On paper, there shouldn’t be many surprises this week. Six teams — New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks — are favored by more than a touchdown and four of those (Seahawks, Chiefs, Rams and Packers) are featured in games with point spreads of 10 points or more.
That doesn’t mean they all will cover, teams favored by 10 or more points are 10-8-1 against the spread in 2018, but it does mean they are likely to win (16-3 straight up).
Unfortunately there isn’t much of an edge to be had in these games, leading us to three other games where there is some value.
Prime pick success rate: 10-16-1
Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons (-1)
Pick: Baltimore Ravens +1
The Ravens defense is underappreciated. Baltimore is allowing 1.6 points per drive, the second-best mark in the NFL this season, and forces opponents to go three-and-out more than a third of the time (36 percent, third).
Keep an eye on outside linebacker Matt Judon. He had three sacks and five tackles last week against the Oakland Raiders and is fourth on the team in stops at or behind the line of scrimmage (19) this season.
Judon should have no trouble getting past Atlanta’s right tackle Ryan Schraeder, the lowest graded lineman on the Falcons per the game charters at Pro Football Focus. In addition, Schraeder has been saddled with a team-high seven sacks this season, as many as the next two linemen on the Falcons combined.
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans (-6)
Pick: Houston Texans -6
The Texans’ pass rush is well known by now — J.J. Watt (11.5 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney (seven sacks) are a headache for any offensive line — but Houston’s secondary is also good (11th best per Pro Football Focus), and that could be trouble for Baker Mayfield, the Browns’ rookie quarterback.
When Mayfield is allowed to get the ball out quick, in 2.5 seconds or less, his accuracy (71 percent completion rate) and overall production (100.7 passer rating) is formidable. However, when forced to sit longer in the pocket that wanes, resulting in a higher rate of incompletions and interceptions.
Indianapolis Colts (-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Indianapolis Colts -4
There was a time when the Jaguars defense was something to be feared. Not anymore. The team is giving up almost four more points per game on passes than expected based on the down, distance and field position of each throw, per TruMedia, and will have its hands full with quarterback Andrew Luck, who has been on fire during the Colts’ five-game win streak.
In that span Luck has completed 76 percent of his passes for 1,320 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions, including a robust 137.2 passer rating under pressure since Week 7. Marcus Mariota, with a 102.8 passer rating, is the next best passer since that time.
The three games above represent my best plays of the week because my analysis shows the point spreads are 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 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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