Dallas Cowboys (13-5) at San Francisco 49ers (14-4)
The Cowboys had a 12-5 regular season and won easily in the first round against the Buccaneers. However, the 49ers are a completely different level of competition, as they lead the league with a 38.6% weighted DVOA. Improved health has been a big part of the reason why they’ve been so good of late, after being one of the most injury plagued teams in the league for most of the season, and their SIC score of 90.8 this week is a 8.3-point improvement over their season average. On top of that, their offense has been significantly better since adding Christian McCaffrey and putting Brock Purdy in the starting lineup.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, are significantly behind the 49ers in DVOA, ranking 7th at 13.7%, and they have a SIC score of 84.2 that is 1.7 points lower than their season average. Despite that, the 49ers are favored by just 4 points at home, so we’re getting good value with the favorite, as this line should be at least a touchdown, if not more, given the 49ers’ propensity to blow teams out, (16.9-point average margin of victory, 13 of 14 wins by more than 4 points). The 49ers are worth a bet big this week, as I don’t expect this one to be that close.
San Francisco 49ers 27 Dallas Cowboys 17
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)
This game is a tough call. On one hand, the Chiefs are favored by 9.5 points and barely covered that number in their week 10 matchup with the Jaguars, a 10-point win over a Jaguars team that has played much better since, going 7-1 since a 3-7 start, including last week’s playoff win over the Chargers. The conventional thinking is this game should be closer than the first matchup, but that first game also could have been much more of a blowout if the Chiefs didn’t lose the turnover battle by 3, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of yards per play and first down rate, which are much more predictive than turnovers, the Chiefs held the edge by 2.6 and 12.8% respectively.
The Chiefs also tend to turn it on in the playoffs and blow out opponents that they would have let hang around in the regular season, with six of their eight playoff victories in the Patrick Mahomes era coming by double digits. At the very least, I don’t expect the Chiefs to be as sloppy as they were with turnovers in the first matchup, so, even if the Jaguars are a significantly better team than they were a couple months ago, this game still might not be close, as the first game would not have been as close without the Chiefs’ turnovers. I don’t like the line value we are getting with the Chiefs, but there is a reason this line is still around where it was in the week 10 matchup between these two teams and the Chiefs should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes, if only for a no confidence pick.
Kansas City Chiefs 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 24
Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9.5
Cincinnati Bengals (13-4) at Buffalo Bills (14-3)
A few weeks ago, I thought the Bengals had a good chance to pull the small upset against the Bills, which they looked on their way to doing before the game was suspended. The Bengals still only narrowly trail the Bills in weighted DVOA (34.9% vs. 25.0%), but things are going to be much tougher for them this time around, for a couple reasons. For one, this game is in Buffalo rather than Cincinnati, with the league unfairly not making this a neutral site game as they would with Bills/Chiefs, even though the Bengals could have hosted this game had they won the suspended first matchup.
That could give the Bengals some added motivation, but I’m not sure if more motivation is needed at this point in the season and a bigger concern for the Bengals, beyond the location of this game, is the absence of arguably their top-3 offensive linemen, a pair of whom, left tackle Jonah Williams and right guard Alex Cappa, both played in the previous matchup. Without them and right tackle La’El Collins, who went down the week before the suspended game, the Bengals will have a tough time going into Buffalo and winning. This line is pretty high at 5.5, but my calculated line is -7, so the Bills should still be the right side at that number. I wouldn’t bet on this, but I like the Bills for pick ‘em purposes.
Buffalo Bills 31 Cincinnati Bengals 24
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -5.5
New York Giants (10-7-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)
The Eagles are 7.5-point home favorites in this matchup against the Giants. A few weeks ago, I would happily bet the Eagles at that number. The Giants made the playoffs in large part due to a weak schedule, they had unimpressive margins of victories, with 8 of 9 regular season wins coming by 8 points or fewer, and they went just 2-6 against playoff qualifiers, while the Eagles won 13 of their first 14 games, with 8 wins coming by margins of 8 points or more. The Eagles were 7-point favorites on the road against the Giants in week 14 and came out with a 26-point blowout victory.
However, the Eagles have slowed down in recent weeks due to injuries and now rank just 5th in weighted DVOA at 21.7%. They’ll get Josh Sweat and Lane Johnson this week, but there is no guarantee the latter will be 100% and, while quarterback Jalen Hurts returned two weeks ago before the bye, he did not look 100% and is not a guarantee to play at his highest level this week either.
Meanwhile, it’s the Giants who are as healthy as they’ve been all season, with a SIC score that is 4.3 points above their season average, and they are playing their best football of the season as a result. In particular, their defense has benefited significantly from the return of Leonard Williams, Xavier McKinney, and Adoree Jackson, none of whom played in the Giants’ blowout loss to the Eagles a few weeks ago. If I knew Hurts and Johnson would be 100% I would pick the Eagles, but, since I don’t, I am taking the Giants for a no confidence pick.
Philadelphia Eagles 23 New York Giants 16
Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7.5