Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
Editor's Note: This article was written prior to the Patriots-Chiefs game being postponed to Monday Night:
It’s a bounce back week for the football picks. After a hot 7-3 week in Week 2, we cooled off a bit going 1-4. Last weekend was absolutely horrible, there is no better way to say it. We had three of the worst beats on the day with Rams pick em, Cowboys +5.5 and the Chiefs over, again, three just insanely brutal beats. But over here we are team #PositiveVibesOnly and I feel our luck turning around. I went to a Bible study instead of watching the debate and had a peaceful spiritual fast this week. We got the mojo back on our side.
We will get to the picks in a second, but before we do, a couple things. The first is, remember, these picks - like Aaron's college football picks - are presented by the folks at MyBookie. So if you're thinking of gambling this weekend, go to MyBookie and use promo code "TORRES." First time sign ups will double their first deposit. Meaning you want to bet $30 on the Cowboys against teh Browns Sunday, MyBookie will give you $60 to play with. Again, that's MyBookie, promo code "TORRES."
Also, before we break down the games, let's start with our "Trend of the Week."
Trend of the Week: Penalties Drive the Offensive Surge.
Throughout the years, the league has wanted to shift to a more offensive friendly game. More points on the scoreboard puts fans in the seats and eyes on the screen. In 2020, the NFL is getting what they wish for with an offensive surge like we have never seen before. NFL games are averaging 52.2 points total per game, nearly five points above seasonal averages from the last five years. Over the course of this season overs have been hitting at well over 60 percent clip. A lot of people seem to think this stems from the unique circumstances set up by Covid-19. The lack of crowd noise for road offenses, more elite quarterback play, and less off field distractions are all factors given these past few weeks.
But as Kevin Siefert from ESPN reported, it has mostly stem from the style of officiating. NFL refs are calling offensive penalties at significant rate and defensive penalties at a lot higher rate. According to Siefert, NFL refereeing has changed significantly over the first three weeks:
“Through the first 48 games of 2020, officials have thrown flags for 95 offensive holding penalties. That's 59% fewer than in 2019, when they were operating under instructions to increase such penalties, and 45% lower than the previous five-year average. At the
same time, flags for defensive pass interference have risen 22% from 2019 to 72, the most through three weeks since at least 2001.”
There is no proof that this trend is happening due to systematic change in refereeing. But I find it hard to believe that offensive lines across the league have gotten significantly better with no preseason and less contracted practices. This new form of the NFL has benefitted teams with dangerous pass attacks and mediocre offensive lines like the Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals, Steelers, and Bills of the world. We still need a little bit more of a sample size to see if this trend normalizes or no holding penalties become the new normal in NFL games.
In response, the books responded by progressively raising the average total for Week 4. The average game total for Week 1 was just 45.5 and the market is up to an average of 49.8 - which is still below the average score of 52. So generally, there is a value in betting the over, but not to a point where you can just bet it blindly. Instead, we need to do our best and find an edge in a particular match-up.
With that we move on to the picks.
Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks
Spread: Seahawks (-6.5)
In years past this would be a game I would normally fade the Seahawks. The public is overwhelmingly backing the Seahawks with Seattle garnering 90 percent of the ticket count and they are traveling across the country after an emotional win against the Cowboys. However, I simply can’t put you guys through the stress of betting against Russell Wilson in back to back weeks. You simply cannot fade this 2020 version of the Seattle Seahawks. I can’t do it. Instead I think this is a great angle to play over here.
The Seahawks have been a juggernaut of an offensive team - averaging 37 points per game, which is second best in the NFL. The biggest storyline in the NFL has been the emergence of Russell Wilson and freedom he has with #letsrusscook. Wilson has been the most explosive QB in the league thus far - he has set the NFL record for most touchdown passes through three games (14) and became the first quarterback to throw four or more touchdowns in each of the first three weeks. He also has completed nearly 77 percent of his passes.
Now he gets to face a beat up Miami secondary that plays single high man coverage more than any other team in the league. Like most NFL coaches, Brian Flores is stubborn to a fault. The Dolphins defense plays man coverage at third highest percentage in the NFL, but the Dolphins
are surrendering the eighth highest passing success rate while playing man coverage. The Dolphins are giving up a lot of explosive passing plays on the back end, surrendering an 11 percent explosive passing success rate- fourth worst in the NFL.
