Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
GB +105 @ IND
TEN +235 @ BAL
PHI +130 @ CLE
CAR +135 vs. DET
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
GB +105 @ IND
TEN +235 @ BAL
PHI +130 @ CLE
CAR +135 vs. DET
Detroit Lions (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (3-7)
Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater remains a gametime decision officially, but this spread has been posted at Detroit -2.5 in some places, a steep dropoff from Carolina -3, where this line was last week on the early line, so it definitely seems like the odds makers don’t expect Bridgewater to be to play. Even if Bridgewater doesn’t play, I like the Panthers at +2.5, so I’m making this pick now so the line doesn’t have a chance to move if Bridgewater can in fact go, after taking all of the first team reps in yesterday’s walkthrough.
If Bridgewater was fully healthy and this line was still 3, I would say that line would be about right. The Panthers are basically a slightly better version of the Lions and the Panthers have at least some limited homefield advantage with fans in attendance, so giving them the full field goal would be appropriate. However, it’s hard to justify a 5.5-point swing for Bridgewater’s absence, especially given that there is still a chance Bridgewater can go and given that Lions quarterback Matt Stafford will be at less than 100% himself, playing through an injured thumb.
The Panthers have key absences beyond the quarterback position, but left tackle Russell Okung and Christian McCaffrey are missing their 6th and 8th game respectively, so not having those two isn’t anything new, and, while cornerback Donte Jackson and guard John Miller are missing their first game of the season, they are less important absences than Okung and McCaffrey. The Lions are also missing key players with top wide receiver Kenny Golladay, top edge defender Trey Flowers, slot receiver Danny Amendola, and every down running back DeAndre Swift missing their 5th, 3rd, 1st, and 1st games of the season respectively.
Given that the Lions are almost as banged up as the Panthers and that the Panthers have been the slightly better team all season and that the Panthers are at home, it’s hard to justify the Lions being favored by 2.5 points. That doesn’t mean I’ll be betting on the Panthers. In fact, with the amount of uncertainty in this game, it’s hard to justify the Panthers as anything more than a no confidence bet, as they likely will be starting a completely unknown quarterback in XFL star PJ Walker and, even if they don’t, they’ll be starting a much less than 100% Teddy Bridgewater, but even with Walker in the lineup, this line is off, so the Panthers are the pick at 2.5 either way.
Update: Bridgewater is out, so this line has jumped to +3. I was willing to take the Panthers without Bridgewater for pick ’em purposes at +2.5. +3 is a much more intriguing number, especially with the Lions also down their top defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand, in addition to all of the aforementioned absences. My calculated number is Detroit -1 and that’s with a very conservatively low grade on the unproven Walker, who we didn’t even get a pre-season to evaluate this year. If Walker can surprise in his first career action, the Panthers could easily win this game straight up.
If I had any confidence in Walker I would recommend a bet at +3, as the Lions only win by more than a field goal this season came against the lowly Jaguars in a game in which the Lions were much healthier than they are now. Instead, I’m leaving them as a low confidence pick, but feel free to bet Carolina if you feel like taking a chance on a completely unknown commodity. The money line is intriguing as well at +135.
Carolina Panthers 27 Detroit Lions 26 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: Carolina +3
Los Angeles Rams (6-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)
These two teams have some big similarities. Both teams rank highly in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, as the Buccaneers rank first at +5.13%, while the Rams rank second at +4.87%. Both teams have been better defensively than on offense, ranking 2nd and 5th respectively in first down rate over expected and 12th and 11th respectively in first down rate allowed over expected. Both teams are also missing their best offensive lineman, left tackle Andrew Whitworth for the Rams and left guard Ali Marpet for the Buccaneers.
The big edge the Buccaneers have is their offensive has much more upside than the Rams’ offense. Marpet’s absence hurts, but they have top wide receiver Chris Godwin back healthy after missing 4 games earlier this season and they have also added fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown into the mix after he missed the first 8 games of the season with suspension. Overall, the Buccaneers have a 2.5 point edge in my roster rankings as a result of their offensive upside. Given that, this line favoring the Buccaneers by 4 points in Tampa Bay, where they will have the benefit of at least some fans, is pretty reasonable.
That being said, there are two key reasons why I like the Rams for a small play this week. For one, they have a big advantage as a west coast team playing an east coast team in a night game. Due to circadian rhythms, west coast teams cover at about a 60% rate against east coast teams at night, as east coast teams tend to get tired towards the end of the game and see their performance fall off in the second half.
