Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2020 Week 17 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (6-9) at New York Giants (5-10)

It may not seem like it based off of their records, but the winner of this game will still be alive to win the NFC East and would go on to host a home playoff game next week if Washington loses to Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football. The Giants and Cowboys have both taken winding paths to get to this point, with the Giants being 0-5 and 1-7 at points this season and the Cowboys being 2-7 and 3-9 at points this season, but neither team is in terrible position right now.

The Giants’ 3-7 start wasn’t that bad when you consider that they played 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, the Steelers (2nd), the Rams (1st), Washington twice (3rd), the Eagles twice (9th), the 49ers (5th), the Bears (6th), and the Buccaneers (4th). As healthy as they had been in a while coming out of their week 11 bye, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward.

The Giants’ good health lasted about a half unfortunately, as quarterback Daniel Jones hurt his hamstring early in the third quarter of their first game after their bye, a game in Cincinnati in which the Giants likely would have covered a 6-point spread had Jones not gotten hurt. Backup Colt McCoy held on for the victory, but only barely, as he was a noticeable drop off from Jones. That continued into McCoy’s next start in Seattle, but the Giants pulled the massive upset as 11-point underdogs in an uncharacteristically dominant game for a Giants defense that ranks just 23rd in the NFL overall in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.06%.

Jones returned the following week against Arizona, but looked immobile due to his hamstring injury and struggled mightily, looking possibly even worse than McCoy had. That caused the Giants to go back to McCoy for their next game against the Browns and McCoy’s struggles led to them largely being uncompetitive in that game, managing just a 25.93% first down rate against the Browns’ mediocre defense and losing the first down rate battle by 12.17%. 

At this point, it became clear that a healthy Jones would be a significant upgrade over McCoy,  as he is better in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and yards per carry, despite facing some of the toughest defenses in the league before getting hurt and then playing at far less than 100% against the Cardinals, while McCoy got to face the Bengals (21st in first down rate allowed over expected) for a half, the Seahawks (19th), and the Browns (27th). The issue was how healthy Jones could be. After the Giants’ pathetic showing against the Browns, they decided to put Jones and his injured hamstring to the test against the Ravens.

The Giants lost to the Ravens by 14, but Jones looked a lot better than he did against the Cardinals and there were a lot of good things to take away from that game, most notably that the Giants actually won the first down rate battle in that game by 0.21% and picked up 24 first downs on just 63 plays against a capable Ravens defense. The Giants had trouble sustaining drives because they went just 1 for 10 on third down and 1 for 3 on fourth down, while the Ravens went 8 for 11 on third down and didn’t have to attempt a fourth down, but third and fourth down performance tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and it’s very encouraging to see that the Giants got 22 of their 24 first downs on first and second down, as performance on those downs tends to be more predictive. 

Jones might not be quite 100% and the Giants defense is an underwhelming unit that is not nearly as good as they looked against the Seahawks, but I think Jones is underrated by people who just look at his stats and don’t realize that he’s either been significantly hindered by injury and faced with a dominant defensive opponent in pretty much every game he’s played. His only full healthy game against an underwhelming defense came in week 5 in a 37-34 loss against these Cowboys. Now at least resembling full health, I would expect Jones and this offense to play well against a Dallas defense that has been better than their raw stats suggest, but still ranks just 17th in first down rate allowed over expected at -0.50%. 

Dallas’ season has been up and down as well, in large part due to the massive blow this offense was dealt in their first matchup with the Giants, when Dak Prescott went down for the season with a broken ankle. The Cowboys still went on to win that game, but they were just 2-3 even with Prescott healthy through four and a half games and teams that lose their starting quarterback at 2-3 typically don’t go on to compete for playoff spots.

One big thing the Cowboys had in their favor though, aside from their weak division, was that much of their struggles early in the season were a result of the Cowboys losing the turnover consistently, something that usually doesn’t continue long-term. For the Cowboys, it continued for the next two games and then, making matters worse, backup quarterback Andy Dalton got hurt, leaving the Cowboys with practice squad caliber quarterbacks in Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. 

However, their turnover issue went the other way after week 7, as the Cowboys were -13 through the first 7 games of the season before being +9 in turnovers in the 8 games since. That didn’t do them much good with DiNucci and Gilbert in the lineup in weeks 8 and 9, but Dalton returned after their week 10 bye and the Cowboys have won 4 of 6 games since, to keep themselves alive for a playoff spot.