Now the Miami defense will have to face Tyler Lockett- the second best receiver in the NFL against man, and DK Metcalf who ranks as the 20th best receiver against man. Through the first three games, Lockett and Metcalf have combined for 556 yards and seven touchdowns. Combine that with the fact that the Dolphins have been mediocre in pressure rate and Russell Wilson will have ample time to throw to open receivers down field. I mentioned before, Seattle is the team that benefits the most from the recent NFL officiating. Wilson is holding the ball for close to fourth-fifths of a second longer than he did a season ago, but he is getting hit less and penalized less. That's not a coincidence folks, the NFL wants their superstar quarterbacks to stay upright and shine. When you give Wilson time he is absolutely deadly. If this trend continues, I don’t give the Dolphins defense a shot to stop Seattle.
I honestly would not be surprised if Seattle covered the over all by themselves. But I don’t think we need to rely on them to do that.
While Seattle has been magnificent on the offensive side of the ball they have been just as horrific on the defensive side of the ball. Even with an improvement against Dallas, the Seahawks still rank 29th in the NFL in pressure win rate. Seattle's secondary has been the worst
in the NFL giving up nearly 1,300 passing yards— most in the NFL. They will be playing a sneaky good offense in the Miami Dolphins. Ryan Fitzpatrick has put "Tua Time" on hold. He has sneakily had the fifth best QBR among active quarterbacks the first three weeks. Fitzpatrick will not be hesitant to push the football down the field (cc: Dak Prescott) and the Dolphins will be able to create several explosive plays to match Seattle.
I expect Seattle to get out to an early lead, and for Fitzmagic to do his damage in garbage time. The over hits easily in this one. Seahawks 42 Dolphins 28.
The pick: Over 54 (1 unit)
Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys
Spread: Cowboys (-5)
This is one of the more underrated games of the week. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield gets to come home to Dallas to play his hometown Dallas Cowboys in Jerry World. This will be Baker’s first professional start at Dallas and he will be playing in a place where he helped Oklahoma win a Big 12 title in 2017. We really get to see if the Browns are legit.
On the other side, the Cowboys come home after a disappointing loss to Seattle. The Mike McCarthy era in Dallas has not been good, and now the Cowboys are in danger of starting 1-3. The public is heavily backing Dallas with 78 percent of the ticket count. I think the Browns are a live dog in this one, but I think there is significant value on the total. The Cowboys offense has been humming. Prescott is coming off back to back 400 yard games.
I really like this spot for both offenses.
That's because on the flip side, the Cowboys defense is beat up. They will be missing two out of their top three corners and two starting linebackers. The Cowboys defensive back end, had multiple communication breakdowns in key spots that led to big plays last week against Seattle. There were times where the defense would be in man and one guy would be play zone, allowing Seattle receivers to run free- simply embarrassing for an NFL defense.
This is a game where we will see Baker show up in a comfortable setting. I really think the Browns can dominate the Cowboys using two-tight end sets. Baker has a 66 percent passing success rate out of 12 personnel, while Dallas has been really bad facing 12 personnel due to their lack of linebacker depth. The Cowboys will sell out to stop the run and I can see the Browns having success on early down passing. The Browns have the third best offensive line unit according to PFF. The Browns big men rank fourth in the NFL in adjusted line yards and have allowed only 15 pressures through three games this season. The Cowboys ability to tackle in the open field has been abysmal, and if Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt get open space, I can see them breaking multiple explosive runs. Outside of Aldon Smith, the Cowboys pass rush has been mediocre.
Offensively for Dallas, I believe they will be able to have a lot of success as well. The Browns defensive performance against the Washington Football team was very fluky, where they forced five turnovers. Dwayne Haskins was surprisingly able to constantly move the football. Cleveland’s defense hasn’t been good, with the team giving up 29.3 points per game.
Expect the Dallas offense to come into this game with a sense of urgency and will take shots against this Browns defense early. All of Dallas’s games have been decided by seven points or less so I believe this game will be close throughout. I think there is a lot of value here on individual player props such as Odell receiving yards, Baker touchdown passes, and Zeke to score a TD. If Dallas gets out to an early lead, it will put pressure on the Browns to air it out in the second half.
