San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers: 2021 NFC Divisional Round Pick

San Francisco 49ers (11-7) at Green Bay Packers (13-4)

The Packers finished tied for the best record in the NFL and earned the NFC’s #1 seed on tiebreakers, giving them a first round bye and homefield advantage through to the Super Bowl, but they were not necessarily the most impressive team in the league week-to-week, with many of their wins coming in close fashion. In fact, their +79 point differential ranks just 10th in the NFL and is barely ahead of their opponents this week, as the 49ers are at +62 on the season (+68 if you include the first round of the post-season).

The Packers did not have Aaron Rodgers for a game and a half, while another half Rodgers did play was a meaningless game against the Lions, so it’s probably not fair to hold that against their point differential and you could make the argument that their week one blowout loss in New Orleans was a complete fluke that should be disregarded as well, but even if you do that, they still only have the 5th best point differential in the NFL at +127. That’s a more significant edge over the 49ers’ point differential, but the 49ers are better in efficiency metrics, which are based on yards per play and first down rate, more predictive metrics than point differential. In terms of overall schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, the 49ers rank 7th, about 4.5 points ahead of the 14th ranked Packers.

Schedule adjusted mixed efficiency intentionally minimizes the impact of turnover margin, which is typically not predictive week-to-week, and that may not be appropriate for a team like Green Bay, who has one of the least turnover prone quarterbacks of all time and more consistently wins the turnover battle than other teams as a result (+13 this season). However, it is appropriate for the 49ers, who were able to have the point differential that they had this season despite a -4 turnover margin and are clearly closer to the Packers than these two teams’ records show. 

Despite these two teams being closer than their records show in the regular season, the Packers are 6-point home favorites in this game. There are two reasons for that, but I’m not sure if either reason is legitimate enough to justify the line being this high. For one, the Packers are a dominant home team with Aaron Rodgers under center, going 50-23 ATS at home in games Rodgers starts and finishes in front of crowds with fans, with Rodgers recording a QB rating that is about 10 points higher at home than on the road and in his career. That was especially true this season, as the Packers won all eight games they won at home with six multi-score wins, while losing four of their nine road games and winning just once by multiple scores.

However, if we look at just the post-season, the Packers’ record drops to 4-4 ATS at home with just two wins by 6 or more points in eight games and, beyond the wild card round, that drops even further to 2-3 ATS with one win by more than 6 points in 5 tries, so I am not as worried about going against the Packers in Green Bay as I would be in the regular season, especially with a 6-point cushion and a high level opponent coming to town (just one of the Packers’ home games this season came against a team with double digit wins).

The other reason the Packers are favored by this many is that they are getting several key players back who have been missing for all or most of the season, with left tackle David Bakhtiari only making his season debut in last week’s meaningless game against the Lions after missing all of the season, cornerback Jaire Alexander expected to play for the first time since week 3, and edge defender Za’Darius Smith expected to play for the first time all season. 

All three of those players were among the best in the league at their respective positions in 2020, and, with them back in the lineup, the Packers much more closely resemble last year’s team, which ranked 3rd in the NFL in point differential, so their return is definitely a boost to this team, but all three have been out of real action for so long and were limited in practice this week, so it’s fair to question if any of the three will be at their top form. If they are not, it’s really hard to justify this line being this high.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have been healthier for weeks and it’s shown in their play on the field, as they have won 8 of their last 10 games since a 3-5 start when they were more injury plagued. Over that 10-game stretch, the 49ers have gone 4-1 against playoff qualifiers, including last week’s win in Dallas, and have only lost by margins of 3 points and 7 points, in games in which the 49ers won the yards per play and first down rate battles. They have a very good chance of keeping this game close in Green Bay and even of pulling the straight-up upset, so I am very confident getting 6 points with them. I would still take the 49ers at +5.5, but I would strongly prefer 6 because of the overtime rules.

Green Bay Packers 26 San Francisco 49ers 24

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +6

Confidence: High

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (13-3) at Detroit Lions (2-13-1)

The Packers have nothing to play for this week, having clinched the #1 seed in the NFC last week, and this spread expects them to play their key starters very little, as the Packers would not be mere 3.5-point favorites in Detroit in normal circumstances. My calculated line has the Packers favored by 10.5 if the Lions are missing their two talented tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell, who are both in COVID protocols, and favored by 9 if both Decker and Sewell play. 

