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

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (4-0) at Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Even though the 49ers are undefeated at 4-0, this line at Rams -3.5 suggests that the Rams are the slightly better team. I disagree with that. The 49ers have gotten off to an incredible start to the season, with a first down rate differential of +12.17% that ranks 2nd in the NFL only behind the 6-0 Patriots, who are only slightly better at +13.11%. The Patriots have the better average margin of victory (23.7 vs. 17.5), but that’s largely due to the Patriots having the significant edge in turnover margin (+9 vs. +3), which tends to be very inconsistent week-to-week. 

The 49ers haven’t played the toughest schedule, but their schedule has been tougher than the Patriots’ schedule, so there’s a case to be made that the 49ers have been the best team in the league thus far. Last season, even without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for most of the year due to injury, they still had a decent -0.05% first down rate and were significantly better than their 4-12 record suggested. Now Garoppolo is healthy and their defense is significantly improved due to the off-season addition of edge defenders Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander.

The Rams, meanwhile, are just 3-2 and, though they could have easily won on Thursday Night Football last week, when they missed a makeable game winning field goal, they also easily could have lost their first 2 games of the season if they weren’t facing teams with injured quarterbacks. Their offensive line has not nearly been as good as it has been in recent years, with a pair of starters leaving in free agency and several holdovers having down years in 2019, including aging veteran Andrew Whitworth. They rank just 10th in first down rate differential at +2.67%, despite not facing that tough of a schedule. 

The 49ers’ injuries are starting to concern me, as right tackle Mike McGlinchey will join left tackle Joe Staley and cornerback Athello Witherspoon on the sidelines, but the Rams will be without edge defender Clay Matthews, running back Todd Gurley, and cornerback Aqib Talib, all of whom are missing their first game of the season, so they may be in an even worse injury situation. The 49ers are also in a good spot, as teams tend to do well off of a Monday Night Football blowout victory (27-14 ATS since 2002 after a win by 24+ on MNF). The 49ers are the better team and, in a good spot, they have a good chance to win this game straight up, even on the road. As 3.5 point underdogs, they are a great bet against the spread and they are worth a bet at +3 as well. 

San Francisco 49ers 26 Los Angeles Rams 24 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +3.5

Confidence: High

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)

The Chiefs got off to an impressive 4-0 start, but they’ve run into some trouble. Last week, they surprisingly lost at home to a Colts team that was missing several key players on defense. Now they host a strong Texans team and they’ll have to do it at far less than 100%. Their biggest absence is defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is the best player on a defense that ranks 28th in first down rate allowed even with him on the field. Without him, they’ll have a lot of trouble stopping a Houston team that ranks 4th in first down rate. 

On top of the absence of Jones, they’ll also be without a pair of starting offensive linemen (Eric Fisher and Andrew Wyile) and leading wide receiver Sammy Watkins. They could get wide receiver Tyreek Hill back for the first time since week 1, which would make up for Watkins’ absence, but that’s far from a guarantee and he may be limited in his first game back even if he plays. Meanwhile, quarterback Pat Mahomes could be at less than 100% with an ankle injury, which was a big problem against the Colts.

With everyone that the Chiefs are missing, the Texans, who are relatively healthy, rank several spots higher than the Chiefs in my roster rankings. They also have a higher first down rate differential (+5.14% vs. +4.27%) and are in a better spot, with the Chiefs having to play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, a 43.8% cover spot for favorites. I hate how much line value we’ve lost in the last week (the early line was Houston +8.5 last week, but it has since moved to +4.5), but I have this line calculated at even, so we’re still getting significant value with the underdog. I like the Texans +4.5 as my Pick of the Week and I think the money line is a smart bet as well.

Houston Texans 31 Kansas City Chiefs 30 Upset Pick +170

Pick against the spread: Houston +4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New York Giants at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 6 NFL Pick

New York Giants (2-3) at New England Patriots (5-0)

The Patriots have won their first five games by an average of 24.2 points per game and lead the NFL with a +12.57% first down rate differential. Their +121 point differential is already better than all but five teams last season, including the 2018 Patriots. They’ve faced an easy schedule, with their first 5 opponents going a combined 4-10 in their other games, but the schedule doesn’t get any harder this week, with the Giants coming to town. Not only are the Giants one of the weaker teams in the league, but they come into this game missing a significant number of key players due to injury. They will be without star running back Saquon Barkley, backup Wayne Gallman, their two leading receivers Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, and possibly starting edge defender Lorenzo Carter. 

It’s also very tough for an inferior team to go on the road on a short week and compete on the road against a non-divisional foe, as teams are just 16-35 ATS as non-divisional road underdogs on Thursday Night Football, including 1-9 ATS as underdogs of 10+. It’s hard to imagine the shorthanded Giants not getting blown out on a short week in New England. I have this line calculated at New England -20 and that doesn’t even take into account the short week. I have no problem laying this many points and confidently betting on the Patriots this week.

New England Patriots 34 New York Giants 10

Pick against the spread: New England -17

Confidence: High