On to the second part of my Week Four predictions. For the record, I simply copy/pasted my predictions for a couple of tomorrow’s games (Indianapolis vs Jacksonville; Cleveland vs Washington) that I included in Part One into this article so all of my predictions for Sunday’s games can be in one place.
*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – You may notice that on the link to Football Outsiders’ DVOA page, I will consult another statistic called DAVE. Simply put, DAVE is DVOA, only with preseason projections factored in.
***Note – All betting odds courtesy of Bovada
****Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records to Date
Straight Up: 29-20 (LW: 11-5)
Spread: 31-15-3 (LW: 12-2-2)
Over/Under: 21-28 (LW: 9-7)
Locks: 6-3 (LW: 3-1)
Best Bets: 22-12 (LW: 9-3)
Indianapolis Colts (1-2) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)
Spread: IND -3 Over/Under: 49
’16 DVOA: IND (22) > JAC (29)
Public Betting: IND 67%
Some anticipated the Jaguars to finally breakthrough in 2016. Obviously that breakout hasn’t happened yet, but I think Jacksonville will notch their first win in London over the Colts for a couple of reasons. First, though the Jacksonville offense has struggled through three games (they’re only 27th in yards per play), the Colts pass defense is not only weak, but banged-up. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a little over 300 yards passing per game against Indy and they’ll once again be without their two starting cornerbacks, Vontae Davis and Darius Butler.
Moreover, I’ve noticed an interesting trend so far this year: Underdogs in games between divisional opponents have gone 9-3 (with two pushes) against the spread. This makes sense in theory because there is a lot of familiarity between divisional foes, which leads to very competitive games. So for those reasons, I’ll side with the Jags at Wembley.
Jacksonville 30, Indianapolis 27
Cleveland Browns (0-3) vs Washington Redskins (1-2)
Spread: WSH -7.5 Over/Under: 47
’16 DVOA: CLE (32) < WSH (25)
Public Betting: CLE 63%
I’m confident that Washington will win this game. For starters, they’re playing the Browns. The Browns, ladies and gentleman! The Redskins have also been productive offensively: They’re averaging 6.5 yards per play despite some erratic play from Kirk Cousins. However, Cleveland hasn’t been too shappy on offense either (2nd in yards per rush attempt) and the Redskins defense has some holes. The Browns should hang around early, but the Redskins will do enough to win and cover.
Washington 28, Cleveland 17
Buffalo Bills (1-2) vs New England Patriots (3-0)
Spread: NE -6.5 Over/Under: 43.5
’16 DVOA: BUF (18) < NE (3)
Public Betting: NE 76%
I was ready to pick the Patriots in a blowout, but then I thought of a couple of reasons why the Bills might hang around on Sunday. Though Jimmy Garoppolo appears poised to return, New England hasn’t officially declared who will start at quarterback on Sunday. Who knows whether Garoppolo–or possibly Jacoby Brissett–will be effective coming off injury? Moreover, there might be value with Buffalo since this is a divisional game. As I detailed in my analysis of Colts/Jaguars, underdogs have gone a terrific 9-3 with the spread against divisional opponents so far this year.
With that said, the Patriots defense clearly has an edge over Buffalo’s erratic offense, which will be without wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Like they did against Houston, Jamie Collins and company will set the tone for New England to move to 4-0 ahead of Tom Brady’s triumphant return.
*New England 27, Buffalo 17
Seattle Seahawks (2-1) vs New York Jets (1-2)
Spread: SEA -3 Over/Under: 40
’16 DVOA: SEA (1) > NYJ (26)
Public Betting: NYJ 51%
Despite only forcing one turnover through their first three games, the Seattle defense continues to dominate. Granted, they have played a couple of below average offenses thus far; yet, nonetheless, they are still ranked number one in defensive efficiency according to Football Outsiders. That doesn’t bode well for a Jets offense whose two best receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, are either hobbled (as I think Marshall is) or out injured for this game altogether.
