Sunday, December 28, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 17 Picks

Week 16 was the week of the underdog. Seven of them won straight up, and overall they finished 11-5 ATS.  This puts them up on the season at 118-115-3 YTD.

Around town Football Outsiders came away with an 8-7-1 ATS record (104-127-9 YTD). The Las Vegas SuperContest top 5 consensus picks are 2-3 this week (46-34-1 YTD). Via Jay Kornegay out of Vegas, the consensus wiseguy picks went 2-2 (36-46-1 YTD), and the public were 3-3 (47-44-2 YTD).

My week ended at 1-3 ATS for Week 16, and 1-2 on teasers. The non-covers came from the Ravens, the Colts, and the Broncos. Indy got smacked in the mouth early and they didn't look too interested in punching back. The Ravens loss was more surprising to me though. They matched up really well with Houston, but didn't come close to executing on either side of the ball. As for Denver, that's a loss I sure didn't see coming. Dalton finally got the prime-time win, and Peyton looked mortal.

We now shift our focus to the final week of the season and it's probably going to be even tougher than this week. A lot more teams than I expected showed up and relished the spoiler role - even teams that looked like they were in complete disarray (SF, WSH, CHI).  Comparing the opening lines with the look-ahead numbers, the Texans, Ravens, Patriots, and Seahawks got noticeable bumps, while the Dolphins and Eagles got downgraded.

My usual picks and prime-time previews will be up over the coming days, so you can refresh this post for updates.

Survivor Pick

The Bills were the most popular pick in the poll for Week 16, and they lost with a thud. It's going to be a long offseason of "what could've been" for Buffalo. Getting eliminated by the Raiders is about as bad as it gets, especially coming off that huge win against Green Bay.  The other big favorites all won, but the Eagles and Saints weren't so lucky.  I wouldn't have taken New Orleans, but I would've gone with Philly if they were an option.  How do you lose to the Skins with your playoffs on the line?

If you've made it all this way without getting one wrong, you've probably already won your pool. If not, you still deserve big props either way. This season has been extremely tough to navigate.

Week 17: pending

Week 16: Bills
Week 15: Chiefs
Week 14: Lions
Week 13: Dolphins
Week 12: 49ers
Week 11: Steelers
Week 10: Ravens
Week 9: Bengals
Week 8: Cowboys
Week 7: Patriots
Week 6: Broncos
Week 5: Saints
Week 4: Chargers
Week 3Colts
Week 2: Packers
Week 1: Bears

Saturday, December 27, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 17: Lions Vs Packers

Detroit Lions Vs. Green Bay Packers: GB -7 (-120) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This line opened at -7.5 at most books, went up to -8 during the week, but has come down to -7 this weekend.  Why?  I have no earthly idea because I think this is a line that should be higher than -7. Two out of three bets are on the Packers.





Bottom Line

When we look at this matchup, I think the biggest thing we need to consider is the home-road dichotomy these teams exhibit. The Lions might be a top 10 team this year, but when they go on the road they either win ugly, or lose by more than they should.  So far, they are only 2-5 ATS when visiting opposing stadiums. On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers has been virtually unstoppable at home for some time now. They sit at 5-1-1 ATS at Lambeau, and most of those covers have come with inflated point spreads.

Why should anything be any different this week?  Yes, the Lions D is #1 in the league by DVOA, but can they stop the #1 offense in the NFL?  I thought they would stand a good chance to stay within one score in New England a few weeks ago, but they didn't come close to making that a game. I think we will most likely see something similar play out this week.

Sure, Detroit will try to take away the big play with two-deep safeties, and that's probably their best chance at keeping GB from running away with it, but all that's going to do is open up soft zones in the intermediate routes, and offer Lacy running lanes to pound away for first downs.  And I'm not too worried about Detroit's defensive front either. One of the most overlooked aspects of this GB offense this year has been the protection they've given Rodgers in the pocket. I don't even remember the last time where he's had this much time to survey the field given all the injuries and inconsistencies on the OL over recent years.  One thing that was lost in the Buffalo game is that the Bills never really got to Rodgers that often - it was mostly outstanding coverage that prevented him from winning that game.

Now I don't have the faith in the Packers defense that I thought I would at this time of the season, but they rank better than the Detroit offense in almost every category. What most stands out for this Lions offense is how poor they've been inside the red zone, where they rank 29th in the league.  And when they are forced to kick field goals, it's been a nightmare from day one.

I think the only way that the Packers don't win and cover this game is if Detroit win the turnover battle in key situations, or Rodgers just has an off day.  I'm willing to bet against that happening.

And if you're weary about laying a touchdown, Green Bay make for a perfect teaser option this week.

NFL pick: GB -7.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 17: Chargers Vs Chiefs

San Diego Chargers Vs. Kansas City Chiefs: SD +1.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

With the surprise news that Alex Smith won't play in this game, we've seen a significant line move from the opener.  It started out at -2.5, went as high as -4.5 midweek, and now has dropped down to -1.5 after the QB change.  Was that enough of an adjustment?  It all depends on what you think of Chase Daniel.  So far, 77% of the bets are supporting San Diego.


Bottom Line

This is a really tricky matchup to handicap. The Chiefs are the better team, and they play at home. Because of this, I had no interest in playing this game, especially since the point spread was exactly where it should've been when it was hovering around -4.

But now that we have Chase Daniel instead of Alex Smith, it adds a whole new dynamic to consider. The current line is probably a fair one, but I'm willing to take a position here and put my faith in Philip Rivers.

KC's defense is respectable this year, but they aren't as dominant as they were a season ago. And while the Chargers will be without two big weapons in Allen and Mathews, they will always be in a position to move the ball and win the game as long as Rivers is under center. There's no better example of that than last week when he led a crazy comeback against the 49ers. The other "clutch" element that is vitally important is SD's ranking on 3rd/4th down this year, which happens to be 2nd in the league overall.  That is no accident either as they were 1st in the league last year. When you need a big play, Rivers finds a way to make it happen more times than not.

But where I like SD's chances even more is on the other side of the ball. The first time these two teams met they were missing three starting linebackers and a healthy Brandon Flowers. All of these guys are back in the lineup and healthy, which should give Daniel and this KC offense a bigger challenge. And what's the one thing we could count on when Alex Smith was under center?  A safe structure, and a guy who knew the system well. Daniel is a guy who can make all the throws, but he's also more erratic than Smith, and there's bound to be a few critical mistakes on Sunday.

