Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
SEA +135 @ LAR
BUF +125 @ ARZ
LAC +110 @ MIA
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
SEA +135 @ LAR
BUF +125 @ ARZ
LAC +110 @ MIA
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) at Green Bay Packers (6-2)
This is a tough call. On one hand, I think this line is a little high at 13.5. The Jaguars rank 31st in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -5.78%, but their defense should be better going forward. Not only will their defense likely be better by default, given that they currently rank dead last in first down rate allowed over expected at 4.27% and that defenses tend to be very inconsistent week-to-week, but they’re also healthier than they’ve been, with their top cornerback CJ Henderson, their top linebacker Myles Jack, their top safety Jarrod Wilson, and their top edge defender Josh Allen all missing time early in the season and having since returned.
Their offense which ranks 26th in first down rate over expected at -1.51% might not be improving going forward, especially with sixth round rookie Jake Luton under center now in place of the injured Gardiner Minshew, even though Luton did show some promise last week, but if their defense can be better going forward, they should be more competitive as a team than they’ve been. The Packers, meanwhile, obviously have a good offense, but their defense is middling at best and, without fans in Lambeau, it’s hard to justify them being favored by this many points over anyone except the Jets.
On the other hand, the Jaguars have to turn around and play another tough game against the Steelers next week and it’s tough for inferior teams to keep it close against a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. Since 2014, underdogs of a touchdown or more are 50-77 ATS before being underdogs of a touchdown or more the following week, which the Jaguars almost definitely will be next week. Earlier today when the line was -13, I was going to take the Packers, but the line has moved to 13.5, so I’m now on the Jaguars. That’s how close this one is for me.
Green Bay Packers 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 21
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +13.5
Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)
The Bengals are 2-5-1, while the Steelers are the league’s last remaining unbeaten team at 8-0, but the Bengals have been competitive in most of their games, losing just once by more than a touchdown, while the Steelers haven’t been blowing people out, with just one win by more than 10 points and five wins by one score or less. That’s despite the fact that the Steelers haven’t faced that tough of a schedule, including close contests with the Texans, the Jeff Driskel led Broncos, and the Garrett Gilbert led Cowboys.
Given that both of these teams play a lot of games and that this line is 7, you might think I’m leaning strongly towards the Bengals, but the Bengals are worse than their box scores suggest, as their close losses to the Colts and the Browns came in games in which the Bengals lost the first down rate battle by 8.20% and 5.56% respectively. The Bengals lost to the Colts despite winning the turnover battle and they needed to go 5 for 5 on 4th down and get a last second garbage time touchdown to cut it to a single score against the Browns. They’ve also faced a relatively easy schedule and, in total, rank just 29th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -3.10%.
The Steelers, meanwhile, rank 6th in schedule adjusted first down rate at +2.22%. They’ve been carried by a defense that ranks 3rd in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.21%, while their offense ranks 28th in first down rate over expected at -1.99%, and typically defensive led teams are not as good of bets as offensive led teams because defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance, but the Steelers have been one of the best defenses in the league for a year and a half now and, even if they have some regression from their defense going forward, they should be able to more than compensate for it with improved offensive play, as my roster rankings suggest they’ve significantly underperformed their offensive talent this season.
My calculated line is Pittsburgh -9, so we’re getting some line value with the Steelers at -7, and Pittsburgh is also in a good spot, with only an easy game against the Jaguars on deck. Since 2014, favorites of a touchdown or more are 56-31 ATS before being favorites of a touchdown or more again the following week, which the Steelers almost definitely will be again next week. It’s very tough for inferior teams to keep it close with superior teams when the superior team is focused without any upcoming distractions on the schedule. In a normal week, I might consider a bet on Pittsburgh, but with Ben Roethlisberger and others missing practice this week due to control tracing protocols, I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers 26 Cincinnati Bengals 16
Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -7
Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)
A couple weeks ago, coming out of their week 7 bye, I compared the Vikings to the 2019 Atlanta Falcons, who went 1-7 before their bye week before going 6-2 in their final 8 games. The Falcons had a first down rate differential of +1.33% in their first 8 games, but had a turnover margin of -11 that was the 2nd worst in the league at the time, which made winning any games very difficult, leading to the 1-7 record. Likewise, the Vikings had a schedule adjusted +2.73% first down rate differential, but struggled to win games for other reasons and went just 1-5 in their first 6 games.