This over hits with a favorable game script. We will take the over in both halves and the Browns to cover.
The pick: First half over 27.5, over 56 and Browns +5 (0.25 units each)
Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spread: Buccaneers (-7.5)
It's a Sunday afternoon match-up against Tom Brady’s top two destinations in free agency! The Chargers are one of my favorite plays of the week, backing one of the most underrated teams in football against the public’s most overrated team. Everyone is looking at the Chargers most recent 21-16 loss to the Panthers. They saw the Bucs beat that same Panthers team handily at home, and they are rushing to back Tom Brady against the Chargers here. The look ahead line in this game was Bucs -4.5 and it has climbed over the key number of 7.5. The public is rushing to back the Bucs with 81 percent of the ticket count but 60 percent of the cash is on the Chargers.
This makes the Bucs an automatic fade for me.
The Chargers loss last week to Carolina was pretty fluky. Los Angles fumbled three times and Justin Herbert was intercepted at the end of the half. The Chargers outgained Carolina by 136 yards and converted 10 of 15 on third downs.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are coming off a 28-10 win against limited Broncos team. Even with Tom Brady, the Buccaneers offense has been mediocre, averaging just 5.4 yards per play. They rank 26th in rushing success rate and 22nd in passing success rates, and they are facing an elite Chargers defense. The Chargers rank seventh in the NFL in pass rush win rate. Joey Bosa and Jerry Tillery will torment Tom Brady in the pocket and I am comfortable with Casey Hayward matched up with Mike Evans. After missing practice Thursday, Chris Godwin is likely out. The anchor for the Buccaneers has been their defense, which surprisingly ranks second in defensive DVOA.
However, they have had the benefit of facing two bottom 20 offenses their last two outings. Herbert’s dual threat capability and the Chargers versatile playmakers give Tampa a tough challenge. The Chargers are a team that typically plays up to their competition. Expect the Chargers team that took the Chiefs to OT to show up in this one. Think this a slight look ahead spot for the Bucs.
There is tons of sharp money hammering the Chargers and we will ride on their side.
Give me the Chargers plus a touchdown and will sprinkle a little bit on the money line because why the hell not.
The pick: Chargers +7.5 (1.5 unit), Chargers ML (.25 unit)
New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions
Spread: Saints -4.5
This is a perfect buy low opportunity on the Saints and a high spot on the Lions. New Orleans is a Taysom Hill fumble away from being 2-1. The Saints outgained the Packers on Sunday Night Football but still fell short. On the other side, the Lions needed three Kyler Murray turnovers to come away with a win against the Cardinals. This is a must win situation for both teams.
Looking at New Orleans, despite the talk of Drew Brees' noodle arm, the Saints still rank fourth overall in offensive DVOA and are averaging an impressive 29 points per game. Their offense gets a huge upgrade with the return of Michael Thomas. Even with that, the biggest edge is the Saints massive advantage in the trenches. The Saint offensive line is one of the better units in football. They rank 10th in pressure rate and have given Drew Brees ample time. They will face a Detroit defensive line that ranks dead last at pressure win rate at 20 percent. With ample time, Brees should be able to dissect and manipulate Detroit's match up zone scheme. Expect the Saints to use a lot of underneath crossing routes that the Lions routinely struggle with. In addition, Detroit has also struggled to defend stretch runs to the left side on early downs, allowing an astounding 64 percent success rate. Saint running back Alvin Kamara is dangerous running outside zone, with 55 percent running success rate this year. The Saints also rank third overall in rushing success rate.
Whether it's Kamara or Latavius Murray, the Saints should have success running the football. I’ll take Sean Payton over Matt Patricia in a big game any day. This line is very short in favor of the Saints.
Last Sunday, the Saints were a three point favorite against arguably the best team in the NFC. So giving just 4.5 points in this spot seems very small.
The Saints are undervalued here.
Give the points with the Saints.
The pick: Saints -4.5 (1 unit).
Buffalo Bills at Las Vegas Raiders
Spread: Bills (-3.5)
The Buffalo Bills haven’t played their best football yet. They blew out the Jets, the Dolphins were able to hang around them, and they were a pass interference away from blowing a 28-3 lead against the Rams.
