Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (3-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)

Both of these teams exceeded expectations as big underdogs last week, the Bengals in a 26-21 loss in Los Angeles to the Chargers and the Raiders with a 24-21 home upset win over the Steelers. Both teams caught their opponents in a bad spot, with the Steelers playing the Patriots next and the Chargers having to turn around and face the Chiefs in Kansas City on a short week, and were able to cover with ease as a result.

Because the Raiders actually won last week, they’re in a bit of a bad spot this week, as teams tend to have a hangover effect after a home win as big underdogs, going 70-93 ATS over the past 30 years after a home win as underdogs of 6 or more. The Raiders’ win also shifted this line from Cincinnati -4.5 down to Cincinnati -3, so we’ve lost line value with the Raiders as well. However, I still think we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visitors, as this line suggests these two teams are about even and I have the Raiders slightly higher in my roster rankings.

The Bengals got off to a great start at 4-1, but have lost 7 of their last 8 as injuries have piled up. Without quarterback Andy Dalton, #1 wide receiver AJ Green, and #1 tight end Tyler Eifert on offense and without every down linebacker Vontaze Burfict and stud pass rush specialist Carl Lawson on defense, this is far from the same team they were early in the season and, on paper, they are one of the worst teams in the league. The Raiders at least have competent quarterback play and Derek Carr has looked better in recent weeks as he’s seemed to settle into Gruden’s system a little more. This is a no confidence pick with a bad team in a tough spot, but the Raiders are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Cincinnati Bengals 26 Oakland Raiders 24

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: None

Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-10)

I’ve mentioned this a couple times this season already, but the Steelers historically come out flat on the road as big favorites against a non-divisional opponent. We’ve already seen the Steelers lose in Denver and almost lose in Jacksonville this season, but this actually dates back years. Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, the Steelers are 7-20 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of more than a field goal and they are 5-16 ATS as road favorites of more than 4.5 since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year in 2004.

We lost some line value in this game in the past week, with the Steelers going from 12.5-point favorites on the early line down to 10-point favorites this week, as a result of the Raiders playing the Chiefs close, the Steelers losing to the Chargers at home, and heavy sharp action on the Raiders this week, but we’re still getting enough points to play with for Oakland to be worth a bet, especially with feature back James Conner out for the Steelers.

The Raiders obviously have issues, but I have this line calculated at Pittsburgh -7, even before taking into account their struggles in this spot historically. Making this an even tougher spot for the Steelers is the fact that they have New England after this game, so the Steelers almost definitely aren’t going to be fully focused on the Raiders this week. I expect them to come out flat and maybe even let the Raiders take a halftime lead before eventually pulling out a relatively close victory in the second half. The Raiders are worth a small bet as long as this line is double digits.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland +10

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-9)

Earlier this week, I liked the Chiefs a lot in this one. The line was high, with Kansas City being favored by 15.5 points on the road, but this is a matchup of arguably the best and arguably the worst team in the league and the Chiefs are also in a great spot. While they don’t have any upcoming distractions, with only a home game against the Ravens on deck, the Raiders follow this game up with another tough game, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Favorites of 7+ are 58-35 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again, while underdogs of 7+ are 29-47 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 7+ again. Combining the two, favorites of 7+ are 13-4 ATS since 2014 before being 7+ point favorites again, when their opponent will next be 7+ point underdogs again.

The Chiefs are also coming out of a bye. Not only is Andy Reid great off of a regular season bye in his career, 13-6 ATS as a head coach, but road favorites of 4+ are 32-8 ATS since 2002 after a bye, including a ridiculous 12-1 ATS against divisional opponents. Fully rested, the Chiefs looked likely to be fully focused, with no upcoming distractions on the schedule, while the Raiders were in a tough spot with back-to-back tough home games.

However, I’m no longer sure that the Chiefs will be fully focused this week, given the Kareem Hunt situation. Hunt is somewhat replaceable on the field, as new starting running back Spencer Ware is an experienced lead back, and the line shifted from -15.5 to -14 to compensate for Hunt getting kicked off the team, but I’m concerned about the psychological effect of losing a key player like that late in the week. I may change my mind and end up bumping this up to a medium confidence pick, especially if the line slips down to -13.5, but for now this is a low confidence pick.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -14

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-8) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

First round rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson will make his second straight start for the Ravens in this one, with Joe Flacco still sidelined with a hip injury. Jackson won his debut, but the jury is still very much out on him as a passer. He barely beat a Cincinnati team that has not played well lately due to injuries and he carried the ball a ridiculous 26 times (most in NFL history by a quarterback), as opposed to just 19 pass attempts, which isn’t something he’s going to be able to do every week.

