Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

The Jaguars have the league’s worst record at 2-14 and are coming off of an embarrassing blowout defeat in New England last week, losing by a score of 50-10 in a game that was never competitive. However, there is reason to expect a lot better effort from the Jaguars this week. For one, they figure to be at least somewhat healthier, getting back starting right guard Ben Bartch, top cornerback Shaq Griffin, and starting edge defender Dawaune Smoot from COVID protocols, with starting left tackle Cam Robinson, stud starting center Brandon Linder, and starting safety Andrew Wingard possibly joining them.

Teams tend to bounce back well after a blowout loss anyway, as teams cover at a 56.3% rate all-time after a loss by 35 points or more. That is because teams tend to be highly motivated to bounce back from embarrassment, while opponents overlook them and oddsmakers and the public undervalue them based off of an overreaction to one big loss. That last part certainly seems to be the case here as the Jaguars have moved from being 8.5-point home underdogs on the early line last week to now being 15.5 point home underdogs, even with the Colts disappointing last week in a loss as big home favorites against the Raiders.

The Jaguars are inarguably one of the worst teams in the league, but the Colts are not a good enough team to be favored by this many points on the road against anyone. The Colts have a better point differential (+101) than their 9-7 record suggests, but they have also benefited from an easy schedule and a +16 turnover margin, which is not a predictive metric, while ranking just 12th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, which is based on more predictive metrics like yards per play and first down rate. 

There is some uncertainty in this game with the Jaguars having the three aforementioned key players in the COVID protocols, while stud Colts’ interior defender DeForest Buckner is highly questionable after not practicing all week, but even in the best case scenario for the Colts, my calculated line is just Indianapolis -10.5, while my calculated line in the best case for the Jaguars is Indianapolis -9, so we’re getting significant line value with the Jaguars either way. Because of that, I want to lock this in now and it’s possible I increase this bet later this weekend depending on who plays and where the line settles.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +15.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) at New England Patriots (9-6)

The Patriots have lost back-to-back games and are favored by a lot of points in this game (16.5-point favorites), but the Patriots’ schedule over the past two games has been tough, as they have faced the teams who rank 1st and 6th in point differential, and they won the first down rate (+1.00%) and yards per play (+0.33) battle in a loss to the Colts, a loss that was largely the result of a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a -1 turnover margin, which are not as predictive as first down rate and yards per play. 

Now the Patriots get a much easier matchup, as not only are the Jaguars arguably the worst team in the league, but they are without one of their best players, running back James Robinson, and could be missing essentially their whole offensive line, with left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, and right guard Ben Bartch (already a fill-in for the injured AJ Cann) all in COVID protocols right now.

The Patriots still rank 4th in point differential despite back-to-back multiscore losses and they rank 12th, 4th, 19th, and 6th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, so this line arguably isn’t high enough, even if the Patriots might be without Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise. I have this line calculated at New England -17 even if all of the Jaguars’ offensive linemen play and Judon and Wise are out and at New England -20.5 if the Jaguars’ players are all out and Judon and Wise play, so we’re getting at least some line value either way. I am making this a low confidence pick for now, but depending on who plays and where the line ends up, I may place a bet on New England.

Update: Only Andrew Norwell is playing of the Jaguars’ offensive line, while the others will be joined in the COVID protocols by edge defender Dawuane Smoot and cornerback Shaq Griffin, who tested positive today and would otherwise be starters. Meanwhile, the Patriots will have both Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise. This line hasn’t gone any higher, staying at 16.5, so I like the Patriots enough to bet them in what should be a complete blowout.

New England Patriots 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Pick against the spread: New England -16.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) at New York Jets (3-11)

Both of these teams have terrible records and point differentials, with the 2-12 Jaguars sitting at -174 and the 3-11 Jets sitting at -178, but there are reasons to expect the Jets to be the better of these two teams when they meet this weekend. While their point differentials are similar, the Jets have scored and allowed about 55 more points than the Jaguars, which is a good sign for a couple reasons. 

For one, it means their points scored/points allowed ratio is better, as the Jets have scored 0.584 points for every point they have allowed and the Jaguars have scored just .530, which tends to be more predictive than point differential. Offensive performance also tends to be much more predictive than defensive performance week-to-week so, in general, I favor a team with a better offense over a team with a better defense.

The Jets have also faced a tougher schedule and, in terms of schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, which takes schedule into account and weights offensive performance higher than defensive performance, the Jets rank 29th, while the Jaguars rank 31st. Both teams are terrible and the difference between their ranks might not seem like much, but the gap between these two teams in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency translates to about a 2.5 point advantage for the Jets.

Making matters even worse for the Jaguars is that they will have the most impactful absence in this game, with talented edge defender Josh Allen, arguably their best player on either side of the ball, expected to miss this game because of COVID protocols. Without Allen, the one advantage the Jaguars have, which is having a superior defense, is not nearly as much of an advantage, if it is still an advantage at all. 

