Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
DAL +110 vs. WAS
NYJ +160 vs. KC
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
DAL +110 vs. WAS
NYJ +160 vs. KC
Cleveland Browns (0-11) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)
The Chargers have been underrated for a while, but the public seems to be finally catching on. They started 0-4, but 3 of those 4 losses came by 3 points or fewer, including 2 in which they missed makeable field goals. They’ve also played better on the road than at home this season, going 3-2 with close losses to the Patriots and Jaguars, as opposed to 2-4 at home, but that’s not a huge surprise, considering they have no home fans in Los Angeles. Despite that, they rank 10th in the league in point differential and 5th in the league in first down rate differential. They could easily be 7-4 or 8-3 right now with better luck in close games and an actual homefield advantage.
That being said, I think this line is actually too high at 13.5. The Chargers still likely won’t have much of homefield advantage and I don’t think they’re 12-13 points better than the Browns. The Browns obviously haven’t won all season, but their defense has played better in recent weeks with Jason McCourty and Myles Garrett back healthy, while the offense gets Josh Gordon back this week after getting Corey Coleman back a few weeks ago, much needed additions to a once paper-thin receiving corps. Deshone Kizer is such a bad quarterback that he might screw it all up again, but the Browns have a good chance to keep this one close if they can avoid turning it over too much.
Los Angeles Chargers 20 Cleveland Browns 10
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +13.5
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
When I saw the Bengals were touchdown home underdogs in this game on the early line last week, I was strongly considering making a bet on Cincinnati +7, depending on the results of last week. Unfortunately, this line has shifted from 7 to 4.5 in the past week, due in large part to the Steelers’ underwhelming 31-28 home victory over the Brett Hundley led Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. That game wasn’t as close as the final score suggests though, as the Packers struggled to move the ball for most of the game, except for a few big plays they scored touchdowns on. The Steelers won the first down battle 28 to 15 and had a first down rate differential of +10.53%. On the season, they rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +5.51%. They are clearly still a top-5 team, despite the close call against Green Bay.
Given that, we aren’t getting much line value with the Bengals at +4.5. We are still getting some though, as I have this line calculated at 3. The Bengals have major issues on the offensive line, but they have some good playmakers around Andy Dalton and a top-10 defense supporting him. They are kind of flying under the radar a little bit in the AFC right now, but they’re 5-6 and they’ve faced a tough schedule. Their losses have come against the Ravens at home, the Texans at home week 2 when they were healthy, the Packers in Green Bay back when Aaron Rodgers was healthy, these Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars in Jacksonville, and the Titans in Tennessee. They played Houston, Green Bay, and Tennessee close and could do that here as well, especially since the Steelers enter with some key absences and potential absences.
The Steelers are missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with injury and suspension respectively. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returns after a one game absence with a hamstring injury, but he might have to be their #1 receiver this week, as Antonio Brown is questionable with a toe injury he suffered on practice on Thursday. Even though he hasn’t practiced since, he’s still expected to be able to suit up Monday Night, but that’s far from a guarantee and he easily could be less than 100% if he plays. If he’s ruled out I’ll revisit this pick, but the Bengals are a low confidence pick at 4.5 for now.
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +4.5
Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
I picked the Eagles to get a first round bye before the season and I have picked them to cover the spread every week this season prior to last week, when they were 14-point favorites against the Bears. Last week I made a no confidence pick against them because I felt the spreads had finally caught up to how good they are, but they ended up covering anyway, blowing out the Bears 31-3, improving to 9-2 ATS on the season. They improved their league best first down rate differential in the process, as they are now at +8.00%. No one else is better than +5.51%.
Despite that, I think we are getting some line value with the Seahawks this week as 5.5 point home underdogs. This is the most points we’ve gotten with the Seahawks in Seattle since week 10 of 2011, a game started by Tarvaris Jackson. This is not the same Seattle defense as years past and the Eagles are as tough of an opponent as they’ve faced in years, but I still have this line calculated at only 3. On top of that, Pete Carroll is 7-2-1 ATS as home underdogs as coach of the Seahawks, including 3-1 ATS with Russell Wilson, so they could play well with their backs up against the wall this week.
The Seahawks are also at an advantage in this primetime game because they are a West Coast team. Because of time zones, this game is going to be played from about 5:30 – 8:30 local time, but the visiting Eagles will still be on East Coast time, 8:30 – 11:30. West Coast teams cover at about a 65% rate against East Coast teams in night games, no matter where the game is played. The Seahawks are 17-5 ATS in the Russell Wilson era in regular season primetime games, including 5-2 ATS against an East Coast opponent. I’m torn between making a bet on this one or not, but I probably will if the line moves up to 6 by gametime. At 5.5, this is just a low confidence pick for right now because I’m not eager to bet against the Eagles, but this line is too many points, so the Seahawks seem like the smarter side to be on this week.