Could Reid take the ball out of his hands and rely heavily on the run game?  He'll likely start off like that, but how many times has he gotten away from Charles this year?  He's done it far too many times, which surprises no one that has watched football over the last decade.  And what if KC fall behind a couple scores?  Will Daniel be able to lead them back?

San Diego control their playoff destiny, and they clinch a spot with a win.  The Chiefs need a minor miracle as they need to win this game and get help from two other teams.  For me, there is just too much uncertainty with KC with the QB change, and I trust Rivers to put his team in a position to win. And if they are trailing, he's more than capable of leading a comeback with their season on the line.

If you're too hesitant about SD to win this game, they also make for a great teaser option at this number.

NFL Pick: SD +1.5.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 17: Panthers Vs Falcons

Carolina Panthers Vs. Atlanta Falcons: ATL -3 (-115) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This is an interesting point spread. It opened at -3, got bet up as high as -4 midweek, and has since come back down to -3.  The way I see this game, the line move was the right one. This should be -3.5 at minimum, so there is value on the current number.  With 24 hours to go before kickoff, 59% of the bets are on the Falcons.



Bottom Line

There seems to be a lot more respect for the Panthers in this game than I have. I think the true line for this one should be around Falcons -5, if not a bit higher.

Yes, the Panthers have quietly won three games in a row, and the Falcons have a losing record, but when we compare this matchup as a head-to-head, there's no doubt who the better team is.

I think the big problem for Carolina will be finding a way to stop Julio Jones.  The Panthers have been average on defense for most of the season, and it's asking a lot for them to come up big in this spot on the road.

We also have to look at the line of scrimmage. Carolina was supposed to be a dominant front, but they've been a middle of the road unit when it comes to rushing the passer. Likewise, on the other side the Falcons OL hasn't been nearly as bad as they projected to be in September. In fact, they rank near the top in adjusted-sack rate.

On top of all that, the Panthers D rank dead last inside the red zone and on third/fourth down.  That's just brutal.

And speaking of brutal, some might use that description for the Falcons defense. I wouldn't necessarily say they would be wrong, but they've quietly played better down the stretch.  And despite their poor numbers on this side of the ball, the Falcons rank second in the league in red zone defense. That could wind up being the difference in the game if it is close in the fourth quarter.

But will it even come down to that?  The Panthers will need to control this game on the ground if they hope to win, and they've been below average on offense all year long.  I just can't see how they'll be able to score enough points to outscore Matt Ryan and company here.

The Falcons have dominated their division this year, and I think they do enough to make it a clean sweep on Sunday. They may not deserve to be in the playoffs, but I'll take them to win this game and get in the big dance.

NFL pick: ATL -3.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 17: Teasers (update)

The best options for teasers are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Ideally, you want to be crossing both the key numbers of 3 & 7 to maximize your value.

Packers -1 & Colts -1

Adding

Packers -1 & Chargers +7.5

Friday, December 26, 2014

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 17: Bengals Vs Steelers

Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Market Watch

There were no look-ahead lines for this week, so all we have to go on is the opener. Some books opened this game at -3, while others like Pinnacle went with -3.5. Either way, the clear consensus has settled on -3.5 as we get closer to kickoff.  Heading into the weekend, two out of every three bets are on the home team.



Bottom Line

This isn't a game that requires any over-analysis, because it will likely be a waste of time. All we need to know is that we are dealing with two of the most boom-or-bust teams in the NFL.  Three of the four units rank in the bottom five in consistency this season. The most consistent unit is the Steelers defense, who have been consistently bad all year.

My main questions are ....

Did Dalton put the "prime-time choker" label to rest with his win last week?  I'm not ready to trust him, but the underlying numbers do indicate that he has a considerable advantage in this matchup. A.J. Green is also listed as "probable", so it will be all-systems-go on Sunday.

How much will home-field matter?  I think it could be a lot, depending how the game goes early. If Pittsburgh can jump out to a lead in the first quarter, it could be a long day for the Bengals. This season, Pittsburgh are 5-2 at home.

That said, can the Steelers protect a 4th quarter lead?  Anytime we are talking about a field goal + the hook on the spread, there is a real danger of a backdoor cover. There is nothing to suggest that Pittsburgh defense can lock things down, especially against an offense that can move the ball.  So it will just come down to whether or not Dalton plays how he normally can.

In the end, which side do you trust more?  This is going to be one of the biggest bet games of the weekend, and I really have no idea which side I lean to. There is simply too much uncertainty on both sides of the ball. If you believe in Dalton, there is value at +3.5. All things considered, they are a better balanced team overall. If you think his prime-time failures are legit, go ahead and lay the -3.5, because I think there is a greater chance that this point spread rises rather than go down to -3.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 16 Picks

Favorites came out on top in Week 15 going 9-6-1 ATS, and have the slight edge overall this season at 110-107-3.

And speaking of records, the worst 6 teams in the league are a combined 28-53-3 ATS. The Raiders have the best record among them, but only at 7-7. I find this interesting because we often hear so much about "fading the public", yet these teams haven't been covering all year - even with inflated point spreads to work with.

Around the market, Football Outsiders spread picks went 6-9-1  (96-120-7 YTD). The Las Vegas SuperContest top 5 consensus picks had a big week going 4-0-1 ATS. At 44-31-1 YTD, they might even finish with a 60% hit rate for the season. It's by far the best record I've seen from them since I've been tracking their results.  I didn't see any picks out of Vegas from the usual sources, so no update on those this week.

My picks were so-so at 1-2-1 ATS, and 1-0 on the teaser. The two non-covers were the Packers and Eagles. Yes the Bills D played great, but I thought it was special teams that was the real difference. That, and Nelson dropping an easy catch that would've gone for a 95 yard TD.  But credit to Buffalo for making the big plays. The Eagles game was a different story though. They looked like the wrong side from the get-go, and despite their comeback, the defense never really came close to slowing Dallas down.  In hindsight, that's the one pick I'd like to have back.

There's only two weeks left on the season, and more and more games are becoming completely meaningless. It's a bit like handicapping the preseason when motivations become more important than the talent.  Week 16 lines are up, and when compared to the Westgate advanced lines, we see that there aren't a whole lot of differences. The Ravens and Seahawks spreads got raised due to QB injuries, and the Bills got a slight boost for their upset of the Packers.

My usual picks and prime-time previews will be up over the coming days, so you can refresh this post for updates.

