NFL Pick$ Against The Spread That Don’t Suck: Week 11
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 was on a three-week vomiting streak entering last week, but I turned things around. Let’$ do it again.
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.)
Buffalo Bills (+5.5) over Miami Dolphins*
Overall: Bills (13th), Dolphins (6th)
Pass Offense: Bills (16th), Dolphins (13th),
Pass Defense: Bills (3rd), Dolphins (1st),
Rush Offense: Bills (28th), Dolphins (8th)
Rush Defense: Bills (10th), Dolphins (11th)
Both teams are probably overrated by DVOA, but the Dolphins are pretty good, and the Bills are OK. Progress, mostly due to defenses.
Everything points to the under… except two things. One is the weird trend that almost every primetime game is going OVER the total. I will ignore that for now, because it has no logical basis for continuing. But if it persists, I may have to call my friend Tim Donaghy. The second is pace. The Dolphins are 9th-fastest team in the league, and Buffalo is 12th. Buffalo even climbs to 4th-fastest in close games, but Miami drops to 16th.
In a near must-win game for two 5-4 division opponents (the tiebreaker implications, oh my!), it seems likely this will be one of those stereotypical “grind it out” games.
The first matchup (a Buffalo blowout) totaled 39 points. I’m tempted to take the valuable five points in a low-scoring game, but the Bills are averaging 18.5 points per game if you take out their 6 TO beating of the Jets.
But if it hits 6, I won't be able to resist Buffalo.
(NOTE: It hit 6 as I was writing this! Yay.)
BET: UNDER 42 (-110), $110 to win $100 AND Bills +6 (-110), $95 to win $86.36 AND ML (+215), $15 to win $32.25
Houston Texans (+3) over Cleveland Browns*
Overall: Browns (17th), Texans 23rd)
Pass Offense: Browns (7th), Texans (20th),
Pass Defense: Browns (7th), Texans (11th),
Rush Offense: Browns (26th), Texans (11th)
Rush Defense: Browns (30th), Texans (27th)
The Browns started out the year playing awful defense and great offense, and that was weird. The trend has reversed in recent weeks. They’ve only played two good offenses all year, but they passed both tests (24 points to NO, 10 to PIT), and Houston does not have a good offense.
I think the Browns are clearly the better team, but at -3, I can’t pull the trigger. Ryan Mallett had an extra week to prepare, the Texans have been running well with Arian Foster back, and the Browns can’t stop the run.
The Texans have played some decent football recently, they should be inspired on their last legs with a new quarterback, and JJ Watt’s defensive line is going against a struggling offensive line without its all-world center.
Chicago Bears* (-3) over Minnesota Vikings
Overall: Vikings (25th), Bears (26th)
Pass Offense: Vikings (31st), Bears (28th),
Pass Defense: Vikings (10th), Bears (26th),
Rush Offense: Vikings (3rd), Bears (17th)
Rush Defense: Vikings (23rd), Bears (15th)
The Vikings have a sneaky-good defense, Their first in the NFL with an adjusted sack rate of 9.3%. Chicago is below average at protecting Jay Cutlery. Tasty matchup for Minnesota (zing!).
That said, check Chicago’s schedule. Yes, they’re struggling, but losing in Green Bay and New England is expected. A loss vs. Miami isn’t embarrassing, and before that they had an impressive win in Atlanta.
I’m not saying they’ve been good, but they deserve some patience. Home games against teams like the Vikings are usually what turns the media’s hatred around.
This line implies these teams are pretty much even, and I don’t buy that for a second. Chicago’s defensive numbers are actually mediocre, which is a miracle, and means that the unit that needs to step up is the offense. I have moderate confidence that will happen.
BET: Bears -3 (-116), $116 to win $100
Seattle Seahawks (+1.5) over Kansas City Chiefs*
Overall: Seahawks (4th), Chiefs (12th)
Pass Offense: Seahawks (22nd), Chiefs (28th),
Pass Defense: Seahawks (14th), Chiefs (15th),
Rush Offense: Seahawks (1st), Chiefs (5th)
Rush Defense: Seahawks (3rd), Chiefs (21st)
The atmosphere here will probably be nuts, almost Seattle-esque. Chiefs fans are incredibly underrated, and this is a massive game for KC.
That said, what would this line have been at the beginning of the year? The Chiefs opened the year at just -3 vs. the Titans. (And they lost by 16.) Now they’re -1.5 over the Seahawks.
Yes, they’ve exceeded expectations (and the Seahawks haven’t), but come on. They’ve had a few nice performances, but they haven’t thrown a TD to a WR all year, and get almost all of their offense on the ground.
The Seahawks are banged up and struggling (last week’s win at home wasn’t as convincing as the score implies), but they’re fantastic against the run. They’re also fantastic running the ball – the Chiefs’ weakness on D.
I love Seattle here, but if Russell Wilson doesn’t stop stinking it up, I’ll be concerned soon.
