Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (7-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4)

The 49ers began this season just 3-4, but they had a lot of injury problems early in the season and, once they got healthy and acquired feature back Christian McCaffrey in a trade, the 49ers looked like one of the best teams in the league and a legitimate Super Bowl, with among the most non-quarterback talent in the league. Their Super Bowl ambitions seemed to be threatened when starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down for the season with an injury a few weeks ago, leaving unproven 7th round rookie Brock Purdy as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

However, Purdy has more or less picked up where Garoppolo left off, playing well enough to win and taking advantage of all of the talent around him to push the 49ers’ winning streak to seven games. Now the general consensus seems to be that the 49ers aren’t any worse off with Purdy under center, but I think that might be a little premature, given that he’s still only played about two and a half games and the rest of the league is just starting to learn his tendencies. It’s possible he will continue playing this well and prove to not be a downgrade, but I think it’s too early to say that definitively.

This line, favoring the 49ers by a touchdown over a capable but underwhelming Commanders team, seems to assume that Purdy will continue playing as well as he’s played and that could be the case, but, if he happens to have his first bad game this week, the 49ers will definitely be overvalued as favorites of this many points. With that in mind, I am going to take the Commanders for pick ‘em purposes, but I can’t be confident enough in them to bet on them, as Purdy could easily continue playing at the level he’s played at, in which case a multiple score win by the 49ers would definitely be possible.

Update: Safety Kamren Curl, one of the Commanders’ best defensive players, is surprisingly out for this game. Despite that, this line has dropped to 6.5. I am going to change this pick to the 49ers, but for a no confidence pick.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Washington Commanders 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -6.5

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Washington Commanders: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

New York Giants (7-5-1) at Washington Commanders (7-5-1)

These two teams have the same record, but the Commanders have a significantly better point differential. The Commanders’ -3 point differential is worse than you would expect given their record, but the Giants are even worse at -33, as their seven wins have come by an average of 5 points per game, as opposed to 13.6 points per game in their five losses. The gap is even more pronounced when you look at schedule adjusted efficiency, as the Commanders rank 15th and the Giants rank 27th, about 4.5 points behind Washington.

The Giants have also especially struggled in recent weeks as injury absences have effected them significantly, especially on their struggling defense, most notably the absence of starting cornerbacks Adoree Jackson and Aaron Robinson, talented safety Xavier McKinney, and stud interior defender Leonard Williams. Williams could return for this game, but the Giants’ defense is still in significantly worse shape now that it was earlier in the season, particularly in the secondary.

Despite that, the Commanders are just 4.5-point favorites at home. That is a relatively high number, with about 30% of games being decided by four points or fewer, but with the Commanders being at home, being significantly healthier than the Giants, and having a 4.5-point edge in schedule adjusted efficiency, the Commanders should be favored by at least a touchdown. I might need Leonard Williams to miss this game for the Commanders to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes either way and I might still end up deciding to bet on Washington even if Williams plays. This is low confidence for now, but I may update this.

Update: Some -4s have started showing up this morning and I think the Commanders are worth a small bet at that number.

Washington Commanders 24 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Washington -4

Confidence: Medium

Washington Commanders at New York Giants: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (7-5) at New York Giants (7-4)

This is one of the least interesting games to me from an against the spread perspective this week because this line, favoring the visiting Commanders by two points, is right about where it should be and there are no situational trends affecting the game. The Giants are not as good as their 7-4 record, but the public and oddsmakers seem to know that, resulting in this line being right where it should be. My calculated line says the Giants are the slightly better pick at this number, but there’s not nearly enough here to be confident in either side.

Washington Commanders 21 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +2

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Washington Commanders: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-6) at Washington Commanders (6-5)

A week ago on the early line, the Commanders were favored by three points at home over the Falcons, but this line has since shifted to four, a significant shift, as about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Normally significant line movements like that tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and I think that’s the case here, as my calculated line is still at Washington -3. When a home team is favored by exactly a field goal, that usually means they are slightly, but not significantly better than their opponents and I think that’s the case here, whereas a four point line would only be justified if the Commanders were significantly better.

