Home teams are in CAPS, with spreads and betting trends from SportsInsights (as of noon on Friday), and DVOA metrics are from Football Outsiders. I've listed each spread relative to the away team. I have not listed any picks in this piece. You can find my picks here.
Tennessee Titans (+3.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – 1 p.m.
To say that the loss of Reggie Wayne has hurt the Colts offense wouldn't do justice to just how much Reggie Wayne's injury has impacted his team. An Indianapolis team that was supposed to have a dynamic passing attack this season is 17th in the NFL in DVOA with their pass offense. They are 19th in passing yards per attempt (6.42) and Andrew Luck's 6.72 yards per pass attempt is worse than Chad Henne, Terrelle Pryor, and Case Keenum, to name a few.
Indy's running game is surprisingly ninth in the league at 4.4 yards per carry, with Donald Brown's 5.7 yards per rush making up for the pathetic 2.9 YPC Trent Richardson has given them this year. The Colts rushing attack is ranked a very surprising third in DVOA despite Richardson's struggles, thanks to Brown and the mobile Andrew Luck.
Tennessee is 5-0 againt the spread on the road this season, and their 15th best yards per play against (5.28 YPP) is over a half yard better than the Colts' 5.83 yards per play. Their passing attack is ranked higher than Indianapolis, checking in at 15th in DVOA, led by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has not thrown a pick in three games, and is looking surprisingly competent for the Titans.
While Indianapolis is two games ahead of the Titans in the division, don't forget that Tennessee actually has a better point differential (+5 compared to the Colts +3).
Jacksonville Jaguars (+7) vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS – 1 p.m.
Brandon Weeden is starting this game for the Browns, who are looking to win their first game this season in which Weeden has started. Weeden ranks dead last in yards per pass attempt with an anemic 6.00 YPA. Offensively, the Browns are ranked 28th in DVOA for both their rushing and passing attacks, just four spots better than the Jaguars, who have sucked to historic levels this year.
However, the Jags are getting better. Their team DVOA was in the -60s earlier in the year, and is now at -47.2%. In fact, their defense is now ranked ahead of Atlanta and San Diego. PROGRESS!
While Cleveland's defense, which is tops in the league with 4.45 yards against per play, will certainly make things difficult for the Jags, the Browns offense isn't one to make teams pay for missed opportunities. In addition to Weeden's struggles, their rushing attack averages 3.80 yards per carry, good for 26th in the NFL.
At the end of the day, teams favored by a touchdown or more do not cover the spread with great reliability and, as a result, sharps will tend to take the points in this scenario. This is especially true when Brandon Weeden is the one laying the touchdown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7.5) vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS – 1 p.m.
It looks like sharps are jumping all over Tampa Bay in this game. The Bucs are being bet on by 56% of those with action on this game, yet the line has moved a full two points from Carolina -9.5 to where we are now. Without any team news that would scare bookmakers into moving the line, it would appear that some big money is rolling in on the Schiano Men.
This is because - brace yourselves - Tampa Bay isn't that bad! The Bucs are ranked 10th in DVOA on defense, including 8th against the run. With Mike Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart all limited in practice throughout this week, this should be a huge advantage for the Bucs this week.
Mike Glennon, despite a less than stellar 6.63 yards per pass attempt, has thrown 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions this season. Since being destroyed by the Panthers in Week 8, he has led the Bucs to cover in four straight games, winning their last three and taking Seattle to overtime in Week 9. With Carolina taking on New Orleans next week, don't be surprised if they are caught looking ahead in this one.
Chicago Bears (PK) vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS – 1 p.m.
The Vikings are riding the struggle bus this season, but they are a pick 'em at home against the Bears, simply because the Bears can't stop the run and Adrian Peterson is everything that could ever possibly be construed as good about running the football in today's NFL.
