Week 11 was rough, but one Thanksgiving miracle got these picks back to .500 with 10 wins. The goal continues to be finish the season above .500, so we’ve basically got a clean slate with five weeks to go.
Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.
Note: as of this writing the Westgate Las Vegas did not have a line for Giants/Bears because of the quarterback situation in Chicago. It looks like it’ll be Bears by 4 or 4.5 based on other books. Either way, it’s going to be a pick for the Bears.
New Orleans (-7.5) over DALLAS
The Saints are going to put up points — they’ve put up fewer than 30 points just twice — and the Cowboys offense just isn’t good enough to keep up. Dallas is 24th in offensive DVOA and that only goes up to 23rd in weighted DVOA, which puts more value in recent games. New Orleans has also improved on defense in recent weeks — 14th in DVOA and 10th in weighted DVOA on that side of the ball. The pass defense has been slowly coming along, but the run defense has been there all season — third in DVOA — which isn’t good for a Dallas team that wants to run through Ezekiel Elliott.
[Update: Whelp, 0-1 for the week.]
Cleveland (+5.5) over HOUSTON
Over the past three weeks, Baker Mayfield has put up QBRs of 63.5, 97.1, and 96.7. Those are on a scale up to 100. The Browns have figured something out on offense, but the Houston defense will definitely be the biggest test of the Mayfield/Freddie Kitchens era. The Texans are fourth in defensive DVOA but much better against the run (second) than the pass (14th). Cleveland is the opposite, which could allow them to hang with the Texans — eighth in defensive DVOA and better against the pass (fourth) than the run (25th).
Baltimore (+1) over ATLANTA
In a vacuum, Lamar Jackson’s hasn’t played particularly well at quarterback with QBRs of 36.2 and 35.7 in his two starts. But what he brings to the offense has opened more things up for the Ravens as he continues to develop as a quarterback. Atlanta’s defense was supposed to be one with speed at could match up with an offense like this, but it hasn’t been the case, even if Deion Jones is healthy. The Baltimore defense is also one of the best units in the league, which could be trouble for the Atlanta offense.
TAMPA BAY (+3.5) over Carolina
Carolina’s defense is not what it used to be and that’s not ideal going against a Tampa Bay offense that will throw down the field and score points at will (and also turn it over on occasion). This is likely to be some kind of shootout with two good offenses and two bad defenses, so in that situation, we’ll take the points.
Buffalo (+4.5) over MIAMI
Remember in like Week 3 when everyone thought Miami might be good? That was fun. Since then the defense has plummeted from a potential top-five unit to 21st in defensive DVOA. Meanwhile, the Bills defense has been great all season — second in DVOA — and is the reason Buffalo has been able to hang in some games. The offense has also improved from historically bad to just run-of-the-mill bad, which also helps.
Denver (-5) over CINCINNATI
Right now the Broncos are an actual good team. They’re sixth in overall DVOA, which is above playoff-bound teams like Pittsburgh, New England, and Houston, but have just a 25.2 percent chance at the playoffs per Football Outsiders. Still, they can continue playing well, especially against a team that’s going to start Jeff Driskel at quarterback on Sunday.
Rams (-10) over DETROIT
The Rams are very good and the Lions are very bad. I want to go deeper in the analysis here, but I’m not really sure it’s necessary.
Indianapolis (-4) over JACKSONVILLE
Indianapolis continues to play well over the past few weeks, even if it was more difficult to beat the Dolphins than it should have been. Jacksonville will replace Blake Bortles with Cody Kessler, but the most surprising thing is the fall of the defense, which has dropped to just above average instead of league-best.
Kansas City (-15) over OAKLAND
The Raiders rank 30th against the pass by DVOA and 30th against the run, 32nd covering tight ends, and 23rd against running backs in the passing game. They’re also 32nd in pressure rate. That’s not a formula to stop the Chiefs offense.
TENNESSEE (-7.5) over Jets
The Jets are 30th in offensive DVOA this season and that’s just hard to overcome, especially when the defense has just been ok as of late instead of the above average unit it was early in the season. I will stop trying to figure out what Tennessee is, so I’m just going to base this on the Jets being bad.
NEW ENGLAND (-5) over Minnesota
Rob Gronkowski should be back on the field for the Patriots and the Vikings are 27th in DVOA against tight ends. New England continues to have a myriad of ways the offense can beat a defense, even as the Vikings defense has played well lately. The Patriots might also have one cornerback who can slow down Adam Thielen. Stephon Gilmore ranks fourth in yards allowed per pass and fourth in success rate among 69 qualified cornerbacks per Football Outsiders.
SEATTLE (-9.5) over San Francisco
Seattle is third in the amount of play-action run this season and they are fourth in yards per pass on play-action. It’s a place where Russell Wilson excels and the Seahawks are finally getting into a groove there. San Francisco’s defense is 28th in yards allowed per pass on play-action this season. The Seahawks don’t have the Legion of Boom defense anymore, but the unit still ranks 11th in DVOA, which should be more than enough against the San Francisco offense.
Chargers (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
The Chargers are one of the best teams in football right now, even with the loss to the Broncos two weeks ago (Denver is a good team). There are endless ways the offense can win, even without Melvin Gordon. Even with more name recognition on the Steelers offense, the Chargers should have the advantage if this becomes a shootout. Los Angeles is third in big play rate on offense while the Steelers are just 23rd.
PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) over Washington
Neither of these teams is any good. The Eagles didn’t really dominate the Giants at any point and Washington left a lot to be desired on Thanksgiving. At this point, the Eagles might be closer to figuring something out at home while Washington still tries to compete with Colt McCoy. One or both of these teams could be leading the NFC East after this game. Fun.
Last week: 10-5