Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Indianapolis Colts (7-8)

I really messed up not taking the Jaguars last week. The Jaguars were at the top of my underrated list for most of the second half of the season, but I didn’t want to bet on them last week because they had just fired their head coach and were facing another team on my underrated list, the Tennessee Titans, even though we were getting good line value with the Jaguars as 5.5 point home underdogs in that game. Turns out a coaching change might have been exactly what this team needed as they blew out a good Tennessee team 38-17. Part of that is because of the injury to Marcus Mariota, but the Jaguars were in control of that game long before Tennessee’s quarterback got hurt.

Unfortunately, that win cost us a lot of line value with the Jaguars this week, as the Colts have gone from 7 point favorites on the early line to 4.5 point favorites this week. At 7, this would have been pick of the week material, but about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer so I think the Jaguars are still worth a bet at 4.5. The Jaguars are 3-12, but they are far from the worst team in the league. In addition to 7 of 12 losses coming by less than a touchdown, they’ve been killed by a -16 turnover margin. Fortunately for them, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For that reason, I love to bet on teams that have poor turnover margins, as they tend to be undervalued. In terms of first down rate differential, the Jaguars rank 14th and actually have a +17 first down margin on the season. The Colts, meanwhile, rank 19th in that metric. This should be a closer game than this line suggests.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +4.5

Confidence: Medium

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Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (8-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

Both of these teams used to top my underrated list, but have fallen down the list in recent weeks. In Tennessee’s case, it’s just a matter of public opinion catching up to how good they actually are, following upset victories over Green Bay, Denver, and Kansas City in recent weeks. They’re still an underrated team that ranks 6th in first down rate differential, but they’re not underrated like they once were. In Jacksonville’s case, it’s because they have played especially poorly in the past 2 weeks and just fired their head coach Gus Bradley.

Against the Vikings at home, the Jaguars lost the first down rate battle by 8.86% and last week against the Texans they lost the first down rate by 10.77%. It was only a 1-point loss, but that was despite the fact that the Jaguars won the turnover battle and returned a punt for a touchdown. They managed just 9 first downs all game, as compared to 23 for the Texans, who are not a tough opponent. They still rank 17th in first down rate differential on the season, but with Bradley gone and just two games left in the season, it’s possible this team could quit. For that reason, I’m taking the Titans, but I couldn’t be confident in them at all as 5.5 point road favorites in what could be a trap game against a Jaguars team that has still played a lot better than their 2-12 record would suggest, especially on the defensive.

Tennessee Titans 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -5.5

Confidence: None

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Houston Texans (7-6)

The Jaguars are on an 8-game losing streak and are coming off of one of their least impressive performances of the season, losing at home by 9 despite winning the turnover battle, against a Minnesota team that was missing their best defensive player, safety Harrison Smith. However, typically, it’s a good idea to bet on teams on long losing streaks, especially as road underdogs, as they tend to be undervalued. Road underdogs on a 7+ game losing streak are 56-30 ATS since 1989.

I think the Jaguars are definitely undervalued here as 6 point underdogs in Houston. The Texans are 7-6, but they aren’t winning big. Their 7 wins have come by a total of 41 points (an average of 5.86 points per game), while the 6 losses have come by a total of 86 points (an average of 14.33 points per game), giving them a -45 point differential that ranks just 26th in the NFL. The Jaguars, meanwhile, aren’t exactly getting blown out as their last 6 losses have come by a combined 41 points, an average of 6.83 points per game. The Texans are also probably the easiest opponent the Jaguars have faced in recent weeks. They lost by 3 to the Texans at home week 10, but other than that their last game that was easier than this was their win in Chicago week 6.

Even in that week 10 loss, the Jaguars won the first down battle 23-16 and moved the chains at a 4.74% higher rate. The Jaguars have actually won the first down battle on the season as well, as they rank 14th in first down rate differential, while the Texans rank 28th. Despite their 7-6 record, the Texans are -10 in offensive touchdown differential (4th worst in the NFL), while the Jaguars are just -4. The Jaguars’ -98 point differential is worse than Houston’s, but that’s largely because of a -17 turnover margin and turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis (on average a team with a +3 turnover margin in a game will have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week, the same average as teams that had a -3 turnover margin). Outside of those 17 snaps, the Jaguars have been the better team this season. I like the Jaguars a lot as 6 point road underdogs.

