Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (4-9) at Indianapolis Colts (3-10)

Both of these teams have had tough seasons at 4-9 and 3-10 respectively. Despite their similar records, I have the Broncos ranked significantly higher than the Colts, who I think are a bottom-3 team. The Broncos have the 5th worst point differential at -86, but that’s still significantly better than the Colts, who rank 2nd worst at -131. That’s despite the fact that the Broncos rank 2nd worst in turnover margin at -14, while the Colts are actually at +3. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Broncos should do better going forward in turnover margin, which should make a noticeable difference in the box score, while the best the Colts can probably hope for is maintaining their current margin.

The Broncos’ quarterback situation is so bad that they will probably continue throwing a lot of interceptions, but their talented defense only has 13 takeaways through 13 games, which will likely improve going forward. Denver’s defense enters this game 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.38%, so, while their defense hasn’t been as good as it has been in the past under Wade Phillips, it is still one of the best defenses in the league and easily the best unit in this game. Their offense is a problem, as they rank 29th in first down rate at 29.48%, but they are still significantly better in first down rate differential than the Colts, as they rank 23rd at -1.90%, while the Colts are dead last at -6.97%.

The Broncos also enter this game in a better injury situation, as the Colts have lost key contributors for the season like safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, and left guard Jack Mewhort, all of whom were big parts of this team in the middle of the season. The Broncos are missing some guys too, but enter this game with the clearly better roster. The Colts have only beaten the Browns, 49ers, and Texans, 3 of the worst teams in the league, this season. The Broncos are a step up in class.

The Colts are also in a terrible spot, playing on a short week after an overtime game. Teams are understandably just 3-22 ATS all-time with 4 days of rest or fewer after an overtime game, as long as they are not playing a team that is also coming off of an overtime game. The Colts just almost played the Bills to a tie in a blizzard, so they could definitely be flat for this one. This line is at 2.5 in favor of the visiting Broncos, so Denver basically just needs to win straight up (about 9% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer). Given that, I like the Broncos a lot this week, as they should be able to win, facing a weaker opponent that is dealing with tough circumstances. I like them a lot less if this line creeps up to 3, but this is a high confidence pick to start the week at 2.5.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

LAC PK @ KC

NE -2.5 @ PIT

Denver Broncos 19 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -2.5

Confidence: High

New York Jets at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Jets (5-7) at Denver Broncos (3-9)

One of my favorites things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. The Broncos were 3 point favorites here at home against the Jets on the early line and now they are 1.5 point underdogs, a huge swing, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. That line movement comes as a result of the Jets’ home upset victory over the Chiefs and the Broncos’ big road loss in Miami.

Given the way the Chiefs have been playing in recent weeks though, beating them on your homefield isn’t a huge accomplishment and the Broncos’ loss in Miami, while definitely concerning, was closer than the final score suggested and it came without stud cornerback Aqib Talib, who returns from his one-game suspension this week. Even without Talib last week, the Broncos had a good defensive showing, holding the Dolphins to 15 first downs and a 28.13% first down rate.

They are not the same defense they’ve been in recent years without Wade Phillips, but they still have a talented secondary and a strong pass rush and are clearly the better of the two defenses in this game. They rank 10th in first down rate allowed, allowing opponents to move the chains at just a 32.64% rate on the season. Their offense clearly holds them back, as they rank 30th in first down rate, moving the chains at a mere 29.61% rate. As a result, they rank 25th in first down rate differential at -3.03%. That being said, 25th isn’t horrible and it suggests they aren’t quite as bad as their record. On their current 8-game losing streak, they’ve actually won the first down rate battle 3 times, against the Giants, Bengals, and Chiefs.

They’ve had serious problems with the turnover margin, as they are -16 on the season, 2nd worst only to the Browns, but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Their quarterback situation is so bad that they will probably continue throwing a lot of interceptions, but their talented defense only has 11 takeaways through 12 games, tied for 2nd fewest in the league, and that can definitely improve going forward. The Broncos have also faced a pretty tough schedule overall. This home game against the Jets is arguably their easiest game so far.

