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

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) at New England Patriots (3-2)

After last week’s win over a tough Jacksonville team that improved their record to 5-0, the Chiefs were anointed by many as the clear favorite in the AFC, but now they have to turn around and face another tough test in New England. The Patriots lost in Jacksonville earlier in the season, but they’re much improved since then. They’ve 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 has gotten more integrated into this offense, after being acquired via trade week 3, and first round rookie Sony Michel has broken out as the lead running back.

This game is also in New England, where the Patriots are virtually unbeatable, with just 22 losses in 150 games started at home by Tom Brady. It’s even tougher to win in New England for young quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes, who is in just his 7th career start. Remarkably a quarterback under the age of 25 has never beaten Tom Brady in Gillette in the regular season. Even more remarkable is Brady’s record in his career against teams with a better record than his. The league average winning percentage is 38.3% against teams with better records, but Brady is 35-12 straight up (74.5%) and 37-10 ATS. It’s going to be much tougher for the Chiefs to beat the Patriots this week than it was for the Jaguars to beat them in Jacksonville week 2.

The Chiefs’ offense is obviously dominant, but their defense remains a major concern. The common narrative seems to be that their defense is fixed because they held Jacksonville to 14 points last week, but they still allowed 29 first downs. They did force 5 takeaways, but other than takeaways they’ve had real trouble getting off the field this year, allowing a league high 142 first downs (13 more than the next closest team). Tom Brady and company are unlikely to turn the ball over much, so the Chiefs figure to have a really tough time getting them off the field, especially now that they’re missing top pass rusher Justin Houston.

This game will be a shootout, but the Patriots defense is underrated at full health and ultimately I trust them to get some stops against a young quarterback on the road in a hostile environment more than I trust the Chiefs to slow down this New England offense with Eric Berry and Justin Houston on the sidelines. I have this line calculated at New England -6, so we’re getting good line value with them at -3 and they’re in a great spot because they always get up for these big games against tough opponents. This is my Pick of the Week if you can get -3, even if you have to pay extra juice, but it’s worth a big bet even at -3.5 too if you’re getting less than normal juice.

New England Patriots 38 Kansas City Chiefs 30

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (1-3) at New England Patriots (2-2)

A week after floundering in Detroit, the Patriots returned home and dominated a previously unbeaten Miami team in a 38-7 win, extending their incredible 287 game streak of not losing 3 straight games. The return of defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung after they had missed the previous game and a half with injury made all the difference on defense. Both went down around the same time week 2 against Jacksonville and that’s coincidentally right when the Patriots’ defense fell apart, after a solid opener against the Texans.

This week, they get a key piece back on offense, with wide receiver Julian Edelman returning from a 4-game suspension, giving Brady a familiar target and giving this offense a much needed threat at wide receiver. Edelman missed all of last season with a torn ACL and hasn’t played since Super Bowl LI, so it’s fair to expect some rust from him, but his return, combined with Josh Gordon’s continued integration into this offense, makes this suddenly a respectable receiving corps. The Patriots could be without Rob Gronkowski this week on a short week, which would obviously hurt them, but there’s optimism he can play after he got a limited practice in on Wednesday.

The Colts, on the other hand, are really banged up. While left tackle Anthony Castonzo could make his season debut after missing 4 games with a hamstring injury, the Colts are missing 3 other tackles with injury and will have to kick 2nd round rookie guard Braden Smith outside to right tackle. They will also be without top receiver TY Hilton, starting tight end Jack Doyle, and starting cornerback Kenny Moore, while linebacker Darius Leonard and center Ryan Kelly are both considered gametime decisions. Andrew Luck has played well for them this season, despite not having his full arm strength back, but the rest of this roster is pretty mediocre and they’re in rough injury shape on a short week.

The Colts are also in a terrible spot on a short week in New England. Excluding games between familiar divisional opponents and games where the road team is favored, home teams are 32-15 ATS on Thursday Night Football. Playing on a short week is tough enough, but when you have to travel as well and play a superior and relatively unfamiliar opponent, it puts you at a disadvantage. The Colts are also coming off of an overtime loss to the Texans and teams are just 6-25 ATS all-time on Thursday Night Football after an overtime game, including 2-18 ATS on the road. The Colts will likely be exhausted and unable to keep it close this week. We aren’t getting a ton of line value with the Patriots as 10 point favorites, but they’re a much superior team and they’re in a great spot, so they are worth a bet this week.

New England Patriots 34 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: New England -10

Confidence: Medium