Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-4)

The Colts get wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett back from injury this week, but are still pretty banged up, missing starting defensive ends Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson, starting tight end Dwayne Allen, and top offensive lineman Jack Mewhort. Despite that, I think we’re getting pretty good value with them as field goal home underdogs. About 1 in 4 games are decided a field goal or fewer and the Chiefs are only 14th in first down percentage differential, so this line is a little bit high, especially since the Colts are 24-12 ATS at home in the Andrew Luck era/Chuck Pagano era (since 2012), including 8-0 ATS as home underdogs. Despite that, the public is all over the Chiefs and I love fading the public whenever it makes sense, as they always lose money in the long run. There’s not enough here for me to put money on the Colts, but they’re the pick here.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Indianapolis Colts 23

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +3

Confidence: Low

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San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (3-4) at Denver Broncos (5-2)

Last week, the Broncos were 7 point home favorites over the Chargers on the early line, but the line has since moved to just 4 in favor of the Broncos at home. Ordinarily, I love to fade significant week-to-week line movement, but the Chargers have just 4 losses by more than 7 points in the past 2 seasons, so we would have been getting incredible line value with the Chargers at 7. The Chargers are just 7-16 over the past 2 seasons, but that’s largely the result of a 4-12 record in games decided by a 7 points or fewer. Last week, they finally won a close game, knocking off a good Falcons team in overtime in Atlanta. That pushed their record on the season to 3-4, but they’ve been better than their record, as they enter this game 8th in first down percentage differential; their biggest loss this season was a 6 point overtime loss in Kansas City, a game in which they blew a 21-0 lead. Their other 3 losses came by 4 points or fewer.

The Chargers have had a lot of injuries this season, most notably losing running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Keenan Allen, and cornerback Jason Verrett for the season with injury, but they have continued to play well. Verrett’s absence has been offset by the emergence of #3 overall pick Joey Bosa, who has been one of the most disruptive defenders in the league since returning from a 4-game absence to start the season. Meanwhile, youngsters Melvin Gordon and Tyrell Williams have stepped up big-time on offense, while veteran quarterback Philip Rivers continues to play at a high level. This week, they get cornerback Brandon Flowers back from a 4-week absence with a concussion, a big boost for this secondary.

The Broncos are 2nd in that first down percentage differential, but they have had inconsistent quarterback play. On top of that, San Diego is 9-3 ATS on the road in the past 2 seasons. The Chargers could be tired coming off of that huge upset overtime victory in Atlanta, but teams actually do well the week after an upset road overtime victory, going 57-44 in that spot since 1989. This line is right where it should be at 4, so I can’t take San Diego with any confidence, but they’re the pick here in pick ‘em leagues.

Denver Broncos 20 San Diego Chargers 17

Pick against the spread: San Diego +4

Confidence: None

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New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-1) at Buffalo Bills (4-3)

In a season with a severe lack of top level teams, the New England Patriots might be on their own level at the top of the league as long as they are healthy. Despite not having Tom Brady or a healthy Rob Gronkowski for the first 4 weeks of the season, the Patriots are 7th in first down percentage and have been unstoppable offensively in the past 3 weeks with Brady and Gronk back, winning all 3 games by at least 11 points. Their defense hasn’t been bad either, entering this game 10th in first down percentage allowed. They rank 3rd in first down percentage differential and first in point differential and they’re healthier than they’ve been all season right now.

The Bills are also in a tough spot with another tough game on deck, as they head to Seattle next week. The Patriots, meanwhile, go on bye. The early line has the Bills as 7 point underdogs in Seattle and teams are 90-49 ATS since 2012 as 6 point underdogs before being 6 point underdogs again. However, this line is too high at 7 for me to be at all confident in the Patriots. The Bills are still a solid squad, entering this game 15th in first down percentage differential. They’ll be without LeSean McCoy in this one, but they get top defensive lineman Marcell Dareus back, after he missed the first 4 games with suspension and the last 3 games with injury. I’m taking New England, but it’s a no confidence pick.

New England Patriots 24 Buffalo Bills 16

Pick against the spread: New England -7

Confidence: None

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Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-1) at Chicago Bears (1-6)

The Vikings started 5-0, but they were never as good as their record. Their defense has played incredible thus far this season, but their offense has been horrendous. For the first 5 games of the season, their offense’s inability to move the ball was masked by a +11 turnover margin and a +4 return touchdown margin. Both turnover margin and return touchdown margin tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so this team couldn’t depend on those to mask their offensive flaws forever. Last week, they had a +0 turnover margin and a +1 return touchdown margin and subsequently suffered their first loss of the season, 21-10 to the Eagles in Philadelphia.