Metrically, the Bills have been awesome offensively ranking sixth overall in offensive DVOA per Football Outsiders. The problem has been the defense which was seen as the Bills strength going into the season. The Bills rank 24th in defensive DVOA and are 26th against the run. I think there is positive regression coming soon. I think they will be able to do it against an overvalued Raiders offense.
The problem with Vegas is they can’t stop anyone. They rank 28th in overall defense efficiency and 30th in defensive EPA. They rank 25th in overall pressure rate. The Raiders are going to get shredded if they give Josh Allen time in the pocket. I love the Bills offense here - they rank second in the NFL in explosive pass rate. Bills linebackers Terrell Edmunds and Matt Milano have not really been healthy all year - this is the first time all year both linebackers have completed a full week of practice all season. Also there is a chance we will get to see former All Pro cornerback Josh Norman make his debut in Buffalo this week, he returned to practice in a limited capacity Thursday and is eligible to come off the IR. Sunday we see a complete game from Buffalo.
The Bills let off the gas in the second half against the Rams. But a lot of that was excellent play calling and execution against the Rams. The Raiders are paying Gruden $100 million, but Gruden's offense does not come close to the play design and deceptions the Rams offense presented last Sunday.
There will be a time where we can fade the Bills. But Sunday is not that day.
The Pick: Bills (-3.5)
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Spread: Chiefs -7
Strap in folks because we are betting against Patrick Mahomes in this one. The thing is, if you are going to give me a touchdown with Bill Belichick, I’m going to take it. I don’t care that they are facing Patrick Mahomes, I don’t care that the Patriots don’t have Tom Brady, and I don’t care if half the Patriots defense opted out.
We get +7 with Bill freakin' Belichick. Really that should be good enough. He is going to devise a game plan that's going to have Andy Reid face mask all fogged up.
The Chiefs are riding high coming off an amazing 34-20 win on Monday night football against the Ravens. It was a heartbreaker for us, since we somehow couldn’t hit the over. But in reality, John Harbaugh and the Ravens coaching staff shit the bed in that one. The Ravens really had every opportunity to win that game, went away from running the football early despite having a 60 percent success rate. They continued to play man coverage on long passing downs which opened up the Chiefs for big plays. Mahomes made some insane plays, but the Ravens were horrible. We won’t get any coaching mishaps from the Patriots here.
I don’t think anyone is capable of slowing down the Mahomes, but if anyone can do it, Belichick is the guy for the job. Belichick is going make the Chiefs earn their points. The Patriots have the recipe to do just that. They still have a lock down corner in Stephon Gilmore to shut down Sammy Watkins, and they have veteran safeties to play over the top. New England defensive end Chase Winovich ranks second in the NFL in run stop win rate. Similar to what the Chargers did, the Patriots will be able to take pressure while being able to drop seven back in pass coverage. Also, believe it or not, this Chiefs offense has not been as explosive this season as they have been in years past, ranking 25th in explosive passing success rate. The Chiefs will be able to move the ball consistently, but Belichick is going to make them execute 13-16 play drives to earn their touchdowns.
The best way to defend the Chiefs is to keep the football away from Mahomes. That is the biggest edge the Patriots can possibly have. The Patriots are No. 1 in the NFL in offensive run efficiency while Kansas City is ranked 30th in run defense. The Chiefs rank dead last in stuff rate and 25th in adjusted line yards. New England has a top five offensive line averaging 4.88 adjusted line yards. The Patriots o-line will be able to move KC’s front off the football, and the Patriots have a stable of fresh backs to continue their relentless rush attack. Josh McDaniels won’t make the mistake of going away from the ground game which was the Ravens Achilles heal Monday night. Also, the Patriots rank number fifth overall in offensive DVOA, and will add to their rushing attack with the addition of James White. White is also a weapon in the passing game as well, and KC has historically been poor defending running back passes.
The Patriots faced a similar matchup in Week 2 at Seattle, and were a one yard away from stealing a win. This is a statement game for the Patriots and a letdown spot for the Chiefs.
There are not many times where you can justify betting against Mahomes, but this is one of them.
Take the Patriots and points.
The Pick: Patriots +7 (1 unit) ML +250 (0.5 unit)
Remember, if you're going to wager on these games or any others, make sure to use MyBookie. Put in the promo code "TORRES" at checkout, and you automatically receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.