Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
LAC +160 @ KC
CLE +120 @ DEN
TEN +100 @ NYG
DET +135 @ BUF
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
LAC +160 @ KC
CLE +120 @ DEN
TEN +100 @ NYG
DET +135 @ BUF
New Orleans Saints (11-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-7)
If not for concerns about the health of Cam Newton’s throwing shoulder, the Panthers would be a big play this week. They’re on a 5 game losing streak after starting 6-2, but they could have easily won any of their past 4 games, losing each of them by a touchdown or less and winning the first down rate battle in all 4 games. On the season, they still rank 10th in first down rate differential at 2.44% and could easily be around 8-5 right now if not for a few snaps.
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. They lost by a touchdown 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. And last week they had 22 first downs to 12 for the Browns, but allowed 3 plays of 50+ yards in a 6-point loss.
Cam Newton isn’t at 100%, but the Panthers have still played well enough to win in recent weeks. The Panthers have just one loss all season by more than a touchdown and that came on the road on a short week in Pittsburgh, relevant with this line at 6.5. However, it’s still going to be very tough for them to keep it close in a likely shootout with the Saints with Cam Newton obviously not playing his best right now. The Saints have shown they are vulnerable on the road in recent weeks, losing in Dallas and starting slow in Tampa Bay, but they are still the best team the Panthers have faced this season and Newton has 8 interceptions in his last 5 games, after 4 in his first 8. I might bet the Panthers at +7, but not at +6.5.
Sunday Update: The Panthers will also be without stud defensive tackle Kawann Short this week. Between that and Cam Newton’s injury, I’m dropping this to a no confidence pick. The Panthers are better than their record and should be fully focused for a do or die game, but the Saints are a dominant team that can exploit the Panthers’ injuries.
New Orleans Saints 33 Carolina Panthers 27
Pick against the spread: Carolina +6.5
Seattle Seahawks (8-5) at San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
The 49ers are just 3-10, but that’s primarily because they’ve gotten killed in turnovers, posting a league worst -21 turnover margin this season. In terms of first down rate differential, they are actually positive at +0.39%, despite their record, but it’s tough to win games when you consistently lose the turnover battle. Their offense hasn’t turned the ball over as much since switching to Nick Mullens under center though, as they’ve turned the ball over 8 times in his 5 starts, with 6 credited to Mullens, as opposed to 14 turnovers in CJ Beathard’s 5 starts, with 10 credited to Beathard.
They’ve also moved the chains better in Mullens’ 5 starts, moving them at a 38.51% rate, as opposed to 35.17% for Beathard (41.30% in Garoppolo’s 3 starts). However, despite Mullens being an obvious upgrade, they are still just 2-3 in his 5 starts as their defense has not managed a single takeaway in his 5 starts. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent and unpredictable on a week-to-week basis though, so the 49ers could easily get some takeaways over the final 3 games of the season, which would be a big boost to this team.
The defense isn’t at 100% without injured top safety Jaquiski Tartt and released top linebacker Reuben Foster, but they rank a decent 19th in first down rate allowed on the season at 37.42% and are talented enough that they should have forced more than 5 takeaways on the season. Recovering just 2 of 10 forced fumbles is a big part of the problem, but that tends to be luck more than anything. With an improved quarterback under center and a defense that should force more takeaways going forward, the 49ers are better than their 3-10 record suggests.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they’re really that underrated, after last week’s upset win over a banged up Denver team. That game moved this line from Seattle -7 all the way down to Seattle -3.5, so we’re getting no line value with a 49ers team that isn’t in the best spot this week. In addition to coming off of a big home upset victory, they also have to follow up this tough home game with another tough home game against the Bears next week, a game in which the 49ers are 6-point home underdogs on the early line. Teams are just 26-53 ATS since 2016 before being home underdogs of 4.5 points or more. I’m still taking the 49ers and hoping for a field goal game, but I can’t take them with any confidence, given all of the line value we’ve lost in the past week.
Sunday Update: The 49ers got some good injury news over the weekend, with running back Matt Breida and wide receivers Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin all expected to play despite questionable tags and limited practices. Despite that, this line has climbed back up to +4. There’s still not enough here to bet the 49ers, but I’m moving this up to a low confidence pick.
Seattle Seahawks 26 San Francisco 49ers 24
Pick against the spread: San Francisco +4
Oakland Raiders (3-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)
Both of these teams exceeded expectations as big underdogs last week, the Bengals in a 26-21 loss in Los Angeles to the Chargers and the Raiders with a 24-21 home upset win over the Steelers. Both teams caught their opponents in a bad spot, with the Steelers playing the Patriots next and the Chargers having to turn around and face the Chiefs in Kansas City on a short week, and were able to cover with ease as a result.
Because the Raiders actually won last week, they’re in a bit of a bad spot this week, as teams tend to have a hangover effect after a home win as big underdogs, going 70-93 ATS over the past 30 years after a home win as underdogs of 6 or more. The Raiders’ win also shifted this line from Cincinnati -4.5 down to Cincinnati -3, so we’ve lost line value with the Raiders as well. However, I still think we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visitors, as this line suggests these two teams are about even and I have the Raiders slightly higher in my roster rankings.