However, those calculated lines are meaningless if we don’t know how much action the Packers’ key starters will get. Aaron Rodgers, for his part, says he wants to play, but his head coach Matt LaFleur has also said Rodgers doesn’t need to play and it’s possible he only plays enough to get Davante Adams to some receiving milestones and to put up another few drives to keep fresh in the minds of MVP voters. 

This line doesn’t suggest the Packers’ starters won’t play at all, as they are still favored on the road by more than a field goal, but they may need only Rodgers and Adams to play a half to cover this spread, especially with Jordan Love being a capable backup. I am taking the Packers for now, but this can’t be anything more than a no confidence pick unless something changes or we hear something definitive on how the Packers will approach a meaningless game, with a bye week secured for next week.

Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -3.5

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (7-8) at Green Bay Packers (12-3)

The Vikings need to win this game in Green Bay to keep their playoff hopes alive and unfortunately their slim playoff odds might have effectively already fallen to zero before this game even kicks off, with the Vikings losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to the COVID protocols and set to start backup Sean Mannion, a 7-year veteran who is starting his first real game this week, with his two career starts both coming in meaningless week 17 games where his team was resting starters.

For spread purposes though, this line has compensated by swinging to favor the Packers now by 13 points, so I still like the Vikings’ chances of covering. The Packers stand alone with the league’s best record at 12-3, but they haven’t been dominant in most of their wins. As a result, they rank just 11th in the NFL in point differential at +59 and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Packers rank 7th, 19th, 32nd on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 17th in overall mixed efficiency. 

They have been better at home, which has been the case throughout Aaron Rodgers’ tenure, as Rodgers’ QB rating is about 10 points higher at home in his career and the Packers are 50-23 ATS at home in games Rodgers starts and finishes in front of crowds with fans, but this line still seems a little bit too high, as the Vikings still have a talented #1 wide receiver in Justin Jefferson, a strong running game, and a defense that is at least competent. I don’t have any confidence in the Vikings, but I would take them at this number for pick ’em purposes as my calculated line is Green Bay -10.5.

Green Bay Packers 26 Minnesota Vikings 14

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +13

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (11-3)

The Packers stand alone with the league’s best record at 11-3, but they haven’t been dominant in most of their wins. As a result, they rank just 10th in the NFL in point differential at +57 and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Packers rank 4th, 15th, 32nd on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 13th in overall mixed efficiency. They have been better at home, which has been the case throughout Aaron Rodgers’ tenure, as they are 50-22 ATS at home in games Rodgers starts and finishes in front of crowds with fans, but this line is still too high, favoring the Packers by 7.5 points at home over a competent at worst Browns team (16th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency) that will be at least somewhat healthier than a week ago, most notably at the quarterback position with Baker Mayfield set to return.

My calculated line has the Packers favored by 5 points and, while that does not take into account the Packers’ typical home dominance, it’s still hard to justify getting this line up to 7.5 points. I’m not going to bet on the Browns because there is still so much uncertainty in this game with several Browns players who are still in COVID protocols from last week who could come off the list before gametime, as well as a key injury uncertainty on both sides, with dominant Browns defensive end Myles Garrett not practicing all week and likely to be limited if he plays, while dominant Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander could be set to return to the lineup after being designated to return from injured reserve a few weeks ago. It’s impossible to be confident enough in the Browns to bet on them right now given the uncertainty, but I could see that changing if the right players are active for the Browns and/or Alexander is out for the Packers.

Update: Alexander is out for the Packers, while Garrett is active, but that’s about where the good news ends for the Browns, who still have cornerbacks Greg Newsome and Troy Hill, safeties Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and offensive linemen JC Tretter and Jedrick Wills in COVID protocols. My calculated line is at Green Bay -6, but I am leaving this as low confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 23 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7.5

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

Player absences have been a big theme in games this week and this game is no different, except for the fact that most of the absences in this game are injury related, rather than COVID. In addition to the sheer amount of players expected to miss this game, which I will get into later, there is also a significant amount of uncertainty because the Ravens don’t know if quarterback Lamar Jackson will be able to play through an ankle sprain and, even if he does play, his effectiveness would be a question, given how much he is dependent on his athleticism and how he has been struggling already in recent weeks.

