Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (0-8-1) at Cleveland Browns (5-5)

Ordinarily, this would be a look ahead spot for the Browns, who have a much tougher game next week in Baltimore, after this game against the winless Lions. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 41.5% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is 60% higher or more than their current opponent’s winning percentage, which would apply to the Browns. On top of that, winless teams tend to be a good bet after a certain point in the season, covering at a 63.0% rate all-time in week 9 or later.

However, the Browns are coming off of a blowout 45-7 loss in New England and will probably be more focused than they normally would have in this game, as they try to bounce back from an embarrassing loss. Teams cover at a 58.2% rate all-time after a loss by 35 points or more, as a result of being some combination of undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed. The Lions, meanwhile, could be tired after a tie with the Steelers last week, with teams going 11-17 ATS all-time after a tie. The Lions have played a lot of their losses close, but they also haven’t had back-to-back close losses, following up every single digit loss with a double digit loss and they could be flat again this week after coming so close last week.

Meanwhile, despite the Browns’ blowout loss last week, they are still much better than their record suggests, as they have faced a tough schedule and have three one-score losses, including a pair of games in which they won the first down rate and yards per play battle, but lost the turnover battle. They rank 10th, 5th, and 5th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency on the season, despite dealing with a significant amount of short-term injury absences, many of whom have since returned. Still one of the more talented teams in the league, I have the Browns calculated as 14-point favorites in this matchup with the Lions.

This line favors the Browns by 12, so we are getting some line value with the Browns, but not nearly enough to bet them, especially with the conflicting trends and other uncertainties in this game. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will be playing at less than 100% with several injuries and the extent to which he’ll be limited is unclear, while the Lions will be turning to unproven backup Tim Boyle, who has thrown four passes in four seasons in the league. 

It’s possible Boyle’s lack of experience could work to the Lions’ benefit, as the Browns won’t have much tape of him to prepare with, but it’s also possible he shows why he hasn’t played much in his career and proves to be completely overmatched. Not knowing which will be the case makes this game even tougher to predict. The Browns are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I am not confident in them at all.

Cleveland Browns 26 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -12

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

I have thought the Eagles are underrated for several weeks and, despite their blowout win in Denver as 2.5-point underdogs last week, they remain underrated. They are just 4-6, but they have a +26 point differential that ranks 12th in the NFL, despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the league. All but one of the Eagles’ six losses have come to teams with a winning record, with the exception being a one-score loss to a 49ers team that has played significantly better than their record suggests. 

In schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, the Eagles rank 6th, 16th, and 22nd respectively and are even better than that suggests on offense, as they have played at a much higher level in recent weeks since getting their two offensive tackles Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson back from extended early season absences. The Eagles’ four easiest games of the season (Lions, Falcons, Broncos, and Panthers) have all been victories, including three in blowout fashion, and the Saints fit much more with those teams than the teams that have beaten the Eagles, at least in the form the Saints are currently in.

The Saints are 5-4, but they are extremely short-handed on offense. Already without their top wide receiver Michael Thomas for the whole season, the Saints lost quarterback Jameis Winston for the season two weeks ago and now are without dominant feature back Alvin Kamara and their two stud offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk, who have all gone down in the past week or so. The Saints are healthier on defense than they were earlier in the season and have one of the best units in the league on that side of the ball, but their offense will hold them back significantly until they get at least some of their key players back.

This line shifted from an even line on the early line last week to favoring the Eagles by 2.5 points at home this week, but that’s a pretty insignificant shift, given that about 9% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer. With all of the Saints’ injury problems and the Eagles’ blowout win last week, this line should have shifted more and it was already too low to begin with. As a result, we are getting great line value with the Eagles, who I have calculated as touchdown favorites. The Eagles are my top pick this week and they should cover fairly easily in a game in which they essentially just need to win to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -2.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (5-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-3)

The Bills don’t have the best record in the league at 6-3, but they lead the league in point differential by a wide margin at +145, as all three of their losses have come by just one score, while their six wins have come by an average of 26.2 points per game, with none coming by fewer than 15 points. Normally, this would be a sign that the Bills will win at a higher rate going forward, as their record in close games starts to even out, but the Bills have also faced by far the easiest schedule in the league. Six of their nine games have come against teams with three wins or fewer and the Bills are just 1-2 in their other three games.

