Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
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WAS +185 vs. GB
IND +120 @ TEN
NO +120 @ ARZ
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
WAS +185 vs. GB
IND +120 @ TEN
NO +120 @ ARZ
Chicago Bears (2-4) at New England Patriots (3-3)
Coming into the season, many regarded the Bears as among the worst, if not the worst team in the league. They won a couple early games, but the way they won those games suggested they were still one of the worst teams in the league and that they would have a hard time continuing to win games going forward. In both of their wins, the Bears lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle, by 0.41% and 1.30 respectively against the 49ers and by 1.39% and 0.08 respectively against the Texans, a big concern because those stats are much more predictive than the final score.
Sure enough, the Bears have lost three straight games since their 2-1 start and, in terms of schedule adjusted overall efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the Bears rank 30th, about 7 points below average. Even that may be the Bears overachieving their talent level, as my roster rankings have them 8.5 points below average and the 2nd worst team in the league, only behind the Broncos, who this week will have to turn to Brett Rypien, one of the shakiest backups in the league, in the absence of Russell Wilson.
The Patriots, meanwhile, were written off by many after a 1-3 start and an injury to starting quarterback Mac Jones. However, they were competitive in all of their losses, barely losing to the Packers in overtime and losing to the Dolphins primarily because of the turnover margin (-3 vs. Miami and -2 vs. Baltimore), which is not predictive week-to-week. In the past two weeks, the Patriots have since seen their turnover issues go the other way, posting turnover margins of +1 and +3 over the past two weeks in blowout victories over the Lions and Browns respectively, with backup quarterback Bailey Zappe under center.
Not only did those two wins get the Patriots back to .500, but they’ve also pushed them all the way up to 5th in the NFL in point differential at +28. Schedule adjusted overall efficiency doesn’t rank them quite as highly, but they still are 14th in the NFL, about one point above average. My roster rankings suggest they are even better than that, having them about 4 points above average, suggesting their high level of play in recent weeks is more indicative of their talent level than their slow start, which was likely the result of a significant change in offensive scheme this off-season.
Mac Jones is expected to return this week, but the way Bailey Zappe has played the past two weeks, I’m not really sure it matters for the purposes of handicapping this game, as either quarterback should be capable of leading the Patriots to a blowout win over the lowly Bears. This line is 8.5, which seems high, but the Patriots have shown a penchant for blowing teams out over the past three seasons, especially bad teams, with 13 of their 20 wins over that span coming by double digits. This isn’t a big play, but the Patriots should be bettable this week.
New England Patriots 23 Chicago Bears 10
Pick against the spread: New England -8.5
Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-3)
The Chiefs have a pair of losses, but both of them were games they easily could have won. One of the losses came by 4 points on a late drive against a Bills team that is arguably the best in the league, while the other came against the Colts in a game in which the Chiefs lost the turnover battle by one and in which their backup kicker missed an extra point and a field goal, leading to a 3-point loss, despite the Chiefs winning the first down rate battle by 5.50% and the yards per play battle by 1.50, which are both significantly more predictive than turnovers or special teams. Even with their two losses, the Chiefs still rank 1st in the NFL in every major offensive category, points, first down rate, and schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, with the latter being a metric in which they are over two points better than any other team in the league.
That’s a great sign for the Chiefs going forward because offensive performance is significantly more predictive week-to-week than defensive performance, and the Chiefs haven’t been bad on defense either, ranking 15th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while their typically strong special teams unit should be better going forward with regular kicker Harrison Butker now healthy again. Even with a mediocre special teams unit taken into account, the Chiefs still rank 2nd in schedule adjusted overall efficiency, only behind the dominant Bills, who happen to be the only team to beat the Chiefs in a game in which the Chiefs had a healthy kicker this season.
