Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)

The Colts are just 6-6 after back-to-back divisional losses to the Texans and Titans, but they could be 8-4 right now if not for missed makeable field goals against the Chargers and Steelers. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 10th in the NFL at +2.25%, which is more in line with an 8-4 record than a 6-6 record. They are changing kickers this week, with ex-49ers and Chargers kicker Chase McLaughlin coming in to replace long-time veteran Adam Vinatieri, who is dealing with an injury and has just a 68.0% field goal percentage and a 78.6% extra point percentage on the season. McLaughlin is 13 on 17 field goals and 15 of 15 on extra points this year and could shore up a spot that’s been an obvious weakness for the Colts this season.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have also been better than their record suggests, with a -6 point differential and a +0.84% first down rate differential, but they’re behind the Colts in both metrics. Despite that, this line suggests these two teams are about even, favoring the hometown Buccaneers by a field goal. With that in mind, we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visiting Colts at +3, but not nearly enough to bet on them confidently. My calculated line is Tampa Bay -1.5 and I do still expect the Buccaneers to win straight up, though it is close to a toss up.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Indianapolis Colts 26

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +3

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)

Both of these teams enter this game at 4-7, but the Buccaneers have definitely been the more impressive team this season. Despite playing in a tougher conference and facing a tougher schedule (13th in opponent’s DVOA vs. 22nd), the Buccaneers have a significantly better point differential (-23 vs -55). In first down rate differential, the difference is even more pronounced, as the Jaguars rank 28th in first down rate differential at -5.27%, while the Buccaneers rank 16th at +0.34%. The Buccaneers have been killed by the turnover margin (-10), while the Jaguars are even on the season, but turnover margin is highly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. The Jaguars, who have trouble winning games even with a neutral turnover margin, would have a very tough time winning this game if they lost the turnover battle. 

The Jaguars have been even worse in recent weeks, with the worst first down rate differential in the league over the past 6 weeks at -8.44%, coinciding with their trade of Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. With Ramsey gone and both Marcell Dareus and Myles Jack currently injured, the Jaguars have just 3 players left from their top-11 in terms of snaps played from their dominant 2017 defense. With so many key defensive players no longer playing for them and a weak offense, I have the Jaguars 28th in my roster rankings, 8 spots behind the Buccaneers.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost a ton of line value with the Buccaneers in the past week. As a result of the Jaguars’ blowout home loss to the Titans last week and the Buccaneers double digit win in Atlanta, this line has shifted a whole 6 points in the past week, going from Jacksonville -3.5 on the early line last week to Tampa Bay -2.5 this week. Normally I like fading significant week-to-week line movements like that, but I actually have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -3, so we’re still getting a little bit of line value with the Buccaneers. It’s not enough to bet on, but the most likely outcome of this game is the Buccaneers winning by a field goal, so I’d take them for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 27

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)

The Falcons were just 1-7 coming out of their bye week two weeks ago, but they were better than that record suggested, as they ranked 18th in first down rate differential at -0.29%. Since the bye, the Falcons have won their past two games as big road underdogs against divisional opponents by scores of 26-9 over the Saints and 29-3 over the Panthers. As a result, they now rank 16th in first down rate differential at +0.83%. 

Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Falcons anymore, especially against a Buccaneers team that is also better than their 3-7 record (18th in first down rate differential at -0.65%). Now favored by 4, the Falcons were favored by 2.5 on the early line a week ago and prior to the New Orleans game I imagine this line would have been around even. Considering 30% of games are decided by 4 points or fewer, including 1 out of 6 by exactly a field goal, that’s a pretty significant shift. I have this line calculated at Atlanta -4.5, so we’re not getting any real line value with the Falcons.

With that in mind, I like the Buccaneers a little bit this week, since they’re in a much better spot. While the Buccaneers have a non-conference game on deck against the last place Jaguars, the Falcons have another game against the Saints, this time in Atlanta on Thanksgiving on a short week. Favorites only cover at about a 44% rate before Thursday Night Football and teams are also just 40-71 ATS since 2016 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more (Atlanta is +5.5 on the early line). There isn’t enough here to bet on the Buccaneers, but they should be the right side.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +4

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (7-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6)

The Saints suffered a shocking home loss to the Falcons as 13.5-point home favorites last week, not just losing but losing by the final score of 26-9 in a game in which they lost the first down rate battle by 8.57%. The peripheral numbers always suggested the Falcons weren’t as bad as their record, as they entered last week 18th in first down rate differential at -0.29%, despite being just 1-7, but the idea that they could somewhat easily upset the Saints, previously seen as one of the top teams in the league, was beyond anything even the biggest Falcons’ defender could have imagined.

