Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (10-4) at New England Patriots (7-7)

This is one of the tougher calls of the week from an against the spread perspective. My calculated line is Cincinnati -3, which is right where this line is, and, given that games are decided by three significantly more often than any other number, the most likely outcome of this game is a Cincinnati win by a field goal, which would result in a push. I am taking New England for pick ‘em purposes, but only because the public is heavily on the Bengals and, as a result, the sportsbooks would stand to make a lot of money if the Patriots are able to keep this within three. 

For all the problems the Patriots have on offense (29th in schedule adjusted efficiency), their defense is still one of the best in the league (3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency) and, overall, they’re not worse than an average team, so they should be able to keep this game somewhat competitive at home, even if the Bengals are likely to emerge victorious. A push is still probably more likely than anything though and there’s not nearly enough here for this game to be worth betting either way.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 New England Patriots 20

Pick against the spread: New England +3

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-6) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-8)

This is one of the toughest games of the week to predict. Both teams have several key offensive playmakers who are questionable, talented pass catchers Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow for the Raiders and top running backs Rhomandre Stevenson and Damien Harris, as well as top wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, for the Patriots. When I factor those five players in as legitimately questionable, my calculated line is Las Vegas -1, which is right where this line is. Depending on injuries, I could land on either side of this game, albeit unlikely for a bet on either side. I’m taking the Raiders for now because they’re slightly healthier and are getting slight value in my roster rankings, but this is a no confidence pick for now and it could easily be a push.

Update: Both teams got favorable injury news, with Stevenson and Meyers active for the Patriots and Renfrow and Waller active for the Raiders. This line has moved to 2.5 though. I’m going to take the Patriots at that number, for a no confidence pick.

Las Vegas Raiders 19 New England Patriots 17

Pick against the spread: New England +2.5

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals: 2022 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-8)

The Cardinals were at the top of my overrated teams list coming into the season. They went 11-6 last season, but needed a +12 turnover margin to get to that record, which is not predictive, and they ranked just 14th in overall efficiency, barely above average. They also got a lot worse this off-season, losing starting wide receiver Christian Kirk, top edge defender Chandler Jones, top off ball linebacker Jordan Hicks, top cornerback Robert Alford, and their most efficient running back Chase Edmonds, with their only major addition being former Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown, who cost the Cardinals their first round pick in a trade and who isn’t a significant upgrade on Christian Kirk.

The Cardinals are 4-8 this season, which is definitely a significant decline from last year’s record, but they’ve arguably been even worse than that suggests, still having a +1 turnover margin, despite a -57 turnover margin (27th in the NFL), leading to them ranking just 28th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about six points below average. The Patriots are a middling team, ranking 14th in schedule adjusted efficiency, barely above average, but they should still be favored by more than 1.5 points on the road in Arizona, with my calculated line favoring them by four. This isn’t a big play, in part because the Patriots are expected to be without top receiver Jakobi Meyers, but the Patriots are still worth a bet this week.

New England Patriots 20 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: New England -1.5

Confidence: Medium

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at New England Patriots (6-5)

Throughout the 2021 season and through the first two games of this season, when the Bills won, they always won big, winning 14 straight games by 12 points or more, with an average margin of victory of 23.4 points per game, while 6 of their 7 losses over that time frame came by 7 points or fewer. However, since week 3, the Bills have played much closer games, with five of six wins coming by 10 points or fewer. They’ve also lost three games over that time frame, though all three came by three points or fewer and could have easily gone the other way.

The biggest reason why the Bills haven’t been blowing opponents as much lately is because they haven’t been at full strength. This week, they’ll have to play without top edge defender Von Miller for the first time this season, which a huge loss and an absence that is drawing a lot of attention in this game, but, other than that, the Bills are actually going to be a lot healthier this week than they’ve been in recent weeks, which should offset Miller’s absence. 

On defense, their other talented edge defender Greg Rousseau is set to return from a 3-game absence and stud linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will return from a 2-game absence, while their offense will welcome back center Mitch Morse from a 1-game absence. The Bills also got top cornerback Tre’Davious White back for the first time all season last week and should get much more of a contribution from him in his second game back this week and they will still have talented safety Jordan Poyer healthy, after he missed four games earlier this season. 

The Bills aren’t at full strength, missing Miller and continuing to be without their other talented safety Jordan Poyer and their talented starting left tackle Dion Dawkins, but, even with all of their injuries thus far this season, the Bills still rank first in the league in schedule adjusted efficiency, about 9.5 points above average and, in their current state, my roster rankings have the Bills about 9.5 points above average as well. 

