Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) at Washington Football Team (2-6)

The last time we saw Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, they lost in New Orleans to the Saints. However, that is a game that could have gone very differently if the Buccaneers had not lost the turnover battle by three, which is a highly inconsistent metric week-to-week that the Buccaneers are unlikely to continue struggling in every week, especially with an elite quarterback under center. That elite quarterback typically bounces back pretty well after a loss anyway, as Tom Brady is 47-23 ATS in his career after a loss. 

That record drops to 10-12 ATS as favorites of a touchdown or more, but this line is pretty reasonable and in fact my calculated line has the Buccaneers favored by 10 points, so we’re actually getting some line value with the Buccaneers as 9.5-point road favorites in Washington, against a mediocre at best team that could be 0-8 if not for close wins over mediocre teams in the Giants and Falcons and that is now missing one of their best defensive players, Montez Sweat, with injury. The Buccaneers are also in a great spot coming off of a bye. Washington is also coming off of a bye, but better teams typically get significantly more benefit from a bye week and road favorites of 3.5 or more cover at a 63.2% rate all-time in the week after a regular season bye. This isn’t a big play, but Tampa Bay should win this game with relative ease.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Washington Football Team 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -9.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) at Denver Broncos (5-4)

The Eagles are just 3-6, but they also have a +9 point differential, despite facing one of the tougher schedules in the NFL. All but one of their six losses have come to teams with a winning record, with the exception being a 49ers team that has played significantly better than their record suggests. The three easiest games the Eagles have faced this season were all victories for the Eagles, including a pair of blowout wins over the Lions and Falcons. The Broncos aren’t quite as bad as those two teams, who are among the worst teams in the league, but they fit much more in line with the teams the Eagles have beaten than the teams the Eagles have lost to.

The Broncos won last week in Dallas in shocking fashion, but I think that has more to do with the Cowboys not showing up than anything the Broncos did. This is still a team that has won just two of their last six games since starting 3-0 against a very easy schedule, with the other being a one score win over a mediocre Washington team in a game in which Denver blocked a pair of field goals, and they still have a significant amount of key players no longer with the team since their hot start. 

In total, the Broncos are without stud left tackle Garret Bolles, above average starting right guard Graham Glasgow, talented edge defender duo Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, every down middle linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, and impressive slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, all of whom started for the Broncos week one. Without those players, the Broncos still rank well below average in my roster rankings, about five points below average, even despite their upset win last week.

If anything the Broncos’ win last week just puts them in a bad spot this week, as it could be tough for the Broncos to maintain that same effort two weeks in a row, especially with a team with a losing record coming to town. Teams cover at just a 41.2% rate all-time after a win as double digit underdogs, as teams tend to be a combination of flat and/or overvalued by the public and odds makers in that situation. In this case, it seems like both, as we are getting a ton of value with the Eagles at +2.5. My calculated line has the Eagles favored by 4 points, even before taking into account that the Broncos could be flat. This is my favorite play of the week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)

Typically the rule of thumb with the Chargers is to bet them on the road and bet against them at home. The Chargers hardly have any fans in Los Angeles and usually play in front of mostly road crowds, which means they don’t have a typical homefield advantage, but it also means they tend to be underrated away from home. Overall, the Chargers are 21-13 ATS on the road and 13-20 ATS at home since moving to Los Angeles.

However, we’re not getting any line value with the Vikings because they are a little overrated. Going into the season, I thought the Vikings were underrated but, now, even though they are better than their 3-5 record, I think the opposite is true. The common narrative with them is they haven’t lost by more than one score all season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, as they needed pick sixes against the Cardinals and Ravens to keep those games close and they also have only won by more than one score once all season. 

Efficiency metrics don’t show they have excelled in any one aspect, ranking 21st, 21st, and 19th respectively on offense, defense, and special teams and their defense is even worse than that suggests right now, with three of their top players, Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, and Anthony Barr out with injury. A healthier defense was the main reason I liked the Vikings coming into the season, but their offense hasn’t been nearly as good as a year ago and their defense figures to revert to struggling with so many key players absent. We’re not getting any line value with the Chargers either and I definitely don’t want to bet them laying a field goal at home against still a decent opponent, but they are the better side for pick ‘em purposes, even if a push might be the most likely result.

Los Angeles Chargers 27 Minnesota Vikings 24

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -3

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (0-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a 12-4 team a year ago, but many of their wins came by small margins against weak opponents, with a dominant defense masking significant flaws on offense. As their schedule got harder, the Steelers, who won their first 11 games, lost five of their final six games, including a first round playoff exit. Overall, just three of their twelve wins came by more than ten points and their nine games that were within that margin of 10 included teams like the Giants, Broncos, Texans, Eagles, and Cowboys, who all finished 6-10 or worse, as well as a matchup against a Ravens team that was playing many backups due to a COVID outbreak.

