New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-2) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Patriots have been on a great run in recent weeks, winning 8 straight wins, including 4 straight by 17+ points since their week 9 bye. Over those last 4 wins (Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins, Bills), they have a 22 point per game margin of victory. They seem to be rounding into the Super Bowl favorite most expected them to be before the start of the season, even despite some injuries. Their defense is much improved, led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, while their offense has remained unstoppable.

The Patriots are also on an impressive 15-game winning streak away from New England. They’ve covered the spread in 12 of those games and have an average margin of victory of 13.67 points per game. The Patriots have a national fanbase like the Cowboys, so it makes sense that they are able to have success regardless of where they play. In fact, it’s possible there will be more Patriots fans than Dolphins fans at this game. That being said, I can’t recommend betting on them this week. They are 11.5 point road favorites, which is a big number to cover without suspended tight end Rob Gronkowski, even against a weak opponent like the Dolphins. For pick ‘em purposes, however, the Patriots are the smarter choice, as it’s usually a good idea to pick Tom Brady unless you have a good reason not to.

New England Patriots 26 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: New England -11.5

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (9-2) at Buffalo Bills (6-5)

The Bills pulled the upset in Kansas City last week, but the Chiefs have long been overrated and have lost 5 of 6, so that upset isn’t as impressive as it might seem. The Bills are undoubtedly a better team with Tyrod Taylor back under center, but they lost by a combined 50 points to the Jets and Saints in Taylor’s two starts prior to his start in Kansas City. The Bills started the season 5-2 with Taylor under center before that, but that was largely because of a +14 turnover margin. In the 4 games since, they are -8 in turnover margin.

Part of that is because of Nathan Peterman’s 5-interception half against the Chargers, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Bills were always likely to regress to the mean in turnover margin. They’ve struggled to win the first down battle regardless of who is under center, as they rank 30th in first down rate differential at -6.48%. Taylor is a capable starting quarterback, but he isn’t working with much in the receiving corps, especially with Kelvin Benjamin out, and their defense has problems getting off the field if they aren’t forcing turnovers.

The New England Patriots come to town on a 7-game winning streak and, even more impressively, a 14-game winning streak away from New England. They’ve won those 14 games by an average of 13.21 points and covered the spread in 11 of them. The Patriots have fans throughout the country, much like the Cowboys, so it makes sense that they’d do well even away from home. They’re also in a great spot with only a trip to Miami on deck. Big favorites tend to cover before being big favorites again, as favorites of 7+ are 67-42 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 7+ again (New England is -11.5 in Miami on the early line). Without any upcoming distractions, the Patriots should take care of business and get another double digit road victory, against a significantly inferior Bills team. This is a high confidence pick as long as the line is below 10.

New England Patriots 34 Buffalo Bills 20

Pick against the spread: New England -9

Confidence: High

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-6) at New England Patriots (8-2)

The Patriots are dealing with a number of injuries to starters yet again this week. Right tackle Marcus Cannon, center David Andrews, and wide receiver Chris Hogan remain sidelined with injury for the third straight week, while defensive tackle Malcom Brown could miss his 4th straight game after once again not getting a full practice in all week. Fortunately, they don’t have a tough opponent this week, with the Dolphins coming to town. Despite 4 wins, the Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the league, as they rank 30th in both point differential (-97) and first down rate differential (-5.41%). They’ve been even worse since losing talented right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the season. He was their best offensive lineman and his loss is a huge blow to an otherwise weak offensive line.

The Patriots have been playing well even through injuries in recent weeks too, winning big in Denver against the Broncos and in Mexico City against the Raiders. They’ve been much improved on defense in recent weeks and their offense has remained the best in the league despite missing several starters because of their depth. In stark contrast to the Dolphins, the Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL. They’re also in a great spot this week with only a trip to Buffalo on deck. Big favorites tend to take care of business before being big favorites again, as favorites of 7+ are 66-42 ATS before being favorites of 7+ again the following week and the Patriots are -10 in Buffalo on the early line. At -16.5, this line is too big to bet on confidently, but the Patriots are the pick for pick ‘em poll purposes. At the very least, I don’t want to bet against Tom Brady right now unless I have a clear reason to.

New England Patriots 34 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: New England -16.5

Confidence: None

New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (7-2) vs. Oakland Raiders (4-5) in Mexico City

The Raiders are technically the home team in this International Series game in Mexico City, but the Patriots might be the one with the slight homefield advantage. The Patriots have won 12 straight games away from Gillette Stadium, with an average margin of victory of 12.83 points per game and a 8-2-2 ATS record in those 12 games. Over the same time period, the Patriots have 4 home losses and have an average point differential of 9.07 points per game in 15 home games. This makes a lot of sense considering how many fans the Patriots have around the country. Even in Denver last week, Patriots fans could be heard in the crowd.

The Patriots have never played in Mexico City, but they have had a lot of success in their first 2 international games, beating the Buccaneers by a score of 35-7 in London in 2009 and beating the Rams by a score of 45-7 in London in 2012. Much like American fans with Europe soccer teams, international NFL fans tend to root for the most successful franchises. That might be why favorites of 4+ are 12-1 ATS all-time in neutral site games. The Raiders have a geographical advantage and they played in Mexico City last year, but there should still be a lot of Patriots fans in attendance. The Patriots also just played in high altitude in Denver last week, so they’ll be used to it in Mexico City.

That being said, we’re getting no line value with the Patriots as 7 point favorites. The Patriots still rank 31st in first down rate allowed and have serious trouble getting off the field without forcing a takeaway. They could allow the Raiders to hang around and get a backdoor cover in a shootout. The Patriots are also banged up offensively, missing starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, starting center David Andrews, and #2 wide receiver Chris Hogan. If this line drops below 7, I may reconsider, but, for now, this is a low confidence pick.

