Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (7-2)

I’ve thought the Broncos are underrated for most of the season, as they are about even in point differential (-8), despite their 3-6 record, with 4 of their losses coming by a combined 16 points to the Texans, Rams, and Chiefs (twice), who are all division leaders. In first down rate differential, they are even better, ranking 10th at +2.83%. However, the injuries have started to pile up for them, especially on the offensive line. Already missing talented right guard Ron Leary for the season, the Broncos lost center Matt Paradis, their best offensive lineman, for the year in their final game before the bye and then lost fill-in right guard Max Garcia with a torn ACL during practice this week.

The Chargers, meanwhile, might be getting stud edge rusher Joey Bosa back for the first time this year, after he returned to practice this week. He’s not a guarantee to play and likely wouldn’t be 100% in his first game back, but he’d be a big boost to a defense that was one of the best in the league with him healthy in 2017. The Chargers finished the 2017 season 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.09%, but they rank just 13th at 35.84% this season. Bosa’s absence isn’t the only difference between last year and this year for this Chargers’ defense, but, assuming he returns to form, he’ll be a huge re-addition for this team down the stretch.

The Chargers are also in a much better spot. While the Broncos have to follow this game up with a big home game against the Steelers, the Chargers get yet another easy game next week with the Arizona Cardinals coming to town. The Broncos obviously won’t look past their division rival Chargers, but it’s very tough for inferior teams to compete when they have another tough game on deck, as underdogs of 6+ are 47-71 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again. Teams are also 31-60 ATS in general since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6+, as big upcoming home games tend to be a bit of a distraction.

On the other side, favorites of 6+ are 88-53 ATS since 2014 before being favored by 6+ again, including a ridiculous 28-7 ATS if their opponent will be 6+ point underdogs again the following week. Big home favorites tend to take care of business with easy games on deck, especially against an opponent that has to play another tough game the following week. That situation definitely applies to this game.

It worries me a little that there will be more Broncos fans than Chargers fans at this game, as the Chargers still can’t draw fans in Los Angeles even at 7-2, but, even with the Chargers’ lack of homefield advantage taken into account, I still have this line calculated at Chargers -8 over a banged up Denver team, so we’re still getting some line value with the Chargers, who also happen to be in the better spot. They are worth a bet and I will probably make this a bigger play if it’s announced Bosa is playing and the line doesn’t move to compensate.

Los Angeles Chargers 27 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -7

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-4-1) at Seattle Seahawks (4-5)

These two teams have similar records, but the Packers have been the better team this season, as the Seahawks have been overly reliant on winning the turnover margin. They are +8 on the season, tied for 3rd best in the NFL, but turnover margin tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t be able to count on that every week, especially against top level quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. In the past two weeks, they’ve had an even turnover margin facing Philip Rivers and Jared Goff, after facing a relatively easy slate of quarterbacks to begin the season. In terms of first down rate differential, the Packers are significantly ahead, ranking 12th at 1.43%, while the Seahawks rank 22nd at -2.33%.

The Packers are also in the better injury situation. While the Seahawks will once again be without linebacker KJ Wright (as well as injured reserved safety Earl Thomas), the Packers have been a lot better defensively since getting Jaire Alexander back from injury a few weeks ago. Aaron Rodgers is also healthier than he was earlier in the season, while running back Aaron Jones has broken out as their lead back, after being suspended for the first two games of the season. They played arguably their best game of the season last week at home against Miami, winning the first down rate battle by 16.67%, an impressive number even against an underwhelming team like the Dolphins.

This line suggests these two teams are about even, favoring the hometown Seahawks by a field goal, so we’re getting significant line value with the visitoring Packers. The Packers’ 0-4 road record worries me a little, but if you look at those games, they should have won in Detroit, where Mason Crosby melted down and couldn’t hit a kick, and two of those losses came against the Rams and Patriots, two of the better teams in the league, in games the Packers were in late.

