Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 AFC Divisional Round Pick

Buffalo Bills (12-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

These two teams met in Kansas City back in week 5, with the Bills pulling the upset on the road by a final score of 38-20, but that’s hardly a guarantee they will do so again. In fact, teams are just 46-59 ATS in the playoffs in a rematch of a regular season game against a non-divisional opponent, including just 1-6 ATS as road underdogs after winning as road underdogs in the first matchup. This is also a different Chiefs team than the first matchup, as the early season Chiefs were in the middle of a 3-4 start, but have since won 10 of 11 games, including a 5-1 record against playoff qualifiers.

The Chiefs’ turnaround has been driven by two things, a drastically improved turnover margin and a drastically improved defense. Through their first seven games of the season, the Chiefs had a turnover margin of -10, but turnover margin is not a very predictive metric so I would predict that any team that had that bad of a turnover margin stretch would soon seen improvement in that metric, especially a team like the Chiefs who have an elite quarterback, which is the only way to consistently win the turnover margin. Unsurprisingly, the Chiefs have a +14 turnover margin in the final ten games of the regular season, giving them a turnover margin of +4 on the season, after a +23 turnover margin across the first three seasons of Patrick Mahomes career as a starter.

Schedule adjusted efficiency is a metric based on yards per play and first down rate, which intentionally minimizes the impact of turnover margin, and, as a result, is more predictive than point differential. The Chiefs rank 3rd in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency on the season, led by a 1st ranked offense and a 3rd ranked special teams, and they are probably even better than that suggests, as they are still dragged down by a defense that ranks 28th, getting off to a horrible start before improving drastically in recent weeks.

The biggest reason for the Chiefs’ defensive turnaround is they have gotten much healthier since the beginning of the season, when key players like safety Tyrann Mathieu, edge defender Frank Clark, cornerback Charvarius Ward, and interior defender Chris Jones all missed time with injury, with the latter two missing the first matchup with the Bills. Even without Jones and Ward, that first matchup was closer than it seemed, as the game largely swung on the turnover margin, with the Bills winning by four and getting a return touchdown to make the margin of victory bigger than it would have been.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, despite all that I mentioned, this will still be a very tough matchup for the Chiefs, as the Bills led the NFL in point differential at +195, going 11-6 despite a 0-5 record in one score games, and then they destroyed the Patriots by 30 last week, en route to ranking first in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency by a wide margin, giving them about a 4.5-point edge over the Chiefs. 

The Bills aren’t fully healthy right now without top cornerback Tre’Davious White, and, if healthy, the Chiefs are the better team, but that may not be the case, as their best cornerback Rashad Fenton is questionable after not practicing all week, which would be a huge absence. If he plays, the Chiefs could be worth betting in this game, as overreaction to the Bills win last week and the public putting too much stock into the first matchup between these two teams has dropped this line to just 1.5, but they’re not bettable without Fenton and he seems more likely to be out than to play. This is a low confidence pick for now, but that could change.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Buffalo Bills 31

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -1.5

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 AFC Wild Card Round Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, a predictive metric based on yards per play, first down rate, and strength of schedule, the Steelers are by far the worst team in the league to qualify for the post-season, finishing 30th, 16th, 17th, and 29th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively. Given that, it’s unsurprising that they needed an 8-2-1 record in one score games to qualify for the final post-season spot in the AFC. 

They go to Kansas CIty as 12.5 point underdogs, which might seem like a lot, but it’s probably not high enough, as the Chiefs are arguably the best team in the league, with an offense that ranks 1st in schedule adjusted efficiency, a special teams that ranks 3rd, a defense that has much better than their 28th ranked schedule adjusted efficiency since getting healthy after a terrible start to a season, and a mixed efficiency that ranks 5th even with their underwhelming defensive rank. Given how far below average the Steelers were this season, my calculated line actually has the Chiefs favored by 17 points.

Big favorites tend to cover in the first round of the post-season anyway, as there tends to be a good reason why they are favored by that many points, with double digit favorites going 9-2 ATS over the past 30 seasons. Simply put, teams like the Steelers that many feel are not playoff caliber, usually tend not to be and get exposed very quickly. On top of that, there also tends to be more blowouts in general in the post-season, especially in the first round. 

