NFL Picks Week #16
NFL PICKS (WEEK #16)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
Hello my friends, thanks for reading my weekly write-up unveiling my picks for the next-to-last week of the 2017 NFL regular season.
Let me kick off the article by telling you more about my take on how to handicap games late in the season, and how it changes compared to mid-season weeks, for example. With only two games left, I believe it’s important to put more weight into the mindset of each team, and how motivated they will be for their upcoming game. Of course, whether the game has playoff implications for each team is important, but sometimes you can go beyond that.
Let me give you a few quick examples, and I’ll try not to get ahead of myself too much because I’ll come back to such concepts when presenting my picks later on. The San Francisco 49ers started the season 0-9 and they have therefore been out of playoff contention for a long time. However, I do think they are in a good mood and I would certainly not view them as a team that won’t care too much about the outcome of their final two matches. They are 3-0 since Jimmy Garoppolo took over as their starting quarterback, and he seems to have given them a boost of confidence and optimism. They feel like they are still playing for something, and I expect them to try to keep Garoppolo’s record intact.
Meanwhile, some teams just lost hope of reaching the postseason, and in some cases it might have happened on a heartbreaking loss. Take the Oakland Raiders, for instance. Their chances of making the playoffs were not very high prior to their meeting with the Cowboys last Sunday night, but they were crippled as soon as Derek Carr fumbled in the opponent’s endzone for a touchback on a late-game drive that appeared to be the winning drive. And that happened a few minutes after the now-infamous piece of paper first down measurement that led to the game-winning field goal for Dallas. Just think for a second about how the Raiders players are feeling right now. Probably not good.
Here is one more underrated reason to consider whether teams are still in the playoff hunt or not: referees. The impact of referees in NFL games is huge, and when a team who is eliminated faces a team fighting for its life, I strongly suspect that referees tend to give a little edge to the latter. They don’t want to be responsible for the exclusion of a team from the playoffs. Accordingly, you can expect a few more critical calls or non-calls to go against the team whose season is already over.
So those are the kind of things that I’m evaluating when handicapping this week’s slate of games. I’m also dropping significantly the importance of other situational factors that I used to talk in more details earlier this year. For example, playing a non-conference road game doesn’t appear like such a critical aspect. If a team is fighting for the playoffs, they will put out a great effort no matter if their opponent is from within their own conference or not. The same could be said of sandwich games. It may or may not matter. You really need to assess each factor on a case-by-case basis, in my humble opinion.
Ok so enough with the introduction, but I felt like it was important for me to expose the general framework that I use under the current conditions. I hope you found this little intro insightful and that it will help you win more money.
We had a second straight perfect record last week, as both picks and both leans hit, just like two weeks ago! So basically the last 8 picks+leans were correct, which is amazing! We are back above 60%, as was my goal, but I’m not necessarily going to play it safe for the rest of the year. Our updated record is 31-20-2 for a 60.8% success rate.
You’ll probably be happy to hear that I’ve got more picks than usual this weekend, as I’ve got four of them, and also two leans. Without further ado, let’s discuss these six games!
PICK #1: Tennessee Titans +7 vs Los Angeles Rams
Nobody should be surprised to hear that most gamblers are backing the Rams in this one. They just annihilated the Seahawks in Seattle by a 42 to 7 score, while the Titans have dropped their past two games against the lowly Cards and 49ers. Still, Tennessee is in the thick of the race for a wildcard berth and will be fired up at home after two disappointing road losses. I’m confident they will keep the game close, and an upset is not beyond the realm of possibility, even though the Rams are a very good team. I like very much the Titans to cover the spread.
I’m also comforted by the observation of a reverse line move. The line opened at 7, and is now either 6.5 or 7 despite heavy action on L.A. so it looks like sharps are on my side.
The Rams will be traveling a couple of time zones and with the game set to begin at 1pm Eastern Time, that amounts to 10am for them (noon for the Titans). A certain letdown is possible for the Rams after facing the Eagles and the Seahawks, while there is no rivalry with Tennessee, a team they are facing once every four years. Of course, they will be playing hard, but I’m just saying it could be difficult to match the level of intensity of the previous two games.
This match will feature a clash between a team who is 6-1 on the road against another club who is 5-1 at home. Like I said before, I’m betting the Titans because I expect a tight game.
PICK #2: Kansas City Chiefs -10 vs Miami Dolphins
The Chiefs started the season 5-0 before dropping six of their next seven games. They seem to have found their groove back, and they are probably feeling upbeat after defeating a couple of divisional rivals, the Raiders and the Chargers, including a great 30-13 victory against the Chargers last Saturday. I’m sure the vibe is good in their locker room, while the Dolphins are probably still wounded from a loss in Buffalo that all but eliminated them from playoff contention. According to 538.com, they hold a 3% chance of making the postseason. They are probably feeling deflated, and could even already be looking ahead for payback next week in a rematch with the Bills to close out the season.
