Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (12-3) at Denver Broncos (8-7)

The Raiders were dealt a huge blow last week when quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg, likely knocking him out for the season, but, despite their record, the Raiders probably would have had trouble advancing deep in the playoffs regardless. Even though they are 12-3, they rank just 17th in first down rate differential and have scored just 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents. Eight of their 12 victories have come by 7 points or fewer, including a 5-0 record in games decided by a field goal or less and they have a point differential of just +49, just ahead of non-playoff teams in the Bills (+41) and Ravens (+39). That’s despite the fact that the Raiders have a league best +18 turnover margin. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and, if we assumed turnover neutral football for them going forward, which we always should, it was hard to see them advancing deep in the playoffs even without Carr.

However, despite losing Carr last week, this line has actually moved in their favor, as the Broncos have gone been being favored by 2 points on the early line last week to being favored by just 1 point this week. I know the Broncos got blown out in Kansas City last week and are far from healthy themselves, missing outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, safety TJ Ward, defensive end Derek Wolfe, and possibly middle linebacker Brandon Marshall, but they still rank 16th in first down rate differential, one spot ahead over the Raiders, so I would have had this line at 3 if both teams were fully healthy.

Both teams are far from it, but I think the Raiders are in a worse position injury wise without Carr, so we should be getting at least 3, if not more points with the Raiders here, instead of just 1. At 1, I think it’s worth a wager on the Broncos, as they’re deep enough defensively to mask some of the holes created by injuries. DeMarcus Ware might not even be a loss for them as youngsters Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray were outplaying him anyway, while Marshall would be returning from a 3-game absence if he plays this week.

Denver Broncos 17 Oakland Raiders 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -1

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (8-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

These two teams met back in week 12 in a game in which the Chiefs prevailed in overtime on a last second field goal. Despite Kansas City’s win, the Broncos actually outplayed the Chiefs for most of the game. The Chiefs needed a return touchdown and a Denver muffed punt just to get it to overtime and still trailed by 8 until the final drive, when they scored their 2nd offensive touchdown of the game and converted for two. At the very least, it was a game that could have gone either way, but it’s arguably a game that the Broncos should have won outright in regulation.

That game was in Denver and this one is in Kansas City, but that actually puts the Broncos in a good spot, as comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. Divisional road underdogs are 61-34 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites and they also pull the upset and win straight up about half the time. These teams aren’t quite comparable though, as I have the Broncos ranked a few spots higher, so their likelihood of pulling the upset should be even higher.

The Chiefs have 10 wins, but have allowed 44 first downs and 3 offensive touchdowns more than they’ve scored. Their record is largely the result of 6 wins by 8 points or less (including two overtime victories), a +13 turnover margin, and a +7 return touchdown margin, but it’s tough to rely on takeaways and return touchdowns to win you close games, as there’s no week-to-week correlation in turnover margin and, as a result, there’s no week-to-week correlation in return touchdown margin.

The Chiefs won the turnover margin by 2 at home against the Titans last week, but still lost the game as big home favorites because they lost the first down battle 21 to 13 and the first down rate battle by 10.19%, a huge margin. Teams that win the turnover margin by 2, on average, win the game about 81.6% of the time, but the following week they win just 54.2% of the time and an have an average turnover margin of -0.1. That’s the same average turnover margin had by teams that had a +4 turnover margin the week before and the same average turnover margin had by teams that had a -4 turnover margin the week before. There’s simply no correlation between a team’s turnover margin one week and the following week.

While the Broncos enter this game 12th in first down rate differential, as opposed to 28th for the Chiefs. That gap seems bigger than it is because the gap between 12th and 28th is smaller than the gap between 12th and 4th, but the Broncos still have a 3% advantage in that metric, a significant amount. If we assume turnover neutral football, which we always should because of how inconsistent turnover margins are, the Broncos have a great chance to win this game on the road, even before taking into account any trends.