Chicago is 28th in the league in yards against per play (6.04), and 31st in that category against the run (4.9). Minnesota is third in the league in yards per carry with 4.70 yards per rush. While this is a tremendous advantage for the Vikings, don't forget that Minnesota is also 26th in the league in passing with 6.12 yards per attempt. Expect Chicago to load the box early and often to make Christian Ponder beat them.
Josh McCown, meanwhile, has been strong for the Bears in his limited time on the field. In 148 pass attempts this year, McCown is averaging 7.47 yards per attempt, which would be good for eighth best in the NFL if he had enough pass attempts to qualify in that category. Minnesota is allowing 6.63 yards per pass attempt, and are 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game.
At the end of the day, each team's strengths offensively are matched up with the opposing team's defensive weakness. This game will come down to which of those matchups is best exploited, but this game is a toss up. Bettors should be careful with this contest.
Arizona Cardinals (+3) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – 1 p.m.
Both of these teams come into this key game red hot. Arizona is looking to jump back into Wild Card position, while the Eagles are looking to keep in contention in the depressing NFC East. This line opened at Philly -3, and has held there despite 61% of bettors grabbing the Cardinals.
Arizona's defense is ranked second in the NFL in DVOA, .1% behind first place Seattle. They are ranked third against the pass and fourth against the run, and will need to be up to the task to handle a potent Philadelphia offense. The Eagles' offense is ranked 4th in DVOA, sixth with the pass and first with the run.
Since Nick Foles has taken over at quarterback for the Eagles, he is averaging an NFL best 9.59 yards per attempt with a jaw dropping 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. In other words, he's the anti-Eli Manning. In fact, the Eagles are leading the NFL in yards per play on offense this season with 6.31 YPP. The Eagles' rushing attack is averaging 4.90 yards per carry, which they may struggle to replicate against an Arizona defense that is allowing 3.5 yards per rush, the third best mark in the league.
Cardinals running back Andre Ellington is leading the NFL with 6.0 yards per carry. However, a closer look at that number reveals that 80 of his 441 rushing yards on the season came from one run. Discounting that run brings his total down to 5.03 yards per carry. Factoring in his four other runs of 20 yards or more this season, you see that Ellington has put up over 100 yards on five carries, and less than 300 on his other 68.
Since getting destroyed by Denver in Week 4, the Eagles haven't allowed more than 21 points in a game. If they can extend that streak this week, it will be interesting to see if their revamped offense can deliver the goods against a stout Cardinals defense.
Miami Dolphins (+2) vs. NEW YORK JETS – 1 p.m.
The New York Jets boast an unbelievably stingy defense. Against the run, their -33.3% DVOA is unheard of, and makes up for their 16th ranked pass defense (6.5%). For the Dolphins, this means that Ryan Tannehill will have to play very well at MetLife Stadium.
Tannehill is averaging 6.82 yards per attempt this season, good for 25th out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. His 15 touchdown to 12 interception ratio doesn't serve to make that number any more flattering.
Yes, the only reason that the spread in this game is this small is because the Jets are a tire fire offensively. They are ranked 31st in offensive DVOA with a -25.7% mark. That's only 11% better than the Jacksonille Jaguars, to provide you with context on just how bad the Jets have been on offense. Geno Smith has eight touchdown passes this year to go with 18 interceptions and six lost fumbles. Smith has been so bad that Mark Sanchez is now piping up about wanting another chance with the team.
To put it plainly, this game will be about which offense sucks the least on Sunday. With 40% of the Dolphins' original offensive line missing from the Richie Incognito scandal, and with the Jets defensive line being as dominant as it is, the Jets may not be the biggest train wreck on offense in a game for the first time all season.
New England Patriots (-7) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS – 1 p.m.
Our first road favorite of the week, New England, is being bet on in droves by the public. As of right now, a mind blowing 86% of bettors are on the Patriots. The line, however, is where it was when it opened, only fluctuating from New England -7.5 back to New England -7 since opening at seven points.
The reason for this is that most sharps will never lay a touchdown or more on a road team. Not to mention, New England has been horrible on the road this season. They are 2-3 away from home this year with their two wins coming at Buffalo by two points and at Atlanta by seven points, hardly convincing victories.