I’m more worried about the track record of non-divisional road underdogs on Thursday Night Football (15-34 ATS), as it’s very tough to travel on a short week and face a relatively unfamiliar opponent (unless you have enough of a talent advantage to be favored). I know Rodgers has faced off against the Seahawks a bunch of times, but this is close to a completely remade Seahawks roster, so he won’t benefit from that familiarity factor on a short week. That being said, there’s still too much line value to pass on here with the Packers, who you could argue should be favored by a couple points in this one (making that aforementioned trend less relevant). At the very least, this should be an even line. Both the spread (at +3) and moneyline are worth small bets in this one.

Final Update: I’m staying with a medium confidence pick, but I did discover one stat that should make Packer bettors feel more confident. The Packers are the 18th team to be undefeated at home and winless on the road week 8 or later in the past 30 years. The previous 17 are 9-8 straight up (10-6-1 ATS) in their next road game. It’s a small sample size, but home/road variances tend to be random more than anything, so I wouldn’t expect the Packers to struggle on the road in this one just because they’re 0-4 on the road.

Green Bay Packers 24 Seattle Seahawks 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +3

Confidence: Medium

2018 Week 10 NFL Pick Results

Week 9

Total Against the Spread: 8-6

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence Picks: 1-1

Medium Confidence Picks: 2-1

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 4-2

Low Confidence Picks: 3-2

No Confidence Picks: 1-2

Upset Picks: 0-0

2018

Total Against the Spread: 89-56-3 (61.15%)

Pick of the Week: 5-4-1

High Confidence Picks: 9-7

Medium Confidence Picks: 26-15

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 40-26-1 (60.45%)

Low Confidence Picks: 19-14

No Confidence Picks: 30-16-2

Upset Picks: 12-10-1

All-Time (Since 2013)

Total Against the Spread: 780-664-39 (53.91%)

Pick of the Week: 56-38-3 (59.28%)

Money Picks (Medium Confidence and higher): 370-272-15 (57.46%)

Upset Picks: 119-146-1 (44.92%)

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-7) at San Francisco 49ers (2-7)

This is a tough game to predict because I’m still not sure what to make of new 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, a 2017 undrafted free agent who completed 16 of 22 for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first NFL start last week. If he continues to play at least decent, the 49ers should cover this game as 3-point home favorites over the lowly Giants. The 49ers actually have a solid offensive supporting cast around the quarterback and rank 13th in first down rate at 37.70%, despite quarterback turmoil.

Turnovers have been a huge problem for them, as they’ve turned it over 18 times and have a -13 turnover margin (2nd worst in the NFL), but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Mullens didn’t turn the ball over at all last week (after CJ Beathard committed 10 turnovers in 5 starts) and if he keeps playing at least decently their turnover margin could easily stabilize for the rest of the season.

Those are big ifs with Mullens though. The track record of undrafted quarterbacks in the NFL is pretty weak and, as good as he looked in his debut, it was one start against a team that had no tape on him and wasn’t expecting him to play. He also happened to be playing a Raiders defense that can make a lot of quarterbacks look good. I’m taking the 49ers in this one for pick ‘em purposes, but there’s far too much uncertainty for them to be bettable this week.

San Francisco 49ers 24 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -3

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (2-7) at New York Jets (3-6)

I was stalling this write up a little bit because I was hoping we’d get some word today on who the Bills will start under center this week. Derek Anderson remains out with a concussion, but regular starter Josh Allen got some limited practice time in this week and the Bills did not commit to going back to backup Nathan Peterman if Allen can’t go this week, meaning street free agent Matt Barkley is a candidate to start in this one, after less than 2 weeks with the team.

If Allen is ruled out, the Bills are an auto-fade this week and I will likely bet on the Jets. The Bills have been an auto-fade ever since Josh Allen went down, losing all 3 games by an average of 27.7 points and failing to cover in any of them. Allen wasn’t exactly playing well either, but the Bills’ options behind him on the depth chart are so bad and they have a horrible supporting cast around the quarterback on offense. In a league where moving the ball in easier than it’s ever been, the Bills have picked up a first down or touchdown on just 25.85% of offensive snaps, 10.70% below the league average, and they have a ridiculous 16 interceptions to just 3 passing  touchdowns.