The Bengals got off to a great start at 4-1, but have lost 7 of their last 8 as injuries have piled up. Without quarterback Andy Dalton, #1 wide receiver AJ Green, and #1 tight end Tyler Eifert on offense and without every down linebacker Vontaze Burfict and stud pass rush specialist Carl Lawson on defense, this is far from the same team they were early in the season and, on paper, they are one of the worst teams in the league. The Raiders at least have competent quarterback play and Derek Carr has looked better in recent weeks as he’s seemed to settle into Gruden’s system a little more. This is a no confidence pick with a bad team in a tough spot, but the Raiders are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Cincinnati Bengals 26 Oakland Raiders 24
Pick against the spread: Oakland +3
Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) at Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
The Eagles have been the most disappointing team in the league this season, going 6-7 a year after winning the Super Bowl. After losing to the Cowboys for the second time in 5 weeks last week, the Eagles are effectively 3 games out of the division lead with 3 games to go. The wild card is still an option, but they’d need to win out and get help. The long-term outlook for this franchise looks good, as most of their losses have been close (6 of 7 by 7 points or fewer) and many of their problems have been injury related, but in the short-term they could easily get blown out this week.
The Eagles have mostly played close games this season, but the injuries have piled up for them at the worst time, ahead of one of the toughest games of their season, a game they need to win to stay alive in the playoff race. Already without their top-3 cornerbacks, starting safety Rodney McLeod, starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, every down linebacker Jordan Hicks, and rotational defensive end Derek Barnett on defense, the Eagles will be led on offense by Nick Foles this week, with Carson Wentz sidelined with a back injury. Wentz has disappointed this season playing through injury and this offense as a whole ranks just 15th in first down rate, but Foles could still be a noticeable downgrade.
On the other side, not only are the Rams are a strong opponent, but they are in a great spot, with no upcoming distractions. Up next on their schedule is a trip to Arizona, where they are 11.5-point road favorites on the early line, and teams are 50-33 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 7 or more. On top of that, favorites of 7+ are 84-51 ATS over that same time period before being favorites of 7+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions on their schedule. They’ll also benefit from being a west coast team in a night game against an east coast team, a spot in which teams cover at a 65% rate historically, due to differing internal time cycles.
We aren’t getting any line value with the Rams as 13-point favorites and Nick Foles is a high variance quarterback that could play well in a do or die spot for the Eagles, so I wouldn’t recommend betting this game, but I like the Rams’ chances of winning by at least two touchdowns. They have just 5 wins by more than 10 points this season, but they’ve also played a very tough schedule, playing a projected playoff team in 7 of 13 games and getting double digit wins in 5 of the other 7 games against opponents with a losing record like the Eagles. I expect them to get another one, but 13 points is too high to bet confidently.
Los Angeles Rams 31 Philadelphia Eagles 16
Pick against the spread: LA Rams -13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) at Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Rookie Lamar Jackson will make his 5th start this week and his first start with Joe Flacco healthy, as Flacco is expected to be active as the backup after missing 4 games with a hip injury. Jackson is 3-1 in his 4 starts, with one loss coming in overtime in Kansas City last week, but the offense has statistically been slightly worse with him under center, moving the chains at a 35.64% rate in 4 games started by Jackson, as opposed to 36.46% in 9 games started by Flacco. That’s not a big difference obviously, but Jackson has had a much easier schedule, as the Chiefs, Bengals, Raiders, and Falcons all rank 27th or worst in first down rate allowed.
The schedule doesn’t get any harder for Jackson this week, facing a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 30th in first down rate allowed at 41.85%, so Jackson should be able to keep Flacco on the sidelines at least another week. The Buccaneers’ offense has been explosive this season, but they also start a turnover prone quarterback and are without two key weapons in DeSean Jackson and OJ Howard. That being said, with the line at Baltimore -7.5, I’d rather take the Buccaneers, who play a lot of close games (11 of 19 losses decided by 6 points or fewer over the past 2 seasons), than the Ravens, who are starting a limited quarterback, as big favorites.
Baltimore Ravens 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +7.5
Washington Redskins (6-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)
The Jaguars are favored here by 7.5 points, despite being 4-9, starting backup quarterback Cody Kessler, and being down four week 1 starting offensive lineman, with only right guard AJ Cann still healthy this week. That’s because the Redskins are starting their 4th quarterback of the year, Josh Johnson, signed off the streets about a week and a half ago. Both of the Redskins’ quarterbacks suffered broken legs, initially forcing street free agent Mark Sanchez into action and now forcing Josh Johnson into action after Sanchez struggled mightily in limited action. The Redskins played better in the 2nd half last week with Johnson in the game, but they had issues beyond quarterback last week, as they did not give a good effort on a short week after having their season ended in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football.
