NFL Pick$ Against The Spread That Don’t Suck: Thanksgiving Day And Week 13
Every week, I’ll pick NFL games against the spread and track my results. Last year went surprisingly well, but I promise I’ll mock my inevitable failures.
I am having a horrid year, but last week was good. Progess. Let'$ continue.
(NOTE: I by no means expect future success, but I did dig myself out of a bigger hole last year to end profitable. So, it can be done.)
IMPORTANT: I am not an “expert,” but my analysis is still worth reading. I’m not an expert because nobody is an expert, and if someone calls himself an expert, he’s probably not an expert.
The point of this column is to give a unique angle of analysis — the bettor’s perspective — the psychology and resources of which are far superior to the brain-dead “the popular team should win because they should” that you see from “experts” on ESPN and elsewhere, who don’t even acknowledge point spreads.
There is a solid chance these picks will lose money, so I’m not recommending that you bet on them blindly. But I do recommend that you read for a new perspective. And plenty of stupid jokes. Doesn’t Ben Roethlisberger look like Will Ferrell if he ate nothing but KFC for a month? (It’s funny because Roethlisberger is the athlete… zing!)
Please don’t hesitate to call me a moron on Twitter if inspiration strikes. Now would be a good time.
(ALSO: Want to learn everything there is to know about Smart Sports Betting? The basics, interpreting the best advanced NFL stats, adopting the psychology of winning bettors and much more? My book/e-book is out, and if it guides you to place one smart bet or eliminate one stupid bet, it has paid for itself many times over. Get a complete lesson in NFL betting HERE.
(NOTE: All offensive and defensive ranks are given not by traditional stats, but DVOA. You can find complete rankings HERE and an explanation of it HERE. Briefly explained: It’s the best widely-available stat to rank offensive and defensive performance, because it adjusts for game context and strength of schedule.)
Chicago Bears (+7) over Detroit Lions*
Overall: Lions (14th), Bears (22nd)
Pass Offense: Lions (22nd), Bears (16th),
Pass Defense: Lions (2nd), Bears (24th),
Rush Offense: Lions (32nd), Bears (10th)
Rush Defense: Lions (1st), Bears (14th)
Twelve weeks in, it seems clear that the Lions’ defense is excellent (despite a lapse vs. the ridiculous Patriots last week), and their offense is feces. They put up 5.1 yards per play at home vs. the Saints and 5.5 in Atlanta. Weak defenses haven’t cured their ills.
The only argument you can make for Detroit’s offense is that Calvin Johnson should improve. He was a difference-maker in his first week back (three weeks ago), and although he’s struggled the past two, those were against Arizona and New England, two teams with elite corners.
Detroit hasn’t topped 24 points since Week 1, and they’ve only given up more than 24 points once (last week vs. the Pats). Lions games haven’t gone over 47 points since Week 1. Bears games have gone over 47 just five times – two vs. Green Bay, one vs. New England, one vs. Carolina and one vs. San Francisco.
BET: UNDER 47 (-110), $110 to win $100
Philadelphia Eagles (+3) over Dallas Cowboys*
Overall: Cowboys (10th), Eagles (8th)
Pass Offense: Cowboys (6th), Eagles (17th),
Pass Defense: Cowboys (21st), Eagles (14th),
Rush Offense: Cowboys (5th), Eagles (21st)
Rush Defense: Cowboys (18th), Eagles (9th)
My instinct is that the Cowboys are the better team, and that I’d trust Romo over Sanchez, and I’m not even a Sanchez hater. But look at the Cowboys’ resume, and take out the win in Seattle. What have they done? They didn’t get to prove themselves vs. Arizona, because Brandon Weeden was in, and besides that… they’ve barely edged Houston at home, torched a garbage Saints’ defense at home… and lost vs. San Francisco? Their defense is being exposed, and I can’t be sure they’re actually good.
I definitely lean towards the over, but 55.5 is pretty damn high and I’m not the best at totals.
Seattle Seahawks (+1.5) over San Francisco 49ers*
Overall: Seahawks (6th), 49ers (11th)
Pass Offense: Seahawks (1st), 49ers (18th),
Pass Defense: Seahawks (11th), 49ers (1st),
Rush Offense: Seahawks (19th), 49ers (19th)
Rush Defense: Seahawks (4th), 49ers (10th)
Seattle on the road: Losses in San Diego, St. Louis and Kansas City, mediocre performances in Washington and Carolina (two of the worst teams in the NFL).
But I’m not sure either team will score at all here. Seattle has been held to 21 or fewer points in regulation in five of 11 games, but they’ve really only played one good defense (they scored 19 at home vs. Arizona last week). San Francisco has been held to 21 or fewer in six games, and they’ve struggled against the only good defense they’ve played (14 points in Arizona).
I’m not really thinking outside the box, but there’s no reason you should be able to get a total of 40 points here. In past years this would be 36.5 or 37.5, but the leaguewide increase in scoring seems to be inflating this total.
