Thursday, November 13, 2014

NFL Week 11 Primer (With Picks): Year Of The Favorite?

The Broncos have been favored by over a touchdown (6.5 points or higher) a league-high seven times in nine games. More impressively, the perennial big favorites have covered in five of those seven contests.

 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

During last week's intro, we mentioned that what we once thought would be the Year of The Underdog turned out to, well, not be. The eight-week stretch running from Week 3 through Week 10 saw favorites go 55-45-2, but it was mostly incremental - going 7-6 or 8-7 in a given week.

Well, last week blew the doors open. Favorites were a jarring 10-3 against the spread, will all three underdog covers coming early - Thursday night (Cleveland) and two 1 o'clock Sunday games (the Jets and San Francisco), and all three underdogs won outright. That means that starting with the late games on Sunday, favorites swept, going 5-0, an absolute disaster for Vegas (the most bets/money always comes in on the 4:25 national game, the Sunday night game, and Monday night, and the public always prefers favorites).

Is there an overreaction this week? Maybe. There are some pretty big spreads (two over 10 points), and several between relatively even teams that you might expect to fall in the 3-5 point range, but instead see favorites laying a touchdown.

Underdog Update:
Last Week: 3-10
Season: 68-77-2
Home Dogs, Last Week: 1-3
Home Dogs, Season: 17-25-1

Game(s) of The Week:

Buffalo @ Miami (8:30 p.m. Thursday, NFL Network)

This might be our first official "Loser Leaves Town" game of the year. With the Patriots rolling, neither team is likely to win the division, and with the entire AFC North still competitive, plus the Chiefs and Chargers, being 5-5 through 11 weeks probably isn't good enough. Whoever wins will end up at 6-4 and still be in the thick of it.

Seattle @ Kansas City (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Who would have thought that Seattle would be the team that hit a few road bumps while Kansas City battled regression and remained one of the top teams in the conference? Kansas City has an epic run of gambling wins (more on that later), but over the last two years, this is the time of year that Seattle has started to kick ass and take names.

Cincinnati @ New Orleans (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

The battle of two teams that aren't nearly as good as they're supposed to be.

Philadelphia @ Green Bay (4:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

If Mark Sanchez's Monday Night performance wasn't a fluke, this could be an barn-burner for the ages. Philadelphia should be able to run on Green Bay's 30th-ranked run defense, and Aaron Rodgers: Quarterback God should be able to throw all over Philadelphia's secondary. Forget the spread, bet the over.

Detroit @ Arizona (4:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Two elite defenses against two shaky quarterbacks. Arizona's pass defense is a little hit-or-miss - they're 30th in yards allowed, but lead the league with 14 interceptions. Whether or not they can bait Matt Stafford into a few turnovers should be the difference.

New England @ Indianapolis (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

The crown jewel. Sunday Night games have been disappointing this year. They've all been blowouts. Packers 55-14 over Chicago. Pittsburgh 43-23 over Baltimore. New Orleans 44-23 over Green Bay. Denver 42-17 over San Francisco. Philadelphia 27-0 over New York. New England 43-17 over Cincinnati. Dallas 38-17 over New Orleans. Pittsburgh 37-19 over Carolina. Week 2 was a close game (Chicago 28-20 over San Francisco), but unwatchable. The only truly good game of the year was Week 1 - Denver over Indianapolis. Hopefully Week 11 brings another good one.

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

CLEVELAND (-3.5) over Houston

JC: Brian Hoyer vs. Ryan Mallett: The Battle of Former New England Backups Who Never Played But May Be Better Than Anyone Realized. I'll take Hoyer because we've actually seen him be good.

JP: The Browns are coming off a monumental win over a divisional opponent that put them in the thick of the playoff race… Oh crap, the last time they did that they lost to the Jags the next week, didn't they? Oh well, I think Cleveland has learned its lesson, and I'll go with Brian Hoyer over Ryan Mallett in the "I used to be Tom Brady's backup" bowl.

Minnesota (+3.5) over CHICAGO

JC: An idea to possibly roll with for awhile - Chicago might be just absolutely terrible. Two of their three wins are Atlanta and the Jets, and they've lost their last three games by a combined score of 133-51. Let's pick against them for the next few weeks and see what happens.

JP: Chicago is just a mess right now, so I don't know if I'd give points with them against anybody, even the Vikings.

Seattle (+1) over KANSAS CITY

JC: After losing Week 1, Kansas City has won eight straight games against the spread (according to the lines we've used on Thursdays, as opposed to the closing lines right before kickoff). The gravy train has to end sometime.

JP: KC has been insanely good against the spread, but I like Seattle to find itself again and shoot back to "contender" status this week with a nice road win.

