I've been feeling it over the last couple of weeks in these NFL picks. I mean, I've been on absolute fire. From Thanksgiving day until now, my record stands at 25-7-1, and one of those seven losses was because Mike Tomlin cheated. Will this run continue? Probably not. Let's pick some football games.
Each week, I'll run through each game and pick against the spreads, to deliver you the tools to win some ungodly sum of money. No totals for Sunday's games, though. Totals are only to be bet when there is nothing else to watch, and even then it's a horrible idea. Onto this week's picks. Point spreads are from the LVH, via VegasInsider.Betting trends from SportsInsightsand Regressing.Home teams are in CAPS.
Chargers (+10.5) over BRONCOS
Washington (+5.5) over FALCONS – 1 p.m.
This game is a great example of something that everybody should do when betting on any sport: use the sports book that offers the best value possible. Some books are still offering this game at Washington +7, including Bovada. That extra point and a half is a huge value for bettors but, since I use the LVH's lines for these picks, I will just live vicariously through all of you smart enough to take Washington +7.
Anyway, now that I'm done pretending to know what I'm talking about, let's talk about the game itself. Kirk Cousins is going to play quarterback for Washington, who have decided to shut down Robert Griffin III and have a pretty fun coach vs. owner showdown over the last few weeks.
With Cousins playing, expect Washington to try to run the ball often, something they do better than anyone else with a league leading 4.9 yards per carry. Against the run, Atlanta allows 4.6 yards per carry, which is worse than all but four other teams.
This line was set at Atlanta -2.5 prior to last week's games, opened at Atlanta -4, and has continued to move in that direction. Anytime lines are moved that drastically because of one game, you should really grab the added value provided by those extra points. Even are trapped in the provisions of your own football betting column and can't grab the +7, Washington +5.5 is still a good look.
BUCCANEERS (+5) over 49ers – 1 p.m.
This is going to sound ridiculous, but Tampa Bay's defense is ranked sixth in the NFL in DVOA, one spot better than the Niners. While Tampa is allowing a half yard more per play than San Francisco and 0.2 yards per rush more as well, they have been a completely different team since the whole Fire Schiano thing.
Mike Glennon, who has not been spectacular by any means, is currently leading a Bucs offense that is tied for third fewest turnovers in the NFC. While the Bucs are 30th in the league at 4.66 yards per play, San Francisco is a less than impressive 22nd, averaging 5.21 yards per play. At the end of the day, San Francisco looks a bit overrated to me.
This line started at San Fran -5.5 at the LVH and, while over 80% (!) of bettors are on San Francisco, the line has moved back to five points. Translation: the sharps are on the Schiano Men.
Seahawks (-7) over GIANTS – 1 p.m.
I'm not in love with this game because of the struggle being so real for west coast team travelling to the east for one o'clock games. But the Seahawks are just so much better than the Giants that it's just too hard to not take them here, even if R.J. Bell's mythical Wise Guys like the Giants here.
Seattle is tops in the league in yards against per play (4.57), and own the league's top defense and pass defense as measured by DVOA. They are opposed by the Giants team that is 28th in offensive DVOA, as well as 26th in passing. Eli Manning is fifteenth in the league in yards per attempt (7.17), behind Case Keenum, Josh McCown, and many more. New York's 34 giveaways are the league's most.
Russell Wilson is third in the NFL in yards per attempt (8.70) and, while the Giants defense is eighth in yards against per play (5.06), Seattle's defense will be able to disrupt the Giants offense way more than the Giants will disrupt Seattle's.
BROWNS (PK) over Bears – 1 p.m.
Jay Cutler is coming back this week for the Bears, which won't have as big an impact as many casual bettors would think. In fact, Josh McCown was averaging 8.22 yards per pass attempt compared to Cutler's 7.20. So, if anything, the Bears are getting worse at quarterback by going back to Cutler.
Cleveland, by the way, is second in the NFL in yards against per play (4.6) and per rush (3.5). They will need to play that well against a Chicago offense that is ranked fifth in DVOA and third in yards per play (6.05). On the flip side, the Bears are 30th in yards against per play (6.00), and dead last against the run (5.2 yards per rush).
Both of these teams have pronounced weaknesses that are going up against the strengths of their opposition this week. When that happens, going with the better defense at home seems like the logical choice, especially when the line opened at Chicago -2 and has moved to a pick 'em despite 70% of bettors taking the Bears. Line movements are IMPORTANT, people.
Texans (+5) over COLTS – 1 p.m.
Seventy percent of bettors are on the Colts in this game, yet this line has dropped from Indianapolis -6 to Indianapolis -5. This is because the Colts are kind of bad, regardless of what their 8-5 record says about them.
Indy is 26th in yards against per play (5.76), 25th in yards allowed per rush (4.4), and 25th in DVOA on the defensive side of the ball. They have won one game by this many points since losing Reggie Wayne to injury. Andrew Luck is 27th in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (6.72). In other words, the Colts are so overrated. SO overrated.
