Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
New York Giants (1-7) at San Francisco 49ers (2-7)
This is a tough game to predict because I’m still not sure what to make of new 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, a 2017 undrafted free agent who completed 16 of 22 for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first NFL start last week. If he continues to play at least decent, the 49ers should cover this game as 3-point home favorites over the lowly Giants. The 49ers actually have a solid offensive supporting cast around the quarterback and rank 13th in first down rate at 37.70%, despite quarterback turmoil.
Turnovers have been a huge problem for them, as they’ve turned it over 18 times and have a -13 turnover margin (2nd worst in the NFL), but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Mullens didn’t turn the ball over at all last week (after CJ Beathard committed 10 turnovers in 5 starts) and if he keeps playing at least decently their turnover margin could easily stabilize for the rest of the season.
Those are big ifs with Mullens though. The track record of undrafted quarterbacks in the NFL is pretty weak and, as good as he looked in his debut, it was one start against a team that had no tape on him and wasn’t expecting him to play. He also happened to be playing a Raiders defense that can make a lot of quarterbacks look good. I’m taking the 49ers in this one for pick ‘em purposes, but there’s far too much uncertainty for them to be bettable this week.
San Francisco 49ers 24 New York Giants 20
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -3
Buffalo Bills (2-7) at New York Jets (3-6)
I was stalling this write up a little bit because I was hoping we’d get some word today on who the Bills will start under center this week. Derek Anderson remains out with a concussion, but regular starter Josh Allen got some limited practice time in this week and the Bills did not commit to going back to backup Nathan Peterman if Allen can’t go this week, meaning street free agent Matt Barkley is a candidate to start in this one, after less than 2 weeks with the team.
If Allen is ruled out, the Bills are an auto-fade this week and I will likely bet on the Jets. The Bills have been an auto-fade ever since Josh Allen went down, losing all 3 games by an average of 27.7 points and failing to cover in any of them. Allen wasn’t exactly playing well either, but the Bills’ options behind him on the depth chart are so bad and they have a horrible supporting cast around the quarterback on offense. In a league where moving the ball in easier than it’s ever been, the Bills have picked up a first down or touchdown on just 25.85% of offensive snaps, 10.70% below the league average, and they have a ridiculous 16 interceptions to just 3 passing touchdowns.
The Jets aren’t playing well either, but if Allen is out, they are more than 4 points better than the Bills, which is what this line (Jets -7 at home) suggests. Quarterback Sam Darnold is out with a foot injury, but that might actually be a good thing for this team right now, as Darnold had been playing terribly and they have a capable veteran backup in Josh McCown ready to go behind him on the depth chart.
Remember, McCown had a pretty underwhelming Jets team at 5-7 last season before he got hurt and he had a solid 94.5 QB rating, with 18 passing touchdowns to 9 interceptions. His age (39) and injury history are a concern, but he should be able to give them a couple good spot starts and I think he’s an upgrade over Darnold right now. The Jets also get top cornerback Trumaine Johnson back this week from an extended absence, which will help.
On top of that, the Jets are in a great spot going into their bye, as teams are 55-22 ATS since 2002 as home favorites of 7+ before a bye. Normally that trend is reserved for top level teams, who tend to be very focused with a week off in front of them, but teams with sub-.500 records are also 7-3 ATS in that spot. With no upcoming distractions, the Jets should be able to take care of business at home against an inferior opponent, as long as Allen remains on the sideline.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that’s going to be the case, as it wouldn’t make sense for the Bills to rush Allen back and risk further injury to his throwing arm in a lost season, but the Bills might be so desperate to be competitive in a divisional game that they rush him back. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but if/when Allen is ruled out I will bump this up to medium, as long as the line doesn’t move significantly. I’m guessing it won’t and that this line already takes into account that either Peterman or Barkley will likely start this game.
Update: Josh Allen was ruled out Saturday afternoon as expected, leaving Matt Barkley to start this game for the Bills, but this line shifted to 7.5. That might not seem like a significant line movement, but about 1 in 10 games are decided by exactly a touchdown. I’m going to leave this as a low confidence pick unless the line goes back down. The Jets should win this with ease, but asking their offense to cover a 7.5 point line against a capable Bills defense is a lot. Barkley will probably throw a pick six or something to make it easier for the Jets, but that’s not something you can confidently bet on.
Final update: This line has shifted back to -7 Sunday morning, so this is now a medium confidence pick.
New York Jets 20 Buffalo Bills 9
Pick against the spread: NY Jets -7
Seattle Seahawks (4-4) at Los Angeles Rams (8-1)
The Rams have not had many blowout victories lately, with just one double digit win in their last 6 games. That’s understandable when you look at their schedule though. They’ve played just one of their last five games at home and their last two home games came against the Vikings and Packers, a pair of strong opponents. Prior to that, they had blow out home victories over the Cardinals and Chargers and they also have a pair of blowout wins on the road in Oakland and San Francisco.
This week could easily be another double digit win over the Rams, now back home against the Seahawks. Seattle isn’t a bad team and they’ve gotten better since getting linebacker KJ Wright back from injury, but they still rank 25th in first down rate differential at -3.39% on the season. They have a 4-4 record, but that’s largely as a result of a +9 turnover margin (3rd in the NFL). Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so that’s not something they’re going to be able to count on going forward, especially against top teams like the Rams.
