Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) at New England Patriots (10-2)

The Patriots lost their second game of the season in Houston last week, but that’s not concerning for a few reasons. For one, close to half their team was dealing with the flu, which put them at a significant disadvantage. Two, the issues with their passing game were more communication related than talent related, suggesting this passing game will get better with time. Three, the Patriots have been prone to these clunker games on the road in recent years. Last year, they lost on the road to five teams that didn’t qualify for the post-season, including three losses by 11 points or more, and they still won the Super Bowl. They haven’t had quite the same thing happen this year, with their only other previous loss coming in Baltimore, where no one has had much success in recent weeks, but they’re definitely more comfortable playing at home.

Their home dominance really dates back two decades to the start of the Tom Brady era, as Brady has a ridiculous 86.3% winning percentage at home and is 47-18 ATS when not favored by 7 points or more. For two decades, the Patriots have been basically an automatic bet at home when they aren’t big favorites. They’ve also basically been an automatic bet off of a loss, going 51-27 ATS off of a loss since Belichick’s first season in 2000, including 43-13 ATS when not favored by 7 points or fewer. History suggests the Patriots are very likely to bounce back at home this week.

We’re also getting good line value with New England. With the Patriots’ loss last week, this line has shifted from New England -4 on the early line last week to New England -3 this week, a significant shift considering 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. This line more or less suggests these two teams are about even, but I have the Patriots a few points better, as the Chiefs still have significant problems on defense, ranking 27th in first down rate differential at 37.80%. Getting line value with the Patriots in an automatic bet spot makes this an easy choice. Even in a week where I like a lot of different games, the Patriots are my Pick of the Week.

New England Patriots 31 Kansas City Chiefs 23

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New England Patriots at Houston Texans: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-1) at Houston Texans (7-4)

Much was made early in the season about the Patriots’ weak schedule, but their schedule has definitely gotten tougher in recent weeks and their overall opponent’s winning percentage is now a respectable 48%. Despite the tougher schedule, the Patriots still rank very highly in first down rate differential at +6.81%, only behind the 49ers and Ravens, and they only have one loss, a 17-point loss in Baltimore that looks less embarrassing every time the Ravens take the field. The Patriots’ offense is a work in progress, but their defense is legitimately dominant and they’re clearly one of the top few teams in the league overall. 

The Patriots face another opponent with a winning record this week, but the Texans are not the same team without JJ Watt on the field and he’s out for the season with a torn pectoral. Without Watt, I have the Texans just 14th in my roster rankings. I have the Patriots calculated as 5.5 point favorites, so we’re getting line value with them at just 3.5. I would need this line to fall to an even field goal before gametime for the Patriots to be worth a bet, but it seems to be trending in that direction, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up updating this writeup before gametime.

New England Patriots 23 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: New England -3.5

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (6-4) at New England Patriots (9-1)

The Cowboys lead the NFC East at 6-4 and they’ve been even better than their record suggests. While their four losses have come by a combined 18 points, their 6 wins have come by a combined 107 points, giving them a point differential of +89 that actually ranks 4th in the NFL. They rank similarly in first down rate differential, with the 4th best in the NFL at 5.69%. They haven’t faced a tough schedule, with the 4th easiest schedule in the NFL so far in terms of DVOA, but, while their schedule gets a lot tougher this week, going on the road to the 9-1 Patriots, the Patriots are actually one of the three teams that have faced an easier schedule than the Cowboys thus far.

That’s not to say this game won’t be hard for the Cowboys, but the Patriots don’t rank that much higher than the Cowboys in first down rate differential (2nd at 7.44%), despite facing a slightly tougher schedule, so it should be a competitive game. My roster rankings have these teams ranked similar as well, as the Patriots rank 2nd, while the Cowboys rank 3rd. Given that, this line seems too high, favoring New England -6.5. My calculated line only has the Patriots favored by 3.5 at home. 

