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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Week 10: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUNDAY EDITION


Week 10: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 9 results: 10-3 (wins); 4-9 (v. spread); 7-6 (O/U)
Season totals: 89-43-2 .674 (wins); 62-69-3 .473 (v. sp); 72-61-1 .541 (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).

As well as Cam Newton has played in the past the Carolina Panthers defense has mostly carried him; such is not the case in 2018.

Carolina Panthers 6-2 (+3.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2-1 (52): Steelers 28-27
Thursday, 8:20 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Clear; low 40s)

Reasons: Long know for stifling defenses, the Panthers head to Pittsburgh Thursday night to face one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL with their own highly-ranked dynamic offense. That’s not to say both teams don’t possess good defenses, as both rank between 12th-15th in total defense and points against, while the Panthers ranked 4th in INTs and the Steelers rank 4th in sacks, both of which will come into play Thursday night. No, this game is about two offenses that scores 28.5 ppg (PIT – ranked 9th) and 27.5 ppg (CAR – ranked 11th), respectively. Besides being home, which the 2-2 Steelers don’t hold much of an advantage so far this season, other than the Panthers poor road record (1-2), Pittsburgh holds the ball (3rd TOP) and has the 5th-best 3rd-down efficiency in the NFL; in other words, keep the ball away from Cam Newton and tire the Panthers defense. On the other hand, the Steelers are the most penalized team in the league yardage-wise, while the Panthers, miraculously, are one of the league’s most disciplined (5th). The Steelers also turn the ball over (21st), while the Panthers don’t (4th). As much as I like this rising Carolina team, the Steelers are hot and playing home in the short week. If it were Sunday or in Carolina, I’d be inclined to pick different. Panthers cover, but Pittsburgh escapes with the win.

New England Patriots 7-2 (-6.5) @ Tennessee Titans 4-4 (47): Patriots 28-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The current Patriots face the old Patriots in Nashville Sunday as former Patriot player/coach Mike Vrabel and a grip of former Patriots players (e.g. Malcolm Butler; Deion Lewis; Logan Ryan) take on a current Patriots team that has once again gone from getting hater’s hopes up to rounding into shape as the best team in the AFC right when it counts. The Patriots are banged up, however, and Tennessee is trying to salvage their season after losing three straight, before last week’s win at the Dallas Cowboys. The Titans also lost two of those three games by a point (BUF; LAC) and, at the time, one of the best teams in the league (BAL), and come into Sunday’s game with the 8th-ranked total defense and the top-ranked scoring defense (17.6 ppg). This should be interesting because the Patriots come into the game with the 9th-ranked total offense and the 5th-ranked scoring offense (30.0 ppg) and Bill Belichick doesn’t lose to his pupils often. Expect a highly-disciplined game between teacher and student, from which the Patriots emerge victors.

Detroit Lions 3-5 (+6.5) @ Chicago Bears 5-3 (44): Bears 28-21

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Partly Sunny; low 40s)

Reasons: The Lions are 1-3 on the road this year, although two of those losses have come by three or fewer points, but they haven’t faced a defense like Chicago’s (4th PA; 5th total) on the road yet. The Lions aren't exactly offensive world-beaters to begin with (20th total offense; 20th points scored). The Bears are an OT loss and a close loss to the Patriots from a 7-1 record. Both teams get after the quarterback and both teams keep the opposing offenses on the bench, but the Bears have the superior defense, which is the cause in the discrepancy between turnover ratios (CHI: 2nd; DET: 22nd). Detroit has struggled the past few weeks against good defenses, which will likely continue Sunday against Chicago, who just happens to score the 6th most points in the league (29.4 ppg).

New Orleans Saints 7-1 (-5.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-3 (54): Saints 33-28
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Sunny; mid-40s)

Reasons: The Bengals lost to the Chiefs (7-1), the Steelers (5-2-1 before Thursday) and Panthers (6-2 before Thursday) this year, arguably three of the best teams in the NFL, and have the 10th-ranked scoring offense (27.6 ppg). So why is Cincinnati 5.5-point underdogs at home? For one, their defense gives up an astounding 29.6 ppg (30th) while giving up the most yards in the league, they don’t sack the quarterback, aren’t very disciplined (11th most penalized offense) and keep their defense on the field longer than almost every team in the league, hence the yards against totals. The Bengals just aren’t very buttoned up, which is the opposite of the well-oiled Saints, who despite possessing yet another terrible defense, is one of the best teams in the league.

Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level again and the Atlanta Falcons are slowly creeping towards salvaging a season that started 1-4 start

Atlanta Falcons 4-4 (-6) @ Cleveland Browns 2-6-1 (50.5): Falcons 30-27
Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Sunny; mid-40s

Reasons: This is the second straight preview of a game involving a road favorite of at least 5.5 points, against a team from Ohio, no less. The Falcons have won three straight games after starting the season 1-4 and boast the 5th-ranked total offense and 9th-ranked scoring offense in addition to being the most efficient team in the league on 3rd-down. These six points come from the lack of respect Las Vegas has for the Browns more than they come from Atlanta’s superiority. The Browns are in disarray after firing head coach Hue Jackson and naming Gregg Williams as interim coach as they watch the nagging injuries pile up on rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Cleveland is best at home, so we’ll see…

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-5 (+3) @ Indianapolis Colts 3-5 (46.5): Colts 24-23
Sunday, 1:00PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: I’ve had to look at this point spread a million times, but it only takes one look at the records to see why: These are two even teams. Sacksonville is no more; they rank 25th in sacks. The intimidation is no longer there. The loudest defensive backfield in the NFL is ranked 24th in INTs. Somehow the Jaguars still rank 2nd in total defense and 8th in PA (21.2 ppg), but no one scared anymore, especially not a recharged Andrew Luck (23 TDs; 8 INTs), who leads the NFL’s 10th-ranked total offense while scoring a 7th-best 28.9 ppg. That’s another thing I had to look at a million times. It’s hard to fathom teams with top-10 offenses and defenses fighting for their seasons at 3-5, but such is the AFC South. 

Arizona Cardinals 2-6 (+16.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs 8-1 (49.5): Chiefs 30-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Sunny; mid-40s)

Reasons: The Chiefs have only played in two games that began the week with O/Us under 50 points – Week 1 v. LAC (48) and Week 5 against the then-stout Jaguars defense (48.5). Those are two great defenses, or were in the case of Jacksonville, and the Cardinals, well, aren’t. Basically Las Vegas sees Kansas City winning this game 33-17 considering the spread. Arizona ranks 17th in points against, and before you argue against that being “bad”, they give up 24.5 ppg. That’s today’s NFL, where giving up more than three TDs and a FG makes you an average defense. Everyone knows about the Chiefs so this game is really about how badly Kansas City beats the Cardinals.

Buffalo Bills 2-7 (+7) @ New York Jets 3-6 (36.5): Jets 20-14
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; mid-40s)

Reasons: From games with inflated O/Us to the lowest O/U of the 2018 season the Bills head to NJ to face the Jets in the Snooze Bowl. The Jets rank 6th in INTs and could be picking of Nathan Peterman all day, except they'll be picking off Matt Barkley instead. Then again, Sam Darnold is known for throwing to the other team, too, except Darnold likely isn’t playing, either. In other words, as if two rookie quarterbacks with combined 5-13 records facing off wasn’t cause enough to turn the channel, their backups and third-stringers certainly will be.

Doug Martin might not be on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers anymore, but for all intents and purposes it seems neither is Jameis Winston.

Washington Football Team 5-3 (+3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-5 (51): Bucs 27-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Partly sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: Washington was on their way to being respected around the league until Atlanta destroyed them in their own house Sunday, forcing people to take a closer look, exposing the fact Washington is one of only two teams in the NFL with a negative point differential without a losing record (CIN, coincidentally also 5-3). The Buccaneers might be the most exciting team in football, from their high-flying offense (2nd total; 8th PA 28.6 ppg) to their horrid defense (29th total; 32nd PA 34.4 ppg) to the quarterback carousel. If it weren’t for a historically bad defense this Bucs team would be battling for the NFC South, but alas they’re not. Meanwhile the Washington defense is the only thing keeping them ahead of the NFC East.

