a tough home game before an easy road game.

The Dolphins could easily bounce back with a strong effort this week, but all that being said I’m picking the Cardinals as long as this line is under a field goal. The Cardinals are at the top of my underrated teams list. Despite their 5-6-1 record, they’ve won the first down rate battle in 10 of 12 games and they could easily be 9-3 right now, as they could have beaten New England, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minnesota if one or two fluky things had gone their way (missed field goal against New England, punt return against Rams, blocked punt against Seattle, pick six against Minnesota).

The Cardinals actually rank 1st in first down rate differential. They ranked 1st in that metric last year as well. Carson Palmer is having a down year and they aren’t the same on either side of the ball without injured left tackle Jared Veldheer and injured defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, but they still have a strong defense and running game and are one of the better teams in the league in a year where there are very few top level teams. Even if the Dolphins bring a strong effort, the Cardinals could win by a field goal on the road, especially with the Dolphins missing center Mike Pouncey, linebackers Kiko Alonso and Jelani Jenkins, and defensive end Mario Williams with injury.

Arizona Cardinals 23 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Arizona -2

Confidence: None

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Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

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

The Colts are coming off of a huge 41-10 win over the Jets in New York on Monday Night Football. Typically, teams carry over strong performances on Monday Night into the following week, as teams are 40-23 ATS since 1989 off of a Monday Night Football win of 21 or more points. However, this line jumped significantly in the past week, from -4 in favor of Indianapolis on the early line last week to now -6.5, following Indianapolis’ huge win. As a result, we’d be getting no line value with the Colts.

With that in mind, I actually like the Texans this week, as they are in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 140-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 111-74 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 235-252 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.98 points per game, as opposed to 334-467 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.00 points per game. I’d need at least a touchdown to put money on the Texans, but they’re the pick here.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Houston Texans 20

Pick against the spread: Houston +6.5

Confidence: Low

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Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-9) at Detroit Lions (8-4)

The Lions are 8-4, but rank 22nd in first down rate differential. They’ve allowed 8 more first downs than they’ve gained and 3 more touchdowns than they’ve scored. Their 15-point win in New Orleans last week was easily their most impressive game of the season, but their other seven wins all came by a touchdown or less and all required 4th quarter comebacks. That’s relevant considering the Lions are favored by 7.5 points here as home against the Bears.

The Bears are one of the weaker teams in the NFL thanks to injuries and suspensions, as they’re missing their top two quarterbacks (Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer), their top-4 pass catchers (Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Zach Miller, and Eddie Royal), their best offensive lineman (Kyle Long), and three of their best defensive players (middle linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and cornerback Kyle Fuller). However, they’re still fighting, keeping it close with Tennessee two weeks ago and winning straight up by 20 as home underdogs against the 49ers last week. There’s not enough here for me to put money on it, but I like the Bears’ chances of keeping this within a touchdown.

Detroit Lions 23 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago +7.5

Confidence: Low

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