Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

The Bears were a capable opponent in the middle of the season, but they’ve had a lot of injuries in recent weeks. They got stud middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back from a 3-game absence last week, but have since lost nose tackle Eddie Goldman, right guard Kyle Long, and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee indefinitely from a team that had already lost outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, tight end Zach Miller, and safety Adrian Amos long-term, all of whom were contributing in the middle of the season.

Fortunately, they get to face a Bengals team that is equally banged up. The Bengals will be missing stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict, cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, safety Shawn Williams, outside linebacker Nick Vigil, and running back Joe Mixon. On top of that, stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins, middle linebacker Vincent Rey, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard all were significantly limited in practice this week and are listed as questionable. As banged up as the Bears are, the Bengals shouldn’t be favored by more than 4 points against anyone except the Browns, who incidentally are the only team the Bengals have beaten by more than 4 points all season.

The Bengals are also in a terrible spot. Not only are they coming off of a brutal late loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night, a loss that arguably ended their season, but the Bengals also have to turn around and go to Minnesota next week. Given that, they could easily look past the lowly Bengals, who still have enough talent to keep it close with a banged up Cincinnati team. Teams are just 29-55 ATS since 2008 as 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point road underdogs, which the Bengals will likely be in Minnesota next week (+7.5 on the early line). The Bears are worth a small bet at 6 or higher.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Chicago Bears 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

When I saw the Bengals were touchdown home underdogs in this game on the early line last week, I was strongly considering making a bet on Cincinnati +7, depending on the results of last week. Unfortunately, this line has shifted from 7 to 4.5 in the past week, due in large part to the Steelers’ underwhelming 31-28 home victory over the Brett Hundley led Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. That game wasn’t as close as the final score suggests though, as the Packers struggled to move the ball for most of the game, except for a few big plays they scored touchdowns on. The Steelers won the first down battle 28 to 15 and had a first down rate differential of +10.53%. On the season, they rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +5.51%. They are clearly still a top-5 team, despite the close call against Green Bay.

Given that, we aren’t getting much line value with the Bengals at +4.5. We are still getting some though, as I have this line calculated at 3. The Bengals have major issues on the offensive line, but they have some good playmakers around Andy Dalton and a top-10 defense supporting him. They are kind of flying under the radar a little bit in the AFC right now, but they’re 5-6 and they’ve faced a tough schedule. Their losses have come against the Ravens at home, the Texans at home week 2 when they were healthy, the Packers in Green Bay back when Aaron Rodgers was healthy, these Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars in Jacksonville, and the Titans in Tennessee. They played Houston, Green Bay, and Tennessee close and could do that here as well, especially since the Steelers enter with some key absences and potential absences.

The Steelers are missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with injury and suspension respectively. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returns after a one game absence with a hamstring injury, but he might have to be their #1 receiver this week, as Antonio Brown is questionable with a toe injury he suffered on practice on Thursday. Even though he hasn’t practiced since, he’s still expected to be able to suit up Monday Night, but that’s far from a guarantee and he easily could be less than 100% if he plays. If he’s ruled out I’ll revisit this pick, but the Bengals are a low confidence pick at 4.5 for now.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +4.5

Confidence: Low

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-6)

The Bengals are in a terrible spot here, as they could look past the winless Browns with a huge home game against the Steelers on deck. Teams are just 36-67 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as big upcoming home games tend to present a major distraction for teams, and the Bengals are +7 currently on the early line. On top of that, favorites of 6+ like the Bengals are here are just 55-90 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs of 6 or more. Picking the Browns has been a pretty bad idea over the past couple years, as they’ve covered in just 4 of their last 20 games, but that’s pretty adequately priced into this line, as the Bengals as favored by 8 points, my exact calculated line. This is a no confidence pick, especially since the Browns have another tough game against the Chargers on deck, but this could be a major trap game for the Bengals, so Cleveland is my pick in pick ‘em pools. I can’t take them for any confidence though, as they could easily be down by 7 late and allow a return touchdown or screw up some other way.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +8

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) at Denver Broncos (3-6)

The Broncos have lost 5 straight games by double digits and have lost their last 2 games by a combined 53 points, but teams tend to bounce back pretty well after back-to-back blowout losses. Teams are 45-31 ATS since 2002 off of back-to-back losses by 21 or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after two straight big losses. The schedule also gets a little easier for the Broncos, with the Bengals coming to town, following games against the Chiefs, Eagles, and Patriots.