The Broncos enter this game pretty banged up, with middle linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety TJ Ward out and defensive end Derek Wolfe being a game time call, but the Chiefs are expected to be without their best defensive player, outside linebacker Justin Houston, while talented middle linebacker Derrick Johnson went down for the season with a torn achilles two weeks ago, so that kind of evens out. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, but I like the Broncos’ chances to win straight up as well. The Broncos are a high confidence pick at 4 or 3.5 and I’d take them all the way down to 3 if I had to.

Denver Broncos 17 Kansas City Chiefs 16 Upset Pick +170

Pick against the spread: Denver +4

Confidence: High

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (11-2) at Denver Broncos (8-5)

Tom Brady has had a lot of success in his career, but the Denver Broncos have always been his achilles heel. They’re the only team in the league he has a losing record against and he is just 2-7 in his career on the road in Denver, including a loss late last season that cost them homefield advantage in the AFC Championship and the Patriots’ eventual loss in the AFC Championship as well.

Since the AFC Championship, a lot has actually changed with these teams. New England has a healthy LeGarrette Blount and an improved offensive line, two things they didn’t have last year. Denver is also without Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, and Brandon Marshall from this defense. The former two left as free agents this off-season, while the latter remains sidelined with an injury. As a result, the Broncos’ run defense is actually pretty weak right now, which the Patriots should be able to take advantage of. It’s going to be a much different gameplan for them than last January when the Patriots had 56 passes to 17 runs.

At the same time, Denver’s pass defense has arguably improved since last season with Chris Harris and Aqib Talib both playing as well as any cornerback in the league. They still rank 2nd in first down rate allowed. Their offense has been a problem as they rank 26th in first down rate, but their offense wasn’t good last season either. If anything, new starting quarterback Trevor Siemian is better than either Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning were last season and the offensive line is improved, though they’ve had major problems with their running game since losing CJ Anderson for the season with injury a few weeks back.

New England, meanwhile, is without Rob Gronkowski on offense with injury and have traded away defensive stars Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. Despite those losses, the Patriots still rank 1st in first down rate (compared to 13th for Denver), but they’ve also had a very easy schedule, so it’s fair to question how good they really are, even after an impressive victory over Baltimore last week. We’re getting 3.5 points with Denver, a lot considering 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so I’m taking the Broncos, but there’s not enough here for me to bet money on them.

New England Patriots 23 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Denver +3.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (8-4) at Tennessee Titans (6-6)

Despite 6-6 record, the Titans enter this game 7th in first down rate differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a +12 point differential on the season, despite being -7 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 7 plays, they have a +60 point differential (which would be 4th best in the NFL). They have 38 offensive touchdowns on the season, as opposed to 27 allowed by their defense, a +11 differential that is only behind New England and Dallas (both at +14). The Broncos are a solid opponent, especially with quarterback Trevor Siemian back under center, but this line favors the Broncos by a point on the road. Tennessee is an underrated team that should be at least 3 or 4 point home favorites in this game.

The Broncos are also in a tough spot here with arguably their biggest regular season game on deck, a home clash against the New England Patriots, a game in which the Broncos will almost definitely be home underdogs. Road favorites are 51-71 ATS since 2002 before being home underdogs, as big upcoming home games can be a major distraction for teams. The Broncos are only 1 point favorites here, but I think they could easily overlook an underrated Tennessee team with New England on deck. The Titans could be without defensive end Jurrell Casey, but the Broncos could be without middle linebacker Brandon Marshall. Both teams are otherwise healthy, so those two injuries more or less cancel each other out, with Tennessee getting an advantage if Casey can play. I like the Titans a good amount this week.

Tennessee Titans 24 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1

Confidence: High

Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (7-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

The Jaguars have one of the worst records in the league at 2-9, but are far from one of the worst teams in the league. In addition to 6 of 9 losses coming by less than a touchdown, they’ve been killed by a -15 turnover margin. Fortunately for them, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For that reason, I love to bet on teams that have poor turnover margins, as they tend to be undervalued. If the Jaguars play turnover neutral football going forward, which isn’t crazy considering how inconsistent turnover margins are, that’s going to have a noticeable effect on the scoreboard.