Turnover margins are highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so I wouldn’t expect them to continue winning the turnover battle like they have in recent weeks, but I definitely wouldn’t expect them to go back to losing the turnover battle as badly as they were earlier in the season and, overall, the Cowboys rank 14th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +0.49%. Their offense hasn’t been as good at picking up first downs without Dak Prescott and without the offensive linemen that the Cowboys have lost as their season has gone on, but, if we assume they’ll play turnover neutral football, the Cowboys aren’t a bad team. My roster rankings have them ranked a respectable 21st, even with key players missing.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost a lot of line value with the Cowboys in the wake of their big win over the Eagles last week, as this line has shifted from favoring the Giants by 3 to the Cowboys by 1.5. The general public sees that the Cowboys blew out the Eagles last week and that the Giants lost by 14 to the Ravens and don’t realize the Cowboys were aided by a +2 turnover margin against an underwhelming Eagles team that lost its best defensive player in the first half, while the Giants were much more effective on first and second down than third and fourth. My calculated line is Giants -1, so we’re not getting much line value with the Giants either, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line at +110 isn’t a bad bet as the Giants should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up.

New York Giants 24 Dallas Cowboys 23 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +1.5

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens: 2020 Week 16 NFL Pick

New York Giants (5-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

The Giants are a tough team to predict. Coming out of their week 11 bye, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, the Steelers (2nd), the Rams (1st), Washington twice (3rd), the Eagles twice (10th), the 49ers (6th), the Bears (7th), and the Buccaneers (4th). The Giants were also healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. 

That lasted about a half unfortunately, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury and, while they held on to win that game, backup Colt McCoy struggled mightily and nearly blew the game, as the lowly Bengals were a field goal away from winning the game on a late drive in which they ended up fumbling at midfield.

Based off McCoy’s struggles in that game, I stayed away from the Giants when they went to Seattle the following week, but they shocked everyone, winning straight up as 11-point underdogs by final score of 17-12, in a game in which their defense shockingly had a dominant performance to cover for an underwhelming McCoy. The following game against the Cardinals, with Jones back, I bet on the Giants, but Jones looked far from 100% and was arguably a downgrade even from McCoy. Seeing that Jones clearly needed more time to get healthy, the Giants went back to McCoy last week against the Browns, but McCoy struggled mightily in a game in which the Giants had just a 25.93% first down rate against the Browns’ mediocre defense and lost the first down rate battle by 12.17%. 

At this point, it’s clear that a healthy Daniel Jones would be a significant upgrade from McCoy, as he has higher completion percentage, a higher YPA, and better rushing production, despite facing some of the toughest defenses in the league before getting hurt and then playing at far less than 100% against the Cardinals, while McCoy has gotten to face the Bengals (15th in first down rate allowed over expected) for a half, the Seahawks (23rd), and the Browns (29th). The question is how much of an upgrade Jones is at less than 100% or how close to 100% he will be this week. Jones is very reliant on his athleticism as a quarterback, so, while he should be healthier than the last time we saw him, he could easily still be an ineffective quarterback this week.

The Giants’ dominant defensive performance against the Seahawks is a significant outlier when you look at the rest of their season, as they rank 16th in first down rate allowed over expected at +0.42%, so if Jones isn’t healthy, the Giants are one of the worst teams in the league overall. This line is pretty high at Baltimore -10.5, which would give us line value with the Giants if Jones is healthy, but it’s hard to bet them with any confidence without confidence in Jones’ health. I’m still taking the Giants for pick ‘em purposes, especially since the Ravens are in a choke spot, in a must win game to stay in the playoff race (teams with a 50%-65% winning percentage cover at just a 40.9% rate in weeks 16 and 17 against a team with a sub-.500 record), but I wouldn’t recommend betting on it.

Baltimore Ravens 24 New York Giants 16

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +10.5

Confidence: Low

Cleveland Browns at New York Giants: 2020 Week 15 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (9-4) at New York Giants (5-8)

Coming out of their bye week a couple weeks ago, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, the Steelers (2nd), the Rams (1st), Washington twice (3rd), the Eagles twice (9th), the 49ers (8th), the Bears (6th), and the Buccaneers (5th). The Giants were also healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. 

