NFL Picks Week #4 (2019 regular season)

NFL PICKS (WEEK #4)

BY PROFESSOR MJ

University Professor. PhD in stats. Proud dad of 2 boys.

 

 

 

Successful Week #3!

We got back on our feet last weekend with a 2-1 record. It looked like we were going to go 3-0 when the Chargers held a 10-point lead at halftime, but they completely collapsed in the second half.

We got the best of both worlds in the Cincinnati-Buffalo game! The Bills won the game, which is great for our big bet on Buffalo to win at least 7 games this season. Also, one of our official picks was Cincinnati +6, which also won since they only lost by a 4-point margin. That was the perfect scenario!!

Let’s move on to this week’s picks!

Official Picks

PICK #1: Houston Texans -4 vs Carolina Panthers (rated 3 stars)

Cam Newton is still out for the Panthers, so Kyle Allen gets a second consecutive start for Carolina. He played well in a 38 to 20 victory against the Cardinals. But that was Arizona, a team whose defense is among the worst in the league.

Things will be very different at Houston this Sunday. And keep in mind that Allen was signed as an undrafted free agent, so he’s not necessarily a top prospect.

After traveling close to 2,000 miles to Arizona, the Panthers must now travel 1,000 miles to Houston. That’s not the best-case scenario in terms of getting some much needed rest.

According to SportsbookReview.com, the average bet size on Carolina this week has been $47 compared to $65 on the Texans. That’s one of the biggest differences in Week #4. Perhaps the big “whales” (i.e. the big and presumably smart bettors) are putting their money on Houston.

Kenny Stills, recently acquired from the Dolphins, is slowly developing a good chemistry with DeShaun Watson. He had his best game of the season last week by catching 4 passes for 89 yards. That’s a good sign for Houston because they need him and Will Fuller to take some pressure off DeAndre Hopkins who often draws double coverage.

PICK #2: Arizona Cards +5 vs Seattle Seahawks (rated 3 stars)

One of the arguments in favor of the Cards is the revenge factor, as they lost both meetings to the Seahawks last year: 20-17 at home and 27-24 on the road. As you can see, both matchups were very tight. If you go beyond those two games, you’ll realize that the past six meetings involving these two divisional rivals ended with a 6-point margin or less.

Seattle has not been very impressive thus far, despite a 2-1 record. They squeaked by the Bengals at home with a one-point victory, they beat the 0-3 Steelers without Big Ben at quarterback, and they underwent a disappointing loss at home against New Orleans who was without Drew Brees.

Meanwhile, the Cards tied the unbeaten Detroit Lions and they only lost by 6 points in Baltimore. Last week’s 38 to 20 loss to Carolina is source for concern, though. But facing a division rival at home may be what the doctor ordered. Kyler Murray will be looking for his first NFL win in front of his home crowd.

Also note that Arizona will be playing at home for a third time in four meetings. They haven’t had to travel too much so far in 2019.

Only 37% of the wagers were placed on the Cards, but 46% of the total money. That indicates the larger bets were placed on Arizona. Indeed, the average bet size is $52 on Seattle versus $74 on Arizona.

The Cards are 4-0-1 against the spread in their past five meetings with the Seahawks.

Most bookies have the Cards as 5-point underdogs, but Bookmaker has a 5.5 point spread.

PICK #3: Cleveland Browns +7 at Baltimore Ravens (rated 1 star)

What? A 7-point spread in a game between division rivals whose talent level is roughly the same? Give me the underdog!

Last week I picked the Bengals +6 at the Bills even though there weren’t many betting angles suggesting to bet them. It just came from my own assessment of how the game would play out. The same thing is occurring in this game. Divisional matchups often lead to hard-fought and tight games, and that’s what I expect in this one. Last year, Cleveland beat Baltimore by 3 points, while the Ravens got their revenge later on with a 2-point victory.

Cleveland’s struggles have been much talked about and publicized. I feel like it has inflated the line on the Browns.

I know, I know. Baker Mayfield has not looked good so far. He has thrown 3 TD passes versus 5 interceptions, and he has completed just 57% of his passes. Do you really expect him to struggle that much all season long? I don’t. That’s another example of “regressing to the mean”; his numbers have been subpar and they will certainly improve until the rest of the season. I have no doubt about that. But right now people are judging him based on his first three games of the season.

The Browns still have many dangerous weapons on offense with Nick Chubb (who has looked good so far), Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. And their defense is above average. They were missing four starters in the secondary but still held the Rams to just 20 points. Now, they are expected to get Damarious Randall back and they have two more guys, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who are questionable to play.

Basically, I’m trying to tell you that the Browns are being underrated. And on the other side, I feel like the Ravens are getting overrated. First, they crushed the abysmal Miami Dolphins. Fine. Then, it wasn’t that easy beating the Cards at home in a 23 to 17 victory. Then, at first sight it might seem like they came close to beating the Chiefs in a 33-28 loss, but remember they were down 30 to 13 through the first three quarters. Lamar Jackson threw a couple of very wild and erratic passes that were miraculously caught, otherwise Kansas City would have beaten them pretty easily.

Everybody got all excited over Lamar Jackson’s first two games. Which teams did he face? The Dolphins and the Cardinals, two of the worst defenses in the NFL. He didn’t look so good against a more respectable defense last week by completing just 51% of his passes.

I’m taking the Browns and the 7 points. Thank you!

