Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) at Chicago Bears (9-4)

The Packers played arguably their best game of the season last week in their first game without long-time head coach Mike McCarthy, but the injuries have really started adding up for this team. Already without starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, starting left guard Lane Taylor, dominant defensive lineman Mike Daniels, starting outside linebacker Nick Perry, and starting cornerback Kevin King, the Packers are likely also going to be without their other dominant defensive lineman Kenny Clark and replacement starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland, both of whom missed practice all week. The Clark injury in particular is a huge loss, but Breeland had been playing well too, in the absence of Kevin King, and they’ve lost a lot of depth in the secondary over the course of the season.

Despite those injuries and the Bears’ impressive victory over the Rams, this line shifted in Green Bay’s favor this week, going from Chicago -6 to Chicago -5.5. Casual bettors may think Green Bay’s issues are solved with McCarthy gone, but I’m not so sure about that and I don’t think casual bettors realize how banged up the Packers are right now, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Given the state of the Packers’ roster right now, I have this line calculated at Chicago -7.5, so we’re getting good line value with the hosts.

The Bears might also still be a little underrated, even after last week’s big win, as that win was no fluke. Their 9-4 record is impressive, but they’re even better than that suggests, as their 4 losses came by a combined 14 points, including one game with a backup quarterback. Despite starting a backup quarterback for two games, the Bears still rank 1st in the NFL in first down rate differential at +6.49%, while the Packers are middle of the pack at +0.70%. At full strength, they’re much more talented than that suggests, but they’re far from that this week, so the Bears are worth a bet at -5.5.

Sunday Update: Bashaud Breeland and Lane Taylor will play for the Packers this week, but Kenny Clark is inactive, which is a huge loss. Without him and Mike Daniels on that defensive line, the Bears shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball at home. I’m leaving this as a medium confidence pick.

Chicago Bears 27 Green Bay Packers 19

Pick against the spread: Chicago -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (4-7-1)

I picked the Falcons last week as 1-point home favorites against the Ravens because the Falcons were getting stud middle linebacker Deion Jones back from injury and the line didn’t seem to reflect that. The Falcons lost that game 26-16, but the defense was not the reason, as they allowed a first down rate of just 33.77%, after leading the league in first down rate allowed at 43.02% through the first 11 games of the season. The Falcons actually won the first down rate by 4.01%, but lost because they went 2-9 on 3rd down and 0-1 on 4th down.

As well as the Falcons’ offense has played this season, that’s unlikely to continue, so I think this team is still a little underrated. They have a top-10 offense (8th in first down rate at 39.44%) and their defense is more respectable with Jones back in the lineup. They’re also in a great spot this week. While they get to face the Cardinals next week, a game that should provide no distractions for the Falcons this week, the Packers have a rivalry game with the Bears in Chicago that they could be looking ahead to. Underdogs like the Falcons are 92-55 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs.

All of this sounds like I’m going to be betting on the Falcons, but I’m not because the Packers have a significant talent advantage and may finally stop underachieving this week, after bottoming out with a home loss to the Cardinals that got Mike McCarthy fired. The Packers have consistently ranked high in my roster rankings and still rank 4th this week, despite injuries to key players like Bryan Bulaga and Mike Daniels, but are just 4-7-1 on the season. In past years, their issue has been defense, but they rank 15th in first down rate allowed at 35.83% and have standouts like Kenny Clark, Blake Martinez, and Jaire Alexander that are playing at Pro-Bowl levels.

The offense has been the bigger problem this season, as they rank just 18th in first down rate at 36.13%, despite having Aaron Rodgers under center for most of the season. Rodgers has had some young receivers this season, but he also has a legitimate #1 option in Davante Adams, a starting running back that is averaging 5.73 yards per carry, and a good pass protecting offensive line. He also has Randall Cobb back from injury as of last week and tight end Jimmy Graham still playing reasonably well despite a thumb injury. If this offense finally breaks through this week, the Packers could cover this 5-point line with ease, so I’m keeping this to a low confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 31 Atlanta Falcons 27

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +5

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-9) at Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)

It’s week 13 and the Packers are still undefeated at home and winless on the road. That’s a rare occurrence. In fact, the Packers join the 2009 Patriots as the only teams in the past 30 years to be undefeated at home and winless on the road this late in the season. Ordinarily, home/road disparities are more random than anything and if you look at all of the instances of teams being undefeated at home and winless on the road in week 8 or later in the past 30 years, you’ll see that those teams are 6-4 in their next home game and 5-8 in their next road game, which is about an average home/road disparity.