Given that, it doesn’t make sense that the Jets are favored. The Jets have had some success at home this season, beating the Dolphins, Jaguars, Bills, and Chiefs and playing close against the Falcons, Patriots, and Panthers, but they have not been a good road team. Their one road win came in Cleveland by 3 in a game the Browns could have easily won had they not continually squandered red zone opportunities. The Jets have losses in Tampa Bay and Miami, two comparable teams to the Broncos, and big losses in Buffalo and Oakland. On the season, they rank just one spot higher than the Broncos in first down rate differential, ranking 24th at -2.44%, despite an easier schedule. I still have this line calculated at -3, so we’re getting significant line value with the home underdog here.

The Jets are also in a terrible spot, as they are coming off of a huge home victory and play one of their toughest games of the season in New Orleans next week. They could easily look past the Broncos a little bit. Teams cover at just a 45% rate historically after a home upset victory and teams are 50-82 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, which the Jets likely will be next week against the Saints. The Broncos, meanwhile, turn around and have an easy game in Indianapolis, although it is on a short week on Thursday Night Football. This is just a medium confidence pick because I don’t trust any of the Broncos’ quarterbacks, but the Jets are in such a bad spot and this is too much line value to pass on.

Denver Broncos 19 New York Jets 16 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Denver +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

The Dolphins have 4 wins, but they are are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank 31st in both point differential (-115) and first down rate differential (-6.78%). Their 4 wins have come by a combined 14 points, while their 7 losses have come by a combined 129 points, an average margin of defeat of 18.43 points. They’ve been even worse since losing talented right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the season. He was their best offensive lineman and his loss is a huge blow to an otherwise weak offensive line.

The Broncos enter on a 8-game losing streak, but they are still the better of these two teams. They rank 24th in first down rate at -2.67%, not good, but significantly better than the Dolphins. Despite their long losing streak, they’ve actually won the first down rate battle in 3 of 7 games, against the Giants, Chiefs, and Bengals. They lost those games primarily because of turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The Broncos rank 2nd worst in turnover margin at -16, but they could play turnover neutral football going forward if their defense can force more takeaways, after strangely forcing just 8 through 11 games. This week could be a good place to start, given their matchup.

In addition to winning the first down battle against the three aforementioned teams, the Broncos could have won the first down battle and the game last week against Oakland had Trevor Siemian started the game. Paxton Lynch was horrendous before going down with an ankle injury and Siemian was able to make it a one score game despite being down 21 in the 4th quarter. The only 3 teams that have beaten them convincingly on their losing streak are the Chargers, Eagles, and Patriots, who are among the best teams in the league.

Siemian will start this week for the Broncos. He hasn’t been good this season, but he’s probably Denver’s best quarterback, even if only by default. He was their quarterback when they started 3-1 and has shown he can win games in the past if the Broncos run the ball well and play strong defense, which they should be able to do this week against an inferior opponent. That being said, I wish the Broncos were not missing cornerback Aqib Talib and right guard Ronald Leary with suspension and injury respectively, as I have this line calculated at just Denver -2 with those two missing, meaning we aren’t getting much line value with Denver at -1.5.

The Dolphins are in a terrible spot though, with a huge home game against the Patriots on deck, as teams are 35-75 ATS since 2012 before being 6+ point home underdogs (Miami is -11.5 on the early line). Teams understandably struggle the week before a tough home game. The Broncos played their worst game of the season in Philadelphia the week before hosting the Patriots and the Dolphins could do so as well this week. This game is actually sandwiched on Miami’s schedule in between a pair of games against New England, so the Dolphins could definitely overlook the Broncos a little bit. The Broncos, meanwhile, have another easy game against the Jets on deck, so they should be focused this week. Given that, the Broncos are worth a small bet as long as the line stays under 3.

Denver Broncos 16 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: Denver -1.5

Confidence: Medium

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-7) at Oakland Raiders (4-6)

This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week. Both of these two teams are a little underrated and better than their record. Both of these teams are in relatively good spots with easy games against the Giants and Dolphins next on the schedule. I have this line calculated at -5, so we’re not getting any line value with either team. The reason I’m taking the Broncos is because they are starting a new quarterback. Paxton Lynch has the most upside of any quarterback on the Broncos’ roster, but he’s struggled in limited action, did not impress this off-season, and just started throwing a few weeks ago after a shoulder injury.