Philadelphia Eagles 23 Seattle Seahawks 20
Pick against the spread: Seattle +5.5
Detroit Lions (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
Both of these teams are 6-5 and in the playoff race in their respective conferences, but I think both teams aren’t quite as good as their records. The Lions made the postseason last year, but they won just one game by more than a touchdown, didn’t win any games against playoff teams, and finished with a first down rate differential of -1.90%. This year, they are winning by bigger margins, but their first down rate differential is even lower at -3.27% and they are 1-5 against teams with winning records. Five of their wins have come against the Cardinals, Giants, Packers, Bears, and Browns and they lost the first down rate battle in 3 of those games. They’ve been overly dependent on getting big plays and winning the turnover margin, which are tough to consistently do every week, especially against tougher competition.
The Ravens have also faced a very easy schedule though, with their last 4 wins coming against teams starting backup quarterbacks. Their 6 wins have come against teams quarterbacked by Andy Dalton, Deshone Kizer, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley, and Tom Savage. Matt Stafford is definitely a step up in class, but he doesn’t have a good running game or defense supporting him and the Ravens are a step in in class from the caliber teams the Lions usually beat. I give the Ravens a slight talent edge and they’re at home, but I am not confident in them as 3 point home favorites.
Baltimore Ravens 23 Detroit Lions 19
Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Green Bay Packers (5-6)
The Buccaneers get Jameis Winston back from a 3-game absence with a shoulder injury this week, but that’s about the only good news for them in terms of injuries. Center Ali Marpet and right tackle DeMar Dotson were both placed on injured reserve this week and they are by far their two best offensive linemen. Left guard Evan Smith returns from a one-game absence, but he hardly replaces Marpet and Dotson. Starting running back Doug Martin will be out as well, so, while Winston has a good receiving corps to work with in his return, he doesn’t have a good offensive line or running game, so they may struggle to set up big plays downfield. Winston also might not be at 100% because his injury is to his throwing shoulder. He wasn’t playing that well prior to being shut down.
On defense, they are without starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (3rd missed game), rotational safety TJ Ward (3rd missed game), rotational defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (1st missed game), and their top-3 defensive ends Robert Ayers (2nd missed game), William Gholston (3rd missed game), and Noah Spence (6th missed game). The Ayers injury is the biggest one, as he is by far their best defensive end. They couldn’t stop anything against the Falcons last week in his first missed game. The Buccaneers allowed the Falcons to pick up first downs at a 42.19% rate last week and now they’re missing McDonald and Ward too. With all of their injury issues, the Buccaneers rank 26th in my roster rankings, even with Winston returning.
The Packers are still missing quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but they rank 21st in my roster rankings and are getting healthier on defense. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews, outside linebacker Nick Perry, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, safety Morgan Burnett, and defensive end Mike Daniels are arguably their 5 best defensive players. They’ve played together in the same game just 4 times this season and just once since week 5. All 5 are healthy this week, so they could easily have their best defensive performance in weeks. I have this line calculated at -4, so we’re getting some line value with the Packers. It’s not enough for me to bet on Brett Hundley confidently, but the Packers should be victorious here at home against a banged up Tampa Bay team.
Green Bay Packers 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16
Pick against the spread: Green Bay -2.5
Indianapolis Colts (3-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
The Jaguars lost last week in Arizona as 5 point road favorites, but it was a very close game that could have gone either way and the Jaguars still had a positive first down rate differential in the game, +4.78%. On the season, they rank 4th in first down rate differential at +4.76%. Part of that is because of their easy schedule, but they are a top-10 team because of their defense and running game. In a lot of ways, they remind me of the 2015 Denver Broncos. I’m not saying I’d pick them to win the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t have picked the Broncos to win the Super Bowl in 2015 either. At the very least, the Jaguars will be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jaguars return home this week and get another easy game with the Colts coming to town. While the Jaguars are a likely playoff team, the Colts are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank in the bottom-5 in both my roster rankings and in first down rate differential. This line is pretty high at 9.5, but I have this line calculated at -13.5, so we’re still getting some line value with the Jaguars. I wish the Jaguars weren’t missing talented outside linebacker Telvin Smith, but they are deep enough at linebacker with Myles Jack and Paul Posluszny to get by. Even without Smith, this is still arguably the best defense in the NFL. The Colts, meanwhile, will be without starting center Ryan Kelly and top cornerback Rashaan Melvin. Jacksonville is worth a small bet as long as this line is below 10.
Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Indianapolis Colts 10
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -9.5
Minnesota Vikings (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
The Falcons have had an up and down season, but they have consistently ranked in the top-5 of my roster rankings all season. They are not as well coached as last season, when they were the best team in the NFC, but they still have essentially the same core as last season and they could be ready to go on a run. I bet on the Falcons as 9.5 point home favorites over the Buccaneers last week because I thought they were undervalued. Under ordinary circumstances, I’d consider betting on the Falcons as 3 point home favorites over the Vikings this week, as this line suggests these two teams are about even and I have the Falcons as about 1.5 points better.
These are not ordinary circumstances though, as the Falcons have to turn around and play another tough game against the division leading Saints in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are 64-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to give your best effort when you have another game in 4 days. The Vikings have another tough game next week too, as they next head to Carolina to face the 8-3 Panthers, but that game is at least on normal rest. The Falcons are my pick for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.
Atlanta Falcons 23 Minnesota Vikings 20
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3
Houston Texans (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (7-4)
Last week, the Texans were 7 point underdogs in Baltimore and I bet against them. The Texans managed a push, but didn’t get in the end zone on their final 11 drives, after scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the game, when the Ravens committed 3 dumb penalties for 39 yards to keep the drive moving. Tom Savage had yet another horrible game, only managing big plays when DeAndre Hopkins or Baltimore’s penalties bailed him out, and he will be the starter again this week because of the lack of a better option. In a season where many teams have questionable quarterback situations, Savage is arguably the worst starting quarterback who has seen extended action.
Despite that, the Texans are just 6.5 point underdogs here in Tennessee, a half point lower than they were last week in Baltimore. And considering about 9% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown, it’s a big half point. Tennessee is undoubtedly a better team than the Ravens, who have one of the worst offenses in the league. The Titans beat the Ravens earlier this year in a game they led by 10 until a garbage time touchdown cut the lead to a field goal with less than a minute left. I have this line calculated at -11.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the Titans at 6.5. Without Quarterback Deshaun Watson, left tackle Duane Brown, wide receiver Will Fuller, defensive end JJ Watt, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Texans are arguably the least talented team in the league, while the Titans are a borderline top-10 team and one of the healthiest teams in the whole league.
The Texans are in a great spot as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of a road loss. Teams are 119-77 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 256-269 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.78 points per game, as opposed to 377-521 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. That being said, we’re still getting enough line value with the Titans that this is my Pick of the Week. This line is at 7 still in some places, but I would wait for 6.5, even if you have to pay a little extra juice.
Tennessee Titans 24 Houston Texans 13
Pick against the spread: Tennessee -6.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week
San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (3-8)
Going into their week 9 bye, the Bears were coming off of a solid 3-3 stretch. They had pulled upsets over the Steelers, Panthers, and Ravens and played one score games against the Vikings and Saints, with their only big loss coming in Green Bay on a short week, back when Aaron Rodgers was still healthy. As a result, the Bears came out of the bye as 6 point home favorites against the Brett Hundley led Packers. However, the Bears lost that game straight up and then lost the following two weeks as well, with last week’s loss in Philadelphia coming by 28 points (31-3).
A big reason why the Bears haven’t played as well in recent weeks has been their defense, which was a huge part of their solid play earlier in the season. Without middle linebacker Danny Trevathan, their defense took a big step back, but he returns to the lineup this week after a 3-game absence. Even without him, they came within a missed field goal of going to overtime against the Lions and they could have gone to overtime against the Packers had they not fumbled on the goal line. Last week’s loss in Philadelphia was obviously not close, but the Eagles are the best team in the league right now, so there isn’t a ton of shame in that, especially without arguably your most important defensive player.
Not only do the Bears get Trevathan back this week, but they get probably their easiest matchup of the season with the 49ers coming to town. The 49ers will start recently acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the first time this season and he should be an upgrade over CJ Beathard, but the 49ers have arguably the worst roster in the NFL around the quarterback and Garappolo is still an unknown commodity and likely doesn’t have the full playbook down after just a month with the team.
Despite that, the Bears are just 3 point favorites at home, suggesting these two teams are about even, which I definitely disagree with. When the Bears were 6 point favorites for the Packers a few weeks ago, I bet against them because that line was too high, but the 49ers are even worse than the Packers and the Bears now have Trevathan back, so I don’t understand this line at all. Aside from the Green Bay game, the Bears’ other home games have been wins over the Steelers and Panthers and close losses to the Falcons, Vikings, and Lions, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t beat the 49ers by at least a field goal. The 49ers are a huge step down in class from the aforementioned teams. I wish talented safety Adrian Amos was healthy for the Bears, but getting Trevathan back is more important. This is a high confidence pick at 3.
Chicago Bears 20 San Francisco 49ers 13
Pick against the spread: Chicago -3