Even with that loss included, the Saints still look like one of the top teams in the league. They rank “just” 11th in first down rate differential at +2.07%, but that’s because Drew Brees has only played a little bit more than 3 of their 9 games. Their offense has moved the chains at a 38.28% rate with Brees under center (most equivalent to the 9th ranked Packers), as opposed to 34.15% with backup Teddy Bridgewater under center (most equivalent to the 23rd ranked Cardinals), while their defense has been among the best in the league on the season, ranking 6th in first down rate allowed at 33.58%. Their offense has even more room for improvement too, as they had a 43.48% first down rate in Drew Brees’ 15 starts last season. They rank second in my roster rankings and, with all Super Bowl contenders having at least one bad loss, they still look very much in Super Bowl contention.

Teams tend to bounce back off of huge upset losses anyway, going 30-18 ATS over the past 30 years after losing as favorites or 13 or more. The Saints have typically bounced back off of a loss with Drew Brees under center as well, going 47-31 ATS after a loss with Brees since he arrived in 2006. I wish we were getting more line value as a result as the Saints’ loss and the absence of Saints top cornerback Marshon Lattimore, as this line didn’t move at all from last week to this week, but I have this line calculated at New Orleans -8 and I would be surprised if the Saints had back-to-back bad games, so they’re worth a bet as long as this line remains below 6.

New Orleans Saints 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)

The Buccaneers are 2-6, but they’ve been competitive in most of their games, despite facing the 5th toughest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA (6 of 8 opponents are 5-3 or better). Only two of their six losses have come by more than one score and the Buccaneers actually won the first down rate in both of those losses. Against the 49ers week 1, the Buccaneers won the first down rate battle by 3.85% but lost the game 31-17, primarily because they lost the turnover battle by two. Against the Panthers week 6, they won the first down rate battle by 1.33% but lost the game 37-26, primarily because they lost the turnover battle by 6. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and the Buccaneers rank 19th in first down rate differential on the season at -1.05%, despite that tough schedule. 

The Cardinals have one more win than the Buccaneers, but they haven’t played nearly as well. Their 3 wins have come by a combined 10 points against teams that are a combined 3-22, while 3 of their losses have come by 17 points or more. They have a significantly worse point differential than the Buccaneers (-56 vs. -22), despite a significantly better turnover margin (+3 vs. -5), and they rank just 29th in first down rate differential at -6.12%, despite an easier schedule. 

I have this line calculated at Tampa Bay -6.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Buccaneers at -4, although not enough to take them confidently. The Cardinals aren’t in a good spot, between a close loss to the 49ers and a rematch next week, but the Buccaneers aren’t either, between a close loss to the Seahawks and a home game against the division leading Saints. Both teams could be flat this week, so while Tampa Bay should be the right side, this is just a low confidence pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 Arizona Cardinals 27

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -4

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2)

I locked this line in at Tampa Bay +6 earlier this week during my Thursday Night Football write up and I’m glad I did because heavy sharp action on the Buccaneers has driven the line down to +5. The Seahawks are 6-2, but outside of MVP candidate Russell Wilson they have a pretty mediocre roster and have not played all that well that season, in spite of what their record suggests. Five of their 6 wins have come by a combined 15 points, including wins over the Bengals, Steeelers, Browns, and Falcons, who are a combined 6-24. They have just a +12 point differential and they rank just 14th in first down rate differential at +1.13%, despite facing the 8th easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA. 

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have faced the 5th hardest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA and they’ve been competitive, despite their record. They rank 15th in first down rate differential at -0.18%, not far behind the Seahawks. They’re also in a much better spot, as the Seahawks have to turn around and go to San Francisco next week, while the Buccaneers get to host the Cardinals. Underdogs are 68-31 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. This is definitely a look ahead spot for a Seahawks team that has had trouble winning by convincingly by big margins all season and I wouldn’t be surprised if this underrated Buccaneers team pulled the upset. This is my top Pick of the Week and I’d recommend a bet even if you didn’t get the +6 early. 

Seattle Seahawks 33 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)

It’s only one game, but I was impressed with the Titans’ offense in Ryan Tannehill’s first start last week, as they had a 40.98% first down rate for the game, compared to 32.69% in their first 6 games of the season and a 34.12% rate down rate in 2018. Tannehill isn’t great, but he really only needs to be a serviceable starter for this team to be competitive. The Titans went 6-2 in 2018 with double digit wins over the Cowboys and Patriots during the one 8-game stretch where Marcus Mariota was healthy and they went 9-7 overall despite Mariota limited with injuries and despite playing 9 eventual playoff teams (4-5). This year, they are just 3-4, but they have a +9 point differential, best among teams with a losing record, despite missing 5 field goals (second most in the NFL), and they rank 14th in first down rate differential at +1.24%.

They are led by a defense that ranks 5th in first down rate allowed and ranked 4th in that metric last season, so as long as Tannehill and the offense are serviceable, this team could go on a surprise run. Despite that, they are only 2.5-point home favorites here against the Buccaneers, suggesting the Buccaneers are the slightly better team. I have it the other way around, as the Buccaneers rank 16th in first down rate differential at +0.03% and 19th in my roster rankings, while the Titans rank 14th and 12th respectively. We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Titans, but they’re worth a bet as long as this line is under a field goal.

Tennessee Titans 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2.5

Confidence: Medium