New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: None

Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: High

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-4) at Cleveland Browns (2-6-1)

This line has moved significantly since the early line last week, as the Falcons have gone from being 1-point favorites to now being 6-point favorites. That’s a 5-point line movement that moves through key numbers of 3 and 4, the kind of line movement typically reserved for quarterback injuries. The reason for that is the Falcons blowout win in Washington last week, but that win isn’t as impressive as it looks at first glance because the Redskins are nowhere near as good as their record at 5-3. They have a negative point differential at -12, despite a +7 turnover margin, and rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.42%. They also happened to basically lose their entire offensive line to injury in the game.

The Browns didn’t play that well at home for the Chiefs last week, but it was good to see their offense perform well in their first game without Hue Jackson or Todd Haley. New offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens is a former running backs coach and he’s put more of an emphasis on running the ball with talented rookie lead back Nick Chubb and also getting pass catching back Duke Johnson more involved in the offense to combat their lack of depth and experience at wide receiver.

The Browns’ defense is also getting better, with safety Damarious Randall likely returning from a one-game absence, cornerback Denzel Ward returning after getting hurt early in last week’s game, and linebacker Joe Schobert likely returning from a 3 and a half game absence. Schobert was playing at a high level before going down and their recent defensive struggles have coincided with his absence, so his return, even if he’s not quite at 100%, will be huge for this defense. They lost fellow linebacker Christian Kirksey for the season last week, but he had not been playing well of late.

With the Browns getting closer to full health, the Falcons should not be favored by this many points on the road against them. This is not the same Falcons team as recent years, with Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, and Devonta Foreman all on injured reserve. Prior to last week’s win over the mediocre Redskins, they played close games at home against the Buccaneers and Giants. Their offense is strong, but even after last week’s win, they still rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 43.85%. I like the Browns’ chances of keeping this one close and give them an outside chance at pulling the upset.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Cleveland Browns 31

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +6

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-4) at Green Bay Packers (3-4-1)

The Dolphins managed just 7 first downs and 168 yards of offense at home last week against a mediocre Jets team, but managed to win by a touchdown because they won the turnover margin by 4 and got a defensive touchdown that ended up being the margin of victory. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis though, so they won’t be able to rely on that every week. For example, teams, on average, follow up a +4 turnover margin with a +0.0 turnover margin the following week.

That win pushed the Dolphins to 5-4, but they certainly haven’t played like an above .500 team. While their 5 wins have come by a combined 33 points, their 4 losses have come by a combined 71 points and they rank just 28th in first down rate differential at -4.31%. The Dolphins get a big step up in class from the Jets this week, when they go to Green Bay to take on the Packers.

The Packers’ record at 3-4-1 is underwhelming, but that’s because they had injuries early in the season (and a game in Detroit where Mason Crosby missed 5 kicks that equaled more than the margin of victory) and then, when they came out of their bye relatively healthy, led by the return of top cornerback Jaire Alexander, they then had to go on the road and face the Patriots and Rams, arguably the two best teams in the league.

Now the Packers return home, where they are 36-18 ATS  in games started and finished by Aaron Rodgers since 2011. They picked up another major injury last week when middle linebacker Blake Martinez got hurt, but he could play this week after getting in some limited practice. Even with him at less than 100%, the Packers are still a tough opponent, despite their record.

Martinez’s uncertainty is one reason I’m not going to bet the Packers this week, despite facing an easy opponent at home. The second reason is that the Packers have to turn around and go to Seattle on a short week and favorites are just 50-71 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football. They may be underdogs in that game as well (favorites of 10+ are 60-79 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs), but even if they aren’t they could easily overlook the Dolphins a little bit, with that game on deck. I’m still going with Green Bay, as I have this line calculated at -12.5, but I wouldn’t bet on it unless this line drops down to single digits.

Green Bay Packers 26 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -10

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (7-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)

I’ve picked the Saints every week since week 3, after they got off to one of their typical slow starts (2-12 ATS in the first 2 games of the season since 2012, 56-38 ATS after week 2), and they’ve covered in all 6 games, after failing to cover in their first two. This is a tough spot for the Saints, coming off of a big upset win at home over the Rams, with a game against the defending defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles on deck, but they are still worth picking this week.

The reason why has more to do with their opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a terrible injury situation. The Bengals were banged up before their bye, losing tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard, but somehow are the most banged up they’ve been all season coming out of the bye, after losing key edge rusher Carl Lawson and #1 wide receiver AJ Green late in their final game before the bye. The Bengals 5-3 record looks nice, but they aren’t the same team they were early in the season with all of their missing personnel. The Saints are not worth betting as 5.5 point road favorites in a tough spot, but they should be able to win this one by at least a touchdown and keep their covering streak going.

New Orleans Saints 28 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5

Confidence: Low