Houston's defense is sixth in the NFL in yards against per play (4.96) and their 5.64 yards per pass attempt allowed is something for those on the Patriots to worry about in this game.
With that said, Houston's offense is just awful, ranking 29th in the league in DVOA through the pass and 25th with the run. While New England's defense does struggle against the run, if the Texans find themselves in passing situations often, it will be a long day for them.
While it may look easy to take Tom Brady and the Patriots in this one, Houston's defense and New England's struggles on the road may actually make that the wrong decision. That's why bookmakers seem content to let bettors continue to pour money in on the Patriots -7.
Atlanta Falcons (+3) vs. BUFFALO BILLS – 4:05 p.m.
Buffalo has been a dynamic home team against the spread this season. Unfortunately, this is only kind of a home game for the Bills, as they are playing in Toronto because they are still endlessly teasing Toronto into thinking that they want to move there, or slowly moving away from Buffalo. It's one of the two. Either way, Buffalo is such a tease.
The Bills have played five regular season games in Toronto since 2008, losing four out of five. Their only win in the Toronto Series was a 2011 shutout win over Washington, who was being quarterbacked at the time by John Beck. Last year, the Bills lost 50-17 to the Seattle Seahawks in their Toronto game.
Atlanta has a strong offense (11th in DVOA) and horrible defense (31st in DVOA), while the Bills have a strong defense (7th in DVOA) and horrible offense (23rd in DVOA). E.J. Manuel's 6.38 yards per pass attempt is worse than every qualifying quarterback other than Alex Smith and Brandon Weeden.
Despite 76% of bettors jumping on Buffalo in this game, this line has moved a half point from its opening point of Buffalo -3.5. No sane human would wager on this game, since it plays like a road game for Buffalo, yet Atlanta is so bad that they may not be able to take advantage. Just stay away.
St. Louis Rams (+8) vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – 4:05 p.m.
Kellen Clemens is averaging 7.42 yards per pass attempt since taking over the Rams offense, which is .01 yards per attempt better than Colin Kaepernick. Somehow, the Rams have improved after the injury of former number one overall pick Sam Bradford. Clemens has thrown two interceptions in five games this year, both against the Seahawks, who have the best pass defense in the NFL.
Another big boost for the underdog has been the play of Zac Stacy, who has come out of nowhere to provide the Rams with a viable rushing attack. St. Louis is tied for 10th in the NFL with 4.30 yards per rush, a number matched by the 49ers. With the Niners having a rushing quarterback at their disposal, though, that number looks much more impressive from the Rams.
Despite having the league's sixth best defense (-9.7% DVOA), the Niners are struggling a bit on offense. Their 5.21 yards per play is 20th best in the NFL, and this year's 35-11 beating of St. Louis in the first matchup between these teams marked the first time since 2011 that the Niners beat St. Louis by more than a touchdown. In that game, the Rams ran the ball 19 times for 18 yards, and hadn't yet been giving the ball to Zac Stacy.
The Niners are definitely the better team here, but with Seattle up next, they may be looking ahead. This line has moved 1.5 points with 56% of bettors on St. Louis, from its open at San Francisco -9.5.
Denver Broncos (-5.5) vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – 4:25 p.m.
Kansas City has received a lot of credit for its defense this season, and plenty of that praise is justified. But did you know that the Chiefs are 17th in the NFL in yards allowed per play? Their 5.38 yards conceded per play is just .04 yards per play better than the Broncos defense, who are seen as terrible, even though Denver played far more competent offensive teams early in the season.
Denver's rush defense is ranked fifth in DVOA this season, which was a factor in the first matchup between these teams two weeks ago. Other than a 35 yard Jamaal Charles run and a 25 yard Alex Smith run (the outlier of all outliers), the Chiefs rushed for 3.65 yards per carry in Denver. This allowed the Broncos to force Alex Smith to throw, which gave them a tremendous advantage, as Smith's 6.14 yards per attempt is better than only Brandon Weeden among qualifying quarterbacks.
