New York Jets at Los Angeles Chargers: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-7)

In 2019, the Chargers were a solid team, but went just 5-11 because of a ridiculous 2-9 record in one score games. That type of thing tends to be very inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, but somehow the Chargers have been even worse in close games this season, going 1-7 in one score games. Rookie starting quarterback Justin Herbert has had even worse luck, as the Chargers one one-score victory came in week 1 in Cincinnati with veteran Tyrod Taylor under center. 

All seven of Herbert’s losses were one score games, even though he’s played a pretty tough schedule in those seven losses, with five of the losses coming against teams that are currently 6-3 or better, including near victories over the Saints, Buccaneers, and Chiefs. Meanwhile, Herbert’s only victory came by 10 over the Jaguars in a game in which the Jaguars scored on special teams and the Chargers won the first down rate battle by 12.24%. 

The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league, but the Jets are the one team that is clearly worse than them. Not only do they rank dead last in my roster rankings and in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -7.87% (the Jaguars are 31st at -5.43%), but they’ve lost every game they’ve played and most of them haven’t been particularly close, with 8 losses by 8 points or more and an average margin of defeat of 16.3 points per game. The Chargers are 9.5 point favorites in this game, but wouldn’t even have to come that close to the Jets’ average margin of defeat to cover this spread. 

The Chargers have played much better than their record and are arguably the healthiest they’ve been all season right now, with key players like defensive ends Joey Bosa (2 games missed) and Melvin Ingram (3 games), defensive tackle Justin Jones (3 games missed), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (4 games missed), wide receiver Mike Williams (1 game missed), and right guard Trai Turner (7 games missed) all being available for this game, so you can definitely make the case that they’re at least an average team. I don’t know if I like the Chargers quite enough for them to be worth betting, but they should be the right side and I ultimately may end up wagering on them.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 New York Jets 12

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -9.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2020 Week 9 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (2-5) at New York Jets (0-8)

With the Patriots falling to 2-5 in their first season without Tom Brady, there has been a lot of talk that the Patriots made a mistake not trying harder to bring Brady back. However, I don’t know how this would have gone much differently even with Brady, minus Cam Newton’s brief bout with COVID that caused him to miss the Kansas City game and may have disrupted his next couple weeks. We saw Brady with this receiving corps last season and they were not a good offense, ranking 21st in first down rate, despite a much easier schedule than this season, when they rank 13th in schedule adjusted first down rate. It’s not like they were an offensive juggernaut and lost Brady and now they’ve fallen off a cliff. Brady looks good in Tampa Bay, but he has one of the best supporting casts in the league.

By far the biggest reason for their struggles winning games this season has been their dropoff on defense, which has fallen from being by far the top defense in the league by first down rate allowed to ranking just 16th in schedule adjusted first down rate allowed. Defensive performance tends to be much more inconsistent year-to-year and week-to-week than offensive performance, but for the Patriots, the reason for their dropoff is clear. Of their top-8 players in terms of snaps played from last year’s defense, just two (Devin McCourty and JC Jackson) were active for last week’s loss in Buffalo.

The Patriots have still been better than their record though, as they rank 18th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at 0.18% and have been competitive in all but one of their losses. Both of their wins have come by double digits against competent opponents, but they are 0-3 in games decided by one score or less, which doesn’t even include a Kansas City game that was close throughout and that the Patriots easily could have won if they didn’t have to start a backup quarterback.

This week, the Patriots could get one of their top players back, with top cornerback Stephon Gilmore returning to practice after missing his first game of the season last week, and the Patriots also get a much easier matchup, going to New York to face a Jets team that has been the worst team in the league this season and that won’t have the benefit of any fans in the stands. The Jets also won’t have quarterback Sam Darnold due to a re-aggravation of his shoulder injury and, while he doesn’t been great this season any by stretch, he’s still been measurably better than washed up backup Joe Flacco, with whom this offense has been utterly inept this season, including one of the worst offensive performances I’ve seen in a while against the Dolphins in his most recent start.