The Patriots, meanwhile, are much more of a middling team, playing at a high level on defense, but struggling on offense, which is the more predictive side of the ball, and, because of that, we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Bills, even as favorites of more than a field goal on the road in New England. I would need this line to drop all the way down to a field goal for the Bills to be worth betting, as 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal and a Buffalo win by exactly a field goal is a strong possibility, but my calculated line is Buffalo -6, so they’re still the right side for pick ‘em purposes at -3.5.

Buffalo Bills 26 New England Patriots 20

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -3.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-4) at Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

Normally the rule of thumb on a short week is to take the home team as long as they are favored and as long as it is a non-divisional game, as it’s very tough for a team to go on the road on a short week and face an unfamiliar opponent, unless they happen to be significantly better than their opponent. All in all, non-divisional home favorites cover at a 62.0% rate on Thursday Night Football and that trend applies to this game, with the Patriots on the road facing the Vikings in this Thanksgiving matchup.

It’s also typically a good idea to bet on teams who were just blown out, like the Vikings were last week against the Cowboys, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed after a blowout loss, with teams covering at a 58.6% rate after a loss by 35 points or more. That drops to 52.1% if we just look at teams that are favored, but, at the very least, that’s a good sign that we shouldn’t avoid the Vikings just because they were blown out last week and are now favored.

I can’t guarantee that the Vikings will be overlooked or embarrassed, but we are getting more line value with them than we were a week ago, as this line has shifted from favoring the Vikings by 3.5 points on the early line last week to favoring them by 2.5 points this week, a bigger shift than you might realize, with 1 in 6 games decided by exactly a field goal. Despite that, it’s hard to get excited about betting on the Vikings this week as, even with that line movement, we’re still getting some line value with the Patriots.

The Vikings are 8-2, but they’ve benefitted from a 7-0 record in games decided by one score and they actually have a significantly worse point differential (-2) than the 6-4 Patriots (+44). The gap between these two teams is significant in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency as well, with the 20th ranked Vikings being 1.5 points below average and the 14th ranked Patriots being a half point above average. 

Minnesota is more talented than that suggests, but they’re missing three of their top-4 cornerbacks and their stud left tackle Christian Darrisaw, so I have the Patriots as the slightly better team overall, giving us a calculated line of Minnesota -1. That’s not much line value with the Patriots, but it’s enough to give me pause about betting on the Vikings, even in a good spot. I would still consider betting on the Vikings if Patriots center David Andrews doesn’t play and Vikings’ interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson does, but both players are likely game time decisions, so I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now.

Minnesota Vikings 20 New England Patriots 16

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -2.5

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

New York Jets (6-3) at New England Patriots (5-4)

The Patriots play again a few days after this game, facing the Vikings on Thanksgiving, which would normally put the Patriots in a bad spot, as favorites cover at just a 44.6% rate before Thursday Night Football, but the Patriots are also coming off of a bye, which might nullify that somewhat. There isn’t a large sample size of favorites playing between a bye week and a Thursday game, but teams are 9-10 ATS in that spot, which isn’t good, but it’s not particularly bad either and it makes sense that having extra rest beforehand would somewhat offset having an upcoming short turnaround, so I wouldn’t shy away from the Patriots this week just because they have to play again a few days after this one.

That being said, I do still like the Jets a little bit at +3.5, as I expect this to be a close, low scoring game, with two teams that have much better defenses than offenses. About 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer and this seems likely to be one of them. However, this is a no confidence pick and, if the line were to move to three, I would like the Patriots at that number more than I like the Jets at this number, so I would change my pick in that circumstance. Either way, there’s nothing worth betting on here and this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

New England Patriots 19 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3.5

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1) at New England Patriots (4-4)

The Patriots have struggled on offense this season, ranking 28th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but they’re at least somewhat better in my roster rankings, about a half point below average on offense, while their defense and special teams rank 11th and 7th respectively in schedule adjusted efficiency. Overall, the Patriots are two points above average in my roster rankings, significantly ahead of the Colts, who are seven points below average, in large part due to starting an inexperienced late round draft pick quarterback Sam Ehlinger, which will especially be a problem against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who will have a big advantage in Ehlinger’s second career start. We’re not getting great line value with the Patriots at -5.5, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 20 Indianapolis Colts 13

Pick against the spread: New England -5.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (3-4) at New York Jets (5-2)

The Jets are off to a surprising 5-2 start and, while they probably aren’t as good as that record suggests, they are probably still better than they are being given credit for, as 2.5-point home underdogs against the Patriots. It’s surprising that their record is as good as it is, but it’s not surprising to see the Jets be significantly improved from a year ago, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. 

