Sunday, December 29, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 17

Week 16 is in the books and the favorites took care of business with a 10-5-1 record. Favorites are ahead 118-109-8 for the season. Unders took a nice bite out of the totals season record by going 11-5 this week, but overs still lead for the year at 123-110-4.

The Las Vegas Supercontest top five consensus picks finished 4-1, and sit 33-45-2 record for the year.

Week 16 was a tricky one because there were inflated spreads up and down the board, and favorites still managed to cover the majority of them.  I only got involved in two and split 1-1. The Dolphins laid a complete egg on the road, but I give full credit to a motivated Bills team.

With a small card on sides, I took a shot at a few totals that looked good on paper, but 'unders' reigned supreme and put the squash on that. The real surprise were the teasers. For the first time all season I lost both games in a teaser. The Giants rose from the dead and beat Detroit at home, and the Cardinals shocked the world and won a game in Seattle. Just another day in the National Football League.

Week 17 is a blend of regular season and exhibition games so it might be another small card, but I''ll try to do some previews for a few of the big matchups since there's only one prime-time game.

Survivor Pick

The Bengals, Chargers, and Cowboys were the three main picks in the poll for Week 16, and all of them came through. If you're still alive, there's lots of good options for the final week because so many teams are out of playoff contention.

Week 17: Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals
Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles
Week 14: Baltimore Ravens
Week 13: Carolina Panthers
Week 12: Detroit Lions
Week 11: Arizona Cardinals
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
Week 9: Dallas Cowboys
Week 8: New Orleans Saints
Week 7: Green Bay Packers
Week 6: San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: Denver Broncos
Week 3: Seattle Seahawks
Week 2: Houston Texans
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 17: Teasers (updated)

As usual, the best options are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Crossing the key numbers of 3 & 7 offer great value.

*More teasers might be added, depending on weekend line movement.

Bengals -.5 & Patriots -2

Steelers -1 & Patriots -2

Adding

Eagles -1 & Patriots -1

Friday, December 27, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 17: Eagles vs Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys

Market Watch

Perceptions are a big driving force behind point spreads in the NFL, and the Week 17 matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys is a perfect example of that.

Before Week 16, Las Vegas listed the Cowboys as -2.5 point favorites in the look-ahead line for this game. Then the Cowboys narrowly escaped Washington with a win, and the Eagles trounced the Bears. This prompted a switch of favorites as the Eagles re-opened as -2.5 point favorites on Monday.

Then came the news that Tony Romo would be done for the year and the line got taken off the board and reset at -6.5.

The question we face is whether or not that was a fair line move.

Thus far, 70 percent of the bets are coming in on the Eagles.

Keep an eye on

Before the injury Tony Romo was rated in the second tier of quarterbacks for the 2013 season. That's pretty good in the grand scheme of things, but his rating has continued to go down during the month of December. I don't really care what some of the stats guys say, because Romo's choke-artist play in big games is a surprise to nobody with eyes.

However, instead of hashing out a debate about Romo's play in the big moments, the focus now shifts to Kyle Orton. No matter how you slice it, this is a downgrade at the QB position. How much of a downgrade? The jury is still out on that. He hasn't started a regular season game since Week 17 of 2011 when he was on the Chiefs.

In truth, this could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Often times, the rest of a roster will elevate their game to compensate for the loss of a star. We also see soccer teams rise to the challenge when they go down to 10 men. Instead of relying on Romo, the play-calling might become more balanced as well.  The Eagles are pretty good against the run, but DeMarco Murray is the kind of back that can control a game if given the snaps he deserves.  With more focus on the Dallas running game, opportunities should be there for Bryant and Witten.

Another uncertainty is the Eagles secondary. They put up one of their best efforts on national TV last week when they demolished the Bears, but it might not matter if they don't follow it up on Sunday night.

For the Philly offense, it will once again come down to Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy. The first time that Foles played the Cowboys it didn't go so well. He couldn't move the offense and left the game with a concussion. It's hard to imagine him being that bad this Sunday, but can he be as good as he's been since that time?

The Cowboys defense is flat-out brutal. Throw a dart at any of the important statistical categories, and you'll find a ranking that is below average. The three most important are how they play against the pass, on third down, and in the red zone. They aren't good in any of them, and they've continued to trend downwards during December. The Cowboys defense is also dead last in drive efficiency. Opposing offenses convert more first downs and scores per drive against Dallas than any other defense in the NFL.

Things look even worse with Sean Lee out with an injury. Stopping McCoy is hard enough when you have all your best players on the field, but it becomes nearly impossible when you're deploying backups.

It's stating a case of the obvious when I say they need Ware, Carr, and Scandrick to have big games.

Bottom Line

If you're looking at the Dallas side, you'll be happy to know that you can find +7 if you want it. If you like the Eagles, you can lay -6.5.

Personally, I'm taking a pass on this game. The line is inflated and it might be asking too much of Philadelphia to win by a touchdown. They are not among the upper tier teams this season. At the same time, I have very little faith in the Cowboys defense, and it's anyone's guess as to what we'll see from Kyle Orton.

With no Tony Romo, the pressure is squarely on the Eagles. Instead of being a coin flip, Philadelphia is expected to win this game. That could turn out to work in the Cowboys favor, and in an underdog spot, home field advantage could be a monumental factor.

In terms of value, Dallas is the right side, but I wouldn't be shocked if they imploded in yet another disappointing season.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 17: Packers vs Bears

Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears: GB -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

How much is Aaron Rodgers worth?  Many are reporting that he was worth a full seven points on this game, but sportsbooks have waited until final word on his health status each and every week before putting up a line at all.  I would argue that he's worth even more than that.

Without Rodgers, I had the Bears as -3 point favorites for this matchup, but with him in the lineup it should flip more than what we're seeing right now.  If I was setting this line, it would be Green Bay -3.5 at the minimum.

Motivation is clearly high for both teams, as the winner will walk away with the division crown and a playoff berth. The loser will be booking tee-times at Pebble Beach.

So far 70 percent of the bets have come in on the Packers.

Keep an eye on

All the talk is about Aaron Rodgers this week, but let's talk about the other QB in this game first. As a
member of the Bears, Jay Cutler has 8 touchdowns vs 17 interceptions against the Packers.  I usually don't put a lot of stock into meaningless trends that date back to prior seasons, but in this case it's something to take note of. The reason is simple, Dom Capers has been the Packers defensive coordinator in all of those matchups.

The problem for Green Bay is their defense has underacheived all season and now they are without Clay Matthews again. The pass defense ranks near the bottom, and the Bears pass offense ranks above average. This is not the matchup it used to be. Cutler now has Marshall and Jeffery on the outside, both of which grade near the top of the wide receiver rankings.

Covering them will be Shields and Williams. Shields has played much better over the second half of the season, and Williams is a guy who makes big plays in big games. Another critical factor is the Green Bay pass rush. It didn't get a lot of publicity, but their sack rate actually went up when Matthews was out of the lineup earlier in the season.

