Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-4)

The Raiders enter this game on a 4-game losing streak and are dealing with a much-talked-about injury to quarterback Derek Carr, who was not 100% last week in his return from a back injury and will likely not be 100% again this week on a short week. However, the Chiefs are in a tough injury situation as well, just not one that gets talked about as much. Obviously the injury to Eric Berry in the opener hurt this defense significantly, but their offense is missing two starters on the offensive line (center Mitch Morse and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) and and two of their top-3 receivers (Chris Conley and Albert Wilson). That really hurt them in last week’s home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which they lost the first down battle 23-11.

On the season, the Chiefs are just 17th in first down rate differential at +0.73%, as they have 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents, but 7 fewer first downs. The Raiders, meanwhile, rank just 2 spots behind them at -0.50%. Taking into accounts injuries, I have these two teams about 3 points apart in my roster rankings. Given that, getting the Raiders as field goal home underdogs is a good value. Oakland should be able to keep this one close throughout and possibly pull off the upset. If not, I like getting field goal protection with them, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. This would be a higher confidence pick if I was confident that Carr wouldn’t get knocked out of the game, but the Raiders are still worth a small bet.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 Oakland Raiders 23

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 6 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) at Oakland Raiders (2-3)

When I saw Derek Carr was going to be play, I was excited because I thought we’d be getting a significant amount of points with the Chargers, which would have made this a great betting opportunity. The Raiders are obviously better with Carr out there, but Carr is likely not 100% just 2 weeks into a 2-6 week recovery timeline and re-injury is a possibility with this type of back injury. On top of that, the Raiders are in a tough spot with a game against the Chiefs on Thursday night on deck, as favorites are just 59-90 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2008.

The Raiders also face an underrated Chargers team this week, so it won’t be an easy return for Carr. The Chargers are just 1-4, but 3 of those losses came by a combined 7 points and they’ve basically had to play 5 road games this season given how few fans they attract in their new home in Los Angeles, so they’re a lot more talented than their record suggests. They’re still around middle of the pack in my roster rankings and they rank 9th in the NFL in first down rate at +2.99%.

However, this line opened at 4, so we’re not getting as many points with the Raiders as I would have expected. I was expecting this line to be about 6 or 6.5, but the oddsmakers might have worried about too much sharp action at that number. I’m still taking the Chargers because they play a lot of close games (12 of last 25 losses by 4 points or fewer) and because the Raiders are in a tough spot with Thursday Night Football on deck, but we aren’t getting enough line value to bet on the Chargers confidently.

Oakland Raiders 23 Los Angeles Chargers 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +4

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 5 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)

The big injury that gets attention in this game is the back injury to Derek Carr, who will be replaced by backup EJ Manuel at least this week, as he recovers from a small fracture. However, the Raiders are basically healthy other than that and the Ravens have lost significantly more to injury this year, with a league most 16 players on injured reserve. Their injuries issues have gone back to before the season even started, most importantly losing cornerback Tavon Young, tight end Dennis Pitta, and left guard Alex Lewis for the year before week 1.

Despite that, the Ravens started 2-0, but they have lost their last 2 games by a combined score of 70-16. What happened? Well, the competition has gotten tougher, as the Ravens’ wins came over the Bengals and the Browns and their losses have come against the Jaguars and Steelers. Their turnover margin has also regressed to the mean, as they’ve posted a -5 turnover margin over the past 2 weeks, after posting a +7 in the first 2 weeks of the season. But the biggest reason they’ve struggled has been the absence of guard Marshal Yanda and defensive tackle Brandon Williams, both of whom were healthy for the first 2 games. Those two were their best offensive and defensive linemen respectively.

Williams could be back in the next couple weeks, but Yanda is out for the year. The Ravens have struggled mightily offensively ever since Yanda when down, including in the 2nd half against the Browns week 2, which is no surprise because he’s arguably the best right guard in football. Without him and Williams against the Raiders, this is still far from an easy game, even with Manuel under center for the Raiders. Even without Carr, I have the Raiders 2 points better than the Ravens, so they should be favored by around 5 points here at home instead of 2.5. There’s enough line value here for a small bet on the Raiders.

Oakland Raiders 20 Baltimore Ravens 15

Pick against the spread: Oakland -2.5

Confidence: Medium

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 4 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Denver Broncos (2-1)

The Raiders suffered a shocking defeat in Washington last week, losing 27-10 in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score. The Raiders managed just 7 first downs all game, compared to 18 for the Redskins. Considering the Raiders were 2-0 going into the game and how talented their roster is, it was a very surprising outcome. As a result, this line has moved from a pick ‘em last week on the early line to the Broncos now being favored by a field goal. About 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 field goal or less, so that’s a significant line movement.

