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

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

The Eagles have been on my underrated list for a few weeks, as I don’t think they’re really that much worse than last season. They are 4-4, but their 4 losses have come by a combined 15 points and they rank 3rd in first down rate differential at 5.19%. They are legitimately a few plays away from being 6-2 right now and being talked about as one of the NFC’s contenders. This team will likely make the playoffs because no one is running away with the NFC East and no one in the NFC should want that, as they could easily contend to go back to the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting a good line with them this week, as this line has shifted from 6 to 7.5 in the past week, crossing the key number of 7. That’s as a result of the Cowboys’ home loss to the Titans and the Cowboys’ loss of linebacker Sean Lee to injury, but the Titans are an underrated team with Marcus Mariota healthy and the Cowboys didn’t miss Lee that much early in the season when he was injured because of the presence of talented young linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

I have this line calculated at Philadelphia -10, so we’re still getting some line value with the Eagles, but they’re also not in a great spot with a trip to New Orleans on deck. Favorites of 6+ are just 19-31 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ and the Eagles are 6.5-point underdogs in New Orleans on the early line. The Cowboys, meanwhile, only have a game against the Falcons on deck, so they should be much more focused for this game. The Eagles obviously aren’t going to look past a key divisional game against a hated rival, but they may have some split focus this week, with a game that is much more of a measuring stick for them on deck.

The Cowboys have also played pretty well away from home in recent years, as a result of their national fanbase, going 37-29 ATS since 2010, including 23-17 ATS as road underdogs and 9-6 ATS as divisional road underdogs. They have yet to win away from home this season and could easily lose by double digits in this one, but we’re not getting a good line or a good spot with the Eagles. I’d need this line at least to drop down to an even touchdown to consider betting it.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Dallas Cowboys 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -7.5

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)

The Cardinals have been pretty terrible this season, but their offense looked much better in their first game under new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were better in their first game out of the bye as well, with Leftwich now having another 2 weeks on the job. The schedule doesn’t do them any favors, as they have to head to Kansas City to play the AFC leading Chiefs, but they could definitely keep this game closer than the 16.5 point spread because the Chiefs are in a major look ahead spot, with a trip to Mexico City to play the NFC leading Rams on deck.

Teams tend to struggle before international games like that anyway, but the Chiefs are especially in a tough spot because of how big that game is going to be for them. Favorites of 12+ are just 18-37 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have arguably their easiest game of the season on deck, as they host the Raiders next week, a game in which they will almost definitely be favored. Underdogs are 86-53 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Coming out of a bye with an easy game on deck, the Cardinals should be fully focused for this game against one of the NFL’s best, while the Chiefs could easily not give their best effort and let the Cardinals hang around.

The Cardinals wouldn’t be the first team the Chiefs have let hang around. In fact, if the Chiefs were to cover this 16.5 point spread, it would be their 2nd biggest margin of victory of the season. They obviously have an incredible offense, but their defense ranks 30th in first down rate allowed at 42.19% and could allow the Cardinals to move the ball with ease in garbage time and keep this one within the 16.5 points. This isn’t a huge play because of the significant talent disparity between these two teams, but this should be closer than expected.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Arizona Cardinals 21

Pick against the spread: Arizona +16.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

The Colts are high on my underrated list coming out of their bye. They are just 3-5, but they are positive in both point differential (+18) and first down rate differential (+0.91%), despite being arguably the most injury plagued team in the league in the first half of the season. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, running back Marlon Mack, tight end Jack Doyle, wide receivers TY Hilton and Ryan Grant, safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers, cornerbacks Nate Hairston and Kenny Moore, defensive linemen Margus Hunt, Denico Autry, and Tyquan Lewis, and linebacker Darius Leonard have all missed time with injury so far this season, but this week the only player of note on the Colts’ injury report is Mike Mitchell, who is no longer needed with Geathers healthy. As long as they stay healthy, this is a playoff caliber team and should play like one for the second half of the season, even if they ultimately end up not being able to make it into the playoff picture after a slow start.

On the other side, the Jaguars have had an incredibly disappointing season, given their pre-season expectations. Some expect their offense to be noticeably improved with running back Leonard Fournette finally returning from injury, but the running game hasn’t been their problem (4.25 yards per carry on the season). Blake Bortles has regressed after a decent season in 2017 and he gets little help from his receiving corps and offensive line, the latter of which has struggled mightily to pass protect with their 3rd string left tackle forced into action due to injury. Their defense has still played well, but not as well as last season and they are missing cornerback AJ Bouye and possibly linebacker Telvin Smith for this one, after being one of the healthiest defenses in the league in 2017.

The Jaguars are a significant step below the Colts right now, but this line is not indicative of that, as the general public hasn’t paid much attention to the Colts’ rapidly improving injury situation. After opening at -3.5, this line has dropped to -3 and even -2.5 in some places. Three is an incredibly key number (about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal), so 2.5 is a much more valuable line, even if you have to pay a little extra juice. Even at -3, the Colts are a smart pick this week, as they should be favored by at least a touchdown here at home.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -2.5

Confidence: High

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-3)

The Bears are quietly one of the better teams in the league. They’re only 5-3, but their 3 losses came by a combined 11 points and they actually won the first down rate battle in 2 of those 3 losses. On the season, they rank 3rd in point differential at +82 and 1st in first down rate differential at +7.69%. Their defense is arguably the best in the NFL and their offense gives them enough to win most weeks. They’ve played an easy schedule recently, playing the Jets and Bills back-to-back weeks, but they were pretty dominant in both games, despite being without top wide receiver Allen Robinson and top edge rusher Khalil Mack with injury.

Robinson and Mack are expected back this week, after the Bears were cautious with them against easier opponents. The Lions are a step up in class, but not by a ton, as they’ve lost a lot of talent in recent weeks. After trading away talented slot receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles at the trade deadline last week, the Lions then lost both cornerback Darius Slay and right guard TJ Lang, two of their better players, to injury last week in a rough performance on the road in Minnesota.

That loss last week pushed the Lions to 19-37-2 ATS and 19-39 against winning opponents since Matt Stafford’s first full season in 2011. They have really struggled against top level teams like the Bears, most recently going 1-11 against playoff teams between 2016 and 2017. They beat the Patriots and Packers this year, but the Patriots were not in mid-season form at that point (they lost to the Jaguars the week before), while the Packers would have won if Mason Crosby hadn’t had the worst game of his life (and the Packers might not end up as a playoff team anyway). There’s a big talent gap between these two teams right now and this line, even though it’s shifted from 4 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week, still doesn’t show that talent gap properly. The Bears should be able to win this one with ease.

Chicago Bears 24 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Chicago -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week