The Falcons are a game behind the Commanders in the standings, but they actually have a slight edge in schedule adjusted efficiency, ranking 11th, while the Commanders rank 17th. My roster rankings have the Commanders as the better team, as the Falcons have largely overachieved their talent level this season, while the Commanders are significantly healthier now than they were earlier in the year and have played better since turning to Taylor Heinicke under center, but, either way, these two teams are closer together than this line suggests. There isn’t quite enough here for the Falcons to be worth betting, but the most likely outcome of this game is the Commanders winning by a field goal, so the Falcons at +4 should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Washington Commanders 27 Atlanta Falcons 24

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +4

Confidence: Low

Washington Commanders at Houston Texans: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (5-5) at Houston Texans (1-7-1)

This line shifted from favoring the Commanders by 2.5 points on the early line last week to 3 points this week, a significant shift considering 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal exactly. That’s because the Commanders pulled the surprising upset in Philadelphia last week, winning as 11-point underdogs to give the Eagles their first loss of the season, but teams tend not to follow up big upsets well, covering the spread at a 42.0% rate after winning a game as double digit underdogs. The Commanders also won that game because they converted 13 of 22 on third and fourth down and won the turnover battle by two, both of which are not predictive. 

Meanwhile, the Commanders lost the first down rate battle by 8.09% and the yards per play battle by 1.54, which are much more predictive, so I still consider them a mediocre team. The Texans are arguably the worst team in the league, but they’re not as bad as the worst team in the league is in most years and the Commanders are the type of team they can beat in a home game, especially if the Commanders don’t take them seriously after a huge upset win last week. Getting a full field goal, the Texans are worth a bet this week and there’s a decent chance they can pull the straight up upset, so the money line (+140) is a good bet as well.

Houston Texans 17 Washington Commanders 16 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Houston +3

Confidence: Medium

Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (4-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-0)

The Eagles have benefited from a +15 turnover margin en route to their 8-0 start, which is by far the best in the league, but also not something that is predictive long-term. However, the Eagles still rank 6th in schedule adjusted efficiency, four points above average, and they have the most talented roster in the league in my roster rankings as well. They are favored by 11 points at home this week against the Commanders, which is a lot, but we’re actually still getting a little bit of line value with the Eagles at that number. 

The Commanders are 4-5, but their four wins came by 14 points combined and they are a well below average team overall, ranking 24th in point differential at -33 and 20th in schedule adjusted efficiency, 1.5 points below average, while being 4.5 points below average in my roster rankings. My calculated line is Philadelphia -13.5, so there isn’t nearly enough here for the Eagles to be worth betting, but I’m somewhat confident in their ability to cover this large spread for pick ‘em purposes.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 Washington Commanders 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -11

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Commanders: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-1) at Washington Commanders (4-4)

Going into the season, the Vikings were one of my top underrated teams and I expected a significant improvement in win total from their 7-9 and 8-9 finishes from the previous two seasons, due to better coaching on offense and likely better health on defense. So far, the Vikings are 6-1 and exceeding most people’s expectations, but that also haven’t played quite as well as that would suggest, with five of their six wins coming by eight points or fewer and their one loss coming by 17, giving them a point differential of +29, which is good, but not as good as their record would suggest. 

The Vikings have also benefited significantly from turnovers, ranking tied for 2nd best in the NFL with a +6 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Vikings rank just 15th, about a half point above average. The Commanders also haven’t played as well as their record though, as their four wins have come by a combined 14 points and their four losses have come by a combined 44 points, giving them a point differential of -30 that ranks 5th worst in the NFL. 