On the other side, Eddie Lacy's health status is almost as important as Aaron Rodgers. Despite banging up his ankle, Lacy is listed as 'probable' on Friday's injury report. It helps Chicago that Briggs has returned to the lineup, but he's the only guy on that side of the ball that can stop the run this year. They've been decimated by injury, and the replacements haven't gotten the job done. Last week we saw what LeSean McCoy can do to this unit, and now they have to worry about Rodgers too.

Cobb is out for this game, but that won't mean as much with the return of Rodgers. The Bears pass defense hasn't been what is usually is, and Tillman's injury only add more reason to worry if you're a Chicago fan. Green Bay's passing, drive efficiency, third down, and red zone stats all plummeted when Rodgers went down, and the Bears defense is below average in every one of those categories.  Worst of all, Chicago's defense has continued to trend downwards on third down and in the red zone during December. Needless to say, that's not what you want when everything is on the line and you're fighting for a playoff spot.

Bottom Line

The "square" pick is the Packers and we're seeing a reflection of that in the betting numbers, but in this case it is justified.  Chicago have been one of the worst teams against the spread this year. The Packers were 5-2 against the spread with Rodgers, and 1-6 without him.

Another thing to consider is the fact that the point spread crossed the dead number of 0 when it was announced that Rodgers would return, so we are getting a bit of extra value at -3.

I'll roll with the Packers.

NFL Pick: GB -3.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 17: Texans vs Titans

Houston Texans vs Tennessee Titans: HOU +7 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Surprising, a lot of games have some kind of playoff implications on Sunday, but a game with some 'value' is this one.  The LVH look-ahead line had the Titans as -5 point favorites. It re-opened at -6.5 on Monday, and it got bet up to -7 almost immediately.

The thinking behind this line move is the assumption that the Texans have already packed it in and have no motivation to show up to this game.

As of today, betting is almost split, with 52% coming in on the home team.

Bottom Line

On paper, this point spread should be about -3.5. It is one of the biggest inflations on the board for Week 17, and in my opinion it's too much.  Now if the Texans do lay a complete egg on Sunday and display no desire to win whatsoever, this will be a bad pick. However, that's also assuming that the Titans are up to the challenge as well.

There's no doubt that the Texans have been terrible this year. They are only 3-12 ATS and they've lost to some pretty subpar teams. But a closer look reveals that they were in almost every game right up until the end of the game.

Meanwhile, the Titans have only won two games over the past 7 weeks and they came against the Jaguars and the Raiders. They won each game by 4 points.

We can't put a whole lot of stock into the advanced stats with these teams, but one thing that does stand out is the Titans level of play in the "make-or-break" moments over recent weeks. They were one of the better teams on third down this year, both offensively and defensively, but they are free-falling in both categories during December.  They already had a bad red zone defense, but they've gotten even worse down the stretch. For me, this isn't a sign of a team that is going to blow out their opponent in the final week of the season.

It's still unclear who will play QB for the Texans. Keenum will get the start if his thumb is ok, but we might even see T.J. Yates. In the end, it won't really matter since all three QBs have played below-average ball this year. They'll also be without their three starting RBs, but that's another area where they've underachieved in 2013. The good news is they still have an excellent receiving corp, which is always beneficial in a pass-heavy league.

On the other side, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't any better. He's also a below-average QB who is trying to close out the year with an underachieving team. The one category that they do thrive in, the running game, is something the Texans defense can stop.  Despite all the problems for Houston this year, run defense hasn't been one of them.

In the end, the Texans aren't a team that anybody wants to get involved with right now, especially with their 1-6 road record, but the Titans aren't a team that is inspiring confidence either, and their home record sits at a pitiful 2-5.  I'll take the points and hope this game is as close as it looks like on paper.

NFL Pick: HOU +7.

Monday, December 23, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 16: Falcons vs 49ers

Atlanta Falcons vs San Francisco 49ers

Market Watch

In the look-ahead line, the 49ers were -11 point favorites for this Monday Night Football game. After the Falcons had a let down effort against the Redskins in Week 15, sportsbooks re-opened this line at -13.

Apparently that wasn't enough, as the line was bet all the way up to -14.5, before settling in at -14.

On paper, this line should be somewhere in single digits, but there is clear inflation in this point spread due to the situation. The Falcons have long been eliminated from the playoffs, and there is a lot on the line for San Fran. This is likely the last game at Candlestick, and the 49ers have an outside shot at winning the division, so people are expecting a first class game from the home team.

As we approach kickoff, 64 percent of the bets are on the 49ers.

Keep an eye on

The key problem for the Falcons is their defense. Normally, that wouldn't be very insightful, but they are so bad on that side of the ball, that there's no one area that stands out.  Ok, their pass rush ranks dead last, but they can't stop the pass or the run, get off the field on third down, or keep people out of the end zone. When you are ranked this low in that many categories, there's no reason to think they'll be able to slow down the 49ers in a big game.

Speaking of that 49ers offense, they don't do anything great, but they do everything really, really well. The most impressive aspect of their attack is that that are near the top of the NFL in red zone offense. When you have guys like Kaepernick and Gore, and one of the best play-callers in the league, it's tough to stop them inside the 20.

The only chance Atlanta has will be with the arm of Matt Ryan. He's had a really underrated season, but the supporting cast hasn't been there. Julio Jones was lost for the year, Roddy White dealt with a high ankle sprain for most of the season, and Steven Jackson didn't get going until recently. Harry Douglas has performed well, and Tony Gonzalez has been productive, but it hasn't been enough.

Curiously, the 49ers defense isn't as good inside their own red zone as they are at keeping people from reaching it. That might be something Atlanta could take advantage of, but converting red zone chances into touchdowns isn't what the Falcons do well this year.

On top of that, they have to figure out a way to stop Aldon Smith. Lamar Holmes is one of the worst tackles in the league, so that will be a spotlight matchup.

Bottom Line

I'm very tempted to take Atlanta because the line is so inflated. When you give a guy like Matt Ryan two touchdowns, that's usually a good bet. There is also the opportunity for a meaningless backdoor cover.

Yet, I can't ignore the situation here. There is too much at stake for the 49ers, and nothing but pride for the Falcons. San Fran will win this game, it's just a question of by how much.

When you factor everything in, it's a pass for me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 16

Week 15 is done and the favorites and dogs split with a 7-7-2 record. Favorites are still slightly ahead at 108-104-7 for the season. Overs had yet another big week with a 10-6 record, and are well ahead for the year at 118-99-4.

The Las Vegas Supercontest top five consensus picks finished 3-2, and hold a 29-44-2 record for the year.

Amid all the chaos in Week 15, I finished with a 3rd straight winning week on sides (10-3-1), with the Falcons as the only team to fall short. That game was a head-scratcher when you consider the Redskins turned the ball over 7 times. On the bright side, they decided to go for 2 instead of sending it to OT, which resulted in a teaser win. Unfortunately, Justin Tucker's 61 yard field goal spoiled the back end of the other teaser, so they finished 1-1 on the week.

