Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-5) at Los Angeles Rams (6-2)

The Rams are 6-2, but I am not quite sold on them as a top-10 team. Four of their six wins have come against the 49ers, Cardinals, Giants, and Colts, who are among the 6 or 7 worst teams in the league. They have also beaten the Jaguars and the Cowboys, but the Cowboys were without Sean Lee and the Jaguars allowed two special teams touchdowns in a 10-point loss. The Rams have won big in the past two weeks, but that was against an Arizona team that lost Carson Palmer midgame and a Giants team that quit when they got down big.

The Rams’ two losses came against the Redskins and the Seahawks, both at home. In fact, they are just 1-2 at home this year, as opposed to 5-0 away from Los Angeles (including a neutral site game in London). Their one home win came against the Colts, who were led by Scott Tolzien, arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL. The Rams don’t have quite the same trouble getting home fans as the Chargers, but Los Angeles has not proven to be much of a homefield advantage for them since they’ve moved, as they are 2-7-1 ATS in Los Angeles over the past two seasons.

This week they are at home for the Texans, favored by 12 points in what could easily be a trap game for the Texans, who head to Minnesota next week to face a Vikings team that is also 6-2. Favorites of 10+ points are just 57-78 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. The Texans, meanwhile, should be completely focused with only a home game against the lowly Cardinals on deck. If I trusted the Texans at all, I’d make a bet on them here, but they are arguably a bottom-3 team without JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Deshaun Watson. I have this line at -10.5, so we aren’t getting much line value with the Texans, who could easily lose by two touchdowns if the Rams are focused.

Los Angeles Rams 20 Houston Texans 10

Pick against the spread: Houston +12

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)

The Chargers are 3-5, but I think they are very underrated and borderline a top-10 team in terms of talent. They rank 7th in first down rate differential at +3.12% and are only 3-5 because they’ve lost 3 games by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. That’s pretty impressive considering they basically don’t have a homefield, as the recently relocated Chargers do not draw any home fans in Los Angeles.

With better luck in close games and a real home stadium, this team could easily be 5-3 or 6-2. They are 3-1 ATS on the road, as they are this week in Jacksonville, with their one loss coming by 8 points in New England as 7.5 point underdogs. That’s been the story for years with them, even dating back to their San Diego days. They are 13-7 ATS on the road since 2015 and 12 of their last 26 losses have come by 4 points or less.

The Jaguars are a borderline top-10 team too, as they have arguably the best defense in the league, which allows them to run the ball and hide Blake Bortles. However, I think this line is too high at 4.5, especially with the Chargers getting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman back from injury out of the bye. These two teams are more or less even, so I have this line at 3. The Chargers have a good chance to win outright and, if they lose, it could easily be another close loss. About 30% of games are decided by 4 points or less, even more so when the Chargers are involved, so getting 4.5 points gives us a decent sized cushion. The Chargers are worth a small bet.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Los Angeles Chargers 17

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +4.5

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-4) at Chicago Bears (3-5)

Since losing Aaron Rodgers with a broken collarbone in the first quarter against the Vikings, the Packers have lost 3 straight games against the Vikings, Saints, and Lions, by an average of 11.7 points per game. As a result, the public has soured on them in a big way. This line has shifted from 3 in favor of the hometown Bears on the early line last week to 6 this week. About 30% of games are decided by 3-6 points, so that’s a huge shift. I typically disagree with significant week-to-week line movements as they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play and this situation is no different.

The Bears have a solid running game and defense, but they rank 24th in first down rate differential and 23rd in my roster rankings, so they shouldn’t be favored by 6 over anyone except the worst few teams in the league, which I don’t think the Packers are. In fact, I have these two teams about even. The Packers have issues in the passing game without Rodgers, but they still have the advantage in that area over the Bears because they have much better pass catchers and better pass protection.

The Bears are better in the run game and on defense, but the Packers have an underrated front 7, with 2nd year players Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez having breakout seasons, and the Bears could be without top linebacker Danny Trevathan. I don’t love betting on Brett Hundley, but this line is too high to pass on. The Bears are too offensively challenged to be trusted as favorites of this many points. Outside of their win over Carolina in which they had two defensive touchdowns, the Bears haven’t won by more than 6 points since week 13 of last season against the 49ers, who are one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Packers are worth a small bet.

Chicago Bears 16 Green Bay Packers 13

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +6

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New York Jets (4-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)

One of my favorite things to do when picking games is go against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be overreactions to a single week, and this line had a  very significant line movement, shifting from 4.5 in favor of the hometown Buccaneers last week on the early line to 2.5 in favor of the visiting Jets this week. Tampa Bay top wide receiver Mike Evans was suspended and Ryan Fitzpatrick will start this game at quarterback for the Buccaneers with Jameis Winston taking a few weeks off to rest his shoulder injury, but none of that justifies this 7 point line movement.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a good starting quarterback, but as far as backup quarterbacks go he’s among the better ones and he might not be that much of a downgrade from Winston considering how badly Winston had been playing in recent weeks, as he tried to play through his injured shoulder. Losing Evans hurts, but the Buccaneers have a very deep receiving corps and still have good receiving options this week with wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin and tight ends Cameron Brate and OJ Howard. Against a relatively easy matchup at home, Fitzpatrick should be able to move the ball.

