Los Angeles Chargers at Indianapolis Colts: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)

The Chargers have 8-6, but they haven’t played quite as well as that overall this season, as their eight wins have come by a combined 33 points (4.125 points per win), while their six losses have come by a combined 64 points (10.167 points per loss). As a result, they rank just 21st in point differential, which is more predictive than winning percentage, and 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency (-4.03), which is more predictive than point differential. Injuries have been the primary reason why they have been underwhelming this season though and they have gotten a lot healthier in recent weeks, which has had a noticeable effect on their performance.

Quarterback Justin Herbert has played significantly better since recovering from an early season rib injury that he played through and he’ll have his two talented wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams together for the third straight week this week, something he only had in 2 of his first 12 starts. The Chargers’ offensive line has also been better in recent weeks with center Corey Linsley back healthy, after he missed 3 games total earlier in the season, while their defense will get a big boost this week with stud safety Derwin James back from a 2-game absence. The Chargers are still missing expected top cornerback JC Jackson, stud edge defender Joey Bosa, and talented left tackle Rashawn Slater, which are significant absences, but they’re clearly in much better shape injury wise than they were earlier in the season.

This week, the Chargers play a Colts team whose primary issue this season has been the turnover margin, tied for a league worst -12 turnover margin. That’s not predictive week-to-week though and, somewhat counterintuitively, teams with bad turnover margins tend to cover against teams with good turnover margins, with teams covering at a 54.3% rate against a team that has a turnover margin 15+ points higher than theirs, because turnover margins don’t have nearly as much predictive value week-to-week as most people think.

With the Chargers at +3 in the turnover margin, that trend applies to this game and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive than turnover margins, the Colts haven’t been quite as bad as their record would suggest, ranking 25th at -3.96. However, the Colts benched starting quarterback Matt Ryan this week for backup Nick Foles, who will be their third quarterback of the season and who will almost definitely be a downgrade from Ryan, which will hurt their chances of covering this spread. 

This line is relatively high, favoring the Chargers on the road by 4.5 points, with 3 out of 10 games being decided by four points or fewer, but the Chargers tend to overperform expectations on the road because they don’t have any homefield advantage in Los Angeles anyway (18-27 ATS at home, 27-17 ATS on the road since moving in 2017) and the Chargers also are at an advantage as a Pacific Time Zone team in a night game against an Eastern Time Zone team, a spot in which teams cover at about a 60% rate historically. We’re not getting nearly enough value with the Chargers for them to be worth betting, but I would pick them for pick ‘em purposes, albeit for one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Los Angeles Chargers 25 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -4.5

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1) at Minnesota Vikings (10-3)

The Vikings are 10-3 and the Colts are 4-8-1, so it might come as a surprise that the Vikings are just 4-point home favorites in this game, but it makes sense. As good as the Vikings’ record is, they have had to go a ridiculous 9-0 in one score games, which is not sustainable or predictive long-term, and actually have a losing record (1-3) in games decided by more than one-score, leading to them actually having a negative point differential at -1. They have also benefitted from a +6 turnover margin (4th in the NFL), which is not sustainable or predictive week-to-week, and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is more predictive than anything, the Vikings rank just 20th, about 1.5 points below average.

The Colts, on the other hand, have a -89 point differential that is 2nd worst in the NFL, but their biggest problem has been their league worst -14 turnover margin and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they rank 23rd, about 3 points below average, not far behind the Vikings. The Colts were blown out by 35 in their last game, prior to last week’s bye, but the Colts lost the turnover margin by four in that game, making the final score worse than it would have been otherwise and teams tend to bounce back off of blowout defeats pretty well anyway, covering the spread at a 58.9% rate after losing by 35+ points, including a 61.5% cover rate after a bye week.

That may seem counterintuitive, but teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after a big blowout loss like that and I think all three will be the case this week, especially with the Colts having an extra week to think about their blowout loss. Also counterintuitive is the fact that teams cover the spread at a 54.1% rate when facing a team with a turnover margin that is 15+ points better than there’s, but it makes sense when you consider that turnover margins don’t have nearly as much predictive value week-to-week as most people think.

The Colts have also had several key players miss significant time due to injury this season, most notably quarterback Matt Ryan (two games missed), top offensive lineman Braden Smith (one game missed), feature back Jonathan Taylor (three games missed), top edge defender Kwity Paye (five games missed), and top linebacker Shaq Leonard (ten games missed), and all of those players have since returned except Leonard, who has barely played this season, so the Colts are coming into this week about as healthy as they’ve been all season.

