Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) at New England Patriots (10-2)

The Patriots lost their second game of the season in Houston last week, but that’s not concerning for a few reasons. For one, close to half their team was dealing with the flu, which put them at a significant disadvantage. Two, the issues with their passing game were more communication related than talent related, suggesting this passing game will get better with time. Three, the Patriots have been prone to these clunker games on the road in recent years. Last year, they lost on the road to five teams that didn’t qualify for the post-season, including three losses by 11 points or more, and they still won the Super Bowl. They haven’t had quite the same thing happen this year, with their only other previous loss coming in Baltimore, where no one has had much success in recent weeks, but they’re definitely more comfortable playing at home.

Their home dominance really dates back two decades to the start of the Tom Brady era, as Brady has a ridiculous 86.3% winning percentage at home and is 47-18 ATS when not favored by 7 points or more. For two decades, the Patriots have been basically an automatic bet at home when they aren’t big favorites. They’ve also basically been an automatic bet off of a loss, going 51-27 ATS off of a loss since Belichick’s first season in 2000, including 43-13 ATS when not favored by 7 points or fewer. History suggests the Patriots are very likely to bounce back at home this week.

We’re also getting good line value with New England. With the Patriots’ loss last week, this line has shifted from New England -4 on the early line last week to New England -3 this week, a significant shift considering 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. This line more or less suggests these two teams are about even, but I have the Patriots a few points better, as the Chiefs still have significant problems on defense, ranking 27th in first down rate differential at 37.80%. Getting line value with the Patriots in an automatic bet spot makes this an easy choice. Even in a week where I like a lot of different games, the Patriots are my Pick of the Week.

New England Patriots 31 Kansas City Chiefs 23

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

The Raiders are 6-5 and are very much in the mix for a playoff spot, but all of the Raiders’ wins have come by 8 points or fewer, while most of their losses have been blowouts, with the exception of a 3-point loss in Houston. As a result, they have a point differential of -56 that ranks 25th in the NFL and a first down rate differential of -5.26% that ranks 27th in the NFL. Last week, they arguably hit their lowest point of the season, getting blown out in New York by the Jets in a 34-3 loss.

That being said, I actually kind of like the Raiders this week because I think they’ll view this as a much bigger game than the Chiefs will. The Chiefs already blew out the Raiders earlier this season and they have a much tougher game on deck in New England, a game in which they will almost definitely be underdogs, so they might not bring their best effort. Favorites of 10 or more are just 65-86 ATS before being underdogs since 2002. Meanwhile, the Raiders are coming off of an embarrassing loss (probably in part because they were looking forward to this matchup) and now have an opportunity to not only gain a game in the standings on the division leader, but also to make a statement to the rest of the league with a signature win.

I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet because of the Raiders’ tendency to get blown out, but 11 points gives us a good cushion and the Chiefs actually have just two wins by more than 5 points at home in the past calendar year (a 10-game span), primarily due to a very underwhelming defense (27th in the NFL in first down rate allowed at 38.01%) that is easy to get garbage time yards against. A likely more focused Raiders team should be able to keep this game close, similar to their game against the Texans earlier this season.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Oakland Raiders 27

Pick against the spread: Oakland +11

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) in Mexico City

The Chargers have gotten off to a disappointing 4-6 start, a year after going 12-4. They’ve been better than their record suggests though. While their six losses have come by just a combined 29 points, with none coming by more than 7, their four wins have come by a combined 42 points, giving them a point differential of +13 that ranks 13th in the NFL. They’ve done that despite a league worst fumble recovery rate at 30.43% and a -6 turnover margin that is tied for 5th worst in the NFL. Both of those stats are unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and the Chargers rank 8th in the NFL in terms of first down rate differential at +3.09%. Given how close all their losses have been, they could easily be 6-4 or so right now if they had an even turnover margin.

That’s despite the fact that the Chargers have been shorthanded for most of the season. Key contributors like tight end Hunter Henry (4 games), defensive end Melvin Ingram (3 games), left tackle Russell Okung (7 games), center Mike Pouncey (5 games), safety Derwin James (10 games), and running back Melvin Gordon (4 games) have all missed time for various reasons. The Chargers still aren’t 100%, with Pouncey, James, and possibly left tackle Russell Okung, who didn’t practice all week, still sidelined, but relatively speaking they’re not in a bad injury situation right now. They enter this game ranked 12th in my roster rankings and would fall to about 15th without Okung. 

The Chiefs have had injury problems as well, most notably quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who missed about two and a half games with a knee injury. The Chiefs were able to tread water without Mahomes because their defense played at a high level in his absence, with 31.44% first down rate allowed in the 3 games in which he missed time, a massive improvement from the 41.85% first down rate they had allowed in the previous 22 games with Mahomes over the past two seasons. 