Denver (-10) over ST. LOUIS

JC: St. Louis was right in that game last week until the Cardinals put up 21 fourth-quarter points. St. Louis might be the best bad team in the league (it's between them and Houston), but Denver might be the best team in the league, period.

JP: The Rams being at home might help them, but chances are it will help Peyton Manning, who knows a thing or two about winning in domes, even more. 

San Francisco (-4.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

JC: Is San Francisco back, or did they just get hilariously lucky with a blown coverage on 4th-and-10, a preposterous offensive pass interference call on a game-winning hail mary, and a turnover in overtime? Either way, the Giants are dead last in rush defense, so Frank Gore should have a field day.

JP: Niners are coming off a huge road win in New Orleans and the Giants have lost four in a row, all by double-digits.

Oakland (+10.5) over SAN DIEGO

JC: Another theory to try out - while Oakland might not be able to actually win games, they don't suck against the spread. They played San Diego close once already, and San Diego has been outscored 72-21 in their last two games. 10 points might be a little steep.

JP: Ok, I know Oakland is terrible, but this is the same San Diego team that lost 37-0 to Miami the last time they took the field, right? 

GREEN BAY (-6.5) over Philadelphia

JC: Cool win, Mark Sanchez. Now let's let the real quarterback show you how it's done.

JP: Each of these teams is coming off a huge win over an opponent in total disarray, but I trust Aaron Rodgers at home far more than I trust Mark Sanchez on the road.

Detroit (+1.5) over ARIZONA

JC: Wait a minute, Arizona is giving points to the most dominant defense in the league with Drew Stanton starting at quarterback?

JP: Yeah, had to do a double-take on that line, especially with Megatron getting healthy, I like the Lions against the beaten and battered Cardinals.

New England (+2.5) over INDIANAPOLIS

JC: The Patriots are coming off a bye and have been the best team in football over the last five weeks. The Colts have surrendered 75 points and nearly 1100 yards in their last two games. Whoever wins has the inside track to a first-round bye, and, call me a massive homer, but I think the Patriots are just better right now.

JP: Any time I can pick the Patriots and get points, I do.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) over TENNESSEE

JC: If you can figure out the Steelers, I'll give you $1000. They blow out Carolina on the road, then lose to Tampa Bay at home. They tread water for a few weeks, then explode on offense, scoring 94 points in two weeks against two pretty good teams. Then against a pass defense that entered the game with a 24:1 Touchdown-to-Interception ratio against, they mustered 13 points and lost. I really have no idea, but it seems like favorites are winning these days, so I'll lay the points.

JP: Dude, I don't know. Sure.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: MIAMI (-6) over Buffalo

Both teams are 5-4, but Miami has the more impressive resume. Their +6.2 average scoring margin is 8th-best in the league, the Bills' +1.0 is just 17th-best. The Bills really only have two blowout wins on the season - Week 2 against Miami and Week 8 against the Jets (and that was only thanks to a combined +8 turnover margin combined in those two games). In a game in which there isn't an absurd turnover disparity, Miami should take care of business.

JP: Buffalo (+6) over MIAMI

I actually believe in the Dolphins more after their last-minute loss in Detroit, but I think Buffalo is solid as well. With Fred Jackson back in the lineup, the Bills should find some much needed balance and keep this thing close enough.

JC: CAROLINA (-1.5) over Atlanta

Carolina got butchered on Monday night, surrendering nine sacks and committing five turnovers. But when Cam Newton stayed upright and they didn't turn the ball over, they were able to move the ball with reasonable effectiveness. Against an Atlanta defense with an anemic pass rush (just 11 sacks in nine games), Carolina's offense should get back on track.

JP: Atlanta (+1.5) over CAROLINA

Man, who would've thought these two would be so bad… Whatever, gimme the points and a team coming off a win.

JC: NEW ORLEANS (-7.5) over Cincinnati

I think I'm just going to go down with the ship. I'm taking New Orleans every week.

JP: Cincinnati (+7.5) over NEW ORLEANS

The Bengals need a win in the worst way, and New Orleans' offense has been quietly streaky. If they play a bad stretch of football, Cincy could win this one outright, but either way I like it to be within a touchdown.

JC: WASHINGTON (-7) over Tampa Bay

According to SRS, Tampa Bay is the worst team in the league. They're 30th in scoring margin, but because of their comically easy schedule (the NFC South is by far the weakest division), that dips them below the Raiders and Jaguars, who actually have to compete with good teams in their division.

JP: Tampa Bay (+7) over WASHINGTON

I hate both of these teams, but I just don't feel comfortable giving a touchdown with RG3 and Washington right now, even at home. Even against Tampa Bay.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 6-7
Season: 72-73-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-2
Season's Disagreements: 19-24

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-6
Season: 77-68-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-1
Season's Disagreements: 24-19

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