That lasted about a half unfortunately, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury and, while they held on to win that game, backup Colt McCoy struggled mightily and nearly blew the game, as the lowly Bengals were a field goal away from winning the game on a late drive in which they ended up fumbling at midfield.

Based off McCoy’s struggles in that game, I stayed away from the Giants when they went to Seattle two weeks ago, but they shocked everyone, winning straight up as 11-point underdogs by final score of 17-12, in a game in which their defense shockingly had a dominant performance to cover for an underwhelming McCoy. Last week, with Jones back, I bet on the Giants, but Jones looked far from 100% and was arguably a downgrade even from McCoy. Seeing that Jones clearly needed more time to get healthy, the Giants will go back to McCoy this week.

With that in mind, the Browns are a very intriguing bet this week as 6-point road favorites. Some may think McCoy isn’t a big downgrade from a healthy Jones because he was the quarterback when the Giants beat the Seahawks and because his statistics aren’t a huge drop off from Jones, but they don’t realize that Jones has faced tough competition in almost every healthy start he’s made this season, while McCoy has gotten to play the Bengals and Seahawks, two below average defenses. 

Even with much easier competition, McCoy has led a noticeably less effective offense, as their win over the Seahawks was almost entirely because of their dominant defensive performance. Defensive performance is highly inconsistent week-to-week and the Giants rank just 15th in first down rate allowed over expected on the season at +0.20%, so I wouldn’t expect that again. Unless they can get a similar performance from their defense as they had against the Seahawks, I have a hard time seeing the Giants keeping it close with the Browns with McCoy under center. I think we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Browns as a result of McCoy being under center when the Giants beat the Seahawks, as my calculated line is Cleveland -7.5.

The Browns haven’t been as good as their 9-4 record, playing a relatively weak schedule and needing to go 6-1 in one score games to get to 9-4. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Browns rank 25th at -2.14%. However, their issues have been primarily concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 31st in first down rate allowed over expected at +3.16%, which is the best side of the ball to have issues on, because defensive performance tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. 

On offense, which is the much more consistent side of the ball, the Browns rank 12th in first down rate over expected at 1.02%. The Browns aren’t a great defense, but they’re more talented than they’ve played thus far and they’ll have their top-2 defensive players Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward in the lineup together for the first time since week 10 this week, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them be a more serviceable unit going forward, which would allow the Browns to get more big wins. I expect this to be one of those big wins, so the Browns are worth a bet as 6-point road favorites.

Cleveland Browns 27 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -6

Confidence: Medium

Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants: 2020 Week 14 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-6) at New York Giants (5-7)

Coming out of their bye week a couple weeks ago, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, the Steelers (2nd), the Rams (1st), Washington twice (3rd), the Eagles twice (9th), the 49ers (10th), the Bears (7th), and the Buccaneers (5th). The Giants were also healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. 

That lasted about a half unfortunately, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury and, while they held on to win that game, backup Colt McCoy struggled mightily and nearly blew the game, as the lowly Bengals were a field goal away from winning the game on a late drive in which they ended up fumbling at midfield.

Based off McCoy’s struggles in that game, I stayed away from the Giants when they went to Seattle last week, but they shocked everyone, winning straight up as 11-point underdogs by final score of 17-12, in a game in which their defense shockingly had a dominant performance to cover for an underwhelming McCoy. Even with that game included, the Giants rank just 18th in first down rate over expected at +0.92% and defensive play is very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis anyway, but with Daniel Jones back under center this week, the Giants are a decent team, ranking 17th in my roster rankings, as Jones has performed significantly better than his production this season, when you take into account the caliber of defenses he has faced.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting as much line value with the Giants as we would have, if they had not pulled the huge upset last week. My calculated line is even, as the Cardinals are only marginally better than the Giants, given that their defense is one of the worst in the league and that Kyler Murray has not played as well in recent weeks, likely in part due to a shoulder injury, but there isn’t enough for the Giants to be worth taking at +2.5. I may reconsider if this line moves up to a full field goal before gametime though and the money line is a good value as well at +125, as this game is close to a toss up.