While the percentage of games decided by 7 points or more in the first round of the playoffs (61.68%) is steady with the regular season percentage (62.34%), the percentage of games decided by 10 points or more jumps significantly in the first round of the post-season (52.34% vs. 48.52%) and the same is true of games decided by 14 points or more (39.25% vs. 35.33%). That is surprising when you consider that these are all games between playoff qualifiers, who should be more evenly matched than the league as a whole. 

This is likely because teams get desperate and start going for it on long 4th downs earlier in the game in the post-season in an attempt to save their season, leading to more games getting out of hand. Also better team tends to play their best football at the right time. That’s what I expect to happen here, so even at 12.5 I am confident in the Chiefs covering this spread. I wouldn’t make this a big play, but this one seems like an obvious blowout that, based on history, should not be overthought.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -12.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Denver Broncos (7-9)

The Broncos had the talent to be a playoff team this season, but they had more than an average amount of player absences, which kept them from reaching their potential. It started early in the season on defense, with their talented middle linebacker duo of AJ Johnson and Josey Jewell both suffering season-ending injuries that limited them to 6 games and 2 games respectively. Talented edge defender Bradley Chubb never suffered a season-ending injury, but he’s played just 6 games due to a variety of injuries, plus time missed with COVID. On top of that, starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Ronald Darby were limited to 10 games each. 

With a banged-up defense and the team looking unlikely to make a playoff push, the Broncos traded away Von Miller and his expiring contract at the trade deadline for draft picks, a smart move in the long-term, but another big loss for this defense. However, this team was still in the playoff mix at 7-6 before losing possibly their most important player, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, an unspectacular, but steady quarterback who was replaced by erratic backup Drew Lock, who has overseen the Broncos’ fall out of the playoff race at 7-9. 

Their offense was relatively healthy compared to the defense, aside from season ending injuries suffered by wide receiver KJ Hamler and right guard Graham Glasgow after three games and nine games respectively, as well as seven games missed by starting wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and three games each missed by starting offensive tackles Garret Bolles and Bobby Massie, but they couldn’t handle the loss of Bridgewater, which sunk the Broncos’ offense, leaving a depleted defense unable to pick up their slack.

Bridgewater remains out for what is now a meaningless week 18 game for the Broncos, aside from the opportunity to hurt the Chiefs’ playoff seeding, and the Broncos will be even more short-handed than they have been, with a trio of starters in the secondary, safety Kareem Jackson and cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain, expected out in this game. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are relatively healthy as a team and are overall one of the best teams in the league, with an offense that ranks 1st in schedule adjusted efficiency, a special teams that ranks 2nd, and a defense that has been much better since a terrible start to the season when they were missing key personnel and that is much more talented on paper than their 28th ranked defensive efficiency. 

Even with their underwhelming defensive efficiency, the Chiefs still rank 2nd in overall mixed efficiency, while the Broncos rank 22nd and are even worse than that now given all they are missing. Unfortunately, we have lost a lot of line value in the past week, with this line creeping up to Kansas City -11.5, despite the Chiefs’ last-second loss to the Bengals. My calculated line still favors the Chiefs by 14, but there isn’t enough here for the Chiefs to be bettable at this high number. One thing to keep an eye on is that both the Broncos’ kicker and punter are in COVID protocols and the Broncos have yet to sign a replacement for either. They do expect both players to clear before gametime, but if one doesn’t, it would leave the Broncos in a tough situation, one that might make the Chiefs’ bettable if this line doesn’t skyrocket. 

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -11.5

Confidence: Low

Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

The Bengals are in the driver’s seat in the AFC North right now, only needing to win one of their next two games to clinch the division, but they’re going to find it very difficult to get that win this week, with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town. The Bengals point differential of 9th is +86 best in the NFL, but they have also faced the easiest schedule in the league in terms of opponents’ efficiency, which doesn’t even take into account that they played a skeleton crew Ravens team last week. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Bengals rank just 17th, 16th, and 7th respectively, while ranking 13th in overall mixed schedule adjusted efficiency. That schedule will be getting a lot tougher this week, as the Chiefs are arguably the best team in the league. 