When Mahomes returned last week, the question became whether or not the defense had legitimately turned a corner or if they were just playing extra hard without Mahomes. A 46.94% first down rate allowed in Mahomes’ return against the Titans suggests it was much more the latter than the former, but the good news is Mahomes didn’t look limited in leading the Chiefs to a 39.47% first down rate last week and they get their whole offensive line back healthy this week for the first time since week 2. 

The Chiefs still have injury concerns on defense, however, especially at defensive end, where Alex Okafor and Emmnauel Ogbah are out and Frank Clark is playing at far less than 100%. Meanwhile, cornerback Kendall Fuller is questionable to return from a 4-game absence. I have the Chiefs as just a couple points better in my roster rankings, so we’re getting line value here with the Chargers as 4-point underdogs on a neutral field in Mexico City. About 30% of games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so we’re getting good protection if the Chargers can’t pull the upset, and I like the Chargers’ chances of at least making this another close game, having not been blown out all season. I’ll elevate this to a high confidence pick if Okung ends up suiting up for the Chargers.

Final Update: Okung is out for the Chargers, but this line has moved all the way up to 6 to compensate. Even without Okung, the Chargers are not 6 points worse than the Chiefs on a neutral field right now, as the Chiefs have serious concerns on defense, especially with top edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah now out for the season. They’ll also be without top cornerback Kendall Fuller for the 5th straight week. The Chargers, who haven’t been beaten by more than a touchdown all season, should keep this game close and are only about 2.5 points worse than the Chiefs in my roster rankings. I like them a lot at +6.

Kansas City Chiefs 33 Los Angeles Chargers 31

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +6

Confidence: High

Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) at Tennessee Titans (4-5)

When Pat Mahomes went down in severe pain during the Chiefs’ Thursday Night Football game against the Broncos a few weeks ago, it looked like the Chiefs’ season might be over. Instead, Mahomes only missed about two and a half games, the Chiefs only lost once in his absence, and now Mahomes returns to a team that is 6-3 and still very much in the mix for a first round bye in the AFC. 

The Chiefs may have treaded water without Mahomes, but his return is undoubtedly a major boost for this team. In 32 drives in place of Mahomes, backup Matt Moore led this offense to 44 first downs and 6 offensive touchdowns on 154 plays, a 32.47% first down rate. That’s down significantly from the 44.96% first down rate the Chiefs have had in the 22 games Mahomes has started and finished over the past two seasons.

The reason the Chiefs were able to stay afloat without Mahomes is that their defense stepped up, allowing a 31.44% first down rate over the past 3 games, after allowing a 41.85% first down rate in the 22 games Mahomes started and finished over the past couple seasons. Has this defense finally turned a corner? It’s possible, but there were no major changes on this defense, so I’m skeptical they are for real based off of just three games. More likely, the Chiefs’ defense was just playing extra hard for a short stretch while their quarterback was out. Now with Mahomes back, they may not be able to maintain that level of effort. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this whole team relax a little bit with their MVP franchise quarterback back.

If that happens, the Titans could easily catch this Chiefs’ team off guard at home in Nashville. The Titans led the league with nine games against eventual playoff opponents in 2018 and won four of them, including multi-touchdown wins over the Cowboys and Patriots. Despite the tough schedule, the Titans finished last season at 9-7, falling just short of qualifying for the post-season. This season, they have started 4-5, but they’ve been better than their record suggests.

They have a positive point differential at +5 and, while they have benefitted from the turnover margin (+5, 6th in the NFL), which tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, they have also missed a league leading 8 field goals, which is effectively 8 turnovers, as not only do you lose out on the 3 points, but the opposing team gets the ball at the spot of the miss. The Titans first down rate differential (13th, +1.47% in the NFL) is very similar to last season’s (14th, +1.35% in the NFL), but they’ve fallen to a 46.7% field goal percentage from 86.7%. 

Normal kicker Ryan Succop returned last week from injury and, while he went 0-3 in his season debut, he was an 86.6% field goal kicker for the Titans over the previous 5 seasons and may have just needed a game to shake off the rust. His poor performance was a big part of the reason why the Titans couldn’t pull the upset in Carolina in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 3.95% but lost by 10.

Even though the Titans have a good chance to catch the Chiefs off guard and possibly pull the upset, they’re still 6-point home underdogs. I have the Chiefs at -1, so we’re getting significant line value with the host. The odds makers (and the public) seem to forget that the Chiefs lost at home to the Colts and Texans and nearly lost in Detroit even with Mahomes under center. Unless the Chiefs’ defense can keep up their recent intensity, this should be a close game. The Titans are my Pick of the Week.

Tennessee Titans 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +225

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

Pat Mahomes has not officially been ruled out for the second straight week, as he works back from a dislocated kneecap, but he worked with the second team in practice all week and is not expected to start this game, with oddsmakers already putting up a line of Minnesota -4 before an official confirmation on Mahomes’ status. I’m hesitant to lock this game in before confirmation, but if Mahomes does not play and this line remains about the same, I expect to make a wager on the Vikings.

