NFL Pick$ Against The Spread That Don’t Suck: Week 16
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 16.
I'm having a horrid year. I forgot what being .500 (which is not good) and having a winning week was like, but those things were achieved last week. Progress!
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.)
Jacksonville Jaguars* (-3) over Tennessee Titans
Overall: Jaguars (31st), Titans (30th)
Pass Offense: Jaguars (32nd), Titans (29th)
Pass Defense: Jaguars (17th), Titans (25th)
Rush Offense: Jaguars (26th), Titans (20th)
Rush Defense: Jaguars (19th), Titans (28th)
Jacksonville isn’t just a bad team, they’re a funny team. They’re 3rd in red-zone defense, allowing TDs on just 45.1% of opponent appearances! But they’re 32nd on offense, at 37.93%. They’re 2nd in adjusted sack percentage on defense(!), but dead-last on offense.
Tennessee is a bad team, but not really a funny team. They are 14th in yards per play on offense, but that’s probably because they tend to get destroyed within 13 seconds and throw all game.
I took the under at 41, under the assumption that the game should look similar to last week’s Jets-Titans shitfest, where one team has a decent defense (Jacksonville), but that team’s offense is so inept they can’t take advantage of the bowling pins set up on the other side. Jacksonville is 31st in yards per play, and they're Denardless.
BET: UNDER 41 (-110), $110 to win $100
Washington Potato Skins* (+7.5) over Philadelphia Eagles
Overall: Potato Skins (29th), Eagles (7th)
Pass Offense: Potato Skins (14th), Eagles (10th)
Pass Defense: Potato Skins (32nd), Eagles (20th)
Rush Offense: Potato Skins (12th), Eagles (4th)
Rush Defense: Potato Skins (9th), Eagles (6th)
RG3 is the starter, and he is coming off a good week by 2014 RG3 standards. Which means he had a long run and a high yards per attempt (8.7)… despite being kind of shitty and fumbling three times.
This is a battle of two struggling quarterbacks against two struggling defenses. Mark Sanchez has the easier task, with the better offense facing the much-worse secondary… but he also has to overcome the fact that he’s Mark Sanchez. A lotta adversity on both sides.
In their first matchup, Kirk Cousins threw for 427 yards and 3 TD, and Nick Foles threw for 325 yards and 3 TD.
I’d like to think RG3 can match that, but Washington is 30th in pass-protection, and Philly is 8th in pass-rush. And he put up 7 points on 4.7 yards per attempt vs. the BUCS. I don’t see any value at -7.5, but there’s obvious teaser potential here if you trust the Sanchize vs. the porous pass-D… on the road.
BET: Eagles teaser or nothing…
San Francisco 49ers* (-1) over San Diego Chargers
Overall: 49ers (16th), Chargers (14th)
Pass Offense: 49ers (22nd), Chargers (6th)
Pass Defense: 49ers (4th), Chargers (24th)
Rush Offense: 49ers (15th), Chargers (27th)
Rush Defense: 49ers (8th), Chargers (13th)
I wrote the Chargers’ defense off, as it struggled early in the year, but they were struggling with injuries and are actually 9th in defensive DVOA from Weeks 10-15 as they’ve gotten healthier. Still, that’s mainly because of two decent but unspectacular performances vs. the Pats and Broncos. In losses, at home. I’m convinced they’re no longer the worst defense in the league, but this is still a bad pass defense.
The Niners defense is legit, and I think there’s a strong argument to be made that they’re the better team, overall. If Colin Kaepernick hadn’t been so damn awful, I’d be all over San Francisco. But he’s sucked. It’s tough to take them. And they’ve just been eliminated. I should probably pass.