I expect a better effort from the Redskins this week, but it’s really hard to be confident in Josh Johnson on the road after a week and a half on the team. This is Johnson’s first start since the 2011 season. Washington typically has a solid defense and could keep this game close, but the Jaguars’ defense is still one of the best in the league and could easily keep Josh Johnson and the Redskins out of the end zone. I’m taking the Redskins just because of the track record of bad teams as big favorites, but I have no interest taking either side in this one.
Jacksonville Jaguars 16 Washington Redskins 9
Pick against the spread: Washington +7.5
Tennessee Titans (7-6) at New York Giants (5-8)
The Titans began the season with a tough schedule, with 8 of their first 11 games coming against teams that currently have a winning record, but they are right in the middle of a very easy stretch right now and have won back-to-back games against the Jets and Jaguars. The game against the Jets was close, but the Titans won that game despite throwing a pick six and allowing a blocked punt and they won the first down rate battle by 18.59%. They then followed that up with a blowout of the Jaguars in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 16.99%.
The Giants have been better in recent weeks and they’re not as bad as the Jets or Jaguars, but they are missing a key player with injury on both sides of the ball, wide receiver Odell Beckham and safety Landon Collins, and they are one of the easier teams the Titans have faced this season. Beckham and Collins weren’t missed against a Redskins team they started Mark Sanchez and didn’t try on defense, but this is a much tougher game. The Titans are a little banged up with right tackle Jack Conklin and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo injured, but I still have this line calculated at Tennessee -3, so we’re getting some good line value with them at +1.
The Titans are also in a better spot than the Giants, with another easy game at home against the Redskins on deck, while the Giants have another relatively tough game on deck in Indianapolis, Underdogs are 94-57 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponents will next be underdogs and, even though the Titans are just 1-point underdogs, the logic stands that they should be a little bit more focused this week, with no upcoming distractions to prepare for. They’re worth a bet this week.
Tennessee Titans 24 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick +100
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1
New England Patriots (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)
For the second straight year, the Patriots have lost in Miami the week before a critical late season matchup with the Steelers. Unlike last year, when the Patriots were outplayed pretty much from start to finish in Miami, this year they played well enough to win, losing on arguably the craziest walk off touchdown in recent memory. The Patriots bounced back in Pittsburgh last year and I expect the same from them this year. That’s typically what they do after a loss anyway, going 49-25 ATS in the Bill Belichick era after a loss, with just 5 instances of back-to-back losses in the past 10 seasons. That record is 27-5 ATS as underdogs or favorites of less than 3 and they are 62-31 ATS as underdogs or favorites of less than 3 overall since 2000.
The Patriots have not played well on the road this season, but home/road disparities tend to be random more than anything. For example, prior to this season, the Patriots were 14-1 in their previous 2 seasons on the road, only losing last year in Miami. Pittsburgh is a place where the Patriots have had a lot of success all-time anyway and the Steelers have not played as well in recent weeks. Running back James Conner could return this week, but even if he does both he and Ben Roethlisberger will be playing hurt. I have this line calculated at -3 and this is a situation where the Patriots usually thrive, so they’re a strong bet if you can get them at less than 3. Even at -3, they have a good chance to at worst push.
New England Patriots 34 Pittsburgh Steelers 27
Pick against the spread: New England -2.5
Arizona Cardinals (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (4-9)
The Falcons have had a disappointing season at 4-9, but their defense got a big boost a couple weeks ago when they got every down linebacker Deion Jones back from the foot injury that kept him out since week 1. The Falcons haven’t won either of the games since he’s been back, but he’s playing well and has resumed his old every down role. It’s obviously a small sample size, but they’ve allowed a 35.64% first down rate in the three games he’s played, as opposed to 44.23% in the 10 games he missed. The schedule gets much easier for the Falcons this week at home against the Cardinals, so I expect their improved defense to be more noticeable in this one than it was on the road in Green Bay.
While the Falcons are getting healthier, the Cardinals are going in the opposite direction. They’ve put their top-3 offensive linemen, DJ Humphries, Mike Iupati, and Justin Pugh, on injured reserve, along with their top receiver Christian Kirk, starting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, and every down linebacker Josh Bynes. They were already one of the worst teams in the league before the injuries and they rank dead last in first down rate differential at -6.98%, They’re arguably the worst team in the league right now and an underrated Falcons team could easily give them their 8th double digit loss of the season.
The Cardinals are also in a tough spot, because they could be looking forward to next week’s home game against the Rams, which they may view as their Super Bowl. Teams typically struggle before being big home underdogs, going 24-45 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 7 or more (the Cardinals are currently +11.5 on the early line). On top of that, underdogs of 7+ are 31-49 ATS over that same time period before being underdogs of 7+ again, as it’s very tough for an inferior team to hang with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck serving as a distraction. The Falcons are in Carolina next week, but that’s not nearly as tough of a game, so I give them a better shot of being focused. They also have a massive talent advantage, even in a disappointing season, and should win easily.
Atlanta Falcons 23 Arizona Cardinals 10
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -9.5