Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (10-2) at Buffalo Bills (9-3)

The Bills got a statement win on Thanksgiving in Dallas, but that wasn’t as impressive as it seemed, so the Bills are a little overrated right now. Not only have the Cowboys since been beaten rather easily by the Bears, but, while the Bills won that game by 11, they lost the first down rate battle by 7.54%. The Cowboys picked up 32 first downs in the game and got into Buffalo territory on 8 of 10 drives, but managed just 15 points because they missed a pair of field goals, turned it over twice, and got stopped on 4th down twice late in the game when they were forced to go for it. 

The Bills have a first down rate differential of +3.44% on the season, 6th in the NFL, but they’ve faced the easiest schedule in the NFL by far, with their opponents having a combined winning percentage of 38%. No one else has faced a schedule easier than 42%. Aside from last week, their only win over a team with more than 4 wins came against the Titans by 7 in a game in which the Titans missed 4 field goals. Excluding the Cowboys and Titans, the Bills have 7 wins against teams that are a combined 20-64.

The Bills’ schedule gets much tougher this week, as they host the Baltimore Ravens, arguably the top team in the league right now. The Ravens beat another top team candidate last week, the San Francisco 49ers, but this line still shifted from Baltimore -7 on the early line last week to Baltimore -6 this week, as a result of Buffalo’s win over Dallas. About 10% of games are decided by exactly a field goal, so that’s a significant one-point shift. 

I was hoping for an even better line with Baltimore, but I like the Ravens a good amount this week. They’ve blown their competition out of the water for about two months, ranking 1st in first down rate differential since week 7 at +11.83% (no one else is higher than +5.65%), despite facing teams that are 7-5 or better in 5 of 6 games. The Ravens got off to a relatively slow start, but still rank 2nd in first down rate differential on the season at +7.28%. The Bills, meanwhile, are going in the opposite direction, with just a +0.02% first down rate since week 7, 18th in the NFL over that time period, despite facing opponents with a combined 29-56 record. Everyone knows the Ravens are good so it’s hard to get value with them, but we’re getting some this week (Baltimore -8.5 is my calculated line) because the Bills are overrated, so the Ravens are worth betting this week. 

Baltimore Ravens 27 Buffalo Bills 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -6

Confidence: Medium

Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

People seem to be souring on the Cowboys as a result of their loss in New England last week, but I don’t really understand why. The Patriots are one of the top few teams in the league once again this season and have been borderline impossible to beat at home over the past two decades. They have just 26 home losses since 2001 and prior to last week they were 51-20 ATS at home in games in which they were not favored by a touchdown or more. The fact that the Cowboys were able to play the game close and cover the 6-point spread is impressive, losing 13-9 in a game they played about even in first down rate (-0.15%) and lost primarily as a result of a blocked punt. 

The common narrative is the Cowboys can’t beat good teams and in fact they are 0-4 against teams that currently have winning records right now, but all of those losses have been close, decided by 20 points combined, and the Cowboys actually won the first down rate battle in two of those losses. All in all, their 5 losses have come by a combined 22 points, while their 6 wins have come by a combined 107 points, giving them a +85 point differential that ranks 4th in the NFL. They also rank 4th in first down rate differential at 5.34% and 4th in my roster rankings.

The Cowboys haven’t faced a tough schedule overall (46% opponents winning percentage), but that’s significantly tougher than the Bills’ schedule, as the Bills’ opponents have a combined 35% winning percentage, 8% less than any other team in the league. Their 8-3 record is a complete farce as the 8 teams that have defeated are a combined 21-67, with their one win against a team that currently has more than 4 wins coming against a Titans team that was starting Marcus Mariota at the time and that missed 4 makeable field goals in a 7-point loss. The Bills’ strength of defeat isn’t all that impressive either, as their 3 losses have come against teams that are a combined 20-13.

The Bills enter this game 6th in first down rate differential at +4.70%, but that’s still behind the Cowboys, despite facing such an easy schedule. My roster rankings have the Bills as a middle of the pack team, ranked 18th overall. The Bills are also in a horrible spot, having to play on the road on a short week against a superior opponent who they aren’t familiar with. Short weeks are tough enough as they are, but they’re easier when you’re at home, when you’re facing an inferior opponent, and when you’re facing a divisional opponent you’re familiar with. Non-divisional road underdogs are 17-36 ATS over the past 30 years on Thursdays, including 9-20 ATS as road underdogs of 4 or more. 