The odds makers seem to think the Ravens will be without Jackson, shooting this line up to favor the Packers by a touchdown in Baltimore, after favoring them by just 1.5 points on the early line a week ago. Jackson is far from the Ravens’ only injury concern and not their only new absence or potential absence either. Already without stud left tackle Ronnie Stanley, their two best running backs JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, starting defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, starting cornerback Marcus Peters and starting safety De’Shon Elliott for an extended period of time, the Ravens are now without starting left guard Ben Powers, top defensive lineman Calais Campbell, starting safety Chuck Clark, top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and his would-be replacement Jimmy Smith.

The Ravens are 8-5, but they haven’t been as good as their record even when they were healthier, as they have gone 6-3 in one score games and rank 14th, 24th, 1st, and 11th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency. The Packers have their own injury issues though and it doesn’t seem like this line has fully taken those into account, as this is an inflated line even if Jackson plays and is replaced by backup Tyler Huntley, an unproven, but promising replacement. 

The Packers have been banged up all season long, but the hits have kept coming in recent weeks. Already with a long-term absent list of left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the best players in the league at their respective positions, as well as starting center Josh Myers and starting tight end Robert Tonyan, the Packers in recent weeks have lost slot receiver Randall Cobb, top defensive lineman Kenny Clark, and another two starters on the offensive line, Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner.

The Packers are 10-3 despite all of this, but they haven’t fared as well in more predictive metrics like first down rate and yards per play and, as previously mentioned, their injury situation is only getting worse. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on these metrics, the Packers rank 11th, 9th, and 32nd respectively on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, while ranking just 18th in mixed efficiency. One of their losses came without Aaron Rodgers, while a fluky blowout loss to the Saints week one skews their efficiency ratings, but missing all they are missing, it’s hard to argue the Packers are as good as their 10-3 record, at least right now.

The Ravens definitely aren’t as good as their record either, especially if Jackson sits or is heavily limited, but this line has swung too far in the Packers’ direction given all they are missing as well. In addition to their injuries, the Packers have also not been as good away from home in Aaron Rodgers’ career, unsurprising given that Rodgers’ 10 point QB rating drop off from home to away is well above average, and that has continued into this season, as their only road victory that would have covered this 7-point spread came in a 10-point win in Chicago in a game that was closer than the final score against a Bears team that the Ravens beat without Jackson a few weeks ago. 

Even without taking the Packers’ relative road struggles into account, my calculated line has the Packers favored by just 3.5 points, even if Huntley plays or Jackson is heavily limited. I am not really making much distinction between a limited Jackson and Tyler Huntley in my roster rankings and I would take the Ravens as touchdown home underdogs regardless, so I want to lock this one in now, as the line could drop on game day if Jackson ends up being able to play.

Update: It seems like Jackson is out, as this line has shifted to 9.5. I already assumed he would be out when I bet on the Ravens at +7, so I am going to increase this bet at the higher number. The Packers have just one double digit road win all season and Tyler Huntley is a promising backup quarterback.

Green Bay Packers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +9.5

Confidence: High

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (9-3)

I was hoping the Packers would be a lot healthier this week, coming out of their bye week, particularly the trio of left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, who are all among the best players in the league at their respective positions. The Packers are 9-3, but they have not played as well as last year’s 13-3 team and are not beating teams in convincing fashion, while ranking just 14th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency and 10th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, in large part due to the absence of those aforementioned three players. 

Had the Packers gotten a couple of those players back this week, they would have been a very intriguing bet in this game against the Bears in Green Bay, where the Packers have been a great bet in games in front of games where Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes the games, going 49-22 ATS. Unfortunately, only Alexander has a shot to suit up for this game and even that isn’t a given. On top of that, the Packers will be down a reliable receiver, with Randall Cobb now out indefinitely. 

