Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-9) at Buffalo Bills (6-6)

The Bills started 5-2, but have since fallen to 6-6. What happened? Well, this decline should have been expected, given how reliant they were on the turnover margin to win games early in the season. They started the season with a +14 turnover margin in their first 7 games, but turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they were unlikely to be able to continue relying on that going forward. Sure enough, the Bills have a -8 turnover margin in their last 5 games and are 1-4 in those 5 games as a result.

The Bills are even worse than their 6-6 record too, as they have a point differential of -56, 9th worst in the NFL. Having a point differential that bad, despite still having a positive turnover margin at +6, is very rare. The Bills have struggled mightily to move the ball this season and to get off the field without forcing takeaways. They rank 29th in first down rate at 29.83%, 30th in first down rate allowed at 36.76%, and 31st in first down rate differential at -6.93%. The only team the Bills rank higher than in that metric are their opponents this week, the Indianapolis Colts, who rank dead last at -7.63%.

Making matters even worse for the Bills, they have to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman this week with Tyrod Taylor injured and he has struggled mightily in limited action this season, showing why he fell to the 5th round of the draft in April in the first place. The Colts are one of the worst teams in the league, especially with valuable players like left guard Jack Mewhort, defensive end Henry Anderson, outside linebacker John Simon, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, and safety Malik Hooker out for the season. However, I still have this line calculated at -3 with Peterman in the lineup because I have these two teams about even at the moment.

The Colts are also in a good spot in their second of two road games.  Teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games. Teams are 256-274 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.89 points per game, as opposed to 379-523 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. Lines don’t really adjust for that, which can give us some good betting spots, especially with road underdogs off of a road loss, like the Colts are this week. Teams are 121-78 ATS since 2008 as road underdogs off of a road loss in their second of two road games.

The Colts are 3-9 with their only wins coming against the 49ers, Browns, and Texans, three of the worst teams in the league. However, the Bills are arguably just as bad as those teams right now, so the Colts have a chance to pull this upset straight up and, even if they don’t, we get a good cushion at +3.5, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. At the very least, I’m happy getting more than a field goal with the significantly better quarterback, which is what Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is in this matchup with Peterman. The Colts are worth a small bet at 3.5.

Buffalo Bills 17 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +3.5

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (9-2) at Buffalo Bills (6-5)

The Bills pulled the upset in Kansas City last week, but the Chiefs have long been overrated and have lost 5 of 6, so that upset isn’t as impressive as it might seem. The Bills are undoubtedly a better team with Tyrod Taylor back under center, but they lost by a combined 50 points to the Jets and Saints in Taylor’s two starts prior to his start in Kansas City. The Bills started the season 5-2 with Taylor under center before that, but that was largely because of a +14 turnover margin. In the 4 games since, they are -8 in turnover margin.

Part of that is because of Nathan Peterman’s 5-interception half against the Chargers, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Bills were always likely to regress to the mean in turnover margin. They’ve struggled to win the first down battle regardless of who is under center, as they rank 30th in first down rate differential at -6.48%. Taylor is a capable starting quarterback, but he isn’t working with much in the receiving corps, especially with Kelvin Benjamin out, and their defense has problems getting off the field if they aren’t forcing turnovers.

The New England Patriots come to town on a 7-game winning streak and, even more impressively, a 14-game winning streak away from New England. They’ve won those 14 games by an average of 13.21 points and covered the spread in 11 of them. The Patriots have fans throughout the country, much like the Cowboys, so it makes sense that they’d do well even away from home. They’re also in a great spot with only a trip to Miami on deck. Big favorites tend to cover before being big favorites again, as favorites of 7+ are 67-42 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 7+ again (New England is -11.5 in Miami on the early line). Without any upcoming distractions, the Patriots should take care of business and get another double digit road victory, against a significantly inferior Bills team. This is a high confidence pick as long as the line is below 10.

New England Patriots 34 Buffalo Bills 20

Pick against the spread: New England -9

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

These two teams both got off to great starts, but both have skidded in recent weeks. The Bills started the year 5-2, but have lost 3 straight games by a combined 80 points since then, while the Chiefs started the year 5-0, but have since lost 4 of 5. Both teams are arguably coming off their worst week of the season as well, as the Bills lost 54-24 in Los Angeles to the Chargers and the Chiefs lost in overtime in New York to the previously 1-8 Giants, despite coming off of a bye.

The Bills are in a better spot this week though. The Chiefs could be a little tired after a road overtime loss (home teams cover at a 43% spread off of a road overtime loss since 1989) and could overlook a Bills team that is coming off of back-to-back blowout losses. It’s counter-intuitive, but teams are 45-32 ATS since 2002 after back-to-back 21+ point losses, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and underrated after two big losses in a row. The Bills could be all three of those things this week, and, at the very least, they are definitely underrated.