Houston's defense is excellent, and their yards per play differential (+0.2) is tenth in the league. Other than that, there really isn't much that's impressive about them, but this is less of a play on the Texans than it is a play against the overrated Colts.
JAGUARS (+3) over Bills – 1 p.m.
The Jaguars are playing better and better with each passing week. They are ranked above four teams in DVOA on defense now, and are rapidly approaching jumping the Jets and Ravens in that category offensively. The only per-play category that the Jags are last in is offensive yards per play, which can be attributed to just how pathetic they were in the beginning of the year. Against a Bills team that really sucks away from home, I don't feel comfortable laying a field goal against the Jags. I will be sure to laugh at that last sentence when the Bills win by 21.
DOLPHINS (-1) over Patriots – 1 p.m.
I am not thrilled about this pick, but this game really is a toss up. Miami is only .15 yards per play better than the Patriots, who boast a more potent offense by about a quarter of a yard per play. The Pats are slightly worse defensively when measured by DVOA, but slightly better in the metric offensively. I'm going Miami because the Patriots will be not only without Rob Gronkowski, but without Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. This leaves a receiving corps of Edelman, Amendola, Austin Collie, and Josh Boyce, for a team that already struggles on the road.
This line opened at New England -2.5, and has moved by three and a half points despite nearly 70% of bettors on the Patriots.
Eagles (-6.5) over VIKINGS – 1 p.m.
I love the Eagles this week. Nick Foles leads the league in yards per pass attempt, they are tied for first in yards per rush, they are second to Denver in overall yards per play, and their offense is third in DVOA behind the Broncos and Chargers. This week they get to play indoors against a Vikings team that is 27th in DVOA defensively, will probably be without Adrian Peterson, and is starting Matt Cassel.
PANTHERS (-10) over Jets – 4:05 p.m.
I thought about taking the Jets here, but no. Just no. Their offense is second worst in the NFL by DVOA, ahead of just Jacksonville. They are the fifth worst team in yards per-play on offense, and they are taking on a Panthers team with the third best DVOA on defense in the NFL. While the Jets are tops in the league in yards against per rush, they may end up pulling Geno Smith in this game. They may not score in this game. Bad things will happen to the Jets tomorrow.
Chiefs (-5.5) over RAIDERS – 4:05 p.m.
I said this before last week's Chiefs win over Washington, but I'll say it again: Kansas City is really undervalued since those three losses to the Chargers and Broncos (twice). The Chiefs gave up a whole bunch of points to the top two DVOA offenses in football, which most defenses have, and lines for their games have become pretty favorable again since. They will play great defense again tomorrow, and win by a touchdown or more.
Packers (+6.5) over COWBOYS – 4:25 p.m.
It's the Cowboys, it's December, that's all I need to know.
Saints (-6) over RAMS – 4:25 p.m.
New Orleans is great at home, and less so at home. But when their road venue is indoors, things aren't quite as difficult on them as they would be otherwise.
The Saints are fourth in the league in DVOA, and third with their passing game. St. Louis is 18th in DVOA against the pass, which isn't good enough against Drew Brees, who is averaging just under eight yards per pass attempt.
Nawlins' real advantage, though, comes from their surprisingly good defense. The Saints are 11th in overall defensive DVOA, and fifth against the pass. That's hardly what you would expect when talking about the Saints, but it's true. If St. Louis wants to hang around in this game, they will need to use Zac Stacy very effectively. The Rams average 4.4 yards per carry, while the Saints are 30th in the NFL, allowing 4.7 yards per rush. I predict that the Saints will get ahead early, forcing the Rams to throw and taking away that matchup advantage for the Rams.
Cardinals (-2.5) over TITANS – 4:25 p.m.
I'm a sucker for some Fitzmagic, but asking them to cover less than a field goal feels like a lot. Arizona is third in the league in yards against per play (4.76) and yards against per rush (3.6). The Cardinals defense is also second in the league in DVOA on defense, while the Titans are in the bottom half of the league in offensive DVOA and all three per-play offensive categories. This is truly a strength versus weakness matchup that favors the Cardinals.
While Arizona isn't anything spectacular offensively themselves, neither is Tennessee's defense, which is also in the bottom half of the league in DVOA. And since this game is at 4:25 and not 1:00, the Cardinals won't suffer from that weird jet lag/Twilight Zone thing that west coast teams struggle with when playing in the eastern United States.
By the way, since a really bad Week 1 loss to St. Louis, the Cardinals have only lost to New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia, meaning that they have been taking care of business against bad teams as well as Carolina, who they beat in Week 5. This Cardinals team is vastly underrated.
Bengals (-2) over STEELERS – 8:30 p.m.
The Bengals can all but seal a playoff spot with a win here. Their fourth ranked defense in both yards per play and DVOA will help them move one step closer to the postseason on Sunday night.
LIONS (-6) over Ravens – Monday, 8:40 p.m.
The Lions need a win to stay atop the NFC North, and they take on the team who gains less yards per play than every team but the Jaguars. The Ravens, by the way, gain .01 yard per play more than the Jags, so to say that they're second worst doesn't quite quantify just how bad they are on offense.
This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 14-2