Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
NO +170 vs. CHI
ATL +140 vs. LAR
DEN +150 vs. KC
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
NO +170 vs. CHI
ATL +140 vs. LAR
DEN +150 vs. KC
New England Patriots (6-0) at New York Jets (1-4)
It’s tough to know what to make of the Jets. Week 1, they lost at home to the Bills, despite winning the turnover battle by 3, posting a -12.41% first down rate in the process. Then they lost quarterback Sam Darnold and top defensive player CJ Mosley for and had a -14.45% first down rate over 3 games. Last week, however, the Jets got Darnold back and pulled the surprising upset against a Cowboys team that had won the first down rate battle in each of their first 5 games. Even though they only won that game by 2, the Jets actually won the first down rate battle by 5.26%, so it was an impressive showing in Darnold’s return.
This week, the Jets could be getting CJ Mosley back, but even if he does return they are far from 100%. They will be without their left side of the offensive line, with both Kelvin Beachum and Kelechi Osemele injured, while center Ryan Kalil and right guard Brian Winters are both questionable after being limited in practice on Friday. Also questionable after being limited in practice are wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, cornerback Darryl Roberts, and nose tackle Steve McLendon, while defensive end Henry Anderson, tight end Chris Herndon, and middle linebacker Neville Hewitt are all doubtful.
The Jets also host a tough Patriots team that won the first down rate battle against them by 21.48% in their meeting in New England a few weeks ago. Being at home and having Darnold and Mosley back will definitely help, but with everyone else the Jets are missing, they could still have trouble keeping this game close. The Patriots haven’t faced a tough schedule, but they’ve won all 6 games by an average of 23.7 points per game and lead the league with a very impressive +13.11% first down rate differential. I actually have this line calculated at New England -14, but I wouldn’t bet on the Patriots unless this line falls below 10 because there’s a lot of uncertainty with the Jets and because the Jets could give a big effort at home on Monday Night and keep this closer than expected.
New England Patriots 23 New York Jets 10
Pick against the spread: New England -10
Minnesota Vikings (4-2) at Detroit Lions (2-2-1)
The Lions have arguably had the most exciting season of any team in the league. All 5 games they’ve played have been decided by 4 points or fewer and the game that was decided by 4 points was decided on a last second touchdown. If a few things had gone differently, they could be 5-0 right now, but they could also be 0-5, with both wins coming by exactly a field goal, including one game in which they had a -6.23% first down rate differential, but pulled ahead due to a kickoff return. Their loss in Green Bay last week was controversial because of some bad calls, but they could have still lost that game even without those calls, despite getting gifted a trio of turnovers. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and they lost the first down rate battle convincingly (-9.33%). Their 2-2-1 record is fitting, as this more or less an average team.
The Vikings, meanwhile, look to be emerging as a contender. Quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t having a bad year overall all things considered and if he’s the weak point of this team this team is in pretty good shape. Arguably the most well-rounded team in the league, the Vikings are the only team to rank in the top-10 in both first down rate and first down rate allowed. Overall, they rank 5th in first down rate differential +5.45% and are in 4th in my roster rankings, with no significant injuries to speak of. There are some question marks on their offensive line, but they get right guard Josh Kline back from injury this week and they held their own without him against a tough Philadelphia front last week. I have this line calculated at Minnesota -3, so while we’re not getting much line value with the Vikings at -2, they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Minnesota Vikings 20 Detroit Lions 17
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -2
Arizona Cardinals (2-3-1) at New York Giants (2-4)
This is one of the tougher games of the week to predict. This line favoring the Giants by a field goal at home suggests these two teams are about even and that’s about right. Both the Giants and Cardinals have gotten off to less than stellar starts, with just two wins each against the Buccaneers/Redskins and Bengals/Falcons respectively, but both teams are getting better going forward. The Cardinals are getting top cornerback Patrick Peterson back from a six-game suspension, while the Giants are getting their top two offensive playmakers Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley back from 1-game and 3-game absences respectively. I’m taking the Giants because this is an early game on the East Coast and the Giants are on longer rest, but this is close to a coin flip and a push might be the most likely result.
Final Update: This line has shifted to 3.5 for some reason, so I’m switching this pick to Arizona. This is still a no confidence pick.
New York Giants 26 Arizona Cardinals 23
Pick against the spread: Arizona +3.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-6)
A lot of teams are dealing with tough injury situations, but the Bengals might have the worst injury situation in the entire NFL. Already missing left tackle Cordy Glenn and #1 wide receiver AJ Green to begin the season, the Bengals are also without wide receiver John Ross, backup left tackle Andre Smith, right guard John Miller, their top two edge rushers Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson, and starting cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson. With all of their absences, they are the worst team in the league outside of the Dolphins.