There are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the Bills, who rank 1st and 3rd respectively in defensive and special teams efficiency, even when schedule is taken into account, and are more talented on offense than their 12th place rank in efficiency suggests, but they face a much tougher test than they are used to this week, with the Colts coming to town. The Colts are just 5-5, but that still gives them the 4th best record of any of the Bills’ opponents this season and they are even better than their record suggests.

The Colts have also faced a relatively easy schedule, but they have still faced a tougher schedule than the Bills and they have a +38 point differential, 9th in the NFL, despite suffering through some early season injuries, including the extended absence of their two best offensive linemen Braden Smith and Quenton Nelson and an ankle injury that limited quarterback Carson Wentz for several weeks. The Colts average margin of victory has been 14.2 points per game, while their five losses have all come against 2020 playoff qualifiers, including a pair of overtime losses, a loss by a field goal, a 9-point loss in a game in which Wentz was far from 100%, and a 12-point loss in week one.

We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Colts at +7.5 and I’m hesitant to bet big against a team who has so many blowout victories on the season, but we’re still getting some line value with the Colts, who should be able to at least keep this game close like most of their games, while giving the Bills a much tougher test than most of the teams that have the Bills blown out. The Colts are also in a better spot, with the Bills having to play again in four days on Thursday Night Football, a situation in which favorites cover at just a 40.7% rate all-time. This isn’t a big play and I wouldn’t take the Colts at +7, but if you can find a good +7.5, they are worth a bet.

Buffalo Bills 23 Indianapolis Colts 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +7.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (3-6) at New York Jets (2-7)

One thing I like to do is go against significant week-to-week line movements as, barring injuries, they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This game is a great example. A week ago, the Jets were favored by a couple points on the early line, but the Dolphins pulled an upset over the Ravens on Thursday Night Football, while the Jets were blown out in Buffalo and now the Jets are 3.5-point home underdogs, without any significant injury developments on either side.

The Dolphins’ win over the Ravens is much less impressive when you take into account that the Ravens were coming off of an overtime game and playing a Thursday game, a spot in which teams only cover the spread at a 16.0% rate, while the Jets’ 28-point loss to the Bills isn’t as bad when you take into account that all six of the Bills wins have come by 15 points or more (with an average margin of victory of 26.2 points) and that the Bills are one of the top few teams in the league. 

The Jets are just 2-7, but the Dolphins have just one more win and, aside from last week’s fluky win over the Ravens, their other two wins have come in a one-score win over the Texans, one of the worst teams in the league, and by one-point over the Patriots week one in a game in which the Patriots won the first down rate and yards per play battle, but lost a pair of fumbles, including one in easy field goal range that could have won the game. 

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.

Even with last week’s win over the Ravens taken into account, the Dolphins rank just 30th, 24th, and 25th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency and probably shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal on the road against anyone, except maybe the Texans. The Jets also are likely getting an upgrade at quarterback with veteran Joe Flacco taking over for inexperienced former undrafted free agent Mike White. My calculated line is still about where this line was last week, favoring the Jets by 1.5 points.

On top of that, the Dolphins are also in a bad spot as a result of last week’s win, as teams cover the spread at just a 40.9% rate all-time after winning as home underdogs of 5 points or more, which applies to the Dolphins, who were 7.5-point home underdogs last week. Part of that is because teams tend to be overvalued after a big home win that could easily prove to be a fluke, which I’ve already covered, but teams could also be overconfident in this spot as well.

It would not be a surprise to see the Dolphins look past the Jets, who, by contrast, are coming off of a blowout loss and will want to play their hardest to avoid further embarrassment. With about 1 out of every 4 games decided by 3 points or fewer, we’re getting great line value with the Jets at +3.5 and, between that and the Jets being in a good spot, this is worth a big play, both against the spread and on the money line.

New York Jets 23 Miami Dolphins 20 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3.5

Confidence: High

Cincinnati Bengals at Las Vegas Raiders: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)

Both of these teams are 5-4, but the Bengals hold a significant edge in point differential, +33 vs. -20. That normally would suggest that the Bengals are the better team, but that doesn’t take into account strength of schedule, which Cincinnati has had among the weakest. In schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, the Raiders rank 18th, 4th, and 26th while the Bengals rank 24th, 15th, and 17th. 