I think that game will likely look like a fluke when all is said and done this season though. On top of that, the Redskins are a quality team, so it’s not necessarily a bad sign that the Redskins were able to defeat them like that in Washington. I’m not sure the same can be said of the Broncos’ loss in Buffalo last week, as Denver’s roster is not quite as talented as the Raiders’ roster and the Bills are a weaker opponent than the Redskins. This line is at -3, suggesting these two teams are even, but I have this line calculated at only -1, so we’re getting some decent line value as a result of the line movement.

It also helps that the Raiders are in their second of two road games, as teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game. Teams are 242-260 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 1.02 points per game, as opposed to 353-492 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. It especially helps that the Raiders are underdogs off a loss, as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games are 114-76 ATS off of a road loss. Broncos have an upcoming bye, but that could work against them in what should be a tough matchup, as home favorites of 1 to 5.5 are just 40-64 ATS since 2002 before a bye. There’s enough here to take the field goal with some confidence.

Oakland Raiders 23 Denver Broncos 20 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: Medium

Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1)

This is the toughest game of the week because the line is right where it’s supposed to be and neither team is in a particularly good or bad spot. I have these two teams about six points apart, so a line of -3 in favor of the visiting Raiders makes a lot of sense. I’m taking the Redskins for one reason and one reason only and that’s to fade the public, as the public is betting heavily on the Raiders this week. Casual fans don’t realize the importance of homefield advantage so they think the Raiders will easily beat the Redskins by more than a field goal. I think they’ll have a little bit more trouble than that. This could easily be a field goal game and a push. I have no interest in picking either side outside of pick ‘em leagues.

Oakland Raiders 30 Washington Redskins 27

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: None

New York Jets and Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (1-0)

The Jets lost their season opener in Buffalo by the final score of 21-12 last week and now again head on the road to Oakland. Fortunately for them, teams tend to do better in their 2nd of two road games, especially as underdogs off of a loss. Teams are 114-76 ATS in that spot since 2008. That is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 241-258 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 1.03 points per game, as opposed to 347-483 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game.

The Jets are in a tough spot though because they are projected to be 6 point home underdogs next week against the Dolphins and teams tend to not cover before being big home underdogs, going 45-98 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5+ or more, including 17-38 ATS before being divisional home underdogs of 4.5 or more. That’s because teams in that situation either have a very tough upcoming home game that could be a major distraction or they just aren’t a good team.

In this case, it’s more the latter than the former, as the Jets are as untalented as any team in recent memory. They only lost by 9 last week in Buffalo, but had the worst first down rate differential of any team in the league (-14.29%) and only managed 11 first downs to Buffalo’s 23. Thirteen and a half points is a lot to lay with the Raiders, as just 1 of their last 16 wins has come by 14+ points (last year’s 38-24 win over the Bills), but they’re still the smarter option in pick ‘em. The Raiders haven’t faced a team as bad as the Jets in at least a decade. They are also the smart survivor pick (last week’s was Pittsburgh).

Oakland Raiders 31 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland -13.5

Confidence: None

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 1 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)

This line favors the Titans by 2.5 points, suggesting the Raiders are a little bit better than the Titans. I think that’s backward. The Raiders won 12 games last season, while the Titans won just 9, but I think the Titans enter the season as the better team. They finished last season 6th in first down rate and scored 10 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents, the 2nd best margin among non-playoff teams behind the Cardinals and the 6th best in the NFL overall. They missed the playoffs because of close losses and return touchdowns (-8 in that metric), but those tend to be fluky. They also addressed their only weaknesses this off-season, shoring up their secondary and receiving corps, and enter the season as arguably the most complete team in the NFL.

The Raiders, meanwhile, required a lot of luck to go 12-4, even though they lost Derek Carr with injury week 16. Eight of their 12 victories came by 7 points or fewer, including a 5-0 record in games decided by a field goal or less, and their point differential of +31 was just behind non-playoff teams in the Eagles and Ravens (both at +36). That’s despite the fact that they finished with a league best +16 turnover margin. Turnovers tend to be very inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, so the Raiders won’t be able to count on that as much in 2017. Before Carr went down, this team ranked just 12th in first down rate differential and likely would not have gone on a long playoff run either way.

They’re a young team that added more talent this off-season, so they should still be considered the favorites in the AFC West, especially with the Chiefs losing All-Pro safety Eric Berry for the season, but I have the Titans a few spots ahead of them in my rankings and I have them with one more win in my season previews (11 vs. 10). They are one of my favorite sleeper teams this season and this gives me an opportunity to take them before their price gets too high. As long as this line is lower than a field goal, it’s worth putting money on the home team. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal and I like the Titans’ chances of winning by a field goal or more.

Tennessee Titans 27 Oakland Raiders 23

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2.5

Confidence: Medium