The Jets are getting healthier in other areas, including wide receiver, but they still rank dead last in my roster rankings and they also rank last by a significant margin in schedule adjusted first down rate differential this season, at -8.78%. Not only have they not won a game, but they haven’t even come particularly close, with their closest loss coming by 8 points and their average loss by 18 points. This line jumped from 7 and 7.5 to 9.5 when the Darnold news was announced, but I have this line calculated at New England -12, as the Patriots are at least a middling team that should be able to handle the Jets like everyone else has. 

This isn’t a good spot for the Patriots, with a home game against the Ravens on deck, as road favorites cover at a 38.7% rate over the past 30 seasons before being home underdogs, but with the Patriots on a 4-game losing streak and needing a win just to keep their season alive, I would expect them to be focused for this one. I would probably need Stephon Gilmore to be active for the Patriots to be worth betting, but they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.

New England Patriots 21 New York Jets 9

Pick against the spread: New England -9.5

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs: 2020 Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)

This is the biggest line of the year so far, favoring the Chiefs at home by 19.5 points. Normally I don’t like to bet on massive favorites like this and for good reason, as favorites are 17.5+ are 7-15 ATS over the past 30 seasons (though 3-1 ATS over the past 8 seasons), but this line arguably isn’t big enough and it’s smaller than it was on the early line last week, when the Chiefs were favored by 21. I’m guessing the Jets’ close game against the Bills last weekend is the reason for the movement, but that 8-point loss to an overrated Bills team is the Jets’ closest game of the year and they have been outscored by an average of 16.9 points per game in their 7 losses. It’s not hard to imagine the Jets losing by 20 or more against arguably the top team in the league.

The Chiefs are also in a great spot, as they have another easy home game on deck, while the Jets have a divisional clash with the Patriots and could easily not be as focused as they need to be this week to keep this one close. Favorites of 6+ are 82-42 ATS since 2008 before being favorites of 6+ again the following week when their opponents will next be underdogs of 6+ again the following week and all three of those conditions are likely to be true in this one. I wouldn’t make this a huge bet, but I see no reason other than fluky plays or a backdoor cover that this game is within three touchdowns.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 New York Jets 6

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -19.5

Confidence: Medium

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: 2020 Week 7 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (4-2) at New York Jets (0-6)

The Jets are not just the last remaining winless team and the worst team in the league; they’re the worst team in the league by a wide margin and one of the worst teams of all time statistically. None of their games have been decided by one score or less. They haven’t been remotely competitive in any of their games, with their best single week first down rate differential being their -6.56% mark in week 2 in a 31-13 loss to the 49ers. They’ve lost by an average of 18.3 points per game and their -110 point differential is the 9th worst through 6 games since the merger. In terms of first down rate differential, the Jets are at -11.68% when adjusted for schedule and no other team is worse than -6.79%.

The Jets can look to last year’s Dolphins, who were 0-6 with a -148 point differential and a -13.68% first down rate differential through 6 games, before eventually going 5-5 over their final 10 games, but the Dolphins had a capable veteran quarterback to turn to in Ryan Fitzpatrick and were well coached by first year head coach Brian Flores, two things the Jets don’t have going for them. 

The Jets are getting healthier on offense, which has been the worse side of the ball, as not only will they have Sam Darnold back from a two-game absence, but he could have his top-3 wide receivers all healthy for the first time all year, with Jamison Crowder returning three weeks ago, Breshad Perriman returning last week, and rookie Denzel Mims likely to make his season debut this season. However, even with better health, the Jets still stand out as dead last in my roster rankings.

This week, the Jets host the Bills and are 10-point home underdogs. Earlier this week, I was thinking of making a small bet on the Bills just as a fade of the Jets, who have yet to cover this season, but the injury developments have changed my mind, as not only are the Jets getting healthier, but the Bills, who haven’t played as well over the past two weeks, are going in the other direction injury wise. They may get linebacker Matt Milano back from injury, but wide receiver John Brown, tight end Dawson Knox, guard Cody Ford, cornerbacks Josh Norman and Levi Wallace, and possibly top cornerback Tre’Davious White are all expected to be out this week. 

This line has shifted from -12.5 earlier this week down to -10 because of the injury news, but I still don’t like betting on a huge road favorite when they’re banged up and could potentially be sleep walking through the game, with a much bigger game against the Patriots on deck. The Bills are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes now, but if both Milano and White are ruled out, I may flip this pick, as I don’t have a strong lean either way.

Final Update: The injury report is better than I was expecting, as the Bills will have both Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano, while the Jets will be missing their top receiver Jamison Crowder in a surprise inactive (as well as talented guard Alex Lewis, but that was known earlier this week). I still wouldn’t bet on the Bills, but I’m pumping this up to low confidence.

Buffalo Bills 24 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -10

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: 2020 Week 6 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-5) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)

This game wasn’t originally on the schedule last week (part of the games that were moved around to accommodate COVID cancellations), but it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins would have been favored on the early line by 9 like they are now. With the Dolphins sitting at 1-3 last week, it’s more likely they would have been viewed as around 4.5 or 5 point favorites in this game. This line is where it is because the Dolphins are coming off of a convincing upset victory in San Francisco by score of 43-17, but significant line movements like that tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and the 49ers are one of the most injury plagued teams in the league, missing several key defenders and having to bench a clearly not healthy Jimmy Garoppolo for CJ Beathard last week.

That being said, this line is actually justifiable, given how bad the Jets are. The Jets rank dead last by a significant margin in first down rate differential at -11.89% and in my roster rankings. They haven’t been competitive in any of their games, despite a middling schedule. They just cut arguably their most talented skill position player, they are starting their backup quarterback Joe Flacco, who has looked totally washed up this season, and they have one of the worst head coaches in the league in Adam Gase. I don’t have the Dolphins ranked highly at all (23rd in my roster rankings, 25th in first down rate differential), but they’re more talented and way better coached than the Jets. My calculated line is Miami -8, so we’re not getting any real line value with either side.

With that in mind, I like the Dolphins a decent amount this week, because they’re in a much better spot than the Jets. While the Jets have to turn around and play a much tougher divisional opponent next week in the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins are going into a week 7 bye. The Jets are currently 10-point home underdogs against the Bills in that game on the early line and teams are 44-106 ATS since 2010 before being home underdogs of a touchdown or more, including 17-44 ATS as underdogs of a touchdown of more before being home underdogs of a touchdown or more, like the Jets are this week. It’s very tough for a bad team to keep a game close against a much better opponent when they have another tough game on deck. On the flipside of that, home favorites of a touchdown or more are 62-26 ATS since 2002 before a bye, so the Dolphins should be fully focused. There isn’t enough here for Miami to be worth betting, but they should be the right side.

Miami Dolphins 24 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Miami -9

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets: 2020 Week 5 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-2) at New York Jets (0-4)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Jets have been inarguably the worst team in the league through 4 games, as they rank dead last by a wide margin in point differential (-66, next closest is -49) and first down rate differential (-11.66%, next closest is -8.84%). The way they’ve played, it’s hard to imagine them being competitive against anyone outside of the worst few teams in the league. They were 8.5-point home underdogs in this home game against the Cardinals on the early line last week, but we’re getting a smaller number now, with this line dropping down to 7, in large part due to the Cardinals losing their second straight game last week.

The Cardinals started out hot with two straight wins, but the public has soured on them as they’ve fallen down to 2-2, including upset losses to the Lions and Panthers. However, they won the first down rate battle against the Lions by 10.50%, only losing by 3 because of a -3 turnover margin, which is a very inconsistent metric week-to-week, and then against the Panthers, they were without three defensive starters, two of whom are expected to return this week, most importantly safety Budda Baker, who is one of their top defensive players. 

Even with losing the first down rate battle against the Panthers, the Cardinals still rank 9th in the NFL in first down rate differential at +2.81%. Their 14th ranked defense probably won’t be as good going forward, as they have similar personnel to last year when they finished 30th in first down rate allowed, but they should still finish better defensively than they did last year and their 10th ranked offense could easily keep this up. Their offense finished last season 18th in first down rate and now they have Kyler Murray in his second year, a full season of Kenyan Drake, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins as a #1 wide receiver. Even if their defense falls off, this should still be a competitive mid-level team because of their offense.

On the other hand, the Jets could be a little better than they’ve been in recent weeks, for two reasons. For one, they are getting running back Le’Veon Bell back from injury, giving them arguably their best skill position player back a week after the Jets got top pass catcher Jamison Crowder back from injury. The second reason is that quarterback Sam Darnold is out with an injury for the Jets, which could prove to be a blessing in disguise, given how badly he’s been playing lately. 

That’s not to say Flacco is definitely going to be an upgrade, as Flacco hasn’t been a capable starter in a few seasons and now is in his age 35 season and coming off of a major injury, but he’s a very experienced veteran who could stabilize the position a little for a couple games. I’m still taking the Cardinals, but there are enough reasons to think the Jets will be better this week than they’ve been this season, so this is a no confidence pick. The most likely result might be a push.

Final Update: The Cardinals have a bit of a surprise absence with safety Chris Banjo being unable to return from his one week absence despite practicing throughout the work. Budda Baker’s return is a much bigger deal, but the Cardinals will still be without a pair of defensive players with Devon Kennard also out. Since I was barely on the Cardinals to begin with, I’m flipping this to the Jets, still for a no confidence pick.

Arizona Cardinals 27 New York Jets 20

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +7

Confidence: None

Denver Broncos at New York Jets: 2020 Week 4 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (0-3) at New York Jets (0-3)

This is a tough one, because there are really no good arguments for either side. Both teams are 0-3 and deservedly so and, with the line being even, this is a straight win/loss pick ‘em. The Broncos came into the season with a lot of potential, but they’ve been derailed by injuries, losing starting quarterback Drew Lock, top wide receiver Courtland Sutton, starting right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, top defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, stud edge defender Von Miller, starting linebacker Mark Barron, and cornerback AJ Bouye already in this young season. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel proved to be in over his head and has been pulled for third string quarterback Brett Rypien, a 2019 undrafted free agent who will make his first start in this game.

The Jets, meanwhile, came into the season with much less potential. Already an underwhelming team, the Jets lost linebacker CJ Mosley to an opt-out and traded Jamal Adams to the Seahawks before the season, stripping them of their top-2 defensive players before the year even began. Things have gotten even worse though, primarily due to injuries. The Jets haven’t quite had the Broncos’ injury issues, but they played last week without their top-3 wide receivers and their starting running back, leaving them devoid of skill position talent on offense. Quarterback Sam Darnold also hasn’t progressed in his third year in the league, so this offense has been tremendously stagnant, with a 29.14% first down rate differential that is not only dead last in the league, but 9.88% less than league average.

The Broncos have been the better team this season, ranking 22nd in first down rate differential (-2.24%), as compared to dead last 32nd (-10.65%) for the Jets, but I don’t really want to take an unproven third string quarterback on a short week on the road, even if it is against a team like the Jets in a year where homefield advantage is diminished. My roster rankings, which takes into account the Broncos’ quarterback situation, has the Broncos 31st and the Jets 32nd, giving the Broncos just a half point edge. Ultimately, this decision is going to come down to injuries. I’m taking the Jets for a no confidence pick, but they could be without talented rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton and/or could get wide receiver Jamison Crowder back to give them some much needed skill position talent. Depending on the injury report, I may change this to a no confidence pick the other way.

New York Jets 16 Denver Broncos 14

Pick against the spread: NY Jets PK

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts: 2020 Week 3 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1)

The Colts surprisingly lost week 1 in Jacksonville, but that game largely swung on a -2 turnover margin by the Colts, which tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, and the Colts bounced back in a big way with a 28-11 home victory over the Vikings last week. In total, the Colts have the 5th highest first down rate differential in the league at +5.33%. In early, but that’s in line with where I had them before the season. 

The Colts were just a middling team last season, but they get an upgrade at quarterback in Philip Rivers, they get their #1 wide receiver back from an injury riddled season, and they add a much needed difference maker on defense in DeForest Buckner. They haven’t been immune to the injury bug, most notably losing safety Malik Hooker for the season with a torn achilles, but they still rank 8th in my roster rankings overall and are healthier than most of the league

The Colts also have a very easy matchup this week, hosting a Jets team that entered the year as one of the worst teams in the league and that has only gotten worse due to injuries. The Jets lost their two best defensive players before the season even started, with linebacker CJ Mosley opting out and safety Jamal Adams getting traded to the Seahawks, and they have since lost their top-3 wide receivers (Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims), their starting running back Le’Veon Bell, and their starting right tackle George Fant due to injuries. Through two weeks, they rank dead last in first down rate differential at -8.85% and they’re arguably the worst team in the league overall in their current state.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the Colts, as this line has shifted from Indianapolis -7 on the early line last week to -12 this week. The Colts should still be the right side because this should be a blowout, but my calculated line of -13.5 isn’t much higher than this actual line, so there isn’t enough here for the Colts to be worth betting. The Colts are my pick, but for pick ‘em purposes only.

Indianapolis Colts 27 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -12

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets: 2020 Week 2 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)

Going into the season, I thought the 49ers had a good chance to continue being a top level team after making the Super Bowl last year, as they didn’t have the factors that usually indicate a coming regression by a top level team. They didn’t benefit from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+4). They didn’t win an unsustainably high amount of close games (5-3 in games decided by 7 points or fewer). They didn’t stay unsustainably healthy, actually having the 6th most adjusted games lost to injury of any team in the league last season. They also mostly avoided the significant personnel losses that high level teams often have, ranking 4th in the NFL in snaps returned from last season and generally doing a good job of replacing the few key players they lost. They also brought back all key members of their coaching staff. 

However, injuries have really taken their toll on this team thus far and were a big part of the reason why they fell flat in a game they should have won at home against the Cardinals. The 49ers were without their starting receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and stud tight end George Kittle spent most of the game as a decoy after suffering an injury of his own. Aiyuk is back this week, but Kittle will be out, as will top cornerback Richard Sherman (47 snaps last week) and possibly talented edge defender Dee Ford (46 snaps last week). In their current injury situation, the 49ers have fallen to 12th in my roster rankings.

Fortunately, the 49ers get an easy matchup this week, as not only are the Jets one of the worst teams in the league, but they have their own injury problems, down starting running back Le’Veon Bell, starting wide receivers Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder, and possibly top linebacker Avery Williamson. We’re not getting any line value with the 49ers as 7-point road favorites, but the 49ers are also in a good spot with only another easy matchup with the Giants on deck, as teams are 63-42 ATS as 6+ point favorites since 2016 before being 6+ point favorites again the following week. I don’t have much confidence in this banged up 49ers team, but they should be the right side.

San Francisco 49ers 28 New York Jets 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -7

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills: 2020 Week 1 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0)

I am not as high on the Bills as most, as their success last season came almost entirely against easier opponents and now they have a much tougher schedule, but I’m surprised they are only 6.5 point home favorites over the Jets. The Bills’ schedule will get tougher this season, but it doesn’t start that way as the Jets enter the season with a bottom-5 roster. The Jets finished last season 26th in first down rate differential and, while that was partially due to their significant amount of games lost to injury, most of the players who missed time are either irrelevant or no longer with the team, including opted out linebacker CJ Mosley. 

The Jets also are already pretty banged up to start the season, missing starting wide receiver Denzel Sims and possibly safety Marcus Maye. The Jets are also without their other incumbent starting safety Jamal Adams, their top defensive player a year ago, who was traded to the Seahawks. The Jets have a healthy Sam Darnold under center, but their -1.42% first down rate differential in his 13 starts last season would have been just 20th in the NFL over the full season, despite the fact that the Jets faced a very easy schedule. 

Darnold will need to make a huge leap forward to carry the rest of this roster into playoff contention against a tougher schedule in 2020, without defensive leader Jamal Adams. They should be underdogs of more than 6.5 in Buffalo, even with pandemic restrictions limiting fans. I have this line calculated at Buffalo -8 and while I’m not going to bet on this one yet, if Maye is ruled out and this line remains the same, I would recommend betting the Bills.

Buffalo Bills 23 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -6.5

Confidence: Low