The Green Bay Packers got trounced by the Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins were humiliated by the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football and the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t score much against the Houston Texans, leading to an overall 5-9-1 record for the weekly prime picks.
You’d be right to label that record underwhelming and call for “fixes” to the model, but the high-edge games from 2017 did well enough for me to weather the storm for the short term. And, as noted previously, this has been a weird year in terms of betting trends, with teams garnering more than half of the money wagered posting a 23-38-1 record against the spread through the first four weeks of the season, the worst win rate since 2003. That’s not an excuse, but it is a fact that helps explain some of the poor performance.
If you aren’t ready to believe in the process quite yet you could always fade the picks. So you see? There is value even in getting things wrong!
With that in mind, here are this week’s prime picks against the consensus point spreads from multiple sports books in Vegas.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-1)
Pick: Carolina Panthers +1
Washington is coming off a humiliating loss to the New Orleans Saints on national television. Coach Jay Gruden told Les Carpenter the team has “a cloud looming over our head with issues we have to clean up,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said the “communication was horrible” and former teammate DeAngelo Hall thinks cornerback Josh Norman, the highest paid player at the position, is “in love with being a celebrity right now and not necessarily being a football player.”
The Panthers, meanwhile, score the seventh-most points per drive (2.3) and are the only team to convert 100 percent of their goal-to-go opportunities into touchdowns. Three of those scores were rushing touchdowns by quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton, by the way, is 4-0 against the Redskins, with 11 touchdowns (nine passing, two rushing) and zero interceptions for his career, producing a 115.4 passer rating against Washington.
Los Angeles Rams (-7) at Denver Broncos
Pick: Los Angeles Rams -7
The Broncos are allowing 5.2 yards per carry to opposing running backs this year, placing them 30th out of 32 teams, which rises to just 20th after adjusting for strength of schedule. And Denver’s defensive line is stopping rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage 18 percent of the time (23rd), a woefully low number considering they are up against two-time Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley.
Gurley has carried the ball 101 times for 415 yards and a league-leading seven rushing touchdowns in 2018, with 2.6 yards per carry occurring after contact. He’s only been stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage 14 times (14 percent) this season.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-3.5)
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs +3.5
It’s been hard to slow down the Chiefs offense this season. Kansas City is scoring over three points per drive, third-best in 2018, with a 76 percent conversion rate in the red zone. New England’s defense has been good, allowing 1.8 points per drive (1oth best), but after adjusting for opponent that efficiency falls to 19th, per Football Outsiders.
Plus, the Patriots have trouble getting to the passer, which is one of the few ways to slow Chiefs quarterback and MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, New England has the seventh-worst pass rush in the NFL this season and will face the ninth-best pass-blocking unit when they line up opposite Kansas City’s offensive line this week.
The three games above represent my best plays of the week because my analysis shows the point spreads are the most divergent from what I expect to happen once the teams take the field. One reason the house wins so often is because bettors try to make too many plays when the odds aren’t in their favor. This makes trying to pick every single NFL game something of a fool’s errand. The odds should be in my favor in the three games above, which is why I think they’re worth a bet. Below you’ll find our chart predicting the betting edge for every game.
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