BET: UNDER 40.5 (-117), $117 to win $100
Washington Potato Skins (+9.5) over Indianapolis Colts*
Overall: Colts (12th), Potato Skins (27th)
Pass Offense: Colts (10th), Potato Skins (24th),
Pass Defense: Colts (9th), Potato Skins (31st),
Rush Offense: Colts (28th), Potato Skins (13th)
Rush Defense: Colts (28th), Potato Skins (7th)
I want to take Andrew Luck vs. one of the worst pass defenses in the league, but I think the Potato Skins are undervalued due to their horrible turnover margin (0.8, only better than the Jags, Jets and Raiders). They’re still 7th in the NFL in yards per play (5.8) and should be able to score against the Colts’ crappy D.
The Colts’ home dominance scares me away – their 4 wins all came by 7+, 3 by 20+, but I certainly can’t back Indy here.
Houston Texans* (-6.5) over Tennessee Titans
Overall: Texans (21st), Titans (30th)
Pass Offense: Texans (21st), Titans (25th),
Pass Defense: Texans (15th), Titans (19th),
Rush Offense: Texans (13th), Titans (16th)
Rush Defense: Texans (20th), Titans (32nd)
Arian Foster ran for 151 yards in the first matchup, but he’s questionable. Alfred Blue will probably do something similar if Arian doesn’t play. But the 30-16 win wasn’t as convincing as it looks – like they have most of the year, the Texans thrived off turnovers. They’re first in the NFL in takeaways per game at 2.2.
The Titans have been pretty inept since Week 1, and Zach Mettenberger hasn’t showed much. 6.5 is pretty hefty for a game with a low total (43), but the Texans are worth considering in a teaser. J.J. Watt is probably excited to go up against an offensive line that is 25th in adjusted sack rate allowed.
BET: TEASER later, maybe
Cleveland Browns (+2.5) over Buffalo Bills*
Overall: Browns (19th), Bills (9th)
Pass Offense: Browns (13th), Bills (23rd),
Pass Defense: Browns (7th), Bills (3rd),
Rush Offense: Browns (25h), Bills (26th)
Rush Defense: Browns (27th), Bills (6th)
There’s no reason this total should be above 40. All four of the Bills' home games have gone under 40 points. The only ones that have gone over were an explosion vs. the Jets, a 41-point game on Monday vs. the Jets, a beating by New England, and a 43-point game in Chicago that only went over due to overtime.
And six of the Browns’ last seven games have seen 41 or fewer points. And the one exception was in Atlanta, which obviously doesn’t count because: ATL defense + Matt Ryan at home.
BET: UNDER 41 (-105), $210 to win $200
San Diego Chargers (+6) over Baltimore Ravens*
Overall: Chargers (16th), Ravens (4th)
Pass Offense: Chargers (5th), Ravens (7th),
Pass Defense: Chargers (28th), Ravens (18th),
Rush Offense: Chargers (27th), Ravens (2nd)
Rush Defense: Chargers (16th), Ravens (5th)
I think this line makes sense – it’s tough to back Philip Rivers after three straight poor weeks, the last two coming against horrible defenses – but Baltimore’s defense is falling off a cliff without Jimmy Smith. They’re down to 18th in pass defense, but they were elite with him. They deserve to be favored, but theoretically Rivers should go nuts. We’ll see.
New York Giants (-2.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars*
Overall: Giants (25th), Jaguars (31st)
Pass Offense: Giants (22nd), Jaguars (32nd),
Pass Defense: Giants (22nd), Jaguars (10th),
Rush Offense: Giants (32nd), Jaguars (21st)
Rush Defense: Giants (26th), Jaguars (21st)
The average fan will call this a “trap.” As I wrote in my book, I don’t believe in “traps.” The Jaguars have a legit defense and can run vs. poor Ds like the Giants (#DENAHD). The line makes sense. The total, however, I like.
BET: UNDER 44.5 (-104), $104 to win $100
Tampa Bay Buccaneers* (+3.5) over Cincinnati Bengals
Overall: Buccaneers (32nd), Bengals (15th)
Pass Offense: Buccaneers (29th), Bengals (14th),
Pass Defense: Buccaneers (27th), Bengals (8th),
Rush Offense: Buccaneers (29th), Bengals (18th)
Rush Defense: Buccaneers (12th), Bengals (29th)
I hate the Bengals in general, but I can’t find a reason not to back them. Also, look for Doug Martin at your local pet store in a few weeks. He’ll be the massive hamster working behind the desk, crying.
BET: Bengals -3 (-129), $129 to win $100
Oakland Raiders (+7) over St. Louis Rams*
Overall: Raiders (14th), Rams (22nd)
Pass Offense: Raiders (28th), Rams (16th),
Pass Defense: Raiders (23rd), Rams (27th),
Rush Offense: Raiders (31st), Rams (10th)
Rush Defense: Raiders (11th), Rams (17th)
The Rams are the Sexy Bad team, because they beat Denver, but Oakland is favorite Ugly Bad Team. Shaun Hill is an upgrade for the Rams, but 7 points is a lot in a likely low-scoring game – and the Raiders protect David Carr exceptionally well, which is huge against the Rams’ aggressive pass rush. I’m riding the Ugly Train, like I have (successfully) the past two weeks.
