Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
DET +145 @ CHI
HOU +150 vs. IND
ARZ +135 vs. LAR
ATL +130 vs. NO
NE +105 @ LAC
BUF +100 @ SF
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
DET +145 @ CHI
HOU +150 vs. IND
ARZ +135 vs. LAR
ATL +130 vs. NO
NE +105 @ LAC
BUF +100 @ SF
Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
The Ravens kept the final score closer than expected in Pittsburgh against the Steelers last week, even missing basically half of their team due to COVID or injury, losing by final score of 19-14, but they didn’t play nearly as well as that suggests, as the Steelers made key mistakes in all three phases, dropping 6 passes on offense (including 3 in the red zone), muffing a punt on special teams that led to Baltimore’s first touchdown, and blowing a coverage on defense that led to Baltimore’s second touchdown to make the score respectable late. The Ravens didn’t move the ball consistently all game, managing just 10 first downs and losing the first down rate battle by 10.58%.
The Ravens will get Lamar Jackson back from COVID this week, but the Ravens are still missing key players due to COVID, including top pass catcher Mark Andrews, starting wide receiver Willie Snead, edge defender Matt Judon, and they were an overrated team even before their COVID outbreak. Their offense was not catching teams off guard anymore and the absences of right guard Marshal Yanda (retirement), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (injury), and tight end Nick Boyle (injury) hurt them significantly.
Missing everyone they’re missing, the Ravens rank just 18th in my roster rankings, so they’re overrated as 7-point favorites at home without any fans in the stadium against the Cowboys. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are a little underrated. Their offense has a lot of problems without quarterback Dak Prescott and their top-3 offensive linemen (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’El Collins), as well as retired center Travis Frederick, who was a big part of this unit in his final season in 2019, but their defense is a lot healthier and is playing a lot better now than they were earlier in the season.
Top cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (7 games missed), top linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (4 games), and valuable edge rusher Randy Gregory (6 games) have all missed significant time and returned and, despite missing those players for significant time, they still rank a respectable 18th in first down rate allowed over expected at +0.64%. The turnover margin has hurt this team more than anything other than injuries, as they rank 2nd worst in the NFL in turnover margin at -13, but turnover margins tend to be highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Cowboys should be better going forward in the turnover battle.
I have this line calculated at Baltimore -4, giving them just a half point for their minimal homefield advantage, so we’re getting good line value with the Cowboys at +7. Whether or not I decide to bet on the Cowboys depends on the status of a trio of questionable Ravens, cornerback Jimmy Smith, edge defender Jaylon Ferguson, and safety Chuck Clark. All three players did not practice all week, which normally suggests they’re not going to play, but they may have just gotten some extra rest this week, playing on a short week. For now, this is a low confidence pick, but I may decide to bet on the Cowboys depending on the status of the aforementioned players.
Update: It sounds like the aforementioned trio will all play despite not practicing, but they could be less than 100% on a short week and this line has jumped to 8.5 after official word came out that Lamar Jackson would play. I think the Cowboys are worth a bet at that number. I am not that excited about betting on the Cowboys, but the Ravens were overrated even before they started losing key players and they are still missing too much, particularly on offense, to justify being favored by this many points. Dallas’ defense, meanwhile, has been much improved in recent weeks due to predictable regression and improved health.
Baltimore Ravens 22 Dallas Cowboys 17
Pick against the spread: Dallas +8.5
San Francisco 49ers (5-6) at Buffalo Bills (8-3)
The Bills’ +17 point differential is pretty underwhelming when considering their 8-3 record, as they have gone 5-1 in games decided by 7 points or fewer and haven’t won a game by more than 10 points all season. The good news is that they’ve been better than that in first down rate, ranking 10th with a +1.39%% schedule adjusted first down rate differential, and they’ve been led by their offense. The Bills rank 3rd in first down rate over expected at +3.10% on offense, which is a much more consistent and predictable side of the ball, and their struggles have primarily been on defense, where they rank 26th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.71%, which is much less likely to continue going forward than their strong offensive play.
