EPA is Expected Points Added, ATS is Against The Spread, YPPL is yards per play, YPPP is yards per pass play.

 

2016-17 NFL Results

2016-17 NFL Best Bets are 119-91-1 (56.7%)  – 81-41-1 on sides, 37-46 on totals, 1-2 1st-half totals, 0-1 team totals, 0-1 teasers.

 

2016-17 NFL Strong Opinions are 81-65-4 (55.5%) – 38-38-3 sides, 41-27-1 totals, 1-0 1st-half totals, 1-0 Super Bowl prop.

Denver Broncos @
Indianapolis Colts

Thu, Dec 14 5:25 PM

Rotation: 301, Odds: Indianapolis Colts +2.5, Total: 40.5

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Lean – Under (40.5) – INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5) vs Denver

The Colts return home after a wild game in upstate New York where they didn’t even attempt a pass for the first 24 minutes of action. However, this week will likely be a complete contrast. Instead of 6 inches of snow completely altering players’ footing and the kicking game, Indianapolis will be playing in a dome. Instead of running the ball on nearly every play, I expect the Colts to be forced to air-it-out against a Broncos defense that is the best in the league defending the according to my numbers. While this game may look nothing like last week, it’s still worth noting teams coming off overtime are just 3-21 ATS playing on Thursday (if their opponent did not play an OT game last week). However, I also have a situation favoring Indy here, as late-season (final 3 weeks) road favorites are just 41-75-3 ATS after a comfortable home win of 3 possessions or more (i.e. 17 points or more).

Denver’s offense has struggled the last two weeks without offensive lineman Ronald Leary in the lineup (just 4.0 yards per play). Leary allowed just one sack in 11 games before being injured against the Raiders and the Broncos allowed 5 sacks the last two weeks – although I don’t expect the Colts to take advantage given their weak pass rush (just 20 sacks all season). I can make a case for either side here, but if you’re in a pool then I guess I’d rather have Denver -2.5 and I have a slight lean towards the under since my model projects just 38 total points.

Chicago Bears @
Detroit Lions

Sat, Dec 16 1:30 PM

Rotation: 303, Odds: Detroit Lions -5.5, Total: 44

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*Under (44) – DETROIT vs Chicago

Lean – Detroit (-5.5)

The total closed at 41 when these two teams met four weeks ago and now it’s moved through the key numbers of 42 and 43 all the way to 44. The adjustment from playing outdoor in Chicago to a dome accounts for about 2 points of the change we’re seeing, but I believe the difference in personnel from their previous matchup will make up most of it.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan did not play in that week 11 game against the Lions. Trevathan is responsible for Chicago’s defensive audibles and is extremely reliable with a 26.7 tackle to missed tackle ratio (3rd in NFL). Trevathan, along with Prince Amukamara, 6th among cornerbacks in yards allowed per cover snap, are the most important players on this Bears defense. Chicago surrenders 5.6 yards per play when either Trevathan or Amukamara is out of the lineup but less than 5 yards per play when both are healthy as they are expected to be on Sunday.

Detroit’s offensive line could also look much different than week 11. Center Travis Swanson, who hasn’t allowed a sack all season, and tackle Rick Wagner are both questionable and the Lions will be in trouble against this Chicago front seven if those two linemen aren’t healthy.

My metrics have Detroit’s run defense ranked 25th and the Lions allowed the Bears to gain 7.4 yards per rush last month. It is likely that Chicago will once again aim to attack the Lions on the ground while likely having less success than they did in the first meeting and more running plays leads to fewer totals plays, which should help keep the scoring down. These teams combined for just 129 total plays in week 11, more than 7.5 plays less than the league average, but the game went still went over. However, I do not expect the Bears to gain 7.4 yards per rush again and the Lions offense will likely take a step back due to injury-related personnel differences on both sides of the ball. Our model projects just 40 total points and I’ll go Under 43 points or higher in a 1-Star Best Bet.

As far as the side is concerned, our model favors Detroit by 5 points, so the line is pretty fair, but I’ll lean with the Lions based on a 52-12-2 ATS situation.

