New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (9-3) at Miami Dolphins (6-6)

When this line was New England -10 on the early line, I was thinking about taking the Dolphins. The Patriots have not nearly been the same team on the road this season and they’ve historically struggled in Miami, including last year, when they lost as 11-point favorites in Miami in this exact same situation, right before a much bigger game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Patriots face again next week. There’s obviously a huge talent difference between these two teams, but 10 points seemed like enough cover to play with.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost line value in the last week, with this line shifting to 7.5. It’s not really clear why, as New England beat the Vikings by two touchdowns last week, while the Dolphins almost lost at home to the Bills, but maybe the oddsmakers just realized the line was too high last week. The Dolphins will also be without their top cornerback Xavien Howard with injury, a big loss against a team like the Patriots, but this line doesn’t seem to take that into account.

With that in mind, I’m actually going to flip to the Patriots, even in a tough spot. Five of the Dolphins’ six losses have come by more than a touchdown, while all of their wins have come by 8 points or fewer. They rank 29th in first down rate differential, 24th in point differential, and, while their offense is better with Ryan Tannehill back, he doesn’t appear to be 100% right now. It’s also typically not smart to go against the Patriots late in the season without a good reason, as they are 67-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center. This is a no confidence pick, but the Patriots are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 24 Miami Dolphins 16

Pick against the spread: New England -7.5

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) at New England Patriots (8-3)

The rule of thumb with the Patriots is to bet them in the second half of the season, once they’ve figured themselves out. They are 66-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center. This year, they were on one of their signature mid-to-late season runs, only to see their 6-game winning streak stopped by a Tennessee team that blew them out 34-10. That was the biggest loss that the Patriots have had that late in the season with Tom Brady under center and it made many think that the Patriots are not the same team as they normally are.

That’s why I think this line is only at -5. If the Patriots were considered a true top level team, they would be favored by at least a touchdown at home over a good, but not great Minnesota team, especially with key cornerback Xavier Rhodes and key wide receiver Stefon Diggs both barely practicing this week due to injuries sustained in last week’s game in Green Bay. Both are expected to play, but if those two players are both limited, it’ll be noticeable in this big game.

Even with their loss in Tennessee, I’m still giving the Patriots the benefit of the doubt, especially since they bounced back well off their loss (as they usually do), winning the first down rate battle by 11.15% in New York against the Jets last week. They are also much healthier now than they were in that Tennessee game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and right guard Shaq Mason did not play in that game and running back Sony Michel was not at 100% after missing time with a knee injury. All three were big parts of their win in New York last week.

The Patriots also have ugly losses in Jacksonville and Detroit from earlier in the season, but they weren’t at full strength in those losses either, without stud defensive end Trey Flowers, talented safety Patrick Chung, or wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. At full strength, the Patriots have been very tough this season, especially at home, where they are 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 13.8 points, despite playing playoff contenders in all 5 games, including Houston and Kansas City.

The Patriots are also in a great spot with only a trip to Miami on deck, a game in which they are 10.5 point favorites on the early line. Teams tend to take care of business before easy games like that, without any distractions, going 91-69 ATS since 2008 before being road favorites of 7 or more points. The Patriots are one of my favorite picks this week, as they should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown, if not multiple scores.

New England Patriots 27 Minnesota Vikings 17

Pick against the spread: New England -5

Confidence: High

New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-3) at New York Jets (3-7)

The Patriots started off the season 1-2, but followed that up by ripping off 6 straight wins, putting them firmly back into Super Bowl contention once again. However, then they followed that up by getting blown out by 24 in Tennessee prior to their bye week, their biggest loss this late in the season with Tom Brady under center. Many soured on them after that loss and I think they’re underrated as a result.

They’re still one of the better teams in the league on paper and the Titans are a legitimately good team when Marcus Mariota is healthy, with one of the better defenses in the league, so that loss wasn’t as bad as it looked. The Titans got blown out in Indianapolis last week, but that was in part because they were flat after their huge upset win, in part because they lost Mariota to injury in the first half, and in part because the Colts have been quietly one of the best teams in the league over the past month.

The Patriots have also been so good throughout the years that they should get the benefit of the doubt, especially since they have played at a very high level on numerous occasions this season. They typically bounce back well after a loss, going 48-25 ATS in the Bill Belichick era, including 38-19 ATS with Tom Brady, and they are typically dominant in the second half of the season, going 65-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center.

The Patriots are also in a great spot coming off the bye against a lowly Jets team that ranks 28th in first down rate differential at -5.15%. Good teams typically beat up on bad teams after a week off. Road favorites of 4+ are 31-8 ATS since 2002 after a bye, including a ridiculous 11-1 ATS against divisional opponents. The Patriots have had two weeks to hear about how they supposedly have lost it and I expect them to come out of their bye with a statement win.

The Patriots are also much healthier going out of the bye, with right guard Shaq Mason and tight end Rob Gronkowski expected to return from short-term absences. Both were badly missed in their loss in Tennessee. This line is pretty high at -9.5, but I have the Patriots favored by 11.5 points, as this is a matchup of one of the worst teams in the league and one of the best. The Patriots should cover with ease in what should be a blowout victory.

