Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (1-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-3)

This is a matchup of two teams that are both better than their record. The Titans are just 2-3, but their two wins came by a combined 44 points, while their 3 losses came by a combined 22 points, giving them a +22 point differential that is best in the NFL and best among teams with a losing record. That’s despite the fact that they missed 4 field goals in a 7-point home loss last week. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 11th at +2.52%. 

The Titans’ defense is the strength of their team, ranking 4th in first down rate allowed, as it was last year, when they also ranked 4th in first down rate allowed, but, with a healthy Marcus Mariota under center, their offense isn’t bad either, ranking 22nd in first down rate. The Titans went 6-2 for a stretch last season with a healthy Mariota under center, including wins over the Patriots and Cowboys, and went 9-7 overall despite playing 9 playoff teams (4-5). They’ve had some bad luck early in the year, but they could easily go on a similar 6-2 run at some point this season.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are 1-4, but they could easily have 2 or 3 wins, with two of their losses coming on last second field goals. Their average margin of defeat in their four losses is 5.75 points and they rank a decent 19th in first down rate differential at -0.81%. If these two teams were playing other teams this week, we likely would have gotten line value with both of them. Unfortunately, they are playing each other, so this line, favoring the Broncos at home by 1.5 points, is exactly what I have it calculated it, so we aren’t getting significant line value with either side.

The Titans are in a better spot though, as the Broncos have to turn around and face the Chiefs next week, while the Titans host the Chargers. Underdogs are 67-29 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Making matters worse for the Broncos, that game against the Chiefs is in 4 days on Thursday Night Football and favorites cover at just a 43.8% rate all-time before a short week. I’d need a full field goal to bet the Titans confidently, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line is a smart bet as well.

Tennessee Titans 19 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1.5

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (3-2) at New York Jets (0-4)

The narrative with the Cowboys right now is that they play well against weak competition, but struggle in big games. Their 3 wins have come against teams that are a combined 2-13, while their 2 losses have come against teams that are a combined 8-2, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In both of their losses, they won the first down rate battle, losing the two games in large part due to a combined -5 turnover margin, which tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. They also won the first down rate battle by a combined 10.98% in their three wins, which came by an average of 17.7 points per game, so it’s not as if they were barely squeaking out wins against their easier opponents. On the season, they rank 3rd in first down rate differential at 8.86%, only behind the Patriots and 49ers. 

They also get another easy game this week, going to New York to face the 0-4 Jets. The Jets do get quarterback Sam Darnold back this week from a 3-game absence, but I’m not convinced he can turn this team around. Not only might he not be 100% in his first game back, but quarterback is far from the only problem the Jets have. They rank 2nd worst in the NFL with a -13.55% first down rate differential and even with Darnold on the field week 1 they had a -12.41% first down rate differential, in a game they lost at home to the Bills despite winning the turnover battle by 3. 

Their defense remains without top linebacker CJ Mosley and likely remains without their only capable edge defender Jordan Jenkins. Their offensive line and receiving corps both have significant issues that have caused the Jets to pick up just 45 first downs and score just 2 offensive touchdowns in their first 4 games. Getting Darnold back should help even if he’s not at 100%, but him coming back isn’t going to save this team. I still have them ranked 28th in my roster rankings.

I’m concerned the Cowboys will likely be without their two starting offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, who were as good as any duo in the NFL before injuries, but fill-in left tackle Cameron Fleming has experience and the Jets don’t have the edge rushers to exploit the Cowboys’ injuries. Even with Smith and Collins out, I have this line calculated at Dallas -10. There’s not enough here to bet the Cowboys confidently, especially because they could be looking ahead to a matchup with the Eagles next week, but the Jets are in a look ahead spot as well, with the Patriots coming to town next week, and the Cowboys should be the right side.

Dallas Cowboys 26 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: Dallas -7

Confidence: Low

Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (0-5) at Miami Dolphins (0-4)

This is the first time two winless teams have met this late in the season since 2004, when the Dolphins and Bills met in Buffalo, with the Bills winning by 7 as 5-point favorites. Since 1989, this is just the 4th meeting of winless teams this late in the season. In the previous 3 instances, the road team had never been favored by more than 2.5, but the Redskins are favored by 3.5 points in this one, actually making them the first winless team ever to be favored by this many points on the road late in the season.

It’s easy to understand why though, as the Dolphins simply have not resembled a professional football team through 4 games thus far this season. Their -21.14% first down rate differential is last by a mile, with only the Jets at -13.55% coming close. So far this season, there have been 6 instances of a team losing the first down rate battle by 20% this season. Three of those instances were the Dolphins and they’ve played one game fewer than most teams in the league. They start below average starters at most positions and the few talented players they have don’t seem to be trying hard for a coaching staff and front office that transparently doesn’t care about winning this season. 