If he shows some of why he was drafted in the first round, the Broncos could keep this close or win this outright because the Raiders have defensive issues and the Broncos’ still have a top-5 defense. I’m not confident in Lynch at all, but, in a game that’s basically a coin flip, I’m willing to take the Broncos with Lynch under center and I would not be with Brock Osweiler or Trevor Siemian under center. He could be a disaster, which is why I don’t recommend betting on this one, but the Broncos make the most sense.

Oakland Raiders 20 Denver Broncos 16

Pick against the spread: Denver +5

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

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-2) at Denver Broncos (3-5)

This line has the Broncos as 7.5 point home underdogs against the Patriots and I don’t understand it. The Broncos were just 7 point road underdogs in Philadelphia last week and the Eagles are playing significantly better than the Patriots this season. The Broncos lost that game 51-23, but the Eagles were in a great spot heading into a bye and the Broncos likely quit once they got down big early, knowing that they had this game against the Patriots on deck. They should be a lot more focused for this game and they are back at home, where they are 3-1 this season, with wins over the Chargers, Cowboys, and Raiders.

The Broncos’ big loss in Philadelphia last week moved this line from 5.5 on the early line to 7.5, a sizeable shift considering about 15% of games are decided by 6-7 points. I think even 5.5 would be too high as I have this line calculated at New England -3. Even after by far their worst defensive showing of the year last week, the Broncos still rank 5th in first down rate allowed and they still have a top-5 defense on paper. Prior to last week, Denver ranked 1st in the NFL in first down rate allowed. Their offense has major problems led by Brock Osweiler, but the Patriots rank 31st in first down rate allowed and the Broncos might be able to run the ball effectively and hide Osweiler, especially if the game is going to be close.

The one concern with taking the Broncos is that the Patriots are coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3.5 or more points are 40-16 ATS since 1989 after a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. The Patriots don’t come out of the bye healthy though, with defensive tackle Malcom Brown, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and wide receiver Chris Hogan out this week. I’m not sure the Patriots deserve to even be 3.5 point road favorites and I definitely think 7.5 is way too high for this line. Without another strong option this week, this is my Pick of the Week.

New England Patriots 20 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Denver +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)

The Broncos opened the season 3-1, but have lost 3 straight games since the bye. Their defense has remained incredible, giving up a total of 42 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns to the Giants, Chargers, and Chiefs combined, but their offense has struggled mightily to move the ball and they are -9 in turnover margin over that 3 game stretch (11-2). The good news is turnover margin tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For example, the Broncos had a -3 turnover margin last week and teams, on average, follow up a -3 turnover margin with a turnover margin of around -0.1, essentially even. On the season, the Broncos are -11 in turnover margin, but still rank 5th in first down rate differential at 4.27%, tied with Philadelphia.

In an attempt to stop the turnovers, the Broncos have switched quarterbacks from Trevor Siemian (6 interceptions in the last 3 games) to Brock Osweiler. Osweiler might not be an upgrade over Siemian, but he should do a better job of avoiding turnovers than his predecessor. Osweiler also gets talented wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders back from injury, for the first time since he injured his ankle week 6 against the Giants. It’s no coincidence that the 2.5 games he missed coincided with this terrible offensive stretch. With him back out there, it makes things easier for this whole offense.

The problem is the Broncos have arguably their toughest game of the season this week. Not only do they have to travel to Philadelphia to play the 7-1 Eagles, but the Eagles are in a great spot with a bye week on deck, while the Broncos have to turn around and play another tough game at home against New England next week. Home favorites of 6+ are 44-15 ATS since 2002 before a regular season bye, while teams are 40-70 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 4 or more (Denver is +5.5 against the Patriots on the early line). We’re not really getting much line value with the Eagles because the Broncos are an underrated team, but the Eagles are worth a bet because they’re in such a good spot schedule wise.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Denver Broncos 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -7

Confidence: Medium