All of this being said, it’s hard to bet on the Colts this week with the line being where it is, only favoring the Vikings by four. A few years ago, I suspect this line would have been seven or higher and the Colts would have been a great bet at that number, but the oddsmakers have gotten significantly smarter in recent years, with the amount of wagers being placed increasing significantly due to legalization, and, as a result, we’re not getting any value with the Colts, even if the public is underrating them and overrating the Vikings. I am still going to take the Colts for pick ‘em purposes as a fade of the public, who is on the Vikings in a big way, setting the books up for a big payday if the Colts cover, but this line is too short to be confident in them.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +4

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3)

This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week. This line is at Dallas -10.5, which is right where my calculated line has it, favoring the Colts just slightly against the spread at this number, and there also aren’t any situational trends affecting either side. I’m taking the Colts purely for pick ‘em purposes, hoping they can at least get a backdoor cover against a big spread, but I can’t be at all confident in either side in this one.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +10.5

Confidence: None

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7) at Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1)

A week ago on the early line, the Steelers were 3-point underdogs, but this line has since shifted to 2.5, a pretty significant shift, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Normally I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that because they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but, in this case, I’m disappointed that we’ve lost line value with the Steelers, who would have been a good bet at +3.

The Steelers are just 3-7, but they’ve arguably faced the toughest schedule in the league, with eight of their ten games being against teams that are currently .500 or better, with the exceptions being the Browns and Saints, who are both better than their records would indicate. The Steelers’ -74 point differential is worst in the league and even worse than their record would suggest, but in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which takes into account their level of competition, the Steelers rank 18th, despite the fact that for most of the season they have been without their top defensive player TJ Watt, who has since returned.

It’s very possible that this matchup in Indianapolis against the Colts will be the Steelers’ easiest game of the season thus far. The Colts rank 24th and three points below average in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency (significantly worse than both the Browns and the Saints) and they are unlikely to be any better than that going forward, missing a pair of key defenders, Kwity Pawe and Shaq Leonard, for an indefinite period of time. 

Despite that, this line suggests these two teams are about even, so we’re getting good line value with the Steelers, who I have calculated as 1-point favorites. I think I would need this line to go back up to three for the Steelers to be worth betting against the spread, but I might change my mind on that, the money line is a good value at +120 because the Steelers should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game, and the Steelers should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes either way.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 Indianapolis Colts 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +2.5

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1)

The Eagles lost their first game of the season last week at home against the Washington Commanders, but that was primarily because the Commanders converted 13 of 22 on third and fourth downs and won the turnover battle by two, allowing Washington to win despite losing the first down rate battle by 8.09% and the yards per play battle by 1.54. Losses like that tend to be a complete fluke, as first downs and yards tend to be much more predictive than turnover margins and third and fourth downs. 

Even after losing the turnover battle last week, the Eagles still lead the league in turnover margin, having a +15 turnover margin across their 8-0 start, and, while turnover margin isn’t predictive, the Eagles also rank 4th in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive, and they rank even higher in my roster rankings, which they lead, in part due to the fact that they are one of the healthiest teams in the league. They also have history on their side, as teams tend to bounce back in a big way after a big upset loss like the Eagles had last week (11-point favorites), with teams covering at a 57.7% rate after a loss as favorites of 10 points or more.

The Eagles’ loss last week moved this line from favoring the Eagles by 9.5 to favoring them by 6.5, a big swing, and one that was not justified, as my calculated line still has the Eagles favored by 9.5 points, even before taking into account that they’re in a great spot to bounce back after getting upset last week. The Colts pulled the upset in Las Vegas last week, but they still rank just 24th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about 3.5 points below average, and I’m still skeptical of interim head coach Jeff Saturday long-term. The Colts could also be without starting right tackle Braden Smith after he tweaked his back in practice on Friday and my calculated line would increase if he didn’t play, as he’s arguably their best offensive lineman. There isn’t another game I like more than this one this week, so I’m locking in the Eagles at -6.5 as my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-5-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (2-6)

The Colts have had a disastrous season. Their offense has been horrible (26th in offensive schedule adjusted efficiency) and attempts to improve it, by benching veteran quarterback Matt Ryan for unproven 2021 6th round pick Sam Ehlinger and by firing offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, have arguably made it worse, culminating in a 2.0 yards per play performance in New England last week, which ultimately lost head coach Frank Reich his job. 

Making matters even worse, instead of promoting an interim head coach from the inside, the Colts pulled a wild card and hired former center Jeff Saturday, who has never coached above the high school level and who has not been in this locker room all season, leaving them in a precarious coaching situation at say the least, without experienced coordinators either, with Marcus Brady being fired last week and long-time defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus not really being replaced this off-season. 

The Colts are also without top linebacker Shaq Leonard, likely for the season, although he’s barely played anyway this season and the Colts still rank 12th in defensive schedule adjusted efficiency, the only reason they have managed to win three games this season. With Ehlinger remaining under center and no offensive leadership though, their offense is likely going to be too much for their defense to overcome going forward, especially without Leonard.

The Raiders have also had a disastrous season, starting 2-6, despite making the playoffs a year ago and having expectations of going on a deeper run this year, after trading away their first two draft picks for Davante Adams. The Raiders aren’t getting blown out for the most part though, with five of their six losses coming by seven points or fewer and both of their wins coming by multiple scores. Overall, they have a -18 point differential, while ranking 21st in schedule adjusted overall efficiency, 1.5 points below average, which is disappointing, but nearly as bad as the Colts, who are 3.5 points below average.