The Chiefs got off to a slow start this season, sitting at 3-4 through the first seven games of the season, but their biggest problems were the turnover margin (-10 through the first 7 games of the season) and their horrendous defensive play. Since then, their defense has since gotten healthy (cornerback Charvarius Ward, safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Frank Clark, and defensive tackle Chris Jones all missed time early in the season) and added edge defender Melvin Ingram in a key mid-season acquisition, which has led to a huge defensive improvement, while their turnover margin has predictably swung as well, as they have been at +13 in the eight games since their slow start.

Between the turnover margin and their much improved defensive efficiency, the Chiefs have won all eight games by an average of 17.0 points per game since their 3-4 start, leading to them now being all alone in the #1 seed in the AFC at 11-4, despite the fact that their offense has not been as healthy in recent weeks as it is now, with starting right tackle Lucas Niang, top wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and stud tight end Travis Kelce all back in the lineup. 

This line, favoring the Chiefs by five points on the road, might seem high, given that the Bengals are a division leader, but my calculated line is actually at 6, so I think this line is not high enough, as this is just such a step up in competition from most of the Bengals’ schedule. The Chiefs rank 2nd in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, 2nd on special teams, and their defense (25th on the season) has been a complementary unit in recent weeks. There isn’t enough here to bet on the Chiefs, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, in a rare battle of two relatively healthy teams this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -5

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

I am not locking in a lot of bets this week until gameday morning because of COVID uncertainty, but this is one I want to lock in right now. The Chiefs are currently missing two of their most important players, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, as well as starting right tackle Lucas Niang, but it’s possible all three could be cleared before gametime and, even if some or all aren’t, I still think we are getting line value with the Chiefs at their current number, favored by 8.5 points over the Steelers. Even missing those three players, my calculated line favors the Chiefs by 12.5.

The Chiefs got off to a slow start this season, sitting at 3-4 through the first seven games of the season, but their biggest problems were the turnover margin (-10 through the first 7 games of the season) and their horrendous defensive play. However, their defense has since gotten healthy (cornerback Charvarius Ward, safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Frank Clark, and defensive tackle Chris Jones all missed time early in the season) and added edge defender Melvin Ingram in a key mid-season acquisition, which has led to a huge defensive improvement, while their turnover margin has predictably swung as well, as they have been at +10 in the seven games since their slow start.

Between the turnover margin and their much improved defensive efficiency, the Chiefs have won all seven games by an average of 14.85 points per game since their 3-4 start, leading to them now being all alone in the #1 seed in the AFC at 10-4. Obviously the Chiefs’ offensive injuries hurt, but I have enough confidence in Patrick Mahomes even without his top weapons to still lead a strong offensive performance, while their defense should continue being a complementary unit. 

It also helps the Chiefs that they are playing a Steelers team that is nowhere near as good as their 7-6-1 record. While their six wins have come by just a combined 26 points, with none by more than one score, four of their six losses have come by multiple scores, with the only exceptions being games in which they still lost the first down rate and yards per play battles by 12.24% and 3.1 respectively against the Chargers and 2.22% and 1.4 respectively against the Vikings, which is more predictive than the final score. On the season, the Steelers rank just 28th, 20th, 20th, and 26th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, which are based on yards per play and first down rate differential. 

The Chiefs, meanwhile, rank 3rd in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, despite their injury plagued start to the season on defense. Even without Kelce and Hill, the Chiefs have a good chance to pick up their 7th multiscore win of the season and to hand the Steelers their 5th multiscore loss, and the possibility that one or both might still play makes this an even more intriguing bet. I am going to lock this in as my Pick of the Week now, given the uncertainty on the rest of this week’s schedule.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -8.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-5)

These two teams met in Kansas City back in week 3, with the Chargers winning by a final score of 30-24. However, the Chiefs won the first down rate battle by 7.92% and only lost the game because they lost the turnover battle by 4, which is not a predictive metric. The Chiefs were also missing their top cornerback Charvarius Ward and their top edge defender Frank Clark, which hurt their defense significantly. That game was a microcosm of the Chiefs’ early season, as turnovers and injuries were a theme for the Chiefs across the first several weeks of the season. 

