NFL Pick$ Against The Spread That Don’t Suck: Week 15
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. This is Week 15.
I'm having a horrid year.
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.
(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.)
(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.)
Arizona Cardinals (+4.5) over St. Louis Rams*
Overall: Cardinals (20th), Rams (17th)
Pass Offense: Cardinals (19th), Rams (26th)
Pass Defense: Cardinals (7th), Rams (14th)
Rush Offense: Cardinals (31st), Rams (12th)
Rush Defense: Cardinals (4th), Rams (7th)
Yes, the 10-3 Cardinals are fairly significant underdogs at the 6-7 Rams, given a 68% implied win probability.
Some of that is due to a backup quarterback, but most of it is due to the fact that the Cardinals are probably the worst 10-3 team in NFL history and the Rams are rapidly improving and excellent at home.
The line makes sense to me – it’s tough to take a team over the key number of 3 in a likely low-scoring game (the total is 39.5, crazy-low), but there’s not enough value on Arizona and their struggling offense.
Oakland Raiders (+10.5) over Kansas City Chiefs*
Overall: Raiders (28th), Chiefs (8th)
Pass Offense: Raiders (27th), Chiefs (14th)
Pass Defense: Raiders (23rd), Chiefs (15th)
Rush Offense: Raiders (32nd), Chiefs (2nd)
Rush Defense: Raiders (15th), Chiefs (21st)
Two weeks ago, I mentioned how the Raiders, as bad as they’ve been, were the lowest-variance team in the league. Basically, they were consistent in their poor play. They were always bad, but rarely god-awful. I then bet on them and they lost 52-0 in St. Louis. They responded horrendously after getting their first win of the year, vs. these Chiefs.
I think there’s line value on Oakland. They’ve kept tons of games close – lost in New England by 7, 6 in Seattle, 7 in San Diego, 3 vs. San Diego, beaten these Chiefs and San Francisco… but it’s hard to have faith in their mental ability after the St. Louis debacle. Did they learn, or will they come up flat again after winning a big rivalry game last week? And the Chiefs are coming off a tough loss.
Still, I can’t pass up 10.5 points.
BET: Raiders +10.5 (-110), $95 to win $86.36 AND ML (+467), $15 to win $70.50
Jacksonville Jaguars (+14) over Baltimore Ravens*
Overall: Jaguars (30th), Ravens (5th)
Pass Offense: Jaguars (32nd), Ravens (6th)
Pass Defense: Jaguars (13th), Ravens (21st)
Rush Offense: Jaguars (26th), Ravens (11th)
Rush Defense: Jaguars (20th), Ravens (6th)
I want no part of this – the Jaguars’ only acceptable road performance was a 10-point loss in Cincy – and although the Ravens’ pass defense is falling apart, Blake Bortles is playing like Blaine Gabbert.
I’m thinking about the under 45.
BET: UNDER 45 (-110), $110 to win $100
Atlanta Falcons (+3) over Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall: Falcons (19th), Steelers (12th)
Pass Offense: Falcons (7th), Steelers (3rd)
Pass Defense: Falcons (30th), Steelers (31st)
Rush Offense: Falcons (15th), Steelers (9th)
Rush Defense: Falcons (31st), Steelers (19th)
Matt Ryan at home vs. the 31st-ranked pass defense, Ben Roethlisberger and LeVeon Bell vs. the 32nd ranked total defense.
The over is worth a look, even at 54, which is really high. The Steelers have topped that number six times and the Falcons six… but neither team has played a defense as bad as their opponent… except maybe the Saints. And both teams went over 60 vs. New Orleans.
BET: OVER 53.5 (-113), $113 to win $100
Indianapolis Colts* (-6.5) over Houston Texans
Overall: Colts (11th), Texans (22nd)
Pass Offense: Colts (11th), Texans (15th)
Pass Defense: Colts (10th), Texans (18th)
Rush Offense: Colts (23rd), Texans (21st)
Rush Defense: Colts (27th), Texans (17th)
Andrew Luck and Arian Foster both went off in the first meeting, a solid 5-point win for Indy, in Houston. All three of those things seem like fair bets to happen again, despite the change in venue. 6.5 is tempting, but a little too much. The Texans have been thriving on turnovers, and Andrew Luck has been a little sloppy this year.