The 49ers, on the other hand, are known for their offensive skill position players like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk, but rank below average in points per game (20th), first down rate (19th), and schedule adjusted offensive efficiency (20th). Some put the majority of the blame for that on their quarterback play, but the bigger culprit has been their offensive line, which hasn’t played nearly as well as a year ago. They’ll get left tackle Trent Williams back this week for the first time since week 3, a huge re-addition because he is arguably the best left tackle in the league when healthy, but the 49ers are still missing a trio of offensive line starters from a year ago, all of whom have been replaced by players who are not playing as well.
The 49ers acquired former Panthers feature back Christian McCaffrey in a trade this week to give them yet another offensive playmaker and, while he could easily have a big impact for them in the future, he’s unlikely to factor significantly into this game, having just joined the team a few days ago. The 49ers have dominant defense, ranking 4th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, which more or less matches how their defense ranks in my roster rankings, but their special teams has struggled again this season, ranking 27th in schedule adjusted efficiency after ranking 28th last season, and, overall, I have them 5.5 points behind the Chiefs.
With that in mind, my calculated line has the Chiefs favored by a field goal in this game, on the road in San Francisco. Given that, we are getting some line value with the Chiefs as mere 1-point favorites, but that’s not quite enough for the Chiefs to be betting. They are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes and, in matchups between dominant offenses and dominant defenses, the team with the dominant offense tends to win more often, but this is only a low confidence pick because we’re not getting significant line value.
Kansas City Chiefs 27 San Francisco 49ers 24
Pick against the spread: Kansas City -1
Detroit Lions (1-4) at Dallas Cowboys (4-2)
The Lions began the season as the highest scoring team in the league through 4 games, averaging 35.0 points per game, before being shut out in week 5 against the Patriots. The common thinking seems to be that the Lions’ dominant offensive start was legitimate and that they just happened to run into a dominant defense in week 5, but I don’t think that’s correct. Even with the Patriots’ game taken into account, the Lions still rank 3rd in the NFL in points per game at 28.0, but in terms of first down rate, which is much more predictive than points, the Lions rank just 13th, 18th when adjusted for strength of schedule.
That’s still pretty solid, but it’s a big concern for a Lions team that has one of the worst defenses in the league and relies on their offense’s ability to keep up in shootouts to win games. A year after ranking 30th in defensive efficiency, about 4 points below average, the Lions have somehow been even worse this season, ranking dead last, about 5.5 points below average, especially struggling since losing two of their better players, safety Tracy Walker and edge defender Charles Harris, due to injuries. My roster rankings tell the same story, with the Lions’ defense being 5 points below average without Walker and Harris. Overall, both my roster rankings and schedule adjusted efficiency have the Lions about 5 points below average overall as a team, making them one of the worst in the league, despite an impressive points total.
With that in mind, I like the Cowboys a lot this week. Many thought the Cowboys’ season was over when they lost quarterback Dak Prescott for an extended period of time in a week 1 blowout loss to the Buccaneers, but the Cowboys’ defense has been dominant this season, ranking 2nd in schedule adjusted efficiency, and, led by that defense, backup Mike White won 4 of 5 games in Prescott’s absence. With Prescott set to return to the lineup for a 4-2 team with a dominant defense, the Cowboys are in position to be a serious contender going forward.
I’m a little wary of betting on the Cowboys in Prescott’s first game back, especially considering how he struggled in his first game back from a shoulder injury last season, and the Cowboys have offensive problems beyond Prescott, ranking just 24th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency thus far this season, but, even with Prescott factored in at less than 100%, the Cowboys still rank 4 points above average in my roster rankings, 9 points ahead of the Lions.
In addition to how well their defense has played thus far this season, the Cowboys also rank 4th in schedule adjusted special teams efficiency. Given how big the gap between them and the Lions is, we are getting significant line value with the Cowboys as mere 6.5-point home favorites, with my calculated line being Dallas -11. This isn’t a big play, but the Cowboys are worth a bet this week if you can get this line at less than a touchdown.