Fortunately for the Vikings (and last year’s Falcons), per play success stats like first down rate tend to be much more consistent and predictive in the long run than stats like turnover margin that only tell what happened on a small percentage of a team’s snaps. The Falcons weren’t drastically better in first down rate differential over their 6-2 stretch at +2.02%, but their turnover margin improved to +6, making it much easier for the Falcons to win games.
The Vikings weren’t killed by the turnover margin quite as much as last year’s Falcons, but they still ranked 3rd worst in the league at -7 through week 7, as they recovered just 35.71% of fumbles, while quarterback Kirk Cousins threw interceptions at a rate 2.5 times higher than his career average and over 3 times higher than his previous 3 seasons. Both of those things were unlikely to continue. Also unlikely to continue was the Vikings allowing 19 of 19 field goals against and having -31.8% 4th down conversion rate disparity.
It wasn’t hard to see how that had led to the Vikings losing otherwise winnable games, as they were a failed 4th down conversation away from clinching the game in Seattle and lost by 1 to the Titans in a game in which the Titans made 6 of 6 field goals, including a trio from 50+ and a 55-yard game winner. The Vikings could have easily been 3-3 over their first 6 games, despite a relatively tough schedule, and that doesn’t even take into account that the Vikings fared much better on a per play basis than the final score suggests in losses in Green Bay and Atlanta, or that the Vikings were missing top offensive player Dalvin Cook in that Atlanta loss.
Seeing the Vikings as very underrated, I bet them my Pick of the Week in back-to-back weeks and they rewarded me both times, pulling an upset by 6 points as 7-point underdogs in Green Bay and then beating the Lions by 14 points as 3.5-point favorites. Unfortunately, the public and the oddsmakers are starting to catch up, as evidenced by this line shifting from Chicago -1.5 on the early line last week to Minnesota -3 this week, but we’re still getting good line value with the Vikings, who remain at least somewhat underrated.
Despite their tough schedule, they could easily be 5-3 right now and they still have several significant stats that should improve going forward, including their league leading 95.45% opponent’s field goal percentage, Kirk Cousins’ 4.78% interception rate, which is still double his career average, and a 30th ranked 37.50% fumble recovery rate. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Vikings rank 7th and, while they might not be quite that good, they also rank 12th in my roster rankings, so they should continue playing at a high level going forward.
This line value is also in part due to the Bears being overrated. Everyone knows the Bears’ five wins have all come by one score, including four games that all came down to the final play and a pair of nearly impossible comebacks, but what’s not mentioned enough is that in three of their four losses, they were down by 16 points, 21 points, and 21 points in the 4th quarter before some meaningless late scores, against the Colts, Titans, and Rams, comparable caliber teams to the Vikings.
In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Bears rank 22nd at -0.67% and there is reason to believe they’ll be worse than that going forward. They’ve been very reliant on a defense that ranks 7th in first down rate allowed over expected to cover for an offense that ranks 31st in first down rate over expected, which is a problem because defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance.
Their offense also may even be worse than their rank suggests, as they will be without a trio of starting offensive linemen, left guard Mike Daniels, center Cody Whitehair, and right tackle Bobby Massie, as well as feature back David Montgomery. If their defense doesn’t play well every week, this team doesn’t have much of a shot to win games and even talented defenses can be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis.
Even with this line moving to -3, I still think this line is off significantly, as I have the Vikings calculated at -6. The Bears have next to no homefield advantage in Chicago without fans and the disparity between those two teams’ is massive (Minnesota ranking 5th and Chicago 31st) on offense, which is by far the more predictive side of the ball. The Vikings should be able to win by at least a field goal pretty easily, so I’m rolling with Minnesota as my Pick of the Week for the third straight week. They’re not as underrated as they’ve been, but the Bears are overrated and there isn’t another great Pick of the Week option this week.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Chicago Bears 17
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -3
Confidence: Pick of the Week
Houston Texans (2-6) at Cleveland Browns (5-3)
The Browns are 5-3, but their 5 wins have come by a combined 42 points, while their 3 losses have come by a combined 73 points, giving them a point differential of -31 which ranks 24th in the league. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Browns have been even worse, ranking 27th at -1.56%. However, there is reason to believe they can be better than that going forward.
For one, their issues have been concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 30th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.96%, while their offense ranks 9th in first down rate over expected at +1.39%. Defensive performance tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance and my roster rankings suggest the Browns have significantly underperformed their talent level on defense, so I would expect them to be better on that side of the ball going forward, possibly a lot better.
