Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 17 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-11) at New England Patriots (12-3)

The Dolphins have been a tough team to predict this season. On one hand, they’ve undoubtedly been better since committing to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback before week 7, winning 4 games in what once looked like a potential 0-16 season and ranking 19th in first down rate differential at -1.08% over that stretch, led by an offense that ranks 12th in first down rate at 36.35% over that stretch. On the other hand, they have the worst supporting cast in the NFL around Fitzpatrick and have consistently ranked dead last in my roster rankings, despite solid quarterback play. When Fitzpatrick plays well, the Dolphins can be a competitive team, but when he doesn’t they’re the worst team in the league and Fitzpatrick hasn’t been consistent throughout his career.

That makes this game tough to predict against the spread, with the Dolphins being 16-point underdogs in New England. If Fitzpatrick can play well, the Dolphins should be able to keep this relatively close and at the very least should be in position for a backdoor cover late in the game. If Fitzpatrick can’t play well, this will be a blowout for New England, who has 6 wins by 21 points or more this season. My calculated line is New England -17.5, so I’m leaning towards the Patriots for pick ‘em purposes, but I have no interest in betting anything of significance on this game. 

Update: The more I think about this the more I want to upgrade the Patriots to a low confidence pick. They historically do very well in week 17 games and it feels like the Patriots are once again starting to click before the post-season. The large spread and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tendency to randomly have big games prevent me from betting on New England, but they should be the right side.

New England Patriots 30 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: New England -16

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 16 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (10-4) at New England Patriots (11-3)

The Bills got a huge win last week, not only clinching a playoff spot in the process, but giving them their first double digit win total since 1999 and keeping them alive in the battle for the division with the New England Patriots, who they play this week in the first meaningful late season matchup between the Bills and Patriots in decades. The Bills rank 11th in first down rate differential at +2.25%, which more or less lines up with their 10-4 record, but that’s partially inflated by an easy schedule. Even with some tougher games in recent weeks, the Bills still rank tied for last in the NFL in opponents record at 43%. My roster rankings have the Bills 17th, which is I think is more in line with how they would play against an average schedule.

The Patriots had an easy schedule earlier in the year, but they’ve had a tough schedule over the past several weeks and overall have a 48% opponents record. Because these two teams are in the same division, they’ve had pretty similar schedules, but the Patriots have faced a first place schedule because they won the division last year and those first place teams (Ravens, Texans, and Chiefs) are the only teams they’ve lost to. Against teams that the Bills have also faced, the Patriots are 10-1 with a +18.00 points per game margin. The Bills are 8-3 against those teams, but with just a +7.00 point per game margin. The Patriots have also been significantly better statistically on the season than the Bills, ranking 3rd in first down rate differential at 32.59%, despite facing the Chiefs and Texans instead of the Broncos and the Marcus Mariota led Titans.

Given that, I don’t expect the Bills to be able to keep this game within a score in New England. The Patriots are almost an automatic bet at home when favored by less than a touchdown, going 47-19 ATS with Tom Brady under center, as they almost always manage to find a way to win by at least a touchdown at home. Brady and this Patriots offense could have a hard time putting points on the board, with Brady playing at less than 100% with a receiving corps that he hasn’t been able to get in rhythm with due to missed practice time, against a Bills defense that ranks 3rd in first down rate allowed, but the Bills’ offense ranks just 20th in first down rate, despite an easy schedule, and young quarterback Josh Allen is almost a guarantee to make at least a couple mistakes against a well-coached Patriots defense that ranks first in first down rate allowed by a wide margin at 28.66% (2nd place ranked team is 31.56%). Even if it’s not pretty, I expect the Patriots to win by at least a touchdown.

New England Patriots 20 Buffalo Bills 10

Pick against the spread: New England -6.5

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals: 2019 Week 15 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-12)

The Patriots have typically been a good bet to bounce back after a loss, going 51-28 ATS off of a loss in the Bill Belichick era and not losing three in a row since 2002. They enter this game on a two-game losing streak, after losing to the Texans and Chiefs, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good bet this week as 10-point road favorites in Cincinnati. They’re actually just 8-14 ATS off of a loss in the Belichick era when favored by 7 points or more and they’ve had some struggles on the road in general in the past couple years.

The Bengals are also a much more competitive team than their 1-12 record suggests. They’re a significantly better offense with Andy Dalton under center rather than Ryan Finley, with a 32.67% first down rate in Dalton’s 10 starts and a 28.18% first down rate in Finley’s 3 starts. The return of Cordy Glenn from injury 3 weeks ago also helped this offense. Meanwhile on defense, they actually rank 14th in first down rate allowed on the season at 35.66% and 7th since week 7 at 32.80%, as they’ve gotten healthier in recent weeks.

Seven of their 12 losses have come by 8 points or fewer, despite playing the 5th toughest schedule in the NFL, so I wouldn’t assume the Patriots are just going to come into Cincinnati and blow them out. It’s pretty unlikely that the Bengals will give the Patriots their first 3-game losing streak in nearly two decades, but this game could be closer than expected. I wouldn’t recommend betting on it, but the Bengals seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Final Update: Cornerback Jason McCourty is out for the Patriots despite practicing throughout the week, while Darqueze Dennard is playing for the Bengals despite missing Friday’s practice with injury. Despite that, this line has moved up to 10.5 in most places. I wouldn’t recommend a bet on the Bengals, but this should be a closer game than most expect.

New England Patriots 24 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +10.5

Confidence: Low

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