After a 4-2 winning week the column is back. I thought you guys were worried about me for a moment. I know I went on a short cold streak, but we are starting to dig ourselves out ofit. We are getting to the grind of December, and this is where separate the men from the boys. I plan on finishing the year strong. It’s a tough slate this week but that’s not stopping us. The NFL picks will always be here to stay and we got five game previews for this Sunday.
Las Vegas at Kansas City
Spread: Kansas City -10
This is a line that is overinflated because of the results in the last matchup. Kansas City beat Las Vegas 41-14 back in Week 10. But that was a perfect get right spot for KC, and Las Vegas refused to change their cover three defense. I think Gus Bradley makes those adjustments in this game. Las Vegas safety Jonathan Abrams gave up 138 yards, as Patrick Mahomes was 9/9 targeting his zone. I don’t think Abrams will see much action in this game.
Speaking of Kansas City, their offense ranks 12th in EPA over the last eight games. Surprisingly the defense has been the saving grace, the defense has held opponents to under 20 points in five straight games. I think Las Vegas is in a good spot. They have been great road team this year covering five of their last six road games as underdogs, that includes their overtime win against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Kansas City is 1-8 ATS in their last nine when giving over a touchdown. I’ll take Las Vegas to keep this one under the number.
The pick: Las Vegas +10
Baltimore at Cleveland
Spread: Cleveland (-3)
This is the mother of all betting spots, and we are kind of of paying a price for it. Kevin Stefanski has the once in a lifetime opportunity to prepare for the same team, three straight weeks. Baltimore is coming off a physical game against Pittsburgh and starting corner Marlon Humphrey won't be available for this game. It will be rainy and windy in Cleveland.
Speaking of Cleveland, although they lost the first game, they won the yards per play battle by over a half yard. The Cleveland defense shut down Lamar Jackson, and I think they will be able to the same. Stefanski is going to adjust his approach. The running game got shut down because Baltimore loaded the box. Cleveland continuously ran the ball on first down. Baltimore holds a bottom third success rate against first down passes. They will be without their top two corners on Sunday, and virtually everyone playing in their secondary is banged up in some type of way. This is the season for Cleveland, and may be the game that decides Baker Mayfield’s future in Cleveland. Baker will be able to take advantage of banged up Baltimore secondary and gets a huge win at home.
The pick: Cleveland (-3)
Atlanta at Carolina
Spread: Carolina (-2.5)
It’s hard putting this game on the card, because it is not going to be a fun watch.
With both teams sitting just outside the playoff bubble, this is a must win for both. I’m not comfortable picking any of them. So that’s why we are going to align with the first half under in this matchup.
Carolina fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady during the bye, Christian McCaffrey is officially out for the year, and I don’t know what we are going to get from Cam Newton week to week. For Atlanta, they are the worst 5-7 team, maybe ever. Analytically they are one the worst teams in the NFL and fit closer towards Detroit and Jacksonville than they do Minnesota or Philadelphia. Atlanta ranks 31st in offensive DVOA and 29th in defensive DVOA. Atlanta is also going to struggle moving the ball against a Carolina defense that ranks in the top six in pressure rate.
As for Carolina, Cam Newton isn’t what he was. He ranks in the bottom 28th in NFL passer grades this season according to PFF. I think Matt Rhule is going to want a ground attack approach. He promoted his running backs coach to OC, and has mention in multiple press conferences that he wants to get the running game more involved. Expect that clock to bleed and we get a bunch of punts. Which is good, if you bet the first half under.
The pick: First half under 20
Dallas at Washington
Spread: Dallas (-4.5)
With only a couple of games separating these teams, Dallas and Washington will meet in a monumental NFC East showdown, that may alter the direction of the NFC East. Each team is going in opposite directions. Dallas is on a 3-3 stretch since their bye week. It has cooled expectations after a 5-1 start. Meanwhile, Washington was 2-6 but has reeled off four straight wins.
One of the reasons for Dallas’s stumbles has been the health of Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt in his last six games. In addition to Elliot, his back up Tony Pollard is also battling a foot injury. Dallas’s receiving corps gets heathier, Lamb and Cooper will suit up. They will get healthier on the defensive side of the ball with Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence back on the edges.
Everyone wants to discount Washington in this spot, and magically assume Dallas will rise to the crop. You can make a legitimate argument Washington is the most improved team in the league. They rank 17th in DVOA after ranking in the bottom three during the first month of the season. Antonio Gibson and the backs are rumbling – the WFT has hit 110 rushing yards or more in five of the last six games. Dallas’s front has been vulnerable as of late giving up 100 yards rushing in five out of the last six and they rank 19th in rushing defense DVOA.
Washington is playing extremely well and we are riding the hot hand.
The pick: Washington +4.5
Buffalo at Tampa
Spread: Tampa (-3.5)
Buffalo got embarrassed on Monday Night Football. Now they have to beat the defending Super Bowl champions to secure their playoff berth.
Buffalo has the formula to beat Tampa, they don’t run the ball. We saw it early in the year where Dallas and Los Angeles turned their games into a 7 on 7 contest. With Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs in company, Buffalo will do just that. Tampa Bay’s pass defense still ranks in the bottom 20 in pass defense. They don’t have a soul who can cover Stefon Diggs. Josh Allen should be able to put a huge number.
Defensively, Buffalo still ranks 1st in overall defensive DVOA and they lead the NFL in pressure rate. The problem, they are going against the No. 1 offense in football, and the best pass protection unit in the sport. Moreover, Buffalo will see what life without Trevon White looks like. It’s a hard task, but after all the press clippings that shouted to the world how bad they were, I think we see the best version of Buffalo’s defense in this spot. I like taking a desperate, talented, and pissed off team. We are buying Buffalo at its lowest spot. I’ll take the road underdog here to upset Tampa.
The pick: Buffalo +3.5
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