Sheer regression suggests the Bills should be better defensively going forward, but there is even more reason to be optimistic, as this defense has largely underperformed its talent level. Showing the randomness of defensive performance, the Bills ranked 6th in the NFL in first down rate allowed last season, with largely the same personnel. I don’t expect them to be as good as they were last year again, but they’re getting healthy coming out of their bye week, especially with linebacker Matt Milano likely to return, and they can at least be a middling unit going forward, which, if it’s combined with the Bills continuing to play well on offense, which would make this team very dangerous going forward. It’s hard to be underrated at 8-3, but the Bills might be.
The 49ers also are underrated though, as they’re much healthier than they were earlier in the season on both sides of the ball. They’re still missing key players like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, and edge defender Nick Bosa, but they were more depleted than probably any team in the league at their worst, so, by comparison, the 49ers are in much better shape now.
They’re not as good as last year obviously, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a competitive team and they actually might be better in the secondary than they were last season now that Richard Sherman is back from injury, because, in Sherman’s absence, Jason Verrett stepped up as the corner they lacked opposite Sherman last year, which somewhat makes up for the 49ers missing Bosa and DeForest Buckner from last year’s dominant defensive line. My roster rankings have the 49ers ranked 14th in their current state and first down rate differential paints an even better picture, as they rank 6th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +2.23%, despite all of the injuries they’ve had thus far this season. It might be too late for them to climb back into the playoff race, but they’re a playoff caliber team right now.
We’re still getting some line value with the Bills, as I have them two points better than the 49ers, while this line seems to suggest the 49ers are a point better, favoring them by a point in what amounts to a neutral site game with the 49ers forced to play in Arizona for the next couple weeks. However, the 49ers are in a better spot because they’re a west coast team at night against an east coast team, which is about a 60% cover spot all-time regardless of location because of the difference in circadian rhythms. I’m not sure if that holds up in this weird circumstance in a neutral site game and I’m still taking the Bills for pick ‘em purposes, but I’m not that confident in them.
Buffalo Bills 24 San Francisco 49ers 23 Upset Pick +100
Pick against the spread: Buffalo +1
Washington Football Team (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)
Washington is just 4-7, but they’re the most competitive of the four teams in the NFC East, as their -2 point differential is significantly better than their record and significantly better than any other team in the division. If not for an 0-3 record in games decided by a field goal or less, Washington could easily be 5-6 or 6-5 right now, which isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s respectable. That’s despite the fact that they have struggled in metrics that are inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and that are likely to improve going forward, with a -5 turnover margin (tied for 7th worst in the NFL) and a -14.77% net field goal conversion rate. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, Washington actually ranks 7th at +2.16%.
Washington is led by their defense, with a defense that ranks 4th in first down rate allowed over expected at -3.98% and an offense ranks just 25th in first down rate over expected at -1.82%, which is concerning because defensive play tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. It’s far from a guarantee that Washington will continue being that good defensively going forward, especially with key players like Matt Ioannidis and Landon Collins out for the year, but any regression by their defense could be offset by their offense, which has improved significantly since turning to Alex Smith under center. They’re also as healthy as they’ve been all season around the quarterback on offense, particularly on the offensive line. My roster rankings don’t have them quite as high as they rank in first down rate differential, but they still rank 17th, suggesting this is legitimately a middling team, despite their record and public perception.
Washington gets a big step up in competition this week in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers have yet to lose a game all season at 11-0, but the Steelers have played a lot of close games, with just two of their 11 wins coming by more than 10 points (both coming against two of the worst teams in the league in the Bengals and Jaguars) and 6 of their 11 wins coming by 7 points or fewer, which is notable, considering this line favors Pittsburgh by 7. Pittsburgh also hasn’t faced a tough schedule, facing the 2nd easiest schedule in the league in terms of opponents expected first down rate differential. If teams like the Jeff Driskel led Broncos, the Garrett Gilbert led Cowboys, the Texans, and the COVID Ravens can keep it within a touchdown with the Steelers, a team like Washington, who is much better than those four, should be able to do so as well.