That being said, the Packers’ home dominance under Aaron Rodgers dates back many years, as he’s 37-18 ATS in Lambeau in games he’s started and finished since 2011, so returning home should be a real boost for a team that has played 4 of it’s last 5 games on the road against playoff contenders. The Packers also get a much easier opponent this week, as the Cardinals are arguably the worst team in the league, ranking dead last in first down rate differential at -8.79% and 31st in point differential at -138.

The Cardinals also have some injuries making them even worse. Starting cornerback Budda Baker should return from a two game absence, after getting in a full practice on Friday, but left tackle DJ Humphries did not get in a full practice this week and could easily be kept out for the second straight week for precautionary reasons, with the Cardinals’ season all but over. They also put their top linebacker Josh Bynes on injured reserve this week and could be without linebacker Haason Reddick, who barely practiced this week with a neck injury.

The Packers are also in a good spot too, with only another home game against the Falcons on deck, a game in which they are 7.5 point favorites on the early line. Teams are 90-56 ATS since 2014 as favorites of 6+ before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. I expect a strong effort from a Packers team that needs to win out to even have a chance at qualifying for the post-season.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Packers, as this line is pretty high at -14. It was at -11.5 a week ago on the early line, but the Cardinals getting blown out by the Chargers 45-10 shifted this line all the way up to 14, even with the Packers losing in Minnesota. Teams are 57-36 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35+ points, as teams tend to be underrated, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot, all three of which could be the case this week.

The Packers are better than their record, but they are too banged up coming into this game to bet them confidently as two touchdown favorites. Stud defensive lineman Mike Daniels remains out with an injury and left tackle David Bakhtiari, arguably the best left tackle in the game when healthy, could join him on the sidelines, after being limited in practice all week. The Packers could also once again be without defensive backs Bashaud Breeland, Kevin King, Kentrell Brice, and Raven Greene, leaving them very thin in the secondary. The Packers are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 31 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -14

Confidence: None

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1)

The Packers haven’t lost at home this season, but they also haven’t won on the road. Now at 4-5-1, the Packers have their season on the line this week in Minnesota. If they lose this game, they’ll fall two games behind the Vikings for the final wild card spot and the Vikings will own the tiebreaker, so they’ll essentially be 3 games out of the playoffs with 5 to play. If they win this game however, they’ll own the tiebreaker with Minnesota and would be just a half game behind Washington (who is starting a backup quarterback) for the final wild card spot.

The good news for Packers fans is that home/road disparity tends to be more random than anything. This is the 19th instance of a team being winless on the road and undefeated at home in week 8 or later. The previous 18 are 9-9 in their next road game and 10-6-2 ATS. That alone isn’t a reason to take the Packers, but it shows you shouldn’t just blindly bet against the Packers just because they are away from home. Last week, I bet the Packers as 3-point underdogs in Seattle in a game they led throughout (including 14-3 in the first half), before the Seahawks eventually came back with a late drive and caused the line to push with a 3-point win.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting nearly as good as a line this week with the Packers, as they are once again 3-point underdogs, but against a much better team. While the Seahawks are a middling team, the Vikings are quietly a tough opponent. They had injury problems early in the season, but they are much healthier now, with players like defensive end Everson Griffen, running back Dalvin Cook, and linebacker Anthony Barr back from extended absences. The general public hasn’t caught on yet because they lost last week in Chicago, but the Bears are legitimately a top level team, so there isn’t much shame in that.