On top of that, the Rams are in a great spot, as they only have a home game against the banged up 49ers on deck, while the Buccaneers have a matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Underdogs are 89-41 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs and all three of those factors should be true here. If Tom Brady and company are looking ahead to facing Pat Mahomes and company, the Rams could easily give the Buccaneers a game or even pull the upset, especially when you consider the circadian rhythms as well. About 30% of games are decided by 4 points or less (and 25% by 3 points or less), so I like the Rams as underdogs of more than an underdog, especially at +4, even if we’re not getting great line value overall.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Los Angeles Rams 22
Pick against the spread: LA Rams +4
Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)
Typically the rule of thumb with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs over the past few seasons has been to pick them unless there is a good reason not to, as they are 28-16-2 ATS with Mahomes under center since his first season as a starter in 2018. You might think that’s just because Mahomes caught everyone off guard in his first season and that oddsmakers have sufficiently compensated in recent years for how good Mahomes is, but Mahomes is actually 18-8 ATS winning his MVP at the end of the 2018 season, as he’s had a much better defense supporting him over the past two seasons
This line is decently high, favoring the Chiefs by 7 points over the Raiders, but that’s not good enough reason to go against the Chiefs, as the Raiders have only been a middling team this season, only slightly above average in point differential (+14) and schedule adjusted first down rate differential (+0.20%), and are still not fully healthy, missing a pair of starting offensive linemen in Richie Incognito and Trent Brown, as well as talented defensive end Clelin Ferrell and every down starting linebacker Cory Littleton.
On top of that, the Chiefs are in a great spot, coming off an extra week of rest, facing a team that they will be desperate to get their revenge against, after the Raiders shockingly handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season back when these two teams met in week 5, which may have simultaneously been the Chiefs’ worst performance of the season and the Raiders’ best performance. I would expect a better effort by Kansas City by default this time around, but Andy Reid is 21-9 ATS all-time in season with extended rest and big road favorites typically cover after a bye in general, going 52-26 ATS since 1989 as road favorites of 4 points or more. I would need this line to drop to 6.5 for this to be a bigger play, but the Chiefs should take care of business in this one, so they’re worth a bet even at 7.
Kansas City Chiefs 34 Las Vegas Raiders 24
Pick against the spread: Kansas City -7
Miami Dolphins (6-3) at Denver Broncos (3-6)
Perhaps no team has been kept down by their quarterback play more than the Broncos. The Broncos have a strong defense, ranking 6th in schedule adjusted first down rate allowed at -3.64%, and aren’t even that bad around the quarterback on offense, but their quarterbacks have combined for a 56.4% completion, 6.50 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. They’ve been slightly better when regular starting quarterback Drew Lock has been healthy and in the lineup, but he’s struggled mightily as well and he’s going to be playing at less than 100% with a rib injury.
The Broncos rank 30th in schedule adjusted first down rate at -3.78% and are even worse than that suggests because their quarterbacks have combined for a league worst 4.68% interception rate. Offense is much more consistent on a week-to-week basis than defense and the Broncos’ defense is pretty depleted by injuries and COVID absences and has not played as well in recent weeks. All that being said, my numbers still suggest the Broncos should be the right side this week, though that’s more about the Dolphins being overrated than anything, favored by 4 points in Denver this week, where the Broncos will have at least some fans.
The Dolphins are 6-3, but they 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 22nd at -0.61%, suggesting they’re more of a middling team than their record. I can’t bet on the Broncos in their current injury state, especially with several key players considered truly questionable for this game. I may revisit this pick when inactives are announced, but I don’t imagine betting on Denver, even if they are probably the better side for pick ‘em purposes.
Miami Dolphins 19 Denver Broncos 17
Pick against the spread: Denver +4
Dallas Cowboys (2-7) at Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
I have picked the Vikings for three straight Pick of the Weeks since their week 7 bye and they have covered in all three games. The metrics that made me think the Vikings were underrated like the field goal percentage against (100%), net 4th down conversion rate (+31.8%), fumble recovery rate (35.71%), and Kirk Cousins interception rate being double his career average (5.3% vs. 2.4%) still have some room for regression, at 95.83%, +16.7%, 38.10%, and 4.5% respectively, so I think they’re still underrated.
In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, which minimizes the effect of the metrics mentioned above, the Vikings rank 10th at +1.62%, which lines up with my roster rankings, which have them 9th. They were a 4th down conversion from winning in Seattle and they lost by 1 to the Titans in a game in which the Titans hit three field goals from 50+ yards, so they could easily be 6-3 right now, despite a tough schedule.
