Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Rams: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) at Los Angeles Rams (9-1)

Originally this game was supposed to be in Mexico City, but poor field conditions forced the NFL to move it back to Los Angeles, making this a true home game for the Rams (originally they gave one up to play in Mexico City). It’s obviously a huge loss for Mexico City, as this ended up being one of the biggest games of the season. These two teams are in different conferences, so there aren’t seeding tiebreakers up for grabs in this game like there were in Chiefs/Patriots and Rams/Saints, but this is the 3rd latest two teams with at least a 90% winning percentage have met in the past 30 seasons and this could easily be a Super Bowl preview.

The Rams were originally 1.5-point favorites when the game was in Mexico City, but the line shifted to 3 as a result of the move to Los Angeles. Normally homefield advantage is about 3 points, but the Rams have had trouble getting a steady fanbase in Los Angeles, even as well as they’ve been playing, so we could easily see the crowd full of Chiefs fans like it was full of Packers and Seahawks fans in recent weeks. Given that, I understand not giving the Rams the full 3-point homefield advantage.

WIth that in mind, I’d say this line is pretty accurate. I have the Rams a little bit better than the Chiefs in my roster rankings, but it’s hard to take the Rams with any confidence as field goal home favorites against a team as good as the Chiefs when they don’t have true homefield advantage. I’m taking the Rams for pick ‘em purposes, but we could easily see a push in this game. This one figures to go right down to the wire and may come down to who has the ball last.

Los Angeles Rams 34 Kansas City Chiefs 31

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -3

Confidence: None

Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)

The Cardinals have been pretty terrible this season, but their offense looked much better in their first game under new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were better in their first game out of the bye as well, with Leftwich now having another 2 weeks on the job. The schedule doesn’t do them any favors, as they have to head to Kansas City to play the AFC leading Chiefs, but they could definitely keep this game closer than the 16.5 point spread because the Chiefs are in a major look ahead spot, with a trip to Mexico City to play the NFC leading Rams on deck.

Teams tend to struggle before international games like that anyway, but the Chiefs are especially in a tough spot because of how big that game is going to be for them. Favorites of 12+ are just 18-37 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have arguably their easiest game of the season on deck, as they host the Raiders next week, a game in which they will almost definitely be favored. Underdogs are 86-53 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. Coming out of a bye with an easy game on deck, the Cardinals should be fully focused for this game against one of the NFL’s best, while the Chiefs could easily not give their best effort and let the Cardinals hang around.

The Cardinals wouldn’t be the first team the Chiefs have let hang around. In fact, if the Chiefs were to cover this 16.5 point spread, it would be their 2nd biggest margin of victory of the season. They obviously have an incredible offense, but their defense ranks 30th in first down rate allowed at 42.19% and could allow the Cardinals to move the ball with ease in garbage time and keep this one within the 16.5 points. This isn’t a huge play because of the significant talent disparity between these two teams, but this should be closer than expected.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Arizona Cardinals 21

Pick against the spread: Arizona +16.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-5-1)

I’ve been going against the Chiefs in recent weeks because when everyone knows a team is good, it’s tough to get good line value with them. As well as they’ve played, they are just 2-2-1 ATS in their last 5 games. This week though, it’s the Chiefs or nothing in this game, as the Browns are unbettable in the wake of their coaching change. It’s not that Hue Jackson was doing a good job or anything, but with both him and Todd Haley going out the door and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams taking over as interim head coach, the Browns’ offense is now in the hands of running backs coach Freddie Kitchens, a career position coach who has never called plays at any level. With an inexperienced rookie quarterback under center and a banged up receiving corps, the Browns could easily be a dysfunctional mess on offense this week, more so than usual.

The Browns haven’t been playing well in recent weeks anyway, hence why Jackson was let go. After a promising 2-2-1 start, the Browns have lost 3 straight and sit at 2-5-1 with a -41 point differential (27th in the NFL). That’s despite the fact that they’ve benefited from a league leading +11 turnover margin, which is not reliable week-to-week. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank just 30th at -6.07%, only ahead of the Cardinals and the Bills.

The Chiefs are also in a great spot because they have another easy game against the Cardinals on deck, a game in which they are 14.5-point favorites on the early line. Favorites of 7+ are 79-49 ATS before being favored by 7+ again the following week, as top level teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams with no upcoming distractions on their schedule. The Chiefs still have issues on defense and Justin Houston could be held out of a game they can easily win without him, despite his return to practice after a 3-week absence this week, so it’s hard to get too excited about the Chiefs as 9-point road favorites, but this could easily be a blowout in Cleveland.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)

The Broncos are just 3-4 and don’t get a lot of attention because they don’t do any one thing really well, but they’ve quietly been better than their record. They rank above average in both first down rate (14th at 37.25%) and first down rate allowed (7th at 32.89%). They’ve won the first down rate battle in 5 of 7 games, including 3 of their losses. One of those losses was at home to the Chiefs in a game they won the first down rate battle by 4.26%, led by double digits in the 4th quarter, and had a chance to win late on a missed open touchdown. They also won the first down rate battle in losses to the Jets (2.82%) and the Rams (5.56%). On the season, they have 16 more first downs than their opponents.

The Chiefs, despite their record, have 15 fewer first downs than their opponents. Their offense has obviously been incredible, but their defense has allowed opponents to pick up first downs at a high rate (43.15%, 30th in the NFL). They’re coming off their best defensive performance of the year and could end up being a capable unit if they get both Justin Houston and Eric Berry back for the stretch run, which would make them a very scary team, but this week the Broncos could easily keep it close with the Chiefs for the second time this season. Even if the Chiefs get up big early, the Broncos have been a good garbage time team this year and could easily get the backdoor cover against an underwhelming defense. I would need at least 10 points to bet any money on Denver, but they should be the right side this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Denver Broncos 24

Pick against the spread: Denver +9.5

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-1)

The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season last week in New England, losing 43-40 in an epic shootout. It was a close game, but it easily could have been a wider margin, as the Chiefs trailed by 15 at halftime, but were able to catch up thanks to a second half strip sack, a long kickoff return, and a busted coverage on a 75-yard passing touchdown. The Patriots won the first down rate battle by 5.16%, totaling 31 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns on 75 offensive snaps, as opposed to 18 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns on 53 offensive snaps for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs obviously have an incredible offense and Pat Mahomes’ performance last week on the road in New England was arguably his best of the year, despite the end result of the game, but their defense remains a major problem, allowing opponents to pick up first downs or touchdowns on 44.86% of defensive snaps, 3rd worst in the NFL. They could turn into a serviceable stop unit by season’s end when they get safety Eric Berry and top edge rusher Justin Houston back from injury, which would make them a scary team in the AFC, but both remain out, so the Chiefs should continue having trouble stopping people in this one.

Given that, this line is too high at Kansas City -6. The Bengals lost in disappointing fashion at home to the Steelers last week, but remain one of the better teams in the AFC and should be able to keep this one close in a shootout. Even last week’s loss could have turned out differently if they had managed to hold on to one of the first half interceptions they dropped. I wouldn’t bet a lot on Cincinnati this week because this could easily end up being a touchdown win by Kansas City, but I have this line calculated at -3.5, so we’re getting enough line value with the Bengals at +6 for them to be worth a bet.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Cincinnati Bengals 27

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +6

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) at New England Patriots (3-2)

After last week’s win over a tough Jacksonville team that improved their record to 5-0, the Chiefs were anointed by many as the clear favorite in the AFC, but now they have to turn around and face another tough test in New England. The Patriots lost in Jacksonville earlier in the season, but they’re much improved since then. They’ve gotten top pass rusher Trey Flowers and valuable safety Patrick Chung back from injury on defense, wide receiver Julian Edelman has returned on offense, fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon has gotten more integrated into this offense, after being acquired via trade week 3, and first round rookie Sony Michel has broken out as the lead running back.

This game is also in New England, where the Patriots are virtually unbeatable, with just 22 losses in 150 games started at home by Tom Brady. It’s even tougher to win in New England for young quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes, who is in just his 7th career start. Remarkably a quarterback under the age of 25 has never beaten Tom Brady in Gillette in the regular season. Even more remarkable is Brady’s record in his career against teams with a better record than his. The league average winning percentage is 38.3% against teams with better records, but Brady is 35-12 straight up (74.5%) and 37-10 ATS. It’s going to be much tougher for the Chiefs to beat the Patriots this week than it was for the Jaguars to beat them in Jacksonville week 2.

The Chiefs’ offense is obviously dominant, but their defense remains a major concern. The common narrative seems to be that their defense is fixed because they held Jacksonville to 14 points last week, but they still allowed 29 first downs. They did force 5 takeaways, but other than takeaways they’ve had real trouble getting off the field this year, allowing a league high 142 first downs (13 more than the next closest team). Tom Brady and company are unlikely to turn the ball over much, so the Chiefs figure to have a really tough time getting them off the field, especially now that they’re missing top pass rusher Justin Houston.

This game will be a shootout, but the Patriots defense is underrated at full health and ultimately I trust them to get some stops against a young quarterback on the road in a hostile environment more than I trust the Chiefs to slow down this New England offense with Eric Berry and Justin Houston on the sidelines. I have this line calculated at New England -6, so we’re getting good line value with them at -3 and they’re in a great spot because they always get up for these big games against tough opponents. This is my Pick of the Week if you can get -3, even if you have to pay extra juice, but it’s worth a big bet even at -3.5 too if you’re getting less than normal juice.

New England Patriots 38 Kansas City Chiefs 30

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

This is arguably the biggest game of the week, a potential AFC Championship preview with potential playoff seeding implications. The Jaguars come in with one loss, by 3 points at home to the Titans, while the Chiefs are undefeated. Despite that, the Jaguars are actually a little bit better of a team. Both teams have one elite unit: the Jaguars’ defense ranks 1st in first down rate allowed at 26.61% and the Chiefs’ offense ranks 2nd (behind the Rams) in first down rate at 45.78%, but the Jaguars’ offense (24th in first down rate at 33.33%) is better than the Chiefs’ defense (32nd in first down rate allowed at 46.67%). This line at 3 in favor of the hometown Chiefs suggests these two teams are equal, so we’re getting some line value with the Jaguars.

The Jaguars are also in a better spot. While this is a big game for both teams, the Chiefs may have a little bit of split focus this week with a trip to New England on deck, with the Jaguars only have the Cowboys on deck. Underdogs are 80-45 ATS before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, which the Chiefs will be next week. There’s not quite enough here to bet on the Jaguars as mere 3 point underdogs, but if the line moves up to 3.5 before gametime I may reconsider.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3

Confidence: Low