That being said, it’s never a smart idea to bet against Tom Brady at home unless he’s favored by more than a touchdown, as he is 47-17 ATS all-time as at home when he’s not favored by 7 points or more. This line was a touchdown a week ago on the early line, but all the +7s are long gone at this point. If we were getting +7, the Cowboys would be worth a bet, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Patriots were able to pull out a win by a touchdown even if this game is close throughout. 

The Patriots’ offense also gets what could potentially be a big boost this week with left tackle Isaiah Wynn set to return from injury. Their defense is dominant, leading the league with a 27.27% first down rate allowed that is impressive who they’ve played, so if their offense, which ranks just 20th in first down rate despite an easy schedule, can even start to resemble what it has looked like in past years, the Patriots are still a very tough team to play, especially at home. I think the most likely outcome of this game is a New England win by 3 or 4, but I’m not confident enough to bet Dallas at +6.5.

New England Patriots 24 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas +6.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (8-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)

The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season in their last game against the Ravens, as a defense that had allowed just 4 offensive touchdowns through the first 8 games of the season allowed 4 offensive touchdowns in a 38-20 loss in Baltimore. It’s easy to look at that game and who the Patriots faced in the first half of the season and say their defense isn’t for real, but their defense got off to a dominant start even when you adjust the numbers for strength of schedule and they seemed to simply not be prepared to face the Ravens’ unique style of offense in their defeat. Even with that game included, the Patriots still have the lowest first down rate allowed in the league at 26.50% and rank 1st in first down rate differential at +8.95%.

The Patriots typically bounce back pretty well off of a loss anyway. Not only are they 58-20 straight up in the Bill Belichick era in games after a loss, but they’re also 51-27 ATS, including 42-13 ATS when not favored by 7 points or more. The Patriots are only favored by 4 points here and, while I wish we were getting more line value with them after a bad loss, they’ve been almost automatic in this spot historically. On top of that, they are coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3.5 or more are 40-12 ATS since 2002 after a bye, also an almost automatic spot. This line is about right, as the Eagles are still a tough opponent, but this is too good of a spot to not bet the Patriots this week, especially when you add in the added motivational aspect of this being a revenge game for New England after their Super Bowl loss two seasons ago.

New England Patriots 24 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: New England -4

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (8-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

It goes without saying that the Patriots have gotten off to an incredible start. Their point differential of +189 not only leads the NFL by a wide margin, with the next closest team coming in at +133, but it also would have led the NFL last season, despite the fact that the Patriots have only played half of the season so far. They’ve benefitted from a +17 turnover margin, which is probably not sustainable, but Bill Belichick’s Patriots have proven to be the exception to the rule that turnover margins are inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Since Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots have a +204 turnover margin. No other franchise is higher than +90 over that time period. 

The Patriots also rank first in first down rate differential at +11.61%, with the 49ers falling to second after an underwhelming Thursday Night Football performance. For comparison, no team has finished the season with a first down rate differential higher than +8.45% over the past 4 seasons. The one big knock on New England is that they’ve done this over an easy schedule, facing the league’s easiest schedule by DVOA, but they’ve clearly played much better than replacement level football across that schedule. 

New England’s schedule gets tougher this week, with a trip to the 5-2 Ravens up next, but the Ravens haven’t been as good as their record, as they have also benefited from an easy schedule and have not looked nearly as dominant as New England. Four of their 5 wins came against teams that are currently a combined 6-27-1 (Dolphins, Cardinals, Steelers, and Bengals) and three of those four wins came by 6 points or fewer. Their signature win came 2 weeks ago before their bye in Seattle, but the Seahawks have not been as good as their 6-2 record either, ranking 14th in first down rate differential, and the Ravens actually lost the first down rate battle in that game by 4.10%, with the game swinging on a pair of Baltimore return touchdowns. 

The Ravens traded for cornerback Marcus Peters and are getting healthier on defense as well, with Jimmy Smith returning from injury, but they’re still a far cry from last year’s defense. They’ve been better on offense to compensate, but Bill Belichick’s track record against young quarterbacks can’t be denied (21 consecutive wins against first and second year quarterbacks), so it’s likely that starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has been much improved in his second season in the league, will have his worst game of the season against this dominant New England defense. Despite that, this line only favors the Patriots by a field goal. We’re not getting a ton of line value with New England, but if right guard Shaq Mason can suit up, they should be worth a bet this week. I will likely have an update on this tomorrow morning.