New England Patriots 30 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: New England -9.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-2) at Tennessee Titans (4-4)

The Titans had arguably their best performance of the year last week in Dallas, posting a +4.87% first down rate differential in a 28-14 road win on Monday Night Football. The Titans have had a strong defense all season, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 33.40%, but it was encouraging to see their offense have a strong performance (40.58% first down rate) on the road against a good Dallas defense. Going into the game, the Titans had just 8 offensive touchdowns in their first 7 games, but Marcus Mariota, who has been injured since week 1, looked 100% in his first game out of the bye and led the Titans’ offense to paydirt 4 times. If he can continue playing well, the Titans will be a tough opponent in the second half of the season.

Unfortunately for the Titans, they get arguably their toughest game of the season this week, with the New England Patriots coming to town. Now winners of 6 straight, the Patriots have shaken off their early season funk and have hit mid-season form like they always do. They could also be healthier this week than they’ve been in a while, with tight end Rob Gronkowski, right guard Shaq Mason, and running back Sony Michel all possibly returning from short-term absences this week. The Titans, meanwhile, will be without talented right tackle Jack Conklin with a concussion. It’s not usually wise to go against the Patriots at this point of the season unless you’re getting a ton of line value, which isn’t the case here. I’m not confident in the Patriots though because the Titans are talented enough to give them a game and because they’ve had some struggles away from home this season.

New England Patriots 31 Tennessee Titans 23

Pick against the spread: New England -7

Confidence: None

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

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (5-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-5)

The Patriots are favored by 13.5 points on the road in this game in Buffalo, the most a team has been favored by on the road since the Patriots were 14-point favorites in Jacksonville in week 16 of 2012. The rarity of this kind of line of not a reason not to take the Patriots though. In fact, teams are 15-12 ATS as road favorites of 13.5 or more in the past 30 years. That’s not a reason to take the Patriots necessarily, but historically speaking when a team is favored by this many on the road, there’s a good reason for it.

There is certainly a good reason for it in this one, as the Bills are inarguably the worst team in the league with street free agent Derek Anderson under center, while the Patriots have seemingly hit their stride like they always do and should be considered one of the top few teams in the league. I can’t be confident in the Patriots because they are without injured running back Sony Michel and could also be without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the second straight week and because they could sleepwalk through this game a little bit with a tougher game against the Packers on a short week on deck, but even at less than 100% on the road the Patriots could still win this game by two touchdowns.

New England Patriots 27 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: New England -13.5

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

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

The Bears had a disappointing first game back from the bye last week, losing in overtime as 7-point favorites in Miami. Normally teams tend to do well out of the bye as big road favorites, but the Bears were in a tough spot where they didn’t find out they were facing backup quarterback Brock Osweiler until the morning of the game, while the Dolphins likely spent the whole weekend preparing for Osweiler to start, after regular starter Ryan Tannehill re-aggravated his shoulder injury in Friday’s practice. The Bears also might have been caught looking forward to this big game at home against New England as well.

Despite that loss, the Bears are still one of the better teams in the league, so we’re getting some line value with them as 3-point home underdogs against the Patriots. I didn’t expect to bet the Patriots as often as I have early in the season, but we started getting good value with them after they surprisingly lost back-to-back games on the road in week 2 and week 3. Now after 3 straight wins, we’re no longer getting good value with them and instead it is the Bears who are a little underrated.

That being said, we’re not getting quite enough line value to bet the Bears this week, as this line dropped from 3.5 early in the week down to 3, a significant line movement considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Since their slow start, the Patriots have gotten top pass rusher Trey Flowers and valuable safety Patrick Chung back from injury on defense, wide receiver Julian Edelman has returned on offense, fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon was acquired from Cleveland and played close to every snap last season, and first round rookie Sony Michel has broken out as the lead running back. They could easily be a dominant team the rest of the way, so it’s not advisable to bet against them unless you’re getting great line value.

The Patriots are also in a good spot with only a trip to Buffalo on deck, one of their easier games of the season. Teams understandably tend to be completely focused and take care of business before easy games like that, as teams are 45-29 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 7+. The Bears should be completely focused too and are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I’d need at least 3.5 to put any money on them. This could easily be a push.

Update: Rob Gronkowski injured his back at practice on Friday and did not make the trip with the team. It’s an obvious downgrade for the Patriots, but the line dropped from 3 down to 2, which means the Bears basically have to win straight up to cover, so I’m keeping this as a low confidence pick.

Final Update: As I think about this more, I’m dropping this to a no confidence pick at +2. Brady has been close to automatic as underdogs or favorites or less than 3 in his career, going 49-22 ATS, and I don’t feel like going against that with any confidence. New England could easily win this game by a field goal, especially with Khalil Mack seemingly at less than 100% with an ankle injury.

New England Patriots 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against the spread: Chicago +2

Confidence: None