On offense, meanwhile, the Browns are getting significantly healthier. Wide receiver Odell Beckham isn’t coming back, but quarterback Baker Mayfield played at less than 100% for much of the first half of the season and the Browns also get a trio of starters back from absences coming out of their bye this week, with running back Nick Chubb, right guard Wyatt Teller, and tight end Austin Hooper returning from absences of 4 games, 3 games, and 2 games respectively. All three players are key players, especially Chubb and Teller, who led the way for this dominant rushing attack earlier in the season, and with them back in the lineup, the Browns figure to be even better offensively in the second half of the season.
In their first game out of the bye, the Browns will host the Texans, which should be a relatively easy matchup. The Texans have faced above average teams all of their losses, but they’ve lost by an average of 13.4 points per game, while their two wins have come by an average of 9.0 points per game, both against a Jaguars team that is one of the worst in the league. They rank 30th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -3.15% and, though they are better than that in my roster rankings, they aren’t well coached and could easily continue to underachieve. Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Browns at -4 (my calculated line is Cleveland -6), but the Browns should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.
Cleveland Browns 30 Houston Texans 24
Pick against the spread: Cleveland -4
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) at New York Giants (2-7)
The Eagles had their bye last week and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Eagles will come out of their bye as healthy as they’ve been all season. Defensive tackles Malik Jackson (1 game missed) and Javon Hargrave (1 game), linebacker TJ Edwards (3 games), left tackle Jason Peters (4 games), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (8 games) and Jalen Raegor (5 games), right tackle Lane Johnson (3 games), running back Miles Sanders (3 games), tight end Dallas Goedert (4 games), and possibly left guard Isaac Seumalo (6 games) are all suiting up this week.
The Eagles haven’t been terrible all things considered this season and, now as healthy as they’ve been, they rank 16th in my roster rankings and have a good chance to be at least competitive going forward if they can stay healthy. On top of that, even injuries aside, the bye week will be beneficial for this team just for rest purposes. Teams typically do pretty well as significant road favorites out of a bye, going 76-41-1 ATS since 1989 as road favorites of 3+ after a bye week, and the Eagles fit the trend as 4-point favorites in New York against the Giants this week.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting any line value with the Eagles at -4 because the Giants are an underrated team, particularly on offense, where they rank 14th in first down rate over expected at +0.72%. That may seem surprising, but it makes sense when you take a deeper look, as the Giants actually only rank 27th in first down rate at 2.50% below average, but have faced a brutal schedule that suggests they should have been 3.22% below average, so the Giants are actually beating expectations. Of their 9 games, 7 have come against top-10 defenses, the WFT twice (1st), the Buccaneers (2nd), the Steelers (3rd), the Rams (4th), the Bears (7th), and the 49ers (10th).
The Giants might not be quite as good as the 14th best offense in the league and they aren’t on paper in my roster rankings, but it’s very possible they’re a capable offense that has been made to look bad by a brutal defensive schedule. They’ve also been better in recent weeks since getting wide receiver Sterling Shepard back from injury. In my roster rankings, I have them just 2.5 points behind the Eagles overall, which gives us a calculated line of Philadelphia -2 (half point for the Giants being at home with no fans) rather than -4. I’m still taking the Eagles for pick ‘em purposes out of their bye week, but this is a no confidence pick.
Philadelphia Eagles 25 New York Giants 20
Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4
Seattle Seahawks (6-2) at Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
The Seahawks are 6-2, but four of their six wins have come by one score, including a pair that came down to fourth down stops against the Vikings and Patriots, and they rank just 17th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential. However, there is reason to expect they will be better going forward. The Seahawks have been carried by their offense, ranking 6th in first down rate over expected at 2.38%, but just 26th in first down rate allowed over expected at 2.27%, and offensive performance tends to be much more consistent on a week-to-week than defensive performance. If the Seahawks can even be an average defense going forward, they’re going to be a very tough opponent for anyone.
There are reasons to be optimistic for this Seahawks’ defense, as they got safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence last week and they also added defensive end Carlos Dunlap in a trade with the Bengals, but they may need to be healthier at the cornerback position before they can be significantly improved on the defensive side of the ball, with their top-3 cornerbacks Shaq Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, and Ugo Amadi all out for this one.
Still, I like their chances of bouncing back this week, purely because losing back-to-back games has been rare for this team in the Russell Wilson era, as they are 27-11-3 ATS and 33-8 straight up after a loss since 2012. On top of that, the Seahawks are also 23-12-3 ATS as underdogs in the Russell Wilson era. The Seahawks have also typically been a better team in the second half of the second with Wilson, going 42-20-2 ATS in games 9-16, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8. They almost always seem to find a way to get better as the season goes on and it definitely wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case again this season.