Add in the fact that the Jets are at home and they should be favored to win this game by more than the 1.5 points they are currently favored by, which is only enough to cover the advantage of the Jets being at home. My calculated line has the Jets at -4 so we’re getting decent value with the Jets at -1.5. I don’t foresee myself betting on this one, but it’s possible I will change my mind and, either way, the Jets are the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

New York Jets 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: NY Jets -1.5

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (2-11) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

Both of these teams are 2-11 and among the worst teams in the league, but the Jaguars are still the significantly better team, even if only by default. The Jaguars hold a slight edge in point differential (-160 vs. -179), despite the Texans holding a significant edge in turnover differential (+1 vs. -19), which is not a predictive metric. In more predictive metrics, the Jaguars rank 30th, 23rd, and 26th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, while the Texans rank 32nd, 31st, and 19th respectively and are seven points behind the Jaguars in mixed efficiency. 

The Texans beat the Jaguars by double digits in Houston earlier this season, but that was way back in week one when the Texans had a healthier offensive line and were starting veteran Tyrod Taylor at quarterback rather than raw rookie Davis Mills. With Mills, the Texans have been even worse this season, losing all eight of his starts and by an average of 18.5 points per game, an average that would be even worse if the Patriots weren’t missing most of their offensive line in their 3-point win, a game in which the Patriots still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%, and if the Texans hadn’t scored 22 meaningless garbage points against the Rams in a game in which they were down 38-0 going into the 4th quarter.

Earlier this week, the Jaguars were 3-point favorites at home and I thought I would end up betting on them at that number, especially after the news broke that the Jaguars would be firing highly unpopular head coach Urban Meyer, but Meyer’s dismissal has led to the Jaguars now being favored by 5 points. My calculated line still has the Jaguars favored by 9, but I think we lost line value with the line moving two points for the coaching change, as interim head coach Darrell Bevell is a very uninspiring replacement and is a big part of the problem with this offense. I may still bet on the Jaguars, but I want to wait and see what the COVID situation will be for both teams first and I hope we can get a better line before gametime.

Update: I am comfortable taking the Jaguars for a small bet. One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that the Jaguars are healthier now than they have been. They haven’t had a lot of injuries, but cornerback Shaq Griffin (two games missed) and center Brandon Linder (six games missed) are among the Jaguars’ best players on either side of the ball and both have missed significant time, with this week being the first time they will play in the same game since week 5. With the Urban Meyer situation behind them, they should be able to beat a horrendous Texans team with ease.

Jacksonville Jaguars 26 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) at Tennessee Titans (8-4)

The Titans don’t have a lot of blowout wins, as their 8-4 record is powered by a 4-1 record in one score games, and their offense has been significantly worse since losing feature back Derrick Henry and top wide receiver AJ Brown, while their defense remains without would-be starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Caleb Farley, expected starting edge defender Bud Dupree, and key run stuffing defensive lineman Teair Tart. 

However, the Titans will at least get wide receiver Julio Jones back this week, while the Jaguars are the type of team the Titans should be able to beat by multiple scores, even when not at 100%, as the Jaguars are 2-10, rank 30th in the NFL with a -140 point differential, and have seven losses by multiple scores. My calculated line has the Titans favored by 10, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with them as 8.5-point favorites, but not nearly enough to bet them confidently.

Tennessee Titans 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -8.5

Confidence: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

The Rams were 7-1 a few weeks ago and were adding even more talent, acquiring edge defender Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham at the trade deadline. However, since then, the Rams have lost three straight games to fall to 7-4. What happened? Well, part of it is Miller and Beckham have not contributed in a huge way, still learning the playbook and dealing with lingering injuries, and, at the same time, the Rams have also had players who were key to their 7-1 start suffer injuries as well, with wide receiver Robert Woods going down for the season and quarterback Matt Stafford playing at less than 100%.

Part of it is also that the Rams have faced a tough schedule, as the Titans, Rams, and Packers are all likely to be playoff teams. That schedule gets a lot easier this week, with the Jaguars coming to town. Even without Woods and with Stafford playing at less than 100%, we are still getting a little bit of line value with the Rams at -13, as my calculated line has the Rams as 14-point favorites, with both Beckham and Miller likely to have bigger roles this season, albeit with the former still playing through injury. 

However, that isn’t nearly enough line value to take the Rams with any confidence and, in fact, I am actually going to take the Jaguars for pick ‘em purposes, as the Rams are in a bad spot. The Rams need a win so they might not be unfocused, but they may also see this as an easy get right spot, when in reality, they need to play better than they have to win this game easily. Making that more likely is that the Rams have to turn around and face the Cardinals in a much bigger game next week. Even if they get up big early, they could take their foot off the gas with a bigger game on deck and allow a backdoor cover.

Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is at least 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, which fits the Rams against the 2-9 Jaguars before the 9-2 Cardinals. I can’t take the Jaguars with any confidence either, especially since they will be without their top cornerback Shaq Griffin, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, as they could take advantage of the Rams looking forward and make this tougher than it should be.

Los Angeles Rams 26 Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +13

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)

The Falcons are 4-6, but they are much worse than even their mediocre record suggests. While all four of their wins have come by one score against mediocre at best opponents, four of their six losses have been blowout defeats by 20 points or more. In fact, their point differential of -110 is the 4th worst in the league, even worse than the -103 point differential that the 2-8 Jaguars have. That holds up when you look at schedule adjusted efficiency rankings (which are based on more predictive metrics like yards and first downs per play), as the Falcons rank 28th, 21st, 31st, and 31st respectively in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, while the Jaguars rank 23rd, 25th, 28th, and 28th respectively. The Jaguars are missing their top cornerback Shaq Griffin in this game, but their offense will get a boost from the return of their top lineman Brandon Linder.

Despite that, the Falcons are favored on the road in this matchup. It’s only by a couple points, but my rankings have these two teams about even and the Jaguars should be considered at worst 50/50 to win this game at home. My calculated line favors the Jaguars by a couple points at home and, while that isn’t great line value, as we are within the key number of three in both directions, the Falcons are also in a bad spot to boot, with a much tougher matchup against the Buccaneers on deck, which could easily serve as a distraction for the Falcons. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are in a good spot as home underdogs after a big loss as home underdogs, with teams covering at a 59.0% rate as home underdogs after losing by 14 or more as home underdogs. This isn’t a big bet on the Jaguars, but I like them enough to put a small wager on them against the spread and on the money line, with the money line at +110 likely being the better value of the two.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Atlanta Falcons 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +2

Confidence: Medium

San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (4-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)

The 49ers are just 4-5, but they have a positive point differential at +4, despite dealing with a significant amount of short-term injury absences, many of whom have since returned, and despite a -7 turnover margin, 5th worst in the NFL. Turnover margin is highly non-predictive on a week-to-week basis though and the 49ers rank 9th, 7th, and 11th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, when adjusted for schedule. Overall, that 49ers schedule has been one of the tougher schedules in the league and their only really easy games both came on the road in Chicago and Detroit, both of which resulted in wins by the 49ers of more than 7 points.

That is relevant because the 49ers are favored by just 6.5 points in this game in Jacksonville, against a Jaguars teams that is comparable to the teams the 49ers have already beaten with ease on the road. The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league and the 49ers are much better than their record, so this line isn’t high enough. My calculated line has the 49ers as 8.5-point favorites and at the very least the 49ers should be giving more than a touchdown in this game.

This could be a bit of a tough spot for the 49ers, after a huge divisional upset win over the Rams last week, as teams cover at just a 41.3% rate after a win as divisional home underdogs of more than a field goal. However, because that game came on Monday Night Football and was not even close, it might bode well for the 49ers this week, as teams cover at a 60.2% rate all-time after a Monday Night Football win by 21 points or more. This isn’t a big bet because there are conflicting trends, but we are getting some line value with the 49ers, who are still a bit underrated even after last week’s big win, so they are worth a play.

San Francisco 49ers 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

The Jaguars shockingly pulled the 9-6 upset as 15-point home underdogs against the Bills last week. Normally, that would put them in a bad spot this week, as teams cover at just a 40.9% rate all-time after a win as home underdogs of 5 or more. However, that is because teams tend to be overvalued and/or flat in that spot and I don’t know if either of those will be the case this week. 

I was expecting the Jaguars’ win last week to shift this line significantly, but the Jaguars are still 10-point underdogs, a week after being underdogs of 10.5 points on the early line last week, so they’re not overvalued. On top of that, it’s possible they could still bring a high level of intensity and focus even after last week’s win because they are once again big underdogs and, this time around, facing a divisional opponent.

The Colts are also in a bad spot, as big home favorites before a much tougher game next week in Buffalo. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 43.7% rate before facing an opponent whose winning percentage is at least 40% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage and that applies to the Colts this week. With that in mind, I am actually taking the Jaguars this week, albeit for a low confidence pick. Even if both teams are in bad spots, I think we are getting a little bit of line value with the Jaguars, as I have them calculated as 8.5-point underdogs.

The Colts four wins have all come by double digits, their point differential (+32) suggests they’ve been better than their record, and they are healthier than they were early in the season, but they also have benefited from the 2nd best turnover margin in the league at +10, which is unlikely to continue, and they rank just 12th, 22nd, and 18th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. The Jaguars rank 18th, 28th, and 25th, but have been a little better in recent weeks and are the better side for pick ’em purposes as underdogs of this many points.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +10

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

This is a matchup between one of the best teams in the league and one of the worst, with the Bills ranking 1st in point differential and 2nd in mixed team efficiency, while the Jaguars rank 28th in point differential and 30th in mixed team efficiency. However, this line is pretty high, expecting the Bills to win by more than two full touchdowns on the road. I don’t have a strong lean on this game, but the Jaguars should be the right side, as this line has shifted from favoring the Bills by 10.5 on the early line last week to 15 this week.

Despite that big line movement, the public, which is due to get crushed by the sportsbooks one week this year, is all over the Bills. My calculated line has the Bills favored by 11 points, which isn’t that much line value, but it’s worth noting. As bad as the Jaguars have been, they lost by 18 to the Titans and 12 to the Cardinals, who are comparable teams to the Bills, which gives the Jaguars some hope for covering an inflated spread like this, as 15-point underdogs. I wouldn’t bet on this, but the Jaguars look like the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Buffalo Bills 30 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +15

Confidence: Low