Not only has the Broncos’ schedule been tough, but they have done very poorly with turnover margin. Through 9 games, they rank last in the NFL in turnover margin at -14, but they should be better going forward, given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis. Despite a 3-6 record and a tough schedule, they rank 21st in first down rate differential. However, we aren’t getting much line value with the Broncos as 2.5 point home favorites because, like the Broncos, the Bengals are also underrated as a result of a poor turnover margin. They are -9 in turnover margin, 3rd worst in the NFL, but they rank 17th in first down rate differential. They also have a significant edge at quarterback and a comparable defense to the Broncos.

The Bengals are also in a good spot as they only have an easy game against the Browns up next, meaning they should be focused. The Broncos, meanwhile, have to travel to Oakland after this one and could get caught looking forward a little bit. Underdogs are 65-40 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, which the Broncos will be next week in Oakland. That trend might not apply to the Broncos this week because they’ve been embarrassed in back-to-back weeks, but I can’t be confident at all in the Broncos this week as 2.5 point home favorites. They could win by a field goal or more, but Cincinnati is a slightly superior team who could win outright. This is exactly where I have this line and there are offsetting trends, so this is a really tough one.

Denver Broncos 16 Cincinnati Bengals 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -2.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) at Tennessee Titans (5-3)

I’ve had the Titans as a top-10 team for most of the season, especially now with Marcus Mariota seemingly healthy again. Last week, I took the Titans as 3.5 point home favorites over the Ravens for a high confidence pick and lost it at the end when the Ravens led a garbage time touchdown drive down 10 points to cut the final score to 3, with 46 seconds left in the game. This week, the Titans are 4.5 point home favorites over the Bengals, who are a similar team to the Ravens. Like the Ravens, they have major offensive problems, but they have a top-10 defense that can cause problems for the opposing offense.

Unlike last week, I am not taking the Titans for anything more than a no confidence pick because they have to play again in Pittsburgh in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, a much bigger game. Favorites are 61-93 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football and understandably so. The Titans could easily look past the Bengals a little bit and let them keep this one close, so I can’t be confident in the Titans this week, though they are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Tennessee Titans 19 Cincinnati Bengals 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -4.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)

The Jaguars entered the season near the top of my underrated list and I’ve taken them in 6 of 7 games so far this season, covering the spread in 4 of those 6 games. However, the general public is starting to catch on that this is a legitimate team, led by arguably the best defense in the NFL. They open as 5.5 point favorites this week against the Bengals, after being -3 on the early line last week. As a result of that line movement, we’ve lost all line value with the Jaguars, as the Bengals are an underrated team.

The Bengals have played better offensively since firing their offensive coordinator after the first 2 games of the season and they should have a better turnover margin going forward after going -10 through the first 7 games of the season, as turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. I only have them about 1.5 points worse than the Jaguars, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with the visitors at 5.5. The Jaguars’ defense is strong, but their offense is not and they have to face a tough Cincinnati defense this week. With that in mind, I’m taking the Bengals here for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars 19 Cincinnati Bengals 14

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +5.5

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)

The Browns and 49ers are both winless at 0-7, but you could make an argument that the Colts are worse than both of them. The Colts have 2 wins, but they both came by just a field goal at home, against the 49ers and Browns, and they’ve lost their other 5 games by a combined 109 points. As a result, they have a point differential of -103, by far the worst in the NFL, behind the Cardinals (-72), the Browns (-66), and the 49ers (-63). They also rank dead last in first down rate differential at -8.08%.

On top of that, they enter this game very banged up, besides the obvious Andrew Luck injury. Already missing their top interior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort for the season, the Colts lost their top defensive back, talented rookie safety Malik Hooker, for the season last week and will also be without cornerback Rashaan Melvin and outside linebacker John Simon for at least this week. Melvin had been their top cornerback, while Simon was an above average starter as well. Missing all of the players they are missing, I have the Colts dead last in my roster rankings.

The Colts are also in a tough spot with a trip to Houston on deck. They will likely be double digit underdogs again in that game and double digit underdogs are 49-79 ATS since 1989 before being double digit underdogs again. The Bengals aren’t in a great spot either though, as they figure to be underdogs in Jacksonville next week. Double digit favorites are just 57-77 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs.

The Bengals are not a great team at 2-4, but they rank 17th in first down rate differential and have been playing better offensively since firing their offensive coordinator after week 2, so they’re a lot better than the Colts. They have major problems on the offensive line, but they have one of the better defenses in the league and should be able to move the ball at least somewhat on this weak Indianapolis defense. 

This line is high at -10.5, but the Bengals should be able to cover it. I have this line calculated at about 12.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Bengals. There’s not enough here to bet on Cincinnati confidently, but the Bengals should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes and they’re a smart survivor pick this week against the worst team in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals 26 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -10.5

Confidence: Low