Cleveland Browns* (pk) over Cincinnati Bengals
Overall: Browns (21st), Bengals (16th)
Pass Offense: Browns (16th), Bengals (18th)
Pass Defense: Browns (2nd), Bengals (12th)
Rush Offense: Browns (28th), Bengals (14th)
Rush Defense: Browns (29th), Bengals (30th)
Johnny Football draws one of the better secondaries in the league in his first start. But he also inherits an offense that somehow managed to rank 16th despite Brian Hoyer’s best sabotaging efforts, and the absence of Josh Gordon for most of the year. Cleveland protected Hoyer well (5th in adjusted sack rate allowed), and Cincy is horrible at rushing the passer (31st in adjusted sack rate). Johnny should have time, so if you’re a believer, there’s value here.
Road Andy Dalton at. the 2nd-ranked pass defense in the NFL, in a must-win game, in Cleveland’s biggest game in a long time.
BET: Browns -1 (-101), $101 to win $100
Miami Dolphins (+7.5) over New England Patriots*
Overall: Dolphins (6th), Patriots (2nd)
Pass Offense: Dolphins (10th), Patriots (4th)
Pass Defense: Dolphins (4th), Patriots (9th)
Rush Offense: Dolphins (4th), Patriots (19th)
Rush Defense: Dolphins (18th), Patriots (13th)
Revenge opportunity for the Pats, avenging Week 1’s 33-20 beatdown in Miami. Knowshon Moreno won’t run for 134 yards vs. a massively improved Pats’ run defense, but that’s only because his elbow and knee and eyelids all spontaneously combusted. Lamar Miller might run for 5.4 yards per carry again.
I’m not sure you can make the argument that New England is this much better than Miami, and the Dolphins match up well here.
But 7 of New England’s 10 wins have come by double-digits,and only one by fewer than a TD (two point win vs. the Jets). I’m not betting against revenge home Belichick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) over Carolina Panthers*
Overall: Buccaneers (31st), Panthers (26th)
Pass Offense: Buccaneers (30th), Panthers (23rd)
Pass Defense: Buccaneers (22nd), Panthers (20th)
Rush Offense: Buccaneers (30th), Panthers (17th)
Rush Defense: Buccaneers (12th), Panthers (22nd)
Derek Anderson vs. possibly the worst team in the NFL. Even if you have fantasy players in this game (a receiver or Carolina running back, maybe?), I implore you to not watch a minute of this.
New York Giants* (-6.5) over Washington Potato Skins
Overall: Giants (24th), Potato Skins (29th)
Pass Offense: Giants (21st), Potato Skins (25th)
Pass Defense: Giants (19th), Potato Skins (32nd)
Rush Offense: Giants (24th), Potato Skins (22nd)
Rush Defense: Giants (26th), Potato Skins (11th)
Supposedly, RG3 would start if the game was today. But it’s not. Maybe it’ll be Colt McCoy. Nobody knows. The Giants have secretly been playing decent football on the tail end of their 1-7 streak(!), and the Potato Skins are horrendous by all accounts. But there’s no value here. A Giants teaser would be the only potential play I could even think about, or Odell Beckham Jr. over 9,000 yards.
Green Bay Packers (-5) over Buffalo Bills*
Overall: Packers (4th), Bills (10th)
Pass Offense: Packers (1st), Bills (24th)
Pass Defense: Packers (17th), Bills (1st)
Rush Offense: Packers (7th), Bills (25th)
Rush Defense: Packers (23rd), Bills (10th)
The Packers’ stock is way too high, and their defense was finally exposed for what it really is last week. They were lucky to win by 3 in Miami in a similar game earlier this year, and the Bills’ ridiculous pass-rush and defense could give Aaron Rodgers and a cocky Packers team some trouble on the road.
But this Bills offense is not one I can back vs. an explosive team.
