The column is back for another week. We went back to our winning ways going 4-2 on the slate. I really like the board this week. We have tons of great divisional matchups, we have an NFC Divisional round rematch, and a great Monday night game.
Record to Date: 22-19-1
Miami at Chicago
Spread: Chicago (-4.5)
There aren’t many units that have improved week over week as well as Chicago. The Bears rank 29th in offensive DVOA, but the offense has exploded with the growth of their run game and screen game. Their yards per play total has ticked up almost a single yard over the last two games.
They are playing a Dolphins defense that can be susceptible to the run and screen game based on the way they bring pressure.
While I would love to back Chicago here, I can’t because of the way this defense looked after they traded away their best two players. The Dolphins offense has been spectacular all year. Chicago ranks 28th in rushing defense DVOA. Look for Miami to move the ball with ease here.
So I’m going to take over.
Also, pay attention to the wind here. If the wind picks up to over 20 miles per hour, you may have to ditch it. Chicago and Miami play at an above average tempo. They should score enough to eclipse this number.
The pick over 45.5
Indianapolis at New England
Spread: New England (-6)
It’s Sam Ehlinger going on the road to play a Bill Belichick defense. While Ehlinger was exciting during his time at Texas, he doesn’t have the passing skill set to be a starting NFL quarterback. Bill Belichick is unbeaten against the spread in his last nine games facing a rookie quarterback in Gillette.
And that's what matters here: No matter how shaky New England has been the last few years, the defense is still getting the job done ranking sixth in DVOA. When Mac Jones doesn’t turn the ball over, the Pats offense is very efficient.
Meanwhile, the Colts won’t have Jonathon Taylor in the backfield. The Colts just fired their offensive coordinator and dysfunction reeks all over the organization. Indianapolis’s defense has taken a step back, ranking 16th in DVOA.
I think the Patriots cruise to a consecutive home victory.
The Pick: New England (-6)
Las Vegas at Jacksonville
Spread: Las Vegas (-2.5)
The sharps have been in Jacksonville all year long and they keep letting them down. This is the week I’m finally on them. Jacksonville ranks 17th in overall DVOA and Las Vegas is 26th, yet Jacksonville is a 2.5 point underdog at home?
Am I missing something here?
Yes, Jacksonville is coming back from London but this team makes that trip every year. The division is still in line for Jacksonville while Las Vegas’s playoff hopes look severely dim. The Jaguars can really turn the season around by riding their young phenom running back Travis Etienne. In his first start he ran for 156 yards on 24 carries.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have struggled to be consistent on the offensive end and they will race a above average Jacksonville defense that ranks in the top 10 in scoring and 12th in yards per play. The Raiders are a solid team for me, while I think Jacksonville still has some promise. This is a good spot for the Jags, take them here.
The pick: Jacksonville +2.5
Buffalo at New York
Spread: Buffalo (-11.5)
The battle of New York is under way. This is the best Jets team in the last seven years yet they are still a double digit underdog against their division rival. Buffalo has been the best team all year and they just beat the Packers by double digits.
New York struggled to move the ball in their first game without Breece Hall. Things don’t get easier facing the number one defense in the NFL. This may be the toughest test for Buffalo’s offense, the Jets rank eighth in defensive DVOA and they are very good against the pass.
I just don’t see many points in New York this week. We are going to take the under here. I’m not sure if the Jets scored a single point. The Jets defense keeps the Bills under 30. The under is the safe play.
The pick: Under 46
Los Angeles at Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay (-3)
Many thought this would be the Game of the Week, and maybe it still is. But, Tom Brady has dropped three in a row for the first time in his career, all while the defending Super Bowl champion Rams are stuck in
the mud as well following a second half collapse against the 49ers.
So one of these teams has to bounce back this week.
The Rams offense is just a struggle bus. It really starts at the offensive line that grades in the bottom six in the NFL. They have only 479 rushing yards and totaled just 56 against the 49ers. Last week Tampa got gashed on the ground giving up over yards per carry to the Ravens. They can’t beat on the ground here. The Rams love using the run to set up the big play action game but teams this year haven’t had to commit numbers to stop the Los Angeles ground game. The play action plays have been far less effective.
For the Bucs this has to be where Brady gets going. The Rams defense ranks 19th in pass DVOA and is in the bottom 20 in EPA defending quick passes below 10 yards. That’s where Brady does his damage. Look for Russell Gage and Chris Godwin to have breakout performances here. The Rams looked lost on both sides of the ball. I think Tampa is the right place.
The Pick: Tampa (-3)
Baltimore at New Orleans
Spread: Baltimore (-2.5)
On Monday Night Football, we get an intriguing matchup of the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints, with plenty of postseason implications going forward. Both are coming off big wins. Baltimore beat Tampa on Thursday Night Football and the Saints shut out out the Raiders last week. Before the shutout the Saints were giving up over 27 points per game. But at the same time, the Saints rank 10th in total defense and 12th in overall DVOA. They rank sixth in third down percentage defense. The Saints rank 27th in PFF “luck” rating when it comes to turnovers and field position. They have been a lot better than what their record suggests.
Alvin Kamara has returned to form. We know the Superdome is a tough place to play at night in prime time. The Ravens ranked 25th in DVOA. The Saints are rallying around the Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill combo. The Ravens defense has struggled ranking 25th in total defense. The Saints will have opportunities to get Chris Olave explosive plays on the outside. Home underdogs in primetime are always a good spot to bet. I like New Orleans to take care of business at home here.
The pick: New Orleans (+2.5)
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