Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-9)

Earlier this week, I liked the Chiefs a lot in this one. The line was high, with Kansas City being favored by 15.5 points on the road, but this is a matchup of arguably the best and arguably the worst team in the league and the Chiefs are also in a great spot. While they don’t have any upcoming distractions, with only a home game against the Ravens on deck, the Raiders follow this game up with another tough game, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Favorites of 7+ are 58-35 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again, while underdogs of 7+ are 29-47 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 7+ again. Combining the two, favorites of 7+ are 13-4 ATS since 2014 before being 7+ point favorites again, when their opponent will next be 7+ point underdogs again.

The Chiefs are also coming out of a bye. Not only is Andy Reid great off of a regular season bye in his career, 13-6 ATS as a head coach, but road favorites of 4+ are 32-8 ATS since 2002 after a bye, including a ridiculous 12-1 ATS against divisional opponents. Fully rested, the Chiefs looked likely to be fully focused, with no upcoming distractions on the schedule, while the Raiders were in a tough spot with back-to-back tough home games.

However, I’m no longer sure that the Chiefs will be fully focused this week, given the Kareem Hunt situation. Hunt is somewhat replaceable on the field, as new starting running back Spencer Ware is an experienced lead back, and the line shifted from -15.5 to -14 to compensate for Hunt getting kicked off the team, but I’m concerned about the psychological effect of losing a key player like that late in the week. I may change my mind and end up bumping this up to a medium confidence pick, especially if the line slips down to -13.5, but for now this is a low confidence pick.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -14

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) at New England Patriots (8-3)

The rule of thumb with the Patriots is to bet them in the second half of the season, once they’ve figured themselves out. They are 66-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center. This year, they were on one of their signature mid-to-late season runs, only to see their 6-game winning streak stopped by a Tennessee team that blew them out 34-10. That was the biggest loss that the Patriots have had that late in the season with Tom Brady under center and it made many think that the Patriots are not the same team as they normally are.

That’s why I think this line is only at -5. If the Patriots were considered a true top level team, they would be favored by at least a touchdown at home over a good, but not great Minnesota team, especially with key cornerback Xavier Rhodes and key wide receiver Stefon Diggs both barely practicing this week due to injuries sustained in last week’s game in Green Bay. Both are expected to play, but if those two players are both limited, it’ll be noticeable in this big game.

Even with their loss in Tennessee, I’m still giving the Patriots the benefit of the doubt, especially since they bounced back well off their loss (as they usually do), winning the first down rate battle by 11.15% in New York against the Jets last week. They are also much healthier now than they were in that Tennessee game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and right guard Shaq Mason did not play in that game and running back Sony Michel was not at 100% after missing time with a knee injury. All three were big parts of their win in New York last week.

The Patriots also have ugly losses in Jacksonville and Detroit from earlier in the season, but they weren’t at full strength in those losses either, without stud defensive end Trey Flowers, talented safety Patrick Chung, or wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. At full strength, the Patriots have been very tough this season, especially at home, where they are 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 13.8 points, despite playing playoff contenders in all 5 games, including Houston and Kansas City.

The Patriots are also in a great spot with only a trip to Miami on deck, a game in which they are 10.5 point favorites on the early line. Teams tend to take care of business before easy games like that, without any distractions, going 91-69 ATS since 2008 before being road favorites of 7 or more points. The Patriots are one of my favorite picks this week, as they should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown, if not multiple scores.

New England Patriots 27 Minnesota Vikings 17

Pick against the spread: New England -5

Confidence: High

Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-9) at Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)

It’s week 13 and the Packers are still undefeated at home and winless on the road. That’s a rare occurrence. In fact, the Packers join the 2009 Patriots as the only teams in the past 30 years to be undefeated at home and winless on the road this late in the season. Ordinarily, home/road disparities are more random than anything and if you look at all of the instances of teams being undefeated at home and winless on the road in week 8 or later in the past 30 years, you’ll see that those teams are 6-4 in their next home game and 5-8 in their next road game, which is about an average home/road disparity.

That being said, the Packers’ home dominance under Aaron Rodgers dates back many years, as he’s 37-18 ATS in Lambeau in games he’s started and finished since 2011, so returning home should be a real boost for a team that has played 4 of it’s last 5 games on the road against playoff contenders. The Packers also get a much easier opponent this week, as the Cardinals are arguably the worst team in the league, ranking dead last in first down rate differential at -8.79% and 31st in point differential at -138.