Minnesota Vikings (+8) over Detroit Lions*
Overall: Vikings (23th), Lions (9th)
Pass Offense: Vikings (28th), Lions (17th)
Pass Defense: Vikings (16th), Lions (3rd)
Rush Offense: Vikings (6th), Lions (29th)
Rush Defense: Vikings (24th), Lions (1st)
The Lions have a historically good rush defense, and that’s the Vikings’ only strength. Teddy Bridgewater looks good vs. the Jets, but no one else. The first matchup between these teams saw 20 points, and Lions games have topped 43 points just five times (both of the last two weeks, albeit vs. horrible defenses).
Still, the Vikings’ team total should be around 17. The Vikings have topped that number just twice this year on the road. Once in Week 1, and once vs. a horrible Tampa Bay defense… and they needed overtime to do it. The Lions’ defense is great.
BET: Vikings team total UNDER
New York Jets (-1.5) over Tennessee Titans*
Overall: Jets (27th), Titans (32nd)
Pass Offense: Jets (31st), Titans (29th)
Pass Defense: Jets (24th), Titans (26th)
Rush Offense: Jets (10th), Titans (20th)
Rush Defense: Jets (9th), Titans (28th)
The Titans are a joke. The Jets are close to a joke, but as I pointed out last week, they’ve had a legitimate shot to win almost every game (besides the Buffalo debacles) this year despite a brutal schedule.
The Jets have a porous secondary, but if any team can’t take advantage of it, it’s the Titans.
BET: Jets -1.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
Denver Broncos (-4) over San Diego Chargers*
Overall: Broncos (1st), Chargers (15th)
Pass Offense: Broncos (2nd), Chargers (5th)
Pass Defense: Broncos (5th), Chargers (25th)
Rush Offense: Broncos (5th), Chargers (27th)
Rush Defense: Broncos (2nd), Chargers (14th)
I don’t see how the Chargers are considered a good team. Take out the win vs. Seattle and a one-point win in Baltimore in a perfect matchup vs. a struggling secondary, they’ve done nothing. And if it’s possible, I think the best team in the NFL is underrated.
BET: Broncos -4 (-101), $101 to win $100
San Francisco 49ers (+10) over Seattle Seahawks*
Overall: 49ers (14th), Seahawks (3rd)
Pass Offense: 49ers (22nd), Seahawks (12th)
Pass Defense: 49ers (6th), Seahawks (8th)
Rush Offense: 49ers (16th), Seahawks (1st)
Rush Defense: 49ers (5th), Seahawks (3rd)
The 49ers were -1 at home vs. the Seahawks TWO WEEKS AGO. I know Bobby Wagner is back and the Seahawks look great, but, come on. An ELEVEN point swing due to Seattle’s home field and San Francisco struggling on offense (but still playing great defense)?
BET: 49ers +10.5 (-124), $100 to win $80.65 AND ML (+392), $10 to win $39.20
-Philadelphia Eagles* (-3) over Dallas Cowboys
Overall: Eagles (7th), Cowboys (13th)
Pass Offense: Eagles (20th), Cowboys (8th)
Pass Defense: Eagles (11th), Cowboys (27th)
Rush Offense: Eagles (18th), Cowboys (3rd)
Rush Defense: Eagles (8th), Cowboys (25th)
Tough to distinguish these teams. Yes, the Eagles dominated in Dallas, but that was surprising. They deserve to be slightly favored at home, with the better defense, but with the inferior offense and the Sanchize, I don’t see an edge.
Chicago Bears* (+3) over New Orleans Saints
Overall: Bears (25th), Saints (18th)
Pass Offense: Bears (13th), Saints (9th)
Pass Defense: Bears (29th), Saints (28th)
Rush Offense: Bears (13th), Saints (8th)
Rush Defense: Bears (16th), Saints (32nd)
Probably a little line value on Chicago, but an angry Drew Brees, still in the playoff hunt, somehow, vs. the 29th ranked pass defense… I’ll pass. 3 points isn’t a lot in a game with a total of 54.
(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: 3-4 -$51.50
Total: 47-49 (.490) -$1138.76
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 33-31 (This Week: 49ers, Broncos, Jets, Raiders, Browns)
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