I like two more key factors favoring the Chiefs: K.C. got an additional day of rest after playing Saturday, and they will also be playing a third straight game at Arrowhead Stadium so not much traveling recently. More reason for them to be in good shape.
PICK #3: Philadelphia Eagles -9 vs Oakland Raiders
I explained in the introduction why I believe the Raiders won’t be in a mood to fight hard in this game. They are off a heartbreaking loss that eliminated them from playoff contention, and the chemistry just hasn’t been there this season compared to last year where their offense was firing on all cylinders. What is going on this season? Letting offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave go might not have been the best move. At some point in the season, I heard rumors of locker room issues. I don’t know if they were true or not, but things won’t go better now with the team being eliminated.
The Eagles can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win, and they will certainly want to do so right now, in front of their fans on national television. Philadelphia would be happy to rest some of its starters next week, especially after losing their star quarterback to a season-ending injury a couple of weeks ago.
PICK #4: Buffalo Bills +12.5 at New England Patriots
Man, do I hate fading the Patriots. I hesitated between making it an official or an unofficial pick, so don’t bet your house on Buffalo. But there were too many indications that I should be picking Buffalo that I finally accepted to grade it as an official pick.
Both teams will be highly motivated for this game. Buffalo is trying to grab one of the wildcard spots which would end a 19-year playoff drought. They have a 36% chance of reaching the playoffs, according to 538.com. What’s interesting is this matchup with New England is not necessarily a must-win game for the Bills. Still according to 538.com, if Buffalo loses in New England and then beats Miami on week #17, they have a 60% chance of making the playoffs, so all would not be lost for them. Winning in New England would just be gravy.
Meanwhile, the Patriots’ dramatic win in Pittsburgh last week put them back in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed in the AFC. They won’t want to blow the chance of hosting all postseason games until the Super Bowl.
Speaking of last week’s mind-blowing game between New England and Pittsburgh, it could be difficult to match the same intensity level for Belichick’s squad, even though they won’t take Buffalo for granted.
I’d also like to mention that the Bills are coming three straight home games, while the Pats were on the road three consecutive times. Granted, none of these road games were very far from home.
We have all heard of the Bills struggling against the Pats (who doesn’t?), but did you know Buffalo is 3-1-1 against the spread over their past five visits at Gillette Stadium?
LEAN #1: New Orleans Saints -5.5 vs Atlanta Falcons
I see three factors supporting New Orleans, but I did not deem them strong enough to warrant an official pick:
- The Falcons played last Monday, so they are getting one less day of preparation for such a difficult matchup in New Orleans.
- The Saints are looking to retaliate after suffering a 20-17 loss in Atlanta just two weeks ago.
- New Orleans will be at home for a third time over a 4-game period.
LEAN #2: Denver Broncos +3.5 at Washington Redskins
This one is more of a gut call since my statistical models suggest staying away, while there is a mix of good and bad factors for Denver.
First, the bad news. This is an early game, and the Broncos are coming from two time zones out west. Also, they’ve had to travel quite a bit of distance over the last five weeks (including this one), as they have gone in five different cities. They could be looking ahead to a meeting with divisional opponent Kansas City next week, but the same could be said about the Skins who will be visiting the Giants to end the season.
That being said, I strongly believe in having adequate preparation for a game, and in this case the Broncos are getting three extra days after playing last Thursday night.
My main argument concerns the current mindset of each team. After going through an awful 8-game skid, the Broncos are probably enjoying playing football again following a couple of nice wins. The same could NOT be said about the Redskins who got booed on multiple occasions last week in a 20-15 win over Arizona. The Cardinals dominated total yardage by a 286-218 mark. Time of possession also favored the Cards as they held the ball for 36 minutes on offense versus 24 minutes for Washington.
To top it all off, sharp action seems to support the Broncos. The line moved from 4 to 3.5 despite 55% of spread bets and 61% of money line bets going on the Redskins. I’m strongly considering betting this game, personally.
This write-up was longer than usual, but I hope you feel it was worth it. Remember that the #1 way to thank me for my free work is to use my affiliate links the next time you want to open an account with a new sportsbook. All you have to do is go to the “Sportsbook reviews” section, and click on the logo of the bookie you want to join. Once you sign up and make a deposit with them, they will reward me for bringing them a new customer. It won’t cost you a single penny to do so, compared to the case where you would just google the bookie’s website before signing up with them. Thanks a lot for those of you taking the short time to do it!
Ok so enjoy week #16 in the NFL, I’m sure we are about to watch some very exciting football, and most importantly I want to wish you a Merry Christmas! Enjoy your time with your family and the ones you love, this is always a great time of the year. Thanks for supporting me; we’ll talk again soon, cheers everyone!