Houston Texans 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6

Confidence: High

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Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

The Vikings have a strong defense, allowing the 6th lowest first down rate in the NFL, but they were dealt a huge blow when they lost Harrison Smith with an ankle injury that could sideline him for the rest of the year. As valuable to Minnesota’s defense as Earl Thomas is to Seattle’s, Smith is one of the top defensive players in the entire NFL. This defense won’t be the same without him. In fact, I think the Jaguars’ actually are the ones with the better defense in this matchup, as they rank 7th in first down rate allowed and are relatively healthy right now.

The Jaguars’ offense hasn’t been good this year, but they might actually have the better offense in this game too, with Minnesota entering 30th in first down rate. The Jaguars might have the better offense and defense and are at home, but are underdogs of 3.5 points because the Vikings are 6-6 and 2-10. The big difference between these two teams: the Vikings have a +13 turnover margin and a +6 return touchdown margin, while the Jaguars have a -18 turnover margin and a -4 return touchdown margin. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis though (and, as a result, return touchdowns are as well). On average a team with a +3 turnover margin in a game will have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week, the same average as teams that had a -3 turnover margin.

For this reason, I love betting on teams with poor turnover margins and against teams with great turnover margins. It might sound counterintuitive, but these two teams are about as far apart as you can get in turnover margins and return touchdown margins and we’re still only talking about a difference of about 30 snaps, when both teams have played about 1500 snaps this year each. Football is a short season and it’s easy to get caught up in records, but records can be skewed by outlier snaps. For the majority of the snaps this year, the Jaguars have outplayed the Vikings. Close to 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so I love getting the Jaguars as 3.5 point home underdogs.

Jacksonville Jaguars 16 Minnesota Vikings 13 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3.5

Confidence: High

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Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (7-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

The Jaguars have one of the worst records in the league at 2-9, but are far from one of the worst teams in the league. In addition to 6 of 9 losses coming by less than a touchdown, they’ve been killed by a -15 turnover margin. Fortunately for them, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For that reason, I love to bet on teams that have poor turnover margins, as they tend to be undervalued. If the Jaguars play turnover neutral football going forward, which isn’t crazy considering how inconsistent turnover margins are, that’s going to have a noticeable effect on the scoreboard.

Outside of those 15 snaps, they’ve played pretty well on the season, especially on defense. They rank 10th in first down rate differential, led by a defense that allows the 8th lowest first down rate in the league and that has been played very well in recent weeks. They don’t get a lot of attention because they’ve only forced 7 takeaways, but the takeaways will come and the talent is definitely there. The Jaguars actually rank one spot better than the Broncos in first down rate differential, as the Broncos enter in 11th.

The Broncos are fully healthy on defense for the first time all season, but they’ll be without quarterback Trevor Siemian with injury, leaving rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch to start. Lynch struggled mightily in a spot start earlier this year, but the first round rookie could be better his 2nd time around. Still, I like the Jaguars’ chances of not only covering as 4.5 point underdogs, but pulling off the straight up upset here at home. They’re a very underrated team and the Broncos are coming off of a grueling overtime loss to the Chiefs. It didn’t end in a tie, but it took the whole overtime period, meaning they played about as much football as they would have in a tie. Unsurprisingly, teams are 5-13 ATS off of a tie since 1989. This is my Pick of the Week and the money line is also a good bet as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +180

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) at Buffalo Bills (5-5)

Last week, I took the Jaguars as 6.5 point underdogs in Detroit for a big play and it was one of the most frustrating losses I can remember. Despite scoring on both a punt return and an interception return, the Lions led by only 4 with about 2 and a half minutes left in the game, facing 4th and 3 at midfield. The Jaguars were set to get the ball back and, even if they didn’t score on the following drive, the cover would remain intact with a 4 point Detroit win. Instead, a Jacksonville defender jumped offsides on a hard count on 4th and 3, giving Detroit another set of downs and allowing them to eventually kick a field goal to go up by 7 and get the front door cover.

Ironically, if the Lions had gotten one more first down, they would have been able to run the clock out and would have left with a 4 point victory and a Jacksonville cover, but the Jaguars’ stout run defense didn’t let that happen. Despite holding the Lions to just 14 first downs and an average of less than a yard per carry, Jacksonville ended up not only losing, but failing to cover as 6.5 point underdogs as well. It wouldn’t have been so bad if this game wasn’t also going on at the same time as Minnesota/Arizona, in which my Arizona bet failed because the Vikings had not one, not two return touchdowns of 100+ yards in a 30-24 win, the first team to have two return touchdowns of 100+ yards in the same game in 50 years. Two games in the 1 PM time slot, four return touchdowns against me, two brutal losses.

The one benefit of Jacksonville losing is we get good value with them again this week. I’m not going to let what happened last week deter me from taking them again this week, as last week’s game was an obvious case of right analysis, but wrong result. The Jaguars have one of the worst records in the league at 2-8, but are far from one of the worst teams in the league. They’ve just been killed by a -15 turnover margin. Fortunately for them, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For that reason, I love to bet on teams that have poor turnover margins, as they tend to be undervalued. If the Jaguars play turnover neutral football going forward, which isn’t crazy considering how inconsistent turnover margins are, that’s going to have a noticeable effect on the scoreboard.

Even despite their issues with turnovers, just 3 of their 8 losses have come by more than a touchdown this season, relevant because this line is at 7.5 in favor of Buffalo. The Bills are a middling team at best, so this line is way too high. The Bills are expected to get Sammy Watkins back from injury this week, but all indications are that he’s going to play a very limited role, so I’m not too worried about him. In terms of first down rate differential, the Jaguars actually rank higher than the Bills, entering this game 9th in that metric, while Bills enter in 21st. You wouldn’t know it from their record, but they have 15 more first downs than their opponents on the season.

Another good thing about Jacksonville’s loss in Detroit last week is it puts them in a good spot this week. Teams are 138-104 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 110-71 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 232-246 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.80 points per game, as opposed to 330-462 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. Jacksonville is my Pick of the Week. Hopefully I’ll have better luck this time around.

Buffalo Bills 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) at Detroit Lions (5-4)

After a busy off-season in which the Jaguars had among the most cap space in the NFL and spent accordingly, the Jaguars entered the season with high expectations and have had an incredibly disappointing season, falling to 2-7 last week with loss to the Houston Texans. Their last 2 losses have been especially painful, as they lost by 5 in Kansas City despite losing the turnover battle by 4 and then they last week they lost at home to the Texans by just 3 despite losing the turnover battle by 2. They’ve held the Chiefs and Texans to a combined 26 first downs and have accumulated 48 first downs of their own, but couldn’t win either game because of turnovers.

That’s been the case all season, as they rank 9th in first down rate differential, but have just 2 wins because of a league worst -14 turnover margin. Fortunately, turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For example, teams that have a -4 turnover differential in a game on average, have a +0.1 turnover margin the following week. Aside from turnovers, they’ve actually played pretty well this season and if we assume turnover neutral football going forward, they figure to have better luck winning some of these close games (4 losses by 5 points or fewer) and should win more games going forward, including possibly this game against the Lions.

Despite the fact that they’ve only had 3 losses by more than 5 points this season even with all of their turnover problems, the Jaguars are underdogs of 6.5 points at home this week in Detroit, far too many considering the Jaguars are significantly better than their record. The Lions, meanwhile, are not quite as good as their record suggests, as they enter this game 22nd in first down rate differential. All 9 of their games have been close and most could have gone either way; their biggest win came by 6 points in overtime against the Vikings. Given that, I’m not sure why they’re expected to win by at least a touchdown against the Jaguars.

The Lions are also in a tough spot as they have to turn around and play again next week on Thursday Night Football, their annual Thanksgiving home game. Favorites are 50-82 ATS before playing on Thursday Night Football since 2008. The Lions have never been good before these Thanksgiving games anyway, going 6-10 ATS since 2001 the week before Thanksgiving. The Jaguars, meanwhile, go to Buffalo next week. The early line has them as at least 6 point underdogs in that game, like they are here, and underdogs of 6 or more are 48-76 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more. However, they don’t deserve to be underdogs of that many in either game. If they have a strong performance this week, perhaps the line will shift under 6 next week. If not, I will probably be taking the Jaguars again next week. They’re one of the most underrated teams in the league because people don’t realize they’ve played well other than turnovers and a smart pick here at 6.5.

Detroit Lions 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6.5

Confidence: High

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