Miami Dolphins* (-6.5) over Minnesota Vikings
Overall: Dolphins (11th), Vikings (24th)
Pass Offense: Dolphins (13th), Vikings (28th)
Pass Defense: Dolphins (6th), Vikings (19th)
Rush Offense: Dolphins (6th), Vikings (4th)
Rush Defense: Dolphins (20th), Vikings (24th)
Dolphins should win… seems fair.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers* (+10.5) over Green Bay Packers
Overall: Buccaneers (32nd), Packers (5th)
Pass Offense: Buccaneers (31st), Packers (3rd)
Pass Defense: Buccaneers (26th), Packers (15th)
Rush Offense: Buccaneers (29th), Packers (5th)
Rush Defense: Buccaneers (12th), Packers (21st)
The fact that the Bucs have Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson yet the 2nd-worst pass offense in the league is so, so sad.
No chance I can take the Packers on the road -10.5… but off a loss vs. a horrid defense, it’s probably justified.
New Orleans Saints* (-6) over Atlanta Falcons
Overall: Saints (17th), Falcons (20th)
Pass Offense: Saints (9th), Falcons (8th)
Pass Defense: Saints (23rd), Falcons (31st)
Rush Offense: Saints (7th), Falcons (16th)
Rush Defense: Saints (31st), Falcons (29th)
The Saints were on a ridiculous home streak going into this year… but now they’re four-game losing streak in the dome. This defense is pathetic, and Week 1’s 37-34 thriller seems like a solid prediction here. Neither team can stop the other, and every time the Saints have played a bad defense, they’ve soared over this number.
BET: OVER 55.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
Chicago Bears* (+8) over Detroit Lions
Overall: Bears (17th), Lions (20th)
Pass Offense: Bears (18th), Lions (15th)
Pass Defense: Bears (29th), Lions (3rd)
Rush Offense: Bears (13th), Lions (30th)
Rush Defense: Bears (16th), Lions (1st)
I’m tempted to hit the under 44.5, but with Chicago looking like they’ve given up and the Lions torching them just a few weeks ago, I’m gunshy.
New York Jets* (+10) over New England Patriots
Overall: Jets (27th), Patriots (2nd)
Pass Offense: Jets (30th), Patriots (4th)
Pass Defense: Jets (28th), Patriots (11th)
Rush Offense: Jets (11th), Patriots (18th)
Rush Defense: Jets (10th), Patriots (14th)
Since Week 4, only three teams have kept the Pats within 10 points. One of them, of course, was the Jets, who nearly won in New England. But that was on a short week, and the Pats were banged up. 10 certainly seems fair, and if I had to bet, I’d probably go with New England.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)* over Kansas City Chiefs
Overall: Chiefs (6th), Steelers (9th)
Pass Offense: Chiefs (10th), Steelers (2nd)
Pass Defense: Chiefs (14th), Steelers (30th)
Rush Offense: Chiefs (3rd), Steelers (9th)
Rush Defense: Chiefs (26th), Steelers (18th)
Should be a good game. I like the Steelers a tiny, tiny bit. But three seems fair.
Houston Texans* (+5.5) over Baltimore Ravens
Overall: Texans (21st), Ravens (4th)
Pass Offense: Texans (14th), Ravens (5th)
Pass Defense: Texans (13th), Ravens (21st)
Rush Offense: Texans (23rd), Ravens (12th)
Rush Defense: Texans (17th), Ravens (5th)
I think there’s line value on the Texans, but Baltimore’s weakness is vs. the deep ball, and Case Keenum or Thad Lewis is starting.
St. Louis Rams* (-5) over New York Giants
Overall: Giants (23rd), Rams (19th)
Pass Offense: Giants (20th), Rams (26th)
Pass Defense: Giants (18th), Rams (12th)
Rush Offense: Giants (24th), Rams (14th)
Rush Defense: Giants (25th), Rams (7th)
The Rams were 29th in defensive DVOA from Weeks 1-9, but they’ve been 1st since. Weird.
They’re very, very clearly the better team, but I still don’t buy their offense enough to take them -5.