Dallas Cowboys 26 Detroit Lions 17
Pick against the spread: Dallas -6.5
New York Giants (5-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4)
The Giants have a 5-1 record, while the Jaguars are just 2-4, but the Jaguars actually have the better point differential between these two teams (+24 vs. +14). While all of the Giants’ wins have come by just one score, the Jaguars’ wins have come by 24 and 28, while their losses have all come by one score. Big blowout wins tend to be much more predictive of future success than close wins and the gap between these two teams is even more pronounced if you look at schedule adjusted efficiency, where the 9th ranked Jaguars have a 5.5-point edge over the 23rd ranked Giants. My roster rankings have these two teams closer together than schedule adjusted efficiency, but, any way you look at it, the Jaguars are the slightly better team, despite not having nearly as good of a record.
Unfortunately, the odds makers are still not giving the Giants any respect, despite their record, so we’re not getting any line value with the Jaguars, who are favored by a full field goal at home, even being three games worse than the Giants in the standings. The Jaguars are in a better spot, as the Giants are coming off of a big home upset win over the Ravens last week, which tends to be a situation in which teams are flat the following week, covering the spread at just a 41.3% rate after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 points or more. However, that isn’t enough for the Jaguars to be worth betting without getting any real line value, so this is only a low confidence pick.
Jacksonville Jaguars 24 New York Giants 20
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3
New York Jets (4-2) at Denver Broncos (2-4)
A week ago on the early line, the Broncos were 3.5-point favorites, but this line has since shrunk to favor the Broncos by only one point. Normally I like to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but I don’t think that’s the case here, for a couple reasons. For one, Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a hamstring injury and, while it seems unlikely that he will actually sit out this game, Wilson was already struggling through a shoulder injury and struggling to adapt to his new team, so a hamstring injury won’t help matters. On top of that, if Wilson does sit, the Broncos would have to turn to inexperienced backup Brett Rypien, who is one of the shakier backup quarterbacks in the league.
The Broncos already rank just 31st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, due to Wilson’s struggles, as well as significant injuries to key players around him, including left tackle Garret Bolles, running back Javonte Williams, and wide receiver Tim Patrick. The Broncos have played pretty well defensively, ranking 6th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but offensive performance is significantly more predictive week-to-week than defensive performance and, in terms of overall efficiency, which weights offensive performance higher and includes the Broncos 28th ranked special teams, the Broncos rank just 29th, 7 points below average. That lines up with my roster rankings, which have them 6 points below average, even before taking into account the fact that Wilson could sit this game out entirely.
The second reason that I don’t think the line movement is an overreaction is that I don’t think the Jets’ big upset win in Green Bay last week was a fluke. The Jets’ still have an underwhelming offense, ranking 27th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, but they are still three points better than the Broncos in that metric and they have been better with quarterback Zach Wilson and left tackle Duane Brown back in the lineup. On top of that, their special teams has remained dominant, ranking 3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency, after ranking 2nd a year ago, and their defense is significantly improved this season, ranking 5th in schedule adjusted efficiency after ranking 31st last year, with several key players bouncing back from injuries (Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams) and other key players being added in the draft (Ahmad Gardner) and free agency this off-season (DJ Reed, Kwon Alexander).
In terms of overall efficiency, the Jets rank 13th, about a point above average and, while my roster rankings have them slightly lower, they’re still only a half point below average, so their surprising performance thus far this season doesn’t seem like a fluke. They might not be quite as good as their 4-2 record, but I think the public thinks their record is a complete fluke and I think the line movement we’ve seen in this game over the past week is just the oddsmakers starting to catch up to the Jets being decent more than it is an overreaction. With the Broncos struggling as much as they’ve struggled thus far this season, my calculated line actually favors the Jets by a field goal on the road, so we’re getting good line value with the Jets +1. That calculated line would shoot up even further if Wilson was actually unable to play. This isn’t a big play, but I want to lock this line in now in case Wilson ends up being ruled out.
