Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
PHI +155 @ DAL
CHI +135 vs. LAR
CLE +105 vs. CAR
WAS +135 vs. NYG
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
PHI +155 @ DAL
CHI +135 vs. LAR
CLE +105 vs. CAR
WAS +135 vs. NYG
Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
The Seahawks are now 7-5 after a 0-2 start, but this is far from a vintage Seahawks team. Their offense has been solid, ranking 13th in first down rate at 38.09% and improving as the season has gone along, but their defense is far from what we’re used to from them, as they rank 26th, allowing opponents to pick up first downs at a 39.33% rate. Their defense has played tied for the 2nd fewest snaps in the league with 71, as a result of the offense going 9 of 12 on 4th down on the season and only turning over the ball 9 times, fewest in the NFL, but 4th down percentages and turnovers tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t always be able to depend on that making life easier for their defense.
The Vikings have had a disappointing season at 6-5-1, but they’re healthier now than they were earlier in the season and they rank higher than the Seahawks both in my roster rankings and in first down rate differential, in which they rank 16th at +0.19%. This line suggests these two teams are about even, with the hometown Seahawks favored by a field goal, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visitors. It’s not enough for the Vikings to be worth betting, but they should be the right side.
Seattle Seahawks 24 Minnesota Vikings 23
Pick against the spread: Minnesota +3
New York Jets (3-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-8)
These two teams met week 10 in New York in a game the Bills shockingly won 41-10 as 7-point underdogs, despite starting journeyman Matt Barkley, signed 11 days prior, at quarterback. Going into that game, the Bills had a league worst 25.85% first down rate, but they picked up first downs at a 36.99% rate in that game. The Bills then got Josh Allen back from a 4-game absence in their next game following the bye and have picked up first downs in a 39.17% rate in two games since, as Allen has improved significantly as his rookie year has gone on. The Bills also have a solid defense and are 3-3 with a -12 point differential in 6 games started and finished by Allen, who also was leading on the road in Houston in the second half in the game in which he got hurt.
The Bills winning in the first matchup doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to cover or even win this week, as divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs and only have a 55% winning percentage, despite being favored by 5.1 points on average. However, the Bills are the significantly better of these two teams right now, as the Jets rank 31st in first down rate differential at -6.73%, are missing top linebacker Darron Lee due to suspension, and have not played good football in weeks, losing last week in Tennessee despite an interception touchdown and a blocked punt. We’re not getting much line value with the Bills as 3.5-point favorites, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.
Buffalo Bills 17 New York Jets 12
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -3.5
Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Houston Texans (9-3)
Injuries have been the story this season for the Colts. They started out the season as arguably the most injury plagued team in the league and went 1-5 as a result, but then they ripped off 5 straight wins, before injuries started to pile up again. That winning streak ended in Jacksonville last week in a 6-0 loss and, though the Colts did win the first down rate battle by 6.39% in that one, the Colts injury situation gets even worse this week, just in time for a key matchup against the division leading Texans. Center Ryan Kelly and tight end Jack Doyle remain out and defensive tackles Margus Hunt and Denico Autry and top receiver TY Hilton are all highly questionable, after barely practicing this week.
It’s a shame because if they were healthy I’d be all over the Colts as 4.5-point road underdogs here in Houston. The Texans beat the Colts in Indianapolis earlier this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to cover or even win this week. In fact, divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs and they only have a 55% winning percentage, despite being favored by 5.1 points on average.
The Texans are 9-3, but they haven’t really been blowing teams out, with an average margin of victory of 9.11 points per game and 4 wins by 3 points or fewer. The Colts are only 6-6, but their average margin of victory is 15.33 points per game and they’re only slightly behind the Texans in point differential (+67 vs. +46), despite being 3 games behind them in the standings. In terms of first down rate differential, the Colts are actually ahead of the Texans, ranking 7th at +3.73%, while the Texans are 12th at +2.23%. The Texans have a slight edge in strength of schedule, as the Colts have played one of the easiest schedules in the league, but if the Colts were healthy I’d have this line calculated at Houston -3 at the most. At less than 100%, we’re not getting the same line value, but they still seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes.
Final Update: TY Hilton, Margus Hunt, and Denico Autry are all active, but the line is still Indianapolis +4. Ryan Kelly is still a big loss upfront for the Colts, but they have a +13 offensive touchdown margin on the season (as opposed to +1 for the Texans), despite being banged up for much of the year. Even without Kelly, they are still healthier than they’ve been for most of the season. I like getting more than a field goal with them in a divisional revenge game.