Update: Some +3s briefly popped up on Sunday morning. If you were lucky enough to get one, it’s worth a play, even paying extra vig.

New York Giants 31 Arizona Cardinals 30 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-3)

Coming out of their bye week last week, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, and they were healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. That lasted about a half, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury that has him week-to-week and will cause him to miss at least this game in Seattle. 

Jones’ numbers haven’t been that impressive this season, but they’re a lot more impressive when you consider the quality of the defensives he’s been facing and their offense immediately became noticeably more stagnant when he went down, with underwhelming backup quarterback Colt McCoy unable to do much of anything against a mediocre Bengals defense in what ended up being a 19-17 win that could have easily turned to a Giants loss had the Bengals not fumbled at midfield at the end of the game on what could have been a game winning field goal drive. 

McCoy will have a full week of practice with the first team this week, but he figures to continue struggling, as he’s a 34-year-old journeyman with a career 78.2 QB rating, who recently threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a brief stint as the Washington Redskins starting quarterback from 2018-2019. With him under center, the Giants rank 29th in my roster rankings (or 28th depending on who is eligible to play this week for Baltimore), only ahead of the Jets, Bengals, and Jaguars. There’s a huge gap between them and the Seahawks.

The Seahawks have not played as well as their 8-3 record would suggest this season, going 6-2 in one score games, with a +37 point differential and a 12th ranked +0.77% first down rate differential, but I expect them to play better than that going forward. There are a few reasons for that, including simply that they’re typically much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 43-21-3 ATS in games 9-16 since Wilson’s first season in 2012, as opposed to just 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8.

On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team and offensive led teams tend to fare better going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent and predictive week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 5th in first down rate over expected at +2.54%, but are dragged down by a defense that ranks just 27th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.77%. If they can get even middling play from their defense going forward, they should keep winning games, including some by larger margins than most of their wins thus far this season.

Aside from the inherent randomness of defensive play, the Seahawks are also getting more talented on defense, in large part due to players returning from injury. A few weeks ago, the Seahawks got talented safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence and last week they got Shaq Griffin back also from a 4-game absence. They also added defensive end Carlos Dunlap a few weeks ago in a trade with Cincinnati that gave the Seahawks much needed help on their defensive line, though he is questionable for this game after not practicing all week. Their offense is also healthier than it’s been in recent weeks, with top running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde returning from absences of 4 games and 3 games respectively. My roster rankings have them ranked 4th and they shouldn’t have much trouble with the Colt McCoy led Giants.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting line value with the Seahawks, who have ballooned to 11-point home favorites, despite not having any real homefield advantage without fans. My calculated line is Seattle -11.5, so I think they still have a good chance to cover, especially with without any upcoming distractions on the schedule, with the Jets coming to town next week (home favorites of 10+ are 52-31 ATS since 2002 before being home favorites of 10+ again the following week), but there isn’t enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting, even if Dunlap is ultimately able to suit up.

Seattle Seahawks 30 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -11

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals: 2020 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (3-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1)

Coming out of their week 11 bye, the Giants are an underrated team, especially on offense. The Giants are generally considered to be a weak offense and in terms of first down rate they rank just 28th at 31.76%, but they’ve also faced a brutal schedule, somehow facing top-10 defenses in terms of first down rate allowed over expected in nine of their ten games, facing Pittsburgh (1st), Tampa Bay (2nd), the LA Rams (4th), Washington twice (5th), Chicago (6th), San Francisco (9th), and Philadelphia twice (10th). The Giants first down rate is 2.22% below average, but their schedule suggests they should be 2.96% below average right now, so the Giants actually rank 15th in first down rate over expected at +0.74%. 

That’s despite the fact that the Giants have had some absences on offense and are now mostly healthy, most importantly top wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who they have been noticeably better with on the field this season. The Giants haven’t been as good on defense, ranking 27th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.09%, but defensive play tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offense, so their defensive concerns aren’t as much of a problem as you’d think, especially since my roster rankings suggest they’re more talented on that side of the ball than they’ve played.