With both teams not as good as their records, I actually think this line, favoring the visiting Vikings by a field goal is about right. My calculated line suggests the Vikings are more likely to cover this number than the Commanders, but not by much and the most likely outcome may be a push, given how many games are decided by exactly a field goal. I’m taking the Vikings at -3, but I would take the Commanders at +3.5.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Washington Commanders 20

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -3

Confidence: None

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

Green Bay Packers at Washington Commanders: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (3-3) at Washington Commanders (2-4)

The Packers are a disappointing 3-3, but that’s not all that surprising. They won 13 games a year ago, but they finished just 10th in point differential and 11th in overall efficiency, despite an MVP season from Aaron Rodgers who, as good as he is, was no guarantee to play at quite the same level in 2022, now in his age 39 season. Add in the loss of by far their top wide receiver Davante Adams this off-season and some regression was to be expected from them, especially on offense.

In many ways, things have gone how you might expect, given the circumstances. The Packers’ defense has remained middling, ranking 17th in defensive efficiency in 2021 and 21st in 2022, but their offense has fallen off significantly, falling from 4th in offensive efficiency a year ago to 14th this season, while their horrendous special teams that ranked dead last efficiency a year ago has only been slightly better this year, ranking 30th. 

All in all, the Packers rank just 20th in overall efficiency when adjusted for schedule, about 1.5 points below average, and my roster rankings tell a similar story, with the Packers about a half point below average. Last week’s performance was especially concerning, as they were largely uncompetitive against the Jets, losing by a final score of 27-10 and losing the first down rate and yards per play battles by 5.09% and 1.22 respectively, despite being at home, where they had previously won 15 straight regular season games and where they had previously been 47-20 ATS in games started and finished by Aaron Rodgers throughout his career.

The Packers still seem to be overrated though, favored by 5 points on the road in Washington, with this line barely moving from the early line a week ago. Washington did lose starting quarterback Carson Wentz for an extended period of time with injury, but backup Taylor Heinicke is unlikely to be a significant downgrade. The Commanders are still an underwhelming team that ranks 25th in overall efficiency, but they are only three points behind the Packers in that metric and about four points behind the Packers in my roster rankings, so this line is too high.

The Packers also struggle more than most teams do away from home, due to their dominant homefield advantage, with Aaron Rodgers’ QB rating dropping by 10 points on the road in his career, well above the average drop off for a quarterback on the road. My calculated line favors the Packers by just a point and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if they lost this game outright, in part because they are in a bad spot, with a much tougher game against the Bills on deck next week. 

Road favorites cover at just a 35.7% rate before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is 50%+ higher than their current opponent and facing the 5-1 Bills after facing the 2-4 Commanders would qualify. Even if Washington can’t pull the upset, we have a good amount of points to work with, with about 35% of games being decided by 5 points or less, so I’m confident in Washington at +5. This is my top pick this week.

Washington Commanders 24 Green Bay Packers 23 Upset Pick +185

Pick against the spread: Washington +5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Washington Commanders at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (1-4) at Chicago Bears (2-3)

This is a tough call. Normally I like home favorites in non-divisional Thursday games because teams tend to be at a disadvantage when they travel on a short week to face a relatively unfamiliar opponent, unless they happen to be the significantly better team. As a result, non-divisional home favorites cover at a 63.2% rate on Thursdays when both teams are on short rest. The Bears are favored in this game, but only by one-point and, while the visiting Commanders aren’t drastically better than the Bears, they are still the significantly better team and, as a result, I have them as 1-point favorites on my calculated line. That’s not significant line value, but it probably nullifies any extra advantage the Bears would get at home on a short week against a non-divisional opponent. 

Both of these teams have struggled this season, but the Bears’ struggles have been even worse, even though they’ve managed to win one more game than Washington. In both of their wins, the Bears have lost the first down rate and yards per play battle, by 0.41% and 1.30 against the 49ers and by 1.39% and 0.08 against the Texans, winning those games as a result of much less predictive metrics than yards or first downs. In terms of schedule adjusted overall efficiency, which is based on first downs and yards, the Bears rank 30th, 2.5 points behind the 25th ranked Commanders. The Commanders also have a four point edge in my roster rankings. This is a no confidence pick because we’re only getting one point with the Commanders, but they should be slightly favored to win this game.

Washington Commanders 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against the spread: Washington +1

Confidence: None