Houston Texans 24 Indianapolis Colts 23
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +4
Carolina Panthers (6-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-7-1)
The Panthers are on a 4-game losing streak after a 6-2 start, but they’ve actually won the first down rate battle in each of their last 3 games. The Panthers lost by 1 in Detroit, in a game in which they missed a field goal, an extra point, and a 2-point conversation late when they didn’t trust their kicking unit to tie the game. They lost by a field goal at home to the Seahawks, but outgained the Seahawks by 1.9 yards per play in a game in which the Panthers missed another field goal, threw a red zone interception, failed on a 4th down, and allowed the Seahawks to go 2 for 2 on 4th downs. And then they lost by 3 in Tampa Bay in a game in which they outgained the Buccaneers by 1.5 yards per play, but lost the turnover battle by 3. If not for a couple plays, they could have easily won any of those games, but instead they are 6-6 and going to Cleveland desperately in need of a win.
Even though they’ve been better than the final scores have suggested recently, I’m not so sure they’re going to get that win this week. The Browns have been better defensively since getting stud linebacker Joe Schobert back from injury and they’ve been better offensively since plugging running back Nick Chubb into the lineup and getting rid of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. They lost by 16 in Houston last week, but were more competitive than the final score suggested, as they actually won the first down rate battle by 7.17%, losing the game primarily because of a -4 turnover margin and a return touchdown by the Texans. Even with the Browns banged up, with top cornerback Denzel Ward and possibly top defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi out with injury, I still have this line calculated at even.
That’s not a ton of line value, but it suggests the Browns should be the pick at +1.5. The Browns are also in a much better spot, as the Panthers have to turn around and play an even tougher game against the Saints next week. Road favorites are 22-44 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs and the Panthers are 6.5-point home underdogs on the early line. Even though the Panthers are only road favorites of a point and a half here in Cleveland, the logic still stands and teams are 34-63 ATS in general since 2012 before being home underdogs of 6 points or more. There is not quite enough here for the Browns to be worth betting against the spread given the players who are injured, but they should be the right side in this one.
Cleveland Browns 26 Carolina Panthers 24 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +1.5
Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
The Cowboys got a huge win last week, pulling the upset as 7.5-point favorites against the Saints, a win that helps them as they try to win the NFC East. However, they have another huge game this week against the Eagles, who are their biggest competition for the division title. If the Cowboys win this game, they’ll have a two game lead and the tiebreaker over the Eagles with 3 games to play, but if the Eagles win they’ll pull into a tie and have control of the tiebreaker, due to their superior divisional record.
The Cowboys’ win last week was impressive, but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances of covering this week, as teams are 38-51 ATS since 2002 after winning as 6+ point home underdogs. The Cowboys played last week like it was their Super Bowl and might find it hard to play like that for two weeks in a row. The Cowboys also have already beaten the Eagles this season, pulling the 27-20 upset back in week 10, but that doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances of covering this week either. Divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs. In rematches like this, the loser of the previous game wins about 45% of the time over that same time period, despite being underdogs.
The Eagles could have easily won that week 10 game anyway, as they won the first down rate battle by 2.09%, but failed on two 4th downs and threw an interception, while the Cowboys’ picked up a 4th down and played turnover free football. That’s one of two games the Eagles have lost this season despite winning the first down rate battle, with the other coming in a 2-point loss to the Vikings in which they allowed a long defensive touchdown. The Eagles obviously haven’t been as good as they were last season, but they still rank 9th in first down rate differential at +3.19%.
On the season, they are -8 in point differential, but that’s despite a 41-point loss in New Orleans and a -8 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and, if the Eagles can play turnover neutral football the rest of the way, that should be noticeable on the scoreboard. Despite that, the Eagles are underdogs of more than a field goal here in Dallas, suggesting the Cowboys are the better of these two teams right now. I have this line calculated at closer to even and I like the Eagles’ chances of pulling the straight up upset in a revenge spot against a team that might be a little overconfident after a huge win. At +3.5, this is my Pick of the Week.
Philadelphia Eagles 24 Dallas Cowboys 23 Upset Pick +155
Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week
New Orleans Saints (10-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)
The Saints shockingly lost in Dallas last week, with their high powered offense held to just 10 points in a 13-10 loss, but I’m not really changing my outlook for them going forward. The Cowboys were a capable team at home that played arguably the best game of their season at the same time the Saints had an off night, much like the Patriots’ loss in Tennessee a few weeks ago. The Saints still rank 3rd in first down rate differential at +5.79% and rank 2nd in my roster rankings. This line shifted from New Orleans -10.5 on the early line to New Orleans -9.5 this week and I’ll gladly take that extra line value, as I still have this line calculated at -12.
The Buccaneers have won two in a row, but they’ve had a +5 turnover margin in those two games (+2.5 per game), after being -23 over their first 10 games (-2.3 per game). Turnover margins are unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, but the Buccaneers start one of the most turnover prone quarterbacks in the league, so I expect the Buccaneers going forward to be closer to their early season turnover margin than their recent turnover margin. They are also banged up on both sides of the ball, missing tight end OJ Howard and wide receiver DeSean Jackson on offense and safety Justin Evans and cornerback Carlton Davis on defense. Despite last week’s loss, I still expect the Saints, who are 46-31 ATS off of a loss in the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era, to take care of business in this one.