This week, the Seahawks play a Rams team that has a significant defensive edge, but is not nearly as good offensively. I have the Seahawks 1 point better than the Rams in my roster rankings even with all of their cornerback injuries, so we’re getting good line value with the Seahawks as 2-point road underdogs in a stadium that won’t have any fans. There isn’t quite enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line at +115 is a good bet as well, as the Seahawks should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up.
Update: This is a late update, but this line has moved to 3 in some places before gametime. I would bet the Seahawks at that number.
Seattle Seahawks 26 Los Angeles Rams 24 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: Seattle +3
Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) at Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Sitting at 3-3, coming off back-to-back wins by 24 points, the Dolphins made the surprising move during their bye week to bench veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for rookie Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa was drafted by the Dolphins with the 5th overall pick and was obviously the future of the position after the 38-year-old Fitzpatrick, but Fitzpatrick was solid last season as the starting quarterback, while Tagovailoa was still working back from a serious leg injury suffered at the end of his collegiate career, so it always seemed likely that Fitzpatrick would be the starter in 2020 unless he struggled mightily. Instead, even with Fitzpatrick playing similarly to last season and winning games despite poor offensive line play, the Dolphins took a big chance and went with the unproven rookie instead.
The Dolphins have continued winning, extending their winning streak to 4 games with wins in each of Tagovailoa’s first two starts, but the jury is still very much out on Tagovailoa. He struggled mightily in his debut against the Rams, with the Dolphins winning that game primarily because of defense and special teams and, while he looked much better in his second start, outdueling Kyler Murray in Arizona, that performance came against a weak Arizona defense that was also missing multiple starters with injury and illness. It’s very possible the Dolphins would be 5-3 regardless of their quarterback swap, so time will tell whether or not it was the right short-term decision for this team in 2020.
This week Tagovailoa will square off with the quarterback drafted one spot behind him, Justin Herbert, who went 6th overall to the Chargers. Herbert didn’t take as long to get into the starting lineup, although it took a fluke injury to veteran starter Tyrod Taylor to give Herbert his initial start in week 2, after Taylor won the season opener in Cincinnati. Since being plugged into the lineup, Herbert has won just one game, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that win came by 10 in a game in which the Chargers won the first down rate battle by 12.24%, while his 6 losses have all come by one score or less, including near victories over the Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Saints, who are among the best teams in the league.
By comparison, the Dolphins have faced a pretty easy schedule and they have benefitted from things like a +5 turnover margin, a +3 return touchdown margin, and a 55.56% opponent’s field goal percentage, three things that tend to be totally unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Dolphins rank 25th at -1.36%, well behind the Chargers, who rank 5th at +2.28%. The Dolphins have the slight edge on offense, ranking 19th in first down rate over expected at -0.23%, while the Chargers rank 25th at -1.44%, which is significant because offensive performance is much more predictive than defensive performance, but the Dolphins’ offense has statistically been worse overall with Tagovailoa under center rather than Fitzpatrick and the Chargers have a big edge on defense.
The Chargers are missing probably their most important defensive player in defensive end Joey Bosa, but this isn’t his first absence and otherwise they’re much healthier than they’ve been, as key players like defensive end Melvin Ingram (3 games missed), defensive tackle Justin Jones (3 games missed), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (4 games missed), wide receiver Mike Williams (1 game missed), and right guard Trai Turner (7 games missed) are all set to play this week.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, will be without #2 wide receiver Preston Williams and two of their most important defensive players Christian Wilkins and Kyle Van Noy this week for the first time this season. In their current states, I have the Chargers 2.5 points better than Miami in my roster rankings, so we’re getting some line value with them as 1.5 point road underdogs. There isn’t quite enough here for the Chargers to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line at +110 is a good bet as well, as the Chargers should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up.
Update: Kyle Van Noy must have been a false positive because he was cleared to play after just a day in the COVID protocol, while Wilkins remains out. Van Noy’s presence will be a boost to Miami’s defense, but I still have the Chargers as just slightly better than 50/50 to pull the upset. I would lower this a couple confidence points though, with Van Noy in the lineup.