They’re also arguably as healthy as they’ve been on defense since the start of the season with top cornerback Brent Grimes returning from injury. He’s missed 3 games, linebacker Kwon Alexander has missed 4, and fellow linebacker Lavonte David has missed 2, but all three will be on the field this week. Prior to Winston’s injury, I thought this was an underrated team, as they started 2-2 and would have beaten New England if they had make makeable field goals, and now I think they are underrated once again, as the public has soured on them despite their defense getting healthier. Even with all of their injury issues, the Buccaneers still rank 19th in first down rate differential, as 3 of their 6 losses have come by a touchdown or less.

The Jets are well coached and give good effort, but they aren’t that talented of a team and don’t deserve to be favored on the road against anyone except the worst few teams in the league, which I don’t think the Buccaneers are. They were road favorites in Cleveland earlier this year and they would have lost that game if the Browns hadn’t consistently imploded in the red zone. They haven’t been nearly as good on the road in general this season, losing by more than a touchdown in Buffalo and Oakland, losing in Miami, and barely winning in Cleveland.

The Jets are 5-0 ATS at home and are coming off of a win against the Bills, but the Bills were an overrated team, so I’m not as impressed with that victory as the odds makers and the general public seem to be. I have this line calculated at -3 in favor of the Buccaneers, so we are getting a lot of line value at +2.5. I am hoping this line moves to +3 before game time, in which case I will make this a high confidence pick. The Buccaneers are worth a bet as long as we are getting points with them, but about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal exactly, so I want protection from the Jets winning by 3.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 New York Jets 20 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +2.5

Confidence: Medium

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (5-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

Early in the week, I locked in the Cowboys at +3.5 and I was considering them as a Pick of the Week. They’ve played much better since getting top linebacker Sean Lee back from injury and they always play well on the road, going 35-25 ATS since 2010 away from Cowboy Stadium, as a result of the Cowboys’ nationwide fanbase. I had these two teams about comparable in my roster rankings, so getting more than a field goal with a good road team was very appealing to me and I didn’t think 3.5 would stay around long.

I was correct about that, as the line had shifted to 3 by mid-week, but then Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension went back on and left tackle Tyron Smith missed practice all week, so I don’t like the Cowboys nearly as much as I did earlier in the week. Despite that, this line has stayed at 3 so I would not recommend a bet on the current line. Because I did lock in Dallas +3.5 early in the week, this will count as a medium confidence pick. Atlanta has not been playing that well lately, so the Cowboys still have a decent chance to pull out the victory or at least keep it within a field goal. At +3, this is a no confidence pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Update: This line has moved back to 3.5 with Tyron Smith being ruled out. This could easily be a field goal game and the Cowboys are still a good road team, so grabbing +3.5 makes some sense if you can get it.

Atlanta Falcons 30 Dallas Cowboys 27

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-2) at Denver Broncos (3-5)

This line has the Broncos as 7.5 point home underdogs against the Patriots and I don’t understand it. The Broncos were just 7 point road underdogs in Philadelphia last week and the Eagles are playing significantly better than the Patriots this season. The Broncos lost that game 51-23, but the Eagles were in a great spot heading into a bye and the Broncos likely quit once they got down big early, knowing that they had this game against the Patriots on deck. They should be a lot more focused for this game and they are back at home, where they are 3-1 this season, with wins over the Chargers, Cowboys, and Raiders.

The Broncos’ big loss in Philadelphia last week moved this line from 5.5 on the early line to 7.5, a sizeable shift considering about 15% of games are decided by 6-7 points. I think even 5.5 would be too high as I have this line calculated at New England -3. Even after by far their worst defensive showing of the year last week, the Broncos still rank 5th in first down rate allowed and they still have a top-5 defense on paper. Prior to last week, Denver ranked 1st in the NFL in first down rate allowed. Their offense has major problems led by Brock Osweiler, but the Patriots rank 31st in first down rate allowed and the Broncos might be able to run the ball effectively and hide Osweiler, especially if the game is going to be close.

The one concern with taking the Broncos is that the Patriots are coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3.5 or more points are 40-16 ATS since 1989 after a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. The Patriots don’t come out of the bye healthy though, with defensive tackle Malcom Brown, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and wide receiver Chris Hogan out this week. I’m not sure the Patriots deserve to even be 3.5 point road favorites and I definitely think 7.5 is way too high for this line. Without another strong option this week, this is my Pick of the Week.

New England Patriots 20 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Denver +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New Orleans Saints at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (6-2) at Buffalo Bills (5-3)

The Bills started the season 5-2 on the strength of a league best +14 turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and they ranked just 28th in first down rate differential. Last week, they lost 34-21 in New York to the Jets as 3.5 point road favorites, in a game in which they lost the turnover margin by -3. They also had a first down rate differential of -5.54% in that game and still rank 28th in first down rate differential on the season at -3.89%. If we assume turnover neutral football for the Bills in the second half of the season, which you almost always should when evaluating a team given how inconsistent turnover margins are, the Bills will have a lot harder time winning games in the second half of the season.

Despite Buffalo’s big loss, I was still able to lock this line in at -2.5 in favor of the visiting Saints earlier in the week, the same line as the early line last week. You can still get that line in a few places for a higher vig. I have these two teams about 6.5 points apart in my roster rankings, so this line should be at least -3, if not higher. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so the difference between -2.5 and -3/-3.5 is pretty big. The Saints are 6-2, have won 6 straight, rank 6th in first down rate differential, and have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL thanks to a much improved defense. Only about 8% of games are decided by 2 points or less, so the Saints basically need to just win here. They should be able to win this game by at least a field goal. This is a high confidence pick.

New Orleans Saints 27 Buffalo Bills 21

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -2.5

Confidence: High