It’s not exactly a bold take to say that the Chiefs are significantly worse without Mahomes, but they’ve fallen from a 44.96% first down rate with Mahomes over the past 2 seasons to a 32.29% first down rate with backup Matt Moore, who has quarterbacked this offense to just 27 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns on 96 snaps across 18 drives. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed a 41.09% first down rate since the start of last season, so they need Mahomes back in a hurry if they’re going to lock down a first round bye in the AFC. 

The Chiefs are getting healthier on defense with stud defensive tackle Chris Jones back from injury, but they’ve struggled even with him on the field over the past two seasons, so he won’t fix their defensive issues by himself. The Chiefs could also still be without defensive end Frank Clark and slot cornerback Kendall Fuller, a pair of above average starters, who are listed questionable for this game, and they have injury problems around the quarterback on offense as well. 

Left guard Andrew Wylie returns from a 3-game absence, but right guard Laurent Duvarney-Tardif will take his spot on the sideline and left tackle Eric Fisher will miss his 7th straight game. I have the Vikings, one of the top teams in the NFL, calculated as 8.5-point road favorites in this matchup, so I’d take the Vikings as 4-point favorites confidently if I knew Mahomes was guaranteed to be out. This is yet another game I’ll likely be updating tomorrow morning.

Sunday Update: Mahomes is officially out. The line has jumped to 5.5, but 5 is not a key number, so I still like the Vikings for a small bet as long as the line remains under 6. Clark and Fuller are also out for Kansas City.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Kansas City Chiefs 16

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

Chiefs fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when they found out that what looked like a potential season ending knee injury for Patrick Mahomes turned out to be relatively minor, with Mahomes even returning to practice in limited fashion this week. It sounds like Mahomes has a good shot to return next week, about two and a half calendar weeks after the initial injury, and the time off will give Mahomes an opportunity to rest the sprained ankle that was limiting him before the knee injury, but in the meantime the Chiefs will really miss their franchise quarterback in a tough home matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

Mahomes is also far from the Chiefs’ only player that is out with injury. While the Chiefs do get wide receiver Sammy Watkins back from a two-game absence, they are still without starting left tackle Eric Fisher, starting left guard Andrew Wylie, top defensive player Chris Jones, top cornerback Kendall Fuller, and add starting defensive end Frank Clark to the injured list this week. In their current state, I have the Chiefs ranked 31st in my roster rankings, only ahead of the Dolphins, and yet they are just 4-point home underdogs against the Packers.

This line is probably only at 4 because the Chiefs beat the Broncos 30-6 last week even with Mahomes getting hurt in the second quarter, but it seems to forget that the Chiefs lost at home to the Colts and Texans and almost lost to the Lions even with Mahomes before that game in Denver. Even in that game in Denver, the Chiefs barely won the first down rate battle by 2.59%, with the Broncos essentially handing the Chiefs 20 points on four plays: a fumble recovery touchdown, a busted coverage long passing touchdown, an ill-advised fake punt, and a long punt return allowed. I’m not convinced at all from that performance that the Chiefs as they currently are stand any chance against a top level team like Green Bay. I have this line calculated at Green Bay -10, so I love the value we’re getting at -4. This is my Pick of the Week.

Green Bay Packers 27 Kansas City Chiefs 16

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -4

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) at Denver Broncos (2-4)

During last week’s Broncos/Titans write up, I said I was disappointed the two teams were playing each other because I thought both teams were underrated. Fortunately, when two underrated teams square off, they tend to remain underrated, which is the case with the Broncos. They won that game against the Titans to improve to 2-4, but they’ve been better than their record suggests, as two of their losses came on last second field goals. Their point differential is even and they rank 17th in the NFL in first down rate differential at -0.33%, suggesting they’ve been an average team thus far. Their offense is underwhelming, but their defense has allowed just 9 offensive touchdowns in 6 games and they rank 5th in first down rate allowed at 32.42%.

Despite that, they are 3.5-point home underdogs against a banged up Chiefs team. This line is at least in part because the Broncos are underrated, but the Chiefs may be a little overrated right now, even after back-to-back losses, as the general public may not realize how bad their injury situation is. They are missing the left side of their offensive line and their best defensive player Chris Jones, while starting wide receiver Sammy Watkins and starting cornerback Kendall Fuller are both banged up and may not play as well. 

Most importantly, quarterback Patrick Mahomes is playing at less than 100% through an ankle injury and has not played as well in the past couple games. That could become even more of a problem on a short week without normal rest, especially on the road against a tough defense. Everything this team does revolves around Mahomes and his otherworldly playmaking ability, so having him at less than 100% severely hurts the Chiefs’ chances of playing the way they want to play. Right now, I have these two teams about even in my roster rankings, so a field goal or more with the Broncos at home is stealing. Thursday games can be unpredictable so I don’t want to make this my Pick of the Week, but this will definitely be one of my top plays of the week.

Denver Broncos 23 Kansas City Chiefs 20 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Denver +3.5

Confidence: High