Survivor Pick

Week 15 picks were spread out all over the place in the poll, but the only two options that failed to come through were the Packers and Eagles.  Those were expected to be close games though, so not a total surprise. The Patriots were the most popular pick and they won fairly easily.

Week 16 looks fairly straightforward, but it does get trickier with fewer teams having something to play for. Stay away from veteran teams that are already making offseason plans. Teams with lame duck coaches are also a red flag.

Week 16: Bills

Week 15: Chiefs
Week 14: Lions
Week 13: Dolphins
Week 12: 49ers
Week 11: Steelers
Week 10: Ravens
Week 9: Bengals
Week 8: Cowboys
Week 7: Patriots
Week 6: Broncos
Week 5: Saints
Week 4: Chargers
Week 3Colts
Week 2: Packers
Week 1: Bears

Friday, December 19, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 16: Broncos Vs Bengals

Denver Broncos Vs. Cincinnati Bengals: DEN -3 (-115) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Westgate had the Broncos as -4 point favorites in the advanced line, but it reopened at -3.5 at +100 after Week 15 action. On Tuesday, it moved to -3, and it currently sits there with some extra juice. Will it move back to -3.5?  I think so, especially given who the teams are.  Right now, 73% of bets are on the Broncos.



Bottom Line

I could just type "Andy Dalton in prime-time" and call it a day for this write-up.  What would be the counter-argument?  Is there one?

Earlier this season I was fooled into believing that the Bengals had enough talent on both sides of the ball to win and cover their prime-time games, but as soon as the games started it become abundantly clear that Dalton hasn't overcome his bright lights stage fright. In fact, he put up one of the worst statistical performances by a QB in NFL history when he faced the Browns on Thursday Night Football.  Is this the game where he shakes free and puts up a clutch performance?

Matchup-wise, it's an interesting game. Like the Seahawks, the Broncos D is top 10 in every category except inside the red zone. Can the Bengals capitalize on that?  They are 9th best at converting red zone chances into TDs, but they are 23rd on 3rd/4th down.

It gets worse for Cincy when the Broncos have the ball. The Bengals D ranks average across the board, which is usually not going to be enough when Peyton Manning is on the other side of the field. Keep in mind, this is a defensive unit that completely collapsed and gave up 25 fourth quarter points to Pittsburgh just two weeks ago. At home no less.

So if Cincy's O have trouble sustaining drives, and can't get off the field on D, how will they win this game?

I can't come up with an answer for that, and I'm a bit surprised that we are getting the option of -3 in this spot.  I think the books had it right the first time when they had this number at -4.

NFL pick: DEN -3.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 16: Seahawks Vs Cardinals

Seattle Seahawks Vs. Arizona Cardinals

Market Watch

This point spread has seen a move from -6.5 in the advanced line to -7.5 on the opener. That's what happens when your QB gets injured and you have to start your #3.  The number hasn't moved since, and I'd be surprised if it does.  So far, two out of every three bets are on the Seahawks.



Bottom Line

From a betting perspective, the Cardinals might be the most interesting team this year. Sharp money hasn't respected what they've accomplished, and nor have the stats guys.  Football Outsiders have picked against them in 9 of the 13 games this year.  Last week, money flooded in from the "wiseguys" and steamed the spread from STL -3.5 up to -6.

Yet, despite all the backlash, the Cards are 10-4 ATS, including 6-1 at home.

It's not hard to understand why people think they are "pretenders". By DVOA, they are 18th in the league, but have an 11-3 record and sit atop the NFC standings.

So what do we do with them this week?  Lindley is a replacement level QB going up against one of the best defenses in the league. Can he do enough to stay within a TD? Well, the good news is his OL hasn't given up many sacks this year.  The bad news is the offense hasn't been able to do much of anything since Palmer went down.  The only area where the Hawks D is vulnerable is inside the red zone, where they rank 30th. The problem is the Cards rank 28th in red zone offense.

Instead, like most weeks, the Cards will need to rely on their D. Statistically, they matchup very strong with Seattle's offense. The area that can't really be measured by numbers is the versatility of Wilson. Most of his play-making comes from broken play structures, so it's usually just a matter of time before he makes some magic happen.

Ultimately, I'm gonna pass on this game. The spread is too high and Seattle are just 3-4 ATS on the road this year.  I think they win this game, which makes them a great option for a teaser, but it's hard to say if this will be a comfortable double-digit victory.  Arizona is not an easy place to play, and their defense is legit.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 16: Ravens Vs Texans

Baltimore Ravens Vs. Houston Texans: BAL -5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Want to see a severe line move?  The Texans were -1 point favorites last week, but after Fitzpatrick got injured the line reopened at Ravens -3.5. It quickly moved to -4, and on Tuesday it moved to -4.5. Now we've seen it go to -5, and it wouldn't shock me if it continued to move more before kickoff. 83% of the bets are on Baltimore.

Bottom Line

It's not recommended to bet a "bad number" when something better was available earlier in the week, but it also depends on how strong of a position you have on a game. In this case, I think the Ravens win by more than a touchdown - possibly double digits.

The main reason I'm in Baltimore is the matchup their defense presents to the Houston offense. Most of their approach runs through Arian Foster, but the Ravens front seven is the strength of their defense. The secondary is very vulnerable due to injuries, but I doubt Keenum will be consistent enough to take advantage. Yeah he's played for the Texans before, but the organization cut him for Ryan Mallett, and he's behind the 8-ball within the system.

If the Texans do hit some big plays or get the benefit of some favorable penalties, they'll also have trouble converting their red zone chances into TDs - an area that the Ravens D rank number one in the league.

It's also a bad matchup for the Texans at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They do have JJ Watt, and that always counts for something, but the Ravens are 5th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. On the flip side, they are 3rd in that category on defense, which should become an even bigger factor going up against Keenum.

Making the task even tougher will be the special teams units. Houston rank 27th, while Baltimore is 2nd.

I think the only chance the Texans have will be with their own defense. They have been solid in the "make-or-break" moments all year, so they'll have to hope that this will be enough to keep the game close.

Ultimately, I don't think that will cut it though.

It will be an uphill climb all day for Houston, so I'll go ahead and lay the -5.

NFL pick: BAL -5.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 16: Colts Vs Cowboys

Indianapolis Colts Vs. Dallas Cowboys: IND +3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week this game was a "pick em", but after the weekend it reopened at Cowboys -3.  With a few days to go before kickoff, 58% of the bets are on the road team.






Bottom Line

I must be missing something here because I think the Colts are the better team in this matchup, and that's before taking into account the DeMarco Murray injury.