Coming into this season, the Steelers’ didn’t look noticeably improved on offense, while their defense had the potential to be significantly worse than last year’s dominant unit, as a result of off-season losses and general regression to the mean. The Steelers have gotten out to a 5-3 start, despite their schedule being tougher than a year ago, but they have not been as good as their record, as their three losses have come by more points combined (33) than their five wins (25). In fact, their biggest margin of victory all season is just seven points.

Despite that, the Steelers are still favored by 8.5 points in this game. The Lions may seem like a team they should be favored by more than a touchdown against, as they are the league’s last remaining winless team, but that doesn’t mean they are the worst team in the league, as many of their losses have been close. On average, their losses have come by an average of 13.8 points per game and their -110 point differential is not the worst in the league, but even that makes it seem like they’ve been blown out more than they have been, as five of their eight losses have been kept within 10 points and one of their three losses by more than 10 points came in a game in which the Lions led the Packers at halftime in Green Bay. 

Overall, the Lions rank 24th, 27th, and 4th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively, which isn’t too far behind the Steelers, who haven’t been particularly good on any side of the ball this season, ranking 16th, 20th, and 17th respectively in those three metrics. The Lions should also get a boost in this matchup with talented left tackle Taylor Decker set to make his season debut after missing all of the season to this point with injury, a significant re-addition for this team. Given how many close games these two teams tend to play and that the Lions are getting healthier, I have this line calculated at Pittsburgh -5.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the Lions at +8.5.

The Lions’ biggest margin of defeat of the season came in their most recent matchup, a 44-6 defeat at home against the Eagles, but they were likely flat in that matchup after giving their best effort against the Rams in a close loss the week before, and that blowout loss should put the Lions in a good spot this week, as they will be embarrassed after that loss and will likely be much more focused to try to prove people wrong. In total, teams cover at a 58.7% rate all-time after a loss by 35 points or more, in part because teams tend to give their best effort after being embarrassed, but also partially because teams tend to be overlooked after a blowout loss. 

Going off of that, the Lions being winless is another reason they could be overlooked and, typically as a result of being overlooked, winless teams tend to be a good bet this late in the season, covering at a 64.9% rate in week 9 or later. The Steelers are especially likely to overlook the Lions given that they have a much tougher game on deck in Los Angeles against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football next week. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.9% rate before facing an opponent whose winning percentage is at least 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage. With the Lions in a much better spot than the Steelers, who are overvalued as 8.5-point favorites, the Lions are an easy choice in this matchup against the spread and are worth a big play.

Update: I am glad I locked this in at 8.5, because Ben Roethlisberger is out for this game with COVID and the Steelers will turn to backup Mason Rudolph. The line has dropped to 6 as a result. For those wondering, I would still bet the Lions at 6, but not for as big of a play because I don’t think there is much difference between Roethlisberger and Rudolph and a line movement that involved key numbers of 6 and 7 is significant. With Rudolph under center, my calculated line is Pittsburgh -3.5. There is a decent chance the Lions could win their first game of the season this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +8.5

Confidence: High

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)

The Dolphins won last week, but their 8-point victory over the terrible Texans does nothing to change my opinion of the Dolphins as one of the worst teams in the league. Their only other win this season came back in week one, by one point over the Patriots in a game in which the Patriots lost a pair of fumbles, but otherwise won the yards per play and first down rate battle by 0.6 and 2.56% respectively.

Meanwhile, of the Dolphins’ seven losses, only three came by one score: two games against the Jaguars and Falcons, among the worst teams in the league, and a game against the Raiders in which they lost the first down rate battle by 6.50% and the yards per play battle by 1.9. Overall, the Dolphins rank 30th, 25th, and 28th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively on the season.

The Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, but a dropoff always seemed inevitable, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). They were always likely to disappoint this season and it’s not surprising they have done so in such a big way.

Unfortunately, the secret is out that this team is bad, so we’re not really getting much line value going against them. Baltimore is 6-2, but just two of their wins have come by more than a touchdown and, even though the Dolphins are the type of team they should beat easily, it’s also hard to be confident betting that they’ll be able to come on the road and win by multiple scores especially given how bad their defense has played this season, ranking 29th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency. 

The Ravens have more talent on paper than their defensive rank suggests and, on offense, the more predictive side of the ball, the Ravens rank 4th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while also ranking 2nd on special teams, so there are still reasons to take the Ravens for pick ‘em purposes, but I would need this line to at least drop to a touchdown to even consider betting the Ravens. My calculated line has the Ravens as 9-point favorites and eight isn’t really a key number.

Update: I realized after I wrote all of this that the Ravens are coming off of a long overtime game. Teams only cover on a short week about 17% of the time after an overtime game. We saw the Colts cover in this spot a week ago, but they nearly allowed a backdoor cover when they took their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and that was despite the Jets losing their starting quarterback to injury in the first half and despite the Jets being in a couple terrible spots, as non-divisional road underdogs on a short week and coming off of a huge home upset win. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have no significant trends working against them. We’re not getting line value with the Dolphins so this is a pure bet on a spot, but it’s such good spot that it’s worth at least a small bet.

Baltimore Ravens 31 Miami Dolphins 27

PIck against the spread: Miami +7.5

Confidence: Medium