Given that they’re underrated compared to their 3-7 record, I was expecting to bet the Giants frequently over the rest of the season, but we’re not getting quite the line value I was expecting with them in their first game out of their bye, as they have ballooned to 6-point favorites in Cincinnati in the wake of Joe Burrow’s season ending injury, a massive swing from being 2.5-point underdogs on the early line last week. The Bengals have one of the worst backup quarterback situations in the league with Ryan Finley and presumed starter Brandon Allen both being borderline NFL quarterbacks, but an 8.5-point swing like that is normally reserved for an MVP caliber quarterback getting hurt, so this line isn’t that attractive.

That’s not to say I’m going to be taking the Bengals though, as not only are the Giants underrated, but the Bengals are truly dreadful without Burrow. Even with Burrow in the lineup for most of the season, the Bengals rank just 30th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -3.82%, including a defense that ranks 31st in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.64%. Without Burrow, the Bengals rank on the same level as the Jaguars and Jets in my roster rankings, so, even if I disagree with a 8.5 point swing, I actually think this line is about right, as the Bengals would have been very overvalued as 2.5-point favorites with Burrow. 

The Giants are also in a great spot as big road favorites off of a bye, as teams are 61-33 ATS as road favorites of 3.5 or more off of a bye since 1989, including an 8-4 ATS record by teams with a sub-.500 record like the Giants. There’s not enough here for the Giants to be worth betting, but I would probably bet on them if this line drops back down to 5.5. Either way, the Giants should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes, as they should win this game pretty easily.

Update: This line has dropped to 5.5 in some places, so this is worth a play.

New York Giants 26 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) at New York Giants (2-7)

The Eagles had their bye last week and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Eagles will come out of their bye as healthy as they’ve been all season. Defensive tackles Malik Jackson (1 game missed) and Javon Hargrave (1 game), linebacker TJ Edwards (3 games), left tackle Jason Peters (4 games), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (8 games) and Jalen Raegor (5 games), right tackle Lane Johnson (3 games), running back Miles Sanders (3 games), tight end Dallas Goedert (4 games), and possibly left guard Isaac Seumalo (6 games) are all suiting up this week. 

The Eagles haven’t been terrible all things considered this season and, now as healthy as they’ve been, they rank 16th in my roster rankings and have a good chance to be at least competitive going forward if they can stay healthy. On top of that, even injuries aside, the bye week will be beneficial for this team just for rest purposes. Teams typically do pretty well as significant road favorites out of a bye, going 76-41-1 ATS since 1989 as road favorites of 3+ after a bye week, and the Eagles fit the trend as 4-point favorites in New York against the Giants this week.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting any line value with the Eagles at -4 because the Giants are an underrated team, particularly on offense, where they rank 14th in first down rate over expected at +0.72%. That may seem surprising, but it makes sense when you take a deeper look, as the Giants actually only rank 27th in first down rate at 2.50% below average, but have faced a brutal schedule that suggests they should have been 3.22% below average, so the Giants are actually beating expectations. Of their 9 games, 7 have come against top-10 defenses, the WFT twice (1st), the Buccaneers (2nd), the Steelers (3rd), the Rams (4th), the Bears (7th), and the 49ers (10th). 

The Giants might not be quite as good as the 14th best offense in the league and they aren’t on paper in my roster rankings, but it’s very possible they’re a capable offense that has been made to look bad by a brutal defensive schedule. They’ve also been better in recent weeks since getting wide receiver Sterling Shepard back from injury. In my roster rankings, I have them just 2.5 points behind the Eagles overall, which gives us a calculated line of Philadelphia -2 (half point for the Giants being at home with no fans) rather than -4. I’m still taking the Eagles for pick ‘em purposes out of their bye week, but this is a no confidence pick.

Philadelphia Eagles 25 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Washington Football Team: 2020 Week 9 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-7) at Washington Football Team (2-5)

With Washington still somehow unable to figure out how to get a real name, it seems that the Washington Football Team moniker is here to stay, with reports recently that they are keeping the name through 2021, so I will have to call them by their non-name officially going forward, but it’s still a stupid name and they should pick any other name as soon as possible. With that out of the way, when analyzing this game, something stood out in my numbers as very surprising, which was that the Giants rank 14th in the NFL in first down rate over expected at +0.62%. 

Whenever something is unusual like that, I look to see what is going on and in this case, what is happening is simple. The Giants rank just 27th in first down rate at 31.92%, but they have also faced a brutal schedule of defenses, including the Buccaneers (1st in first down rate allowed over expected), the Steelers (3rd), the Rams (5th), the Bears (9th), the 49ers (10th) and the nonames (2nd), who they previously played back in week 6. 