How much of an impact would Murray's absence be? I don't think their run game will suffer as much as one would think, because a lot of their success is driven by the OL. At the same time, anytime you remove the leading rusher from the equation, it's going to be a factor. Especially when you consider that the Colts are better against the pass than they are the run this season.

I still believe the Cowboys will be able to move the ball and put up points, but they might have to rely on Romo more than usual - mostly because of what's going to take place on the other side of things.

The big test for the Cowboys this week will be figuring out how to slow down Andrew Luck. He hasn't been playing as well as the early half of the season, but this week he's not going to be facing a pass rush capable of getting the QB.  If the Cowboys play zone, Luck is going to dice them apart, and I don't think their corners will be able to hold up long enough in coverage if they play man-to-man. Slowly but surely, the Dallas D has continued to slide down the rankings in all the critical categories.

Yes, the Colts have their division wrapped up, but there's no indication that they will go through the motions here. Pagano didn't sit players in his previous two seasons either, and they won those "meaningless" games, too.

Given the matchups on the field, I think the Colts have a really good chance at walking away with the straight up win on Sunday, but I'm happy to take the points.

NFL pick: IND +3.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 16: Teasers (update)

The best options for teasers are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Ideally, you want to be crossing both the key numbers of 3 & 7 to maximize your value.

Seahawks -1.5 & Eagles -1.5

Seahawks -1.5 & Lions -1


Adding

Bills -0.5 & Lions -2.5

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 16: Eagles Vs Redskins

Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Washington Redskins

Market Watch

Last week Westgate listed the Eagles as -8.5 point favorites. It reopened at -8, and it's moved down to -7.5.  None of this line movement means anything since there is no significant difference between -8.5 and -7.5. Both remain in the teaser window, and no key numbers are involved.  At midweek, it looks like bettors are firmly on the road favorite here, with 81% of the bets on the Eagles.


Bottom Line

When we take a closer look at this matchup, it becomes crystal clear that the only side worth considering is Philadelphia.  The Redskins are near the bottom of the league in virtually every important category, and the team is headed for big changes in the offseason.

We could analyze specific matchups, but how much does it matter if Washington is going to mail in the final two weeks? Does it make a difference if they are on national TV?  I doubt it. In fact, the Eagles might win this game on special teams alone, where they still rank 1st in the league. Washington are dead last in that area, just like they were a year ago. And I wouldn't worry too much about the Eagles defense after last week. Washington's OL is one of the worst in the league, so the Eagles front should be able to give their secondary the kind of support they need.

Yet, there are things that are holding me back from picking the Eagles to cover this spread. First, it's more than a touchdown. I rarely like taking a road favorite at anything more than -7, no matter who the opponent is. Second, how about Mark Sanchez?  Now that we've seen him for a few games, can we trust him?  He faced a pretty average defense last week, and was still missing wide open receivers all over the field. Third, how motivated will the Eagles be? They still have a shot to make the playoffs, but losing to Dallas was a tough blow.

I think Philly is a great option for a teaser this week, but I'm not going to get involved in the side unless we get a -7. Even then, I'd probably have to pass.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 16: Chargers Vs 49ers

San Diego Chargers Vs. San Francisco 49ers

Market Watch

Last week this game had the 49ers as -2.5 point favorites with -120 juice. It reopened at the same number after Week 15, but we've since seen a move down to -1. Right now, 69% of the wagers are coming in on the San Diego Super Chargers.





Bottom Line

This must be a hard game to set a line on for the books because it's not an easy one to handicap.

Statistically speaking, these teams are pretty even. Based on DVOA, basically every head-to-head matchup on both sides of the ball fall somewhere within a few ranking spots of each other, with two exceptions.  When San Diego's offense faces a 3rd/4th down, they rank 2nd in the league. The 49ers D have been average in that area this year. The other category is special teams, where SF surprisingly rank 29th in the NFL.

Yet, this game is clouded by a couple things. First, the 49ers are out of the playoffs, and Harbaugh is a lame duck coach with one foot already out the door. Second, the Chargers offense is pretty banged up, with Rivers, Mathews, and Allen all watching practice.  Rivers says he's gonna play, but how effective will he be? They only have two touchdowns in the last two games.

At the moment, it's hard to say if we should get involved in this game. San Fran have all the red flags as a team to fade (and a QB that looks lost), but San Diego is too banged up to pull the trigger.  If Rivers and Mathews get cleared to play, I might add them to the card, but as of now it's a pass for me.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 16: Titans Vs. Jaguars

Tennessee Titans Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: JAX -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Here's something we don't see everyday .. the Jags are a favorite.  Not only are they a favorite, but they've gone from a -2 on the look-ahead line, to a -3 on the opener.  The Titans have been so bad this year that 81% of the bets so far are coming in on Jacksonville. UPDATE: This line has now moved off the key number of '3', to -3.5.



Bottom Line

It's not everyday that a point spread remains on the board when a starting QB is "questionable", but this is the situation for the Jaguars. At the same time, does it matter if Bortles is playing?  He's been pretty terrible this year, and a few of the 8 sacks he took last week were because of him holding the ball too long. Granted, he doesn't have a lot to work with either. His main targets on the outside are Shorts and Hurns, and Gerhart is a backup RB at best.

The good news for the Jags is the Titans defense ranks 28th in the league.  There just isn't anything that they do very well, so it will simply be a question of which unit is less awful.

It should be different when Tennessee have the ball. I've crapped on the Jags a lot over the last two years, but they do deserve credit for their defensive play this year. They are a legit middle of the pack unit, led mostly by a 2nd overall rank in adjusted-sack rate. That should bode favorably for them as they go up against a 30th ranked OL. The Jags are also in the top 10 inside the red zone, so if the Titans do get close to scoring, we might be seeing more of Succup.

I might be half-crazy for actually picking a side in this game, but the Titans have been in a free-fall for most of the season. Jacksonville isn't much better, but at least they can hang their hat on a solid defense and home-field advantage on a short week.  I may live to regret it, but I'll take a chance on the Jags.

UPDATE: I'd be on the fence about taking the Jaguars at -3.5 now that we've seen a line move. I still think they are the side to play, and I wouldn't blame anyone for still rollin' with them, but given the fact that -3 was available all week, I'd have no choice but to pass.

