Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

Entering the season, the Chiefs were near the top of my overrated list. They finished the 2016 season 12-4, but that was largely because of a +16 turnover margin (and a subsequent +7 return touchdown margin) and a 6-3 record in games decided by 8 or fewer points, two things that tend to be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. They ranked just 24th in first down rate differential and looked poised for a disappointing 2017. That assessment looked incorrect to start the season when the Chiefs won their first 5 games, but they were never as good as that record suggested.

Many of those wins were close and their offense was highly unlikely to continue its incredibly low turnover rate (1 turnover in the first 5 games) and its high yards per carry average (5.70 YPC in those 5 games). Those rates have dropped significantly in the 7 games since, as they have 7 turnovers and a 4.01 YPC average in those 7 games. On the defensive side, they’ve continued to struggle mightily without All-Pro safety Eric Berry, who tore his achilles in the opener in New England. They rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 38.40% and have struggled mightily to get off the field when they aren’t forcing turnovers.

As a result, they’ve lost 6 of 7 games, with their one win coming at home against Denver, who is on an 8-game losing streak and who still outgained the Chiefs by over 100 yards in that game. In their last 3 weeks, they’ve lost to the Giants, the Bills, and the Jets. They rank 22nd in first down rate differential and 15th in my roster rankings, so they are a middling team at best. Once running away with the AFC West, the Chiefs are now locked into a 3-way tie for the division lead with the Chargers and Raiders at 6-6, with those two teams coming to town in the next two weeks.

Making matters worse, they will be without top cornerback Marcus Cooper for this one, as the team suspended him for throwing a flag into the stands and leaving without being ejected, late in last week’s loss to the Jets. Already without Berry in the secondary, the Chiefs now have arguably the worst secondary in the league, a big problem with the Raiders getting Michael Crabtree and possibly Amari Cooper back this week, after both missed last week’s win over the Giants.

The Raiders also will likely get top cornerback David Amerson back this week and have been playing better defense in recent weeks anyway, especially against the run, thanks to the emergence of mid-season acquisition NaVorro Bowman, a talented middle linebacker who was released by the 49ers earlier this season. They’re better than their 6-6 record, as they rank 12th in first down rate differential and 8th in my roster rankings. Getting more than a field goal with the better team is usually a no brainer.

I have this line calculated at even and the Raiders could easily win straight up. Even if they don’t, about 30% of games are decided by 4 points or less, so we have a good cushion. I don’t see the Chiefs winning this game by more than a field goal without returning a touchdown, so Oakland +4 should be a relatively safe bet, even if we were getting way better line value with +6.5 a week ago on the early line. The money line at +170 makes a lot of sense too because this game is at least a toss up. This is a high confidence pick as long as the line is higher than 3.

Oakland Raiders 28 Kansas City Chiefs 27 Upset Pick +170

Pick against the spread: Oakland +4

Confidence: High

Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at New York Jets (4-7)

Entering the season, the Chiefs were near the top of my overrated list. They finished the 2016 season 12-4, but that was largely because of a +16 turnover margin (and a subsequent +7 return touchdown margin) and a 6-3 record in games decided by 8 or fewer points, two things that tend to be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. They ranked just 24th in first down rate differential and looked poised for a disappointing 2017. That assessment looked incorrect to start the season when the Chiefs won their first 5 games, they were never as good as that record suggested.

Many of those wins were close and their offense was highly unlikely to continue its incredibly low turnover rate (1 turnover in the first 5 games) and its high yards per carry average (5.70 YPC). Those rates have dropped significantly in the 6 games since, as they have 7 turnovers and a 3.50 YPC average in those 6 games. On the defensive side, they’ve continued to struggle mightily without All-Pro safety Eric Berry, who tore his achilles in the opener in New England. They rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 38.21% and have struggled mightily to get off the field when they aren’t forcing turnovers.

As a result, they’ve lost 5 of 6 games, with their one win coming at home against Denver, a 3-8 team who outgained them by 100 yards. In their last 2 weeks, they’ve lost to the Giants and the Bills, who have both made quarterback changes in the last month. Once 5-0, the Chiefs are now 6-5 with a precarious 1-game lead over the Raiders and Chargers in the AFC West. The Chiefs rank just 19th in my roster rankings and just 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.02%, so I think they’re still a little bit worse than their record.

The spreads don’t seem to be catching up with how bad the Chiefs have been lately, as they are favored by more than a field goal here in New York against the Jets. They were 6 point favorites on the early line last week, but just 14% of games are decided by 4-6 points, so that’s not a huge shift, given that the Chiefs lost at home to the Bills, who were coming off 3 straight losses by a combined 80 points. As long as this line is higher than 3 points, we are getting great line value with the Jets, as about 25% of games are decided by 3 points or fewer.