In addition to Ward and Clark missing time, top interior defender Chris Jones and top safety Tyrann Mathieu also missed time with injury early in the year, while their turnover margin through seven games sat at -10, en route to a 3-4 start. However, their defense has since gotten healthy and added edge defender Melvin Ingram in a key mid-season acquisition, which has led to what was one of the worst defenses in the league in the beginning of the season now becoming one of the better defenses in the league in recent weeks.

That has propelled the Chiefs to a 6-game winning streak, a stretch during which their turnover margin has been +10, evening out their margin on the season. The Chiefs’ offense has actually struggled relative to their typical performance over their winning streak, coinciding with offensive line injuries, but they got right tackle Lucas Niang back last week, meaning they had their preferred starting five healthy on the offensive line for the first time in weeks, and it showed in a 48-9 rout of the Raiders. If their offense bounces back to their typical form with a healthy offensive line and their defense continues to be a complementary unit, the Chiefs are going to be very tough for anyone to beat and could easily be considered the top team in the league and the Super Bowl favorite, despite their slow start.

The Chiefs will be without interior defender Chris Jones this week due to COVID protocols, but the Chargers will be missing left tackle Rashawn Slater for the same reason and the talented rookie is playing so well that his absence almost cancels out the absence of the Chiefs’ dominant interior defender. This game is in Los Angeles, after the last matchup was in Kansas City, but it barely matters, given the Chargers lack of homefield advantage in Los Angeles, where they are 14-21 ATS at home since moving in 2017, as opposed to 22-14 ATS on the road. The Chiefs, in particular, have seen very friendly crowds in Los Angeles in their visits, which has helped them win all three of their matchups against the Chargers in Los Angeles, by an average of nine points per game.

The Chargers are a solid team, but, with the absences of Jones and Slater taken into account, the Chiefs are still significantly better than them and should be favored by significantly more than just a field goal on the road in a place where they will be greeted by a friendly crowd and where they have had no problem winning in the past. My calculated line has the Chiefs favored by 6.5 points, having a 7.5-point edge in my roster rankings, while the Chargers get just one point for homefield advantage. The Chiefs are worth at least a small bet at -3 and, depending on the status of questionable Charger defensive backs Derwin James and Asante Samuel, I might increase this play. I also want to make sure neither team will have any further COVID absences before possibly making this a higher confidence pick.

Update: I want to increase this bet. Derwin James is playing, which would have been the bigger absence, but Asante Samuel is out and, the bigger deal, is that the Chiefs have had no further key players test positive for COVID, which will be a concern up until gametime in every game this week. With both teams missing one key player each with COVID, the Chiefs have a significant edge over a team they could have easily beaten earlier this year if not for some fluky turnovers and that was despite the Chargers being the significantly healthier team in that matchup, which is not the case this time around.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Los Angeles Chargers 23

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -3

Confidence: High

Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Las Vegas Raiders (6-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)

The Raiders are 6-6, but their margin of victory in their six wins is just 7.0 points per game, as opposed to a margin of defeat of 13.3 points per game in their six losses, leading to the Raiders having a point differential that is worse than their record at -38. That normally suggests that the Raiders are not as good as their record, but the Raiders have also significantly underperformed on third and fourth downs on both sides of the ball, which tends to even out in the long run. 

The Raiders rank 16th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency and 9th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but just 30th in third down conversion percentage, 24th in fourth down conversion percentage, 20th in third down conversion percentage allowed, and 26th in fourth down conversion percentage allowed. Those metrics figure to improve going forward, allowing the Raiders to be more competitive in their games than their point differential would suggest. Most casual bettors can see their point differential easily, but the fact that they are likely to improve on key downs going forward is not as easily seen and, as a result, the Raiders have become slightly underrated.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, they have a very tough matchup this week, going into Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Some wrote the Chiefs off after their 3-4 start, but their defense was always likely to improve significantly when they got healthier, while their turnover issues were highly likely to stop. That’s exactly what has happened as their defense has not just gotten healthy, but also has added key edge defender Melvin Ingram from the Steelers, and, as a result, has gone from being one of the worst defenses in the league to start the season to one of the best in the best few weeks, while their turnover margin, -11 through their first eight games, has jumped to +6 over their past four games. 