The injuries are starting to pile up, with talented slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, talented tight end Darren Waller, and top cornerback Nate Hobbs among other absences, but they are still only 2 points below average in my roster rankings, as opposed to 6 points below average for the Colts. My calculated line is Las Vegas -5, so we’re getting some line value with them as 4.5-point favorites, especially once you factor in the disarray around the Colts coaching staff. There isn’t enough here for the Raiders to be worth betting, but this should be a relatively easy win for them, like their multi-score wins over the Broncos and Texans.

Las Vegas Raiders 24 Indianapolis Colts 17

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas -4.5

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1) at New England Patriots (4-4)

The Patriots have struggled on offense this season, ranking 28th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but they’re at least somewhat better in my roster rankings, about a half point below average on offense, while their defense and special teams rank 11th and 7th respectively in schedule adjusted efficiency. Overall, the Patriots are two points above average in my roster rankings, significantly ahead of the Colts, who are seven points below average, in large part due to starting an inexperienced late round draft pick quarterback Sam Ehlinger, which will especially be a problem against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who will have a big advantage in Ehlinger’s second career start. We’re not getting great line value with the Patriots at -5.5, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 20 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: New England -5.5

Confidence: Low

Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (3-4) at Indianapolis Colts (3-3-1)

Both of these teams acquired veteran quarterbacks this off-season, with the Commanders taking Carson Wentz off the Colts hands so they could replace him with ex-Falcon Matt Ryan, but neither quarterback will play in this game, with Wentz injured and Ryan getting benched for young, inexperienced backup Sam Ehlinger. Wentz’ replacement Taylor Heinicke isn’t a significant drop off though, while Ehlinger has no regular season experience and should be considered the more questionable quarterback. Despite that, the Colts are favored by a full field goal at home. My calculated line has the Colts as 2-point favorites, so we’re getting some line value with the Commanders, although not nearly enough to justify a bet. The Commanders should be the right side, but for pick ‘em purposes only.

Indianapolis Colts 20 Washington Commanders 19

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-2-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)

When these two teams met for the first time this season back in week 4, the Titans pulled the road upset by a final score of 24-17. With this rematch being in Tennessee, many are assuming that the Titans will have an easier time winning than they did in Indianapolis, but that’s not how divisional rivalries tend to go. In fact, when a team pulls a road upset against a divisional opponent and then is favored at home in a same season, regular season rematch, they only win the game about 59.3% of the time. 

That might sound like a lot, but it’s not when you compare it to divisional home favorites in all situations, who win the game about 68.1% of the time. On top of that, divisional home favorites facing teams they already beat that season as road underdogs tend to struggle to cover the spread in the rematch, doing so at just a 42.6% rate. In the first matchup between these two teams, the Colts were the ones in a bad spot, having just pulled a huge home upset over the Chiefs the week prior (teams cover the spread at just a 41.3% rate after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 points or more), but this time around the Titans are more likely to be flat.

On top of that, the way the Titans’ won the previous game between these two teams was somewhat fluky, as the Titans won the turnover battle by three, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of first down rate and yards per play, which are significantly more predictive, the Titans had the slight edge in first down rate (1.12%), but were outgained by over a yard per play (1.13). The Colts also have the significant edge in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, ranking six points ahead of the Titans. 

My roster rankings have these two teams closer than that, but the Colts still have a 1.5 point edge, so they should be considered the better team however you look at it. Despite being the better team in the better spot, the Colts are 2.5-point road underdogs in Tennessee, suggesting these two teams are about even. My calculated line is Indianapolis -1, even before you take into account the Colts being in a better spot, so the Colts should be the ones slightly favored in this game, rather than the Titans. I wish we were getting a full field goal with the Colts, but they’re still worth a small bet at +2.5 and the money line is a good value as well, as the Colts should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this rematch.

Indianapolis Colts 20 Tennessee Titans 17 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +2.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) at Indianapolis Colts (2-2-1)

The Jaguars have a significantly better point differential than the Colts (+31 vs. -25) and won the first matchup between these two teams earlier this season in convincing fashion (24-0), but a lot of the gap between these two teams has been because of turnovers, which are not that predictive week-to-week. On the season, the Colts are -6 in turnover margin, as opposed to +1 for the Jaguars, and the Jaguars won the turnover battle in the first matchup by 3. That game was also in Jacksonville and the Colts were missing their two best wide receivers Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce, who will be active for this rematch in Indianapolis.

My roster rankings have these two teams about even, which unfortunately doesn’t give us any line value, with the Colts being favored by 2 points at home, about where my calculated line would be. I am taking the Colts for pick ‘em purposes for now, just because I think the home team winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome, but there is some uncertainty over the status of Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor, who missed last week and was limited in practice this week. I am expecting him to play, but, if he doesn’t, I would change this pick to the Jaguars, for a no confidence pick either way.

Update: Taylor is out, so I am changing to a no confidence pick on the Jaguars instead.

Indianapolis Colts 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +2

Confidence: None