Sunday Update: Similar to the Oakland/Detroit game, there has been no update on Mason this morning and I think all the -3s will disappear if he does play, so I’m leaving this as is.

New England Patriots 21 Baltimore Ravens 16

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Low

Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (2-4) at New England Patriots (7-0)

The Browns have gotten off to a very disappointing start to the season, going 2-4 with a -34 point differential (25th in the NFL) and a -3.63% first down rate differential (27th in the NFL), after entering the season with expectations of contending in the AFC. Injuries have been a big part of the reason why, as they’ve already had seven week 1 starters miss time with injury. Coming out of their bye week, that number is now down to three (safety Damarious Randall, linebacker Christian Kirksey, and tight end David Njoku), with starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams both returning from 4+ game absences. 

Unfortunately, the Browns are getting healthy just in time to run into a juggernaut, as the Patriots lead the league with a +12.65% first down rate differential. They have played a weak schedule, so there’s an argument to be made that the 49ers, who rank 2nd with a +10.14% first down rate differential, have been the better team this year, but regardless of who they’ve played there’s no denying the Patriots have been a dominant team thus far this season, especially on defense, where they have allowed just 88 first downs and 3 offensive touchdowns on 394 snaps (23.10%) in 7 games. Their defensive dominance actually started late last season, as they have allowed 168 first downs and 12 offensive touchdowns on 678 snaps (26.55%) in their last 12 games, despite some much tougher competition last post-season.

The Patriots’ offense, which ranks 16th with a 35.74% first down rate, has not been as good and could be limited by a Browns defense that is getting healthier, but the Patriots could still cover this 11.5 point spread regardless. Baker Mayfield and the Browns are arguably the most talented offense the Patriots have faced thus far this season, but Mayfield is a young, mistake prone quarterback who figures to have a lot of trouble with Bill Belichick’s scheme. I have this line calculated at New England -14, so the Patriots should be the right side, though only for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 27 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: New England -11.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-0) at New York Jets (1-4)

It’s tough to know what to make of the Jets. Week 1, they lost at home to the Bills, despite winning the turnover battle by 3, posting a -12.41% first down rate in the process. Then they lost quarterback Sam Darnold and top defensive player CJ Mosley for and had a -14.45% first down rate over 3 games. Last week, however, the Jets got Darnold back and pulled the surprising upset against a Cowboys team that had won the first down rate battle in each of their first 5 games. Even though they only won that game by 2, the Jets actually won the first down rate battle by 5.26%, so it was an impressive showing in Darnold’s return. 

This week, the Jets could be getting CJ Mosley back, but even if he does return they are far from 100%. They will be without their left side of the offensive line, with both Kelvin Beachum and Kelechi Osemele injured, while center Ryan Kalil and right guard Brian Winters are both questionable after being limited in practice on Friday. Also questionable after being limited in practice are wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, cornerback Darryl Roberts, and nose tackle Steve McLendon, while defensive end Henry Anderson, tight end Chris Herndon, and middle linebacker Neville Hewitt are all doubtful.

The Jets also host a tough Patriots team that won the first down rate battle against them by 21.48% in their meeting in New England a few weeks ago. Being at home and having Darnold and Mosley back will definitely help, but with everyone else the Jets are missing, they could still have trouble keeping this game close. The Patriots haven’t faced a tough schedule, but they’ve won all 6 games by an average of 23.7 points per game and lead the league with a very impressive +13.11% first down rate differential. I actually have this line calculated at New England -14, but I wouldn’t bet on the Patriots unless this line falls below 10 because there’s a lot of uncertainty with the Jets and because the Jets could give a big effort at home on Monday Night and keep this closer than expected.

New England Patriots 23 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: New England -10

Confidence: Low