Unofficial Picks

LEAN #1: Philadelphia Eagles +4.5 at Green Bay Packers

The Eagles’ backs are up against the wall. Sitting at 1-2 while Dallas owns a perfect 3-0 record, Philadelphia must win this game. They’ve lost their past two games, including a very disappointing home loss to the Lions. I do expect them to rebound and give everything they’ve got.

It would be an understatement to claim the Eagles have not played up to expectations thus far. They were among the NFC favorites to make it to the Super Bowl with a loaded offense and a tough defense, especially their defensive line. Meanwhile, the Packers have surprised a lot of people with their 3 wins this season, and I believe they are not as talented as their record shows.

So, on one hand you’ve got a team that has disappointed, and another that is probably overrated by the betting public right now. As a contrarian, I’m going to put my money on the cold team.

Injuries are obviously a concern for the Eagles, especially at wide receiver. DeSean Jackson is likely out for this game, but Alshon Jeffery has a real shot at suiting up this Thursday. That would be a big boost to Philadelphia’s offense since Nelson Agholor has not done well as the number one guy and tight end Dallas Goedert has disappointed thus far with just two catches and a bad drop in the end zone last week.

Still, the Eagles’ offense has a lot of weapons. Carson Wentz is an elite quarterback and he has a very respectable backfield with Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles and rookie Miles Sanders. Tight end Zach Ertz is also very tough to defend.

Even though the Packers’ defense has done extremely well this year by allowing no more than 16 points in all three games, I feel they are going to regress to the mean and allow enough points for Philadelphia to cover the spread, or even win the game.

Notice that both Packers running backs are banged up, as Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones were listed as limited participants in practice Monday. They should be ready to go, but they are not super healthy either.

Green Bay will be playing a third straight home game, which is good for the rest factor.

Here is an interesting statistic: the Packers are 49-30 against the spread as home favorites since Aaron Rodgers took over in 2008. That 62% success rate ranks first in the NFL over that time period.

Still, I’m going with the Eagles. I find it difficult to bet against a very desperate team, especially when this squad has so much talent. Take advantage of this play while the Eagles have lost the bettors’ confidence, which has definitely impacted the line. I do believe there is much less than a 50% chance that Green Bay wins by 5 points or more, so I’m betting Philadelphia in this one.

LEAN #2: New England -7 at Buffalo Bills

New England’s first three opponents have a combined 0-9 record. Buffalo’s first three opponents have a combined 1-8 record. Finally a meaningful game for both squads!

If I had to summarize in one sentence why I’m taking the Patriots in this one, it would go like this: do you really want to bet against a mastermind like Bill Belichick facing a young and error-prone quarterback?

Sure, I feel like Buffalo doesn’t get enough credit. They are better than what most people think. But they are not in the same class as New England just yet. Let’s be honest, the Bills could be 1-2 right now. They came back from a 16-point deficit to beat the Jets and they needed a late touchdown to beat Cincinnati last week.

As the season progresses Buffalo might close the gap with the Pats, but not yet. They still have some learning to do, and they might learn the hard way this Sunday.

Obviously, I’m rooting for the Bills to win this game to help my $10,000 bet on them to win at least 7 games this year, but I don’t see it as very likely. It’s going to be extremely loud at New Era Field, but Tom Brady has enough experience to stay poised and do his thing.

LEAN #3: Miami Dolphins +16.5 vs Los Angeles Chargers

Wait, what? I’m picking the Dolphins after telling you last week they had perhaps one of the worst rosters in the history of the NFL?

Yes, because I believe the linesmakers are exaggerating with such a big spread. A couple of weeks ago, Miami was an 18-point underdog at home against the Pats. Now facing a much less stronger team, the line is just 1.5 points lower? Give me Miami, then!

The Dolphins played the Cowboys very tough in the first half. They were down 10-6 and driving in Dallas territory. It looked like they were going to go at halftime with the lead when Kenyon Drake made a criticial fumble at the 7-yard line. That seemed to break Miami’s backs.

The Chargers have looked shaky thus far. They are 1-2 with their only win in overtime at home against the Colts. Maybe losing their two All-Pro safeties, Derwin James and Adrian Phillips, as well as their star running back Melvin Gordon who is still holding out, is indeed hurting Los Angeles big time.

LEAN #4: Oakland Raiders +7 at Indianapolis Colts

The Raiders will be looking to avenge a 42-28 loss against the Colts last season. They are also going to try to rebound from a poor outing in Minnesota last week.

Derek Carr has been pretty good this year, despite a 1-2 record. But losing to the Chiefs and in Minnesota is nothing to be ashamed of. He has completed 74% of his passes this season.

I felt very bad for the Colts fans when Andrew Luck announced his retirement a few weeks before the season began. What a tough blow. So I’m happy for them that Indianapolis is off to a nice 2-1 start, where their only loss came in overtime at the Chargers. They have done some nice things, but here is one more case of a team that I feel has overachieved thus far.

Indy’s best wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, left the game last week with a quad injury. His status is uncertain, but I’ve read he is more on the “doubtful side of questionable” for Week #4. Even if he plays, who knows how effective he will be.

To me, the spread should be much smaller than this. In my opinion, the Colts have much less than a 50% probability of beating the Raiders by 8 points or more.

 

I hope you found this article insightful, thanks for reading and we’ll talk again very soon!

Professor MJ

(Sports Betting Expert / University Professor / PhD in statistics)