2015 Week 14 NFL ATS Picks
Week 13 Review (Week 5-0, Season 35-29-1, All Time 181-154-3)
It would be impossible to talk about Week 13 without first mentioning the Aaron Rodger's Hail Mary against the Lions. After watching the Ravens win on a blocked field goal, it seemed like perfect restitution to see the Packers win on an incredibly lucky sequence just three days later. Together, the Browns and Packers games speak to the parity and randomness of individual games in the NFL. If it can happen, it will happen. However, on a macro level, Week 13 also proved how little week-over-week parity there has been in the NFL this year. The good teams are significantly better than the bad teams (in DVOA terms), which we were given a sense of in the Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Arizona games. In each of these games, the 'sharp money' was on the large underdog, and in each game, the underdog lost by over 20 points in a through dismantling. Normally, I see a lot of value in large underdogs, but this season, the market simply can't stomach lines large enough to compensate for the disparity between the top and the bottom. 11 points for Baltimore, 10 points for San Diego, or 8 points for Atlanta seem attractive, but they are simply not wide enough. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out over the next several weeks.
Week 14 picks
Buffalo PK @ Philadelphia
The Eagles picked up a bit of support from their Week 13 upset of the New England Patriots. While the Eagles have picked up some support, the market has widely accepted the obvious flukiness of a game in which the Eagles won, but needed three non-offensive touchdowns and were out-gained significantly. I think the flukiness of the game tempered the reaction to the upset and Philadelphia is being appropriately valued. However, I also think Buffalo is being significantly undervalued. Tyrod Taylor is a difference maker in their offense. The Bills have been offensively prolific when Taylor is healthy, but there hasn't been much appreciation of that fact. I think the Bills are a much better team than the Eagles, and I like them to win.
Cleveland -2.5 vs San Francisco
Blaine Gabbert has exceeded expectations for the San Francisco 49ers. He has played at an acceptable level for a lower tier starting quarterback. That may sound harsh, but it's a surprise and compliment given what he put on film in Jacksonville. The 49ers' defense has also played better, and overall, the team has looked below average, but perhaps competitive. While the 49ers have been better, they are still lightyears away from being good. They have significant holes on both sides of the ball, most notably in their pass offense and defense. The Browns have not been great, but they are still better than the 49ers. The Browns' difficult schedule is making them look worse than they are, and I like them to win at home.
Jacksonville PK vs Indianapolis
It's hard to fault Matt Hasselback for how he has played this season. Without his leadership and performances, Indianapolis wouldn't be first place in the AFC South. However, last week Hasselback looked his age for the first time all season and after five games it appears he may be wearing down. Even with a fully healthy QB, the Colts' offense has been one of the worst in the league. The Jaguars have many struggles of their own, but scoring is not one of them. If the Colts can't dictate the tempo of this game, they will find themselves in an un-winable shootout with the Jaguars. I like Jacksonville to win at home.
Oakland +7 (120) @ Denver
The Broncos have been one of my favorite teams of the year. Despite controversy on offense, defense has carried the Broncos to the second best record in the AFC. Unfortunately, that defense is beginning to crack due to significant injuries and a hint of mean regression. It really couldn't come at a worse time either, as the Kubiak offense hasn't been overly effectively. I think the Raiders will be able to move the ball consistently against the Broncos, and I don't think Brock Osweiller will be effective enough to maintain a seven point lead. I still lean slightly to a Denver victory, but like the Raiders to cover.
New England -3.5 (EV) @ Houston
In what has become an annual storyline, J.J. Watt's greatness is making an otherwise mediocre Texan defense intimidating. As a result, the Texans have come roaring back into the playoff race after starting the season poorly. Given the injuries to the Patriots' offense, this looks like a great spot for the Texans to pull off a defensive upset--but looks can be deceiving.
Despite loosing its weapons and half its offensive line, the Patriot offense has actually maintained a very high level of play. Over the last three games, Brady hasn't thrown for less than 277 yards and has accumulated 7 TDs to only 3 INTs. If that is the Patriots offense at its worse, then the Texans' defense is in for a long day. While the Patriots are sustaining injuries offensively, they are actually getting healthier defensively. For the first time in nearly two months, the Patriots should have Jamie Collins and Donta Hightower on the field at the same time. The sideline-to-sideline range of both players gives the Patriots a versatility that will certainly trip up Hoyer. There will be an interesting dynamic seeing Hoyer and O'Brian go up against Bellichick, but overall, I think the Texans will simply be overmatched.