Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)

I typically love going against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play, and this game is no exception. Originally 3-point favorites on the early line last week, the Steelers are now 6-point favorites after their big home blowout victory over the Carolina Panthers. That kind of big win has not been typical of the Steelers recently, as it was just their 5th win by more than a touchdown in their last 19 games, dating back to last season. Blowout wins typically aren’t predictive of another blowout win either, as teams that outscore their opponents by 31 points on average outscore their next opponent by 5.31 points and just 2.62 points away from home, as the Steelers are in this one. That game could have easily been a case of the Panthers being unprepared away from home on a short week, so I don’t want to put too much stock into it.

The Steelers also have struggled in this kind of games in the past, going 5-15 ATS since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year as non-divisional road favorites of 4.5 or more. Big Ben and company have a habit of putting up a dud outside of the division on the road against teams they’re supposed to beat and the Jaguars have had their number over the past year anyway. Jacksonville is not as good as they were last season, but they still have a top-5 defense and can make this a competitive game at home. They lost center Brandon Linder to injury last week, but it helps to have running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback AJ Bouye back healthy and the Steelers will be without a key defensive lineman with Stephon Tuitt injured. The Jaguars are worth a bet as 6-point home underdogs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) in London

These two teams almost met in the Super Bowl last year, but this year they’ve gotten off to disappointing 3-4 starts. The Jaguars have much more reason for concern though. While the Eagles’ 4 losses have come by a combined 15 points, the Jaguars are -30 in point differential and rank 15th in first down rate differential at +0.86%. The Jaguars defense has still played well overall, ranking 2nd in first down rate allowed at 30.73%, but their offense has been horrendous, ranking 27th in first down rate at 31.59%.

Blake Bortles’ regression to a subpar starting quarterback gets a lot of the blame, but the Jaguars have also had a lot of injuries around him. After losing likely #1 receiver Marqise Lee before the season even started, the Jaguars have lost running back Leonard Fournette, their top-3 tight ends, and their top-2 left tackles. They’ve run the ball somewhat effectively even without Fournette, but their offensive line has not played well and their receivers have consistently failed to get seperation.

They tried benching Bortles for backup Cody Kessler in their loss to the Texans last week, but that didn’t work, in large part because Kessler is a backup caliber quarterback who would not be an upgrade even on Bortles. Instead, the Jaguars will turn back to Bortles this week, as he at least gives them some upside under center, but he will be on a very short leash. An uncertain quarterback situation is never good for any offense, especially one with as little talent around the quarterback as the Jaguars. They’ll also be without top cornerback AJ Bouye with injury this week, as the injury bug has spread to their defense.

The Eagles, meanwhile, still resemble their Super Bowl team, ranking 6th in first down rate differential at +4.13%. They’ve just struggled in close games, most recently blowing a 17-0 4th quarter lead at home to the Panthers. They have some injuries, with defensive end Derek Barnett, safety Rodney McLeod, and running back Jay Ajayi all on injured reserve and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan yet to return from off-season back surgery, but they had injuries last year as well and are still a top-5 team on paper. They shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Jaguars in London, where the better team typically covers (favorites are 22-10 ATS all-time in neutral site games). I wish this line was still 3 where it briefly opened, but the shift is justifiable for Bouye’s mid-week injury and I have this line at -6 anyway, so the Eagles are worth a bet.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -3.5

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)

The Jaguars got off to a great start to the season, building on an AFC Championship appearance last year with a 2-0 start, including an impressive win over the Patriots, who eliminated them in the post-season last year. However, since that win the Jaguars have sputtered, losing 3 of 4 games, including their last 2 by a combined 49 points. Losing on the road in Kansas City wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the Jaguars were then dominated by a middle of the road Cowboys team last week.

Many point to the absence of running back Leonard Fournette, who has had just 20 carries in 2 games this season, while dealing with lingering hamstring injuries, but the Jaguars’ offense didn’t miss much of a beat without Fournette went he was hurt last season and the running game hasn’t really been the problem for the Jaguars this season, as backup running back TJ Yeldon has averaged 4.46 yards per carry on 67 carries. The Jaguars were also without Fournette in their game against New England, although that Patriots team was less than 100% with several key absences.

The bigger issue has been the declining play of quarterback Blake Bortles, who remains a highly inconsistent starting quarterback. Bortles has a 99.8 QB rating in the Jaguars 3 wins, but a 63.2 QB rating in their 3 losses and has struggled mightily in recent weeks after a hot start. The “real” Blake Bortles is probably somewhere right in the middle of what he’s been in their wins and what he’s been in their losses this season, but he’s a very frustrating quarterback to predict on a week-to-week basis. Assuming an average Bortles performance this week, I have this line calculated at Jacksonville -4, which is right about where this line is anyway, so I have no desire to bet either side in this one. For pick ‘em purposes, I would take the Texans, who have played a lot of close games this year (all 6 decided by 7 points or fewer), but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Houston +4.5

Confidence: None

Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

This line was Jacksonville -2 last week on the early line, but bizarrely it has since shifted to Jacksonville -3.5 and it’s not clear why. The Cowboys narrowly lost in Houston last week, while the Jaguars lost pretty easily in Kansas City, so nothing from last week’s results would seem to justify a significant movement like that. A point and a half might not seem like much, but about a sixth of games are decided by exactly 3 points, so this line moved across a very key number for seemingly no good reason other than heavy action on Jacksonville.

This line is the equivalent of Dallas being -9.5 in Jacksonville, which is what the Jets were a couple weeks back and the Cowboys are definitely more talented than the Jets. The Jaguars were also just -3 week 1 in New York against a Giants team that the Cowboys beat the following week fairly easily and have outplayed since that game. Even if this line was still at -2, we’d still be getting some line value with the Cowboys, as I have this line calculated at even.

A lot is made about the Cowboys’ offensive struggles, but they’ve had a top-10 defense this year and continue to play well despite the loss of linebacker Sean Lee due to injury. Ex-safety Byron Jones has broken out since being moved to cornerback, while the Cowboys’ young linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have played more than well enough to hold down the fort in Lee’s absence. The Jaguars have offensive issues without Leonard Fournette and down to their 3rd string left tackle, so the Cowboys can definitely keep this one close and even possibly pull off the upset. The Cowboys have not been a good home team in recent years (24-43-1 ATS since 2010), which is why this isn’t a bigger bet, but the Cowboys are worth a bet at +3.5.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Dallas Cowboys 19

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

This is arguably the biggest game of the week, a potential AFC Championship preview with potential playoff seeding implications. The Jaguars come in with one loss, by 3 points at home to the Titans, while the Chiefs are undefeated. Despite that, the Jaguars are actually a little bit better of a team. Both teams have one elite unit: the Jaguars’ defense ranks 1st in first down rate allowed at 26.61% and the Chiefs’ offense ranks 2nd (behind the Rams) in first down rate at 45.78%, but the Jaguars’ offense (24th in first down rate at 33.33%) is better than the Chiefs’ defense (32nd in first down rate allowed at 46.67%). This line at 3 in favor of the hometown Chiefs suggests these two teams are equal, so we’re getting some line value with the Jaguars.

The Jaguars are also in a better spot. While this is a big game for both teams, the Chiefs may have a little bit of split focus this week with a trip to New England on deck, with the Jaguars only have the Cowboys on deck. Underdogs are 80-45 ATS before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, which the Chiefs will be next week. There’s not quite enough here to bet on the Jaguars as mere 3 point underdogs, but if the line moves up to 3.5 before gametime I may reconsider.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)

The Jets seemed to many to have a breakout week 1 performance on national television, beating the Lions by the final score of 48-17 on Monday Night Football. That win was not as impressive as the final score suggested though.  The Jets finished with just the 7th best first down rate differential at +5.94% that week and didn’t have a touchdown drive of more than 6 plays all game, benefitting from short fields off turnovers (5 takeaways), big plays on offense (2 touchdowns of 40+ yards), and return touchdowns (2 return touchdowns), all of which tend to be fluky and inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Since then, they’ve lost to the Dolphins and Browns, knocking their expectations back down to earth. They have upside, but on paper they have a bottom-5 roster and they could easily continue playing like it.

The Jaguars beat up on teams like the Jets all last season, playing arguably the easiest schedule in the NFL and winning 8 games by 12 points or more. They’re not in a good spot though, as they could easily overlook the Jets with the Chiefs on deck. The Jets, meanwhile, should be focused with only a home game against the Broncos on deck. Favorites are 72-120 ATS before being underdogs (which the Jaguars will be in Kansas City) when their opponent will next be favorites (which the Jets will be at home). I’m taking the Jaguars and expecting a blowout, especially with the Jaguars coming off of a disappointing home loss to a banged up Tennessee team, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. We’re not getting enough line value at 7.5.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -7.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0)

This is probably the toughest game of the week to pick. A line is posted at Jacksonville -10, but we won’t know until tomorrow if Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota will be healthy enough to play, after missing last week and being limited all week in practice with a nerve injury in his elbow. If Mariota plays, this 10 point line is probably way too big, although Mariota has struggled when he’s tried to play through injuries in the past.

If Mariota doesn’t play and Blaine Gabbert starts against the Jaguars, this line is pretty appropriate. The Jaguars don’t have any upcoming distractions, with only a home game against the Jets on deck, and favorites of 7+ are 49-29 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again, so they could easily take care of business against an inferior Tennessee team starting a backup quarterback. I’m taking the Titans for now on the off change Mariota can play and keep this one close, but I may change my pick in the morning if Mariota is ruled out.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Tennessee Titans 14

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +10

Confidence: None