The Steelers are also a defensive led team, with their defense leading the league in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.65%, but their offense ranking just 27th in first down rate over expected at -2.06%, actually behind Washington, even though Washington was starting Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen at the beginning of the season before Smith came in. The Steelers’ offensive struggles bring them down to 5th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +2.60%, which isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as their undefeated 11-0 record, which has been built in part by close wins over lesser opponents. Given that offensive performance is more predictive and the Steelers aren’t a significantly better offensive team, it’s hard to justify Pittsburgh being 7-point favorites in this one, especially since they’ll likely be without starting center Maurkice Pouncey and starting running back James Conner for the second straight week and won’t have the benefit of any fans in their home stadium.
This line has shifted significantly from favoring Pittsburgh by 11 on the early line last week, but I think that was just a bad line. The line movement seems to have been almost entirely driven by significant sharp action on the visitor and I don’t think it went far enough. Normally I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that, but, even at 7, we’re getting line value with Washington, as my calculated line is Pittsburgh -3.5, giving the Steelers a 3-point edge and about a half point for nominal homefield advantage. Washington is worth a big bet if you can get the full touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Washington Football Team 13
Pick against the spread: Washington +7
Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)
This is one of the tougher calls of the week. The Packers are in a much better spot than the Eagles, going to Detroit for an easy game next week, while the Eagles have to host the Saints. Underdogs of 6 or more are 23-68 ATS since 2010 before being underdogs of 6 or more again when their opponent will next be favorites and all three of those conditions should be true here. However, this line moved from 7 on the early line last week to 8 this week and we’re not getting line value with the Packers.
The Eagles have had a tough season, but one silver lining is their defense has played pretty well, ranking 10th in first down rate allowed over expected at -1.23%. Offensive performance is much more inconsistent week-to-week than defensive performance, but the Eagles’ biggest offensive issue has been turnovers (3rd most in the league with 21), which tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis as well.
The Eagles’ offense ranks 23rd in first down rate over expected at -1.09%, which isn’t far enough behind the Packers’ 7th ranked offense to justify the Packers being favored by 8 points, given that the Eagles have the superior defense, that the Packers don’t have the benefit of any fans in their home stadium, and that the Packers will be without key center Corey Linsley due to injury. I can’t be confident in the Eagles in a bad spot, but this line is probably too high (my calculated line is Green Bay -6), so the Eagles seem like the better side for pick ‘em purposes, even if only slightly.
Green Bay Packers 27 Philadelphia Eagles 20
Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +8
Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) at New York Jets (0-11)
This is a tough one. On one hand, the Raiders should be in a good spot. They were blown out in Atlanta last week, but a lot of that can probably be blamed on hangover effort from their close loss to the Chiefs and teams typically bounce back after blowout losses, going 63-38 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35 or more points, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed after getting blown out. The Jets, meanwhile, have another tough game on deck in Seattle and underdogs of 7+ are 38-62 ATS since 2016 before being underdogs of 7+ again, with the Jets definitely will be next week.
On the other hand, I think this line is a little high at 8. The Jets are healthy at quarterback, in the receiving corps, and on the offensive line for the first time really all season and now actually rank ahead of the banged up Bengals and Jaguars in my roster rankings, despite not winning a game all season. Meanwhile, the Raiders haven’t been great overall this season, with a negative point differential at -27 and a negative first down rate differential at -1.32% (23rd in the NFL) and now are without their top offensive player running back Josh Jacobs.
The Jets are obviously winless, but betting on winless teams this late in the season actually tends to be a smart idea. Books know they can boost the line on winless teams, so teams that are 0-8 or worse cover at a 58.1% rate all-time, even if that may be counterintuitive. That appears to be the case in this one, as I have this line calculated at New York -6.5. This line crosses the touchdown to 8, which is significant because about 10% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown, so we’re getting decent line value with the Jets. It’s hard to take them with any confidence though, given their coaching situation and that the Raiders are in a better situational spot. I’m taking the Jets against the spread, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks this week.
Las Vegas Raiders 27 New York Jets 20
Pick against the spread: NY Jets +8
New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
When these two teams met a couple weeks ago in New Orleans, the Saints won pretty easily by score of 24-9. Saints head coach Sean Payton was credited for his decision to start hybrid player Taysom Hill over backup quarterback Jameis Winston in that game in place of the injured Drew Brees, but ultimately the decision probably didn’t matter, as the Saints won that game primarily with their defense, holding a capable Falcons offense to a 23.73% first down rate that is among the worst single week marks in the league this season. The Saints then got another defensive led victory over a Broncos team that literally didn’t have a quarterback last week, so it’s safe to say the jury is still out on Hill as an NFL quarterback.