Los Angeles Chargers @
Kansas City Chiefs

Sat, Dec 16 5:25 PM

Rotation: 305, Odds: Kansas City Chiefs +1, Total: 46

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**KANSAS CITY (+1) over Los Angeles Chargers

Kansas City’s offense has been resurgent the last 2 weeks under new play-caller Matt Nagy. The Chiefs are averaging 7.6 yards per play under Nagy and the difference is the deep ball. Alex Smith, known for his propensity to check-down, threw just 9.4% of his passes deeper than 20 yards downfield in 2016. In Kansas City’s 5-0 start to the season, Smith upped his deep ball rate to 12.0% before dropping to 10.9% over the next 6 games. Smith’s deep ball rate is a whopping 19.4% with Nagy calling the plays and he will now put this new philosophy to the test against a Chargers defense surrendering just 5.5 yards per pass play (3rd). San Diego is not going to make it easy for Kansas City but the threat of the deep pass should open things up underneath and could lead to a big game for TE Travis Kelce, who averages 8.8 yards per pass play as Smith’s favorite target. The Chargers are very good defending wide receivers but they have been below average defending tight ends this season and they’ve been horrible defending the run (4.7 ypr allowed).

Kareem Hunt gained 177 rushing yards in the Chiefs’ 24-10 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles and the renewed success of the passing game has opened up lanes on the ground, as the Chiefs have averaged 6.3 yards per rush the last 2 games since opening up their attack – numbers similar to the success Hunt had early in the season when the Chiefs were throwing the ball deep more often. I expect another good performance from Hunt in this game.

Chargers’ top receiver Keenan Allen has 4 straight 100-yard receiving games but there’s reason to believe he can be slowed down on Saturday. Marcus Peters, 16th among cornerbacks in yards allowed per cover snap, will be rested after returning from suspension and Darrelle Revis has been solid in limited action thus far, only allowing 0.6 yards per cover snap, in line with Aqib Talib and Patrick Peterson for context.

The Chargers’ 2nd most targeted receiver is running back Melvin Gordon, who ranks 7th among running backs in targets this season. However, Gordon only averages 4.7 yards per target and the Chiefs have allowed the fewest receiving yards to opposing running backs of any team this season – largely because Derek Johnson leads all linebackers in yards allowed per cover snap by a wide margin. Philip Rivers averaged just 5.1 yards per pass play in the first meeting with Keenan Allen being held in check (a modest 7.6 yards per target on 8 targets) and the running backs combining for just 18 yards on 8 targets.

I don’t expect Rivers to struggle as much as he did in that first meeting, as the Chargers’ offense is in a better rhythm lately, but that good stretch of games actually sets up the Chargers in a negative 46-114-7 ATS letdown situation and the line has certainly been affected by their recent run of success (which is why that particular angle works). The line on this game prior to last week was Kansas City by 2 points and this line has moved 3 points from that look-ahead number despite both teams dominating pretty equally last week. Our NFL model favors Kansas City 3 points and I believe that the Chiefs are back to their good early season form offensively with Nagy now calling the plays. There is line value and a favorable situation and I’ll take Kansas City in a 2-Star Best Bet +1 and for 1-Star at pick or -1.

Philadelphia Eagles @
New York Giants

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 307, Odds: New York Giants +7.5, Total: 40

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Green Bay Packers @
Carolina Panthers

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 309, Odds: Carolina Panthers -3, Total: 47

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Lean – Green Bay (+3/+2.5) over CAROLINA

Aaron Rodgers is back and despite Brett Hundley playing the majority of 8 games this season, Green Bay’s offense is actually on par with Carolina’s offense in yards per play after compensating for the opposing defense strength. Needless to say, the Pack attack is now superior to that of the Panthers with Rodgers back at the helm. With Rodgers out, the Packers have relied on a ground game, which rated 2nd in my metrics in EPA per play since Rodgers has been out. Rodgers’ return is particularly timely because the Packers would have likely struggled to move the chains against Carolina’s 3rd-ranked rush defense. Rodgers gains nearly 2 yards per pass play more than Hundley and I expect Green Bay’s offense to be much more pass heavy on Sunday and certainly more capable of functioning at a decent level against a good Carolina defense than would have been the case if Hundley was still running the show.

Cam Newton had an excellent game last week against the Vikings and he should have good success again this week against a Packers defense allowing 6.8 yards per pass play (27th).