Los Angeles Chargers 17 Miami Dolphins 16 Upset Pick +110
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +1.5
Washington Football Team (2-6) at Detroit Lions (3-5)
The Lions have lost back-to-back games by multiple touchdowns, pushing them down to 27th in point differential at -43, but they still continue to be overrated, favored by 4.5 points at home over the Washington Football Team. The Lions have been even worse than their point differential suggests, as they’ve faced a below average schedule and barely won two of their games.
They beat the Falcons by 1 in a game in which the Falcons would have won if they had just taken a knee late and kicked a field goal. They beat the Cardinals by 3 in a game in which the Lions won the turnover battle by 3 but lost the first down rate battle by 8.96%. Their other win and only convincing victory came against a Jaguars team that is one of the worst in the league. They nearly beat the Bears earlier this year, but they still lost the first down rate battle in that game to a mediocre Bears team. Overall, the Lions rank just 28th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -2.62%.
Washington, meanwhile, is just 2-6, but they actually rank 9th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential. Both of their wins have come by double digits, while two of their losses came by a combined 4 points against the Giants in games in which Washington won the first down rate battle by 4.47% combined, but lost the turnover battle by 6, missed a makeable field goal, and allowed a return touchdown, three things that are highly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. Even having played 4 games against the NFC East, Washington has still played an above average schedule and is legitimately a couple plays away from being 4-4 against that schedule.
That being said, there is certainly a big reason to believe Washington won’t be the 9th best team in schedule adjusted first down rate going forward, which is that they’ve been carried by a defense that ranks first in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.97%, but rank just 29th offensively in first down rate over expected at -3.47%. In addition to their defense outperforming it’s talent level, especially with players like Landon Collins and Matt Ioannidis out with injury, defensive play also tends to be much more inconsistent than offensive play, so it’s very tough for any team to continue playing at the level Washington has played at defensively.
The Lions may rank significantly behind Washington defensively, ranking 31st in first down rate allowed over expected, but their offense ranks 13th in first down rate over expected, so if both defenses regress to average somewhat, the Lions would seem to be in decent shape. However, I was encouraged by how Alex Smith played in relief of an injured Kyle Allen last week and, while it’s hard to say how good Smith can be after his horrific injury two years ago, he was a solid starting quarterback before the injury and if he can even resemble his old form he should be able to be an upgrade under center for this team compared to the likes of Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins, which would be a boost to this offense and give them more life going forward.
The Lions, meanwhile, are missing arguably their best player on either side of the ball, without top wide receiver Kenny Galloday and top edge defender Trey Flowers. They may be able to sneak out this victory at home over Washington, but there’s no good reason why they should be laying 4.5 points, especially since they won’t have the benefit of any fans in the stands at this home game. I like the WFT a good amount this week, to at least keep this close, but possibly pull the upset as well.
Detroit Lions 20 Washington Football Team 19
Pick against the spread: Washington +4.5
Denver Broncos (3-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
The Raiders won last week to improve to 5-3, but they have a negative point differential on the season at -11 and are even worse in first down rate differential at -1.59%. The Raiders have faced one of the toughest schedules in the league, but even when you include schedule adjustment, the Raiders are still a middling team, ranking 19th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -0.17%.
Making matters even worse, the Raiders are extremely banged up, missing left tackle Kolton Miller, right tackle Trent Brown, left guard Richie Incognito, possibly right guard Gabe Jackson, and also top defensive lineman Maurice Hurst, leaving them in rough shape in both trenches. When their absences are factored in, they rank just 24th in my roster rankings, one spot behind their opponents this week, the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos’ defense didn’t perform well last week in Atlanta, but they were missing a significant amount of players on that side of the ball and still rank 6th on the season in first down rate allowed over expected at -3.47%. The Broncos are still without some key players on defense this week, but they’ll get back top outside cornerback AJ Bouye and top slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, while their offense will also get a key re-addition, with talented starting guard Graham Glasgow returning from a two-game absence. The Broncos might not be quite as good defensively going forward, but they can make it for it with improved offensive play and we’re getting good line value with them as 3.5 point underdogs against a similar caliber team playing in a home stadium without fans.
On top of the line value we’re getting with the Broncos, this is also a potential look ahead spot for the Raiders, with a home game against the Chiefs on deck. Teams are 39-67 ATS since 2016 before being home underdogs of 6 or more and that will almost definitely be the case for the Raiders. The Broncos could easily come in and pull the upset against a Raiders team that is banged up and potentially giving less than 100% effort and even if the Broncos don’t pull the upset, I like their chances of keeping it close.
Las Vegas Raiders 17 Denver Broncos 16
Pick against the spread: Denver +3.5