I'll be adding Week 16 picks throughout the week and previews for all the prime-time games, so refresh for updates.

Survivor Pick

Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals

If you're still alive in a survivor pool, big props to you.  The options were limited for Week 15, but I figured the Eagles were the best option, especially against a Vikings team without Peterson.

Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles
Week 14: Baltimore Ravens
Week 13: Carolina Panthers
Week 12: Detroit Lions
Week 11: Arizona Cardinals
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
Week 9: Dallas Cowboys
Week 8: New Orleans Saints
Week 7: Green Bay Packers
Week 6: San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: Denver Broncos
Week 3: Seattle Seahawks
Week 2: Houston Texans
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts

NFL Preview 2013 Week 16: Bears vs Eagles

Chicago Bears vs Philadelphia Eagles

Market Watch

It was only a week ago when the perception was that the Eagles were clearly a better football team than the Bears. Las Vegas had them as -6 point favorites for this prime-time matchup, but that all shifted after Week 15 action. Philadelphia re-opened as -3.5 point favorites on Monday, and it was immediately bet down to -3.

This line is telling us that these teams are even in the power rankings, with the obligatory -3 given to the Eagles for home field advantage.

As of today, 54 percent of the bets are coming in on the Bears.

Keep an eye on

Each of these teams have significant advantages against each other, the question is which one will come out on top?

The Eagles secondary gets back Boykin and Wolff, which should be a boost to a pass coverage unit that will need it. The problem is this wasn't a stellar group to begin with, and now must face the unenviable task of containing Marshall, Jeffery, and Bennett. Williams and Fletcher will be the two in the spotlight, and they've been ordinary so far this season.  Advantage Chicago.

When Philly have the ball, LeSean McCoy will be the primary focus. He has more yards and touchdowns on red zone rushes than any other team this season. This may or may not be a factor on Sunday night since the Bears have a pretty good red zone defense, but the table is set for a huge day from McCoy if the Eagles don't fall behind and stay committed to the ground game. According to ProFootballFocus, McCoy has forced 51 missed tackles (4th best), 654 yards after contact, and 508 receiving yards (5th best).

This is a monumental challenge for the Bears run defense, which ranks as one of the worst in the NFL. Lance Briggs has been cleared to return, but the decision to play will be up to him. If he does play, it will likely be in a limited role. The Bears will take it though, since he's the only defender who's done well against the run this year.

The other guy to keep a close guy on is Nick Foles. Since his amazing streak, he's fallen back to earth a bit. It's still too early in his career to guess what he might do in this prime-time spot, but the Bears don't have a fearsome pass rush anymore. If Philly can stick with the ground game, Foles won't have to be great to pull out a win.

An area that might not be getting enough press is how the Eagles play at home. They were on a horrendous losing streak dating back to last year before they finally put together a couple wins, but this is a crowd that gets tense when things begin to go bad. As great as the Philly fans are, they'll be the first to let you know how you're playing.

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, it's difficult to say which team is the right side in this matchup. This is a big game for both teams in the playoff race, especially if things fall their way in the afternoon games. It's all going to come down to execution because both teams will have the opportunity to dictate on offense.

Flip a coin.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 16: Teasers (update)

As usual, the best options are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Crossing the key numbers of 3 & 7 offer great value.

*More teasers might be added, depending on weekend line movement.

Chiefs -.5 & Bengals -2 

Adding

Seahawks -2 & Lions -2

Friday, December 20, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 16: Saints vs Panthers

New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers: CAR -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

I'm a bit surprised at how much respect the Saints are getting in this point spread. In the LVH look-ahead, the Panthers were only -2.5 point favorites. When the line re-opened, it was -3. I fully expected this line to move to -3.5 at some point, but we can still get -3 (with a bit extra juice) at every shop out there.

60% of the bets are coming in on the Panthers.

Bottom Line

I wasn't involved when these teams played in New Orleans not too long ago, but I wasn't surprised that the Saints took care of business. They are right up there with the Seahawks as having the best home field advantage in the league. Their defensive line already had an edge going into that one, and it becomes amplified with the dome crowd and a lead.

Things are much different for Drew Brees and company on the road. Last week, they were touchdown favorites in St Louis, but couldn't even win the game. It's not the first bad loss on the road for New Orleans, and it's a trend that dates back before this season.

Another problem for Brees will be the situation at left tackle. Untested rookie Terron Armstead will get the start and has the luxury of going up against Greg Hardy in a hostile environment. You can be sure that Sean Payton will be providing help on that side and also be looking to get the ball out quicker to avoid this fearsome pass rush. Another effect of this is the benefit on the other side to Charles Johnson. He won't have to worry too much about double coverage, as he gets to face off one on one with Zach Strief.

There is no real glaring weakness with the rest of the Panthers defense. New Orleans will have to earn their points the hard way. Even though Jimmy Graham had two touchdowns in their last meeting, he didn't go off in the yardage department.

When Carolina have the ball, they can take solace in the fact that New Orleans isn't that great against the run. The other weakness comes in the red zone. Despite the improvement we've seen from this unit in 2013, they are still a bit soft inside their own 20. Meanwhile, the Panthers rank near the top of the league in every "make-or-break" category on both sides of the ball.

After you factor in a couple of key advantages for Carolina, along with home field advantage, and the Saints road disadvantage, I think there is value on -3.  If I was setting this line it would be -3.5 at minimum, and probably closer to -4.

NFL Pick: CAR -3.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 16: Dolphins vs Bills

Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Bills: MIA -2.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Report

This is one of the more interesting point spreads on the board. The LVH look-ahead/opening lines both had the Dolphins as -3 point favorites. Yet, we've seen some respect for the Bills as the line has been adjusted to -2.5 with some juice.

The majority of bets are still on Miami though (77%).

Bottom Line

Unlike some other teams, I'm not writing the Bills off as a 'dead' team. Even though they are out of the playoff hunt, they have a new coaching staff and a lot of youth on both sides of the ball. I expect a strong effort out of Buffalo on Sunday, but I question whether or not they have the tools to get the win.

I didn't like how the Dolphins responded to their off-field problems when they lost to the Bucs on prime-time, but since then they've really rallied together and put together some good ball. Tannehill is playing strong, and more importantly, his offensive line have protected much better (McKinnie and Clabo in particular).

The Bills defense rank average or above average in most of the key categories, so Miami will definitely have to earn their points. However, can Buffalo do enough with their offense to keep up?

EJ Manuel is once again on the shelf, which leaves us with Thad Lewis. This isn't a notable downgrade, as both have ranked below average all year, but Stevie Johnson is also out. Lewis might have led the Bills to a victory over Miami earlier in the year, but Johnson led the team in catches that week (as he does most weeks).