Despite Kansas City losing to a previously 1-win team, this line has actually shifted a half point in Kansas City’s favor since the early line last week, as the Chiefs are now 10 point favorites after being favored by 9.5 last week.That’s despite the fact that the Bills played an underrated Chargers team and played a lot better after pulling unprepared rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw 5 first half picks, for Tyrod Taylor, who should have remained the Bills’ quarterback all along.

Taylor is back under center this week for the Bills, which should put this offense back on track. They got blown out by the Saints even with Taylor the week before, but the Saints are one of the best teams in the league. Before that, they lost to the Jets in New York by 13, but that was because they lost 3 fumbles, something that hasn’t been the norm for this team this season. The Bills are far from a great team, but they were a capable opponent just a few weeks back and could easily bounce back over the next few weeks.

I think the Chiefs’ recent struggles are actually more concerning, because their offense has predictably fallen back to earth after starting the season on a record pace in turnover rate and big play rate, but their defense has continued to struggle mightily since losing safety Eric Berry in the opener. They still rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 39.42% and, as a result, they rank 24th in first down rate differential at -2.48%, even with an offense that still ranks 5th in first down rate on the season. Their only win in their last 5 games came at home to the Broncos, who have lost 6 straight, a game in which the Broncos won the first down batlle 23 to 16 and outgained the Chiefs by over 100 yards. I only have the Chiefs about 2.5 points better than the Bills in my rankings, so we’re getting a lot of line value with the Bills as 10 point underdogs.

Ordinarily homefield advantage is worth about 3 points, but the Bills are in a good spot as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of a road loss, as teams are 118-77 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 254-268 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.80 points per game, as opposed to 376-517 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. Given that, I have this line calculated at about -4 or -4.5, so we’re getting a ton of line value with the Bills at +10.

The Bills do have a tough home game next week against New England and could quit if they get down big early (teams are 22-46 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point home underdogs), but I see this being a close game. The Chiefs are particularly weak against the run on defense and the Bills should be able to run all over them with Taylor and LeSean McCoy, which will make it tough for Kansas City to pull away. If the New England game wasn’t on deck for the Bills, this would be my Pick of the Week, but it’s a high confidence pick nonetheless.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Buffalo Bills 23

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +10

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-6)

When this line opened at Chargers -4.5, I was interested in the Bills. The Bills are obviously coming off of a horrendous home loss to the New Orleans Saints, losing 47-10, but teams tend to bounce back pretty well after blowout losses, going 54-30 ATS since 2002 after losing by 35+ points. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense as teams to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed following a blowout loss. I typically love betting against significant week-to-week line movements and blowout loss almost always trigger significant line movement.

This line shifted from 3 on the early line last week as a result of the Bills’ blowout loss, a pretty significant shift considering 20% of games are decided by 3-4 points. The Chargers also have next to no homefield advantage in Los Angeles and have to play again in 4 days in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Favorites are just 61-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to be focused for an inferior opponent with another game right around the corner. The Bills seemed like possibly a smart pick.

However, then the Bills benched Tyrod Taylor mid-week for 5th round rookie Nathan Peterman. That shifted the line by another 1.5 points as the Chargers are now 6 point home favorites, but it should have shifted it a lot more. Taylor was far from the problem with this offense and has played pretty well over the past 3 seasons as the starter, despite underwhelming receiving options. He’s been Pro Football Focus’ 9th, 11th, and 10th ranked quarterback over the past 3 seasons and deserves to go somewhere he can start this off-season.

Peterman, meanwhile, is a completely unknown commodity, but likely fell to the 5th round in April for legitimate reason. The history of quarterbacks drafted in the 5th round or later who go on to have success in the NFL is very limited and Peterman seems to lack the requisite arm strength to play quarterback in the NFL. Benching Taylor should have triggered a line movement of at least 4 points. I have this line calculated at -9 in favor of the Chargers with Peterman at quarterback for the Bills.

That might seem high, but even with Taylor under center, the Bills ranked 31st in first down rate differential. They are 5-4, but they have a -12 point differential, despite leading the league with a +11 turnover margin. Turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis, so the Bills they won’t be able to rely on winning the turnover battle every week. After starting the season +14, they are -3 in the past two games, which have been a double digit loss to the Jets and a blowout loss to the Saints. They rank 29th in both first down rate and first down rate allowed. Their offense couldn’t move the ball despite solid quarterback play and their defense can’t get off the field if they don’t get a takeaway. Now with Peterman under center, this is one of the worst teams in the league. They rank 26th in my roster rankings.