Given the Bills’ disadvantage on a short week and the talent gap between these two teams, I have this line calculated at Dallas -10, so we’re getting good line value with the hosts, especially with the line shifting off of the full touchdown it was at on the early line last week to -6.5 this week, as a result of the public souring on the Cowboys a little bit. About 1 in 10 games are decided by exactly a touchdown, so that’s a big half point. The Cowboys have 6 wins by more than a touchdown this season and should be able to make it seven this week against a Bills team that has barely been tested this season. I like them a lot as favorites of less than a touchdown. I’m also locking in Cincinnati +3.5 early in case in moves and I will have a full write up for that game this weekend with the others as usual.

Dallas Cowboys 27 Buffalo Bills 16

Pick against the spread: Dallas -6.5

Confidence: High

Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3)

At first glance, the Bills are having a strong season, going 7-3 and ranking 6th in first down rate differential at +4.18%. However, they’ve played by far the easiest schedule in the NFL so far. Their seven wins have come against teams that are a combined 15-55 and their only win against a team with more than three wins came by a touchdown in a game in which the now 5-5 Titans missed four makeable field goals. Even the record of the teams that have defeated the Bills is not overly impressive, at 18-12. My roster rankings have the Bills 18th, which is think is a much more accurate representation of how the Bills stack up against the rest of the league. 

That’s just one spot ahead of where I have the Broncos, who also rank 19th in first down rate differential at -0.80%. Denver is 3-7, but four of their losses have come by four points or fewer on last-second drives, so they could easily have 5 or 6 wins right now. They’re down to third string quarterback Brandon Allen, but he hasn’t been much of a dropoff from Joe Flacco. The Broncos have compensated for their offensive issues all season with a defense that ranks 5th in the NFL in first down rate at 32.46%. 

Unfortunately, we’re not really getting line value with the Broncos, as this line has been bet down from Buffalo -6 on the early line last week to Buffalo -4 this week. I have this line calculated at Buffalo -3.5, which isn’t much different than the actual line. I still like the Broncos chances of keeping this game close, with the Bills having to turnaround and play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football (a 44% cover spot all-time for favorites), but not enough to bet on it.

Buffalo Bills 20 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Denver +4

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (6-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)

The Dolphins have won back-to-back games after getting off to a horrendous 0-7 start, but they still rank dead last in the NFL in first down rate differential at -8.98%. Even in last week’s win in Indianapolis, they lost the first down rate battle by 6.40%, winning by 4 in a game in which Colts backup quarterback Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions. The Dolphins are undeniably a better team with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but they still rank dead last overall in my roster rankings. Five of their seven losses have come by double digits this season and getting blown out is a trend that actually dates back a few seasons for them, as they have 20 double digit losses since the start of the 2017 season. 

This could easily be another big loss for the Dolphins, with the Bills coming to town. The Bills rank 7th in the NFL in first down rate differential at +3.90% and, while they’ve faced an easy schedule (31st in opponent’s DVOA) their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week. My roster rankings have the Bills 17th, but that still makes them 9-point favorites on my calculated line, so we’re getting good line value with the Bills at -6.5. I’ll need to know the status of Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes before committing to betting on the Bills because he’s their top defensive lineman and didn’t practice on Friday, but the Bills should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes either way.

Buffalo Bills 26 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -6.5

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (6-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-6)

These two teams have mirror image records, with the Bills at 6-2 and the Browns at 2-6, but it’s fair to wonder if they’d have a similar record if they played the same schedule. While the Browns have faced the 4th toughest schedule in terms of opponents DVOA, the Bills have faced the second easiest. The combined record of the 6 teams the Bills have defeated (by an average of 8.5 points per game) is 9-42 and they’ve lost both games they’ve played against teams with a winning record. The Browns, despite having 4 fewer wins than the Bills, are the only team in this matchup that has defeated a winning team, beating the now 6-2 Ravens 40-25 in Baltimore back in week 4. The Browns’ 6 losses have come against teams that are a combined 34-17.

