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

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-6) at Houston Texans (3-4)

These two teams have lost more to injury this season than perhaps any team in the league. The obvious big injury for the Colts was the loss of quarterback Andrew Luck, who has officially been shut down for the season due to complications from off-season shoulder surgery. Luck’s injury exposed what has long been one of the worst 53 man rosters in the NFL and the hits have kept coming from there, as the Colts have also lost safety Malik Hooker and left guard Jack Mewhort, two of their better starters, for the season, while several others have missed games, including talented outside linebacker John Simon and talented safety Clayton Geathers, who remain out for the Colts.

On top of that, center Ryan Kelly and cornerback Vontae Davis, who missed the start of the season with injury, have not looked anywhere near 100% since returning. This is arguably the worst team in the league right now, even though they have two wins. Those two wins have come at home against the winless 49ers and winless Browns by a combined 6 points and it’s arguable they would have lost both games had they not been in Indianapolis. Both of those wins also came before the injuries to Mewhort, Hooker, and Simon, three of their few talented starters.

That being said, the Texans’ roster right now also looks like one of the worst in the league. The Texans opened the season with Tom Savage under center, but he played so bad that he was benched after one half against the Jaguars for rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson took a couple games to get his feet under him, but then played a 5-game stretch that was as good as any quarterback in the NFL, finally giving the Texans the franchise quarterback they’d trying to find for years.

Unfortunately, right as that happened, they lost arguably their two best defensive players, defensive end JJ Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, in a week 5 loss to the Chiefs. Without them, they were still able to defeat the Browns with ease and then they lost a nailbiter in Seattle against the Seahawks when Deshaun Watson had the game of his life against one of the better defenses in the league. Just when it looked like Watson could carry this team even without a good defense, Watson tore his ACL in practice this week so they are now back to Tom Savage, a massive blow to this team.

When the news broke about Watson’s injury, this line shifted from 14 to 7. I was considering taking the Colts at +14 before the injury, but I like them a lot more than +7 against Savage as I don’t think this line shifted enough to compensate for how valuable Watson had been to this offense. Not only was he making big plays in the passing game and on the ground, but his mobility minimized the effect of what is a pretty terrible offensive line upfront for the Texans. In fact, Watson’s mobility was likely a big part of the reason why they felt comfortable trading left tackle Duane Brown to the Seahawks at the deadline this week, just days before Watson’s injury.

With Savage taking over, the Texans go from one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the NFL to one of the least mobile, which will maximize the effect of this terrible offensive line, even against a weak defense. Savage took 7 sacks in the first half against Jacksonville before being benched. The Colts are hardly the Jaguars, but Savage could still be under pressure all day as the Colts’ front 7 actually isn’t that bad, even without John Simon. Outside of center Nick Martin, the Texans have below average starters across the offensive line, including at left tackle where Chris Clark is arguably the league’s worst blindside protector.

Savage also has Will Fuller healthy, which he didn’t have in the opener, but he won’t be supported by nearly the same defense either, with not just JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus hurt, but also defensive end Christian Covington, who was having a mini-breakout season in Watt’s absence before going down for the season with a torn bicep last week. In 3 games without Watt and Mercilus, they’ve been torched twice by the Chiefs and Seahawks, with their only strong performance coming against the Kevin Hogan led Browns. And now you add the loss to Covington to the mix. We’re getting enough line value with the Colts for them to be my Pick of the Week at +7. They wouldn’t be my Pick of the Week in a normal week, but there are only 12 games this weekend and I don’t love a lot of the lines.

Houston Texans 20 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +7

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)

The Browns and 49ers are both winless at 0-7, but you could make an argument that the Colts are worse than both of them. The Colts have 2 wins, but they both came by just a field goal at home, against the 49ers and Browns, and they’ve lost their other 5 games by a combined 109 points. As a result, they have a point differential of -103, by far the worst in the NFL, behind the Cardinals (-72), the Browns (-66), and the 49ers (-63). They also rank dead last in first down rate differential at -8.08%.

On top of that, they enter this game very banged up, besides the obvious Andrew Luck injury. Already missing their top interior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort for the season, the Colts lost their top defensive back, talented rookie safety Malik Hooker, for the season last week and will also be without cornerback Rashaan Melvin and outside linebacker John Simon for at least this week. Melvin had been their top cornerback, while Simon was an above average starter as well. Missing all of the players they are missing, I have the Colts dead last in my roster rankings.

The Colts are also in a tough spot with a trip to Houston on deck. They will likely be double digit underdogs again in that game and double digit underdogs are 49-79 ATS since 1989 before being double digit underdogs again. The Bengals aren’t in a great spot either though, as they figure to be underdogs in Jacksonville next week. Double digit favorites are just 57-77 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs.

The Bengals are not a great team at 2-4, but they rank 17th in first down rate differential and have been playing better offensively since firing their offensive coordinator after week 2, so they’re a lot better than the Colts. They have major problems on the offensive line, but they have one of the better defenses in the league and should be able to move the ball at least somewhat on this weak Indianapolis defense. 

This line is high at -10.5, but the Bengals should be able to cover it. I have this line calculated at about 12.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Bengals. There’s not enough here to bet on Cincinnati confidently, but the Bengals should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes and they’re a smart survivor pick this week against the worst team in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals 26 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -10.5

Confidence: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (2-4)

The Jaguars are just 3-3, but they’re still tied for the league lead in point differential at +46. They’ve had an easy schedule and they have the league’s best turnover margin at +10, which they won’t always be able to rely on, but they still rank 4th in first down rate differential and their schedule doesn’t get any harder this week when they go to Indianapolis to face the Colts, who are one of the worst teams in the league. The Colts rank 31st in first down rate differential, dead last in point differential (-76), and are a bottom-5 team in my roster rankings.

That being said, it’s tough to be confident in the Jaguars as field goal road favorites, considering their injury situation. Already without top wide receiver Allen Robinson and starting center Brandon Linder, two of their best offensive players, the Jaguars could be without breakout rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury. At the very least, he won’t be at 100% and could split carries with backup Chris Ivory. Without him at full strength, this offense should have some trouble moving the ball, even against the Colts’ weak defense. The Jaguars obviously have the advantage on defense, but this is just a no confidence pick at -3.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -3

Confidence: None