The Jets were +6 at home for the Panthers last week and were leading them before two Carolina fourth quarter return touchdowns. Even still, the Jets came close to covering in a 8-point loss and that was their only non-cover of the year at home. They’ve beaten the Bills, Dolphins, and Jaguars at home and have played close games against the Patriots and Falcons. I don’t see why they couldn’t at least keep it within a field goal against the Chiefs and I think they have a good chance to win straight up as well. I locked this in at 4 earlier this week, but the Jets are a high confidence pick at 3.5 as well and a medium confidence pick at 3. The money line is also worth a bet at +160.

New York Jets 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +4

Confidence: High

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

These two teams both got off to great starts, but both have skidded in recent weeks. The Bills started the year 5-2, but have lost 3 straight games by a combined 80 points since then, while the Chiefs started the year 5-0, but have since lost 4 of 5. Both teams are arguably coming off their worst week of the season as well, as the Bills lost 54-24 in Los Angeles to the Chargers and the Chiefs lost in overtime in New York to the previously 1-8 Giants, despite coming off of a bye.

The Bills are in a better spot this week though. The Chiefs could be a little tired after a road overtime loss (home teams cover at a 43% spread off of a road overtime loss since 1989) and could overlook a Bills team that is coming off of back-to-back blowout losses. It’s counter-intuitive, but teams are 45-32 ATS since 2002 after back-to-back 21+ point losses, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and underrated after two big losses in a row. The Bills could be all three of those things this week, and, at the very least, they are definitely underrated.

Despite Kansas City losing to a previously 1-win team, this line has actually shifted a half point in Kansas City’s favor since the early line last week, as the Chiefs are now 10 point favorites after being favored by 9.5 last week.That’s despite the fact that the Bills played an underrated Chargers team and played a lot better after pulling unprepared rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw 5 first half picks, for Tyrod Taylor, who should have remained the Bills’ quarterback all along.

Taylor is back under center this week for the Bills, which should put this offense back on track. They got blown out by the Saints even with Taylor the week before, but the Saints are one of the best teams in the league. Before that, they lost to the Jets in New York by 13, but that was because they lost 3 fumbles, something that hasn’t been the norm for this team this season. The Bills are far from a great team, but they were a capable opponent just a few weeks back and could easily bounce back over the next few weeks.

I think the Chiefs’ recent struggles are actually more concerning, because their offense has predictably fallen back to earth after starting the season on a record pace in turnover rate and big play rate, but their defense has continued to struggle mightily since losing safety Eric Berry in the opener. They still rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 39.42% and, as a result, they rank 24th in first down rate differential at -2.48%, even with an offense that still ranks 5th in first down rate on the season. Their only win in their last 5 games came at home to the Broncos, who have lost 6 straight, a game in which the Broncos won the first down batlle 23 to 16 and outgained the Chiefs by over 100 yards. I only have the Chiefs about 2.5 points better than the Bills in my rankings, so we’re getting a lot of line value with the Bills as 10 point underdogs.

Ordinarily homefield advantage is worth about 3 points, but the Bills are in a good spot as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of a road loss, as teams are 118-77 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 254-268 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.80 points per game, as opposed to 376-517 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. Given that, I have this line calculated at about -4 or -4.5, so we’re getting a ton of line value with the Bills at +10.

The Bills do have a tough home game next week against New England and could quit if they get down big early (teams are 22-46 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point home underdogs), but I see this being a close game. The Chiefs are particularly weak against the run on defense and the Bills should be able to run all over them with Taylor and LeSean McCoy, which will make it tough for Kansas City to pull away. If the New England game wasn’t on deck for the Bills, this would be my Pick of the Week, but it’s a high confidence pick nonetheless.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Buffalo Bills 23

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +10

Confidence: High

Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) at New York Giants (1-8)

The Giants hit rock bottom last week, falling to 1-8 in a double digit loss to a previously winless 49ers team. The Giants have had injuries, but they don’t seem to be trying hard either. This is a very veteran team with very little good young talent and they don’t seem to want to try hard for head coach Ben McAdoo in a lost season. It’s possible they put in more effort this week for the Kansas City Chiefs, a much tougher opponent, but it’s also possible they mail it in if they go down by multiple scores early, especially since they have to go to Washington on a short week next week. They are currently 8.5 point underdogs on the early line for that Thanksgiving game.

Underdogs of 6+ are 35-54 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again. It’s very tough for inferior teams to keep up with superior teams if they have another tough game on deck. That’s especially true if the superior opponent doesn’t have a tough game on deck, which the Chiefs don’t, with the Bills coming to town next week. The early line has the Chiefs as 7.5 point favorites. Favorites of 6+ are 65-40 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. Combining trends, favorites of 6+ are 35-9 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again when their opponent will be 6+ point underdogs again the following week.

The Chiefs are also coming out of a bye and big road favorites tend to cover after a bye. Road favorites of 3.5+ are are 42-17 ATS since 1989 off of a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. The Giants have already lost at home by big margins twice this season against good teams coming out of their bye, as the Seahawks won 24-7 and the Rams won 51-17. The Chiefs could easily do that as well, but we aren’t getting any line value with them at -10. The Chiefs rank dead last in first down rate allowed this season, as they’ve been unable to get off the field defensively without forcing turnovers. They could allow the Giants to hang around in garbage time if the Giants actually put in effort for the full 60 minutes. If this line drops under 10, I may reconsider, but this is a low confidence pick for now. The Chiefs are also the smart survivor pick this week if you have not used them yet.

Update: -9.5 has popped up in a few places Sunday morning, despite wide receiver Sterling Shepard and cornerback Eli Apple being unexpectedly inactive. Grab -9.5 if you can get it.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 New York Giants 17 Survivor Pick

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

After souring on the Cowboys after their 2-3 start, the public seems back on board with the Cowboys following back-to-back road wins, as they are now 2.5 point home favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs, who enter at 6-2. The Cowboys have always played well on the road though and they were playing the 49ers and a banged up Redskins team, so their level of competition wasn’t that high. Now they return home to face a much better opponent.

The Cowboys are 33-27 on the road since 2010 (35-25 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 0.27 points per game, as opposed to 30-31 at home (21-29 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 1.59 points per game. Because of their nationwide fanbase, they tend to draw support wherever they travel, so their homefield advantage hasn’t even been worth a full point in recent years. Given that, this line suggests the Cowboys are about 1.5-2 points better than the Chiefs.

I don’t think the Chiefs are quite as good as their record because of their defensive problems, but I think they’re still a little bit better than Dallas, who also have significant problems on defense. I have this line calculated at even. I’d need a full field goal to put money on the spread, but the money line is a smart bet at +120 because this game is a toss up at best. If this line creeps up to a field goal before game time, I’ll consider upgrading this to a medium confidence pick. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so getting protection against a field goal win by Dallas is key.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Dallas Cowboys 30 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Kansas City +2.5

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

The Broncos started the season 3-1 before their bye week, with wins over the Chargers, Cowboys (by 25), and Raiders, but they’ve lost back-to-back games to the Giants and Chargers since the bye and the public has soured on them as a result. They’ve been outscored 44-10 in those 2 games, but their defense has still played at a high level, allowing just 26 first downs and 3 offensive touchdowns combined. On the season, they still rank #1 in first down rate allowed at 27.95%. Despite an offense that ranks 23rd in first down rate, the Broncos have the 5th best first down rate differential in the NFL.

The Broncos offense is worse than that right now with Emmanuel Sanders likely to miss his 2nd straight game with an ankle injury, but they face a Kansas City defense that ranks just 31st in first down rate allowed at 40.75%, only ahead of the New England Patriots. They have not been nearly the same unit since losing safety Eric Berry for the season week 1 and now outside linebacker Justin Houston is dealing with a knee injury that could have him at less than 100% this week.

The Chiefs offense is what’s been winning them games, as they rank 2nd in first down rate, so the Broncos’ defense will have their hands full, but they should be able to slow them down considerably, even with right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and center Mitch Morse likely to return. They should also be able to establish their running game and make life easier for quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has been struggling mightily since losing Sanders midway through the loss to the Giants. This line is way off at 7.5, as the Chiefs are at best 1-1.5 points better than the Broncos right now. I have this line at Kansas City -3.5, so I like the Broncos enough to make them my Pick of the Week in a 13-game week.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Denver +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-4)

The Raiders enter this game on a 4-game losing streak and are dealing with a much-talked-about injury to quarterback Derek Carr, who was not 100% last week in his return from a back injury and will likely not be 100% again this week on a short week. However, the Chiefs are in a tough injury situation as well, just not one that gets talked about as much. Obviously the injury to Eric Berry in the opener hurt this defense significantly, but their offense is missing two starters on the offensive line (center Mitch Morse and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) and and two of their top-3 receivers (Chris Conley and Albert Wilson). That really hurt them in last week’s home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which they lost the first down battle 23-11.

On the season, the Chiefs are just 17th in first down rate differential at +0.73%, as they have 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents, but 7 fewer first downs. The Raiders, meanwhile, rank just 2 spots behind them at -0.50%. Taking into accounts injuries, I have these two teams about 3 points apart in my roster rankings. Given that, getting the Raiders as field goal home underdogs is a good value. Oakland should be able to keep this one close throughout and possibly pull off the upset. If not, I like getting field goal protection with them, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. This would be a higher confidence pick if I was confident that Carr wouldn’t get knocked out of the game, but the Raiders are still worth a small bet.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Oakland Raiders 23

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: Medium