This line was actually -6 on the early line last week, before the Redskins’ blowout loss to the Patriots, and I think it should still be calculated at -5.5, since the Redskins getting blown out by the Patriots was to be expected. The Redskins also get back a pair of starting offensive linemen from injury this week, with both center Chase Rouiller and right guard Brandon Scherff, their top offensive lineman overall, set to return to their usual spots this week after 2-game absences. They also get quarterback Case Keenum back and he should be an upgrade over Colt McCoy, even if he’s not a great starter.

That being said, I can’t recommend betting the Redskins or wanting to bet this game at all. Both teams are terrible and, while the Redskins seem to not be as terrible as the Dolphins, that may not end up being the case. Both teams are also in terrible spots, with the Dolphins going on the road to Buffalo next week (Buffalo -15.5 on the early line) and the Redskins hosting the 49ers (San Francisco -8.5 on the early line). Road favorites are just 24-50 ATS before being home underdogs since 2012, while teams are 26-57 ATS since 2016 before being double digit underdogs. The Redskins are my pick, but only for pick ‘em purposes.

Washington Redskins 26 Miami Dolphins 21

Pick against the spread: Washington -3.5

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)

I was hoping we’d see significant line movement in this game as a result of the Browns’ blowout loss in San Francisco on Monday Night Football, so we’d get a good line to bet this game. The Browns looked awful in San Francisco, but that was a really tough spot for them, facing a legitimately great 49ers team at night (East Coast teams are at a huge disadvantage against West Coast teams at night), and the Browns have been up and down all year and could easily be back up this week at home.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are not nearly as good as their 4-1 record would suggest. Their first 3 wins came against teams are a combined 2-12-1 right now, with two of those wins decided by a field goal or less. Their fourth win came last week against the Rams, but that’s not as impressive as it sounds, as the Rams blew a makeable game winning field goal at the end and the Rams have not been as good as their record suggests either, with their first two wins coming against teams that had injured quarterbacks. 

The Seahawks certainly aren’t a bad team, but they rank just 13th in first down rate differential, despite a relatively easy schedule, and this team has too many weaknesses to be considered a true Super Bowl contender as many have anointed them following their close win over the Rams. They’ll also be without left tackle Duane Brown and right guard DJ Fluker in this game, a big blow considering those have been their best two offensive linemen thus far this season. Offensive line was already not a strength for this team, so they could have a lot of trouble keeping the Browns out of their backfield in this game.

Unfortunately, we aren’t getting the line value I expected with the Browns in this game. This line has shifted 4 points in the past week, going from Cleveland -2 on the early line last week to Seattle -2 now, but just 7.5% of games are decided by 2 or fewer points, so that’s largely superficial line movement. I have this line calculated at even, so if the Browns were field goal underdogs, they’d be a smart bet this week, but it’s hard to bet them confidently without field goal protection. 

The one thing that would get me to reconsider that is if one or both of the Browns’ starting cornerbacks end up playing. Neither Denzel Ward nor Greedy Williams have played since week 2, but both returned to practice in a limited fashion this week, so both have a chance to suit up. Until that’s confirmed, I can only recommend the money line, but I could easily have an update on this game tomorrow morning.

Cleveland Browns 20 Seattle Seahawks 19 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +2

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (1-4) at Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1)

Going into the season, I thought the Falcons had a good chance to be significantly improved in 2019, after their 2018 season was derailed by injuries to key players like running back Devonta Freeman, linebacker Deion Jones, and safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, who all missed close to the whole season last season. Instead, the Falcons have gotten off to a horrible 1-4 start and rank 28th in the NFL with a -50 point differential, only ahead of the four winless teams.

Turnovers were the problem to start the season, but in the past two weeks they’ve been outscored by a combined 35 points against the Titans and Texans in games in which they had a combined -1 turnover margin. Devonta Freeman and Ricardo Allen have not returned to form after their injuries. Keanu Neal is out for the season again. Damontee Kazee, who was a solid starting safety last year in the absence of Neal and Allen, has struggled mightily in his new spot at cornerback. 