The main hope for Buffalo is their run game and home field advantage. The Dolphins defense has been pretty consistent all season long, but their linebackers have been a sore spot game in and game out. CJ Spiller has the ability to make them pay both on the ground and in the air. It's also expected to be some unpleasant weather, which may or may not have an impact. We saw Miami go into a tough Pittsburgh environment last week and come away with a win without much of a problem.

If Miami were favored by -3, I'd go ahead and pass, but at -2.5 I think we are getting a bit of value here. I like what the Dolphins have shown me over the past month, and I'm willing to bet they continue that roll and take care of business this week.

NFL Pick: MIA -2.5.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 16: Totals

I've mostly stayed away from totals this year due to the transformation going on with the scoring and line adjustments, but so far 'overs' are hitting at 54.3% in 2013.

A couple games stand out this week, which should feature a lot of points. Every single one of the following teams have defensive regression over the past few games, especially in the red zone.

Redskins/Cowboys Over 53.5

Colts/Chiefs Over 45

Raiders/Chargers Over 50.5

Monday, December 16, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 15: Ravens vs Lions

Baltimore Ravens vs Detroit Lions

Market Watch

Originally, the LVH had the Detroit Lions as -4 point favorites in the look-ahead line.  When the lines re-opened after Week 14 action, the Lions were -6 point favorites.  This is a curious move since there wasn't much that we learned from the Snow Globe Bowl, or the wild finish between the Vikings and Ravens.

During the week it seemed like this line was headed in the Ravens favor as we saw some -5.5's pop up, but as kickoff approaches, this line is going up. Most sportsbooks have this line at -6.5 now, and some are putting up -7's too.

I think -6 was an accurate point spread for this game, so I don't see any value either way.  A good option could be to tease the Lions down and pair them with a team from next week's card.

Betting action is virtually split, with 51% on the Ravens.

Bottom Line

The most glaring thing about this game is the home-road dichotomy for the Baltimore Ravens. It's strange to say about a John Harbaugh coached team, but the Ravens don't bring their work boots with them on the road. So far they are 6-1 at home, but only 1-5 on the road. The Lions haven't been a dominant home team, but they do hold a 4-2 record in their dome.

If Baltimore is going to win (or cover) this game, they are going to need a lot out of Joe Flacco. No other team in the NFL has had a worse running game this season than the Ravens. Even if they could move the ball on the ground, the Lions defense excels in that area.

The weakness for Detroit is in their pass defense, so Flacco will have opportunities.  The problem is that the Lions defense are one of the best on third down and in the red zone. Even if we ignore the blizzard game, the Lions defense has been trending up in these situations over recent weeks, which is a sign of a team primed for success.

The question will be whether or not the Lions offense can take advantage. There won't be a lot on the ground as the Ravens are stout at stopping the run, but Detroit have enough flexibility to put their backs in motion and beat defenders in space. With Calvin Johnson taking up a lot of the attention, the door opens for every other skill position player.

The overlooked position for Detroit is their offensive line. The Lions coaches have done a great job at getting the ball out of Stafford's hands quick this season, and even on conventional drop-backs, the protection has been solid. Only Peyton Manning has been sacked less than Matthew Stafford this year. Meanwhile, the Ravens have gone two full games without recording a sack.

Both of these teams desperately need a win, but I'd be surprised if the Ravens were able to pull out a victory in this matchup. With their poor road record, and a spotty offense, the challenge is daunting.  I'm not sure if the Lions cover the spread, but they would be the only side I look at tonight.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 15

Week 14 is done and it was a big week for favorites. With the Bears cover, they finished 10-6 ATS, and it puts them in the overall lead at 101-97-5 for the season. Overs also cashed big with a 10-6 record, and are well ahead for the year at 108-93-4.

Interestingly...

With the over in the Cowboys/Bears game, that record went to 9-1 for Week 14.

The Las Vegas Supercontest top five consensus picks had a rare winning week with a 4-1 ATS record. That brings the season total to 26-42-2 on the year.

I had second straight winning week with picks going 3-2 ATS. I was on the wrong side of the Snow Globe Bowl in Philadelphia, and they also blew up two of my teasers after giving up 28 4th quarter points. The Cowboys didn't fare much better in cold. I'm not sure why they abandoned the run so early, but would it have mattered? Their defense couldn't get a stop all night long.

I'll be adding Week 15 picks throughout the week and previews for all the prime-time games, so refresh for updates.

Survivor Pick

Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles

Week 14: Baltimore Ravens
Week 13: Carolina Panthers
Week 12: Detroit Lions
Week 11: Arizona Cardinals
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
Week 9: Dallas Cowboys
Week 8: New Orleans Saints
Week 7: Green Bay Packers
Week 6: San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: Denver Broncos
Week 3: Seattle Seahawks
Week 2: Houston Texans
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts

NFL Preview 2013 Week 15: Bengals vs Steelers

Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Market Watch

This game is sure to get a lot of attention this week, not only because of its prime-time status, but also due to the evolving point spread.

A week ago LVH set the look-ahead line at Bengals -1.  After the Steelers lost at home to the Dolphins and Cincy took care of Indy, the line re-opened at -3.

Almost immediately the early money told us that 3 points was too much to give Pittsburgh as a home dog, and now we are seeing -2's across the board.

The true line for this game should be around 'pick em', so I do agree with the market move off the key number of 3.

Right now, 70% of the bets are still coming in on the Bengals.

Keep an eye on

When it comes to forecasting the future of the Cincinnati Bengals, most analysts will say something along the lines of, "Andy Dalton can run the system, but he does not elevate it".  Through 14 weeks, he ranks around the middle of the pack in QB efficiency. He's had stretches of really good play mixed in with some duds.

He has the smarts to play the position effectively, and he has the tools an offense can build around, but he lacks arm strength and athleticism. We are also waiting for him to step up in a big spot and deliver an impactful win.

The good news for Cincy fans is Dalton has a really great surrounding cast, and they matchup well with the Steelers defense across the board.  While Pittsburgh's defense isn't as bad as they were earlier in the season, they still rank below average in every single meaningful statistical category.

Dick LeBeau is a Hall of Fame coach, but he can only do so much with what he has to work with.  It would be a tremendous boost if they excelled in one particular area, whether that's sacking the QB, pass coverage, third down or red zone defense, etc. Instead, they'll simply have to hope that they can do enough to allow their offense to win the game.

With guys like Gio Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jermaine Gresham, and A.J. Green on the roster, Pittsburgh might have to pick their poison. On top of that, the Bengals offensive line is playing some great ball right now. Over the last few weeks, this group has vaulted the Cincy red zone offense near the top of the NFL.

On the flip side, Big Ben has really turned his game around over the past month. Unfortunately for them, it's a case of 'too little too late' when it comes to playoff hopes, but they've played well enough to avoid a disastrous season.

The challenge for the Pittsburgh offense is they are going to have to earn all their points on Sunday. There's not one area where they have a clear-cut advantage. For instance, the Steelers have had fantastic results with their third down/red zone offense over recent weeks, but Cincy's defense have played equally well in those areas (if not better).