NFL pick: JAX -3.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

Monday, December 15, 2014

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 15: Saints Vs Bears

New Orleans Saints Vs. Chicago Bears

Market Watch

A week ago the Saints were listed at -3.5 in the advanced line. That got dropped down to -3 after they laid another egg at home versus the Panthers. Right now, it's still at -3 (-120), and three out of four bets are with New Orleans.




Bottom Line

In a lot of ways, these two teams are almost perfect mirrors of each other. Both have offenses capable of putting up points, defenses that routinely implode, and coin-flip predictability week-to-week.

So what is it about New Orleans that make them the clear favorite in this game?

There's no easy answer to that when we look at the numbers. The mismatches favor both offenses in almost every situation. The Bears rank near the very bottom on special teams, while the Saints are closer to a top 10 unit.

Instead, bettors probably just trust Drew Brees a lot more than Jay Cutler. Despite the up and down season Brees has had, he still ranks up there as a top 5 guy. Bettors also know that the Saints are very much alive for the division title, whereas the Bears are all but out of the race.

And if you think Chicago has an edge by being at home, keep in mind that they are only 2-4 ATS at Soldier Field this season, and New Orleans have been a lot more competitive on the road for whatever reason (something that is still hard to figure out).

In the end, there are no mysteries for this matchup.  The only option to consider is the Saints due to motivation factors, but at the same time, do we really trust them to put it together after what we've seen from them this year? I certainly don't, which is why I'm taking a pass on this game and looking forward to other options in Week 16.

Read more: Week 16 picks.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 15 Picks

Another week and another split between the favorites and dogs at 8-8 ATS.  It also keeps the season record split too at 101-101-3.

Around town, Football Outsiders went 8-8 ATS (91-111-8 YTD), while the Las Vegas SuperContest consensus top 5 went 3-2 (40-31 YTD).

Via Jay Kornegay, the "sharp" plays out of Vegas went 4-3 ATS (34-44-1 YTD), while the big "public" plays went 5-3 ATS (44-41-2 YTD).

My picks came up a bit short this week going 2-3 ATS and 0-1 on the teaser. The Bengals went into the 4th Q with a lead, but finished by giving up 25 unanswered points. Yeah, I'm willing to write Cincy off at this point. The other two losses came down to the wire, with the Colts failing on a 2-pt conversion, and the Chiefs fumbling the ball away in field goal range. Always rough to be on the wrong side of those. Finally, the 49ers couldn't even beat Oakland to cover the backend of the teaser. Seriously, the Raiders.

Week 15 lines are on the board, and there's some notable differences from the Westgate look-ahead lines.  The Falcons went from -1.5 to +1.5, the Giants from -3.5 to -6.5, the Titans from -3 to +1, and the Seahawks from -6.5 to -9.5.   I'll have my picks and prime-time previews up over the coming days, so you can refresh this post for updates.

Survivor Pick

There were no consensus picks for Week 14, so it was a bit of a free-for-all. Most teams took care of business, but the Saints had a ghastly loss to the Panthers, and the 49ers shit the bed against the Raiders.  Both teams have been disappointing all year, but still surprising given the opponents. Looking to Week 15, there are more than enough options to get it right for another week.

Week 15: Chiefs

Week 14: Lions
Week 13: Dolphins
Week 12: 49ers
Week 11: Steelers
Week 10: Ravens
Week 9: Bengals
Week 8: Cowboys
Week 7: Patriots
Week 6: Broncos
Week 5: Saints
Week 4: Chargers
Week 3Colts
Week 2: Packers
Week 1: Bears

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 15: Packers Vs Bills

Green Bay Packers Vs. Buffalo Bills: GB -3 (-117) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Want to see a big line move?  The Packers were -6.5 on the look-ahead line, it reopened at -5 on Sunday night/Monday morning, and now that we're approaching kickoff, it's gone all the way down to -3.  This despite 74% of the bets on Green Bay.



Bottom Line

I had this game circled all week, but I wasn't going to make a play on it unless I got the number I wanted. With a move to -3, I like the value on the Packers. For me, this is too much of an adjustment from the look-ahead line.

Yes, the Bills defense is going to give Rodgers some problems that he hasn't had to deal with in a while, but let's consider that he's also getting some of the best protection he's had in recent memory. The Pack also have a top 10 red zone offense, which happens to be one of the few weaknesses of the Bills D (23rd).

But where I think this game is won is when Buffalo have the ball. The Bills offense rank near the bottom in almost every statistical category, including last in the league on 3rd/4th down, and 29th inside the 20. Usually this would be ok because their defense leads the way, but this is a week where it could become really problematic.

Worse news for Buffalo is the weather. The one thing that could've tipped the scales in Buffalo's favor is the wind, but the forecast calls for nothing more than some clouds.

 I'll ride the Pack, especially at this number.

NFL pick: GB -3.

Read moreWeek 15 picks.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 15: Broncos Vs Chargers

Denver Broncos Vs. San Diego Chargers: DEN -4 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week's advanced line had the Broncos favored by -3.5 for this game. It reopened at the same number, but the books have moved it to -4. I don't think this is a reflection of early money, but just a market adjustment to compensate for all the anticipated bets that will come in on the Broncos. Sure enough, we're seeing 76% of the wagers on the road team so far.


Bottom Line

Last week I took a pass on the Patriots at -3.5 when they were in San Diego, but I think that the Broncos are still the class of the AFC until I see a reason to think otherwise.

As we head towards the playoffs, the Broncos are employing a much more balanced attack on offense than they had last year at this time. That's bad news for a San Diego defense that hasn't been able to reach middle-of-the-pack status this year. And the biggest concern I would have if I was the Chargers would be their defensive ranking in the big moments - 18th inside their own 20, and 30th on 3rd/4th down.  How do you expect to slow down Manning with that level of performance? Oh yeah, J Thomas seems to be on track to play Sunday too.

And if Denver was still average on defense then I could make the case that Rivers could keep pace on offense, but the Broncos D ranks in the top 3 based on DVOA. The biggest flaw this unit has is their play inside the red zone, but how many of those conversions are garbage TDs in the second half?  I have trust in this unit because they rank in the top 10 on 3rd/4th down. Disrupting drives and getting off the field gives them a huge advantage because the biggest thing opponents want to do is keep the ball out of Manning's hands. That task will only be taller if Mathews' ankle is still an issue on gameday. And how about their young OL? Will they be able to handle Denver's pass rush on the outside?

There is a legitimate risk for a backdoor cover at -4. If they can allow Orton to drive down the field with ease to score a late TD, then Rivers is more than capable of doing the same. The difference for me is I don't think the Chargers D is anywhere as good as Buffalo's, so it won't be as easy slowing Denver's offense down.