The Saints have arguably the best defense in the NFL, but defensive play tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive play and the Saints aren’t healthy on defense either, with a pair of key players in cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive end Marcus Davenport picking up new injuries that will cause them to miss this game. If the Saints’ defense isn’t as dominant as they’ve been recently, the Falcons have a good chance to pull off this upset, especially since the Saints’ offense is also missing a key player beyond Brees, with stud left tackle Terron Armstead out for the second straight week. Meanwhile, the Falcons will have a key player in Julio Jones back from injury after missing the last game and a half, including the majority of the first matchup between these two teams two weeks ago.
The Saints are in a little bit better of a spot, with only an easy trip to Philadelphia on deck, while the Falcons are coming off of a huge upset victory over the Raiders, which typically tends to be a bad betting spot (teams are 32-44 ATS after a home upset victory by 17 points or more as underdogs of 3 points or more), but it’s hard to see the Falcons looking past a huge divisional rival that just beat them recently, so they should be mostly focused for this one.
The line did move significantly from New Orleans -3.5 on the early line last week to 2.5 this week, a significant swing considering 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, but this line has crept back up to a field goal in some places, and if we can get a good +3 before gametime, I will probably end up betting on it. The money line is worth a bet as well at +130 because this game should be considered about a toss up.
Atlanta Falcons 24 New Orleans Saints 23 Upset Pick +130
Pick against the spread: Atlanta +2.5
Cleveland Browns (8-3) at Tennessee Titans (8-3)
I have bet heavily on the Titans in back-to-back weeks and they’ve come through both times, pulling straight up upsets in Baltimore and in Indianapolis. The Titans were an underrated team because the public was making too big of a deal of their defensive issues and not paying enough attention to their offensive prowess, probably not recognizing that offensive play is much more consistent and predictable on a week-to-week basis. Unfortunately, those back-to-back wins seem to have lost us all line value with the Titans, as they shot up from being 3-point favorites against the Browns on the early line last week to being 5.5-point favorites this week.
With that in mind, I actually like the Browns a little bit this week, as they are a little underrated for the same reason the Titans were, being a much better offensive team than defensive team. Their point differential (+39 vs. -21) is significantly worse than Tennessee’s, despite these two teams having the same record, and the Browns’ offense, which ranks 16th in first down rate over expected, is significantly behind the Titans 2nd ranked offense, but the Browns are more talented on offense than that would suggest, as they’ve gotten key players like stud running back Nick Chubb (4 games missed), talented right guard Wyatt Teller (3 games missed), and starting tight end Austin Hooper (2 games missed) back from injuries that cost them time earlier this season.
My roster rankings have the Titans about 2 points better than the Browns, suggesting this line should be calculated around Tennessee -3, giving the Titans minimal homefield advantage for having some fans in the stadium. There’s not enough here for the Browns to be worth betting at 5.5, especially since Tennessee is in a better spot, with only an easy trip to Jacksonville on deck, while the Browns will host the Ravens, but this line could move up to 6 and the Titans have a pair of key players in left guard Rodger Saffold and defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons that appear to be legitimately questionable for this game, so I wouldn’t role out betting the Browns under the right circumstances. If an update is necessary, it would likely happen around when the inactives are released unless we get more clarity on Saffold and Simmons on Saturday.
Tennessee Titans 31 Cleveland Browns 27
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +5.5
New York Giants (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
Coming out of their bye week last week, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, and they were healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. That lasted about a half, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury that has him week-to-week and will cause him to miss at least this game in Seattle.
Jones’ numbers haven’t been that impressive this season, but they’re a lot more impressive when you consider the quality of the defensives he’s been facing and their offense immediately became noticeably more stagnant when he went down, with underwhelming backup quarterback Colt McCoy unable to do much of anything against a mediocre Bengals defense in what ended up being a 19-17 win that could have easily turned to a Giants loss had the Bengals not fumbled at midfield at the end of the game on what could have been a game winning field goal drive.