BET: Seahawks ML (+111), $200 to win $222
Atlanta Falcons (+2) over Carolina Panthers*
Overall: Falcons (19th), Panthers (29th)
Pass Offense: Falcons (10th), Panthers (25th),
Pass Defense: Falcons (32nd), Panthers (24th),
Rush Offense: Falcons (6th), Panthers (23rd)
Rush Defense: Falcons (24th), Panthers (25th)
The Panthers beat Detroit at home and nearly beat Seattle. But the Falcons’ offense is the only good unit in this game. I don’t know, and ew, this game.
Supercam is playing on zero legs, and it seems that’s a way to slow down Superman. I’m working on a script for “Superman: The Legless Chronicles” as we speak. Brb.
Cincinnati Bengals (+7) over New Orleans Saints*
Overall: Bengals (20th), Saints (12th)
Pass Offense: Bengals (24th), Saints (11th),
Pass Defense: Bengals (8th), Saints (22nd),
Rush Offense: Bengals (10th), Saints (2nd)
Rush Defense: Bengals (32nd), Saints (29th)
If you go by the classic: “home-field advantage is worth three points,” you conclude that this line is ridiculous, because the Saints are not four points better than even a struggling Bengals team.
But as I keep wrote last week, the Saints are historically good at home:
Oddsmakers are aware of this. They’re 35-16 ATS in their past 51 home games…
11-0 over the past two years, with eight double-digit wins.
But they lost outright last week, as favorites, to the 49ers. The Bengals are a similar team to the 49ers, except that their defense is trending (way) down, they can’t defend the run, and Andy Dalton is playing like, well, what you think he’d play like if you looked at his face.
One game means nothing, but the Saints’ home dominance may be dwindling. They struggled vs. the Vikings and Bucs, too.
I’m really struggling here, because I think the Bengals’ stock has bottomed out, and there’s probably value on them here. But when the Saints win at home, they typically win big.
I think the metrics favor Cincy, but my gut really wants to put New Orleans in a teaser, and they’re in decent teaser range at -7 if there’s a suitable partner. I like the matchup for New Orleans, as they played pretty well on defense last week against a better offense, and Mark Ingram should go nuts.
BET: Saints teaser, soon
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) over Washington Potato Skins
Overall: Buccaneers (32nd), Potato Skins (22nd)
Pass Offense: Buccaneers (29th), Potato Skins (14th),
Pass Defense: Buccaneers (31st), Potato Skins (26th),
Rush Offense: Buccaneers (24th), Potato Skins (16th)
Rush Defense: Buccaneers (9th), Potato Skins (12th)
Josh McCown signed a 2 year, $10 million deal this offseason.
Josh McCown has faced the Panthers, Rams and Falcons (twice). The 24th, 32nd, and 30th ranked pass defenses, respectively.
Josh McCown is 0-4, averaging just 6.5 yards per attempt, and has a 4-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio.
And his middle name is Treadwell.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t justify a Washington bet, but it does explain how a garbage team like Washington is favored by 7 over anyone.
The Spud Webbs have been decent the few times they haven’t been torched through the air, so playing Josh McCown is a welcome sight. I don’t want to hear the “Kirk Cousins is better" people; RGIII is an upgrade for a team that has thrown interceptions on 3.5% of passes (29th in the NFL).
If not for Cousins’ turnovers, this offense would look pretty good. Washington is second in the NFL in yards per play! Part of that is playing from behind a lot, but if RGIII isn’t horrible, he should go off.
BET: TEASER, Saints -.5/Potato Skins -.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
Denver Broncos (-9) over St. Louis Rams*
Overall: Broncos (1st), Rams (28th)
Pass Offense: Broncos (1st), Rams (28th),
Pass Defense: Broncos (4th), Rams (30th),
Rush Offense: Broncos (14th), Rams (15th)
Rush Defense: Broncos (2nd), Rams (8th)
Last week, I mentioned that the Broncos hadn’t played a bad team yet, but all six of their wins had come by 7+ points. I also checked out their record vs. bad teams. The Rams are a bad team. Updated after last week’s blowout of the Raiders:
11-0. Eight 20+ point wins. Two 16-point wins. One semi-close game, a 17-9 win at 2-14 Kansas City, back in 2012.
BET: Broncos -9 (-110), $220 to win $200
New York Giants* (+4.5) over San Francisco 49ers
Overall: Giants (21st), 49ers (16th)
Pass Offense: Giants (17th), 49ers (23rd),
Pass Defense: Giants (17th), 49ers (6th),
Rush Offense: Giants (21st), 49ers (9th)
Rush Defense: Giants (28th), 49ers (13th)
The Giants played really well last week against a similar team in Seattle. The 49ers are a good defense that morphs into a great team when Colin Kaepernick plays well. He doesn’t play well often, but the Giants aren’t playing to their defensive potential.
The Giants have Odell Beckham and not much else. They do get Rashad Jennings back, which is helpful. I expected a +3 or +3.5, so I lean Giants. But the Giants have been inconsistent, and the 49ers’ defense has been impressive. Can’t pull the trigger.