That has led to the Chiefs winning five straight games to put themselves very much in the mix for the top seed in the AFC at 8-4 and it’s possible we haven’t seen their best play as a team yet, as their offense has not been as good in recent weeks, with the defense largely carrying the team. If their offense can return to form, that will make this team even more dangerous and, with the return of right tackle Lucas Niang giving them a healthy offensive line for the first time in several weeks, it’s very possible we could see their offense take a step forward this week. As crazy as it sounds, despite their record and winning streak, the Chiefs still seem a little underrated, as they easily could be considered the Super Bowl favorite at this point, given their track record.

The Chiefs do have another game in a few days, as they’ll play the Chargers in a key divisional game on Thursday Night Football next week, and favorites cover at just a 41.7% rate before Thursday Night Football, but the Chiefs are also in their third straight home game, a 55.2% cover spot all-time, which cancels the other trend out somewhat. My calculated line is exactly where this line is, favoring the Chiefs by 9.5 points, so we’re also not getting any line value with either side. As a result of that and the lack of a situational trend edge, it’s very hard to be confident in either side in this game, but I am taking the Chiefs for pick ‘em purposes purely because I’d rather not go against them right now, even if the Raiders are also an underrated team. If this line was 10, I would probably be on the Raiders though; that’s how close this one is for me. 

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Las Vegas Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9.5

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (6-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

Many people wrote the Chiefs off when they got off to a 3-4 start, but there were always reasons to expect they would turn around. For one, the Chiefs started the season with the arguably toughest schedule in the league. They also struggled mightily in the turnover margin, starting the season with a -11 turnover margin through their first eight games. Turnover margins are highly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and common sense suggested that the Chiefs, with one of the top quarterbacks in the league, would not continue to rank among the league worst in turnover margin, especially since so many of their interceptions came off tipped passes. 

On top of that, the Chiefs’ offense was still moving the ball as well as they ever had, with their defense dragging down the team’s performance significantly, as they were arguably the worst in the league to begin the season. Defense is the less predictive side of the ball, however, and the Chiefs had significant injury issues on that side of the ball early in the season, with safety Tyrann Mathieu, edge defender Frank Clark, interior defender Chris Jones, and cornerback Charvarius Ward all missing time. 

Their defense is now healthy, with all four of those players in the lineup, as well as a key mid-season addition in Melvin Ingram. The Chiefs’ turnover margin has also stabilized (+4 their past three games) and now they get to an easier part of their schedule as well. The Chiefs are on a 4-game winning streak and, looking at their remainder of their schedule, it’s possible they don’t lose a game the rest of the way if they stay healthy and play turnover neutral football. 

Even if they do lose another game, I don’t expect it to be this one, at home, coming out of a bye week, against a mediocre Broncos team. Denver is 6-5, but three of their wins were against terrible teams early in the season, when the Broncos were a lot healthier. In total, they are missing edge defender Von Miller, middle linebackers Josey Jewell and AJ Johnson, right guard Graham Glasgow, running back Melvin Gordon, and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, who all began the season as key contributors for this team. Even including their solid start, the Broncos rank just 21st, 4th, 29th, and 20th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency on the season.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, rank 1st on offense and 2nd on special teams, with their 31st ranked defense being much improved in recent weeks, but having their rank dragged down by how terrible they were to begin the season. If their defense can even be an average unit the rest of the way, the Chiefs are among the toughest teams in the league and should still be considered the favorites to come out of the AFC. My calculated line has the Chiefs as 12.5-point favorites, so we’re getting value with the Chiefs at -9.5. It also helps that Andy Reid has been one of the best coaches in NFL history when given extra time, going 34-21 ATS in week one games and games following bye weeks in his career. This is my top pick this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (7-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

The Chiefs got a huge win in Las Vegas last week, winning by a final score of 41-14 against a decent Raiders team. They have always seemed like they were going to break through at some point, but their offense had been uncharacteristically struggling across the Chiefs previous three games, a stretch in which the Chiefs scored just 36 points. That same stretch saw them have significant improvement on defense though, as they finally had top edge defender Frank Clark, top safety Tyrann Mathieu, top interior defender Chris Jones, and starting cornerback Charvarius Ward healthy at the same time for the first time all season and gave up just 51 points across three games.

