NFL Pick$ Against The Spread That Don’t Suck: Week 12
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. Peyton Manning was unkind last week. As I say after every bad week, time to turn it around! (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.)
Oakland Raiders* (+7.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
Overall: Raiders (30th), Chiefs (6th)
Pass Offense: Raiders (28th), Chiefs (12th),
Pass Defense: Raiders (24th), Chiefs (14th),
Rush Offense: Raiders (32nd), Chiefs (2nd)
Rush Defense: Raiders (14th), Chiefs (18th)
Like last week, I love the Raiders. The Chiefs’ stock is at an all-time high, off a massive home win vs. Seattle. On short weeks, that’s how hangovers happen. (Don't listen to those silly people who claim alcohol causes hangovers.)
The Raiders aren’t good by any metric, but they’re consistent. As Football Outsiders describes it, they’ve been “consistently lousy but not prime-time blowout lousy.” They’re the most consistent team in the NFL (1st in variance). Derek Carr has moxie, or whatever you call that thing where he tries hard and has promise and stuff.
They’re 0-10, but 5-5 ATS (1-4 at home). It may pain you to bet them, but it’s never ridiculous to take an underdog, regardless of how ugly they are. Underdogs cover 50% of the time, 99.897% of the time.
I give the Raiders a 100% chance of covering if they hold Jamaal Charles to fewer than 678 yards and 7 TDs. Unfortunately, I give that a 46.69% chance of happening. So just a normal bet here.
I forgot: Oakland is great at one thing, besides their consistency in sucking. They’re first in the NFL in protecting their quarterback. Kansas City’s biggest strength is their pass rush (7th), so this could be big.
Raiders +7.5 (-119), $95 to win $79.83 AND ML (+295), $15 to win $44.25
Tennessee Titans (+11) over Philadelphia Eagles*
Overall: Eagles (8th), Titans 27rd)
Pass Offense: Eagles (17th), Titans (22nd),
Pass Defense: Eagles (13th), Titans (19th),
Rush Offense: Eagles (20th), Titans (16th)
Rush Defense: Eagles (9th), Titans (32nd)
“Bet numbers, not teams.” – Steve Urkel's cousin, Marc.
I was very excited to bet the Eagles after their embarrassment vs. the Packers. Then I realized that the spread was 11 and all of a sudden, the Eagles weren’t so attractive. Marc Urkel was right (you can’t prove he didn't say that, or that he doesn't exist).
I think this is Tennessee or pass, but facing the 32nd rush defense, who just gave up 204 yards to Le’Veon Bell might be just what Shady McCoy needs to get back on track.
I’m also excited for when Mark Sanchez is the savior again for winning a game as an 11-point home favorite.
Minnesota Vikings* (+10) over Green Bay Packers
Overall: Vikings (26th), Packers (2nd)
Pass Offense: Vikings (31st), Packers (2nd),
Pass Defense: Vikings (11th), Packers (9th),
Rush Offense: Vikings (3rd), Packers (8th)
Rush Defense: Vikings (23rd), Packers (21st)
It should surprise you that the Vikings have the 11th-best pass defense. Their secondary is horrible. But they’re fifth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. They rush the passer extremely well, and that’s a form of pass defense.
Green Bay is 16th in pass protection (adjusted sack rate allowed), so this could be a problem. Aaron Rodgers has been incredible this year, but he did struggle against Detroit and Miami, two teams with great pass rushes.
Then again, those are the No. 1 and 3 defenses in the league, and Rodgers torched the Vikings in their first matchup.
I think there might be a bit of line value on the Vikings, overreacting to the Packers’ ridiculous home blowouts (they’re 2-3 on the road, with just one blowout win in Chicago)… but, yeah, I can’t bet this. Green Bay's defense is stepping up and Teddy Bridgewater is not.