Fortunately, Jackson gets another easy game this week with the Raiders coming to town. The Raiders pulled off the upset in Arizona last week, but they’ve had a miserable season at 2-8. They rank just 27th in first down rate differential at -5.08% and are arguably even worse than that due to all of their personnel losses since the start of the season. The Ravens should be able to execute a conservative, run heavy offense again this week, knowing that the Raiders’ offense has little chance of consistently putting together drives against Baltimore’s talented stop unit.

I think this line is about right at Baltimore -10.5, but I’m giving the Ravens the edge in this one because the Raiders might not bring their best effort. In a lost season, they could easily be looking forward to next week’s home clash with the Chiefs, a game in which they are a ridiculous 14-point home underdogs. Teams are just 39-85 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs of 7.5 points or more, as upcoming big home games tend to be a distraction to teams. On top of that, double digit underdogs are just 26-51 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs again. We’re not getting enough line value with the Ravens to bet on them, but they should be the right side this week.

Baltimore Ravens 23 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -10.5

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-8) at Arizona Cardinals (2-7)

Both of these teams have had horrendous seasons, as the Raiders rank 30th in first down rate differential at -5.54%, while the Cardinals rank dead last at -7.51%. The Cardinals are trending up a little bit, as their offense has been improved since switching to Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator, while the Raiders are trending down, due to all of their personnel losses (especially at wide receiver) and locker room problems, but this line still seems a little high at Arizona -5.5, as I have these two teams about even.

The Raiders are also in a much better spot, as favorites rarely play well before being big underdogs, which the Cardinals will be in Los Angeles against the Chargers next week. Favorites are just 24-42 ATS since 2008 before being double digit underdogs. The Raiders have serious locker room issues and might not give much effort in this meaningless non-conference game, so I wouldn’t recommend betting them, but the Cardinals should not be favored by this many points against anyone and they too may not give their best effort with a much tougher game on deck.

Arizona Cardinals 20 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland +5.5

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-7)

This line shifted from Chargers -7.5 on the early line last week up to Chargers -10 this week. Typically I like going against significant week-to-week line movements like that, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but this one is justified. The Chargers one of the better teams in the league, ranking 4th in first down rate differential at +4.70% and 8th in point differential at +40, while the Raiders are quite the opposite. Outside of the Bills, they may be the worst team in the entire league. The Chargers also typically play well on the road, going 32-20-3 ATS since 2012 away from home, as they rarely have much of a homefield advantage anyway and are used to playing in front of hostile crowds.

The Chargers are also in a great spot this week, with only another relatively easy divisional game on deck, at home against the Broncos, a game in which they are favored by 7 on the early line. Favorites of 6+ tend to take care of business with another easy game on deck, going 86-52 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. The Raiders will probably bring their best effort for this game, with a long week to prepare against a hated divisional rival, but the Chargers could still easily win this game by double digits. This is too many points for the Chargers to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Oakland Raiders 19

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -10

Confidence: None

Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-6) at San Francisco 49ers (1-7)

Things have gone from bad to worse for the 49ers. Already without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season with a torn ACL, now backup CJ Beathard is dealing with a hand and wrist injury on his throwing arm. Beathard is still expected to play, but he barely practiced on a short week and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be anywhere near 100% or if could get pulled mid-game for backup Nick Mullens, a second year undrafted free agent who has never thrown a pass in a regular season game. The 49ers will also be without key defensive players Reuben Foster and Jaquiski Tartt, who were very much missed as the 49ers blew a two score 4th quarter lead to the Cardinals last week.

The Raiders are not in good shape either, with a mediocre roster and all sorts of reported issues in their locker room, in their first year under new head coach Jon Gruden. They’re a little bit better of a team though and they have by far the better quarterback situation, which is important on a short week. It’s also worth noting that this is basically a home game for the Raiders too, as they play about an hour from the 49ers, so the 49ers shouldn’t get more than a point if anything for homefield advantage, even on a short week. I have this line calculated at about even. We’re not getting many points with the Raiders as 2.5 point underdogs though, so this is a pretty low confidence pick. It’s hard to get excited about backing either side in this one anyway, as this is two terrible teams playing on a short week.

Update: Beathard is active for this game, but Mullen will start as they feel he’s a better option than a less than 100% Beathard. That may be true, but the odds are heavily against Mullen performing well in this one. He’s just the 5th undrafted free agent in the past 30 years under the age of 24 to start at quarterback for a team. The previous 4 (Doug Johnson, Matt Moore, Jeff Tuel and Connor Shaw) had a combined 60.0 QB rating with a 2-5 record in 7 starts. It’ll be even more challenging for Mullen making his debut on a short week with limited first team reps. The Raiders still are not an appealing bet, even if the line movement from +2.5 to -1.5 is largely insignificant, but they are the safer bet for pick ’em purposes.

Oakland Raiders 23 San Francisco 49ers 20

Pick against the spread: Oakland -1.5

Confidence: None