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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Week 7: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) THURSDAY NIGHT EDITION


Week 7: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 6 results: 11-4 (wins); 11-4 (v. spread); 10-5 (O/U)*
Season totals: 59-32-2 .634 (wins); 44-46-3 .489 (v. sp); 50-43 .538 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

 Von Miller will try to add to his 2018 sack total against the rookie quarterback Josh Rosen as the Denver Broncos take on the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football.

Denver Broncos 2-4 (-1) @ Arizona Cardinals 1-5 (42): Broncos 23-20
Thursday, 8:20 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: The Cardinals have yet to win at home this season and the Broncos haven’t won a road game yet. Something has to give. That something could likely be Josh Rosen (626 passing yards; 2 TDs; 2 INTs) giving in to Von Miller (5.5. sacks; 2 FF) as Rosen has been sacked at least once in every game he’s played in, including four suffered to the Minnesota Vikings last week, while the Broncos are one sack away from ranking in the top-10. Neither team has an offense worth mentioning, other than maybe the Cardinals fighting the Buffalo Bills for Worst Offense, but both teams have top-10 total defenses, although both teams surrender over 23 ppg. Every time two terrible offenses play two decent defenses on a short week I predict a defensive battle rife with mistakes, so the way my TNF predictions have gone so far this season we should expect a perfectly executed shoot out. 

Tennessee Titans 3-3 (+6.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers 4-2 (45): Chargers 24-20
Sunday, 9:30AM, Wembley Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Titans had won three straight games Weeks 2-4 and were riding high on a defense ranked in the top-10 in both total defense and scoring despite the offense averaging a putrid 17 ppg. Well now the offense is ranked 30th at 14.5 ppg and Tennessee has now lost two straight games, to one of the best teams in the NFL (BAL) and one to one of the worst (BUF). The Chargers are trending in the opposite direction, winners of three straight, and are suddenly a team to be reckoned with considering their only two losses have come in Weeks 1 & 3 to the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams and they don a top-7 offense (5th scoring; 7th total) led by early season MVP candidate Phillip Rivers (15 TDs; 3 INTs) and Melvin Gordon (466 rushing yards; 6 TDs). The Chargers also have a defense that ball hawks (7th INT) and remains relatively good despite missing Joey Bosa all season. The only issue Los Angeles might have could be traveling twice the distance Tennessee has to travel to play a morning game in dreary old London.

New England Patriots 3-2 (-3) @ Chicago Bears 3-2 (49): Patriots 24-23

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: This game features the 4th-ranked scoring offense that hasn’t won on the road yet versus the 4th-ranked scoring defense that hasn’t lost at home yet, although the sample size for both teams is only two games. The Bears put out a great defense, led by Khalil Mack, that not only sacks the quarterback (7th) but also takes the ball away (3rd TO ratio) and usually by way of INT (2nd). The way New England had been playing prior to Julian Edleman’s return I’d say that all spells disaster for the Patriots, but New England looks like a new offense between Edleman’s return and rookie Sony Michel’s (400 rushing yards; 4 TDs) emergence. Chicago gets no respect at home against the returning AFC champions, but would you trust Mitch Trubisky over Tom Brady?

Cleveland Browns 2-3-1 (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-3 (50): Bucs 28-27
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Partly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Bucs have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league, gaining nearly 450 yards of total offense and scoring over 28 ppg. The trouble is Tampa Bay also gives up over 440 yards of total offense and surrender far more points at 34.6 ppg. The Browns are an undisciplined team with a rookie quarterback in Baker Mayfield and an under-achieving defense, but Mayfield can be electric and the Browns have the 2nd-ranked TO ratio, aided by their ball-hawking defense (4th INTs). These teams are pretty evenly-matched, but the Browns might have a hard time keeping up with the Bucs on the scoreboard. 

Cam Newton is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, but the Carolina Panthers can live and die by their captain's emotions, which will be high versus the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.

