New York Giants at Green Bay Packers: 2016 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

New York Giants (11-5) at Green Bay Packers (10-6)

I always talk about the inconsistency of turnover margins and why using past turnover margins as evidence for predictions of future turnover margins is basically useless. On average, a team that wins the turnover battle by 4 in a game has a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week, as does the average team that losses a turnover battle by 4 in a game. The Packers are a great example of the inconsistency of turnover margins. Through the first 12 games of the season, the Packers were -5 in turnover margin on the season, but over the final 4 games of the regular season they were +13 in turnover margin, powering their run to another NFC North title.

Unfortunately for them, that works both ways and teams that have a +13 turnover margin or better over a 4 game span, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.3 the following week. Even despite their recent success in turnover margin, we should assume turnover neutral football for them going forward, which means they’re unlikely to have the same kind of overall success that they’ve had in recent weeks. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 9th, which is solid, but only 2 spots higher than the Giants. The difference between the Packers and the Giants in that metric is a mere 0.06%, a negligible difference. These teams are basically opposites of each other, as the Packers have an incredible offense and a weak defense, while the Giants have a weak defense, but an incredible defense.

Given that, we’re getting good line value with the Giants as 4.5 point underdogs in Green Bay. However, I can’t put money on the Giants as less than 6 point underdogs, given that they will once again be without stud defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul with injury. Unfortunately, that means I will not be betting on any games this weekend, but sometimes there just aren’t games worth betting on. There are only 4 games this weekend and I didn’t want to force anything with sides I wasn’t confident in. This is technically my Pick of the Week because it’s the one I’m most confident it, but I wouldn’t recommend placing any bets this weekend. For pick ‘em pool purposes, I would go NYG, PIT, OAK, and DET in that order.

Green Bay Packers 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4.5

Confidence: Low

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New York Giants at Washington Redskins: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Giants (10-5) at Washington Redskins (8-6-1)

I typically don’t like to bet on teams that are expected to rest their starters, but I’m making an exception here because, even though this line suggests the Giants are going to rest their starters and they don’t have anything to play for locked into the 5th seed, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said that the Giants plan to play to win this game, suggesting they won’t be resting their starters. That makes some sense because, after last week’s loss in Philadelphia, the Giants might not want to head into the post-season on a 2-game losing streak with no momentum to speak of.

Perhaps the oddsmakers know something I don’t about McAdoo’s plans that hasn’t been revealed publicly, as they have the Giants as 7.5 point road underdogs in Washington, but I would have had this line as a pick ‘em in normal circumstances so we get more than a touchdown to work with if the Giants do surprisingly pull the starters at halftime or something. The Giants have been the better team this year (9th in first down rate differential vs. 23rd) and they’re in a revenge game after losing at home as favorites to the Redskins earlier this year.

Comparable divisional rivals tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. Divisional road underdogs are 61-35 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites and they also pull the upset and win straight up about half the time. If the Giants play their starters all game, they could easily pull the upset and I think it’s worth betting on them as 7.5 point underdogs given Ben McAdoo’s comments this week.

Washington Redskins 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7.5

Confidence: Medium

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New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

New York Giants (10-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-9)

Prior to the season, the Eagles were on my underrated list and I bet the over on their over/under of 6.5 wins. When they started the season 3-0, that looked like a wise bet. However, since that 3-0 start, the Eagles have lost 9 of 11 and need to win out against a pair of tough divisional opponents, the Giants and Cowboys, just to get over 6.5 wins. What happened? Well, there are a lot of factors, but part of it has been their inability to win close games, as they are 0-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season and have a +17 point differential despite their 5-9 record. Declining play at both at the quarterback position and the offensive line have also been a factor.

After looking like the next big thing to start the season, rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has fallen down to earth in a big way and now is among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL in QB rating. That’s understandable from a rookie quarterback and not something that’s likely to fix itself in the next two weeks. However, their offensive line is about to get a big boost from returning right tackle Lane Johnson, who has missed the last 10 games with suspension. Johnson is one of the best offensive tackles in the league, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the Eagles went 2-8 in the games he missed, after starting the season 3-1 in the 4 games he played. They also get left guard Allen Barbre back after he missed last week’s game, the 3rd game he’s missed in the last 7 weeks. With a healthy offensive line and a lot of close losses that could have gone either way, the Eagles enter this game underrated.

The Giants, meanwhile, are not healthy entering this one. They got left guard Justin Pugh back last week, a big boost because he’s their best offensive lineman, but talented defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will miss his 3rd straight game with an abdominal injury, while top cornerback Janoris Jenkins could join him on the sidelines after taking a big hit last week against Detroit. Jenkins hasn’t been ruled out yet, but his status is very much in doubt on a short week and even if he plays he might not be 100%.

That being said, the Giants rank 9th in first down rate differential and are still a solid squad even at less than 100%. Plus, we’re still only getting 3 points with the Eagles, so we’re not getting great line value or anything. The Eagles are also in a tough spot given that they have to turn around and host Dallas next week. Teams don’t usually big well before big home games like that,  as teams are 43-94 ATS since 2012 the week before being 4.5 point home underdogs, which the Eagles almost definitely will be next week. Philadelphia should still be the right side, but this is a low confidence pick to start the week.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting bets I lock in earlier in the week in my Thursday Night pick write up in the future so readers can grab them before they move. These are not all my bets for the week, just ones where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction.