Seattle has injury issues of their own, though. Russell Wilson has already suffered two different leg injuries this season, which could be problematic against New York’s front-seven, which tends to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. However, I don’t think Leonard Williams and company will be disruptive enough to mask the Jets’ weak secondary. Led by Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks have many playmakers that should expose New York’s 31st ranked secondary. And Russell Wilson should be able to find them, even if he is a little gimpy.
Seattle 24, New York 20
Carolina Panthers (1-2) vs Atlanta Falcons (2-1)
Spread: CAR -3 Over/Under: 50
’16 DVOA: CAR (11) > ATL (17)
Public Betting: CAR 66%
Atlanta’s offense has been terrific to start the season: On a per drive basis, the Falcons rank first in both points and yards and they also have the fourth fewest turnovers. There’s one caveat, however. They haven’t played a good defense yet! Tampa Bay (21st), Oakland (29th), and New Orleans (30th) are all ranked near the bottom of defensive DVOA to start the season. For that reason, I think Luke Kuechly and the Panthers will rebound after their surprising home loss to Minnesota and cool down the Falcons.
Carolina 27, Atlanta 20
Detroit Lions (1-2) vs Chicago Bears (0-3)
Spread: DET -3 Over/Under: 48
’16 DVOA: DET (16) > CHI (31)
Public Betting: DET 81%
I’m going to automatically pick against the Bears for the time being. Chicago is simply awful in many respects, and their poor offense won’t be nearly enough to keep up with Detroit. The Lions are second in the NFL so far in points per drive. There’s no telling how big of a fantasy day Matthew Stafford might have against Chicago’s defense, which ranks 27th in that same category.
Detroit 30, Chicago 17
Tennessee Titans (1-2) vs Houston Texans (2-1)
Spread: HOU -5 Over/Under: 41
’16 DVOA: TEN (24) > HOU (28)
Public Betting: HOU 59%
I went on record earlier this week during our Check Down radio broadcast and said that the Titans were my upset pick of the week to beat the Texans. Now that we know that J.J. Watt will not only miss this game, but the remainder of 2016, I’m even more confident with this prediction.
But let me tell you why Tennessee was a good upset pick even before we learned the news about Watt. For starters, the Titans are a sizable underdog in a divisional game–and we all know how I feel about that. Moreover, DVOA actually has Tennessee rated higher than Houston, which suggests that this spread is at least two-three points higher than it should be. Combine all of this with the fact that the Texans have struggled mightily on offense this year and we know we’ll have at least one semi-notable upset on our hands this weekend.
Tennessee 23, Houston 17
Oakland Raiders (2-1) vs Baltimore Ravens (3-0)
Spread: BAL -3.5 Over/Under: 46.5
’16 DVOA: OAK (15) < BAL (7)
Public Betting: OAK 66%
Everyone seems to love Oakland in this matchup, and for good reason. The Raiders boast a potent offense while the Ravens might not be anywhere as good as their undefeated record indicates. However, let’s not lose sight of Joe Flacco’s ability to stretch defenses. Oakland is allowing a league-worst 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 14.5 yards per catch. Plus, Baltimore may actually have a really good defense. After all, they’ve allowed the second fewest yards per drive through three games. I still think Oakland’s offense will be enough to cover the spread, but let’s hold off on assuming that Baltimore will drop this game at home.
Baltimore 27, Oakland 24
Denver Broncos (3-0) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
Spread: DEN -3.5 Over/Under: 43.5
’16 DVOA: DEN (10) > TB (23)
Public Betting: DEN 84%
The Broncos are overwhelming public favorites against Tampa Bay, but is this bad news for Denver? The three most heavily-bet on teams this year have all failed to cover–Arizona (77%) vs Buffalo, Green Bay (76%) vs Minnesota, and Pittsburgh (75%) vs Philadelphia. What did all those public favorites share in common? They were on the road. That’s exactly the situation we have in this matchup, which is why I’m fairly confident in Tampa Bay covering the 3.5 point spread.