However, the Vikings aren’t as underrated as they used to be, as this line, favoring them by a touchdown at home, is right about where it should be, given that the Vikings will hardly have any fans at this game. That line being accurate is partially because the Cowboys are underrated themselves though. The Cowboys obviously haven’t had a good start to their season, especially since losing quarterback Dak Prescott for the season, but aside from Prescott, the Cowboys are getting a lot healthier on the rest of this roster, after being decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball.
Their two stud offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’El Collins remain out for the season along with Prescott, but backup quarterback Andy Dalton returns from a 2-game absence to at least give them an NFL caliber quarterback under center and they will also benefit from the presence of stud right guard Zack Martin (1 game missed), starting linebackers Leighton Vander Esch (4 games) and Sean Lee (7 games), top cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (7 games), and other minor players who have all returned from injury as well. In fact, my numbers suggest the Cowboys are slightly better than 50/50 to cover this spread against a solid Vikings team. This is a no confidence pick, but if I had to pick a side, I would go with Dallas.
Minnesota Vikings 30 Dallas Cowboys 24
Pick against the spread: Dallas +7
New York Jets (0-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-7)
In 2019, the Chargers were a solid team, but went just 5-11 because of a ridiculous 2-9 record in one score games. That type of thing tends to be very inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, but somehow the Chargers have been even worse in close games this season, going 1-7 in one score games. Rookie starting quarterback Justin Herbert has had even worse luck, as the Chargers one one-score victory came in week 1 in Cincinnati with veteran Tyrod Taylor under center.
All seven of Herbert’s losses were one score games, even though he’s played a pretty tough schedule in those seven losses, with five of the losses coming against teams that are currently 6-3 or better, including near victories over the Saints, Buccaneers, and Chiefs. Meanwhile, Herbert’s only victory came by 10 over the Jaguars in a game in which the Jaguars scored on special teams and the Chargers won the first down rate battle by 12.24%.
The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league, but the Jets are the one team that is clearly worse than them. Not only do they rank dead last in my roster rankings and in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -7.87% (the Jaguars are 31st at -5.43%), but they’ve lost every game they’ve played and most of them haven’t been particularly close, with 8 losses by 8 points or more and an average margin of defeat of 16.3 points per game. The Chargers are 9.5 point favorites in this game, but wouldn’t even have to come that close to the Jets’ average margin of defeat to cover this spread.
The Chargers have played much better than their record and are arguably the healthiest they’ve been all season right now, with key players like defensive ends Joey Bosa (2 games missed) and Melvin Ingram (3 games), 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) all being available for this game, so you can definitely make the case that they’re at least an average team. I don’t know if I like the Chargers quite enough for them to be worth betting, but they should be the right side and I ultimately may end up wagering on them.
Los Angeles Chargers 24 New York Jets 12
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -9.5
Green Bay Packers (7-2) at Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Earlier this week when the Packers opened as 2.5-point underdogs, I was hoping we’d get a +3 at some point, but instead sharp action on the Packers has pushed them down to 1.5-point underdogs of even 1-point in some places. I still like the Packers, but not to the same extent. Typically, I like offensive led teams over defensive led teams because defense tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. That is the case in this matchup. These two teams have played roughly even this season, but the Packers have a much better offense, while the Colts have been led by their defense.
In addition to the Packers having that edge, the Packers are also healthier than they’ve been for most of the season. At full strength, the Packers have one of the top rosters in the league, but key players like wide receiver Davante Adams (2 games missed), running back Aaron Jones (2 games missed), left tackle David Bakhtiari (3 games missed), defensive tackle Kenny Clark (3 games missed), cornerback Jaire Alexander (1 game missed), and safety Darnell Savage (1 game missed) have all missed time this season.
Now with those players all back, I have the Packers at the top of my roster rankings. That still doesn’t give us great line value, as the Colts will have some fans in attendance and are a talented team in their own right, and my calculated line is only Green Bay -1, but the Packers should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and they’re worth a small bet on the money line at +105, as they should be at least even, if not slightly favored to win this game straight up.
Green Bay Packers 26 Indianapolis Colts 24 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: Green Bay +1.5
Atlanta Falcons (3-6) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
I have been saying all season that I was planning on betting the Saints pretty consistently once they finally got healthy because they were my pre-season #1 team in my roster rankings and because they typically shake off slow starts, going 4-17-1 ATS in weeks 1-2 since 2010 and 88-57-7 ATS in weeks 3-17. The results were great once the Saints were finally all healthy, including a blowout victory in Tampa Bay, but it lasted less than six quarters before Drew Brees suffered a significant rib and lung injury that now has him sidelined for at least three weeks. The Saints were still able to close out the 27-13 victory over the 49ers and they still have a very talented and most healthy roster around the quarterback, but their projection obviously takes a big hit without their signal caller.