New Orleans Saints 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -9.5
Denver Broncos (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (2-10)
The Broncos have had a tough season. They had the toughest schedule in the league over the first 11 games of the season, including close losses to the Texans, Rams, and Chiefs (twice) and wins over the Chargers, Steelers, and Seahawks. Now that their schedule has gotten easier, they’ve had so many losses that they aren’t the same team. Already without their top-2 offensive linemen, right guard Ron Leary and center Matt Paradis, with injury and starting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was traded to the Texans for a draft pick, the Broncos are now without #1 cornerback Chris Harris and #1 wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who have both suffered season ending injuries in the past week.
The Broncos’ opponents this week, the San Francisco 49ers, are one of their easiest opponents all season, but it’s hard to be confident in the Broncos as 3.5-point road favorites given the current state of their roster. With a banged up offensive line and a depleting receiving corps, the Broncos have little talent around quarterback Case Keenum and their defense isn’t nearly as good without their top cornerback Chris Harris. The 49ers have been killed by the turnover margin this season at an NFL worst -20, but turnover margins tend to be unpredictable week-to-week and the 49ers are the kind of team that can easily pull an upset if they can play a turnover neutral game. I have this line calculated at Denver -4, so I’m still taking the Broncos, but this is a no confidence pick.
Denver Broncos 20 San Francisco 49ers 16
Pick against the spread: Denver -3.5
New York Giants (4-8) at Washington Redskins (6-6)
A once promising season for the Redskins seems have to be completely derailed in last week’s loss in Philadelphia. The Redskins are still technically in the NFC East race at 6-6, but they lost their second quarterback in the last month to a broken leg, first Alex Smith and then Colt McCoy last week, and are now starting Mark Sanchez, signed off the streets a few weeks ago. Sanchez is not only a limited quarterback, but he has to have a limited understanding of the offense at this point after just a few weeks, compared to McCoy who has been in the offense for 5 seasons. Sanchez did not look good in relief of McCoy last week, completing 13 of 21 for 100 yards and a pick.
All of that being said, I still don’t understand why this line shifted all the way from Redskins -3 to Giants -3.5, here in Washington. That’s the kind of line movement normally reserved for an injury to an above average starting quarterback, which is certainly not what Colt McCoy is. I also don’t understand what the Giants have done to be favored by this many points on the road against a team that still has a solid defense.
The Giants are just 4-8 with an average margin of victory of 3.75 points per game and no wins by more than 5 points. I’m not too excited about betting on Mark Sanchez, but we’re getting too much line value not to put a small bet on the Redskins this week. They could easily ride their defense and running game to victory at home against a mediocre opponent and I like getting 3.5 points to work with if they come up short.
Update: The Giants surprisingly ruled out Odell Beckham Jr. on Saturday, after he suffered a quad injury in yesterday’s practice. The line shifted from +3.5 to +3, but you could argue it should have shifted even more, as the Giants have been about a touchdown worse per game without Odell Beckham in his career. Colt McCoy getting hurt shifted this line 6.5 points, but Beckham being out only shifts this from 3.5 to 3? I don’t want to make this a higher confidence pick because of Mark Sanchez, but I like the Redskins’ chances of winning straight up now too.
Washington Redskins 16 New York Giants 13 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: Washington +3
Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (9-3)
The Chargers have an easy opponent this week, facing a Bengals team that has lost 6 of their last 7 and that is incredibly banged up on both sides of the ball, with starting quarterback Andy Dalton, #1 wide receiver AJ Green, starting tight end Tyler Eifert, starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, key edge rusher Carl Lawson, every down linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick all on the sidelines with various injuries. However, despite the easy opponent, the Chargers are in a very tough spot, having to play their biggest game of the season in 4 days on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game that could easily decide the AFC West.
Favorites typically struggle before a short week anyway, going 55-73 ATS since 2012, but that should especially be the case in this one, as I can’t imagine the Chargers aren’t spending some time on the Chiefs this week, with such an easy opponent in front of them this week. On the other side, the Bengals are distraction free, with only a home game against the Raiders on deck. Favorites are just 55-92 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. On top of that, favorites of 10+ are just 63-80 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs.
That being said, I can’t be confident in the Bengals at all, given the talent disparity between these two teams. The Chargers are one of the better teams in the league and I have them calculated as 16-point favorites in this one, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with them as only 14-point favorites. I’m taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes because I expect the Chargers to be flat and not give their best effort, but even still the Chargers could win this game by multiple scores.
Los Angeles Chargers 23 Cincinnati Bengals 10
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +14