New York Jets at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Jets (4-11) at New England Patriots (10-5)

I bet on the Patriots as 13-point favorites last week at home against the Bills. They nearly covered, holding a 24-6 lead with 2 minutes left in the game before allowing the backdoor cover, but I never really felt comfortable with that bet during the game. Both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski seem to be playing at less than 100% and part of the reason the Patriots didn’t cover is because Brady was pulled with 7 minutes left in the game, an unusual move by Bill Belichick. Gronkowski also played less than his normal snaps and was frequently subbed for on run plays for blocking tight end Dwayne Allen.

The Patriots are in a similar spot this week, as 13-point home favorites, about to go into a first round bye if they can take care of business, a much needed first down bye for a team that can still be dangerous if healthy. They’re not healthy right now though, so I’m hesitant to take them, but the Jets are not the Bills, who have a legitimately good pass defense, which contributed to the Patriots’ passing game struggles. The Jets’ offense has been better in recent weeks, since Sam Darnold returned from injury, but the same could be said of the Bills with Josh Allen before last week.

Unlike the Bills, the Jets’ defense has gone in the other direction since Darnold’s return. They rank 31st in the NFL in first down rate allowed over the past 4 weeks at 41.38% and the obvious culprit is the absence of linebacker Darron Lee, who was suspended for the final 4 games of the season. Lee helped hold Patriots running back James White to 1 catch on 5 targets in the previous meeting between these two teams and also helped on Rob Gronkowski, who was limited to 3 catches.

The Jets did beat the Bills in Buffalo a few weeks ago without Lee, but the Bills won the first down rate battle in that game by 2.66% and had one of their better offensive weeks of the season. On the season, the Jets rank 31st in the NFL in first down rate differential at -6.09%, only ahead of the Cardinals. We’re getting some line value with the Patriots, so they should be the right side this week, but I’m hesitant to bet on them because they could pull Brady late and allow the backdoor cover again.

New England Patriots 27 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: New England -13

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 16 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-9) at New England Patriots (9-5)

The Patriots have lost back-to-back games for the second time this season, but that’s been a very rare occurrence for them in recent years. In fact, this is just the 8th time the Patriots have done so in the past 15 seasons. Even rarer is the Patriots losing 3 in a row, as that hasn’t happened since 2002. The Patriots need to do more than just win here to cover as 13-point home favorites, but history suggests they should be able to do that as well. Not only have they won their last 9 games after back-to-back losses, but they’ve also covered in 8 of those 9 games. All in all, the Patriots are 49-26 ATS off of a loss in the Bill Belichick era.

The Patriots have also been a lot better at home than on the road this season. Home/road disparities tend to be random more than anything, but the Patriots have been dominant at home for two decades (138-26 since 2001 with a +10.93 points per game margin) and they’ve played noticeably better overall this season than they’ve shown in their last two road games, so they’re a little undervalued right now at New England -13. The Bills have played significantly better offensively since getting quarterback Josh Allen back from injury a few weeks ago, but their defense is not as good as it was a couple weeks ago, with stud every down linebacker Matt Milano and talented slot cornerback Taron Johnson now out for the season.

With those two players out, I have this line calculated at New England -17. That might seem high, but the Patriots have won 4 of their 6 home games by at least two touchdowns, with the only exceptions being the Texans and Chiefs, who are currently the top-2 teams in the AFC. The Bills are obviously not on that level and even that Texans game could have been a two touchdown win if not for a 4th quarter muffed punt when the Patriots were set to get the ball back up by 14.

The Bills will give their best effort this week in a game they may be viewing as their Super Bowl, but the Patriots should be fully focused as well, off of back-to-back losses, with only an easy home game against the Jets on deck. Favorites of 7+ are 58-36 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business without upcoming distractions. I expect that to be the case in this one, though I’m keeping this at a medium confidence pick because of the Josh Gordon suspension.

New England Patriots 30 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: New England -13

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at New York Jets: 2018 Week 16 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (5-8-1) at New York Jets (4-10)

The Packers have the biggest home/road disparity in the league this season, going 5-1-1 at Lambeau, but 0-7 away from home. Now in New York facing the Jets, this is the Packers’ last chance to get a road win this season. Fortunately for the Packers, home/road disparities tend to be random more than anything. In fact, of the last 26 teams to have a home winning percentage 60% better than their road winning percentage this late in the season, 17 of them have covered in their next road game, including 6-2 ATS as road favorites like the Packers are this week. That’s not reason enough to take the Packers, but it shows we shouldn’t shy away from taking them on the road as favorites, despite their road struggles this far.

The Packers’ road struggles this season are probably keeping this line down, as the Packers are just 2.5-point favorites here in New York against the Jets. The Packers have underachieved and have serious injury problems, with defensive linemen Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark and running back Aaron Jones out of the lineup, among others, but I still have this line calculated at Green Bay -5.5, as the Jets are one of the worst teams in the league, giving us significant line value with Green Bay at -2.5.

On the season, the Jets rank 31st in first down rate differential at -5.99% and, while they’ve gotten quarterback Sam Darnold back from injury recently, they still have significant absences, with #1 receiver Quincy Enunwa, #1 running back Isaiah Crowell, solid right tackle Brandon Shell, and every down linebacker Darron Lee all out of the lineup. They’re also in a terrible spot with a trip to New England on deck, as teams are 22-46 ATS since 2016 before being double digit underdogs, which the Jets will almost definitely be next week. With nothing left to play for, it’s very possible the Jets could be looking ahead to that New England game next week, while the Packers should be focused with only an easy home game against the Lions on deck. At Green Bay -2.5, this is my Pick of the Week.