The Jets aren’t playing well either, but if Allen is out, they are more than 4 points better than the Bills, which is what this line (Jets -7 at home) suggests. Quarterback Sam Darnold is out with a foot injury, but that might actually be a good thing for this team right now, as Darnold had been playing terribly and they have a capable veteran backup in Josh McCown ready to go behind him on the depth chart.

Remember, McCown had a pretty underwhelming Jets team at 5-7 last season before he got hurt and he had a solid 94.5 QB rating, with 18 passing touchdowns to 9 interceptions. His age (39) and injury history are a concern, but he should be able to give them a couple good spot starts and I think he’s an upgrade over Darnold right now. The Jets also get top cornerback Trumaine Johnson back this week from an extended absence, which will help.

On top of that, the Jets are in a great spot going into their bye, as teams are 55-22 ATS since 2002 as home favorites of 7+ before a bye. Normally that trend is reserved for top level teams, who tend to be very focused with a week off in front of them, but teams with sub-.500 records are also 7-3 ATS in that spot. With no upcoming distractions, the Jets should be able to take care of business at home against an inferior opponent, as long as Allen remains on the sideline.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that’s going to be the case, as it wouldn’t make sense for the Bills to rush Allen back and risk further injury to his throwing arm in a lost season, but the Bills might be so desperate to be competitive in a divisional game that they rush him back. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but if/when Allen is ruled out I will bump this up to medium, as long as the line doesn’t move significantly. I’m guessing it won’t and that this line already takes into account that either Peterman or Barkley will likely start this game.

Update: Josh Allen was ruled out Saturday afternoon as expected, leaving Matt Barkley to start this game for the Bills, but this line shifted to 7.5. That might not seem like a significant line movement, but about 1 in 10 games are decided by exactly a touchdown. I’m going to leave this as a low confidence pick unless the line goes back down. The Jets should win this with ease, but asking their offense to cover a 7.5 point line against a capable Bills defense is a lot. Barkley will probably throw a pick six or something to make it easier for the Jets, but that’s not something you can confidently bet on.

Final update: This line has shifted back to -7 Sunday morning, so this is now a medium confidence pick.

New York Jets 20 Buffalo Bills 9

Pick against the spread: NY Jets -7

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-4) at Los Angeles Rams (8-1)

The Rams have not had many blowout victories lately, with just one double digit win in their last 6 games. That’s understandable when you look at their schedule though. They’ve played just one of their last five games at home and their last two home games came against the Vikings and Packers, a pair of strong opponents. Prior to that, they had blow out home victories over the Cardinals and Chargers and they also have a pair of blowout wins on the road in Oakland and San Francisco.

This week could easily be another double digit win over the Rams, now back home against the Seahawks. Seattle isn’t a bad team and they’ve gotten better since getting linebacker KJ Wright back from injury, but they still rank 25th in first down rate differential at -3.39% on the season. They have a 4-4 record, but that’s largely as a result of a +9 turnover margin (3rd in the NFL). Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so that’s not something they’re going to be able to count on going forward, especially against top teams like the Rams.

The Seahawks played the Rams close in their first matchup, losing 33-31, but that game was in Seattle and the Seahawks lost despite winning the turnover battle by +2. The Rams had 30 first downs to 20 for the Seahawks and outgained them by about 100 yards. On average, teams that win the turnover margin by 2 have a -0.1 turnover margin in a same season rematch. Unless the Seahawks can win the turnover margin again, the Rams should be able to defeat them with ease now back in Los Angeles.

That being said, I’m not betting the Rams for three reasons. For one, there will likely be a ton of Seahawk fans at this game, much like there were a lot of Packer fans there a couple weeks ago. For that reason, you could argue that the Rams won’t quite have true homefield advantage in this one. The second reason is that they have a much bigger game in Mexico City against the AFC leading Chiefs next week, so this could be a little bit of a look ahead spot, even against a hated division rival. The third reason is that the Rams cancelled practice on Friday because of the wildfires, which could be a distraction this week. The Rams should be the right side, but this isn’t worth betting.

Los Angeles Rams 27 Seattle Seahawks 15

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -9.5

Confidence: Low