NFL pick: DEN -4.

Read moreWeek 15 picks.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 15: Cowboys Vs Eagles

Dallas Cowboys Vs. Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -3 (-117) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week Westgate had the Eagles as -4 point favorites. It reopened at -3.5 on Sunday night/Monday morning, but early money has taken the hook and moved it to -3.25. If you like the Cowboys at +3.5, or the Eagles at -3, you can have either with some extra juice.  Betting is pretty split down the middle with 52% on the home team.



Bottom Line

We just saw these two play on Thanksgiving when the Eagles smacked the Cowboys in the mouth.  In that game I wrote that the outcome would largely depend on how they utilized McCoy and Sanchez. It turned out that Sanchez played better than I expected, and they had a nice mix of run and pass that kept the Dallas defense off-balance all game.

Are we due for a repeat result on Sunday night?

I think we will, but I need to qualify that with an asterisk on Sanchez. I've never been a fan of his, but so far this year he's shown that he's able to run the offense when he's up against a mediocre defense, and doesn't have to lead the team from behind. Since the Eagles defense matches up really well with the Cowboys offense, it should provide Sanchez with the kind of security blanket that he needs.

With Philly having a clear advantage against a subpar Dallas defense, superior special teams production, along with home field, I think there is clear value on the Eagles at this number. On top of this, the Eagles have been making a habit of taking down the Cowboys in December.

It's a cliche, but all the Eagles need to do to win and cover this game is execute like they can.

NFL pick: PHI -3.

Read more: Week 15 picks.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 15: Teasers

The best options for teasers are games that either bring a favorite down under -3, or brings a dog up over a touchdown. Ideally, you want to be crossing both the key numbers of 3 & 7 to maximize your value.

Patriots -1.5 & Lions -2

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 15: Texans Vs Colts

Houston Texans Vs. Indianapolis Colts: HOU +7 (-117) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch


There's not a lot of change in this point spread from last week's look-ahead line at Westgate. It was -7 before, and it reopened at -6.5.  The "consensus" line is still -6.5, but you can get +7's out there if you shop around pay a bit of extra juice.  At mid-week, 60% of the bets are on the Colts.



Bottom Line

When it comes to handicapping the NFL, I think only the Patriots are more difficult to get a read on than the Colts.  We might be able to throw teams like Denver and Seattle in there too, but the Colts are a team that have consistently outpeformed their stats since Luck has entered the league.

Based on the numbers, many think they are being inflated each week. Yet, they seem to cover the spread more times than not, and this season has been no exception.

So what do we make of their Week 15 matchup with the Texans?

By overall DVOA, the point spread is right where it should be. Indy rank 11th overall, while the Texans are 22nd - not to mention the Colts play at home.

But when we take a closer look, the Texans should matchup better than that. The Colts are 13th in offense, and 14th on defense. Houston is 15th and 17th respectively.  In the "make-or-break" moments, the Texans D is top 5 in both the red zone and on 3rd/4th down.  Indy is surprisingly poor once Luck gets them inside the 20 (26th TD conversion rate).  When Houston has the ball, they match up evenly in these categories with Indy's defense.

On top of those numbers, Houston should be able to maintain the ball with their ground game, going up against a fairly weak run defense. There will also be more than enough motivation given the fact that this is a division rival. The Texans playoff chances are slim, but they should fight hard knowing that a win here would make it a bit interesting.

In the end, I'll obviously be holding my breath since we are talking about Fitzpatrick vs Luck, but everything else adds up to value on the dog.  I think there is a good chance that this game stays close throughout, with the possibility of a straight up upset.

NFL pick: HOU +7.

Read more: Week 15 picks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 15: Cardinals Vs Rams

Arizona Cardinals Vs. St. Louis Rams

Market Watch

Despite the Cardinals win over the Chiefs, this line has seen a significant line move since last week's look-ahead line. Westgate originally had the Rams at -2.5, but when that same number was put up on Sunday night early money immediately bet it to -3. On Monday morning, it was at -3.5, and we've now seen a move all the way up to -5.5!  Yet, only 51% of the wagers are on St. Louis.

Bottom Line

Are the Rams the "right side" here as the early money suggests? I guess it depends on what you make of Arizona lately. Despite seeing a dropoff in offensive production, they were able to pull out a solid win against KC in Week 14.

The defense is a legit top 5 unit and will hold the advantage over the Rams offense. Shaun Hill has given them more stability, but he still operates as a replacement level QB - not to mention he plays behind a below average OL that might have trouble dealing with the aggressive Cardinals pressure.

And it's almost the same story on the other side of the ball. The Rams defense ranks in the top 10 in most of the important categories, and they are ascending up the rankings after facing a really tough schedule in the first half of the season. That's not good news since we're asking Drew Stanton to get the job done.

And that is precisely why I think action is on St. Louis here. Stanton simply hasn't been able to run the offense the way Arians wants him to. Arians is usually aggressive down field no matter who his QB is, but even he has dialed things back to a more conservative approach due to Stanton's deficiencies.

Ultimately, I think this line is right where it should be, and I don't see much value in either side. Hill is more reliable than Stanton, the Rams are trending up, and they are at home on a short week.

That said, the Cardinals defense is more than capable of winning this game and/or keeping the score within 5 points.  And we also have to consider that Zuerlein is struggling right now, which isn't what you want in a game that shapes up to be a defensive battle.

I lean Rams, but I'd feel much better about making a play on them if the line was -3.

Read more: Week 15 picks.

Monday, December 8, 2014

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 14: Falcons Vs. Packers

Atlanta Falcons Vs. Green Bay Packers

Market Watch

This point spread is taking a predictable trajectory.  In the advanced line it was -11.5. It reopened at the same number after Week 13, and it's gone up to -13 since then.  Sharps know that the public will be all over Green Bay, so they are likely waiting for the best number before coming in on the dog.  As we inch towards kickoff, 76% of the bets are on the Packers.


Bottom Line

When it comes to double digit favorites, the "sharp" money will usually comes in on the dog. The question for this game is, should they?

From where I'm sitting, the answer is "no". The Packers are the third best team in the league by DVOA, and the top ranked offense. We know that Rodgers is virtually unstoppable on home turf, and the Falcons D ranks as the worst in the league by the numbers.

So what's the case for Atlanta here?  Can we make one?