It usually starts up front with Pittsburgh's offensive line. It's been a mess for what seems like forever, and now they are trying to figure out how to secure the center spot with Cody Wallace. According to ProFootballFocus, he only gave up two pressures in his first start last week, but both of them went for sacks.

This is a position that is often overlooked, but it can have a huge impact on the outcome of a game. The Bengals defensive line hasn't produced like expected this year, but they do have the weapons to exploit weaknesses up front.

Bottom Line

If you're leaning towards Pittsburgh, it's tough to make a legitimate case for them. The only factors in their favor are home field advantage and a little more reliability at quarterback. Most of the advantages favor Cincy in all areas of the game, including special teams. The problem is those advantages aren't significant, which leaves us with a fairly accurate point spread.

The only option I would look at are the Bengals, but it's hard to put faith in Andy Dalton in a divisional prime-time game until he proves himself more. His performance in this game could give us an indication of what to do with the Bengals in the following weeks though.



Saturday, December 14, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 15: Jets vs Panthers (update)

New York Jets vs Carolina Panthers: CAR -10 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This is a very curious point spread. A week ago the Panthers were -10 point favorites in the look-ahead lines. On the weekend the Jets pulled out a victory, and Carolina got roughed up by the Saints, but when the line re-opened it was at -10.5.  Since then, we've seen a slight move up to -11, and not much has changed all week.

It's not very often that I take a chance on a double digit favorite. In fact, of the hundreds of picks I've made, I could probably count on one hand how many times I've bet such a spread. But after breaking this game down, I'm surprised that this line isn't higher.  I have the the true line for this game at -14, so I'm comfortable laying the points in this spot.

I am going to wait a little longer to see if this line creeps back down towards -10 though. There are a lot of dinosaur bettors out there who continue to blindly bet double digit dogs on principle. If there are signs that the line will go up, I'll go ahead and lock it in at -11.

So far, 77% of the action is also on the Panthers.

Bottom Line

One of the primary reasons why I think the Panthers will cover this game is due to the New York offense. Where are the points going to come from?!? If the Jets fall behind be a couple of scores, who has faith in Geno Smith to lead them back?  Of all the quarterbacks who have played any meaningful action this year, he grades out as the worst.

They are also dead last in the NFL in offensive drive efficiency. Even with their win last week they continue to trend downwards in third down and red zone offense, too. They can't run the ball with consistency or protect the quarterback, and on top of that, they take a ton of offensive penalties.

What it all adds up to is an opportunity for the Carolina defense to pad their stats. The Panthers are not going to allow the Jets to run the ball, and they are excellent at locking things down in the make-or-break moments. This could get downright ugly on Sunday.

If the Jets are going to avoid embarrassment, it's going to have to come at the hands of their defense. They are really strong against the run, which bodes well in a matchup against the run-heavy Panthers. They also do a good job at making teams earn their points, as they rank above average in defensive drive efficiency and red zone defense.

What's going to make life extra tough on NY's defense is the stuff beyond their control though. There's nothing they can do about Geno Smith turning the ball over. Turnover differential is big factor in determining games, and the Jets rank last in this category, while the Panthers are among the best. Also, the Panthers rank much higher in average net starting field position. This all puts way too much pressure on a defense over the course of four quarters.

If the Jets do cover this game, it's going to take a lot of unlikely events to occur. New York is 1-5 on the road this year. Carolina is 5-1 at home. I expect those trends to continue this week in a big Panthers win, which will essentially end New York's mathematical hope for a wild card spot.

NFL Pick: CAR -10

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 15: Seahawks vs Giants

Seattle Seahawks vs New York Giants: SEA -7 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

For some strange reason the Giants have been getting more respect in the markets than they deserve. This is a "dead" football team just riding out the season. As mentioned last week, they had a surge of pride and put together a decent month of football, but they were never as good as the point spreads have indicated.

Look no further than last week's LVH look-ahead line where the Seahawks were only favored by -5.5 points for this game. When the line re-opened, it was adjusted up to -7.

Since then we haven't seen any movement, but by my metrics, Seattle should be favored by at least -7.5.

81% of the bets are fading the Giants.

Bottom Line

The Seattle offense isn't going to blow anyone out like some of the other top teams in the league, but what they do, they do very efficiently.  We know that they love to grind out yards on the ground with Lynch, and Wilson is always a threat to gain a first down with his legs. They are also an above average passing game, even without Harvin.

The Giants defense isn't as bad as they were earlier in the season, but they still lack talent on this side. There's a few guys that can be difference makers, but over the course of 60 minutes, this isn't a unit that holds up very well against good teams. The real challenge will be finding the will to battle in the "make-or-break" moments. Over the last few weeks Seattle has really raised their game when it counts, rising in the rankings for both third down and red zone efficiency.

Much like KC, the Seahawks also thrive in the peripheral categories. Seattle rank near the top on special teams and turnover differential. The Giants? They're near the bottom in both. This is not only a sign of discipline and coaching, but also quality depth on the roster - something the Seahawks have in spades.

Yet, the biggest challenge for the Giants will be when Eli has the ball. Seattle rank #1 in pass defense, and their red zone defense is among the best in the NFL. It would be a big surprise if New York won the battle in these areas, and it's compounded by the fact that they aren't very good at sustaining long drives.

The X's and O's favor Seattle across the board, and I'm not sure the Giants are inspired enough to win games anymore. I'll go ahead and lay the touchdown and bank on a comfortable two score win from the 'Hawks.

NFL Pick: SEA -7.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 15: Chiefs vs Raiders

Kansas City Chiefs vs Oakland Raiders: KC -4 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

It's not very often that a team with a 10-3 record gets undervalued in the point spread, but that's been the case with the Chiefs many times this season.

Last week the Chiefs were only -3 point favorites for this matchup in the LVH look-ahead line. Not much changed after the weekend when they were moved to -3.5.  Early money came in on KC almost immediately and we've seen a line move to -4 and -4.5.  Some square books are even putting it up as high as -5 in order to attract some Oakland money.

If you like KC, go ahead and take the -4 now before it moves. The true point spread for this game should be around -5 or -5.5.

A whopping 90% of tickets are currently on KC.

Bottom Line

The Raiders defense isn't as bad as they looked on paper coming into 2013, but they are still a below average group. The best thing they do is limit teams on the ground, but even there they are only average. KC doesn't do anything special on offense either, but as long as they have a healthy Jamaal Charles, their offense can move the ball and control the clock.

The other factor to consider when looking at KC is the peripheral stats. They lead the league in special teams efficiency, which in turn gives them the best average net starting field position in the NFL.  It's always easier to drive down the field or prevent points when you're starting every drive almost 10 yards better than your opponent. Aiding that is a league best turnover differential as well.  Bad teams usually suffer in these categories, and it's a big reason why KC have gone from one of the worst teams to one of the best in one season.