Los Angeles Chargers 6-2 (-10) @ Oakland Raiders 1-7 (49.5): Chargers 31-17
Sunday, 4:05PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)
Reasons: Here’s another one of those games where Las Vegas sees an obvious blowout as evidenced by an O/U less than 50 with a spread of ten points. The intuitive numbers scream 30-20 Chargers, but in reality, the Raiders would be lucky to score 20 points, although it’s literally the average between what the Raiders score (17.6 ppg) and what the Chargers give up (22.5 ppg), which begs insight into how Vegas really does things. I digress. The bottom line is the Chargers are light years more talented than the Raiders, who have been shipping off talent at a dictator’s pace.

Miami Dolphins 5-4 (+9.5) @ Green Bay Packers 3-4-1 (47.5): Packers 27-23
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Cloudy; mid-30s) 
Reasons: The Packers are coming off of an embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots and are watching the Bears take control of the division, which may explain why after being 9.5- and 6.5-point road underdogs the past two weeks they’re nearly ten-point favorites at home against a Dolphins team with a better record. The Dolphins only do one thing well, pick off the opposing quarterback, so they’ll be gunning for Aaron Rodgers (15 TD passes; 1 INT) all day, especially considering he just “lobs it up there” as Bill Belichick so eloquently put it. The Packers are far better statistically then their record suggests and they have the most talented player in the league in Rodgers; the Dolphins are none of those things. Green Bay has given up more than 30 ppg the past four weeks, but the Dolphins struggle to score at times and haven’t played a game in cold weather yet.

Seattle Seahawks 4-4 (+9.5) @ Los Angeles Rams 8-1 (50): Rams 27-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Los Angeles Memorial Stadium, Los Angeles, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: The Seahawks were 3-1 after starting the season 1-2, on the backs of Russell Wilson (18 TDs; 5 INTs) and a defense ranked high enough (7th total defense; 5th scoring defense – 19.5 ppg) you might think the Legion of Boom was still in business. Earl Thomas must be rolling in his home. The Rams are, well, the Rams. Los Angeles is 8-1 with their only loss of the season coming at New Orleans in a 45-35 shootout, a tied game with ten minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. The point spreads don’t really lie and this one telling us something we already knew: The Rams are the far better team. I wouldn’t bet my money on the 9.5 points, though, considering Los Angeles isn’t very disciplined (29th PEN) and the Seahawks are really more like Ballhawks (6th INTs). 

Ezekiel Elliot and the Dallas Cowboys try to salvage their season after an embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans at home last week.

Dallas Cowboys 3-5 (+7) @ Philadelphia Eagles 4-4 (43.5): Eagles 24-20
Sunday, 8:20PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Clear; mids-30s)

Reasons: Two teams with Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, Carson Wentz, Zack Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Golden Tate are only worth 43.5 combined points in 2018. That has to tell us one of two things; or maybe both. The Eagles and Cowboys possess stellar defenses, both ranked in the top five in points allowed. The problem is both teams were known for the offenses coming into the season, and neither has produced up to the expected level; in fact, the Cowboys have been nothing short of abysmal (26th points scored; 27th total offense; 27th PEN; 28th 3rd-down efficiency). The Eagles have underperformed as well, but the trade for Golden Tate might’ve been just what the Eagles needed to open up the run game and stretch the field away from Jeffery. The Cowboys may only one be one game back behind the Eagles, but they’re moving in the opposite direction fast.

New York Giants 1-7 (+3) @ San Francisco 49ers 2-7 (44.5): 49ers 27-23
Monday, 8:15 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Clear; mid-50s)

Reasons: When the 49ers played the Arizona Cardinals three weeks ago the Cardinals had one win. Last week the 49ers played the Oakland Raiders, who are 1-7. This week the 49ers get the Giants, who are 1-7. You could say San Francisco has benefited from a weak SOS the past three games (combined .167 winning %), but it’s not like the 49ers have taken advantage of it, only going 1-1. The last time the 49ers played a one-win team at home they crushed them. That was last week, and the taste is still fresh, so lucky for them they’re facing Eli Manning (8 TDs; 6 INTs), but apparently only because Eli’s replacement got arrested last week. The truth of the matter is the Giants aren’t only bad in the standings, they’re bad on paper and they’re terrible to the eye. The 49ers are a relatively good football team when healthy, but no one ever is. I’m shocked the Giants are only three-point underdogs; that spread wreaks of New York desperation. I’m not buying it.

BYEs: Baltimore; Denver; Houston; Minnesota

Stay tuned for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 10 #NFL Game Reviews coming Wednesday!

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