Oakland Raiders* (+6) over Buffalo Bills
Overall: Raiders (28th), Bills (8th)
Pass Offense: Raiders (27th), Bills (24th)
Pass Defense: Raiders (27th), Bills (1st)
Rush Offense: Raiders (32nd), Bills (25th)
Rush Defense: Raiders (15th), Bills (11th)
One matchup edge here for Oakland: they’re fourth in pass protection, which helps balance out the Bills’ main edge vs. most teams – their league-best pass-rush.
Then again, the Bills are coming off two great performances vs. two well-protected QBs that are much, much better than Derek Carr (Peyton and Rodgers).
Dallas Cowboys* (-3) over Indianapolis Colts
Overall: Cowboys (13th), Colts (10th)
Pass Offense: Cowboys (7th), Colts (11th)
Pass Defense: Cowboys (22nd), Colts (10th)
Rush Offense: Cowboys (2nd), Colts (21st)
Rush Defense: Cowboys (27th), Colts (23rd)
These teams are near-clones – except the Colts have the better defense, and the Cowboys have DeMarco Murray (and the offensive line that has spurred his awesome season). With Murray not seeming likely to play, that edge will diminish. But with the way their offensive line is playing, it might not be much of a drop.
I considered Indy, but I’ll say it: Andrew Luck hasn’t been that good recently. It’s true, fellaters. Three points isn’t much in a game with a total of 55.
Also: This “Cowboys are amazing on the road” thing might have something to do with the fact that they’ve played five of the worst teams in the NFL in their buildings. I’m not taking away from the wins in Philly and Seattle, but relax. They’ve had a tougher home schedule, and also had to play Brandon Weeden in a home game.
Arizona Cardinals* (+7.5) over Seattle Seahawks
Overall: Cardinals (18th), Seahawks (3rd)
Pass Offense: Cardinals (17th), Seahawks (12th)
Pass Defense: Cardinals (7th), Seahawks (8th)
Rush Offense: Cardinals (31st), Seahawks (1st)
Rush Defense: Cardinals (3rd), Seahawks (4th)
Ryan Lindley vs. the Seahawks’ ridiculous yet still improving defense could get UGLY. But 7.5 points in a game with a total of 36.5 (the lowest I can remember this year), is really, really high. Tempted to take Arizona, but pick-six potential is high.
Denver Broncos (-3) over Cincinnati Bengals*
Overall: Broncos (1st), Bengals (15th)
Pass Offense: Broncos (1st), Bengals (18th)
Pass Defense: Broncos (5th), Bengals (9th)
Rush Offense: Broncos (8th), Bengals (13th)
Rush Defense: Broncos (2nd), Bengals (30th)
Cincy has an excellent secondary, but they don’t have much of a pass-rush. The only times Peyton has really struggled is vs. a good pass-rush. Even then, he’s been pretty good. In a similar matchup vs. Miami, he had no trouble (and was kindly assisted by CJ Anderson).
Denver’s offense has dropped off slightly, but their defense has been pretty damn good..
If you take out last week’s 30-0 win in Cleveland, mostly due to Johnny Football’s awfulness, the Bengals have not been very good. They’ve played well vs. Baltimore twice and had a nice win in New Orleans vs. a god-awful defense. They’re not even close to Denver’s level, they don’t match up well on offense or defense, and I really, really like Denver.
BET: Broncos -3 (-115), $575 to win $500
(If you can't tell, I REALLY like Denver. Then again, given my record, take Cincy.)
Cleveland Browns (no line, due to uncertainty of Cam Newton) over Carolina Panthers*
LATE ADDS: Browns +4 (-110), $88 to win $80 AND ML (+180), $30 to win $54... 49ers -1.5 (-110), $55 to win $50... Bears team total UNDER 17.5 (-110), $110 to win $100... Johnny Football OVER 182.5 passing yards (-115), $230 to win $200
Last Week: 5-3 +$146.65
Total: 52-52 (.500) -$992.11
Hypothetical Supercontest Picks: 35-33 (This Week: Broncos, 49ers, Steelers, Jaguars, Cardinals)
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