Carolina Panthers 3-2 (4.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 3-3 (45.5): Eagles 23-21
Sunday, 1:00PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: This is a tale of two top-10 scoring defenses and superstar quarterbacks with recent history. The Eagles have finally found some ground – or sky I should say – after beating up on the hapless New York Giants, while the Panthers barely beat those same Giants 33-30 the week before. The Panthers haven’t won on the road this season, and Lincoln Financial doesn’t seem like the first place that’s going to happen.

Minnesota Vikings 3-2-1 (-3.5) @ New York Jets 3-3 (46.5): Jets 24-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: Both the Vikings and Jets have been surprising this season, but only the Jets have been a pleasant one. The Jets are a disciplined team (30th PEN) that doesn’t turn the ball over (8th TO ratio) and takes the ball away (2nd INTs). New York evens averages 27.5 ppg, although that number is inflated by three huge games. The Vikings have been largely disappointing, especially on the defensive side of the ball (24.7 ppg allowed, ranked 18th) and the addition of Kirk Cousins was expensive, but also didn’t add much more value than Case Keenum gave Minnesota last season.

Detroit Lions 2-3 (-2.5) @ Miami Dolphins 4-2 (46.5): Lions 27-24
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny; high 80s)

Reasons: The Dolphins have quietly turned into the worst 4-2 team in the NFL, perhaps ever, ranking in the bottom third of the league in yards gained, yards allowed, points scored, offensive time of possession and sacks. The Lions aren’t much better, but at least their record reflects it.

Buffalo Bills 2-4 (+7.5) @ Indianapolis Colts 1-5 (43.5): Colts 24-21
Sunday, 1:00PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Cringe Bowl features two teams with three combined wins and the team with only one of those wins if favored by over a touchdown, which says a lot about how bad Las Vegas considers Buffalo. The Bills have arguably the worst offense in the NFL, ranked 31st in yards gained and last in points scored (12.7 ppg); coincidentally, the Colts defense ranks 27th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed, so perhaps this is the game the Bills finally score some points, right? Wrong, because the Bills could be marching Chris Anderson out on the field Sunday instead of the human INT machine in Nathan Peterman. That probably won’t work considering the Colts rank 5th in sacks while Bills have allowed the second most sacks in the league. Can the Bills pull of another road upset? In terms of covering they certainly can.

It's been an up and down season for the Houston Texans and DeAndre Hopkins, who face another test at home Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Houston Texans 3-3 (+5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 3-3 (42): Jaguars 24-23

Sunday, 1:00 PM, TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: What happened to the Jaguars? Once a fierce defense and loud and proud at 3-1, Jacksonville has now lost two straight games, and not just lost, but were whooped, giving up an average of 35 ppg to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. Conversely, the Texans are winners of three straight and now sit at 3-3 with a 9th-ranked total offense and an 11th-ranked total defense while giving up the 11th-fewest points in the league at 22.8 ppg, slightly worse than the world beater Sacksonville defense. The Jaguars don’t even rank in the top half of the league in sacks by the way. Another problem the Jaguars have is turning the ball over (31st TO ratio) and they leave their defense on the field too long (9th DTOP), but the Texans are even worse (6th DTOP), so something has to give. The Jaguars are desperate, their pride is hurt and they’re at home for the first time in three weeks so I’d say the Jaguars are a safe bet. Considering the weather and the way these two defenses have played at points throughout the season I’d say the over is a safe bet, too.

New Orleans Saints 4-1 (+2.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 4-2 (50.5): Ravens 27-26
Sunday, 4:05 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: What an incredible game this should be. New Orleans enters the game winners of four straight after losing an opening week shoot out to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their typical selves, a dynamic offense (1st points scored; 3rd total offense) led by future HOFer Drew Brees (1658 passing yards; 11 TD) with a mediocre defense that helps make Brees the stat-padder he is (26th PA). The battle-tested Ravens also enter Sunday’s game with a typically stout defense; in fact, the Ravens are the best defense in the NFL across the board, including sacks. It’s the offense (9th total offense; 12th points scored) that comes as surprise and helps make Baltimore the proverbial dark horse of the AFC. If this game was in New Orleans it would be a different story, obviously, but it’s not, obviously, and considering the Raven’s strengths, it’s not looking good for Brees and the Saints. Obviously. Right?

Dallas Cowboys 3-3 (+1.5) @ Washington Football Team 3-2 (41.5): WFT 21-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Cowboys have won over 61% of the games in this rivalry spanning 114 meetings, including four straight, a streak that may continue Sunday. The Cowboys are suddenly one of the best defenses in the NFL, ranking 2nd in points allowed, 4th in total defense and 7th in sacks. That could pose a problem for the offensively-inept WFT, which ranks 25th in both total offense and points scored. The funny thing is the Cowboys are even worse on offense (26th points scored; 29th total offense), and despite their outlier 40-point exploits versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, they could struggle against a Washington defense (5th total defense; 8th PA) that ranks almost as high as the Cowboys. In other words, these are basically the same teams facing each other Sunday in another NFC East classic showdown. This game could come down to a crucial turnover, something the WFT likes to capitalize on (4th TO ratio).
Los Angeles Rams 6-0 (-9.5) @ San Francisco 49ers 1-5 (52): Rams 33-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: Holy crap does this game have trap written all over it. Arguably the best team in the NFL, the Rams come into the game ranked 1st in total offense, 3rd in points scored, 7th in points scored and only 11th in total defense because teams spend the entire second half of every game desperately trying to come back. The three young stars of Los Angeles in Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Robert Woods are on pace for 4,500 yards passing, 1,400 yards rushing and 1,200 receiving, respectively. San Francisco is arguably one of the most forgettable teams in the NFL now that “Jimmy G” is gone for the foreseeable future and the 49ers are owners of the worst turnover ratio in the league (-11). No, the 49ers don’t stand much of a chance against the Rams Sunday, but two of the 49ers five losses have come by three or fewer points to very solid to good football teams (GB; LAC), so the 9.5 points might be little much, especially at home. 

Andy Reid the Kool Aide Man has almost rookie Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs off to a hot start, but they'll be tested at home Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Cincinnati Bengals 4-2 (+6) @ Kansas City Chiefs 5-1 (58): Chiefs 31-28

Sunday, 8:20 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Clear; low 40s)

Reasons: The Bengals are an illegal pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers from being 5-1 like the Chiefs, but regardless of the details of that game or the analytics involved in this game, it’s safe to say we’re primed for another shoot out between these two teams, who have either done so with every opponent they’ve faced or just buried every opponent they’ve faced. The highest O/U in NFL history was last week’s KC v. NE game, which tipped off at 59.5; this game is at 58 and the Bengals are no New England Patriots team. Expect points in bunches Sunday night and the Chiefs to roll on as the Bengals ultimately fail in the toughest place to play on the road in the NFL.

New York Giants 1-5 (+4.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 2-4 (54.5): Falcons 28-24
Monday, 8:15 PM, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors) 
Reasons: The Giants are absolutely terrible, ranking in the bottom third of the league in total offense, points scored, points allowed, sacks and turnover ratio, not to mention ranking 1st in the NFL in unnecessary drama. The Falcons are just as bad on defense, ranking 30th in total defense and 31st in points allowed while also struggling to pressure the quarterback (26th sacks), although they do ball hawk (10th INTs). The big difference between the Giants and Falcons is offense, where Atlanta excels, ranking in the top-10 in total offense and points scored as well as 7th in turnover ratio. That TO ration could be the difference in the one win separating these two terrible teams, but let’s be honest: Atlanta is the better team.

BYES: Green Bay; Oakland; Pittsburgh; Seattle

Stay tuned for the remaining Week 7: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Sunday morning!


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