Outside of those 15 snaps, they’ve played pretty well on the season, especially on defense. They rank 10th in first down rate differential, led by a defense that allows the 8th lowest first down rate in the league and that has been played very well in recent weeks. They don’t get a lot of attention because they’ve only forced 7 takeaways, but the takeaways will come and the talent is definitely there. The Jaguars actually rank one spot better than the Broncos in first down rate differential, as the Broncos enter in 11th.

The Broncos are fully healthy on defense for the first time all season, but they’ll be without quarterback Trevor Siemian with injury, leaving rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch to start. Lynch struggled mightily in a spot start earlier this year, but the first round rookie could be better his 2nd time around. Still, I like the Jaguars’ chances of not only covering as 4.5 point underdogs, but pulling off the straight up upset here at home. They’re a very underrated team and the Broncos are coming off of a grueling overtime loss to the Chiefs. It didn’t end in a tie, but it took the whole overtime period, meaning they played about as much football as they would have in a tie. Unsurprisingly, teams are 5-13 ATS off of a tie since 1989. This is my Pick of the Week and the money line is also a good bet as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +180

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Denver Broncos (7-3)

The Chiefs are 7-3, but they’ve been overly reliant on close wins (4 of 7 wins by a touchdown or less), winning the turnover margin (+13 on the season, best in the NFL), and return touchdowns (+4 return touchdown margin). Those things tend to be very inconsistent from week-to-week, so they’re very tough to rely on long-term. In terms of first down rate differential, they enter this game 25th, suggesting that if we assume turnover neutral football for them going forward, they’re going to have far less success in the win/loss column. We already saw this in their home loss to Tampa Bay last week, as they lost the turnover margin by 1 and subsequently lost the game to an inferior team against whom they were favored by 7.5.

They’ve been worse in recent weeks, scoring just 3 offensive touchdowns in their last 3 games and losing at home to the Buccaneers last week. That’s no surprise, considering all of the injuries they have right now. They’re expected to get cornerback Marcus Peters back from a 1-game absence and Justin Houston should see more snaps after making it through his season debut setback free last week, but top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin remains out, as does starting defensive lineman Jaye Howard. Joining them on the sidelines this week is Dee Ford, their sack leader this season in the absence of Houston.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are as healthy as any team in the league right now coming out of their bye week, as key defenders Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib return from injury. They’ve also been significantly better than the Chiefs this season, entering this game 11th in first down rate differential. Despite a mere +5 turnover margin, the Broncos have a +50 point differential on the season, as opposed to +35 for the Chiefs. On top of that, Denver is in a better spot, as they head to Jacksonville next, while Kansas City has to turn around and go to Atlanta, a much tougher opponent than Jacksonville. There’s not enough for me to put money on the Broncos as 3.5 point home favorites, but I’m holding out hope this line falls to 3 before gametime. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so it’s a very important half point.

Denver Broncos 19 Kansas City Chiefs 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -3.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (4-4)

This line has shifted significantly in the past week, as the Broncos were favored by a point on the early line, but are now 3 point road favorites in New Orleans. It’s a somewhat understandable line movement. The Saints have won 4 of 5 after a 0-3 start, including a 41-23 victory in San Francisco last week, while the Broncos have lost 3 of 5 since a 4-0 start, including a 30-20 loss in Oakland last week. On top of that, the Saints got back key defenders Delvin Breaux and Sheldon Rankins from injury last week, while the Broncos are without key defenders Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib this week.

That being said, that’s still a very large line movement, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, and I’m not sure it’s completely warranted. This line suggests these two teams are about even, which I don’t think is quite true. The Broncos enter this game still in 6th in first down rate differential, while the Saints enter in 13th. Injury situations aside, the Broncos are still the better team right now. The Broncos are also in a much better spot, as the Saints have to turn around and go to Carolina next week on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are 50-80 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are in a great spot in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 135-103 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 107-71 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 227-244 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.86 points per game, as opposed to 326-456 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.02 points per game. The Broncos are worth a bet if you can get the full field goal. The moneyline is also a good bet, as this game is a toss up at worst for the visiting Broncos.

Denver Broncos 24 New Orleans Saints 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Denver +3

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]