Despite that, the Packers are still favored by 12.5 points in this game. The Packers would have covered this number in three of their five home games so far this season, but a closer look at those games shows the Packers to not have been as impressive as the final score, as they were down to the Lions at halftime, got outgained on a per play basis by Washington, and shut out a Seahawks team that was starting a much less than 100% Russell Wilson. Those three games are the Packers’ biggest margins of victory of the season, which shows how unimpressive many of their wins have been.

My calculated line actually has the Packers favored by just 9.5 points in this game and, while that doesn’t factor in the Packers’ extra homefield advantage with Aaron Rodgers, it’s hard to get up to this 12.5 point number. The Packers could also be in a bit of a bad spot, as they have a much tougher game against the Ravens on deck and favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 43.6% rate before facing a team with a winning percentage over 40% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage. 

This is still a big divisional rivalry game, so it’s very possible the Packers still bring a big effort despite a tougher game on deck, but it’s another reason not to be confident in the Packers this week. I’m taking the Bears for pick ‘em purposes for now, but I would probably switch to the Packers if it was determined that Jaire Alexander will be active and playing something close to his normal snap count. In either scenario, I don’t see myself taking either side confidently.

Green Bay Packers 28 Chicago Bears 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago +12.5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (7-3) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)

The Packers’ lost to the Vikings last week, their second loss of the season with Aaron Rodgers under center and their third loss overall, dropping them to 8-3, after a 7-1 start. The Packers have bigger concerns though. Even when they were winning games, they weren’t doing so in impressive fashion. Just three of their wins came by more than 10 points and those came in games in which they were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions, outgained at home on a per play basis by Washington, and facing an underwhelming Seahawks team that was starting a much less than 100% Russell Wilson. 

The Packers did go into Arizona and win, but they were very reliant on the turnover margin in that game, losing the first down rate battle by 5.93%, but winning by a field goal in a game in which they won the turnover battle by three. One of those turnovers was a late interception to seal the game when the Cardinals were in range to at least send the game to overtime, if not win outright. The Packers scored off the Cardinals’ other two takeaways too, so if any one of those turnovers doesn’t happen, the Packers could have easily lost. Given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis, the Packers can’t count on that again and, given that the Cardinals outperformed the Packers in other key metrics, the Cardinals would likely win a rematch more often than not, so even that was not a dominant win.

On top of that, the Packers injury situation seems to get worse by the week. Already without left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the best players in the league at their respective positions, who have missed all of most of the season, the Packers will now be without Kevin King, their best cornerback in Alexander’s absence, even if only by default, and Elgton Jenkins, a talented offensive lineman who has been by far their best offensive lineman in Bakhtiari’s absence. 

The Packers could get back Rashan Gary, their best edge defender in Smith’s absence, and top running back Aaron Jones, who both missed last week and seem likely to return this week, but even that isn’t a guarantee and, even if both played, their return would be offset by the loss of Jenkins and King. That doesn’t even include the injury that Aaron Rodgers is playing through, which is costing him valuable practice time and likely limiting him in games as well.

The Rams have a similar record to the Packers, but have been a much better team. They lost their last two games before the bye week, both by multiple scores, but in one game they threw multiple pick sixes, which won’t happen every week, and in the other they played a very underrated 49ers team. The Rams should also get a lot more out of mid-season acquisitions Odell Beckham and Von Miller this week, after both played sparingly across the two games before the bye. If both play close to a full set of snaps, the Rams are simply a much more talented team than the very banged up Packers right now.

This line favors the Rams by 2 points in Green Bay, but given the talent disparity between those two teams, my calculated line favors the Rams by 5. I am hesitant to bet heavily against the Packers because of how good Aaron Rodgers has been in his career at home and off of a loss, going 48-22 ATS in home games that he has started and finished and that had live crowds and going 41-21 ATS in the week following a loss, but the Rams are also coming off of a loss and a bye week as well, so they should bring their best effort this week and still worth a small play because of the value we are getting with them in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover.