Green Bay Packers 24 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -2.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Houston Texans at New York Jets: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (9-4) at New York Jets (4-9)

This is a tough one. On one hand, the Texans have played a lot of close games this year. They are 9-4, but have just 4 wins by more than a touchdown, including just one road win by more than a touchdown, relevant considering this line is Houston -7. On the other hand, the Jets are one of the worst teams in the league, especially without suspended every down linebacker Darron Lee, so this line seems about right, even if the Texans are not quite as good as their record suggests.

The Jets won in Buffalo last week, but they lost the first down rate battle in that game by 2.66%, winning primarily because they won the turnover margin and converted a 4th down, which is not something that they can count on every week. The previous week, the Jets almost won in Tennessee, but they lost the first down rate battle in that game by 18.59%, losing the game despite blocking a punt and scoring a defensive touchdown. On the season, they rank just 31st in first down rate differential at -6.49%, significantly behind the #11 ranked Texans, who are at +2.08%. We’re not getting any line value with the Texans, so this is a no confidence pick, but they make more sense for pick ‘em purposes.

Houston Texans 24 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: Houston -7

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-8)

These two teams met week 10 in New York in a game the Bills shockingly won 41-10 as 7-point underdogs, despite starting journeyman Matt Barkley, signed 11 days prior, at quarterback. Going into that game, the Bills had a league worst 25.85% first down rate, but they picked up first downs at a 36.99% rate in that game. The Bills then got Josh Allen back from a 4-game absence in their next game following the bye and have picked up first downs in a 39.17% rate in two games since, as Allen has improved significantly as his rookie year has gone on. The Bills also have a solid defense and are 3-3 with a -12 point differential in 6 games started and finished by Allen, who also was leading on the road in Houston in the second half in the game in which he got hurt.

The Bills winning in the first matchup doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to cover or even win this week, as divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs and only have a 55% winning percentage, despite being favored by 5.1 points on average. However, the Bills are the significantly better of these two teams right now, as the Jets rank 31st in first down rate differential at -6.73%, are missing top linebacker Darron Lee due to suspension, and have not played good football in weeks, losing last week in Tennessee despite an interception touchdown and a blocked punt. We’re not getting much line value with the Bills as 3.5-point favorites, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Buffalo Bills 17 New York Jets 12

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -3.5

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-8) at Tennessee Titans (5-6)

The Titans have been one of the most unpredictable teams in the league this season, having the 3rd most DVOA variance in the league, only ahead of the Bills (who have started 4 different quarterbacks) and the Titans’ opponents this week, the New York Jets. For that reason, I’m not too excited to bet either side, but the Titans should be able to win this one with ease. They rank just 21st in first down rate differential at -2.25%, but they’ve also faced the 2nd toughest schedule in the NFL, with their opponents combining for a 56% winning percentage.

By contrast, their opponents this week are just 3-8 and are one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 29th in first down rate differential at -5.69%. If the Titans can win by double digits against the Cowboys and Patriots in recent weeks, they should be able to blowout the lowly Jets. However, because both of these teams have been unpredictable, it’s hard to say that with much certainty.

The Titans also have to play again in a few days on Thursday Night Football, which is usually a bad spot for favorites, as they are 55-72 ATS since 2012 before being a Thursday game, but the Titans have another easy game next week, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars, so that kind of cancels that out. Favorites of 7+ are 58-35 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again. There’s not enough here to confidently take the Titans, but I like their chances of covering this 8-point spread.

Tennessee Titans 24 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -8

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-3) at New York Jets (3-7)

The Patriots started off the season 1-2, but followed that up by ripping off 6 straight wins, putting them firmly back into Super Bowl contention once again. However, then they followed that up by getting blown out by 24 in Tennessee prior to their bye week, their biggest loss this late in the season with Tom Brady under center. Many soured on them after that loss and I think they’re underrated as a result.

They’re still one of the better teams in the league on paper and the Titans are a legitimately good team when Marcus Mariota is healthy, with one of the better defenses in the league, so that loss wasn’t as bad as it looked. The Titans got blown out in Indianapolis last week, but that was in part because they were flat after their huge upset win, in part because they lost Mariota to injury in the first half, and in part because the Colts have been quietly one of the best teams in the league over the past month.

The Patriots have also been so good throughout the years that they should get the benefit of the doubt, especially since they have played at a very high level on numerous occasions this season. They typically bounce back well after a loss, going 48-25 ATS in the Bill Belichick era, including 38-19 ATS with Tom Brady, and they are typically dominant in the second half of the season, going 65-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center.

The Patriots are also in a great spot coming off the bye against a lowly Jets team that ranks 28th in first down rate differential at -5.15%. Good teams typically beat up on bad teams after a week off. Road favorites of 4+ are 31-8 ATS since 2002 after a bye, including a ridiculous 11-1 ATS against divisional opponents. The Patriots have had two weeks to hear about how they supposedly have lost it and I expect them to come out of their bye with a statement win.

The Patriots are also much healthier going out of the bye, with right guard Shaq Mason and tight end Rob Gronkowski expected to return from short-term absences. Both were badly missed in their loss in Tennessee. This line is pretty high at -9.5, but I have the Patriots favored by 11.5 points, as this is a matchup of one of the worst teams in the league and one of the best. The Patriots should cover with ease in what should be a blowout victory.

New England Patriots 30 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: New England -9.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week