On the season, they rank just 18th in first down differential. Their defense has allowed the 5th lowest first down percentage in the season, but their offense ranks just 30th in first down percentage, largely as a result of their inability to run the ball. With starting running back Jerick McKinnon out this week with injury, that figures to continue this week. The Bears are not a great team, ranking 25th in first down percentage, but this line is too high at 5 in favor of the visiting Vikings, especially with the Bears getting healthier. Kyle Long will miss his first game of the season and starters like Eddie Goldman, Kyle Fuller, and Kevin White remain out, but starters like Jay Cutler, Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, and Josh Sitton all have missed time this season and now are healthy and back in the lineup. With about 3 in 10 games decided by 4 or fewer points, I’m pretty confident in the Bears at 5.

Minnesota Vikings 17 Chicago Bears 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago +5

Confidence: Medium

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Detroit Lions at Houston Texans: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (4-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)

The Texans are 4-3, but their 4 wins have come by a combined 26 points, while their 3 losses have come by a combined 63 points, giving them a -37 point differential, which is 6th worst in the NFL. They rank just 26th in first down percentage differential, thanks to an offense that has scored just 9 offensive touchdowns on 81 drives in 7 games this season. However, they were exposed nationally last week on Monday Night Football in a 27-9 loss in Denver, so they’re no longer overrated. This line has shifted from 3 in favor of the Texans on the early line last week to 2.5 this week, a significant half point swing considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Despite that, the public is still all over the Lions.

The Lions aren’t much better than the Texans, entering the 20th in first down percentage. This line is about where it should be, especially with the Lions missing top cornerback Darius Slay. That being said, I’m still taking the Lions because the Texans are in a bad spot, as small home favorites before a bye. Teams in this spot historically tend not to cover, as home favorites of 1 to 5.5 are just 38-63 ATS before a bye since 2002. Detroit is the pick, but I would need to get the full field goal to put any money on them.

Houston Texans 20 Detroit Lions 19

Pick against the spread: Detroit +2.5

Confidence: Low

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Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)

The Cardinals are just 3-3-1, but they have played much better than their record. If not for numerous special teams mistakes against both New England and Seattle, the Cardinals would be at least 5-2 right now. In their loss to the Rams, they lost by just 4 despite losing the turnover battle by 4; turnover margin tends to be a very fluky thing week-to-week. They’re legitimately a few plays away from being 6-1 right now, after finishing 13-3 last season. They finished last season 1st in first down percentage differential and once again rank 1st in that metric, as they have a league best +45 first down margin. Their offense isn’t as good as it was last season as Palmer has not repeated the career year he had in 2015, but their defense has allowed the lowest first down percentage in the league and they still have a lot of talent on offense around Palmer.

The 1-5 Panthers are also better than their record, as 3 of their 5 losses have come by 3 points or fewer. After Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart both missed time in the early part of the season, the Panthers are relatively healthy coming out of their bye. However, this line is at 3 in favor of the Panthers at home, which suggests these two teams are even. Considering the Panthers still rank just 10th in first down percentage differential, we’re getting significant line value with the Cardinals at +3. The only reason I’m not confident enough to put money on the Cardinals is that they could be exhausted off of last week’s tie with the Seahawks. Teams are understandably just 5-11 ATS off of a tie since 1989. The Cardinals would have won easily in regulation last week if not for special teams mistakes. It’s possible their special teams ended up blowing two games at once last week, if the Cardinals can’t play their best this week, after playing 5 quarters last week.

Carolina Panthers 24 Arizona Cardinals 23

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Low

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Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 8 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) at Dallas Cowboys (5-1)

The Cowboys are coming off of a huge upset win in Green Bay 2 weeks ago and are healthy coming off their bye, with top wide receiver Dez Bryant and top cornerback Orlando Scandrick both returning from extended absences. Now back at home, they’re favored by 4.5 points against a good Philadelphia team. Considering about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer and considering the Cowboys’ struggles covering at home in recent years, this line seems a little too high. The Cowboys are 29-21 ATS on the road since 2010, which is impressive, but just 17-34 ATS at home over the same time period, including 9-26 ATS as home favorites and 3-10 ATS as divisional home favorites. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored by an average of 0.57 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 0.87 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a full point for them in recent years. That makes sense, as the Cowboys have fans throughout the country and get great support on the road.

That being said, it’s hard to be too confident in the Eagles, who have struggled offensively since losing right tackle Lane Johnson to suspension and who will be without top run stuffer Bennie Logan. The Eagles enter this game 11th in first down percentage differential, while the Cowboys are in 6th in that metric. The Cowboys are also in a way better spot, with a trip to Cleveland on deck. The early line has them as 7+ road favorites against the Browns and teams are 32-17 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ road favorites. While the Cowboys don’t have any upcoming distractions, the Eagles have to turn around and play another tough divisional game against the Giants next week. The Eagles are also coming off of a huge home upset victory against the Vikings and teams are 56-77 ATS off of home upset victories since 2012. I’m taking Philadelphia, but I couldn’t be confident in them unless we were getting 6 points.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +4.5

Confidence: Low

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