BET: Vikings, but only if I grow testicles, which I probably won't
Cincinnati Bengals (+1.5) over Houston Texans*
Overall: Bengals (17th), Texans (21st)
Pass Offense: Bengals (16th), Texans (19th),
Pass Defense: Bengals (8th), Texans (10th),
Rush Offense: Bengals (14th), Texans (12th)
Rush Defense: Bengals (30th), Texans (25th)
I love lowering the self esteem of gingers as much as the next guy, but the truth is: Andy Dalton has been decent this year. Look at his game log. He had two putrid games – the shutout in Indy and the 3-point performance vs. Cleveland – but besides that, he hasn’t been bad. He was solid in two tough matchups vs. the Ravens, wasn’t bad in the blowout in New England, and has been pretty good vs. all of the weak defenses he’s faced.
That said, the Texans are at home, they’re the 10th ranked pass defense, and they’re trending upward. Jadeveon Clowney is in there. It took Brian Hoyer 50 attempts to get his 330 yards last week.
But they also gave up 9.2 yards per attempt to Mark Sanchez after allowing 10.3 to Nick Foles. They were lucky to get three picks and lucky to not be embarrassed in a 31-21 home loss. They also gave up 7.3 yards per attempt to Zach Mettenberger in his first start. 7.9 to Romo. 8.0 to Roethlisberger. 8.4 to Luck. Fart.
Their defensive success is mostly due to J.J. Watt and his influence in forcing insane amounts of turnovers. Houston is first in the NFL in takeaways per game (2.3). They probably need to win the turnover battle here to win. There’s a good chance they win it, but I don’t see any value here.
P.S. Cincy does protect Dalton well (4th in adjusted sack rate allowed). That will help.
P.P.S. Start Alfred Blue in fantasy/daily fantasy if Arian Foster doesn’t suit up, people. They should run for days against a weak run defense to support their newbie QB (that rhymes!).
Cleveland Browns (+3.5) over Atlanta Falcons*
Overall: Browns (19th), Falcons (20th)
Pass Offense: Browns (7th), Falcons (11th)
Pass Defense: Browns (7th), Falcons (32nd)
Rush Offense: Browns (28th), Falcons (10th)
Rush Defense: Browns (29th), Falcons (27th)
Just looking at the matchups, this looks promising for Cleveland. They stop the pass (slowing down Atlanta’s biggest strength) and pass well (attacking their biggest weakness). The Falcons are typically great at home and are averaging 34.25 points per game – but that’s mainly due to explosions vs. the Saints and Bucs, two of the worst secondaries in the NFL.
The Falcons’ defense is horrendous. They gave up 558 yards to the Vikings in Teddy Bridgewater’s first start.
That said, I’d rather trust the Browns’ offense vs. this defense than the Browns’ inconsistent defense vs. Matt Ryan at home. Since Cleveland is the underdog, we’ll get a nice team total for them.
BET: Browns team total OVER ~21, when it’s released
New York Jets (+4.5) over Buffalo Bills*
Overall: Jets (22nd), Bills (12th)
Pass Offense: Jets (30th), Bills (25th),
Pass Defense: Jets (23rd), Bills (4th),
Rush Offense: Jets (6th), Bills (26th)
Rush Defense: Jets (5th), Bills (8th)
You probably haven’t been paying attention, but the Jets have actually kept all but three games pretty close this year. Of course, one of those games was a 43-23 loss at home vs. Buffalo, which was very strange. My sources can't confirm that Buffalo had more than 43 total points in franchise history before that.
The Bills are a very good defense and a very bad offense. I would imagine the Jets will come better prepared, off a bye, in a revenge game for their 6 TO performance. The Bills are clearly better, but in a likely low-scoring game, 4.5 seems fair.
Buffalo’s team total UNDER might be worth a look if you can stomach cheering for the Jets secondary. They’ve topped 22 points just once since Week 2 (of course, the one time was the 43 point performance on these Jets), and been held to 17 or fewer in 6 of 10 games.
BET: Bills TT UNDER, maybe
Chicago Bears* (-5.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overall: Bears (23rd), Buccaneers (32nd)
Pass Offense: Bears (14th), Buccaneers (29th),
Pass Defense: Bears (28th), Buccaneers (30th),
Rush Offense: Bears (9th), Buccaneers (25th)
Rush Defense: Bears (15th), Buccaneers (13th)
Seems fair. Bears should win, Bucs like to randomly keep things close. Side-note: They're the higest-rated, worst-team in the NFL in DVOA history! Yay Bucs! Getting rid of Schiano was just what the doctor ordered.