On the other side, Oakland's offense is also outmatched. Their QB situation is riddled with instability and there's nothing this unit does particularly well. They've had a really hard time sustaining drives this season and now they face a defense that excels at disrupting them.  It also doesn't help that Oakland take more offensive penalties than most teams in the league. Nothing stalls a drive more than false starts and holding calls.

The other bad news for Oakland is the potential return of Justin Houston. They might err on the side of caution and keep him out, but the last thing the Raiders need is another deadly pass rusher to worry about.

Sunday's game is going to clinch a playoff spot for KC, so they still have motivation to go full out. They should win in all three phases of the game, and even if one has a letdown, the other two can compensate.  I'll lay the points and ride KC for another week.

NFL Pick: KC -4.


NFL Predictions 2013 Week 15: Teasers (update)

As usual, the best options are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Crossing the key numbers of 3 & 7 offer great value.

*More teasers will be added throughout the week.

Seahawks -1 & Falcons PK

Adding

Dolphins +8 & Lions PK

Monday, December 9, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 15: Redskins vs Falcons

Washington Redskins vs Atlanta Falcons: ATL -6 (Bet365)

Market Watch

When it comes to markets in the sports landscape, it doesn't get much sharper than the NFL. Due to the sheer popularity and amount of money bet, it's not very often that the markets are late to react.

Yet, it's taking some time to catch up to the Washington Redskins.

If anyone was wondering what the motivation level was for this Redskins team, the game against KC left nobody in doubt.

This is all reflected in the Week 15 line movement for this matchup. A week ago the Falcons were only -2.5 point favorites in the LVH look-ahead line. Once the dust (or snow) settled on Sunday, Atlanta re-opened as -4.5 point favorites.

Since then, money has come pouring in on the Falcons, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. We've already seen a move to -6.

How high will it go? It's possible it reaches -7, but the important thing is to not wait on this line. 71% of the early bets are on the home team.

Bottom Line

For NFL games in December, there are certain matchups that don't require too much focus on the X's and O's. This is definitely one of those games.

It is noteworthy that Matt Ryan is quietly having a really strong season. Much more was expected out of RG3 this year, but he's never looked 'right' since returning from injury and now he finds himself in the middle of a mess.

What's impressive about the Falcons is their current level of effort. This is a veteran team that expected to go to the playoffs, but have failed miserably. They could have very easily packed it in when they had road games in Toronto and Green Bay, but they fought hard in both and continue to improve in the "make-or-break" moments. Over the last three weeks, they've played increasingly well in third down/red zone situations on both sides of the ball.

On the other side of the field, there are no mysteries. Outside of Brian Orakpo, there aren't many players on Washington that look like they want to be playing.  On defense, they missed 12 tackles against the Chiefs. Today there is talk about Shanahan's future and whether or not Kirk Cousins will start this week. Regardless of what unfolds during the week, the focus of this team is already on the offseason.

This pick is mostly a fade of the Redskins, but it helps that the Falcons are still showing some pride and going after victories. I like them at anything under a touchdown.

NFL Pick: ATL -6.

NFL Preview 2013 Week 15: Chargers vs Broncos

San Diego Chargers vs Denver Broncos

Market Watch

When we talk about the Denver Broncos in 2013, it's a lot like talking about the New England Patriots of the last decade. We know Las Vegas is going to inflate their point spread every week, but they still manage to cover most of the time (8-4-1 ATS this year).

Last week the line for this game was -11. When it re-opened on Sunday it was -10.5. The "sharps" don't think the Chargers should be underdogs at anything more than -10, so we've seen a move down to that number since the opener.

The true line for this game should be somewhere around -7.5, so there is value on San Diego. They haven't lost by more than 10 all season either. Will this be the week when that happens?  Most people seem to think so as two out of every three bets are coming in on the Broncos.

Keep an eye on

Peyton Manning and the Denver offense might get all the headlines, especially since they are on pace for a record setting number of points, but if any offense is going to keep up with them, it might be the Chargers.

When we look at the advanced stats for QB efficiency, rushing/passing, drive efficiency, third down rate, and pass protection, the Chargers are side by side with the Broncos near the top. The key difference is that Denver is number one in the league in four of those categories, and lethal in the red zone. In contrast, the Chargers are below average in red zone offense, settling for far too many field goals instead of touchdowns.

If San Diego is going to cover this spread, that's the one area where they'll have to improve upon. That may or may not happen because Denver's defense is average is most of the defensive categories, but they are not without flaws. They still give up too many yards in the air and their red zone defense ranks in the bottom 10 of the league (and falling). The Chargers will need big games from the playmakers, especially Keenan Allen on the outside.

Of course, the real issue for San Diego will be their defense. Last week Kendall Reyes finally lived up to his potential, but that came against the Giants. Getting to Peyton won't be as easy, especially with bad cover corners in the secondary.

The scary thing for the Chargers is what Denver did to Kansas City. The Chiefs had all the necessary pieces to test Denver and still couldn't contain them. Now Peyton gets to face a San Diego defense that is dead last at stopping the run, and near the bottom against the pass. This is a unit that just can't get off the field. When the games are on the line, they usually fail to get off the field on third down, and give up more touchdowns than field goals inside their own 20.

On the injury front, Wes Welker has been ruled out, but it's not like Denver is lacking in offensive weapons.

Bottom Line

On paper, this has the makings of a shootout. The Broncos are 11-2 to the 'over' this year, including 6-1 at home. Even when sportsbooks inflate the total, Denver still surpasses it. For this matchup, taking 'over' 56 is the only thing I would consider.

If you're looking to play a side, you might be better off with other games on Sunday. The Chargers certainly have the offense to put up points, but they are badly outmatched on defense.  Can they keep this within single digits? Will they march down the field and get a backdoor cover?

It's definitely possible, but I'm not inclined to bet against the Broncos anytime soon.

NFL Pick: Over 56.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 14

Week 13 is in the books and favorites finished up 10-6 ATS.  Overall, favorites and underdogs are in a dead heat at 91-91-5 for the season. Unders went 9-7, but still trail for the year at 98-87-4.

The Las Vegas Supercontest top five consensus picks went back to their losing ways at 2-3 ATS. They are still only 22-41-2 on the year.

I couldn't have asked for a better week of results as my picks went 5-0 in Week 13. On top of that, teasers also went 3-0 for a perfect 8-0 week overall. There's only four more weeks in the regular season, so I'll be lookin' to close out December strong.

I'll be adding Week 14 picks throughout the week and previews for all the prime-time games, so refresh for updates.

Survivor Pick

If you're still alive in a survivor pool, chances are your team came through last week. Every team picked in the poll took care of business.

Week 14: Baltimore Ravens

Week 13: Carolina Panthers
Week 12: Detroit Lions
Week 11: Arizona Cardinals
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
Week 9: Dallas Cowboys
Week 8: New Orleans Saints
Week 7: Green Bay Packers
Week 6: San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: Denver Broncos
Week 3: Seattle Seahawks
Week 2: Houston Texans
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts

Saturday, December 7, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Cowboys vs Bears

Dallas Cowboys vs Chicago Bears: DAL +1 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

I almost had to do a double take when I saw what happened with the point spread in this game. To begin with, Las Vegas had the Bears as -1 point favorites in last week's look-ahead line. On Sunday night, they reopened the Cowboys as -1.5 point favorites.

