2015 Week 6 NFL ATS Picks
Week 5 Review (Week 4-1, Season 15-10, All Time 161-135-2)
Week 5 marked the third 4-1 week of the season for this blog's weekly picks. As I wrote in last week's review, there's as much good luck in going 4-1 as there is bad luck in going 0-5 (which I did in Week 3). The theme of that review was variability. I hold a belief that the NFL is not a league of parity, but rather one of variability. On aggregate, the best teams will win consistently and predictably over time, but randomness over the course of single game can enable any team to win. For that reason, it's hard to look at a 4-1 week and say it's all skill. As I also mentioned last week, the NFL's variability drives a majority of the mispricings in the ATS market as fans and analysts alike confuse randomness with repeatable performances. My hope, as always, is that I am able to take advantages of those mispricings with my five weekly picks.
Week 6 Picks
Denver -4 @ Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns have posted some great looking offensive box scores over the past three weeks under McCown, scoring 20, 27, and 30 points. In each of those games, McCown threw for over 300 yards, which hasn’t exactly been a common thing for a Browns' QB to do over the years. As a result of this performance, the Browns have moved up in a lot of power rankings, but looks can be deceiving. During this three game stretch, McCown has faced consistent pressure against below average pass rushes, accumulating at least 4 sacks in each game. To combat the protection breakdowns, the Browns have relied heavily on screens to players like Duke Johnson, who averaged 7 receptions over this span. While it may seem like the Browns are clicking on offense, they are one good front seven and informed defensive gameplay away from laying a complete egg. Denver has both in spades, and I think they should be able to win comfortably on the road.
Tennessee -1.5 vs Miami
The Titans have outplayed expectations significantly this year and at the same time, still sit on a below average 2-3 record. I hate to play the “this team could be” game, but with two one score losses to playoff contenders, this team could be 4-1 if only late game breaks had gone their way. Conversely, Miami has completely underwhelmed expectations and haven't been competitive in multiple losses. Many people see value in the Philbin firing, but I see no reason, statistically or qualitatively, why we should expect a career TE coach to do a better job as head coach. I like Tennessee to right the ship at home.
Arizona -4 @ Pittsburgh
It's hard to preach against putting too much weight in randomness while also picking a team that has benefited more from turnovers and randomness than just about anyone else in the league over the past three seasons. I am still not ready to conclude that Arizona has found a secret formula to outperform their advanced metrics, but I am less inclined to conclude that Pittsburgh is a good team without Big Ben. While there may be a potential mismatch for Arizona in run defense against LeVeon Bell, overall, these teams are pretty far apart in terms of talent. It will be an exciting day when I get to pick against Arizona, but until then, I will happily take the value.
San Diego +10 @ Green Bay
Through the first five weeks, it looks like Green Bay's offense has been more effected by the loss of Jordy Nelson than I would have thought coming in to this year. Rodgers alone still makes this offense one of the scariest in the league, but it's not quite as explosive as it's been in years past. As a result, the Packers have relied on good defense and methodical offense. This sort of play generally leads to lower scores, which makes 10 points all the more valuable in this situation. I don't think San Diego has a realistic chance to win this game, but a 10 point line is not an accurate reflection of where either of these teams are.
Seattle -7 vs Carolina
This entire matchup can be summarized in three words--Strength of Schedule. Seattle has easily faced the most challenging schedule of any team in the league and as a result, have posted a very modest record. Carolina on the other hand has had the privilege of playing opponents with a combined record of 5-15 through the first five weeks of the season. This line reflects the fact that Seattle is a better team, but it doesn't go far enough. I think that Carolina, despite being undefeated, is actually a pretty average football team and I like Seattle to win big at home.