The Cardinals also have some injuries making them even worse. Starting cornerback Budda Baker should return from a two game absence, after getting in a full practice on Friday, but left tackle DJ Humphries did not get in a full practice this week and could easily be kept out for the second straight week for precautionary reasons, with the Cardinals’ season all but over. They also put their top linebacker Josh Bynes on injured reserve this week and could be without linebacker Haason Reddick, who barely practiced this week with a neck injury.

The Packers are also in a good spot too, with only another home game against the Falcons on deck, a game in which they are 7.5 point favorites on the early line. Teams are 90-56 ATS since 2014 as favorites of 6+ before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. I expect a strong effort from a Packers team that needs to win out to even have a chance at qualifying for the post-season.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Packers, as this line is pretty high at -14. It was at -11.5 a week ago on the early line, but the Cardinals getting blown out by the Chargers 45-10 shifted this line all the way up to 14, even with the Packers losing in Minnesota. Teams are 57-36 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35+ points, as teams tend to be underrated, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot, all three of which could be the case this week.

The Packers are better than their record, but they are too banged up coming into this game to bet them confidently as two touchdown favorites. Stud defensive lineman Mike Daniels remains out with an injury and left tackle David Bakhtiari, arguably the best left tackle in the game when healthy, could join him on the sidelines, after being limited in practice all week. The Packers could also once again be without defensive backs Bashaud Breeland, Kevin King, Kentrell Brice, and Raven Greene, leaving them very thin in the secondary. The Packers are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 31 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -14

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

Both of these teams have had strong seasons, but the Chargers have been a little better. They rank 5th in point differential at +88 and 2nd in first down rate differential at +7.03%, while the Steelers rank 7th in point differential at +67 and 4th in first down rate differential at +4.64%. The big difference is the amount of blowout wins the Chargers have gotten, with 6 of their 8 wins coming by at least a touchdown. The Steelers, meanwhile, have just 5 wins by more than a touchdown in their last 20 games, dating back to last season.

The Steelers have had a tougher schedule, with a combined opponents’ record of 49%, as opposed to 44% for the Chargers, but the Chargers schedule has been tougher than that suggests, as they have next to no homefield advantage in Los Angeles. In 5 games away from Los Angeles this season, the Chargers are 5-0 straight up (4-1 ATS) with an average margin of victory of 11.6 points per game.

This is a trend that actually dates back to their final few years in San Diego, when they frequently had large visiting crowds, as they are 33-19-3 ATS away from home since 2012. The Chargers are also at an advantage as a west coast team playing an east coast team at night. Teams cover at about a 65% rate in that spot all-time, regardless of where the game takes place, as western teams have internal clocks that are more suited for playing at night than eastern teams.

The Chargers have some injuries, with running back Melvin Gordon joining every down linebacker Denzel Perryman and rotational defensive tackles Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane on the sideline. The loss of Gordon is the biggest one, but the Chargers have good depth at the running back position. They also got stud edge rusher Joey Bosa back from injury a couple weeks ago and with him at full strength that should more than cancel out their other injuries, as he’s one of their best players. The Steelers, meanwhile, get stud defensive end Stephon Tuitt back from injury, but they lose safety Morgan Burnett again and he was noticeably missed when he was out earlier this season.

Despite all of this, this line suggests the Steelers are the better of these two teams, favoring them by more than a field goal at home. Given the Chargers’ slight statistical advantage and the advantage they have playing at night, I think this line should be closer to even, giving us good line value, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. The Chargers are a smart pick against the spread this week and have a decent shot to pull the straight up upset.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Pittsburgh Steelers 30 Upset Pick +155

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +3.5

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-6)

These two teams have had pretty similar seasons. Both have struggled statistically, as the Dolphins rank 27th in point differential at -60 and 30th in first down rate differential at -6.03%, while the Bills rank 30th in point differential at -111 and 31st in first down rate differential at -7.30%. Both teams have also been without their starting quarterbacks for stretches, but both the Bills’ Josh Allen and Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill are back on the field now.