Statistically, the Falcons offense and the Green Bay defense matchup pretty evenly against each other. If we go up and down the categories, there isn't a clear mismatch in Atlanta's favor anywhere to be found. They hold a slight advantage on special teams, but those rankings don't mean much unless one is near the very top or bottom of the list - which isn't the case here. Even worse, Atlanta is 0-3 against the NFC North, and 0-4 on the road outside of their division.

The only factors that I see that the Falcons have going for them is that Matt Ryan is capable of big offensive games, and they are legitimately alive for the divisional race. They also have the kind of aerial attack that could be ripe for a backdoor cover late in the game.

It's obvious that the Packers will win this game, but even if they are up 20 points in the 4th quarter, the risk of a Matt Ryan garbage TD is very real. For me, this number is too high to get involved, even though all indicators point to a blowout. Green Bay have won their home games this year by an average of 23 points, so the only logical approach for this one is Packers or pass. If you're taking a chance with Atlanta, it would be nothing more than a blind contrarian play.

Read more: Week 15 picks.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 14 Picks

Week 13 is in the books and dogs came out 8-7 (DEN-KC closed PK). For the season, favorites and dogs are split right down the middle at 94-94-3.

Around the market things were a mixed bag. Football Outsiders picks went 8-8. YTD they are 83-103-7. The Las Vegas SuperContest top 5 consensus picks had a rare losing week, going 1-4, but are still 37-28 on the season. Finally, Jay Kornegay's wiseguys in Vegas went 3-4 ATS (30-41-1 YTD), while the joes went 1-3 ATS (39-38-2 YTD).

I fared a bit better going 3-2 with my picks, and 2-0 on teasers. The only two not to come through was a prime-time "over" on Thanksgiving, and an underwhelming performance from the Dolphins. The Jets wisely kept Geno Smith out of the game entirely, but Miami couldn't do anything on offense. On the bright side, they did manage to cover both teasers.

Week 14 lines are up and you can see how they compare with perceptions from last week here.  The biggest changes so far are the Saints going from -6.5 to -9.5, and the Rams going from PK to -2.5.  I'll have my picks and prime-time previews up over the coming days, so you can refresh this post for updates.


Survivor Pick

Every poll options won last week unless you were unfortunate enough to take the Giants over the Jaguars. What makes that loss even worse is that they were up 21-0 against a terrible offense. Ouch.

Week 14: Lions

Week 13: Dolphins
Week 12: 49ers
Week 11: Steelers
Week 10: Ravens
Week 9: Bengals
Week 8: Cowboys
Week 7: Patriots
Week 6: Broncos
Week 5: Saints
Week 4: Chargers
Week 3Colts
Week 2: Packers
Week 1: Bears

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 14: Patriots Vs. Chargers

New England Patriots Vs. San Diego Chargers

Market Watch

Books really had no choice but to make the Patriots favorites by more than a field goal in this one. In the look-ahead line it was -4. It reopened at -3 with juice after Week 13, but it immediately got bet off the key number. It has moved up to -, and. 78% of the bets are coming in on New England.


Bottom Line

I think most people know what to expect from the Patriots the rest of the way, but what about the Chargers?  They started off the season on fire, both offensively and defensively.  But then they hit a wall and went on a slide that didn't stop until last week in Baltimore.

Are they back?

As long as Rivers is healthy, the Chargers can be great on offense, but the defense has fallen back to their 2013 level. They are the worst in the league against the pass, can't stop anybody inside the red zone, and can't generate a consistent pass rush.  That's really bad news with one of the best offenses coming to town.

Maybe they can keep pace and outscore the Patriots?

One would have to say no based on New England's overall defensive ranking (12th), but there are two areas where they have struggled - 3rd/4th down (26th), and sacking the QB (19th). So sometimes the overall numbers can be deceiving. If Rivers gets time, he's almost unstoppable on third down over the last two seasons.

And if the game is close? The Patriots are significantly better on special teams. That's always an overlooked category, but it's one that requires attention - especially in December/January.

Add it all up and I think the only team we can trust in this spot is New England. They hold the advantage on paper, and they usually show up big in these prime-time spots. The problem is this line is right where it should be at -4. If we lay the points, that number is vulnerable to a backdoor cover, but it's also not high enough to take the Chargers given the problems they have on defense. Therefore, I have no choice but to sit this one out.

Read more: Week 14 picks.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 14: Colts Vs. Browns

Indianapolis Colts Vs. Cleveland Browns: IND -3 (-120) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

The Westgate look-ahead line had the Colts favored by -3, but when it reopened it had moved to -3.5. I really wasn't expecting this to move back to -3, so this game was an afterthought for me, but there are enough books out there that are offering it with a bit of extra juice. Indy already had 77% of the ticket share, but that should go even higher if the number stays here.


Bottom Line

The first thing I look at in December is how a team has done with their home-road splits. I don't see much reason to worry about that here as the Colts are 4-1 ATS on the road this season. The Browns are a mere 3-2-1 ATS in the dog pound.

Matchup-wise, this is an interesting one. By DVOA, the Colts are 10th and the Browns are 21st, but it's not that black and white.  The Browns rank 19th on offense and the Colts 19th on defense. Indy is 13th on offense, and Cleveland is 13th on defense.

On paper, this should be a close one, which would seem to give us value on the home dog. But as we know by now, the Colts consistently outperform their stats, thanks in large part to Andrew Luck.  In contrast, could things be any worse for the Browns at the QB position?  Hoyer is slated to start, but how long do you think that lasts if he continues to play like he has over the past few weeks? Will these fans have much patience if they fall behind 10 or 14?  How loud will the cries for Manziel be if Hoyer has an early pick?

Even if the Browns play well and hold a lead going into the 4th quarter, I'll feel pretty good about Luck's ability to lead a comeback win. I can't say the same if my money was on Cleveland - regardless of the quarterback.

Give me the Colts.

NFL pick: IND -3.

Read moreWeek 14 picks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 14: Seahawks Vs. Eagles

Seattle Seahawks Vs. Philadelphia Eagles: SEA +1 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

There hasn't been much movement in this line (yet). Last week it was -1.5, it reopened at -2, and now we are seeing -1.  I think that latest move has more to do with getting it out of the teaser window than anything else, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a flip of the favorite by kickoff.  Thus far, 63% of the action is on the Hawks.


Bottom Line

If we went by overall ranking, we would be dealing with the #5 ranked Seahawks against the #7 ranked Eagles, and there would be a good argument that there is value on the home team.  Yet, a closer look reveals that there is a couple key reasons to like the road team in this spot.