Despite that, the Bengals are favored here in Las Vegas. It’s only by a point, but it comes a week after the Raiders were just 2.5-point home underdogs against the Chiefs, so it’s a bit of a surprising line. The Raiders lost big to the Chiefs last week, but the Chiefs are a much better team than the Bengals and were due for a big game. That loss also puts the Raiders in a good spot this week, as teams tend to bounce back from big home losses as underdogs, covering the spread at a 59.0% rate as home underdogs the week following a loss by 14 points or more as home underdogs. 

The week prior to last, the Raiders lost to the Giants, but the Giants are better than their record, were at home, and the Raiders still won the first down rate and yards per play battle, with the game swinging on the turnover margin, including a pick six, both of which are much less predictive than first down rate and yards per play. The public has noticed that the Raiders have not had good results in their two games without Henry Ruggs, but I don’t think it’s as bad as the final scores have looked and I don’t think Ruggs is as irreplaceable as the general public seems to think he was, so we’re getting some value with the Raiders, who are also in a good spot, back at home after a bad home loss. This isn’t a big play, but the Raiders should be the right side, both as a money line pick and against the spread.

Las Vegas Raiders 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas +1

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-5)

These two teams had very different weeks last week, with the Patriots beating the Browns by 38 and the Falcons losing to the Cowboys by 40. Typically, a team who gets blown out fares better the following week against the spread than a team that wins by a wide margin, as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after a blowout loss and, as a result, cover the spread at a 58.1% rate. However, I am not sure that fully applies here with the Falcons as, while they could easily be overlooked by the Patriots and they could play a much more focused game after being embarrassed, they also aren’t undervalued by the oddsmakers.

This spread has shifted up to a full touchdown from the four points the Patriots were favored by on the early line last week and normally I like to fade a significant line movement like that, as it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but, in this case, I think the line is still too low, as the line was too low to begin with and a significant shift was justified after the results of last week’s games. The Patriots’ win was even more impressive than most realize because, like the Patriots, the Browns are legitimately a few plays away from having 2-3 more wins and, coming into last week’s game, the Browns were one of just two teams in the league to rank in the top-10 in first down rate, yards per play, first down rate allowed, and yards per play allowed. 

Meanwhile, the Falcons’ loss was even more concerning than most realize because the Falcons have faced a very easy schedule overall this season and now have been blown out by two of the three teams they have faced with a winning record, with the exception being a win over the Saints, who are starting a backup quarterback. Aside from their win over the Saints, the Falcons’ wins have come against teams who are a combined 8-20 on the season, with none possessing a record better than 3-6.

Six of the Falcons’ nine results this season would have covered this seven point spread, but the Patriots are much more in line with the three teams who beat the Falcons by multiple scores (Eagles, Buccaneers, and Cowboys) than the teams the Falcons have played closely or beaten (Saints, Washington, Panthers, Jets, Giants, and Dolphins). Their loss to the Buccaneers could have been closer had it not been for two pick sixes, but they also lost the first down rate battle by 7.11% in that game. Overall, the Falcons rank 27th, 22nd, and 32nd in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, while the Patriots rank 13th, 6th, and 8th. 

Despite their records being somewhat similar, this is a matchup between a team in the top quarter of the league and a team in the bottom and my calculated line has the Patriots favored by 10 in this game, so even with the significant line movement up to seven, we are still getting value with the Patriots. It’s not quite enough line value to bet the Patriots, who could still be in a bad spot against a team who was just blown out and, as a result, could bounce back with one of their best efforts of the season, but if this line moves down to 6.5 before gametime or if Falcons feature back Cordarrelle Patterson, currently a game-time decision, is ruled out, I would recommend betting the Patriots. I will have an update if either of those things happen.

Update: This line has dropped to 6.5 across the board despite it looking unlikely that Cordarrelle Patterson will play. I am going to lock this in now because it could go back up after Patterson is ruled out and even if he plays I like New England enough to bet them.

New England Patriots 27 Atlanta Falcons 17

Pick against the spread: New England -6.5

Confidence: Medium