The Packers, meanwhile, are going the other way injury wise, losing stud defensive lineman Mike Daniels in the second half of their loss in Seattle, a big part of the reason why the Seahawks were able to mount a comeback late. Daniels doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he’s one of the better defensive linemen in the league, so his absence will certainly be felt. With that in mind, I like the Vikings a little bit this week. This line suggests these two teams are about even, but I have the Vikings slightly better in my roster rankings right now with Daniels out.

The Packers are in a better spot than the Vikings, as they have an easy game home against the Cardinals on deck, while the Vikings have another tough game in New England. Underdogs are 90-54 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. However, because this game is so big for both teams, I don’t expect the Vikings to be looking forward to that New England game much at all this week, so I’m not sure how relevant that trend is to this game. There isn’t enough here to bet them and this could easily end up another push, given how frequently games are decided by exactly a field goal (about 1 in 6), but the Vikings should be the right side.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Green Bay Packers 23

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -3

Confidence: Low

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

Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-4) at Green Bay Packers (3-4-1)

The Dolphins managed just 7 first downs and 168 yards of offense at home last week against a mediocre Jets team, but managed to win by a touchdown because they won the turnover margin by 4 and got a defensive touchdown that ended up being the margin of victory. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis though, so they won’t be able to rely on that every week. For example, teams, on average, follow up a +4 turnover margin with a +0.0 turnover margin the following week.

That win pushed the Dolphins to 5-4, but they certainly haven’t played like an above .500 team. While their 5 wins have come by a combined 33 points, their 4 losses have come by a combined 71 points and they rank just 28th in first down rate differential at -4.31%. The Dolphins get a big step up in class from the Jets this week, when they go to Green Bay to take on the Packers.

The Packers’ record at 3-4-1 is underwhelming, but that’s because they had injuries early in the season (and a game in Detroit where Mason Crosby missed 5 kicks that equaled more than the margin of victory) and then, when they came out of their bye relatively healthy, led by the return of top cornerback Jaire Alexander, they then had to go on the road and face the Patriots and Rams, arguably the two best teams in the league.

Now the Packers return home, where they are 36-18 ATS  in games started and finished by Aaron Rodgers since 2011. They picked up another major injury last week when middle linebacker Blake Martinez got hurt, but he could play this week after getting in some limited practice. Even with him at less than 100%, the Packers are still a tough opponent, despite their record.

Martinez’s uncertainty is one reason I’m not going to bet the Packers this week, despite facing an easy opponent at home. The second reason is that the Packers have to turn around and go to Seattle on a short week and favorites are just 50-71 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football. They may be underdogs in that game as well (favorites of 10+ are 60-79 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs), but even if they aren’t they could easily overlook the Dolphins a little bit, with that game on deck. I’m still going with Green Bay, as I have this line calculated at -12.5, but I wouldn’t bet on it unless this line drops down to single digits.

Green Bay Packers 26 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -10

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) at New England Patriots (6-2)

This line was New England -7.5 last week on the early line, but it has shifted to 5 this week. That original line was probably too high, like Packers/Rams line last week when the Packers were 9-point underdogs, but that’s a pretty significant line, crossing key numbers of 6 and 7, and it comes despite the fact that the Packers traded contract year safety HaHa Clinton-Dix at the trade deadline, in the middle of arguably his best season in the NFL. With top cornerback Jaire Alexander back last week, the Packers played one of their best defensive games of the season, keeping the Rams’ offense from a big game, but they’re going to have a hard time doing that this week against the Patriots without their talented safety.

The line movement is probably as a result of the Patriots looking underwhelming in their Monday night game in Buffalo, but the Patriots were probably not giving their best effort against the Bills with this game on deck and they still covered anyway, winning 25-6. That game doesn’t really change my opinion of the Patriots much at all. They also should be healthier this week, with Rob Gronkowski another week removed from his back spasms and running back Sony Michel, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower all possibly returning from injury this week. The Packers are still a tough opponent even without Clinton-Dix, so there isn’t enough here to bet the Patriots confidently as 5-point favorites, but they should be able to win this one by at least a touchdown.

New England Patriots 34 Green Bay Packers 27

Pick against the spread: New England -5

Confidence: Low