It’s difficult to handicap this match-up without knowing how comfortable Rodgers will be in his first game. It’s possible he’s fully healthy but it’s also possible they rushed him back now that the Packers are in a playoff run (although more likely the former). Although it’s late in the season, I still think the summer line of Packers -2 can provide some context considering this unique situation. In fact, if Rodgers plays at the level he played at this season before he was injured, which was below his normal standards, then our model would favor the Packers by ½ a point in this game. I’ll lean with Green Bay here and I’d consider the Packers a Strong Opinion if the line gets to +3 at -110 odds or better.

Cincinnati Bengals @
Minnesota Vikings

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 311, Odds: Minnesota Vikings -10.5, Total: 42

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MINNESOTA (-10.5) vs Cincinnati

The Vikings return home to Minnesota after playing three straight road games to face a banged-up Bengals defense and the Vikes apply to a 116-54-4 ATS situation that plays on good teams returning home after 2 or more games on the road. Cincinnati allowed 6.2 yards per rush last week without linebacker Vontaze Burfict (questionable) in the lineup and I expect the Vikings to get whatever they want on the ground if he is unable to suit up again. Additionally, the Bengals lost Adam Jones last week, which could be costly given that Jones ranks 13th among cornerbacks in yards allowed per cover snap. In addition, safety Shawn Williams and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick are both listed as questionable and I’d expect a massive day for either Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs, whoever isn’t lining up across from William Jackson, if one or both of those questionable DBs does not play. On a positive note, Carlos Dunlap, who has the 3rd-most pressures from the left side in the league this season, could have a big day if he is able to play (listed as questionable) with Vikings starting tackle Mike Remmers out.

The Bengals will be without their top two running backs against a Vikings defense allowing 3.8 yards per rush (8th) and it will be up to Andy Dalton to air-it-out. Dalton may have more time than usual if Minnesota’s top pass rusher Everson Griffen (questionable) is limited. Kirk Cousins threw for 6.8 yards per pass play against the Vikings in the only game Griffen missed this season.

My model shows value on the Bengals if their questionable defenders are able to suit up and play, but injury uncertainty and situations favoring Minnesota (Cincy applies to negative 15-62-2 ATS late-season road situation in addition to the scheduling angle favoring Minnesota) will keep me off this game.

Miami Dolphins @
Buffalo Bills

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 313, Odds: Buffalo Bills -3, Total: 39

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Houston Texans @
Jacksonville Jaguars

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 315, Odds: Jacksonville Jaguars -11.5, Total: 39

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New York Jets @
New Orleans Saints

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 317, Odds: New Orleans Saints -16, Total: 47.5

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Lean – New York Jets (+16) over NEW ORLEANS

Lean – Under (47.5)

Josh McCown will miss this game due to injury and I expect the Jets to look like a much different team with Bryce Petty behind center. McCown found success all season long using the deep ball, ranking 3rd in the league with 9 touchdowns of greater than 20 air yards. Petty, however, is just 6 for 22 with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on deep passes in his career and New York’s best receiving threat downfield, Robby Anderson, will likely be stifled by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The Jets will likely attempt to stick with the ground game as long as possible because the Saints rush defense is soft, ranking 29th in my metrics. However, New York is a below average rushing team (3.8 ypr) and I don’t expect them to have much success without keeping the New Orleans’ safeties honest with the passing game. Bryce Petty averages just 4.8 yards per pass play with a 4.9% interception rate for his career and I expect the Jets offense to be about 5 points worse this week with him under center.

Alvin Kamara has been cleared to play this week and I expect the Saints to utilize their top-ranked rush offense heavily in a game – particularly if they have a comfortable lead, which you’d assume given the huge spread on this game. However, New York’s rush defense ranks 8th according to my numbers, so they match up well with a Saints’ attack that has morphed into a run-based attack with two strong backs to carry the load.

The line on this game has adjusted for McCown’s injury but my ratings would favor New Orleans by 16.8 points with Petty at quarterback for the Jets. Still, I’ll lean with New York on the basis of a very good 120-48-3 ATS road underdog blowout bounce-back situation (NYJ lost by 23 points last week). You might be thinking that the Saints will want to take out their frustrations on the Jets after losing last Thursday in Atlanta but history suggests otherwise. Home favorites of more than 14 points are just 7-24-1 ATS if they lost or tied the previous week (since 1980) and New Orleans may be playing more not to lose than to win big.