In Brees’ absence last week, former Buccaneers starter and current Saints backup Jameis Winston played most of the snaps, playing 34 snaps total, while hybrid player Taysom Hill played 22, and Winston also attempted all 10 of the Saints’ non-Drew Brees pass attempts, but the Saints seem to be throwing everyone a curveball and going with Hill for his first career start. There have been varying reports of how much the Saints plan to use both quarterbacks, from Hill playing all game, to Winston and Hill splitting time based on certain packages, but it’s clear the Saints plan to use Hill more than they’ve ever used him before, particularly as a passer. Hill has just 18 career regular season pass attempts and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he exceeded that total in this game alone.
The big question is whether that would be a good thing for the Saints or if they would be better served using their two quarterbacks like they did in the second half last week. Hill has made some big passing plays downfield in his career, but he’s never shown consistent accuracy, he has rarely played as a traditional drop back passer outside of the pre-season, and he’s also had some fumbling problems this season. His athleticism will obviously help him, but he’s a 30-year-old quarterback who has never started and didn’t show much as a passer in college, so this move could easily backfire or cause the Saints to have a mid-game pivot to Winston playing more. Hill will have plenty of talent around him, but this Saints passing game takes a big hit with him starting compared to Brees or even compared to Winston.
The Falcons, meanwhile, are relatively healthy coming off of a bye and, even though they haven’t played particularly well this season compared to their easy schedule, ranking 26th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -1.58%, they could easily be 5-4 or 6-3 if not for blowing three nearly impossible to blow leads. They’re also more talented on paper than the statistics suggest they’ve played thus far and could underachieve less going forward, especially since they seem to be playing better since firing Dan Quinn and going with interim head coach Raheem Morris.
My roster rankings have these teams about even, so with the Saints having minimal fans in attendance for this one, we’re getting good value with the Falcons as more than a field goal underdogs at +3.5. The Saints could still pull out the victory, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, and I would expect this one to be a close one either way, so the Falcons are worth a bet.
Update: Marshon Lattimore is out for the Saints, despite practicing all week in limited capacity. Lattimore hasn’t played that well this year, so his absence doesn’t move the needle in this game as much as you’d think, but it’s more good news for Atlanta bettors, especially since the line has stabilized at +3.5, rather than dropping to 3.
New Orleans Saints 27 Atlanta Falcons 26
Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3.5
Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1) at Washington Football Team (2-7)
Neither of these teams have impressive records, but Washington has been clearly the better of these two teams this season. Washington has the slightly better point differential at -38 vs. -46, but the difference is more pronounced than that. Washington has faced a much tougher schedule and has struggled more in metrics that are inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and could improve going forward, like turnover margin (-3 vs. -7, in large part due to Washington’s league worst 32.14% fumble recovery rate) and net field goal percentage (+9.53% vs -23.85%).
In terms of first down rate differential, which minimizes the impact of outlier plays that are inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, Washington has a massive edge at +1.64% vs. -3.65%. The Bengals have played a lot of close games, with four of their six losses coming by one score or less, but they 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.
Offense is the more consistent side of the ball and, as a result, it’s the more important side of the ball for projections and the Bengals have the edge on that side of the ball, with Washington being led by their defense, but it’s a slight edge for Cincinnati, as they rank 23rd in first down rate over expected at -1.17%, while Washington ranks -2.34% at 27th, and that slight edge may be made up for by the fact that, with Alex Smith resembling his old form at quarterback, Washington has their most competent quarterback under center right now, for his 3rd start of the season.
Washington also has a massive edge on defense, ranking 4th in first down rate allowed over expected at -3.98%, while the Bengals rank 28th at +2.49%, which can’t be ignored, even if defense tends to be inconsistent week-to-week and even if Washington has some injuries on that side of the ball. Washington holds the slight edge in my roster rankings as well and, even without any fans in the stadium, they should be favored by at least a field goal in this home game against the Bengals, if not more. Given that, we’re getting decent line value with Washington as mere 1-point favorites. This isn’t a big play, but Washington is worth a bet this week.
Washington Football Team 17 Cincinnati Bengals 13
Pick against the spread: Washington -1