Detroit Lions (+7) over New England Patriots*
Overall: Lions (9th), Patriots (5th)
Pass Offense: Lions (18th), Patriots (1st),
Pass Defense: Lions (3rd), Patriots (15th),
Rush Offense: Lions (30th), Patriots (24th)
Rush Defense: Lions (1st), Patriots (16th)
The Lions are probably the best defense in the NFL, and they’ve been ridiculously consistent. They haven’t given up more than 24 points all year. That includes games vs. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matty Ice at home.
But their offense has been poop. They’ll get Reggie Bush back this week (again).
Unsurprisingly, 8 of their 10 games have gone UNDER. Only two have topped 44 points. The average score in a Lions game? 34.7 points. Total.
This total is 48.
Then you look at the Patriots. 62 points last week. 64 the week before. 74 before that. Then a modest 52. 59. 60. 55. You have to go all the way back to Week 3 to see a normal-looking score, weirdly against Oakland, at home (16-9).
Way too much uncertainty for the under.
The Pats have blown out two good teams the past two weeks, and Denver entered New England with similar defensive metrics to Detroit. They’ve put up huge numbers on some good defenses (Buffalo, Denver, and Cincinnati sorta), so Detroit might struggle.
Still, the Pats’ defense is average, their stock is out-of-control high, and there’s simply no way I can refuse a team as good as the Lions, with an offense that just has to improve, getting seven points.
As great as the Pats have been, take out the past two weeks and project this line. It’s probably closer to Pats -3.5. A cover here, and they’re basically invincible.
Lions +7 (-104), $90 to win $86.54 AND ML (+276), $20 to win $55.20
Jacksonville Jaguars (+14) over Indianapolis Colts*
Overall: Jaguars (31st), Colts (14th)
Pass Offense: Jaguars (32nd), Colts (6th),
Pass Defense: Jaguars (16th), Colts (17th),
Rush Offense: Jaguars (22nd), Colts (29th)
Rush Defense: Jaguars (19th), Colts (31st)
The Jaguars, as bad as they’ve been, have been improving. They’ve covered twice and even won a game against a decent team!
I’d like to think +14 is a little high (Denard should go nuts!) but the Jaguars have lost their five road games by an average of 15.8 points, and the Colts have dominated inferior competition. Andrew Luck off a loss, blah, blah. The Jags’ pass rush is actually quite good (2nd in adjusted sack rate), but the Colts are equally good at protecting Luck (2nd in ASR allowed).
Fun Fact for Jags fans: Indy is dead-last in red-zone scoring percentage allowed (74.29% TDs), and Jacksonville is FIRST (41.67%). Impressive! And #StartDenard!
Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) over Arizona Cardinals*
Overall: Seahawks (7th), Cardinals (15th)
Pass Offense: Seahawks (21st), Cardinals (15th),
Pass Defense: Seahawks (18th), Cardinals (6th),
Rush Offense: Seahawks (1st), Cardinals (31st)
Rush Defense: Seahawks (4th), Cardinals (3rd)
The Cardinals are definitely not as good as their 9-1 record, but they’re probably better than their 15th DVOA mark. As FO points out, “the Cardinals have the lowest DVOA rating of any 9-1 team in DVOA history.” That’s a flaw in DVOA, and a flaw in the Cardinals. They’re somewhere in between their record and DVOA rating.
An important thing about the Cardinals: All of their impressive performances have come at home. They have one good road win on the schedule in Dallas… but that was vs. Brandon Weeden. That doesn’t count, silly Cards. They got annihilated in Denver, and the rest of their success has come at home.
They did beat the Seahawks in Seattle, so there’s that.
The line seems a bit inflated given recent performance, but I think that’s fair given Seattle is coming home off a loss, and Arizona is riding high. I can’t lay 6.5 points in a low-scoring game in which the Seahawks might struggle to run the ball, and the only possible play for me here would be Seattle in a teaser.
