Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2018 Week 17 NFL Pick

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

This is another game with motivational uncertainty. The Cowboys are locked into the #4 seed in the NFC and have rested starts with nothing to play for in the past, but Jason Garrett at least publicly says he’s treating this as a real game because the Cowboys still have issues they need to work through. That makes some sense, as the last time the Cowboys rested starters it was with a first round bye locked up, but the Cowboys have also been giving more reps to backups at practice this week, including practice squad running back Darius Jackson, who could split carries with backup Rod Smith this week if Ezekiel Elliott sits on the sidelines, with his rushing title all but wrapped up.

If Elliott sits, you have to figure banged up offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin also won’t play and, without those two and Elliott, it doesn’t make much sense to have Dak Prescott or any other stars play for more than a quarter or so. This line also seems to expect the Cowboys to mail it in, favoring the Giants by 6. The Giants are also missing a pair of stars though, without stud safety Landon Collins and #1 wide receiver Odell Beckham due to injury, so I’m taking the Cowboys for pick ‘em purposes and hoping they don’t completely mail it in.

New York Giants 24 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas +6

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts: 2018 Week 16 NFL Pick

New York Giants (5-9) at Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

The Colts are a solid 8-6, but they’re even better than their record suggests. They had major injury problems earlier in the year, leading to a 1-5 start, but they’ve won 7 of 8 games since then, with 4 wins by at least two touchdowns. On the season, they rank 7th in point differential at +72 and 5th in first down rate differential at +3.95%. They’ve faced one of the easier schedules in the league, but they’re arguably even better than those numbers suggest, given how well they’ve played when healthy. With talented center Ryan Kelly returning last week, the Colts are as healthy as they’ve been all season, which should be a scary proposition for the rest of the AFC, with the Colts in the running for the final wild card spot.

The Giants also improved as the season went on, but they have a serious injury on both sides of the ball now, with #1 wide receiver Odell Beckham and Pro-Bowl safety Landon Collins on the sidelines. They blew out the Redskins without them, but I think that was more about the Redskins not giving effort with a hapless street free agent quarterback under center than anything to do with the Giants and the Giants followed that game up by getting shut out at home by the Titans in a 17-0 loss. I expect their struggles to continue this week and for the Colts to take care of business and win this easily. This line shifted from Indianapolis -6 to Indianapolis -9 in the past week, but I have this line calculated at Indianapolis -13, so we’re still getting significant line value with the Colts.

Indianapolis Colts 27 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -9

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans at New York Giants: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (7-6) at New York Giants (5-8)

The Titans began the season with a tough schedule, with 8 of their first 11 games coming against teams that currently have a winning record, but they are right in the middle of a very easy stretch right now and have won back-to-back games against the Jets and Jaguars. The game against the Jets was close, but the Titans won that game despite throwing a pick six and allowing a blocked punt and they won the first down rate battle by 18.59%. They then followed that up with a blowout of the Jaguars in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 16.99%.

The Giants have been better in recent weeks and they’re not as bad as the Jets or Jaguars, but they are missing a key player with injury on both sides of the ball, wide receiver Odell Beckham and safety Landon Collins, and they are one of the easier teams the Titans have faced this season. Beckham and Collins weren’t missed against a Redskins team they started Mark Sanchez and didn’t try on defense, but this is a much tougher game. The Titans are a little banged up with right tackle Jack Conklin and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo injured, but I still have this line calculated at Tennessee -3, so we’re getting some good line value with them at +1.

The Titans are also in a better spot than the Giants, with another easy game at home against the Redskins on deck, while the Giants have another relatively tough game on deck in Indianapolis, Underdogs are 94-57 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponents will next be underdogs and, even though the Titans are just 1-point underdogs, the logic stands that they should be a little bit more focused this week, with no upcoming distractions to prepare for. They’re worth a bet this week.

Tennessee Titans 24 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +1

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-8) at Washington Redskins (6-6)

A once promising season for the Redskins seems have to be completely derailed in last week’s loss in Philadelphia. The Redskins are still technically in the NFC East race at 6-6, but they lost their second quarterback in the last month to a broken leg, first Alex Smith and then Colt McCoy last week, and are now starting Mark Sanchez, signed off the streets a few weeks ago. Sanchez is not only a limited quarterback, but he has to have a limited understanding of the offense at this point after just a few weeks, compared to McCoy who has been in the offense for 5 seasons. Sanchez did not look good in relief of McCoy last week, completing 13 of 21 for 100 yards and a pick.

All of that being said, I still don’t understand why this line shifted all the way from Redskins -3 to Giants -3.5, here in Washington. That’s the kind of line movement normally reserved for an injury to an above average starting quarterback, which is certainly not what Colt McCoy is. I also don’t understand what the Giants have done to be favored by this many points on the road against a team that still has a solid defense.

The Giants are just 4-8 with an average margin of victory of 3.75 points per game and no wins by more than 5 points. I’m not too excited about betting on Mark Sanchez, but we’re getting too much line value not to put a small bet on the Redskins this week. They could easily ride their defense and running game to victory at home against a mediocre opponent and I like getting 3.5 points to work with if they come up short.

Update: The Giants surprisingly ruled out Odell Beckham Jr. on Saturday, after he suffered a quad injury in yesterday’s practice. The line shifted from +3.5 to +3, but you could argue it should have shifted even more, as the Giants have been about a touchdown worse per game without Odell Beckham in his career. Colt McCoy getting hurt shifted this line 6.5 points, but Beckham being out only shifts this from 3.5 to 3? I don’t want to make this a higher confidence pick because of Mark Sanchez, but I like the Redskins’ chances of winning straight up now too.