The Raiders would be slightly less than awful if they weren’t dead last in the NFL in turnover margin.
BETS: Raiders +7 (-110), $95 to win $86.36 AND ML (+245), $15 to win $36.75
New Orleans Saints (+4.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers*
Overall: Saints (18th), Steelers (13th)
Pass Offense: Saints (8th), Steelers (4th),
Pass Defense: Saints (30th), Steelers (29th),
Rush Offense: Saints (9th), Steelers (11th)
Rush Defense: Saints (31st), Steelers (19th)
Any reason to think there will be a stop in this game? 53.5 is high, but it’s only the third-highest this week.
BET: OVER 53.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
Minnesota Vikings* (-3) over Carolina Panthers
Overall: Vikings (23rd), Panthers (29th)
Pass Offense: Vikings (30th), Panthers (26th),
Pass Defense: Vikings (16th), Panthers (20th),
Rush Offense: Vikings (3rd), Panthers (22nd)
Rush Defense: Vikings (25th), Panthers (24th)
Two bad teams that are probably equal in their bad-ness. I’m tempted to take Minny due to their pass rush vs. a hobbled Cam Newton, but I’ll pass.
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) over Atlanta Falcons*
Overall: Cardinals (17th), Falcons (20th)
Pass Offense: Cardinals (15th), Falcons (11th),
Pass Defense: Cardinals (6th), Falcons (32nd),
Rush Offense: Cardinals (30th), Falcons (15th)
Rush Defense: Cardinals (3rd), Falcons (30th)
The Falcons have held just two teams to under 24 points (22 to DET, 17 to CAR). The Cardinals have given up more than 20 points just once (DEN).
BET: Cardinals -2.5 (-109), $109 to win $100
Green Bay Packers* (-3) over New England Patriots
Overall: Packers (2nd), Patriots (3rd)
Pass Offense: Packers (3rd), Patriots (2nd),
Pass Defense: Packers (13th), Patriots (12th),
Rush Offense: Packers (8th), Patriots (20th)
Rush Defense: Packers (22nd), Patriots (17th)
Aaron Rodgers is on a 16-game home winning streak, with 15 wins of 7+ points.
But they don’t usually play great teams on a roll like the Patriots right now. Only one win this year came against an above-average team. They easily could have lost to the Jets. Denver had a similar home streak, and New England came in and demolished them.
New England has crushed some of the best defenses in the league on its streak – Cincy, Denver and Detroit, and they’re showing no weakness.
The Patriots at +152 seems like crazy value that is only available because of Green Bay’s ridiculous home streak – and the projected team total is 27.5, which seems even crazier.
BETS: Patriots ML (+152), $100 to win $152 AND team total OVER, probably
Denver Broncos (-1.5) over Kansas City Chiefs*
Overall: Broncos (1st), Chiefs (7th)
Pass Offense: Broncos (1st), Chiefs (12th),
Pass Defense: Broncos (5th), Chiefs (17th),
Rush Offense: Broncos (6th), Chiefs (2nd)
Rush Defense: Broncos (2nd), Chiefs (23rd)
The argument for KC: They crushed New Engalnd at home, and have beaten Seattle. They also crushed Miami. Looking just at box scores, this line makes sense.
But the Broncos just put up 39 points on Miami, and KC’s defense is really not very good. There’s no way they can slow down Peyton, and there’s no way they can keep up unless Jamaal Charles runs for 37 TDs. He missed the first matchup, which seemed close (24-17), but the Broncos averaged 7.1 yards per play to the Chiefs’ 5.1.
KC is gonna try to hold the ball for days, and it might work, but I think there’s value.
BET: Broncos -1.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
New York Jets* (+6.5) over Miami Dolphins
Overall: Jets (28th), Dolphins (5th)
Pass Offense: Jets (31st), Dolphins (9th),
Pass Defense: Jets (26th), Dolphins (4th),
Rush Offense: Jets (7th), Dolphins (4th)
Rush Defense: Jets (8th), Dolphins (13th)
I’m always wary about buying high (Miami) and selling at rock-bottom (NYJ), and the Jets have responded well from their horrid performances this year… but Miami does look damn-attractive in a teaser.
BET: TEASER, Dolphins and Texans, maybe
(AGAIN: If you want to bet sports smartly, you should check out my complete lesson in NFL and sports betting HERE. All the cool kids like learning all of the things for cheap.)
Last Week: 3-1 +$180.44
Total: 47-49 (.490) -$1087.26
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 29-26 (This Week: Cowboys, Potato Skins, Broncos, Lions, Raiders)
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