For this matchup, we have to determine what we make of Mark Sanchez.  Last week I wrote that the game versus the Cowboys would largely depend on what the Eagles did with their offensive approach, and that it would be bad news for them if they fell behind. To their credit, they gained the lead and never looked back.

That's not going to happen this week because the Cowboys defense is nowhere near as good as the Seahawks. I still believe that if Sanchez is put in a position to carry the load and win the game, he's headed for implosion. The Green Bay game would be an extreme example, but it could get ugly here if the Seahawks defense plays to their potential.

Despite their flaws, Seattle's D is firmly entrenched in the top 10. If the Eagles intend to succeed on that side of the ball, they'll have to win a lot of one-on-one battles.  The biggest concern for Seattle is their red zone defense, but the Eagles have been equally inept on offense once they get inside the 20 as well.  I think their best chance is to grind the ball on the ground and hope the absence of Mebane becomes a factor.  I'm not sure that will work though because the Hawks back seven remains fast and talented.

Things are just as interesting when Seattle has the ball. The Eagles defense matches up well with them in most categories across the board, but there is one area where the Seahawks have the edge - 3rd/4th down. To date, there has been no better team in the NFL in these make-or-break situations, and most of it has to do with Wilson/Lynch.  When they need to sustain a drive, there's a high probability that one of these two will get it done, and that's exactly the kind of difference-maker you want in a key game in December.

Ultimately, this should be a pretty good game. The Eagles should be able to stay competitive all the way through, especially with their effectiveness on special teams. That said, when push comes to shove, we are still talking about Wilson vs Sanchez. This one is most likely to come down to who makes the big plays when the game is on the line, and there's no doubt who I want my money on.

NFL pick: SEA +1.

Read moreWeek 14 picks.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 14: Chiefs Vs. Cardinals

Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Arizona Cardinals: KC +1 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week this line was Arizona -3, but after they flopped in Week 13, it reopened at "pick em". The consensus line is still at "pick em", but some books have the Cardinals at -1, while others have the Chiefs as the slight -1 point favorites. I think we'll see KC as the favorite on the closing line because I can't see how anyone can put their faith in Arizona at this point. So far 61% of the wagers are on the Chiefs.

Bottom Line

When we compare Arizona's offense under Palmer and Stanton, and the numbers aren't good.
This pick is largely a fade of this trend because the Cardinals offense can't get much going at all with Stanton at QB. KC's defense is only ranked 14th overall by DVOA, but they are top 10 in both 3rd/4th down situations, and inside their own 20.  That adds up to another long day for Arizona fans.

Additionally, don't expect much help from the special teams battle either because the Cards are 22nd in that ranking, while KC is 9th.  If Arizona expect to get points on Sunday, it's most likely going to have to come from the turnover battle, and we all know that Alex Smith knows how to take care of the football.

There's no question that this game is going to be a battle though. Arizona's defense is legit, and they usually do quite well in front of the home crowd.  The problem is I don't think that's enough for them to win this game.  I like the Chiefs' chances of moving the ball much better, especially when we consider how inefficient Stanton has been.

It will probably be ugly, but I fully expect KC to bounce back and come away with a "W" in this one.

NFL Pick: KC +1.

Read moreWeek 14 picks.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 14: Rams Vs. Redskins

St. Louis Rams Vs. Washington Redskins: STL -2.5 (-120) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Westgate had this game as a "pick em" in the advanced line, but it reopened at -2.5 on Sunday night/Monday morning. Given what we've seen from these teams in recent weeks, I'd say that's an appropriate adjustment. I expect the line to move to -3, so if you like the Rams, don't wait for a worse number. 76% of the bets are coming in on the road team.


Bottom Line

Is there enough room here to talk about all the problems with the Redskins?  They are a total mess from the very top all the way down to the bottom. RG3 has been sidelined, and it's now the Colt McCoy show.

That's certainly good new for the Rams. The Skins are 32nd in the league on 3rd/4th downs, and they could be facing a lot of those 3rd and long situations this Sunday. Very quietly, the Rams defense has snuck into the top 10 rankings by DVOA, and they are 6th inside their own 20, and 2nd overall getting off the field on 3rd/4th down. Also, the Rams DL is steadily climbing the adjusted-sack rankings, and it's a nice boost that they got Chris Long back.

So how is Washington going to score points?  D-Jax is banged up and might not even play.  Possibly via field positions and special teams?  Nope. They rank 29th in that category too.

The Rams offense is nothing to get excited about either, but they've proven to be more effective than Washington in almost every critical ranking. The Redskins are also 32nd vs the pass this year, so Hill should have enough opportunities to make plays if he needs to.

I'm not saying this is going to be a blowout, but there is simply no reason why the Rams shouldn't win this game once we look at how these teams matchup, and which direction their seasons seem to be going in.

NFL Pick: STL -2.5.

Read more: Week 14 picks.

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 14: Steelers Vs. Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Cincinnati Bengals: CIN -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

In last week's look-ahead line, the Bengals were favored by -3.5.  Apparently their narrow victory in Tampa Bay did more to hurt their stock value than the Steelers loss at home because when the lines reopened, it had moved down to -3. Currently there is some juice attached, but I'm not sure if we'll see it move off the key number.  61% of the the bets are on Pittsburgh so far.


Bottom Line

I've liked a lot of what the Bengals have done this year, but it always seems to be dampened by the Andy Dalton situation. I was foolish to trust him in a prime-time game earlier in the year, and he's had mixed performances in most of the other games on the schedule.  I think he should be ok in this one though because the Steelers D ranks near the bottom of the league, and 29th vs the pass.

On top of that, Pittsburgh's D ranks 24th inside the 20 and 25th on 3rd/4th downs. When you go on the road, these are not the kind of numbers you want to have, especially if you need to come up big in an important game.  Cincy's offense ranks near the middle of the pack, and it's complimented by a 7th best special teams unit.

On the flip side, Big Ben has led his offense to some gaudy numbers, but a lot of it has been inflated be a few big games, and they continue to get bogged down once they reach the red zone. The other big no-no for a key game is settling for field goals.

This has the makings of a crazy and unpredictable game given who we are talking about, but the Bengals have been much better pretty good at home, and have a clear advantage in the matchups. If Dalton can't put up enough points to win against this defense, you might as well write off Cincy for the rest of the year.

NFL Pick: CIN -3.

Read more: Week 14 picks.