Kansas City is 26th in the NFL in yards per play, averaging 4.94 yards per offensive snap. Denver, meanwhile, is third in that category with 6.19 yards per play. The Broncos will also benefit from the loss of Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, who will miss the game with an injury.
70% of bettors are on the Broncos here, which has caused the line to move from Denver -3 to the current spread. While Peyton Manning outdoors in big games tends to falter, this game is a question of whether or not Kansas City's offense can keep up with him. While the underdog is usually the smart play in this situation, it will be very tempting to give less than a touchdown with Peyton Manning.
Cincinnati Bengals (+1) vs. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – 4:25 p.m.
This line opened at San Diego +1.5, but has swung 2.5 points after two thirds of the betting public has taken the Chargers.
Cincinnati has posted the second best yards against per play average this season, giving up just 4.62 yards per snap. Their yards per play differential of +0.7 is good for fourth in the league, and their defense is ranked fourth in DVOA and second in DVOA against the pass.
San Diego, meanwhile, has the worst defense in the league (32nd in pass and run DVOA, rush yards allowed per play, pass yards against per play, total yards against per play), and it's not even close. Their saving grace is a pass offense that has rivaled Denver's this season, with Philip Rivers averaging 8.52 yards per pass attempt.
With Cincinnati's defense being so strong, it's legitimately surprising that more bettors aren't on the Bengals. A combination of San Diego's flashy offensive numbers and Cincinnati's 2-4 road record are the reasons for the skewed number of bets on each side, in my opinion.
New York Giants (-1) vs. WASHINGTON – 8:30 p.m.
74% of bettors in this game are on the Giants, who opened as a two point favorite. Their defense is a shocking ninth in DVOA this season, they are ninth in yards against per play (5.04) and sixth in yards against per rush (3.7). However, the Giants have defeated a pathetic list of quarterbacks this season (Josh Freeman, a combination of Michael Vick and Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor, and Scott Tolzien). Robert Griffin III isn't Johnny Unitas by any means, but he certainly ain't no Scott Tolzien either.
New York is in the bottom half of the league in every per-play offensive category, but they have received a nice boost recently from Andre Brown, who is averaging 4.5 yards per rush. The most important thing to note with Brown's recent success is that his longest run is just 17 yards. This denotes that he has been consistently running well instead of breaking off one big play and being stopped for short yardage to even out his average.
Washington, by the way, is atop the NFL in yards per carry with a robust five yards per rush. The impressive part of this number is that RGIII is rushing for 5.3 YPC, meaning that he isn't artificially inflating that number. The rest of the team is averaging 4.92 yards per rush, which is still more than anyone else.
Both teams are emotionally damaged right now, with the Giants losing what was essentially an elimination game for them last week against the Cowboys. Washington, meanwhile, is dealing with all kinds of in-fighting and RGIII benching questions and, my personal favorite, the RGIII's dad issue. The key to this game will be which team can be the least dysfunctional.
New Orleans Saints (+4.5) vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Monday, 8:40 p.m.
Seattle is a powerhouse at home, not having lost a game there yet this season. New Orleans, meanwhile, have three wins on the road this year, with two of them coming against the Josh Freeman led Buccaneers and the Falcons in a dome. In fact, New Orleans has covered the spread just one time this season in a non-domed stadium.
Seattle's defense ranks first in DVOA both overall and against the pass, with New Orleans' offense ranking third overall and in passing. This is a true strength vs. strength matchup. Where Seattle has an upper hand is with their running game. They average 4.5 yards per carry, while the Saints allow 4.8 yards per rush, the 30th best average in the league.
In a matchup between two of the league's best teams, home field advantage will play a huge role. Given both the Seahawks' proficiency in their own building and the Saints' struggles outside of theirs, it may be wise to pass on this game if you aren't confident in the Seahawks.