Los Angeles Rams 31 Green Bay Packers 27

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -2

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (8-2) at Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

The Packers are 8-2, a year after going 13-3, but they aren’t the same team as a year ago, primarily due to injuries. Already without left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the top players in the league at their respective positions, who have missed most or all of the season, the Packers are now without talented lead back Aaron Jones with a knee injury he suffered in last week’s game. Green Bay’s record is obviously impressive, but they rank just 10th in point differential at +36 and, even if you exclude their two losses, one a somewhat fluky week one game and the other a game in which they lost by one score to the Chiefs without Aaron Rodgers, they would still rank just 5th in point differential at 77, so they are definitely not dominating teams.

That is despite the fact that the Packers have the 4th best turnover margin in the league at +7, which is not a predictive stat that they can rely on going forward. More predictive stats like yards per play and first down rate show this Packers team isn’t as performing at the same level as a year ago, ranking 14th, 13th, and 30th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. The Vikings are just 4-5, but they have been competitive in every single one of their games, losing at most by 7 points, just once by more than four points, and totalling a +10 point differential on the season. 

I have not picked the Vikings lately because of all of their defensive absences, but, while they are still without stud edge defender Danielle Hunter, they will get stud safety Harrison Smith, top cornerback Patrick Peterson, and talented linebacker Anthony Barr all back from multi-game absences this week, which is a significant amount of talent that is being re-added to this lineup. 

My calculated line has the Vikings as the slight favorite to win this game, favoring them by 1.5 points and that is not even taking into account that the Packers typically drop off more on the road than the average team, in large part due to Aaron Rodgers having a well above average 10-point quarterback rating drop off between home games and road games in his career. 

Unfortunately, we are not getting much line value with the Vikings, who are underdogs of just 1 point. When this opened at 2.5, I was hoping we would get a full field goal at some point, but the line has moved the other direction, with sharp bettors recognizing that the Vikings are significantly healthier on defense than they have been in recent weeks. The money line is still worth a play, but there isn’t enough line value with the spread for that to be worth betting.

Update: This is a late bet, but Rashan Gary will be out for the Packers, despite practicing in limited fashion all week. He has been a big part of their defensive success without Za’Darius Smith, so having both him and Smith out will really limit this defense, in contrast to Minnesota being much healthier on defense. Despite that, this line has moved up to +1.5. I like both the spread and the money line in this game, as my calculated line has the Vikings favored by a field goal.

Minnesota Vikings 31 Green Bay Packers 27 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-2)

The Packers get Aaron Rodgers back from a one-game absence this week and they are 7-1 with him this season, but they have more reason to be concerned than it seems. Rodgers is returning, but they remain without three of their best players, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, cornerback Jaire Alexander, and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who have missed most or all of the season. The Packers have still been winning games without them, but they rank just 13th, 10th, and 30th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency and don’t really have any dominant wins. 

Just two of their wins came by more than 10 points and those came in games in which the Packers were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions and in which the Packers were outgained at home on a per play basis by a mediocre Washington team. The Packers did go into Arizona and win, but the Packers were very reliant in the turnover battle in that game, losing the first down rate battle by 5.93%, but winning by a field goal in a game in which the Packers won the turnover battle by three.

One of those turnovers was a late interception to seal the game when the Cardinals were in range to at least send the game to overtime, if not win outright. The Packers scored off the Cardinals’ other two takeaways too, so if any one of those turnovers doesn’t happen, the Packers could have easily lost. Given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis, the Packers can’t count on that again and, given that the Cardinals outperformed the Packers in other key metrics, the Cardinals would likely win a rematch more often than not, so even that was not a dominant win.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, get Russell Wilson back from a three-game absence and might be a little underrated. In fact, I have them as the slightly better of these two teams right now. The Seahawks were just 2-3 with Wilson, but they faced a tough schedule and, even without Wilson, the Seahawks outscored their opponents across 3 games, as they went just 1-2, but had a chance to win both games they lost. Even with Wilson missing half of the season, they rank 17th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, while their defense and special teams rank 19th and 12th respectively. 

