The NFL picks market is full of small sample sizes. Often, we see the majority of NFL bettors decide their picks against the spread based on what they saw the previous week. Seeing as how the NFL is riddled with small samples, it’s easy to fall prey to recency bias. So how can we distance ourselves from the pack and make smart wagers? By determining which teams might have gotten lucky by using regression to the mean in some statistical areas. I’ll attempt to pinpoint teams who are worth a play and those who are worth a fade going forward. Using these analytical metrics, we can put together our NFL Week 7 picks.
There’s no other way to put it; Week 6 was a disaster. Unlike last week, I didn’t have the rest of the PFN betting crew picking up my slack, and overall we lost some units. You can read about all of our successes and failures in the Sheep Report. I got a lot wrong, so I’ll make my recaps as short as possible.
Week 6 NFL Picks Recap
This was an early play by me, which ended up being dead wrong. I thought the narrative that Kirk Cousins can’t beat good teams could drive this line towards Minnesota, but I was wrong. The net yards per play “model” I use had Minnesota as a 13 point favorite after factoring in home-field advantage; they won by 18. Bad early week read by me, and we got punished.
I ignored the fact that it was a short week for Cleveland and a week of extra rest for the Seattle Seahawks. I knew the value would be with Cleveland after they got embarrassed on Monday Night Football. Net yards per play had Cleveland as roughly a three-point favorite, so I wasn’t wrong. That said, I talked up Russell Wilson all week as the best quarterback in the league, and I put real American dollars against him. Hand me my gills please, for I bet against Wilson with the CLEVELAND BROWNS. I hate simplifying a handicap to that degree, but it’s true. I don’t have a defense for it.
I didn’t pick the Cowboys straight up but did include them in my teaser with Cleveland. It was a straight-up “donkey” move by myself. I put so much emphasis on trench play, and yet I went against that with this pick. Both La’el Collins and Tyron Smith missed this game, which no doubt had an impact on the outcome. I even said in my handicap that you had to throw out all data from this year regarding the New York Jets because Sam Darnold had played just one game before this weekend.
One last red flag I should have seen was the Cowboys being in teaser range. Sports Books know how lucrative teasers are, and yet they kept Dallas within that optimal teaser formula (seven down to one.) That’s not to say sportsbooks “set a trap” for the public, just that it was telling they were comfortable taking a stand with New York. I need to be more conscious of what sportsbooks are saying in the future.
Kansas City Chiefs
Here is another case where I completely ignored trench play. The Chiefs ended up missing both starters on the left side as well as Chris Jones on the defensive line. That should’ve been a red flag considering they had to deal with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. I liked the head coaching advantage I got, but that shouldn’t have been enough to warrant a bet against Deshaun Watson, especially with Kansas City missing their best defensive lineman.
NFL Week 7 Picks
NFL spreads are tough. When people say it’s the most efficient betting market there is, they aren’t just talking out of their ass. I’m not trying to excuse my poor picks, just pointing out that the best handicappers in the world lose 40% of their bets. There’s no telling when those losses will occur either. All we can do is continue to search for value and make smart wagers based on the information we have. With that said, let’s see what NFL Week 7 picks we can put together to make a profit.
I mentioned last week the net yards per play model I use in my process to calculate point spreads. It crushed again in Week 6, going 8-3-3. I plan on sharing it in this space each week, so you can see what I see when I attempt to evaluate point spreads. You can read more about using net yards per play to predict point spreads in Adam Chernoff’s article.
Calculated spreads and actual spreads are relative to the home team
|Road Team||Spread Value||Home Team||Spread Value||Calculated Spread (neutral field)||Home Field||Calc spread w/ Home Field||Actual Spread (Pinnacle)|
|Los Angeles Rams||2||Atlanta Falcons||-0.5||+2.5||2||+0.5||+3|
|Miami Dolphins||-13.5||Buffalo Bills||5||-18.5||3||-21.5||-16.5|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||0.5||Cincinnati Bengals||-8||+8.5||1.5||+7||+4|
|Minnesota Vikings||7.5||Detroit Lions||-1||+8.5||2.5||+6||+1|
|Oakland Raiders||-0.5||Green Bay Packers||-1||+0.5||3.5||-3||-5.5|
|Houston Texans||2||Indianapolis Colts||-4.5||+6.5||2||+4.5||-1|
|Arizona Cardinals||-3.5||New York Giants||-4||+0.5||2||-1.5||-3|
|San Francisco 49ers||8||Washington Redskins||-3||+11||1.5||+9.5||+10|
|Los Angeles Chargers||0||Tennessee Titans||-1.5||+1.5||1.5||PICK||-2|
|New Orleans Saints||0||Chicago Bears||-1||+1||3||-2||-3.5|
|Baltimore Ravens||-1||Seattle Seahawks||0||-1||3||-4||-3.5|
|Philadelphia Eagles||-2||Dallas Cowboys||7||-9||2||-11||-3|
|New England Patriots||7||New York Jets||-7.5||+14.5||2.5||+12||+10|
Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
I was ready to hop on this over as one of my NFL Week 7 picks on Monday before I realized the Giants offense was reeling with injuries. I wanted to see what their practice reports looked like before I took a stance. Well, on Wednesday, both Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley were full participants in practice. Sterling Shepard could still be weeks away, from what I’ve read, but having Engram and Barkley back was enough for me to feel comfortable with the over.
Arizona leads the league in total pace and situation neutral pace while ranking 5th in pass attempts. New York ranks 8th and 11th in total pace and situation neutral pace, and 8th in pass attempts. New York should have some success in pressuring Kyler Murray, but the rookie is athletic and elusive enough to make plays when the pocket breaks down.