DEN +4 (I’d still take 3 or 3.5, but lock in +4 if you can. This opened at 4.5)

IND +4

MIN +7

CHI +3.5 (I’d still take 3, but lock in +3.5 if you can)

ARZ +8.5 (I’d take this all the way down to 7, but the line is moving down after opening at 9 so this might be worth locking in)

New York Giants 17 Philadelphia Eagles 16

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: Low

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Detroit Lions at New York Giants: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (9-4) at New York Giants (9-4)

At first glance, these teams appear very similar. Both teams are 9-4, but both teams have also won a lot of close games. In fact, between the two teams, 16 of their 18 wins have come by 7 points or fewer. Detroit beat New Orleans by 15, while the Giants won by 14 in Cleveland, and aside from that all their other wins have come by a touchdown or less. The big difference between these two teams: Detroit has a +4 turnover margin, while the Giants have done this despite a -5 turnover margin.

Why does that matter? Well, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis so I tend to value teams that consistently move the chains above teams that consistently win the turnover battle. The Giants rank 8th in first down rate, while the Lions rank 19th. However, we’ve lost all line value with the Giants following their home victory over the Cowboys last week. This line has shifted from 3.5 to 4.5 in the past week. Considering about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, this line is pretty high. The Giants are the significantly better team here, but this is a no confidence pick at 4.5.

New York Giants 23 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -4.5

Confidence: None

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Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (11-1) at New York Giants (8-4)

The Giants gave the Cowboys their only win of the season way back in week 1, but the Cowboys have very impressively ripped off 11 straight wins since then. They enter this game 2nd in first down rate differential, while the Giants enter 8th, and they travel as well as any team in the league. Since 2010, they are 31-22 ATS on the road, as opposed to 19-35 ATS at home. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.06 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.20 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. The Cowboys also enter this game much healthier than the Giants, who have a key absence on both sides of the ball with injury, talented left guard Justin Pugh and talented defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. This line is 4 and about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so I’m taking the Giants, but this is a no confidence pick. A 3 or 4 point Dallas win seems like the most likely outcome.

Dallas Cowboys 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4

Confidence: None

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New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (8-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

What do the Giants have to do to get respect? They enter this game 8-3, but are 6 point underdogs here in Pittsburgh against the 6-5 Steelers. To give you an idea of how rare something like this is, the Giants are just the 8th team since 1989 with a winning percentage of 70% or better to be underdogs of 6 or more against a team with a winning percentage less than 60% in week 13 or later. Of those 7 previous instances, 5 were meaningless week 17 games in which the underdog was resting starters to prepare for the playoffs.

Just one of the Giants’ 8 wins has come by more than a touchdown and normally I don’t like teams that win a lot of close games because they tend not to be as good as their record. However, the Giants are an exception because they’ve managed to go 8-3 (even with many of the wins being close) despite a -5 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so I love teams that are able to win despite not consistently winning the turnover battle.  In fact, the Giants have 4 wins in games in which they lost the turnover battle this season. No other team has more than 2 wins in which they’ve lost the turnover battle. The Giants are 4-2 this season when losing the turnover battle. The rest of the league is 29-106 (.215).

On the season, the Giants enter this game 8th in first down rate differential. Their offense has struggled, especially without top offensive lineman Justin Pugh, but their defense has allowed the 2nd lowest first down rate against this season and is finally forcing turnovers in recent weeks, after not doing so early in the year. The Steelers are actually one spot behind them in 9th in first down rate differential, so we’re getting at least 3 points of line value with the visiting New York Giants. The Giants have been a strong road team in recent years anyway, going 57-37 ATS on the road since 2005, Eli Manning’s first full season as starter. This season, they’re 4-1 ATS on the road and I like their chances of pushing that to 5-1 ATS this week as underdogs of too many points.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 New York Giants 23

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6

Confidence: High

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New York Giants at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (7-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-11)

The Giants haven’t won a game by more than a touchdown all season and have a 7-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Ordinarily, I like to pick against teams that are regularly squeaking out victories, especially as big favorites and especially as big road favorites, as the Giants are here (7 point favorites in Cleveland). However, I actually find it more impressive that the Giants have a 7-3 record despite a -7 turnover margin that is 3rd worst in the NFL, even if many of their wins could have gone either way. In fact, the Giants have 4 wins in games in which they lost the turnover battle this season. No other team has more than 2 wins in which they’ve lost the turnover battle. The Giants are 4-2 this season when losing the turnover battle. The rest of the league is 28-94 (.230).

Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so I love teams that are able to win despite not consistently winning the turnover battle. If the Giants can play turnover neutral football going forward (very possible), they could go on a real run down the stretch. They enter this game 5th in the league in first down rate differential, thanks primarily to an outstanding defense that allows the 3rd lowest first down rate in the league. Their defense hasn’t gotten a lot of attention because they only have 11 takeaways, but the takeaways should come and, if they do, look out for this team.

This week, it helps the Giants that they’re playing the worst team in the league, the winless Cleveland Browns, who rank dead last in first down rate differential by a wide margin. Typically, betting on winless teams this late in the season is a good idea because they tend to be undervalued, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-18 ATS since 1989. In addition, the Browns are in a good spot here as home underdogs are 75-52 ATS off of a loss as home underdogs the previous week. However, considering the Browns were 9 point home underdogs last week for Pittsburgh, a team that’s inferior than the Giants, the Browns are not undervalued here. If either team is undervalued this week, it’s the Giants. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Giants at 7, especially since they will be without top offensive lineman Justin Pugh for the 3rd straight week, but they are the pick here. They should be able to get their first big blowout victory of the season.

New York Giants 24 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -7

Confidence: Low

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