The quarterback injury affected the Bills a lot more though, as the Bills had to start street free agents in Allen’s absence, while Dolphins started Brock Osweiler, who statistically wasn’t much worse than Tannehill. In 5 games started and finished by Josh Allen, the Bills are 3-2 with a point differential of -8 and they were also leading on the road in Houston before Allen got hurt. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are 3-3 with a -18 point differential in 6 games started and finished by Tannehill. The Bills have also faced a much tougher schedule, 8th toughest in terms of opponents record at 54%, while the Dolphins rank 25th at 47%.

Allen still has his issues, as a raw rookie quarterback, but he’s playing his best football right now, both as a passer and a runner, and seems to be fully over his elbow injury. Tannehill, meanwhile, did not have a good first game back last week, with just 130 yards on 24 pass attempts if you don’t include a 74-yard touchdown where his receiver did most of the work. The Dolphins had a first down rate of just 33.33%, against an underwhelming Colts defense, and it’s very possible that Tannehill’s shoulder is still not at 100%.

In addition to his own issues, Allen also doesn’t have a good supporting cast on offense, but Tannehill’s is falling apart fast, with their 2 leading receivers, Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola injured right now. Most importantly, the Bills are much better on defense, ranking 12th in first down rate allowed at 35.36%, as opposed to 21st in first down rate allowed at 37.82% for the Dolphins. Both teams have their issues, but the Bills are at least even with the Dolphins right now, if not a little better.

The Bills are also in a much better spot, as they host the Jets next week, while the Dolphins host the Patriots. Underdogs are 90-55 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, teams are 22-44 ATS since 2014 before being home favorites of 7 or more (Miami is +10.5 on the early line), as big upcoming home games tend to be a distraction for teams. We could easily see a much better effort from the Bills than the Dolphins this week, in which case the Bills would have a great shot of stealing this game on the road. I like the Bills a lot this week as underdogs of more than a field goal.

Buffalo Bills 17 Miami Dolphins 16 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +4

Confidence: High

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) at Houston Texans (8-3)

The Browns have been playing pretty well lately. Their offense has moved the chains at a 44.75% rate in 3 games since firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, while their defense has allowed a first down rate of just 33.78% in 7 games started and finished by stud middle linebacker Joe Schobert, who is back healthy for the Browns. Their offensive improvement can also be credited to the Browns’ trade of Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars, which allowed rookie running back Nick Chubb to flourish as the lead back.

The Texans are obviously also playing well, winning 8 straight games, but most of the games have been close, including 4 wins by 3 points or fewer, and they haven’t had the toughest schedule, with their best win record wise coming against the early season Cowboys, now at 7-5, in overtime by a field goal. The Browns, on the other hand, have had the 8th toughest schedule thus far this year in terms of opponents’ record. I like the Browns chances of making the Texans play another close game. They’re an underrated team right now and are better than their record. They’ve also only lost 3 games by more than 3 points. They’re worth a small bet this week.

Houston Texans 20 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +6

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at New York Giants: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (8-3) at New York Giants (3-8)

I’ve picked the Bears in all but one of their games this season and have bet on them 5 times, going 5-0 ATS. They’ve been underrated for weeks, as their 3 losses have come by a combined 11 points. Winners of 5 straight, the Bears are now at 8-3 and statistically have been as good as any team in the league, ranking 4th in point differential at +106 and 1st in first down rate differential at -7.03%. That being said, I’m not taking them this week because they are in a terrible spot and I’m not just referring to the absence of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky hasn’t been bad, but he’s not the reason this team has been winning and backup Chase Daniel is one of the better backups in the league.

The bigger issue is that the Bears have to turn around and host the Rams next week, a game that could easily be as a huge distraction to the Bears. Road favorites are just 39-64 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs, which the Bears almost certainly will be next week (early line is Rams -3.5). The Giants are just 3-8, but they’ve been competitive in most of their games, losing just 2 games by more than a touchdown, with 3 losses coming by 3 points or fewer. They could easily catch the Bears off guard and make this a game or even potentially win it straight up. We’re not getting any line value with the Giants at +3.5, as the Bears still have a distinct talent advantage, so this is a no confidence pick, but this has trap game written all over it for the Bears.

Chicago Bears 19 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3.5

Confidence: None