Is it possible the Giants are a secretly capable offense that has been made to look bad by its strength of schedule? It might not be the case that they’re the 14th best offense in the league, but it’s definitely possible they’re closer to middling than we expect, especially with wide receiver Sterling Shepard back from injury and quarterback Daniel Jones playing better in recent weeks. 

The Giants strength of schedule doesn’t get much easier this week in this rematch in Washington, but defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance and the injuries are also starting to pile up for Washington, with defensive end Matt Ioannidis and safety Landon Collins now both done for the year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them regress defensively going forward, in which case they would be in a lot of trouble, because their offense ranks just 31st in first down rate over expected. 

The Giants might not be the 14th best offense in the league, but they have a significant advantage on the side of the ball that matters more for projection purposes. Unfortunately, it seems like the public and the sharp bettors have kind of picked up on this, shifting the Giants from 3.5 point underdogs on the early line last week to 2.5 this week, in the wake of the Giants’ near victory over the Buccaneers last week. If we can get a good +3, I might consider a bet on the Giants, but this is a low confidence pick at 2.5.

Update: +3s have popped up Sunday morning. The Giants will be without wide receiver Golden Tate for disciplinary reasons, but he hasn’t done much this season and is far less important to this team with Shepard back. +3 is worth a bet.

New York Giants 17 Washington Football Team 16 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants: 2020 Week 8 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) at New York Giants (1-6)

I have had the Buccaneers as underrated for a while and, as a result, I have bet on them every week since week 2. It has worked out, as the Buccaneers have gone 5-1 ATS over that stretch. Everyone knew about Tom Brady and the weapons coming into the season, but their young defense was also dominant down the stretch last season, which didn’t get a lot of attention and, after the Buccaneers lost in New Orleans in week 1 in a game they would have likely won if not for an uncharacteristic -3 turnover margin (+8.11% first down rate margin), the Buccaneers became a smart bet going forward. 

The Buccaneers lost stud defensive tackle Vita Vea for the season with a broken ankle in week 5, but that was right around when the Buccaneers got their dominant wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both healthy for the first time all season, which cancelled out Vea’s absence. Overall, the Buccaneers rank first in the league in scheduled adjusted first down rate differential at +6.71%, a wide margin over the #2 ranked Rams (+3.27%), and have not missed a beat without Vea because of other players stepping up and/or getting healthy.

However, there are a couple reasons why the Buccaneers aren’t a good bet this week. For one, the lines seem to have caught up with how good this team is, as they are favored by 13 points over the Giants, after being favored by just 8.5 points on the early line last season. That is despite the fact that the Buccaneers have lost Chris Godwin to injury again, which is a big blow for this team. Now with Godwin, Vea, and tight end OJ Howard, the key injuries are starting to stack up for a Buccaneers team that falls slightly out of the top spot in my roster rankings this week. I’m still taking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes, but I have no confidence in them at this number.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 New York Giants 10

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -13

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 7 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1)

This is yet another uninteresting Thursday Night Football game the NFL has scheduled, although it’s understandable how the NFL thought this might be an interesting game, as it’s a divisional game between a team that has been good in recent years and a team that some thought was up-and-coming. However, the Eagles were not as talented coming into this season as they’ve been in recent years and they’ve been decimated by injury, while the Giants have also had injury problems and have not seen their young players develop as expected, particularly second year quarterback Daniel Jones and rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas. As a result, both teams have just one win, although in the horrendous NFC East, that means they’re right in the thick of the race, making this a meaningful game, if not a particularly interesting one.

I don’t feel strongly on this game, but I do think this line is a little high at 4.5, as the Eagles are so banged up and shouldn’t be favored by this many points over anyone except the Jets. They’ll get right tackle Lane Johnson and wide receiver DeSean Jackson back this week, but they lose tight end Zach Ertz, running back Miles Sanders, and defensive tackle Malik Jackson and are still missing several other offensive linemen and pass catchers. My calculated line is Philadelphia -3 and I think the most likely result is the Eagles winning by a field goal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were able to win by more than that either. 

Philadelphia Eagles 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4.5

Confidence: Low