Washington Redskins 16 New York Giants 13 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at New York Giants: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (8-3) at New York Giants (3-8)

I’ve picked the Bears in all but one of their games this season and have bet on them 5 times, going 5-0 ATS. They’ve been underrated for weeks, as their 3 losses have come by a combined 11 points. Winners of 5 straight, the Bears are now at 8-3 and statistically have been as good as any team in the league, ranking 4th in point differential at +106 and 1st in first down rate differential at -7.03%. That being said, I’m not taking them this week because they are in a terrible spot and I’m not just referring to the absence of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky hasn’t been bad, but he’s not the reason this team has been winning and backup Chase Daniel is one of the better backups in the league.

The bigger issue is that the Bears have to turn around and host the Rams next week, a game that could easily be as a huge distraction to the Bears. Road favorites are just 39-64 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs, which the Bears almost certainly will be next week (early line is Rams -3.5). The Giants are just 3-8, but they’ve been competitive in most of their games, losing just 2 games by more than a touchdown, with 3 losses coming by 3 points or fewer. They could easily catch the Bears off guard and make this a game or even potentially win it straight up. We’re not getting any line value with the Giants at +3.5, as the Bears still have a distinct talent advantage, so this is a no confidence pick, but this has trap game written all over it for the Bears.

Chicago Bears 19 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3.5

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (3-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

The Eagles had a week from hell last week. Not only did they get blown out in New Orleans, losing 48-7, but they also suffered numerous mid-game injuries. Center Jason Kelce is not listed on the injury report this week after leaving with an elbow injury early in the game last week, but the Eagles also lost every down linebacker Jordan Hicks and numerous cornerbacks. Already without top cornerback Ronald Darby and starting safety Rodney McLeod, the Eagles are now starting a trio of bottom of the roster talents at cornerback and have just one week 1 starter left in their secondary, safety Malcolm Jenkins.

As a result of last week, this line adjusted in a significant way, as the Eagles went from being favored by 9.5 points on the early line to being favored by 5.5 points this week, the kind of week-to-week swing that’s usually reserved for a quarterback injury. While about 50% of games are decided by 9 points or fewer, just 30% of games are decided by 5 points or fewer, so it’s a very significant swing, crossing key numbers of 6 and 7.

Typically I love going against these kind of significant week-to-week line movements and this game is no exception. Obviously the Eagles looked terrible last week, but they’ve been competitive in all their other losses and Saints are playing at another level right now, especially at home. Teams also typically bounce back from a blowout loss, going 57-35 ATS since 2002 off of a loss by 35 points or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and undervalued in that spot. Most recently, we saw the Bengals cover in a close loss as 6-point underdogs in Baltimore last week, after the Saints blew them out the previous week.

I can’t say for sure that the Eagles will be overlooked or embarrassed, but they are definitely undervalued, as this line suggests they’re just a few points better than the Giants. Despite being 4-6 and coming off of a blowout loss, the Eagles still rank 10th in first down rate at +2.32%, while the Giants rank 26th at -4.08%. The Eagles could easily be 6-4 or so right now, in which case they’d likely be favored by at least a touchdown in this game, even coming off of a blowout loss with all of the injuries they have.

The injuries in the Eagles’ back 7 are definitely concerning, but they still have a strong defensive line and should dominate this game in the trenches, much like they did in the first matchup, when they blew out the Giants 34-13 in New York as 3-point road favorites. Their offense should also be a lot better this week with Kelce back in the lineup, at home against an underwhelming Giants defense. They should win this game by multiple scores and cover with relative ease.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -5.5

Confidence: High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) at New York Giants (2-7)

The Buccaneers lost last week at home to the Redskins, falling to 3-6 on the season, but they’ve been better than their record suggests, as they rank 19th with a +0.15% first down rate. They’ve been killed by the turnover margin, ranking dead last with a -19 turnover margin, but turnover margins tend to be completely unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. For example, the Buccaneers had a -4 turnover margin in last week’s loss, the biggest reason why they lost despite winning the yardage battle 501-286 and the first down battle 29-15, but, on average, teams with a turnover margin of -4 in a game have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week. As a result of that, they obviously perform a lot better on the scoreboard (48.8% winning percentage, 52.5% cover percentage).

The Buccaneers are an underrated team and because of that we are getting good line value with them here as 2.5 point road underdogs in New York against the lowly Giants. They’re also in a much better spot, as the Giants have a key divisional game in Philadelphia next week, while the Buccaneers have arguably their easiest game of the season, at home against the 49ers. Favorites are just 53-89 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. While the Giants could easily overlook the Buccaneers with a much bigger game on defense, the Buccaneers should be fully focused with no upcoming distractions on the schedule.

The Buccaneers’ defensive injuries concern me, as they will be without linebacker Lavonte David and safety Justin Evans in this one, after already being without linebacker Kwon Alexander and defensive end Vinny Curry. The Buccaneers’ defense has been pretty bad even with those players healthy though and I trust the Buccaneers’ talented offense to win a shootout here on the road against one of the worst teams in the league. This would be a bigger play if they were healthier, but Tampa Bay is still worth a bet this week.

Sunday update: +3s have showed up Sunday Morning. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so it’s great to have protection against a New York 3-point win. I’m making this a higher confidence pick as a result.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 New York Giants 27 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +3

Confidence: High