Even with the Chiefs’ recent offensive struggles, they still ranked among the league’s best in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency going into last week, so if their offense bounced back as expected, paired with a much healthier and improved defense, the Chiefs were going to be a dangerous team. That seems to have happened. The Chiefs still rank just 30th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but they should be significantly better than that defensively going forward, while their offense and special teams rank 2nd and 1st respectively in schedule adjusted efficiency. 

Aside from injuries, the Chiefs’ biggest problem thus far has been the turnover margin, as they rank third worst in the league in turnover margin at -8. Turnover margin is not a predictive stat on a week-to-week basis though and, though I would expect any team in the Chiefs’ turnover margin situation to bounce back going forward, the Chiefs are even better equipped than most teams to bounce back, as having an elite quarterback like Patrick Mahomes is the best way to consistently perform well in the turnover margin. Prior to this season, the Chiefs were +23 in turnover margin across Mahomes’ first three seasons in the league combined and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see their turnover situation swing dramatically over the remainder of the season.

Now the biggest problem for the Chiefs is they have another tough game this week, despite having one of the toughest schedules in the league thus far, as they play host to the 7-2 Dallas Cowboys. The Chiefs actually probably have the better defense in this matchup, with the Cowboys ranking 24th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and missing their two best edge defenders DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory due to injuries, but the Cowboys are also the only team who ranks higher than the Chiefs in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Cowboys are also healthier than they have been on offense for most of the season, with their two stud tackles Tyron Smith and La’El Collins set to play with quarterback Dak Prescott in the same game for the the first time week one, as well as the return of starting wide receiver Michael Gallup for the first time since week one, to offset some of the absence of fellow starting wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is on the COVID list and will miss his first game of the season. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are missing starting right tackle Lucas Niang and will likely be without starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire again as well. 

Overall, I have these two teams about even, so we aren’t getting any value with either side, with the Chiefs favored by 2.5 points at home. The most likely outcome of two evenly matched teams like this facing off against each other is the home team winning by a field goal, so I am taking the Chiefs for pick ‘em purposes, but this line is right about where it should be and there are no situational edges for either team, so there is nothing worth betting on here.

Update: Tyron Smith will be out for the Cowboys and yet this line has stayed put at 2.5. I am going to up the confidence here a little bit.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Dallas Cowboys 27

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -2.5

Confidence: Low

Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

This game is a tough call. On one hand, the Chiefs have played better than their 5-4 record, while the Raiders have played worse than their 5-3 record. The Chiefs’ biggest issues are they have faced one of the toughest schedules in the league (8th highest opponent’s DVOA), they have had one of the worst turnover margins in the league (2nd worst in the NFL at -9), and they have had one of the worst defenses in the league (31st in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency). 

The Chiefs offense has continued to rank among the best in the league on the season, ranking 2nd in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, as they also have one of the best special teams (1st in special teams DVOA) and their other issues should resolve themselves going forward, as turnover margins are highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, the Chiefs’ defense has gotten significantly healthier since earlier this season and has played better in recent weeks as a result, and their schedule eases up relatively going forward. The Raiders, meanwhile, have faced a below average schedule, but they have had to go to overtime to win twice and have just a +7 point differential, while ranking 14th, 4th, and 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency on offense, defense, and special teams respectively. 

However, it seems like the public and the odds makers see things the same way, as the Chiefs are favored by 2.5 points on the road in Las Vegas. Given that, I am actually going to be taking the Raiders in this one, as I am actually a little bit concerned about the Chiefs’ offense, which, even though it ranks among the best in the league in yards per play and first down rate on the season, has slowed down significantly in both metrics over the past few weeks, coinciding with injuries at the running back position and on the offensive line. My calculated line has the Chiefs favored by 1.5, so we’re hardly getting any line value with the Raiders, but they would be my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs 26 Las Vegas Raiders 24

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas +2.5

Confidence: None