Update: Russell Wilson was ruled out today. I figured the line would move to favor the Jets by a field goal in that case, but I guess the original line factored in a pretty significant chance that Wilson would be out, as the Jets are only favored by one point, which is pretty insignificant line movement, given that games decided by exactly one point aren’t that common (about 6% of the time). Obviously if you locked your bet in at +1, that is great, but I would recommend an additional bet at -1 because this line is way too low. Brett Rypien is one of the most underwhelming backup quarterbacks in the league, has an underwhelming supporting cast, and will have to face a good Jets defense without the benefit of a full week of first team reps, having split them with Wilson all week. The Jets should win this game relatively easily.
New York Jets 20 Denver Broncos 13
Pick against the spread: NY Jets -1
Indianapolis Colts (3-2-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)
When these two teams met for the first time this season back in week 4, the Titans pulled the road upset by a final score of 24-17. With this rematch being in Tennessee, many are assuming that the Titans will have an easier time winning than they did in Indianapolis, but that’s not how divisional rivalries tend to go. In fact, when a team pulls a road upset against a divisional opponent and then is favored at home in a same season, regular season rematch, they only win the game about 59.3% of the time.
That might sound like a lot, but it’s not when you compare it to divisional home favorites in all situations, who win the game about 68.1% of the time. On top of that, divisional home favorites facing teams they already beat that season as road underdogs tend to struggle to cover the spread in the rematch, doing so at just a 42.6% rate. In the first matchup between these two teams, the Colts were the ones in a bad spot, having just pulled a huge home upset over the Chiefs the week prior (teams cover the spread at just a 41.3% rate after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 points or more), but this time around the Titans are more likely to be flat.
On top of that, the way the Titans’ won the previous game between these two teams was somewhat fluky, as the Titans won the turnover battle by three, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of first down rate and yards per play, which are significantly more predictive, the Titans had the slight edge in first down rate (1.12%), but were outgained by over a yard per play (1.13). The Colts also have the significant edge in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, ranking six points ahead of the Titans.
My roster rankings have these two teams closer than that, but the Colts still have a 1.5 point edge, so they should be considered the better team however you look at it. Despite being the better team in the better spot, the Colts are 2.5-point road underdogs in Tennessee, suggesting these two teams are about even. My calculated line is Indianapolis -1, even before you take into account the Colts being in a better spot, so the Colts should be the ones slightly favored in this game, rather than the Titans. I wish we were getting a full field goal with the Colts, but they’re still worth a small bet at +2.5 and the money line is a good value as well, as the Colts should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this rematch.
Indianapolis Colts 20 Tennessee Titans 17 Upset Pick +120
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +2.5
Houston Texans (1-3-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (1-4)
The Raiders are favored by a touchdown this week, despite being just 1-4, but they’ve been competitive in all of their losses, with an average margin of defeat of just 3.5 points, and this home game against the Texans is the easiest game they’ve played all season thus far, with the Texans ranking 31st in schedule adjusted efficiency. That’s about 8 points behind the Raiders, who actually rank 15th, despite their record.
However, the Raiders are missing a pair of key players, talented tight end Darren Waller and top cornerback Nate Hobbs, so these two teams are closer in my roster rankings than they are in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency. My calculated line is closer to 6.5 than 7, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Texans. It’s an insignificant amount, so there isn’t nearly enough here for the Texans to be worth betting, but I would take them for pick ‘em purposes if I had to.
Las Vegas Raiders 23 Houston Texans 17
Pick against the spread: Houston +7
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) at Miami Dolphins (3-3)
Two weeks ago, the Steelers were demolished in a 38-3 blowout in Buffalo, losing the first down rate battle by 6.42% and the yards per play battle by 5.17, but they bounced back in a big way last week, pulling an upset victory over the Buccaneers as 9.5-point underdogs. While that was a surprise, it shouldn’t have been too surprising to see those results back-to-back, as teams tend to bounce back in a big way after being blown out, covering the spread at a 58.6% rate after a loss by 35 points or more.