Yet, for whatever reason all the early money came in on Chicago. The line has gone full circle as the Bears once again sit as -1 point favorites.

The puzzling thing about this move is the Cowboys are 8-4 against the spread this year, while Chicago is 2-8-2. Have we seen anything in November to suggest it will be anything different in this game?

We'll see if Chicago are still favorites when Monday comes around, but I don't think we've seen the last of the line movement for this matchup.

The "public" are still on Dallas, with 62% of the bets coming in on "America's Team".

Keep an eye on

The most glaring thing about this Chicago team is what's happening to their defense. We know that they've been decimated by injuries this season, but that's no excuse for missed tackles. According to ProFootballFocus, they missed 11 tackles last week, which is the sixth time they've gone into double digits this year. To put that in perspective, they only hit double digits six times in their five previous seasons combined.

That said, Chicago's defense isn't bad per se. What we can definitely say is that they are consistently average. If Dallas can commit to the ground game (a big "if"), they have enough balance to put up their fair share of points on Monday night. We once again have to worry about Tony Romo under the bright lights (despite what his apologists say), but this is no longer the feared defensive unit that we've been so accustomed to in Chicago.

When the Bears have the ball, most of the talk has focused on Alshon Jeffery of late. For years Chicago has searched for a reliable threat in the passing game, and now with Marshall, they have two. Pass defense isn't what Dallas thrives at, but inserting Scandrick as a base corner alongside Carr has helped. It won't matter who is at QB for the Bears because Josh McCown has been every bit as productive as Cutler this year, if not moreso.

But when we talk about Chicago's offense, it all starts with Matt Forte. To no one's surprise, the run game has been the best aspect of this offense all year. The good news for Dallas is the expected return of Sean Lee at middle linebacker.  If he's anywhere close to 90% health, he can be a difference maker when it comes to containing Forte.

The area that could give the Bears the most trouble is in the trenches. Their offensive line began the year great, but things have tailed off over recent weeks. How they handle Hatcher and Ware will go a long way in determining what transpires on the scoreboard.

Finally, Dallas actually rank higher on special teams than Chicago. If there is one stat that proves this is not your typical Bears team, that would be it.

Bottom Line

Normally, I'd stay far away from a game like this. Tony Romo is going into Chicago on prime-time in December. On paper, that's a recipe for disaster.

However, we don't need advanced stats to tell us that Chicago is a deeply flawed team in 2013. Without a stout defense to rely upon, they've been unable to take control of games.

Chicago is the worst team against the spread for a reason. They've been overvalued all year, and I can't see why they are favored versus a team that has performed better for most of the year.

This has the makings for a close football game, but I think we're getting some value on Dallas in this spot. I'll roll with the Cowboys.

NFL Pick: DAL +1.

NFL Preview 2013 Week 14: Panthers vs Saints

Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints

Market Watch

If you want to know how much respect the Carolina Panthers are getting in the betting markets, look no further than the evolution of this point spread.

A week ago in the LVH look-ahead line, the Saints were -4.5 point favorites for this prime-time game.  On Sunday, the Panthers not only beat the Buccaneers, but they comfortably covered the -7 point spread.  As a result, Las Vegas reopened this game at -4 on Sunday night.

After the Saints got spanked by the Seahawks on MNF, this line moved to -3.5, and since then we've seen a move all the way down to -3.

Now that might not sound like a lot, but there are two important variables to take note of.

First, the Saints are widely regarded as having the second best home field advantage, so anytime they play at home you must grant them at least four points on the line. Second, '3' is a key number, so any move on or off that number is something that should get our attention.

The question we face is whether or not -3 offers any value for either team.

So far, 63 percent of the bets are coming in on the Saints.

Keep an eye on

If you like the Panthers in this game, there are three key reasons supporting your position.

First, the team is on a roll and playing with confidence.  That might be obvious analysis, but it wasn't too long ago that this team was in disarray. Carolina had a poor October and questions were being asked.

Is Cam Newton really a franchise quarterback?  Will Ron Rivera ever win a close game, or even be the coach by the end of the season? Was Mike Shula's offensive scheme going to work in this league?  Could anybody in the secondary cover a receiver?

These were all legitimate questions, but many also expected the Panthers to rebound this year. Football Outsiders predicted that they would be the most improved team in 2013. As it stands now, it certainly looks like they've exceeded expectations and answered all the questions.

Another reason why they look good in this matchup is their play in the red zone on both sides of the ball. They were already good in this area before, but over the last few weeks they've continued to trend upwards in both categories. Conversely, the Saints have only been average at converting red zone chances into touchdowns, and below average keeping opponents out of the end zone.

Finally, the Panthers are an elite running team. Cam Newton has made a lot of huge plays with his legs, so New Orleans will have to find a scheme to limit the damage, whether that's committing a spy, running more stunts, or rushing up field with contain in mind.

The Saints have done a great job at turning around their defense this season, but stopping the run hasn't been one of their strengths.  Some of this is due to the fact that they usually play with a lead, which allows them to attack the quarterback and focus on defending the pass, but they have yet to show they can clamp down on a run-first team.

The good news for the Saints is DeAngelo Williams is out with an injury, and Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert are also banged up.

When Drew Brees has the ball, he'll be lining up against a defense that doesn't have any statistical weaknesses (on paper).  The Panthers rank near the top of the NFL in every meaningful category (rush/pass defense, drive disruption, third down, red zone, sack rate, and turnover differential).

In many ways, the Panthers have a lot of similarities to the Seahawks, and that's enough reason for any Saints fan to shift uncomfortably in their seat.

Bottom Line

With everything pointing towards the Panthers, they seem like the right side in this game. However, as most football fans know, betting against New Orleans at home is never a good idea.

We could easily see a situation where Brees comes out on fire and gives his defense a 10 or 14 point lead.  If the Panthers have one weakness on offense, it's their offensive line. Granted, all the sacks Carolina give up are not on the guys up front, because Cam is a QB who likes to hold the ball and make things happen.  But the noise in the Superdome is no joke and the Saints have the ability to pressure the QB.

Ultimately, I could see a good case made for either team. Sooner or later the Panthers are going to lose a game, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if it happened in New Orleans.  At the same time, if a team is going to go into New Orleans and put up a 'W', the streaking Panthers are a great candidate to get it done.

I'll be taking a pass in this one.

Friday, December 6, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Falcons vs Packers

Atlanta Falcons vs Green Bay Packers: ATL +3.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Since this game has been off the board for over a week, the only thing to report here is the opening line which just came out today.

The Packers are listed as -3.5 point favorites, and I don't understand why. I know some snow is expected at Lambeau Field, but I'm more concerned about wind, and there isn't much of that expected on Sunday.