New England Patriots 31 Oakland Raiders 23

Pick against the spread: New England -7

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (6-2) at Denver Broncos (3-5)

This line has the Broncos as 7.5 point home underdogs against the Patriots and I don’t understand it. The Broncos were just 7 point road underdogs in Philadelphia last week and the Eagles are playing significantly better than the Patriots this season. The Broncos lost that game 51-23, but the Eagles were in a great spot heading into a bye and the Broncos likely quit once they got down big early, knowing that they had this game against the Patriots on deck. They should be a lot more focused for this game and they are back at home, where they are 3-1 this season, with wins over the Chargers, Cowboys, and Raiders.

The Broncos’ big loss in Philadelphia last week moved this line from 5.5 on the early line to 7.5, a sizeable shift considering about 15% of games are decided by 6-7 points. I think even 5.5 would be too high as I have this line calculated at New England -3. Even after by far their worst defensive showing of the year last week, the Broncos still rank 5th in first down rate allowed and they still have a top-5 defense on paper. Prior to last week, Denver ranked 1st in the NFL in first down rate allowed. Their offense has major problems led by Brock Osweiler, but the Patriots rank 31st in first down rate allowed and the Broncos might be able to run the ball effectively and hide Osweiler, especially if the game is going to be close.

The one concern with taking the Broncos is that the Patriots are coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3.5 or more points are 40-16 ATS since 1989 after a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. The Patriots don’t come out of the bye healthy though, with defensive tackle Malcom Brown, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and wide receiver Chris Hogan out this week. I’m not sure the Patriots deserve to even be 3.5 point road favorites and I definitely think 7.5 is way too high for this line. Without another strong option this week, this is my Pick of the Week.

New England Patriots 20 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Denver +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)

The Chargers are just 3-4, but they’ve had a more impressive season than that suggests. They lost their first 2 games by a combined 5 points, in games in which they missed a combined 3 makeable field goals, and then their 3rd loss came by just 2 points. On the season, they rank 7th in first down rate differential at +3.52% and have a +6 point differential. Making that even more impressive, they’ve done that despite the fact that their home crowds tend to be primarily road fans, meaning they’ve more or less played 7 road games thus far this season. As a result, they are 3-0 ATS in their 3 actual road games. This trend actually dates back to San Diego where they had trouble drawing crowds too. They’re 13-6 ATS since 2015 on the road, including 12-5 ATS as road underdogs.

Going into New England is no easy task, but the Chargers are used to opposing crowds and are capable of playing well despite them. The Patriots are also a little overrated right now. The common narrative is that they’ve fixed their defensive issues after last week’s 23-7 win over the Falcons, but they still allowed the Falcons to move the chains at a 39.29% rate. The Falcons just couldn’t cash in, missing two makeable field goals and failing from 4th and goal from the 1 late in the game. On the season, they rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 40.97%. The Patriots have also lost defensive tackle Malcom Brown and outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower with injuries in the past week, hurting this defense even more.

The Patriots could still figure out their defensive issues before the post-season, given how well-coached they are, but I need to see it before I believe it, especially given who they are missing defensively right now. Given the state of these two rosters, I have the Patriots as just 2.5 points better than the Chargers right now, so we’re getting some line value with the visitors at +7.5. It does concern me a little bit that the Patriots are going into a bye, as home favorites of 7 or more are 61-40 ATS since 1989, but the Chargers are going into a bye too and that record drops to 13-12 ATS when the opponent is also going into a bye. On top of that, I don’t think the Patriots deserve to be favored by this many right now, so the Chargers are worth a small bet at +7.5.

New England Patriots 24 Los Angeles Chargers 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +7.5

Confidence: Medium

Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (3-2) at New England Patriots (4-2)

The Falcons are skidding a little after a 3-0 start, losing back-to-back home games as big favorites, first against the Bills and then against the Dolphins last week. However, both games were close and they still rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +4.50%. Their record isn’t overly impressive, but it’s impressive that they’ve managed to go 3-2 despite having a -4 turnover margin on the season (6th worst in the NFL). Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Falcons should be better going forward, especially now that they are fully healthy, with edge rusher Vic Beasley, right tackle Ryan Schraeder, and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu back from their injuries. At full strength, the Falcons still rank 2nd in my roster rankings behind Philadelphia.

The Falcons’ loss last week at home to the Dolphins was easily their worst performance of the year, but they were up 17-0 in the 3rd quarter and had a chance to at least kick a field goal to send it to overtime at the end of the game before a turnover. The Falcons were likely just distracted with this huge game on deck. With only a trip to New York to face the Jets on deck, the Falcons should be fully focused for New England this week and could play their best game of the season as a result.

Given that, I like the Falcons a lot this week as 3.5 point underdogs. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less and this game figures to be a close one, but the Falcons also have a decent shot to win this game straight up. New England is 4-2, but their wins over the Texans, Buccaneers, and the NY Jets were close games that could have gone either way and they rank just 18th in first down rate differential. They still rank 4th in my roster rankings, but the Falcons are arguably the best team they’ve faced all season.

By far their biggest problem area this season for New England has been defense, as they have had the worst defense in the league thus far this season (41.21% first down rate allowed). For comparison, that rate is higher than any offense in the league, so their defense statistically has been worse than the best offense has been good. If that continues, the Falcons could easily win a shootout. With New England struggling to get any pass rush and missing their #2 – #4 cornerbacks with injury (Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, and Cyrus Jones), that could easily continue this week. The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because I’m worried that Bill Belichick will have found a way to get his defense to perform at a passable level for this important matchup, but we’re getting too many points with Atlanta to pass on.

New England Patriots 31 Atlanta Falcons 30

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3.5

Confidence: Medium