Unfortunately, the flip side of that is also true, as teams tend to struggle after big upset wins, covering the spread at a 41.3% rate after a win as home underdogs of five points or more. That’s primarily because teams tend to be overconfident and overrated after an upset win. In this case, it’s very possible the Steelers could be overconfident, but I don’t think they are overrated. In fact, despite the Steelers’ upset win last week, this line shifted from favoring the Dolphins by 4.5 on the early line last week to now favoring them by 7.5.
That line shift happened because the Dolphins get quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater back from injuries this week, but it was always likely one of those quarterbacks would be back for this game and, even with Tagovailoa under center, 7.5 points is too high. Even when Tagovailoa was healthy earlier this season, the Dolphins’ only win by more than one score came in a game in which they won the turnover margin by 3, but lost the first down rate battle by 0.85% and only won the yards per play battle by 0.18, a concern because yards and first downs are significantly more predictive week-to-week than turnovers.
The Dolphins still rank 11th in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, even with the injuries they’ve had at quarterback, but the Steelers are only 1.5 points behind them, ranked 16th. My roster rankings have a bigger 3-point gap between these two teams, but, either way, it’s hard to justify this line being all the way at 7.5. My calculated line is Miami -4.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the Steelers.
There’s a chance the Steelers are flat this week after such a big home upset win over the Buccaneers last week, but, even with that taken into account, they are at least worth consideration for a bet. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but depending on the status of a pair of key Miami players who are questionable, left tackle Terron Armstead and edge defender Emmanuel Ogbah, I may end up betting on the Steelers.
Miami Dolphins 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 19
Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +7.5
Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)
I was surprised this line was so low, favoring the Chargers by just 5 points, after favoring them by 7.5 points on the early line last week. The Seahawks did pull the minor upset at home over the Cardinals last week, but the Cardinals are an overrated team who ranks just 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency and who should never have been favored in that game in the first place, so that win should not have moved this line by that much.
The Chargers had a pretty underwhelming performance last week, eking out a win over the Broncos, and they’ve had a slower start to the season than expected, going 4-2, but having a negative point differential and ranking just 24th in schedule adjusted efficiency, in large part due to injuries to key players like center Corey Linsley, left tackle Rashawn Slater, edge defender Joey Bosa, wide receiver Keenan Allen, and cornerback JC Jackson, who have all missed significant time this season. However, Linsley will play this week, Jackson could be better another week removed from his injury, and Allen may also return, so things are looking up injury wise.
With their injury situation improving, the Chargers rank about a point above average in my roster rankings, not as high as they were ranked to begin the season, but still better than they’ve played thus far this season. The Seahawks, meanwhile, rank 6 points below average in my roster rankings. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Seahawks actually rank slightly higher than the Chargers, ranking 21st, but that is primarily due to an offense that ranks 7th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while their defense ranks 31st, and I think it’s much more likely that their defense continues to struggle than it is that their offense continues playing at a high level, with quarterback Geno Smith’s performance likely to regress going forward.
My calculated line for this game is Chargers -7 and that’s even taking into account that the Chargers have next to no homefield advantage in Los Angeles, leading to them going just 16-26 ATS at home since moving in 2017. We’re not getting significant line value with the Chargers at -5, but they are in a good spot with a bye up next. Home favorites of 6+ cover the spread at a 63.3% rate before a bye and, while the Chargers are not favored by that much, they deserve to be, so that trend could still apply. I am waiting on the injury status of Keenan Allen and Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett, but, assuming Allen returns after two weeks of limited practice and Lockett does not play after not practicing all week, the Chargers should be bettable this week. This is a low confidence pick for now, but I will update this pick before gametime.
Los Angeles Chargers 31 Seattle Seahawks 23
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -5