Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (3-12)

Both of these teams are absolutely terrible. The Texans’ defense has not been the same since losing both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus back in week 6 and their offense has been abysmal since losing quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season in practice in week 9, thanks to horrible quarterback play and arguably even worse offensive line play. Things have actually gotten even worse for them in recent weeks, as they are now down to 3rd string quarterback TJ Yates, who is somehow noticeably worse than Tom Savage, and they are now without #1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who will miss the first game of his career this week with a calf injury.

Hopkins has been their entire offense since Savage went down, accounting for 294 of their 459 passing yards over the past 3 weeks, a ridiculous 64.05%. The only success Yates has had has come when he’s tried to force the ball to Hopkins, who might be the best contested ball receiver in the league. Even with Hopkins out there, the Texans have been outscored 105-29 over those 3 games, although their competition has been pretty tough (the Jimmy Garoppolo led 49ers, the Jaguars, and the Steelers).

The Colts are a major step down in competition. Outside of the Texans, the Bryce Petty led Jets, and the Browns, the Colts are the worst team in the league right now. Their 3 wins have come by a combined 12 points, while their 12 losses have come by a combined 162 points, giving them a point differential of -150, 2nd worst in the NFL, despite the fact that they actually have a positive turnover margin at +4. They enter this game dead last in first down rate differential at -6.70% and have a league high 5 losses in which they won the turnover margin.

They have also lost safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and left guard Jack Mewhort in the last couple months, all of whom were key players, so this team is even worse than they were earlier in the year, a big part of the reason why they haven’t won a game in about 2 months. All 3 of their wins have come against terrible teams, the Browns, the Brian Hoyer led 49ers, and the Tom Savage led Texans and none of those wins would have covered this 6-point spread.

Their only win by more than a field goal was their 20-14 win in Houston back in week 9, but, just because the Colts won by 6 in Houston doesn’t mean they are necessarily going to win by more than 6 at home in Indianapolis in this game, even though the Texans are now starting Yates and are now without Hopkins. For one thing, the Colts are also more banged up than they were then, as Henry Anderson, Johnathan Hankins, and Rashaan Melvin played in that game and played well defensively for the Colts.

On top of that, teams tend to cover in same season revenge games, as road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Colts were in Houston. I have no interest in actually betting on this game because both teams are terrible and both teams could have one foot in the off-season at the end of an awful season, but this line is too high, so the Texans are the pick for pick ‘em pool purposes.

Indianapolis Colts 17 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Houston +6

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

The Ravens are 8-6 and in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot in the AFC, but they are a little overrated. They’ve had the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL in terms of opponents strength of schedule and that doesn’t even take into account that they’ve gotten to face a number of backup quarterbacks. Of their 8 wins, only one has come against a team that currently has a winning record, the Detroit Lions, who also have next to no success against quality football teams. Four of those wins have come against teams with backup quarterbacks, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Tom Savage led Texans, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, and the Brett Hundley led Packers. Their other 3 wins have come against the Browns (twice) and the Bengals.

They have an impressive margin of victory and rank 7th in the NFL in point differential at +89, but that’s largely because of a league best +17 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so that’s not something the Ravens are necessarily going to be able to count on going forward, especially as their competition gets harder in the post-season. They rank just 10th in first down rate differential at 1.72%, despite the easy schedule. The Ravens are still a top-6 team in the AFC and a deserving playoff team, but if they were in the much tougher NFC and faced a tougher schedule, they’d probably be the 10th or 11th best team in the conference.

The good news for them is their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week, as the host the 3-11 Indianapolis Colts. As bad as the Colts’ record is, it’s arguable they are even worse than that suggests. Their 3 wins have come against the Browns, 49ers, and Texans, 3 of the worst teams in the league, by a combined 12 points, while their 11 losses have come by a combined 155 points. Their point differential at -143 is 2nd worst in the NFL, despite the fact that they actually have a positive turnover margin at +4. They enter this game dead last in first down rate differential at -6.84% and have a league high 5 losses in which they won the turnover margin. They have also lost safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, and left guard Jack Mewhort in the last couple months, so this team is even worse than they were earlier in the year.

The Ravens are in a good spot to cover because they have another relatively easy game on deck, with the Bengals coming to town next week. Favorites of 6+ are 72-43 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. Unfortunately, this line has strangely shot up from Baltimore -10 on the early line last week to Baltimore -13.5 this week, so we’re not getting any line value with the Ravens.

The Ravens easily could blow out the Colts like they have with several other bad teams, but their offense is mediocre, so I’m not confident that they can do that without winning the turnover battle, which is far from a guarantee. I have this line calculated at -11, so we’re actually getting some line value with the Colts. The Ravens are my pick for pick ‘em purposes because of the good spot they’re in, but I wouldn’t recommend betting either side.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Indianapolis Colts 10

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -13.5

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (4-9) at Indianapolis Colts (3-10)

Both of these teams have had tough seasons at 4-9 and 3-10 respectively. Despite their similar records, I have the Broncos ranked significantly higher than the Colts, who I think are a bottom-3 team. The Broncos have the 5th worst point differential at -86, but that’s still significantly better than the Colts, who rank 2nd worst at -131. That’s despite the fact that the Broncos rank 2nd worst in turnover margin at -14, while the Colts are actually at +3. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Broncos should do better going forward in turnover margin, which should make a noticeable difference in the box score, while the best the Colts can probably hope for is maintaining their current margin.

The Broncos’ quarterback situation is so bad that they will probably continue throwing a lot of interceptions, but their talented defense only has 13 takeaways through 13 games, which will likely improve going forward. Denver’s defense enters this game 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.38%, so, while their defense hasn’t been as good as it has been in the past under Wade Phillips, it is still one of the best defenses in the league and easily the best unit in this game. Their offense is a problem, as they rank 29th in first down rate at 29.48%, but they are still significantly better in first down rate differential than the Colts, as they rank 23rd at -1.90%, while the Colts are dead last at -6.97%.

The Broncos also enter this game in a better injury situation, as the Colts have lost key contributors for the season like safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, and left guard Jack Mewhort, all of whom were big parts of this team in the middle of the season. The Broncos are missing some guys too, but enter this game with the clearly better roster. The Colts have only beaten the Browns, 49ers, and Texans, 3 of the worst teams in the league, this season. The Broncos are a step up in class.

The Colts are also in a terrible spot, playing on a short week after an overtime game. Teams are understandably just 3-22 ATS all-time with 4 days of rest or fewer after an overtime game, as long as they are not playing a team that is also coming off of an overtime game. The Colts just almost played the Bills to a tie in a blizzard, so they could definitely be flat for this one. This line is at 2.5 in favor of the visiting Broncos, so Denver basically just needs to win straight up (about 9% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer). Given that, I like the Broncos a lot this week, as they should be able to win, facing a weaker opponent that is dealing with tough circumstances. I like them a lot less if this line creeps up to 3, but this is a high confidence pick to start the week at 2.5.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

LAC PK @ KC

NE -2.5 @ PIT

Denver Broncos 19 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -2.5

Confidence: High

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-9) at Buffalo Bills (6-6)

The Bills started 5-2, but have since fallen to 6-6. What happened? Well, this decline should have been expected, given how reliant they were on the turnover margin to win games early in the season. They started the season with a +14 turnover margin in their first 7 games, but turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they were unlikely to be able to continue relying on that going forward. Sure enough, the Bills have a -8 turnover margin in their last 5 games and are 1-4 in those 5 games as a result.

The Bills are even worse than their 6-6 record too, as they have a point differential of -56, 9th worst in the NFL. Having a point differential that bad, despite still having a positive turnover margin at +6, is very rare. The Bills have struggled mightily to move the ball this season and to get off the field without forcing takeaways. They rank 29th in first down rate at 29.83%, 30th in first down rate allowed at 36.76%, and 31st in first down rate differential at -6.93%. The only team the Bills rank higher than in that metric are their opponents this week, the Indianapolis Colts, who rank dead last at -7.63%.

Making matters even worse for the Bills, they have to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman this week with Tyrod Taylor injured and he has struggled mightily in limited action this season, showing why he fell to the 5th round of the draft in April in the first place. The Colts are one of the worst teams in the league, especially with valuable players like left guard Jack Mewhort, defensive end Henry Anderson, outside linebacker John Simon, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, and safety Malik Hooker out for the season. However, I still have this line calculated at -3 with Peterman in the lineup because I have these two teams about even at the moment.

The Colts are also in a good spot in their second of two road games.  Teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games. Teams are 256-274 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.89 points per game, as opposed to 379-523 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. Lines don’t really adjust for that, which can give us some good betting spots, especially with road underdogs off of a road loss, like the Colts are this week. Teams are 121-78 ATS since 2008 as road underdogs off of a road loss in their second of two road games.

The Colts are 3-9 with their only wins coming against the 49ers, Browns, and Texans, three of the worst teams in the league. However, the Bills are arguably just as bad as those teams right now, so the Colts have a chance to pull this upset straight up and, even if they don’t, we get a good cushion at +3.5, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. At the very least, I’m happy getting more than a field goal with the significantly better quarterback, which is what Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is in this matchup with Peterman. The Colts are worth a small bet at 3.5.

Buffalo Bills 17 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)

The Jaguars lost last week in Arizona as 5 point road favorites, but it was a very close game that could have gone either way and the Jaguars still had a positive first down rate differential in the game, +4.78%. On the season, they rank 4th in first down rate differential at +4.76%. Part of that is because of their easy schedule, but they are a top-10 team because of their defense and running game. In a lot of ways, they remind me of the 2015 Denver Broncos. I’m not saying I’d pick them to win the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t have picked the Broncos to win the Super Bowl in 2015 either. At the very least, the Jaguars will be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jaguars return home this week and get another easy game with the Colts coming to town. While the Jaguars are a likely playoff team, the Colts are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank in the bottom-5 in both my roster rankings and in first down rate differential. This line is pretty high at 9.5, but I have this line calculated at -13.5, so we’re still getting some line value with the Jaguars. I wish the Jaguars weren’t missing talented outside linebacker Telvin Smith, but they are deep enough at linebacker with Myles Jack and Paul Posluszny to get by. Even without Smith, this is still arguably the best defense in the NFL. The Colts, meanwhile, will be without starting center Ryan Kelly and top cornerback Rashaan Melvin. Jacksonville is worth a small bet as long as this line is below 10.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Indianapolis Colts 10

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -9.5

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (6-4) at Indianapolis Colts (3-7)

The Titans were 6.5 point favorites over the Colts on the early line last week, but this line has since moved to a field goal, as a result of Tennessee’s big blowout loss in Pittsburgh last week. I typically love betting against significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and that’s the case here as well. Tennessee obviously looked terrible last week, but they were on the road on a short week against one of the toughest teams in the league. Marcus Mariota threw a career high 4 interceptions, but he previously has never thrown more than 2 in a game and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis anyway, so the Titans have a great chance to bounce back this week in a much easier matchup.

The Titans are still a borderline top-10 team in my rankings, while the Colts are one of the worst teams in the league. This line suggests these two teams are about 6 points apart, but I have them about 8.5-9 points apart, so I have this line calculated at -6, close to the early line last week. About 30% of games are decided by 3-6 points, so we’re getting significant line value with the Titans as mere 3 point favorites. At 3, this is my Pick of the Week. This line is at -3.5 in some places, but you can at least get -3 with extra juice everywhere. This could be a field goal game, so I would pay a little extra for the field goal protection if I had to.

Tennessee Titans 26 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

The Steelers are as healthy as they’ve been all season coming out of the bye, with right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, a pair of key lineman, now healthy after missing 5 and 4 games respectively in the first 8 games of the season. At full strength, they are one of the best teams in the NFL and they are facing an Indianapolis team that is one of the worst in the NFL. However, this line is pretty high at 10 in favor of the visiting Steelers, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value, as I have this line calculated at -8.5.

The Steelers are coming off of a bye and big road favorites tend to fare well after a bye, as road favorites of 3.5+ are 40-16 ATS since 1989 off of a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. However, the Steelers historically do not do well as big road favorites in the Ben Roethlisberger era, especially in non-divisional games like this one. They are 4-14 ATS since 2004 as non-divisional road favorites of 4.5 or more. The Steelers are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and face the 5-3 Titans on Thursday Night Football next week. Favorites are 61-93 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football and understandably so. The Steelers could easily look past the Colts a little bit with that game on deck. There isn’t enough for me to take the Colts confidently, but they should be the right side at +10.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +10

Confidence: Low