However, I still think we’re getting some line value with them as 4-point home underdogs against the Jaguars. Ever since Minshew Mania went to the next level during the Jaguars’ week 3 victory over the Titans on Thursday Night Football, I have thought the Jaguars are overrated. Even with Gardner Minshew outperforming expectations, the Jaguars still rank just 24th in first down rate differential and he seems to be falling back to earth in recent weeks. The Jaguars rank just 26th in my roster rankings, so they shouldn’t be favored by this many points over anyone except the Dolphins. I have this line calculated at Jacksonville -2, so we’re getting a decent amount of line value with the Bengals, even as banged up as they are. I wouldn’t recommend betting on them though.
Jacksonville Jaguars 19 Cincinnati Bengals 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +4
Baltimore Ravens (4-2) at Seattle Seahawks (5-1)
At 5-1, some are talking about the Seahawks as one of the top teams in the league, but they have a lot of flaws on their roster and are lucky to be 5-1, with 4 of their 5 wins coming by 4 points or fewer. Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level, which masks some of their flaws, but even with him playing as well as he’s playing, the Seahawks still rank just 9th in first down rate differential at +2.34%, despite a relatively easy schedule that has included the Bengals, Steelers, and Cardinals. The Seahawks could still go to 6-1 this week though because they’re at home facing a Ravens team that is also not as good as its record.
Three of the Ravens’ four wins have come by 6 points or fewer, with the only exception being their blowout of the Dolphins. Those wins have also come against the Cardinals, Steelers, and Bengals and the Ravens struggled to put all three teams away. The Ravens get a boost on defense this week with cornerback Marcus Peters coming over from the Rams in a trade, but the Seahawks also add a key player, with defensive tackle Jarran Reed returning from suspension. This line suggests these two teams are about even, which is about right, but I’m taking the Seahawks because the NFC has had a big advantage over the AFC this year (19-10). A push may be the most likely result though.
Seattle Seahawks 30 Baltimore Ravens 27
Pick against the spread: Seattle -3
San Francisco 49ers (5-0) at Washington Redskins (1-5)
The 49ers are just one of two undefeated teams left, along with the New England Patriots. The Patriots have the edge in average margin of victory (23.7 vs. 16.6), but that’s largely due to the Patriots having the significant edge in turnover margin (+9 vs. +2), which tends to be very inconsistent week-to-week. In terms of first down rate differential, the Patriots have only a slight edge at +13.11% vs. +11.44% and the 49ers have faced a tougher schedule, so there’s a case to be made that the 49ers have been the best team in the league thus far.
On the road this week against a Redskins team whose only win came by 1 against the league worst Dolphins, the 49ers are favored by 10 points, which is about right. I am actually going to take the Redskins against the spread for pick ‘em purposes because this could be a let down spot for the 49ers, on the road against a bad team, off of back-to-back big wins over the Browns and Rams, with a game against the 4-2 Panthers on deck. The 49ers could still cover this spread even if they don’t play their best game though, so this is one of my lowest confidence picks.
San Francisco 49ers 26 Washington Redskins 17
Pick against the spread: Washington +10
Miami Dolphins (0-5) at Buffalo Bills (4-1)
The Bills are favored by 17 points at home in this matchup with the Dolphins, the first time the Bills have been favored by this many points since the middle of the Jim Kelly era in 1992. The line is understandable though, as the Dolphins are one of the worst teams of all-time, organized by a coaching staff and front office that is transparently not trying to win this season, while the Bills are having one of their best seasons of the past two decades, even if that isn’t saying much. Their +20 point differential is underwhelming considering their 4-1 record and that they’ve faced a relatively easy schedule, but they have that point differential despite a -3 turnover margin. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and the Bills rank 3rd in first down rate differential at +8.27%, only behind the undefeated Patriots and undefeated 49ers.
When it seemed like Josh Rosen was going to start this game at quarterback for Miami, I considered betting on the Bills, but the Dolphins are seemingly pulling the plug on Rosen and turning back to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is at least somewhat proven and has some ability to handle the enormous amounts of pressure the Dolphins’ offensive line lets up. After taking over for Rosen in a battle of winless teams against the Redskins last week, Fitzpatrick was almost able to lead the comeback and has been the noticeably better quarterback this season. I’m still taking the Bills, but this is a no confidence pick. The Bills still don’t have a great offense, so if the Dolphins can make it to double digits, they have a good chance to cover. Whether or not they can make it to double digits against the Bills’ dominant defense is a big question though.