Having said that, the Broncos have consistently come out on top in close games thanks to their elite defense. They’ll do so again tomorrow in what I think will be a higher-scoring game than many people might anticipate.
Denver 27, Tampa Bay 24
Dallas Cowboys (2-1) vs San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
Spread: DAL -2.5 Over/Under: 45
’16 DVOA: DAL (13) > SF (30)
Public Betting: DAL 69%
I’m confident in the Cowboys once again. San Francisco has been a little bit better than I anticipated, yet their offense ranks last in yards per drive through three games. If Blaine Gabbert and company can’t sustain drives on Sunday, they will be beaten handily by Dallas. Dak Prescott has had this Cowboys offense moving every time they have the ball, as evidenced by their high rankings in both points and yards per drive. Even without Dez Bryant, Dallas’s run-oriented offense will have little trouble moving the ball against the 49ers.
*Dallas 31, San Francisco 13
New Orleans Saints (0-3) vs San Diego Chargers (1-2)
Spread: SD -4 Over/Under: 54
’16 DVOA: NO (21) < SD (14)
Public Betting: NO 52%
It really is a must-win for New Orleans, who can’t fall to 0-4 if they want any chance to make the playoffs. I said the same thing last week, though, and look how that turned out! Simply put, San Diego’s offense, which has continued to impress even after losing the likes of Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, should put up plenty of points against New Orleans’ horrific defense. Once again, Drew Brees won’t be able to do enough.
San Diego 31, New Orleans 24
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) vs Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Spread: ARZ -8 Over/Under: 43
’16 DVOA: LA (20) < ARZ (4)
Public Betting: ARZ 60%
The Cardinals shouldn’t expect another repeat of last week’s five-turnover performance. But that doesn’t mean their 1-2 start is nothing to scoff at. Arizona’s shaky offensive line is a concern because Bruce Arians’ strategy to continuously take shots down field can’t be effective if Carson Palmer isn’t given ample time to throw. So can the Cardinals do enough to neutralize Aaron Donald and LA’s front-seven? In my opinion, probably not. But I do think they won’t have much trouble slowing down an anemic Rams offense that no one will confuse with the “Greatest Show on Turf” teams of the early 2000’s.
Arizona 23, Los Angeles 16
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Spread: PIT -5.5 Over/Under: 45.5
’16 DVOA: KC (2) > PIT (8)
Public Betting: PIT 57%
Concerns about Kansas City’s struggles to pressure the quarterback have been well-documented this year. Plus, they can’t rely on Ben Roethlisberger to give them six interceptions, either. However, Kansas City has a legitimate chance to win in Pittsburgh because their secondary is talented enough to slow down Pittsburgh’s passing game. They still might have trouble containing Le’Veon Bell, who is back from suspension, but the Steelers will have problems of their own slowing down running back Spencer Ware and Kansas City’s efficient offense. Since the Chiefs are currently ranked higher than the Steelers according to DVOA, I certainly think they’ll cover the 5.5 point spread. Why not take them to pull off an upset victory while I’m at it?
Kansas City 28, Pittsburgh 24
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week Four…
- JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Indianapolis
- NEW ENGLAND (-300) over Buffalo
- Teaser: Seattle vs New York OVER 33.5 & Carolina vs Atlanta UNDER 56.5
- CAROLINA (-165) over Atlanta
- Teaser: ATLANTA (+9) over Carolina & Tennessee vs Houston UNDER 47
- TENNESSEE (+5) over Houston
- TAMPA BAY (+3.5) over Denver
- DALLAS (-130) over San Francisco
- Teaser: Oakland vs Baltimore OVER 40 & San Diego vs New Orleans UNDER 60.5
- Teaser: ARIZONA (-2) over Los Angeles & Kansas City & Pittsburgh OVER 39.5
- KANSAS CITY (+5.5) over Pittsburgh
Stay tuned for my prediction for Monday night’s game between the Giants and Vikings in The Sunday Recap.