Deion Jones has been healthy and has played well, but, while the Falcons’ defense was not bad down the stretch with him healthy last year, that has not carried over into 2019. A defense that allowed a 41.13% first down rate in 2018 (31st in the NFL) and a 36.36% first down rate in the games in which Jones was healthy has allowed a ridiculous 43.73% first down rate allowed in 2019, which would be the worst in the NFL if the Dolphins weren’t a historically bad team. Their offense actually ranks 5th in first down rate at 40.00%, despite the lack of a running game, but even still the Falcons rank 27th as a team in first down rate differential. Making matters worse on defense, they will be without top cornerback Desmond Trufant in this game due to injury. 

The Cardinals aren’t a great team, ranking 28th in first down rate differential and 27th in my roster rankings, but I still have this line calculated at even, so the Cardinals have a good chance to win this game outright at home. We aren’t getting great line value with the Cardinals at +2.5, but they’re in a much better spot than the Falcons, who have to turn around and host the Rams next week. Road favorites are just 24-50 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs, which the Falcons almost definitely will be next week. I wish we were getting the full field goal, but the Cardinals should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line is worth a bet as well.

Update: This line has moved up to a field goal in some places. The Cardinals are worth a bet at that number.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Atlanta Falcons 24 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-2) in London

This is the first rematch of the year, as these two division rivals already met back in week 2. The Buccaneers pulled the 20-14 upset in Carolina on Thursday Night Football earlier this year, but the Panthers had a shot to win that game at the end, despite a truly horrible performance from a severely injured Cam Newton on a short week. Not only did Newton complete just 49.0% of his 51 passes in that game, but many of the incompletions were completely his fault, as he was missing open receivers left and right. His expected completion percentage based on the throws he attempted was 60.7% and his completion percentage above expected of -11.7% was the worst of any quarterback who started and finished a game that week. 

After that loss, Newton admitted his foot injury was worse than anyone knew and shut himself down for the good of the team, allowing backup Kyle Allen to take over until Newton is back to 100%. Allen has started all 3 games since and, while he hasn’t been incredible, he has been far more accurate, with a +2.8% completion percentage above expected (11th in the NFL) and, simply by being a serviceable NFL quarterback, he has led this team to victories in all 3 starts. Considering they lost by just 3 points week 1 to a Rams team that covered all 4 fumbles in the game, with Newton at far less than 100%, it’s not hard to make the argument that the Panthers could be 5-0 right now if they had a healthy quarterback under center all season.

Some of the Panthers’ wins have been close and they “only” rank 12th in first down rate differential at +2.32%, but this is a pretty complete football team and, with serviceable quarterback play, they are one of the better teams in the league. The Buccaneers, whose defense has fallen back to earth over the past couple weeks (46.62% first down rate allowed) after a strong statistical start to the season (30.73% first down rate allowed through 3 games), should have a much tougher time stopping the Panthers’ offense this time around. The better team tends to cover in these international matchups as well (favorites are 23-11 ATS all-time), which also favors the Panthers.

As 2-point favorites, the Panthers have to just win to cover this game, so they should be the right side. However, their injury situation concerns me enough to not bet them, as the Panthers will be without a pair of starters on the offensive line (left tackle Greg Little and right guard Trai Turner) and possibly starting cornerback Donte Jackson, who has missed the past two games and was downgraded to a limited practice on Friday after practicing in full earlier in the week. 

The Panthers haven’t lost a game without those three, but their absence caps the team’s upside. Without them, I have this line calculated at just Carolina -3, so we’re not getting enough line value to bet the Panthers. If Jackson ends up playing and the Buccaneers’ top edge rusher Shaq Barrett, who was a late add to the injury report this week, ends up not playing, I will reconsider this pick, but for now it doesn’t seem like Barrett is in much danger of missing this game.

Carolina Panthers 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Carolina -2

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (3-2)

Last week, when I picked the Vikings to cover against the Giants, I said I thought they would be a team that would look great against easy competition, but struggle to win big games. Part of my reasoning for that is that quarterback Kirk Cousins has typically struggled against tougher competition. Dating back to his first full season as a starter in 2014, Cousins is just 7-20 in week 4 or later against teams that are above .500. Even with a better supporting cast with the Vikings, he was 1-5 last season and has already lost this season to the Packers and Bears (while beating the Falcons, Giants, and Raiders by a combined 54 points).

The Eagles, who rank 2nd in my roster rankings, certainly qualify as tough competition, even as the visitors in this game. They’re just 3-2, but they won the first down rate battle in their loss to the Lions and have arguably the most complete roster in the NFL. The Vikings have a strong roster as well, but I still have this line calculated at even, and that’s before taking into account Cousins’ struggles against tougher competition. As field goal underdogs, the Eagles are worth a bet and I like their chances of pulling the straight up upset as well.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Minnesota Vikings 23 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: Medium