The Jets’ offense is underwhelming, ranking 29th in schedule adjusted efficiency, and the injuries are starting to pile up on that side of the ball as well, missing starting wide receiver Corey Davis, impressive rookie running back Breece Hall, and talented starting right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, among other lesser absences, but their defense has jumped from 31st in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency a year ago to now ranking 6th, about three points above average.

That defensive performance is no fluke, as they are significantly more talented on that side of the ball this season, with several key players bouncing back from injuries (Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams) and other key players being added in the draft (Ahmad Gardner) and free agency this off-season (DJ Reed, Kwon Alexander). My roster rankings have their defense about three points above average, in line with schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and, even with their offensive issues, I still have them just a point below average overall in my roster rankings. 

The Patriots are about a point above average in my roster rankings, so they’re the slightly better team, but not enough to justify them being favored by this many points on the road. My calculated line is even, with the Jets having a slightly better chance to win than the Patriots. We’re not getting enough points with the Jets for them to be worth betting unless we get a full field goal with them, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes either way and the money line is a good value at +120, as the Jets should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game outright.

New York Jets 17 New England Patriots 16 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +2.5

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (2-4) at New England Patriots (3-3)

Coming into the season, many regarded the Bears as among the worst, if not the worst team in the league. They won a couple early games, but the way they won those games suggested they were still one of the worst teams in the league and that they would have a hard time continuing to win games going forward. In both of their wins, the Bears lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle, by 0.41% and 1.30 respectively against the 49ers and by 1.39% and 0.08 respectively against the Texans, a big concern because those stats are much more predictive than the final score.

Sure enough, the Bears have lost three straight games since their 2-1 start and, in terms of schedule adjusted overall efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the Bears rank 30th, about 7 points below average. Even that may be the Bears overachieving their talent level, as my roster rankings have them 8.5 points below average and the 2nd worst team in the league, only behind the Broncos, who this week will have to turn to Brett Rypien, one of the shakiest backups in the league, in the absence of Russell Wilson.

The Patriots, meanwhile, were written off by many after a 1-3 start and an injury to starting quarterback Mac Jones. However, they were competitive in all of their losses, barely losing to the Packers in overtime and losing to the Dolphins primarily because of the turnover margin (-3 vs. Miami and -2 vs. Baltimore), which is not predictive week-to-week. In the past two weeks, the Patriots have since seen their turnover issues go the other way, posting turnover margins of +1 and +3 over the past two weeks in blowout victories over the Lions and Browns respectively, with backup quarterback Bailey Zappe under center.

Not only did those two wins get the Patriots back to .500, but they’ve also pushed them all the way up to 5th in the NFL in point differential at +28. Schedule adjusted overall efficiency doesn’t rank them quite as highly, but they still are 14th in the NFL, about one point above average. My roster rankings suggest they are even better than that, having them about 4 points above average, suggesting their high level of play in recent weeks is more indicative of their talent level than their slow start, which was likely the result of a significant change in offensive scheme this off-season.

Mac Jones is expected to return this week, but the way Bailey Zappe has played the past two weeks, I’m not really sure it matters for the purposes of handicapping this game, as either quarterback should be capable of leading the Patriots to a blowout win over the lowly Bears. This line is 8.5, which seems high, but the Patriots have shown a penchant for blowing teams out over the past three seasons, especially bad teams, with 13 of their 20 wins over that span coming by double digits. This isn’t a big play, but the Patriots should be bettable this week.

New England Patriots 23 Chicago Bears 10

Pick against the spread: New England -8.5

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (2-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)

Both of these two teams are 2-3, but both have played better than their records would suggest. The Browns have a positive point differential at +8, with their three losses coming by a combined six points, including a game in which they blew a two-score lead under two minutes left in the game, due to a recovered onside kick. The Patriots, meanwhile, also have a positive point differential, despite a -2 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week.

The Browns are the healthier team, with the Patriots playing a backup quarterback, but the Browns are missing top cornerback Denzel Ward and talented edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, so they have injury problems of their own. Overall, I have these two teams about even, so this line, favoring the Browns at home by 2.5 points, is about right. That means we’re not getting any line value with either side, but a field goal win by the home team is probably the most likely result, so I would take the Browns for pick ‘em purposes, albeit for one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Update: The Patriots’ top cornerback Jonathan Jones is unexpectedly out this week, so I am going to increase the confidence on Cleveland a little bit.

Cleveland Browns 24 New England Patriots 20

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -2.5

Confidence: Low