Despite possibly being the better team right now, the Seahawks are underdogs of more than a field goal in Green Bay. My calculated line has the Packers at -1, so we’re getting significant line value with the Seahawks at +3.5, especially when you consider that about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. However, I don’t want to bet against the Packers in Green Bay, where they are 47-22 ATS in games in front of fans in which Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes. Rodgers himself has a QB rating that is about 10 points higher at home than on the road, well beyond the average home/road differential. Between that and the uncertainty with both quarterbacks in their first game back, I don’t want to bet this game, but the Seahawks are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Green Bay Packers 23 Seattle Seahawks 21

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3.5

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)

Earlier this week, I was expecting to make a big play on the Chiefs in this one, when they opened with an even line. The Packers are 7-1, while the Chiefs are just 4-4, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Chiefs still rank 2nd in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, despite having a down year by their standards, and their problems have been primarily concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank dead last in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency. 

Fortunately, offensive efficiency tends to be much more predictive week-to-week than defensive efficiency and, on top of that, the Chiefs have gotten healthier on defense, as starting cornerback Charvarius Ward, talented safety Tyrann Mathieu, and their two best defensive lineman Frank Clark and Chris Jones have only all played together just in the past two games, with all four missing some action early in the season. 

The Chiefs underwhelmed last week against the Giants, but they were likely caught looking forward to this bigger matchup with the Packers this week. The Chiefs have also had issues with turnovers, as they have the worst turnover margin in the league at -11, which has significantly capped their upside this season, but turnover margins tend to be highly inconsistent and unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and many of the Chiefs turnovers have been on deflected or tipped balls, so I don’t anticipate this being a problem all season. 

In fact, while I would expect any team with a turnover margin like the Chiefs have had thus far this season to improve in that aspect going forward, that should especially be true for the Chiefs, as having a top level quarterback is the only way to have any sort of consistent success in the turnover margin. Across Mahomes’ first three seasons in the league, the Chiefs had a combined +23 turnover margin, before Mahomes’ recent string of mostly unlikely interceptions led him to currently lead the league with 10 interceptions. I don’t see that continuing going forward and, with the Chiefs defense likely to improve going forward as well, the Chiefs should be much better going forward.

The Packers, meanwhile, have not played as well as their record suggests, as they rank 9th, 22nd, and 27th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively and don’t have any overly impressive wins. Just two of their wins came by more than 10 points and those came in games in which the Packers were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions and in which the Packers were outgained at home on a per play basis by a mediocre Washington team. 

The Packers did go into Arizona and win last week, giving the Cardinals their first loss of the season, but the Packers were very reliant in the turnover battle in that game, losing the first down rate battle by 5.93%, but winning by a field goal in a game in which the Packers won the turnover battle by three, including a late takeaway to seal the game when the Cardinals were in range to at least send the game to overtime, if not win outright. The Packers scored off the Cardinals’ other two takeaways too, so if any one of those turnovers doesn’t happen, the Packers could have easily lost. Given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis, the Packers can’t count on that again and, given that the Cardinals outperformed the Packers in other key metrics, the Cardinals would likely win a rematch more often than not.

Because most of the Packers wins have been close, while most of the Chiefs issues have been concentrated on defense or have come as a result of a fluky turnover margin, I thought these two teams were at worst even going into this game, with the Chiefs holding an edge if anyone did, so getting them on an even line at home was a good value. Unfortunately, this game has changed drastically since earlier this week, with Aaron Rodgers set to mess this game after testing positive for COVID and the line shifting a whopping 7.5 points as a result, now favoring the Chiefs by that amount. 

About half of NFL games are decided by seven points or fewer, so that’s a drastical line movement and I don’t think it’s warranted. As good as Aaron Rodgers is, his backup Jordan Love is a recent first round pick who made significant improvements this off-season, so I don’t expect quite as big of a dropoff as the oddsmakers and public seem to. The Chiefs could also be in a look ahead spot now that Rodgers is out, with a big divisional matchup against the Raiders on deck and, much like we saw out of the Chiefs last week against the Giants, we could see them play down to the level of their competition again this week what could be a look ahead spot for the Chiefs with Rodgers out. I am still taking the Chiefs for pick ’em purposes because we are still getting a little bit of line value with them, but this one is no longer bettable.

Kansas City Chiefs 33 Green Bay Packers 24

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -7.5

Confidence: Low