The Seahawks played the Rams close in their first matchup, losing 33-31, but that game was in Seattle and the Seahawks lost despite winning the turnover battle by +2. The Rams had 30 first downs to 20 for the Seahawks and outgained them by about 100 yards. On average, teams that win the turnover margin by 2 have a -0.1 turnover margin in a same season rematch. Unless the Seahawks can win the turnover margin again, the Rams should be able to defeat them with ease now back in Los Angeles.
That being said, I’m not betting the Rams for three reasons. For one, there will likely be a ton of Seahawk fans at this game, much like there were a lot of Packer fans there a couple weeks ago. For that reason, you could argue that the Rams won’t quite have true homefield advantage in this one. The second reason is that they have a much bigger game in Mexico City against the AFC leading Chiefs next week, so this could be a little bit of a look ahead spot, even against a hated division rival. The third reason is that the Rams cancelled practice on Friday because of the wildfires, which could be a distraction this week. The Rams should be the right side, but this isn’t worth betting.
Los Angeles Rams 27 Seattle Seahawks 15
Pick against the spread: LA Rams -9.5
Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-7)
This line shifted from Chargers -7.5 on the early line last week up to Chargers -10 this week. Typically I like going against significant week-to-week line movements like that, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but this one is justified. The Chargers one of the better teams in the league, ranking 4th in first down rate differential at +4.70% and 8th in point differential at +40, while the Raiders are quite the opposite. Outside of the Bills, they may be the worst team in the entire league. The Chargers also typically play well on the road, going 32-20-3 ATS since 2012 away from home, as they rarely have much of a homefield advantage anyway and are used to playing in front of hostile crowds.
The Chargers are also in a great spot this week, with only another relatively easy divisional game on deck, at home against the Broncos, a game in which they are favored by 7 on the early line. Favorites of 6+ tend to take care of business with another easy game on deck, going 86-52 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. The Raiders will probably bring their best effort for this game, with a long week to prepare against a hated divisional rival, but the Chargers could still easily win this game by double digits. This is too many points for the Chargers to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.
Los Angeles Chargers 31 Oakland Raiders 19
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -10
Washington Redskins (5-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)
The Redskins are 5-3, but are nowhere close to as good as their record. Their record is boosted by a 3-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a +7 turnover margin, two things that are tough to maintain week-to-week. They’ve also lost at home by double digits to a banged up Colts team and last week to a banged up Falcons team. On the season, they rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.42% and are even worse than that suggests because of all the players they are missing with injury.
The Redskins are without their top-2 offensive linemen, left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff, as well as left guard Shawn Lauvao and possibly right tackle Morgan Moses. They are also missing passing down back Chris Thompson, wide receiver Paul Richardson, and possibly slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who made a limited return to practice this week for the first time since getting injured in week 5. Their defense is healthier by comparison, but starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar is expected to be out, after missing practice all week.
Given all that the Redskins are missing, the Buccaneers are the clearly better team in this game, despite the records. Their defense is horrendous, ranking 31st in first down rate allowed at 43.74%, but their offense ranks only behind the Chiefs, Saints, and Rams in first down rate at 42.34%. Regardless of who has been under center, this offense has been explosive because of all the skill position talent they have and now they have Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been the better of their two quarterbacks this season, under center. They’re a similar team to the Falcons, who the Redskins had a lot of trouble with last week.
The Buccaneers probably won’t win by 24 like the Falcons did, but they should definitely be favored by more than a field goal here at home. I locked this line in early in the week at -2.5, but, even though it’s gone up to 3 in some places, you can still get -2.5 in some places with higher juice. Given that in 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, -2.5 is a much better line, but the Buccaneers are worth betting at -3 as well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Washington Redskins 24
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5
New England Patriots (7-2) at Tennessee Titans (4-4)
The Titans had arguably their best performance of the year last week in Dallas, posting a +4.87% first down rate differential in a 28-14 road win on Monday Night Football. The Titans have had a strong defense all season, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 33.40%, but it was encouraging to see their offense have a strong performance (40.58% first down rate) on the road against a good Dallas defense. Going into the game, the Titans had just 8 offensive touchdowns in their first 7 games, but Marcus Mariota, who has been injured since week 1, looked 100% in his first game out of the bye and led the Titans’ offense to paydirt 4 times. If he can continue playing well, the Titans will be a tough opponent in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately for the Titans, they get arguably their toughest game of the season this week, with the New England Patriots coming to town. Now winners of 6 straight, the Patriots have shaken off their early season funk and have hit mid-season form like they always do. They could also be healthier this week than they’ve been in a while, with tight end Rob Gronkowski, right guard Shaq Mason, and running back Sony Michel all possibly returning from short-term absences this week. The Titans, meanwhile, will be without talented right tackle Jack Conklin with a concussion. It’s not usually wise to go against the Patriots at this point of the season unless you’re getting a ton of line value, which isn’t the case here. I’m not confident in the Patriots though because the Titans are talented enough to give them a game and because they’ve had some struggles away from home this season.
New England Patriots 31 Tennessee Titans 23
Pick against the spread: New England -7