McCoy will have a full week of practice with the first team this week, but he figures to continue struggling, as he’s a 34-year-old journeyman with a career 78.2 QB rating, who recently threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a brief stint as the Washington Redskins starting quarterback from 2018-2019. With him under center, the Giants rank 29th in my roster rankings (or 28th depending on who is eligible to play this week for Baltimore), only ahead of the Jets, Bengals, and Jaguars. There’s a huge gap between them and the Seahawks.
The Seahawks have not played as well as their 8-3 record would suggest this season, going 6-2 in one score games, with a +37 point differential and a 12th ranked +0.77% first down rate differential, but I expect them to play better than that going forward. There are a few reasons for that, including simply that they’re typically much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 43-21-3 ATS in games 9-16 since Wilson’s first season in 2012, as opposed to just 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8.
On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team and offensive led teams tend to fare better going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent and predictive week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 5th in first down rate over expected at +2.54%, but are dragged down by a defense that ranks just 27th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.77%. If they can get even middling play from their defense going forward, they should keep winning games, including some by larger margins than most of their wins thus far this season.
Aside from the inherent randomness of defensive play, the Seahawks are also getting more talented on defense, in large part due to players returning from injury. A few weeks ago, the Seahawks got talented safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence and last week they got Shaq Griffin back also from a 4-game absence. They also added defensive end Carlos Dunlap a few weeks ago in a trade with Cincinnati that gave the Seahawks much needed help on their defensive line, though he is questionable for this game after not practicing all week. Their offense is also healthier than it’s been in recent weeks, with top running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde returning from absences of 4 games and 3 games respectively. My roster rankings have them ranked 4th and they shouldn’t have much trouble with the Colt McCoy led Giants.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting line value with the Seahawks, who have ballooned to 11-point home favorites, despite not having any real homefield advantage without fans. My calculated line is Seattle -11.5, so I think they still have a good chance to cover, especially with without any upcoming distractions on the schedule, with the Jets coming to town next week (home favorites of 10+ are 52-31 ATS since 2002 before being home favorites of 10+ again the following week), but there isn’t enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting, even if Dunlap is ultimately able to suit up.
Seattle Seahawks 30 New York Giants 17
Pick against the spread: Seattle -11
New England Patriots (5-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
The Chargers are just 3-8, but it’s well-known that they have been competitive in most of their games, even against good teams, as they’ve only lost one game by more than one score all season, including near victories over the Chiefs, Saints, and Buccaneers. However, their offense hasn’t been all that impressive, ranking 24th in first down rate over expected at -1.29%, which is a concern because offensive play is much more consistent week-to-week than defensive play.
The Chargers rank 9th in first down rate allowed over expected at -1.55%, but aren’t guaranteed to be that good going forward, especially given that they are missing key players due to injury, including stud defensive end Melvin Ingram and top linebacker Denzel Perryman and that they traded away talented slot cornerback Desmond King at the trade deadline. They could also be without top cornerback Casey Hayward and Melvin Ingram’s replacement Uchenna Nwosu, who are both considered questionable for this game.
The Patriots are almost an opposite team from the Chargers, ranking 9th in first down rate over expected at +1.72% and 22nd in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.53%. You might not think of them as a good offense because of their passing game issues, but they have a strong offensive line and versatile running game, with both power running back Damien Harris and quarterback Cam Newton finding success on the ground. That formula won’t work against every team, but it should be effective against a team like the Chargers, especially with the Chargers missing their top linebacker.
The Patriots’ defense has been a problem this season, but defensive play is very inconsistent week-to-week and I trust Bill Belichick and company to make the right defensive adjustments as much as any coaching staff in the league. Belichick should particularly be at an advantage this week against a rookie quarterback, a situation he is 15-4 straight up in throughout his career. The Patriots are the more talented overall team and matchup well with the Chargers on both sides of the ball, so they should be favored by at least a couple points, rather than being slight underdogs. This isn’t a big bet, but there’s enough line value here for the Patriots to be worth betting and I may increase this bet if it turns out Hayward and/or Nwosu can’t play.
New England Patriots 23 Los Angeles Chargers 20 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: New England +1.5