Denver Broncos* (-7) over Miami Dolphins
Overall: Broncos (1st), Dolphins (4th)
Pass Offense: Broncos (3rd), Dolphins (13th),
Pass Defense: Broncos (5th), Dolphins (2nd),
Rush Offense: Broncos (17th), Dolphins (7th)
Rush Defense: Broncos (2nd), Dolphins (7th)
All of Denver’s “problems” have come on the road. Miami is having a good year, sure, but they haven’t been impressive at all on the road. Their best performance was… a 13-point win in Chicago?
The Broncos are dominant at home, fired up off a loss, crushed a similar Cardinals team, etc. etc. As bad as they were last week, Peyton threw for 389 yards and 7.2 yards per attempt.
I want to wait and see about Emmanuel Sanders’ and Julius Thomas’ injuries, but if one of them is playing and this line stays the same, I’m betting Denver. If it goes up to 7.5, I’ll consider a teaser instead, but we’ll see.
If both are out, I may reconsider, unless we get some more value.
BET: Denver -7 or in a teaser, probably
Washington Potato Skins (+9.5) over San Francisco 49ers*
Overall: Spuds (28th), 49ers (11th)
Pass Offense: Spuds (23rd), 49ers (20th),
Pass Defense: Spuds (29th), 49ers (1st),
Rush Offense: Spuds (15th), 49ers (13th)
Rush Defense: Spuds (11th), 49ers (12th)
Un-fun fact: The 49ers are 31st in red-zone offense (behind the Jets!), scoring TDs on just 39.39% of appearances. (Washington is 18th.)
So it’s not surprising that four of their six wins have come by less than a touchdown. Most of their games have been close. They’re the far better team, but they’re also horrible at protecting Colin Kaepernick, and he doesn’t help by holding onto the ball forever (30th in adjusted sack rate allowed). The Potato Heads are 8th in ASR (rushing the passer).
You’re buying the Spuds at rock bottom, and this is a team that averages 6 yards per play (6th in the NFL). I’m gonna write the bet below for convenience, but I personally am waiting to see if we get lucky and this hits +10 anywhere. That's a bit much. RG3 is not this bad, though this is a tough matchup. I'm thinking something like 20-16 here.
BET: Potato Skins +9.5 (-110), $90 to win $86.36 AND ML (+384) $20 to win $76.80
Dallas Cowboys (-3) over New York Giants*
Overall: Cowboys (13th), Giants (25th)
Pass Offense: Cowboys (9th), Giants (24th),
Pass Defense: Cowboys (21st), Giants (20th),
Rush Offense: Cowboys (4th), Giants (21st)
Rush Defense: Cowboys (22nd), Giants (26th)
Can’t say I understand this. I looked for quite some time to see if I was missing something. And this is coming from some idiot who bet on the Giants to win the Super Bowl. Did Tony Romo get less healthy coming off a bye?
Cowboys -3 (-116), $116 to win $100
New Orleans Saints* (-3) over Baltimore Ravens
Overall: Saints (16th), Ravens (3rd)
Pass Offense: Saints (10th), Ravens (8th),
Pass Defense: Saints (26th), Ravens (12th),
Rush Offense: Saints (5th), Ravens (19th)
Rush Defense: Saints (28th), Ravens (10th)
Can the Saints possibly lose three straight home games? They were 8-0 last year, but they had a defense last year. There’s clear line value for the Ravens, as they’re clearly the better team. But they haven’t been great on the road, giving up 6 TDs to Ben Roethlisberger and 9.5 yards per attempt to Andy Dalton. They miss Jimmy Smith.
Still, the Bengals are just a worse version of the Ravens right now, and they just won by 17 in New Orleans.
This line is simply because of the Saints’ home legacy; they haven’t done anything to justify being favorites this year. Pass.
(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: 5-6 -227.28
Total: 44-48 (.478) -$1267.70
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 27-23 (This Week: Cowboys, Potato Skins, Broncos, Lions, Raiders)
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