Unfortunately, we still aren’t getting any line value with the Browns, who are favored by 2.5 points here at home over the Bills. I still have the Bills slightly higher in my roster rankings right now, especially with the Browns missing talented defensive end Olivier Vernon. The Browns are also on a tight turnaround with another game against the Steelers on deck 4 days after this game (favorites cover at a 45% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football), and though I do expect them to be focused, having lost 4 straight, the Bills are in a great spot, with only a trip to Miami on deck (underdogs are 57-36 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 4.5+). I have this line calculated at even and, while there’s not enough here to bet the Bills confidently at +2.5, I do like the money line at +120 in a game that should be a toss up. If this line moves up to 3, I might consider a bet on the Bills against the spread as well.

Update: +3s are showing up Sunday morning. If you can get that line, the Bills are worth a bet.

Buffalo Bills 20 Cleveland Browns 19 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +3

Confidence: Medium

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (1-7) at Buffalo Bills (5-2)

It’s unfortunate that the Redskins won’t be starting Case Keenum in this game because I probably would have made a pretty substantial bet on the Redskins this week if he was starting. The Bills are 5-2, but shouldn’t be favored by double digits except anyone except maybe the Dolphins. Despite facing the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA, the Bills have just one win by more than 10 points, with an average margin of victory of 7.2 points per game against 5 teams that are a combined 7-31. Their only win over a team that currently has at least a .500 record came by 7 points against a now 4-4 Titans team that missed 4 field goals in the game.  However, with Keenum still in the concussion protocol, the Redskins will have to turn to first round rookie Dwayne Haskins, which adds a lot of uncertainty to this game.

Haskins still has upside long-term, but he’s been horrendous in limited action thus far, completing just 12 of 22 passes with 4 interceptions, and behind the scenes he likely hasn’t been much better, as the Redskins have been very hesitant to let him play, even with a first round pedigree and an overall lost season. He also was pretty underwhelming in the pre-season, despite playing against mostly backups. Haskins came into the NFL very inexperienced and may ultimately benefit in the long run from being forced into some action as a rookie, but he could also go through some serious growing pains in his first few starts. I still have this line calculated at only Buffalo -7.5 even with Haskins in the lineup, but there’s too much uncertainty for me to bet the Redskins confidently, even with the line moving up to 10.5. 

Buffalo Bills 20 Washington Redskins 13

Pick against the spread: Washington +10.5

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (5-1)

This was maybe the toughest game of the week to decide, as it’s tough to know what to make of either team. The Bills are 5-1, but they have faced the second easiest schedule in the NFL, with their wins coming against the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans, and Dolphins. Some of their games have been close, most concerningly their home win over the Dolphins last week in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, but they have a solid +30 point differential overall (9th in the NFL). Most impressively, they’ve had that point differential without the benefit of consistently winning the turnover battle, as they are -1 on the season. The 8 teams ahead of them in point differential have an average turnover margin of +4.6, but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. 

The Bills join the 49ers as one of two teams in the league to have multiple wins in which they lost the turnover battle (Jets and Titans) and in their only loss of the season (at home against New England) they could have easily won if not for a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in an eventual 6-point game. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bills rank 5th at +6.13%, which is very impressive even against a relatively easy schedule. However, in my roster rankings, the Bills come in just 17th.

The Eagles, meanwhile, look like the much better team on paper, but they haven’t played like it (20th in first down rate differential at -1.71%) and the injuries are starting to pile up. They are missing starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, starting left tackle Jason Peters, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, starting outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, and their 3 of their top-4 defensive tackles, including week 1 starter Malik Jackson. Perhaps more importantly, they seem to have serious problems in the locker room, which would explain why they’ve underachieved thus far.

Of course, all their problems now being out in the open could be what motivates them to play better and prove everyone wrong, which just adds another layer of uncertainty to this game. They could also be exhausted in their 3rd straight road game, a 45% cover spot all-time. The line I ultimately came up with is Buffalo -3, so I’m taking the Bills as 2-point favorites, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Buffalo Bills 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -2

Confidence: None