That conservative approach should also benefit the under and our model projects just 45 points in this game. I’ll lean Under 47 points or higher. I’ll lean Under 47 points or higher and I’d consider the Under a Strong Opinion at 48 points or higher.

Arizona Cardinals @
Washington Redskins

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 319, Odds: Washington Redskins -4.5, Total: 43.5

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Baltimore Ravens @
Cleveland Browns

Sun, Dec 17 10:00 AM

Rotation: 321, Odds: Cleveland Browns +7, Total: 40

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Lean – CLEVELAND (+7) over Baltimore

Last Sunday, the Browns fell to 3-10 ATS for the season after failing to cover as a 3-point underdog despite having a two-touchdown lead through 3 quarters. That 6 point overtime loss added to a long list of bad beats for Cleveland backers this season. In their four most recent ATS losses, the Browns were covering with less than 5 minutes to play and gave up late touchdowns to opponents who already had the lead with no incentive but to run out the clock.

However, despite the Browns seemingly inventing new ways each week to lose bets that they should be winning I am still going to back them this week. Cleveland actually applies to a 98-43-1 ATS situation that plays on teams with horrible spread record against teams with a good spread record and the Browns also apply to a 111-48-3 ATS contrary angle that plays on teams that average less than 17 points per game.

There is reason to believe that Cleveland will stay competitive in this game aside from the historically positive situations.

Former All-Pro WR Josh Gordon returned to the Browns two weeks ago and he’s averaged 2.6 yards per route run in his limited action, which would rank behind only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. Gordon should be able to exploit a Baltimore secondary that gave up nearly 500 passing yards last week in their first game without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, who is out for the season. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ conservative offense would like to continue to feed the ball to Alex Collins, who is averaging 5.1 ypr, but running the ball plays into the strength of the Browns, who rank 2nd in the NFL in rush defense. Cleveland outgained Baltimore by nearly a yard per play in their week 2 meeting without Josh Gordon and my ratings favor the Ravens by 6 ½ points without accounting for Gordon (too small of a sample size to factor him in our ratings). The situation certainly favors the Browns and eventually they are going to cover the spread in a game in which they deserve to cover. The only reason this game is just a lean is because the Browns are the Browns but there is no doubt they are the right side (again).

Los Angeles Rams @
Seattle Seahawks

Sun, Dec 17 1:05 PM

Rotation: 323, Odds: Seattle Seahawks -2.5, Total: 47.5

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SEATTLE (-2) vs Los Angeles Rams

After losing two Pro-Bowlers in the secondary, the Seahawks may now be without their top two linebackers. Bobby Wagner (questionable) is vital to Seattle’s rush defense and is the only qualifying linebacker in the league with zero missed tackles this season, and K.J. Wright’s concussion only worsens the matter. The Seahawks have allowed the second-fewest receiving yards to opposing running backs and their rush defense ranks 4th in the second half of the season in large part to Wagner and Wright’s efforts but if they are unable to suit up it looks to be an excellent matchup for Todd Gurley, who ranks 4th among running backs in yards per route run and is averaging 4.4 yards per rush.

The Rams have injury concerns of their own with both starting offensive tackles listed as questionable. Jared Goff was terrible behind a poor offensive line last season and Los Angeles’s success on offense relies heavily on Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein – so check their status as well as the status of Seattle’s linebackers.

Russell Wilson has struggled throughout his career against divisional opponents because they are the most familiar with his unique style. Seattle’s offense is gaining just 4.5 yards per play this season versus NFC West opponents compared to 6.2 yards per play in non-divisional games and my ratings favor the Rams by ½ a point in this game. However, that is assuming a standard home field advantage and the Seahawks tend to play well against other good teams at home (ask Philadelphia about that). Seattle also applies to a 71-27-3 ATS contrary indicator. This one is tough to call with the line value favoring the Rams and the situation favoring the Seahawks – not to mention the potentially significant injury situation for both teams. I’ll pass for now.

New England Patriots @
Pittsburgh Steelers

Sun, Dec 17 1:25 PM

Rotation: 325, Odds: Pittsburgh Steelers +3, Total: 53

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PITTSBURGH (+3) vs New England

Pittsburgh’s defense allowed 6.4 yards per play without Ryan Shazier and Joe Haden in the lineup the last two weeks against two offenses ranked in the bottom 10 of yards per play. Haden (questionable) may return this week to provide some stability for the secondary just in time to face Tom Brady and the 3rd-best passing offense in my metrics.

