Last week’s picks went 2-2 with winners coming from the Arizona/Philly teaser as well as the under in the Steelers/Jags game. Whereas the under in Steelers road games trend continued its dominance, they did finally show up as a double-digit favorite ending a long-lasting trend as an ats loser.
The topic of this week is trying to see if we can find value in the awful NFC East division. All four teams have three wins but the Eagles have the ever so slight division lead because of their tie against the Bengals. Currently, at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Eagles are +155, Dallas +250, Giants +325, and Washington +425 to win the NFC East.
|Team||DVOA||Wins||Estimated Wins||Past Schedule||Future Schedule|
Looking at how these teams have performed against their respective schedules, we can see that essentially the Giants and Cowboys have performed the best on a schedule-adjusted basis. Washington has the best DVOA rank but that’s against the second-easiest schedule in the NFL, while the Eagles are the worst DVOA-ranked NFC East team with the sixth-easiest NFL schedule.
But looking forward, the Cowboys and Giants have by far the easiest path to win the division. Dallas faces the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL the rest of the way and that includes out of division games at Baltimore, Cincinnati, and home against San Francisco. Seeing as how Joe Burrow is now out for the season and the Niners are hanging by a thread with injuries up and down that roster, this future schedule looks even easier than projected.
I have Dallas as a definite favorite in two games (vs Washington and at Cincinnati) and potentially a favorite at home against San Francisco, Philadelphia, and maybe at the Giants to end the season. At worst, Dallas will not be an underdog by more than 3/3.5 points in any game the rest of the way out.
They are also getting healthier along the offensive line where center Joe Looney and star guard Zach Martin (who played tackle last week) have returned to solidify things. After getting abused early in the season, this Dallas OL has only allowed a total of three sacks and 22 pressures on 78 dropbacks (28% pressure rate) in their last two against the ferocious Steelers pass rush and the Vikings.
Andy Dalton isn’t Dak Prescott but he is potentially the best QB in the division as we speak. In addition, this defense that has been torched early in the season is starting to play well enough to win games. They rank 10th in EPA per play in their last three games, including having to face the Steelers and Vikings. Turnovers, which typically regress to the middle of the pack, have started to go the Cowboys’ way as well. After generating only three total takeaways and giving the ball away 16 times in the first seven games, Dallas has six takeaways and only five giveaways since.
Whereas the Cowboys should be favored in at least two games but potentially the rest of their games, the Giants have one (this week at Cincinnati) but Philadelphia and Washington most likely will not be favored the rest of this season. With Dallas, I get by far the softest schedule, either the best or second-best quarterback in the division, an improving defense, and an offense that is now healthy and full of weapons. Give me Dallas at +250 to win the NFC East.
Week 12 Best Bets
Detroit Lions +3 vs Houston Texans
I am not ready to crown the Texans after beating Jacksonville twice and surviving last week against New England. As bad as the Lions offense looked last week., the Texans still have the 29th-ranked DVOA defense and are 29th in explosive play percentage allowed even though they got to face the Browns with hurricane style winds. This also fits an angle for me that I have always liked to back and that is backing teams off a shutout loss. Since 2015, teams are 19-5-1 ats (79%) off a shutout loss. Give me the home team off the shutout against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons +3.5 vs Las Vegas Raiders
Let’s be fair, the Raiders have been tremendous on offense this season, ranking seventh in DVOA and 14th overall in DVOA as a team. This is a team that I pegged prior to the season as a potential dark horse in the AFC but that their difficult schedule held me back. I do also hold a Derek Carr MVP ticket at 85-1 from June, so I am well aware of the capabilities of this team.
However, this is clearly a situation of a team playing the Chiefs to the wire on a primetime spot last week and getting too much love. The Falcons struggled against the No. 3 ranked DVOA defense in New Orleans and lost Julio Jones early in that game. They went from leading 9-6 midway through the second quarter to not scoring the rest of the game when Jones went out.
But against a Raiders defense that ranks dead last in the NFL in points per drive allowed while also ranking 17th in turnovers per drive, the Falcons should have their way on offense. It’s really hard to cover 3.5 points on the road as a favorite when you are the worst team in the NFL in stopping the opponent from scoring. The Raiders defense is 28th in DVOA in defending the deep ball and Matt Ryan is 13th in deep ball accuracy so he should have success when he does take shots. This is a nice buy-low spot on Atlanta and a sell high on the Raiders.
LA Chargers +5.5 vs Buffalo Bills
No matter how bad of an in-game coach Anthony Lynn is, I just can’t quit this Chargers team. Essentially, no matter who is favored and by how many points, all the Chargers do is play close games. In fact, they have zero losses by more than eight points this season and only two by more than this 5.5 point spread.
This includes a schedule where they have had to face Kansas City, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Miami. The Chargers are 5-1-1 ats as an underdog of more than three points the last two seasons, including 3-0 this season. The Chargers are only 2-3 straight up in their last five games but amazingly they rank third in the NFL in that time by net EPA per play.
This includes the sixth-best pass defense in EPA per dropback allowed and they didn’t have Joey Bosa for multiple games and Chris Harris Jr. has also been out. Harris was designated to return from IR last week but didn’t play. He is expected to go this week and against Buffalo’s spread the field offense, he will help this secondary.
In addition, Austin Ekeler has hinted that he may return this week and would be a nice bonus to the 10th best DVOA offense in the NFL. The weather in Buffalo is expected to be sunny and 50 degrees which is just fine.
Best Bets Record YTD: 12-13-3 (48%)