The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 9th in my roster rankings and they rank 9th in first down rate differential as well, despite their 3-6 record. Four of their 6 losses have come by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. That’s pretty impressive considering their lack of homefield advantage. With an actual homefield advantage and better luck in close games, they could easily be 6-3 right now. With that in mind, I’m taking the Chargers here, but I can’t recommend betting any money on them because they aren’t a good home team and they’re in a terrible spot, against a team that just got blown out with another game in 4 days. They should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes though, given the talent disparity between these two teams.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Buffalo Bills 16

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -6

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (6-2) at Buffalo Bills (5-3)

The Bills started the season 5-2 on the strength of a league best +14 turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and they ranked just 28th in first down rate differential. Last week, they lost 34-21 in New York to the Jets as 3.5 point road favorites, in a game in which they lost the turnover margin by -3. They also had a first down rate differential of -5.54% in that game and still rank 28th in first down rate differential on the season at -3.89%. If we assume turnover neutral football for the Bills in the second half of the season, which you almost always should when evaluating a team given how inconsistent turnover margins are, the Bills will have a lot harder time winning games in the second half of the season.

Despite Buffalo’s big loss, I was still able to lock this line in at -2.5 in favor of the visiting Saints earlier in the week, the same line as the early line last week. You can still get that line in a few places for a higher vig. I have these two teams about 6.5 points apart in my roster rankings, so this line should be at least -3, if not higher. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so the difference between -2.5 and -3/-3.5 is pretty big. The Saints are 6-2, have won 6 straight, rank 6th in first down rate differential, and have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL thanks to a much improved defense. Only about 8% of games are decided by 2 points or less, so the Saints basically need to just win here. They should be able to win this game by at least a field goal. This is a high confidence pick.

New Orleans Saints 27 Buffalo Bills 21

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -2.5

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-2) at New York Jets (3-5)

The Bills beat the Raiders 34-14 last week, triggering a movement in this game’s line from BUF -2.5 @ NYJ last week on the early line to -3.5 this week. However, that final score is deceiving, as the Raiders won both the first down and the yardage battle. The Bills were able to win by 20 because they won the turnover battle by 4 and brought one back for a touchdown, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The average turnover margin for a team that won the turnover battle by 4 in their previous game is +0.0, the same as the turnover margin for a team that previously lost the turnover battle by 4.

The Bills have been pretty reliant on the turnover margin so far this season, as they lead the league with a +14 turnover margin. They’re unlikely to continue winning the turnover battle at that same rate, which will have a noticeable effect on the scoreboard. They rank just 28th in first down rate differential at -3.74%, only one spot ahead of the 29th ranked Jets (-5.05%). Adding Kelvin Benjamin to this receiving corps via trade will help in future weeks, but he’s unlikely to be much help on Thursday Night Football after just being acquired from Carolina on Tuesday.

The Jets aren’t a very good team, but they’re not the worst and they’ve played pretty well at home this season (4-0 ATS), defeating the Jaguars and Dolphins and playing the Falcons and Patriots close. Given that, we’re getting some line value with the Jets as 3.5 point home favorites because the Bills are overrated right now as a result of their turnover margin. 3.5 points doesn’t seem like a lot, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less and this could easily be a close game. This is just a low confidence pick, but the Jets should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Buffalo Bills 17 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3.5

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (4-2)

Expected to be an AFC contender, the Raiders got off to an underwhelming 2-4 start, but things are looking up for them following last week’s last second home victory over the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. After getting knocked out with a back injury in a week 4 loss to the Broncos, missing a week 5 loss against the Ravens, and struggling in his return in a week 6 loss to the Chargers, Derek Carr played one of his best games last week against the Chiefs and should be close to 100% after an extended rest following the Thursday game. Despite their record, there’s a case to be made that the Raiders are still a top-10 team, given how few true contenders there seem to be this season and how talented this roster still is.

This line favors the hometown Bills by a field goal, suggesting these two teams are about even, which I don’t agree with. The Bills are 4-2, but they’ve been very reliant on the turnover margin, as they lead the league with a +10 turnover margin, but rank just 26th in first down rate differential at -3.00%. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they’ll need to do a better job of picking up first downs going forward if they want to continue having success in the win column. Their offense has major problems (29th in first down rate), so I don’t see that happening, and their defense is a little bit overrated because of how many takeaways they’ve gotten (12th in first down rate allowed). Their defense also enters this game banged up, missing cornerback EJ Gaines and safety Jordan Poyer, who have been a big part of their defensive success this season.

The Raiders are also banged up in the secondary, missing rookie slot cornerback Gareon Conley for the 6th time this season, in addition to cornerback David Amerson (2nd game) and safety Karl Joseph (1st game). However, their secondary isn’t as important to their success as the Bills’ secondary is to their success. They have easily the better offense, especially with Carr rounding back into form, and are about 2 points better than the Bills in my roster rankings. The Bills are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are just 59-92 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. I locked this line in at -3 earlier this week on my Thursday pick, but I would take 2.5 if I had to. I also like the Raiders’ chances of the straight up upset.

Oakland Raiders 24 Buffalo Bills 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: High