Dont’a Hightower’s early season injury left the Patriots thin at linebacker and they have never fully recovered. New England has the worst rush defense according to my numbers and they have allowed the second-most receiving yards to opposing running backs this season. Le’Veon Bell is averaging 5.8 receptions per game, most by any running back, and the Patriots profile as an ideal matchup for him to dominate in both facets of the offense.

Both offenses should have success here and our predictive model favors New England to win 27-26. However, I’m not going to advise going against New England following a loss, even if it is their 3rd consecutive road game. The Pats actually apply to the same 38-96-2 ATS 3rd consecutive road game situation that applied to Minnesota last week (we had Carolina as a Best Bet) but New England is also 44-7 straight up and 38-13 ATS following a loss, including an amazing 30-2 ATS after a loss when not favored by more than 6 points. That is the best team trend I have ever seen and it continues to work year after year. However, none of those have been in their 3rd consecutive road game and that negative situation is also something that I don’t want to buck. I’ll pass on this game.

Tennessee Titans @
San Francisco 49ers

Sun, Dec 17 1:25 PM

Rotation: 327, Odds: San Francisco 49ers -1.5, Total: 44.5

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Lean – Over (44.5) – SAN FRANCISCO (-2) vs Tennessee

This game features two young quarterbacks trending in the opposite direction. Jimmy Garoppolo finally got his opportunity and he’s certainly making the most of it – averaging 8.0 yards per pass play thus far for the Niners. Unlike previous Patriots backup quarterbacks, Garoppolo is actually playing even better after leaving New England. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota has regressed after a promising second year in the league throwing 14 interceptions this season, 2nd-most behind the Browns’ DeShone Kizer.

The Titans’ rush defense ranks 4th in my metrics but there should be an opportunity for Carlos Hyde to play a role in the passing game. Hyde has been targeted the 3rd-most among running backs this season but had just one pass thrown his way last week after seeing 5 targets in Garoppolo’s first start. Garoppolo would be wise to look for Hyde more often on Sunday as Tennessee has surrendered more receiving yards to opposing running backs than any team in the league.

If Garoppolo plays at the level he’s played over his career (67% completions on 166 pass attempts and 7.0 yards per pass play) then I’d favor the Niners by 3 ½ points in this game. However, there is plenty of evidence that quarterbacks tend to not play as well as they performed for New England and if you make that adjustment on Garoppolo’s stats with the Pats then the Niners by 1 point is what you’d get. So, it’s basically a question of if Garoppolo is really as good with the Niners as he’s been overall in his career, which includes potentially enhanced stats from his days with the Patriots. I’ll officially pass on the side this game but if I was in a pool and had to play it I’d choose the Niners to cover. Our model does like the over a bit, as the math projects 48 total points.

Dallas Cowboys @
Oakland Raiders

Sun, Dec 17 5:30 PM

Rotation: 329, Odds: Oakland Raiders +3, Total: 45

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Atlanta Falcons @
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mon, Dec 18 5:30 PM

Rotation: 331, Odds: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +6, Total: 48

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Lean – Under (TAMPA BAY (+6) vs Atlanta

Gerald McCoy is ruled out for this game making Atlanta guard Andy Levitre’s tricep injury that kept him out last week less costly for the Falcons. McCoy has the 5th most pressures among defensive tackles this season and Matt Ryan should be able to carve up this Tampa Bay defense allowing 7.5 yards per pass play without a legitimate source of pass rush – especially considering three starters in the secondary are listed as questionable.

Atlanta’s defense allows just 5.6 yards per pass play and the Buccaneers may need to turn to the running game to move the chains. Peyton Barber has been solid recently, averaging 4.6 yards per rush the last two weeks, and he will need to continue that success for Tampa Bay to stay in this game on Monday. The Falcons surrendered 5.5 yards per play to the Buccaneers three weeks ago with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center so it’s possible that the Bucs could have decent success again at home with Jameis Winston at quarterback. I think there is some value in favor of the Bucs but Atlanta has had extra time to prepare after playing last week’s game on Thursday and I’d prefer to pass on the side. I do lean with the Under however, as divisional games tend to go under in the 2nd half of the season and the total on this game is fair.