Oakland Raiders (+10.5) over San Diego Chargers*
Overall: Raiders (30th), Chargers (18th)
Pass Offense: Raiders (27th), Chargers (3rd),
Pass Defense: Raiders (27th), Chargers (29th),
Rush Offense: Raiders (32nd), Chargers (28th)
Rush Defense: Raiders (14th), Chargers (19th)
The Chargers were lucky to win this first matchup on the road. They squeaked out a 3-point win, and averaged 6.1 yards per play, while giving up a ridiculous 7.3 to the Raiders.
Philip Rivers should go off, as he did in the first matchup, but there’s absolutely no reason to think the 29th-ranked pass defense, which is trending down, will turn things around against a promising young quarterback who threw for 282 yards, 4 TDS and 8.3 yards per attempt in the last matchup.
Rivers vs. Carr is a huge mismatch, of course, but Carr vs. San Diego’s pass defense is, too, and the rest of the matchups are actually pretty damn even. +10.5 is ridiculous, even for the Chargers coming off a bye. The Raiders were +13.5 in Seattle, and they covered. Playing in San Diego isn’t even remotely comparable.
They were +6.5 in Cleveland. Give me that, and I’d consider the Chargers.
San Diego does have 19 and 31-point wins, but they came against the only two teams who can’t beat them through the air – the Geno-led Jets and the Bortles-led Jags.
Also, as bad as the Raiders have been, their schedule has been ridiculously hard. I mean, they’re coming off a game in Seattle and then vs. Denver. Fuck.
BET: Raiders +10.5 (-110), $190 to win $172.72 AND ML (+475), $30 $142.50
Green Bay Packers* (-5) over Philadelphia Eagles
Overall: Packers (3rd), Eagles (5th)
Pass Offense: Packers (5th), Eagles (18th),
Pass Defense: Packers (12th), Eagles (9th),
Rush Offense: Packers (12th), Eagles (20th)
Rush Defense: Packers (20th), Eagles (5th)
The Eagles are playing shockingly good defense, but nobody stops Aaron Rodgers at home. The Eagles are 5th in total DVOA, but take out their ridiculous, probably unsustainable special teams (1st, 10.5% better than league average), and this is an average team. Their offense was struggling before Mark Sanchez took over.
Aaron Rodgers is now on a 15-game winning streak at home, with 14 of those wins coming by 7+ points.
BET: Packers -5 (-110), $110 to win $100 AND TEASER, Packers +1.5/Broncos -2.5 (-125), $125 to win $100
Detroit Lions (+2) over Arizona Cardinals*
Overall: Lions (9th), Cardinals (15th)
Pass Offense: Lions (19th), Cardinals (15th),
Pass Defense: Lions (2nd), Cardinals (5th),
Rush Offense: Lions (29th), Cardinals (30th)
Rush Defense: Lions (1st), Cardinals (4th)
I’m not sure Drew Stanton is much of a downgrade, but the Lions, by all metrics, are the best defense in the NFL. I’d also like the under, but 41 is pretty damn low, and the Lions looked much better on offense with Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush back. 5.5 yards per play vs. Miami is impressive for a struggling offense.
I think this line makes sense for the full-season numbers, but I think getting Calvin and Reggie back makes it clear the Lions are the much better team. Their bad offense should morph into a mediocre one.
BET: Lions +2 (-105), $105 to win $100
New England Patriots (+2.5) over Indianapolis Colts*
Overall: Patriots (8th), Colts (7th)
Pass Offense: Patriots (2nd), Colts (6th),
Pass Defense: Patriots (19th), Colts (18th),
Rush Offense: Patriots (31st), Colts (25th)
Rush Defense: Patriots (26th), Colts (22nd)
57.5 is a ridiculously high total for an NFL game. But both teams are coming off a bye. The Colts have totaled 64 and 85 points the last two weeks. They’ve topped 57.5 in five games. The Patriots have topped 57.5 in four of their past five. Great pass offenses against not-great pass Ds. Dome. Why not?
BET: OVER 57.5 (-105), $105 to win $100
Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5) over Tennessee Titans*
Overall: Steelers (11th), Titans (27th)
Pass Offense: Steelers (4th), Titans (21st),
Pass Defense: Steelers (25th), Titans (21st),
Rush Offense: Steelers (19th), Titans (18th)
Rush Defense: Steelers (17th), Titans (31st)
Yes, the Steelers looked horrible last week. But that was mainly due to turnovers. Pig Pen Baconburger still averaged 7.2 yards per attempt.
The Titans have shown nothing since Week 1, besides a good half vs. Cleveland that turned into a hilarious loss.
Still, the Steelers defense is not so good, and their team total should be around 26. I’d rather bet OVER 26 than Steelers -5.5.
BET: Steelers team total OVER, check back
(AGAIN: If you want to bet sports smartly, you should check out my complete lesson in NFL and sports betting All the cool kids like learning all of the things for cheap.)
Last Week: 6-3 (.667) +$334
Total: 39-42 (.481) -$1040.42
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 25-20 (This Week: Raiders, Packers, Broncos, Seahawks, Bills)
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