Bottom Line

I know the expectation here is that Lacy will grind out drives in the cold weather while Mathews, Perry and company take advantage of a suspect Falcons offensive line, but is that enough to overcome Matt Flynn?

Lt's not overlook the passing game for these teams. Matt Flynn is better in the Green Bay system than elsewhere, but he's still a below average quarterback. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan has put together a really good year in spite of everything going on around him. His rough patch came when he was forcing too many balls to keep his team relevant.

Roddy White is finally healthy and looking good, Harry Douglas has performed well, and Tony Gonzalez is expected to play despite being a bit banged up.  Steven Jackson isn't going to scare anyone, but he's also had a few good games in a row.

It might not be pretty, but I think Atlanta's passing game will be enough to cover (and possibly win) this game. The Packers are 0-5 ATS since losing Rodgers, and this point spread should be closer to a 'pick em'. I'll take the points and roll with the Falcons.

NFL Pick: ATL +3.5.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Lions vs Eagles

Detroit Lions vs Philadelphia Eagles: DET +3 (-125) (Bovada)

Market Watch

Last week the LVH had the Eagles as -3 point favorites. It reopened at the same number after Week 13 action, but we've seen early support for the Lions.

The current line sits at -2.5, but some books are offering it at +100 money, which allows us to buy the +3 for some added juice (Pinnacle).  Square shops like Bovada always shade towards the favorite, so they are offering +3 at -125.

I know I sound like a broken record, but having multiple books is a must because it gives us the option to grab the best number. If +3 isn't an option for you, I'd still go ahead with +2.5, or take the safer option and put them in a teaser.

Either way, any points that we get with the Lions is value because if I was setting this line, I would have it as a 'pick em'.

Bottom Line

There is no question that the Eagles we see today are not the Eagles that we saw in September. The defense has quietly turned things around. They boast a very underrated pass rush up front and continue to trend upwards with their red zone defense. Philly have also found a QB in Nick Foles. He's on an incredible run with 19 touchdowns on the season, with no interceptions. And all this while having one of the elite running backs in the game, LeSean McCoy.

Yet, despite all these positives, the Detroit Lions are a team that match up very well with Philly. Stafford is having a really good season and he's getting good protection from a revamped offensive line. As long as Bush and Johnson are healthy, defenses will be forced to pick their poison. Even if Bush can't go, Joique Bell has looked great when he's been on the field. They also have guys like Burleson and Pettigrew who can take advantage of the single coverage that Bush/Johnson provide.

Defensively, the Lions are one of the best teams in the NFL at limiting a running game. Their defensive line doesn't have the sack numbers to reflect their talent, but they still manage a great deal of pressure and they have quality depth to boot.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of this Lions teams is their play in the "make-or-break" moments over the past few games. They are near the top of the NFL in third down/red zone efficiency, both offensively and defensively, and they continue to trend up in all four categories. Conversely, the Eagles have done poor in these areas over recent weeks, despite their wins.

The Eagles might continue to surprise, but I think the Lions are better team and I'm not convinced the Eagles have solved their home field struggles.  I like Detroit to win this game straight up, so I'll be happy to take the extra points.

NFL Pick: DET +3.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Teasers (update #2)

As usual, the best options are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Crossing the key numbers of 3 & 7 offer great value.

*More teasers will be added throughout the week.

Lions +9 & Ravens -1

Lions +9 & Bills +9

If you don't have a square book (like Bovada) that offers Detroit and Buffalo at +3, I would still go ahead and tease both to +8.5.

Adding

Cowboys +8 & Seahawks +8.5

Update: With Jay Cutler returning to practice on Thursday, the Cowboys moved to +2 for most of Thursday morning/afternoon, but once it was announced that he would be OUT for this week, the line has flip-flopped, and now the Cowboys are back to being favorites.  I didn't expect this teaser to have such a short window of opportunity. If you missed it, I like Seattle enough to pair them with one of the options above.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Giants vs Chargers

New York Giants vs San Diego Chargers: SD -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

If you want to talk about bizarre point spreads, look no further than this one. In the LVH look-ahead line, the Chargers were -3.5 point favorites. When lines reopened, they were still listed at that number.

Yet, curiously early money came in on the Giants and it now sits at -3 (with extra juice).

I can understand that the Giants aren't as abysmal as they were earlier in the season, but I'm not convinced that they are even with San Diego in the power rankings as this number suggests.

It also looks like most bettors agree with that as 69% of the bets are on the Chargers.

Bottom Line

Obviously, what we have here are two badly flawed teams. There isn't much that San Diego does well on defense. They don't have corners that can free up the rest of the defense (though they did improve last week thanks to Weddle and Marshall), and key injuries have left them mediocre up front (no sacks last week).

The good news is the NY's offense is riddled with inconsistency. Guys have been in and out all year and they still can't protect Eli. Over the last few weeks, they've trended downwards on both third down and in the red zone.

Key for this game is whether or not the Giants can stop this Chargers offense. Outside of Tuck, Kiwanuka, and Beason, this is a group lacking in talent. They might get some guys back in their secondary, but will it be enough?

In the end, this is destined to be an ugly game. I do have enough faith in Rivers and company to put up enough points for the win and cover though. There is still a half-decent chance they can remain in the wild card hunt with a win, which can't be said about the Gmen. Once we add home field advantage, it all adds up to some value on San Diego. I think Vegas had it right the first time when they set this line at -3.5.

NFL Pick: SD -3.

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Chiefs vs Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs vs Washington Redskins: KC -3 (-120) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

There's not much to say about this point spread. It was -3 a week ago in the LVH look-ahead line, and when it reopened at -2.5, it was bet back up to -3 within minutes.

It still sits at -3, but we now have to pay a bit of extra juice for it. I wouldn't be surprised if it went to -3.5 (or higher) because I can't imagine many people putting any faith in the Redskins at this point. If you like the Chiefs, don't wait much longer to take them.

As it stands now, 89% of the bets are coming in on KC.

Bottom Line

As is the case with many games at this time of year, the X's and O's can only tell us so much. What's more important for this matchup is where these teams are headed. The Chiefs are not the sexy team they were earlier in the season, but it's hard to blame them for losing two of the last three games to the Broncos.

The question we have to ask is whether they are closer to the team that started the year undefeated, or the team that failed to beat the Chargers on home turf?

The answer may not matter because the Redskins are a hot mess. The most telling stat for Washington may be their red zone stats from the last few weeks. Offensively, they've been settling for an alarming rate of field goals. Defensively, they can't keep anybody out of the end zone. This is the sign of a team that no longer has the focus or will to get it done in crunch time.

The Chiefs have some concerning injuries (Fasano, Houston, Albert), but they still have enough pieces on both sides of the ball to take care of business. Even if the Redskins were still relevant I'd probably still roll with KC at this number, but with Washington's light fading fast, I can't pass up the Chiefs this week.

NFL Pick: KC -3.