On the other side of the field, Daniel Jones should enjoy a clean pocket thanks to their 11th overall rank in Football Outsider’s adjusted sack rate. Both secondaries are bottom five in pass defense DVOA, so I don’t see any reason to think Murray and Jones won’t have success here.
Two points to the contrary, the first is it’s a 1 PM Eastern game for Arizona, so they could come out sluggish. The second is that it’s an outdoors game, so you won’t have the luxury of a more offensive friendly dome environment. That isn’t enough to get me off of the over, however.
NFL Pick: ARZ/NYG O 49, -110, 1U
Los Angeles Chargers at Tennessee Titans
I tend to stay away from the “extreme” ends of totals and spreads. I feel, however, I have left a lot of value on the table in automatically crossing them off. With that said, this is one of the lower totals on the board, and I am comfortable with the under here.
There has been a QB change in Tennessee, and to be honest, it doesn’t matter. I consider Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill a wash, which means Tennessee should still aim to run the same plodding offense they have been all season. There is a chance they try to mix things up with a new signal-caller, but I have to see it before I believe it. The Titans rank 10th in rush attempts on the year, something I don’t expect to change too much.
The Titans and Chargers are bottom 10 in total pace in situation neutral pace, with the Chargers ranking last in the latter. Los Angeles is 4th in pass attempts on the year, but that is mitigated by their snail-like pace. Tennessee has the 12th ranked DVOA pass defense, and an advantage in the trenches, so I don’t expect Los Angeles to have success moving the ball through the air. I’m on the under here for one unit.
NFL Pick: LAC/TEN U 39.5, -110 1U
Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers
I haven’t bought into the Packers as a “true” 5-1 team as the underlying metrics suggest they should be closer to 0.500 at this point. In terms of yards per play differential, these teams are about even. After factoring in the home-field advantage, I have Green Bay as a three-point favorite. The spread opened at (-7) and has since been bet down to (-5.5) in favor of Green Bay. While there isn’t as much value as the opening spread, I still think Oakland is a bet this week at a number greater than three.
The Raiders have fielded a top 10 offensive line this year, according to Football Outsiders. Green Bay’s defensive line is 30th so far in adjusted line yards, so the Raiders should have success moving the ball with Josh Jacobs. The Packers’ pass defense has been their strength, but I think that will be wasted here given Darren Waller is the Raider’s only viable receiving target. Derek Carr has had a quick release as well, ranking 6th in NFL’s Next Gen Stats time to throw metric (2.52 seconds), which will mitigate the Packers pass rush.
On the Green Bay side, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison could miss this contest. They didn’t hold a regular practice on Wednesday, but if they did, Marquez Valdes-Scantling wouldn’t have participated. The Raiders rank 7th in defensive line adjusted line yards, so they should be able to keep Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams in check. Aaron Rodgers will have his moments, but overall I expect the Green Bay offense to struggle to move the ball.
I’m on the under here as well. Oakland ranks 31st in total pace and 25th in situation neutral pace. Green Bay is 31st and 15th in both regards. I think both teams lean towards the run in this game, which bodes well for the under.
Pick: OAK/GB U 47, -110 1U
OAK +5.5 -110 0.7U
OAK ML +195 0.3U
I was tepid on this at first because of the juice (-115). I still think it’s worth it though. Net ypp has the Jaguars as an 8.5 point favorite on a neutral field. I only give the Cincinnatti Bengals 1.5 points for home-field advantage, so this spread should be Jacksonville (-7).
What sold me on laying the juice is the Bengals injuries. Two starting cornerbacks and three offensive linemen are expected to miss this game. The Jaguars rank 12th in adjusted sack rate, so they should have their way with the Bengals offensive line. As for the Bengals secondary, I don’t see how they have a prayer of covering Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark.
The Jaguars are a good team. They got their asses beat last week by the Saints, but I expect a bounce-back here against a team vying for the first overall pick. I don’t delve into the psychological aspect too much, but there could be some relief on Jaguars players after the Jalen Ramsey trade. They won’t have that cloud lingering over them anymore and can finally get back to just football.
I said on the Twitter account to seel to (-4.5) if you can for a better price. If you can’t, I’m still fine with this pick.
NFL Pick: Jaguars (-4.5) (-115) 1U
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
I decided to hop on this total after the Saints injury news became clear. They will be without Tre’Quan Smith, Jared Cook and most importantly, Alvin Kamara. Even with the Beats missing Akiem Hicks, I don’t see how the Saints move the ball here.
On the other side, the Saints themselves have been very stout on the defensive side of the ball. According to Warren Sharp, they have faced the 6th most difficult schedule of opposing offenses, yet have managed a respectable 17th ranking in defensive yards per play. Both teams play at a slow pace and both can get to the QB. I just don’t see how either offense has much success here. 38 is low, but I’m comfortable taking the under here.
I would lean Chicago on the spread as well, but it isn’t an official play. I’ve been snake bitten going against Teddy Bridgewater too much. The Bears seem like the right side though.
NFL Pick: NO/CHI U 38, -110 1U
That’s it for my NFL Week 7 picks. Good luck, and let’s hope we’re profitable again. Be sure to follow the PFN All-Access Twitter account (@PFN365AA) for live updates, Ben Rolfe’s totals article, Chris Smith’s article, Jason Sarney’s player props article and listen to the Against the Spread podcast with Jason Sarney and Ryan Gosling for more NFL picks!
James Aguirre is a writer for PFN covering NFL betting and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter @PFN_James.