Buffalo Bills 24 Miami Dolphins 6
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -17
Los Angeles Rams (3-3) at Atlanta Falcons (1-5)
The Rams made a splash move this week to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars for a pair of first round picks, but they still have significant problems on this team. One problem is edge defender, where Clay Matthews remains out with a broken jaw, but the biggest problem area is the offensive line, where they are getting worse play at all five spots across the line as compared to last year.
They lost their starting left guard and starting center this off-season and have gotten terrible play from their replacements, while left tackle Andrew Whitworth is showing his age in his age 38 season, right guard Austin Blythe has played through injuries and has regressed after a breakout 2018 season, and right tackle Rob Havenstein has relatively been a disappointment as well. Quarterback Jared Goff, who has always struggled under pressure, has had an underwhelming season as a result of their suddenly poor offensive line play.
On top of their concerns at edge rusher and on the offensive line, acquiring Ramsey really just allows them to tread water at the cornerback position, as the Rams started the season with a solid outside cornerback duo of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, but lost Talib with an injury and then traded Peters to Baltimore prior to acquiring Ramsey. Even if Ramsey can lock down one receiver by himself, opposing passers can just pick on fellow starting cornerback Troy Hill, a career backup and special teamer.
Ramsey, who will have had little practice time with the Rams prior to this game in Atlanta, does not make this is a good secondary by himself, especially with safety John Johnson also going down with injury. Obviously having Ramsey is better than not, but anyone expecting him to turn this team around by himself is going to be disappointed. Some of their games could have gone either way, but the Rams’ 3-3 record is about right for how they’ve played, as they rank just 14th in first down rate differential at +1.47%. Even with Ramsey, they might not be much better than that going forward.
This game in Atlanta seems like an easy way for the Rams to get back on track at first glance, as the Falcons are just 1-5, but they’ve played better than that suggests. They’ve struggled with turnovers, ranking 5th worst in fumble recovery rate at 31.25% and tied for 4th worst in turnover margin at -5, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 19th at -0.98%.
Their defense has been horrendous, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 43.50% rate, only behind the Dolphins for worst in the league, but their offense has moved the ball well, ranking 3rd in first down rate at 42.53%. The Rams are favored here by a field goal, but I have this line calculated at even, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Falcons pull the upset at home. I don’t want to make a huge bet on the Falcons because their defense has been so awful, especially without top cornerback Desmond Trufant, but this offense has the firepower to keep a shootout close, so they’re worth a bet if you can get the full field goal.
Atlanta Falcons 31 Los Angeles Rams 30 Upset Pick +140
Pick against the spread: Falcons +3
New Orleans Saints (5-1) at Chicago Bears (3-2)
Coming out of the bye, the Bears get quarterback Mitch Trubisky back from a shoulder injury that cost him almost two full games (he got hurt 3 pass attempts into week 4), but I’m not sure how much that matters for this struggling offense. The Bears only had a 30.51% first down rate in the two games Trubisky missed, but they weren’t much better in his 3 starts, picking up first downs at a 32.96% rate, and they rank just 28th in the NFL overall with a 31.99% first down rate. Trubisky had seemingly regressed in his third season in the league before his injury and the rest of this Bears’ offense has struggled as well, with and without Trubisky.
They still have a strong defense, but they aren’t quite as dominant as last year, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 34.24%. They lost talented safety Adrian Amos and key slot cornerback Bryce Callahan in free agency, while 2018 breakout star Eddie Jackson has not had the same kind of year in 2019. Losing defensive end Akiem Hicks, one of their best defensive players a year ago, indefinitely with an injury won’t help matters. The public doesn’t seem to have caught on that the Bears aren’t the same team as last year though, as they are favored by 4 points here at home over the Saints, suggesting they are noticeably the better team in this matchup.
The Saints have had some good luck to get to 5-1 (4-0 with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under center) and their offense has been noticeably worse without Brees, moving the chains at a 33.22% rate with Bridgewater in the game, as opposed to the 43.48% rate they moved the chains in 2018 in Brees’ starts. However, their defense has also been much improved in recent weeks, allowing a 29.88% first down rate in 3 games since defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins returned from injury, as opposed to 40.31% in their first 3 games of the season. When Brees returns, this team should be very tough to beat.
Even with feature back Alvin Kamara also out of the lineup this week, I have the Saints as 3 points better than the overrated Bears, suggesting this line should be about even, so we’re getting significant line value with the Saints as 4-point underdogs, with about 30% of games decided by 4 points or fewer. The Saints may not win straight up, but they have a good shot to pull the “upset” and move to 6-1 and even if they don’t this is likely to be a defensive battle that could easily come down to a field goal. I like getting 4 points with the Saints here.
New Orleans Saints 17 Chicago Bears 16 Upset Pick +170
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +4