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2019 NFL Picks by Professor MJ

ProfessorMJ

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WEEK #1

Written Wednesday September 4th, 2019 at 2 PM Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: Jacksonville Jaguars +3.5 vs Kansas City Chiefs (rated 3 stars)

Lots of people are in the Chiefs bandwagon. If you look at their roster, they are indeed very good. Patrick Mahomes is super exciting to watch. And so are their speedy receivers, namely Tyreek Hill. I’m also looking forward to seeing their new toy, rookie Mecole Hardman. I’ve heard good reports from camp about him.

Nobody is underestimating Kansas City. Everybody expects them to be great. But I believe many people are underestimating Jacksonville. The general public remembers their dreadful 2018 season where they finished 5-11. But don’t forget they went 10-6 the year before, thanks to a suffocating defense. They still have many players from that edition in their roster.

The QB situation has obviously improved with the arrival of Nick Foles, a very smart guy. Running back Leonard Fournette is also back after missing half the season, and battling through injuries when he was on the field. He says he is “100 percent better.”

Jacksonville will also be looking to avenge a 30-14 loss in Kansas City last season.

I subscribed to the weekly newsletter sent by the Sports Interaction sportsbook. In this week’s letter that I just received, they mention getting 90% of the action on the Chiefs versus just 10% on the Jags. As a contrarian, I love it!

LEAN: Detroit Lions -2.5 at Arizona Cardinals

The Kyler Murray era is about to begin in Arizona! The fans should be excited, but there might be some growing pains, especially early in the season. Give him some time to adjust to the NFL speed. On the other side, you’ve got an experience signal caller with Matthew Stafford, who is entering his 11th season in the league.

The betting public tends to focus too much on each team’s offensive weapons; they don’t take the defense and the offensive line into account enough, in my humble opinion. That being said, footballguys.com is a great website that has a lot of valuable information on the NFL. I trust them a lot, as I have used them many times when doing fantasy football. They are ranking Arizona’s defense 26th in the league, while their offensive line gets the 30th rank. Ouch.

Not only do the Cards have a new QB, but they also have a rookie head coach, Kliff Kingsbury. He will also need time to feel more comfortable with his new duties.

Finally, based on odds for the number of regular season wins, the Lions are expected to get about 6.5 victories this year compared to 5.0 for the Cards. And that’s despite Detroit playing in a tougher division.

Best of luck with your plays, fellows!

Professor MJ
 

ProfessorMJ

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WEEK #2

Written Wednesday September 11th, 2019 at 2 PM Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: Chicago Bears -2.5 at Denver Broncos (rated 4 stars)

The rest factor, which is critical in the NFL considering the physical nature of the game, is largely in favor of the Bears here. They are going to benefit from three additional days of rest after playing the Thursday Night game against the Packers last week, while the Broncos lose one day of preparation since they played last Monday. In other words, the Bears will have 4 more days than the Broncos to heal and to game plan for their upcoming meeting. That is huge!

Chicago is also coming off a very disappointing home opener where they were repeatedly booed by their home crowd. Playing on the road will relieve some stress; it might actually be a good thing.

Last week I told you about a website called FootballGuys.com that is a goldmine of information. Prior to last week, they were ranking Oakland’s defense 32nd (dead last!). The Broncos only managed to score 16 points against them, so how can they expect to generate some offense against the stout Bears defense? They are in for a long day.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s offense struggled big time against Green Bay. They probably won’t score a boatload of points, but I feel they are going to be more focused on details and will be able to do enough to win this game.

Which team has the best defense? Chicago. Which team has the best offense? Chicago. With a more rested team that I also expect to be very hungry, to me the pick is simple here: Chicago!

LEAN: Cincinnati Bengals -1.5 vs San Francisco 49ers

The Bengals lost a game they should have won in a very tough environment. Indeed, they racked up 429 totals yards versus just 233 for the Seahawks. They made 22 first downs compared to just 12 for Seattle. However, 3 lost fumbles cost them the game.

Running back Joe Mixon left the game with an ankle injury, but he should be back this week. Andy Dalton looked very sharp with over 400 passing yards despite missing his number one receiver, A.J. Green. John Ross was fantastic with 7 receptions for 158 yards and a couple of TDs.

Cincy’s defense was supposed to be bad in 2019, but they looked good last week. They pressured Russell Wilson pretty often. Was it just a flash in the pan? We’ll find out soon.

Meanwhile, the Niners won 31-17 in Tampa Bay even though the stats were pretty even. Obviously, the four takeaways helped secure the win.

Jimmy Garoppolo raised many question marks during preseason and he did not necessarily impress in Tampa. He missed several open receivers throughout the game.

San Francisco’s running game did okay, but wasn’t great either. They also lost one of their starters, Tevin Coleman. The former Falcon will be out several weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

Considering the game starts at 1 PM Eastern Time, it will feel like 10 AM to 49ers players since they come from the West Coast. That’s another obstacle for them. Also, playing on the road against a non-conference opponent makes it more difficult to find extra motivation (as opposed to the home team that necessarily has the motivation to do well in front of their home crowd, no matter the opposing team).

Have a great football weekend!

Professor MJ
 

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WEEK #3


PICK: Minnesota Vikings -8 vs Oakland Raiders (rated 4 stars)

The Raiders had a nice start to the 2019 season. They kicked off the season with a 24-16 win over the Broncos and then grabbed an early 10-0 lead over the Chiefs. The crowd was going crazy and the players were pumped. But then the Raiders completely collapsed and allowed 28 points in a row in a 28-10 loss over Kansas City.

The Raiders are now headed for their first road game of the season, and they probably don’t feel very good about themselves. Their confidence is likely broken.

Meanwhile, Minnesota had an horrible start at Lambeau Field. They dug themselves into an early 21-0 hole. They fought hard to make it 21-16, but a few bad plays and penalties eventually cost them the game. They could have easily won it.

The Vikings certainly have a chip on their shoulders after such a performance. They will be fired up at home, where they handled a good Falcons team 28 to 12 a couple of weeks ago.

From an injury standpoint, Derek Carr’s new go-to guy, Tyrell Williams, is questionable with a hip pointer. If he misses the game, that would be a huge blow to Oakland’s offense who is clearly lacking depth at the wide receiver position. To make matters worse, rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who has looked great in his first two games, is also questionable with a groin injury. These two guys might suit up, but even if they do, they are clearly banged up.

On the other side, there isn’t any major injury in Minnesota’s camp. They are mostly healthy.

On top of that, you’ve got a West Coast team playing an early Sunday game, which will feel like 10 AM to Raiders players.

Both teams might feel a dip in terms of motivation after playing a divisional opponent last week, so this factor offsets.

LEAN: Dallas Cowboys -21 vs Miami Dolphins

Here is my reasoning behind this one. Let’s say I were to tell you that one of these teams is going to beat the spread by 14 points; which team would you bet? In other words, is it more likely that the Cowboys will win by 7 points or by a 35-point margin?

My own personal answer is: 35 points. It’s hard to envision Miami losing by only a touchdown. They have been just awful. They have lost by an average of 46 points thus far. And both of these games were at home!

The Dolphins might be fielding the worst roster in the history of the league. And this week they kept dumping good players in exchange for draft picks by trading cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh. Miami now owns 5 first-round picks over the next two drafts. That’s all good for the future, but very bad for 2019.
 

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WEEK #4 - THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

LEAN: Philadelphia Eagles +4.5 at Green Bay Packers


The Eagles’ backs are up against the wall. Sitting at 1-2 while Dallas owns a perfect 3-0 record, Philadelphia must win this game. They’ve lost their past two games, including a very disappointing home loss to the Lions. I do expect them to rebound and give everything they’ve got.

It would be an understatement to claim the Eagles have not played up to expectations thus far. They were among the NFC favorites to make it to the Super Bowl with a loaded offense and a tough defense, especially their defensive line. Meanwhile, the Packers have surprised a lot of people with their 3 wins this season, and I believe they are not as talented as their record shows.

So, on one hand you’ve got a team that has disappointed, and another that is probably overrated by the betting public right now. As a contrarian, I’m going to put my money on the cold team.

Injuries are obviously a concern for the Eagles, especially at wide receiver. DeSean Jackson is likely out for this game, but Alshon Jeffery has a real shot at suiting up this Thursday. That would be a big boost to Philadelphia’s offense since Nelson Agholor has not done well as the number one guy and tight end Dallas Goedert has disappointed thus far with just two catches and a bad drop in the end zone last week.

Still, the Eagles’ offense has a lot of weapons. Carson Wentz is an elite quarterback and he has a very respectable backfield with Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles and rookie Miles Sanders. Tight end Zach Ertz is also very tough to defend.

Even though the Packers’ defense has done extremely well this year by allowing no more than 16 points in all three games, I feel they are going to regress to the mean and allow enough points for Philadelphia to cover the spread, or even win the game.

Notice that both Packers running backs are banged up, as Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones were listed as limited participants in practice Monday. They should be ready to go, but they are not super healthy either.

Green Bay will be playing a third straight home game, which is good for the rest factor.

Here is an interesting statistic: the Packers are 49-30 against the spread as home favorites since Aaron Rodgers took over in 2008. That 62% success rate ranks first in the NFL over that time period.

Still, I’m going with the Eagles. I find it difficult to bet against a very desperate team, especially when this squad has so much talent. Take advantage of this play while the Eagles have lost the bettors’ confidence, which has definitely impacted the line. I do believe there is much less than a 50% chance that Green Bay wins by 5 points or more, so I’m betting Philadelphia in this one.
 

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WEEK #4

PICK: Cleveland Browns +7 at Baltimore Ravens (rated 2 stars)

What? A 7-point spread in a game between division rivals whose talent level is roughly the same? Give me the underdog!

Last week I picked the Bengals +6 at the Bills even though there weren’t many betting angles suggesting to bet them. It just came from my own assessment of how the game would play out. The same thing is occurring in this game. Divisional matchups often lead to hard-fought and tight games, and that’s what I expect in this one. Last year, Cleveland beat Baltimore by 3 points, while the Ravens got their revenge later on with a 2-point victory.

Cleveland’s struggles have been much talked about and publicized. I feel like it has inflated the line on the Browns.

I know, I know. Baker Mayfield has not looked good so far. He has thrown 3 TD passes versus 5 interceptions, and he has completed just 57% of his passes. Do you really expect him to struggle that much all season long? I don’t. That’s another example of “regressing to the mean”; his numbers have been subpar and they will certainly improve until the rest of the season. I have no doubt about that. But right now people are judging him based on his first three games of the season.

The Browns still have many dangerous weapons on offense with Nick Chubb (who has looked good so far), Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. And their defense is above average. They were missing four starters in the secondary but still held the Rams to just 20 points. Now, they are expected to get Damarious Randall back and they have two more guys, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who are questionable to play.

Basically, I’m trying to tell you that the Browns are being underrated. And on the other side, I feel like the Ravens are getting overrated. First, they crushed the abysmal Miami Dolphins. Fine. Then, it wasn’t that easy beating the Cards at home in a 23 to 17 victory. Then, at first sight it might seem like they came close to beating the Chiefs in a 33-28 loss, but remember they were down 30 to 13 through the first three quarters. Lamar Jackson threw a couple of very wild and erratic passes that were miraculously caught, otherwise Kansas City would have beaten them pretty easily.

Everybody got all excited over Lamar Jackson’s first two games. Which teams did he face? The Dolphins and the Cardinals, two of the worst defenses in the NFL. He didn’t look so good against a more respectable defense last week by completing just 51% of his passes.

I’m taking the Browns and the 7 points. Thank you!



LEAN: New England -7 at Buffalo Bills

New England’s first three opponents have a combined 0-9 record. Buffalo’s first three opponents have a combined 1-8 record. Finally a meaningful game for both squads!

If I had to summarize in one sentence why I’m taking the Patriots in this one, it would go like this: do you really want to bet against a mastermind like Bill Belichick facing a young and error-prone quarterback?

Sure, I feel like Buffalo doesn’t get enough credit. They are better than what most people think. But they are not in the same class as New England just yet. Let’s be honest, the Bills could be 1-2 right now. They came back from a 16-point deficit to beat the Jets and they needed a late touchdown to beat Cincinnati last week.

As the season progresses Buffalo might close the gap with the Pats, but not yet. They still have some learning to do, and they might learn the hard way this Sunday.

Obviously, I’m rooting for the Bills to win this game to help my $10,000 bet on them to win at least 7 games this year, but I don’t see it as very likely. It’s going to be extremely loud at New Era Field, but Tom Brady has enough experience to stay poised and do his thing.



LEAN: Miami Dolphins +16 vs Los Angeles Chargers

Wait, what? I’m picking the Dolphins after telling you last week they had perhaps one of the worst rosters in the history of the NFL?

Yes, because I believe the linesmakers are exaggerating with such a big spread. A couple of weeks ago, Miami was an 18-point underdog at home against the Pats. Now facing a much less stronger team, the line is just 1.5 points lower? Give me Miami, then!

The Dolphins played the Cowboys very tough in the first half. They were down 10-6 and driving in Dallas territory. It looked like they were going to go at halftime with the lead when Kenyon Drake made a criticial fumble at the 7-yard line. That seemed to break Miami’s backs.

The Chargers have looked shaky thus far. They are 1-2 with their only win in overtime at home against the Colts. Maybe losing their two All-Pro safeties, Derwin James and Adrian Phillips, as well as their star running back Melvin Gordon who is still holding out, is indeed hurting Los Angeles big time.



LEAN: Oakland Raiders +7 at Indianapolis Colts

The Raiders will be looking to avenge a 42-28 loss against the Colts last season. They are also going to try to rebound from a poor outing in Minnesota last week.

Derek Carr has been pretty good this year, despite a 1-2 record. But losing to the Chiefs and in Minnesota is nothing to be ashamed of. He has completed 74% of his passes this season.

I felt very bad for the Colts fans when Andrew Luck announced his retirement a few weeks before the season began. What a tough blow. So I’m happy for them that Indianapolis is off to a nice 2-1 start, where their only loss came in overtime at the Chargers. They have done some nice things, but here is one more case of a team that I feel has overachieved thus far.

Indy’s best wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, left the game last week with a quad injury. His status is uncertain, but I’ve read he is more on the “doubtful side of questionable” for Week #4. Even if he plays, who knows how effective he will be.

To me, the spread should be much smaller than this. In my opinion, the Colts have much less than a 50% probability of beating the Raiders by 8 points or more.

Best of luck!

Professor MJ
 

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WEEK #5

PICK: Chicago Bears -5 against Oakland Raiders (rated 4 stars)


I was that close to rating it 5 stars as well. I love this play. Let’s call it 4.5 stars. There are still a few bookies with a point spread of 5, but most have now moved it to 5.5. Get on this one before the line changes too much.
The Raiders won’t be in super shape after traveling that much. They crossed the country to play in Minnesota, in Indianapolis, and now in England!?! Wow!! That’s an incredibly tough stretch.
Oakland might also letdown after making a nice upset in Indianapolis last week. However, you could argue that the Bears could also be less motivated after getting a key victory against the Vikings, a division rival.
Oakland’s best wide receiver, Tyrell Williams, is still beaten up. His offensive coordinator said he’s “hopeful” that Williams will be able to suit up this Sunday.
Can’t you feel the Chicago train is picking up some speed? They started the season slowly by losing 10-3 to the Packers and then squeaking by the Broncos, thanks for a 53-yard field goal as time expired. Since then, they were dominant against the Redskins and the Vikings.
Even before the season began, in my NFC North preview, I was claiming I wasn’t convinced that Mitch Trubisky was a good quarterback. He’s been struggling most of the season thus far.
He got hurt last week, and backup Chase Daniel looked better than him. He led the Bears to 4 scores in his first 5 drives off the bench against a more than decent Minnesota defense. I trust Matt Nagy to keep designing plays that are well-suited for him.

LEAN #1: Los Angeles Rams +1.5 at Seattle Seahawks

When I picked the Eagles in the Thursday Night game last week, many people asked whether I was worried about taking the road team on a short week. I was indeed worried about it, but the fact that they were such a desperate team still enticed me to pick them over Green Bay.
I looked into the numbers to verify if road teams do tend to struggle in Thursday games. Over the past three years, they went 16-30-3 against the spread (ATS); that’s a very bad 35% success rate. If you look at the three years before that (i.e. the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons), road teams went 27-21-3 ATS, which was good for a 56% win rate.
Now, if you combine the numbers over those past six years, you get a 43-51-6 record for road teams ATS; that’s a 46% win percentage.
My main conclusion is you want to be cautious with road teams, while not necessarily avoiding them at all costs. If the conditions are right, you might want to bet them. This factor is the main reason why I’m taking the Rams, but not as an official play.
The Rams and the Seahawks have identical 3-1 records. However, Los Angeles’ opponents have a combined 9-7 record compared to 4-11-1 for Seattle’s opponents. In other words, the Rams have faced tougher opposition.
One more thing makes me tilt towards Los Angeles: they are coming off a very disappointing home loss to the Bucs. Good teams tend to rebound after a straight up loss.
However, the revenge factor is in favor of the Seahawks since they lost both meetings with the Rams last year. Indeed, Los Angeles won 33-31 in Seattle and 36-31 in L.A.
Neither team has noteworthy injuries, except left tackle Duane Brown who is questionable to play.
A quick bonus for you: I’ve got a collaborator, that I’m going to call JMF, who is a pretty smart guy and analyses matchups rigorously. He recommends betting the following proposition bet: over 4.5 receptions by Brandin Cooks (at -114 with Pinnacle right now).
He mentions how Seattle’s pass defense is below-average and he likes Cooks’ matchup with Tre Flowers, who is the Seahawks’ worst cornerback. Tedric Thompson is also ranked among the worst free safeties around the league. With head coach Sean McVay being good at exploiting favorable matchups, he might design many plays to get Cooks many balls going his way.

LEAN #2: Green Bay Packers +3.5 at Dallas Cowboys

Both teams got off to a fast start in 2019 with three straight victories, followed by a loss last week.
The Cowboys have defeated the Giants, the Redskins and the Dolphins, whose combined record is 2-10. Meanwhile, Green Bay won against the Bears, the Vikings and the Broncos, whose combined record is 5-7.
Notice the Packers are 3-0 at AT&T Stadium, including the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers seems to relish facing Dallas; he has thrown 15 TD passes versus just 2 picks over 8 meetings.
Green Bay gets three extra days of rest after playing the Thursday Night game in Week #4. They are also coming off three straight home games, so they didn’t have to travel for a while. They are coming off a disappointing home loss to the Eagles, so I wouldn’t bet against Aaron Rodgers under these circumstances.
I like Green Bay to either win the game, or lose by a field goal or less.

LEAN #3: New York Jets +13.5 at Philadelphia Eagles

This is clearly a sandwich game for the Eagles. They just racked up an emotional win in Green Bay on primetime television, and they are awaiting matchups against the Vikings and the Cowboys. Facing the Jets this week isn’t the best source of motivation.
Philadelphia gets three extra days of rest after playing last Thursday, but the Jets got even more rest since they were on their bye week. Generally speaking, I love picking winless teams coming off a bye.
Sam Darnold has a chance to play this week. He will probably be a game-time decision. Against a weak Eagles pass defense, it would be a good matchup for him. It would also help the running game. Le’Veon Bell hasn’t been able to get going so far this season, but keep in mind he faced three very strong defensive teams: Buffalo, New England and Cleveland. I could see him breaking out this week.

Have a great weekend!

Professor MJ
 

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WEEK #7

Written Wednesday October 16th, 2019 at 3 PM Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: Miami Dolphins +17 at Buffalo Bills (rated 1 star)

The Dolphins are 1-4 against the spread this season, while the Bills are 4-1 ATS. Buffalo is also coming off its bye week. And you know I like the Bills after betting $10,000 on them to win at least 7 games this year. So why the heck am I picking Miami, then?

The main reason is this is a huge spread to cover for a team whose offense is not clicking yet. The Bills are scoring an average of 18 points per game. Suppose the Dolphins score just 10 points this weekend, this means Buffalo must score at least 28 points to beat the spread. It won’t be easy and I am betting this event has less than a 50% chance of happening.

I am aware that Miami has allowed an average of 36 points per game. But the Redskins also have a struggling offense and they only scored 17 in Miami last week. This is a divisional game and I expect the Dolphins to give a good fight and keep it close.

Sure, the Bills will be well-rested; they needed it after many players got hurt when they beat the Titans, including center Mitch Morse and linebacker Matt Milano. However, Miami is coming off three straight weeks where they stayed at home, including their bye week a couple of weeks ago.

After claiming Josh Rosen would be the starting quarterback for the rest of the year, head coach Brian Flores announced Ryan Fitzpatrick would get the start in Buffalo. The news just broke an hour before I posted this article. From a betting perspective, I like it because I do think Fitzpatrick gives the Dolphins a better chance of winning.

Bills win a surprisingly tight game.

LEAN #1: Houston Texans +1 at Indianapolis Colts

If you like this play, I recommend placing your bet early because I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston becomes the favorite by Sunday.

There have been several occasions this year where my betting angles recommended betting a team, but my own analysis wanted to bet their opponent. In those cases, I stayed away from the game. And in almost all instances, I should have picked the team I wanted to bet based on my own judgment.

This time, I’m gonna do it. The Colts have an edge based on rest since they are coming off their bye week, and it will also be their fourth game at home out of the past five weeks (by counting the bye week as a “home game”).

Normally, I would have tend to avoid the Texans since they might letdown after upsetting the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

But I’m going to go with my gut and bet Houston. For every game, I try to assess a “fair” line before looking at the actual spread. In this case, I thought the Texans would be 2.5 or 3-point favorites. I was stunned they were slight underdogs.

I firmly believe they will go on a great run and be Super Bowl contenders, especially in a weak AFC conference.

The Texans are 4-2, but could easily be 5-1. Remember the Week #1 Monday Night game where they were defeated 30-28 in New Orleans on a 58-yard field goal as time expired. And their only other loss was a 16-10 stinker against Carolina. But the Panthers don’t look so bad now after winning their past four matchups.

Houston also faced tougher competition. Their opponents hold an 18-18 record, while Indy’s opponents are 12-17. The Colts’ largest win occurred by a 6-point margin.

Jacoby Brissett has done a good job thus far, but I trust Deshaun Watson a lot more. Houston wins and gets additional breathing room as AFC South division leaders.

LEAN #2: Washington Redskins +10 vs San Francisco 49ers

This is the makeup for a letdown game by the Niners. They are all excited from making a big statement against the Rams and it will be easy to look past the lowly Redskins.

I may be the only person in my camp, but I think Case Keenum is not that bad. I’m not saying he is a great quarterback, but he can do some good things. Along with rookie Terry McLaurin, they can put some points on the board.

San Francisco will also be traveling through 3 time zones to play a 1 PM Eastern Time game.

And don’t forget the Niners will be missing two key offensive linemen: Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

Overall, the 49ers faced very weak teams, whose combined record this season is just 9-21.

I like the Skins to keep it a 10-point game or less.

LEAN #3: Kansas City Chiefs -3 at Denver Broncos

It looked like Kansas City was going to cruise easily to a division title, especially with the Chargers crashing down. But hold on a second! The Chiefs are now going through a slump themselves, with the Raiders now breathing down their neck.

The Chiefs did not cover the spread in each of their past four games. Meanwhile, the Broncos have beaten the spread on two straight occasions. Will the trend continue or not? I say: no!

The Chiefs lost their last two games, both at home. It might be a good thing to go on the road, where there won’t be as much pressure to do well. Maybe K.C. is trying to do too much. Playing in a tough environment like Denver, they’ll focus on executing things well and not trying to be too fancy.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I like betting elite teams following a straight up loss. Not only do the Chiefs meet those criteria, but this angle seems to do even better on “focus” games, which includes playing on Thursday Night Football on a non-standard practice week.

The Chiefs are 4-2 despite facing good teams. If you remove the games against the Chiefs, their opponents hold a 16-10-1 record. As a comparison, Denver’s opponents are posting a 13-15 record (after removing matchups versus the Broncos).

Denver is coming off a nice shutout performance against the Titans. They’ll realize quickly that Kansas City has much more firepower on offense, though.

Sammy Watkins has a fairly good chance of suiting up this Thursday. However, Eric Fisher is still out and Cam Erving is questionable. If he can’t go, K.C. would have to call their third-string left tackle. They are also thin on the defensive line and have a couple of guys whose status is uncertain right now.

There are a couple of things that prevent me from making it an official pick. First, the revenge factor. Denver lost both meetings in 2018 by 6 and 7-point margins. Also, the Broncos will be playing a third game at home out of their past four matches.

Let’s make some $$$$$$$$ this week!

Professor MJ
 

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL - WEEK #8

LEAN: Washington Redskins +15.5 at Minnesota Vikings

This is clearly a sandwich game for the Vikings. They are coming off a divisional game in Detroit and they are awaiting meetings with the Chiefs and the Cowboys. It will be easy to look past the lowly Redskins.

As a true contrarian, I felt like it might be a good strategy to bet teams coming off a shutout loss. Since 1989, such teams hold a 118-95 record against the spread, which equates to a 55.4% win rate. Not too bad! Considering the Skins were shutout by the Niners last Sunday, that’s one more argument in their favor.

I don’t trust quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins nor Colt McCoy to succeed immediately. Thankfully, head coach Bill Callahan confirmed Case Keenum would get the start this Thursday. If you’re thinking long-term, perhaps Haskins is a viable option, but as a sports bettor I much prefer seeing Keenum under center in Minnesota. He still has thrown 9 TDs versus 4 picks this year, while completing 66% of his passes.

Speaking of Keenum, don’t forget he played in Minnesota a couple of years ago. He enjoyed a great season by throwing for more than 3500 yards with 22 TD passes and 7 interceptions. He is familiar with the Vikings and will be motivated to do well against his former team.

The big question mark, from an injury standpoint, is the status of star wide receiver Adam Thielen. He hurt his hamstring in Detroit and at first sight he was thought to be very unlikely to play on such a short turnaround. Thielen himself now claims he is optimistic he can suit up this Thursday. Why not make sure he fully recovers in time for a key matchup against the Chiefs next week, though?

I’m taking the Redskins to cover the 15.5 point spread, but not as an official play (not confident enough for that).

Professor MJ
 

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Written Wednesday October 23rd, 2019 at 11 AM Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: New York Jets +6 at Jacksonville Jaguars (rated 4 stars)

This is a perfect example of overreaction to recent results. The line is clearly inflated because of the humiliation inflicted by the Patriots to the Jets on national television Monday night.

Sam Darnold looked awful by turning the ball over 5 times. Does that suddenly make him the worst QB in the league? Of course, not. As usual, Bill Belichick came up with a smart plan and it worked to perfection. New York’s offensive line had trouble figuring out which players were going to blitz, and Darnold was under pressure all game long.

Let’s look at the numbers. In Darnold’s two other games this season, he has completed 51 of his 73 passes for a 70% completion rate. He threw 3 TD passes versus just one pick. And those games occurred against above-average defenses: the Bills and the Cowboys.

This dreadful loss against what we may be the best team in the NFL does not make the Jets a super bad team all of a sudden. Before the season began, the line in Vegas for their regular season wins was 7.5 (which was about the same for Jacksonville, by the way). Sure, they are 1-5 right now, but Luke Falk was the quarterback for three of those games.

To me, the Jets and the Jags are pretty much of equal strength. In my humble opinion, Jacksonville should be favored by 3-4 points; 4.5 at most! The 6-point spread seems like a bargain to me!

Elements not favoring New York: they lose one day of rest/preparation after playing the Monday Nighter, and the matchup against the Jags is sandwiched between a couple of divisional games (against the Pats and the Dolphins).

Factors favoring New York: they’ll want to avenge a 31-12 loss in Jacksonville last year. They will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after such an embarrassing performance on primetime television. They are coming off a stretch of four games where they were at home on three occasions (not much traveling). And the Jags could be looking ahead to a critical showdown against the Texans next week.

Give me the Jets as 6-point dogs.

LEAN: Tennessee Titans -2.5 vs Tampa Bay Bucs

I rarely fade teams after their bye week, but I’m going to do it here.

This is a non-conference road game for Tampa, which is not super motivating. This meeting also marks a sandwich game for the Bucs; they are coming off a couple of key games against the Saints and the Panthers, and they are going to face the Seahawks next.

The Titans are at home for the third time in four weeks.

People often focus much more of each team’s offense but overlook their defense. In this case, it’s a total mismatch. The Bucs have allowed an average of 31 points per game, while the Titans have surrendered just 16 points per game. They have not allowed more than 20 points through their first seven contests, which is exceptional!

When two evenly matched teams face each other, the point spread usually favors the home team by 3 points. In this case, Tennessee is established as 2.5-point favorites, which implies Tampa is a slightly better team. I disagree, as I feel the Titans are a bit stronger, especially with Ryan Tannehill under center. To me, he’s a better QB than Marcus Mariota. Switching QBs was a smart move by head coach Mike Vrabel, in my opinion.

I’m going with the Titans in this one.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s write up, we’ll talk again next week!

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LEAN: Miami Dolphins +14.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Mason Rudolph cleared the league’s concussion protocol and should be ready to go against Miami. I’m very happy for him because that injury looked ugly, as he was knocked out cold against the Ravens.

Still, we’re talking about the Steelers with their backup quarterback having to win by at least 15 points to cover the spread. I agree that Miami has a bad roster, but that seems like a big spread to me.

The Dolphins are showing signs of improvement. Seriously. They could have beaten the Bills in Buffalo last week. They were up 14-9 and opened the third quarter with a long sustained drive. They were in the red zone looking to grab a 21-9 lead, but cornerback Tre’Davious White made an outstanding play to intercept a pass at the 2-yard line. That completely turned the game around.

Ryan Fitzpatrick gives them a chance to win. I’ll be honest with you, I love the guy. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, he plays with passion and his aggressiveness makes him fun to watch. He regularly takes shots down the field and that makes him throw more TD passes and also more interceptions. You won’t get bored from watching him play.

Despite all of this, I could not make it an official play. We’re still talking about one of the worst NFL teams the league has ever seen. The Steelers are coming off their bye week, and they have been at home on four of the past five weeks.

I’m still taking Miami, but with some caution. The Dolphins have covered the spread in their last two meetings.

Enjoy the game!

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL - WEEK #9

LEAN: San Francisco 49ers -9.5 at Arizona Cardinals


I don’t pick big favorites very often, but I’m gonna do it here. One more oddity: I don’t feel good betting teams coming off a blowout win, especially when facing a team coming off a blowout loss. Based on these elements, you wouldn’t expect me to take the Niners.

However, San Francisco has impressed so much that I cannot help picking them. Their defense is simply amazing. They have allowed just 11 points per game on average this year. Over the past four games, against the Browns, the Rams, the Redskins and the Panthers, they have surrendered just 5.75 points per game. That’s incredible!

Kyler Murray has done a good job thus far in his rookie season, but he has never faced such a tough defense in his career. He will be running for his life behind his suspect offensive line.

A few weeks ago, the Niners lost a couple of key guys on the offensive line: Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Staley is tentatively expected to return this week. Getting the big fella back would be great news for San Francisco.

Both running backs David Johnson and Chase Edmonds seem likely to miss the game Thursday, but the Cards recently acquired Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins. However, coach Kingsbury admitted Drake won’t be ready for a full workload on a short week playing for a new team. Therefore, the running game will have trouble getting Kyler Murray some help.

The 49ers certainly remember losing both meetings to the Cards last season: 28-18 at home and 18-15 on the road. As a matter of fact, San Francisco has lost the past 8 meetings between the two squads!!! I’m sure they are looking for payback.

One could argue that the 49ers could be looking ahead to a critical matchup against the Seahawks next week. While this is concerning me a little bit, I don’t believe San Francisco is likely to take a divisional game too lightly, especially considering their 8-game losing skid against the Cards.

As I’ve mentioned in previous videos, road teams are doing well in Thursday night games this year. Indeed, they have beaten the spread on six out of eight weeks.

So to recap, I’m taking the Niners to win by 10 points or more in Arizona.

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WEEK #9

Written Wednesday October 30rd, 2019 at 3 PM Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: New York Jets -3 at Miami Dolphins (rated 4 stars)

For the third straight week, the Dolphins came close to winning a game. They failed to convert a 2-point conversion against the Redskins in a 17-16 loss in Week #6. They led 14-9 at halftime in Buffalo before losing 31-21. Last week, they grabbed an early 14-0 lead before collapsing to a 27-14 defeat in Pittsburgh.

Those losses must be very discouraging for Miami and I could see them losing by a good margin this week. Remember they were 6-point underdogs at home against the Redskins. Why are they now just 3-point dogs? Are the Jets that worse than Washington? I don’t think so! To me, the Jets are a much better team.

After turning the ball over five times against the Pats, Sam Darnold threw three more interceptions in Jacksonville last week. But let’s be honest: Miami’s defense is much weaker than the last two opponents Darnold faced! I expect him to rebound nicely and shred the Dolphins, especially with Miami losing their number one cornerback, Xavien Howard, to a knee injury.

Keep in mind the Dolphins lose one day of rest after playing the Monday Nighter last week.

Also, the Jets have the revenge factor going their way since they lost both meetings to Miami in 2018: 20-12 at home and 13-6 in Miami.

I’m gladly taking New York to win by at least 7 points in this one.

PICK: Cleveland Browns -3 at Denver Broncos (rated 3 stars)

One of the things I do when handicapping NFL games is to try to “predict” the line and compare with the actual spread. This week, my projections came within one point of the actual line, expect this one. I thought the Browns would be 6-point favorites.

Quarterback Joe Flacco is out many weeks and he will be replaced by an unproven guy named Brandon Allen. It will be his first NFL start.

Allen is a former sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft. In two preseason games with the Rams in 2019, he completed close to 60% of his passes with no TD pass and 3 interceptions. Back in 2018, he posted a similar completion rate, but this time with 1 TD pass and a couple of picks. Overall, that makes 1 TD pass versus 5 interceptions against probably the 2nd or 3rd string players from his opponents.

It does not bode well for him against a decent Cleveland defense. They are ranked 10th in terms of sacks, so they know how to pressure quarterbacks. Myles Garrett has been terrorizing opposing QBs with already 10 sacks in just 7 games. He’s a beast.

Many people might disagree with me, but I think Cleveland is much better than their 2-5 record indicates. Except the Jets, they faced some tough teams to beat: New England, Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore, the Rams and the Titans. Their offense moved the ball pretty well against the very stingy Pats defense last week. If not for three turnovers, they might have had a shot at beating the Pats on the road.

Even though the Browns will be traveling through a couple of time zones, I’m still going with Cleveland laying three points.

PICK: Tampa Bay Bucs +6 at Seattle Seahawks (rated 2 stars)

This won’t be a popular pick. Many bettors are falling into the trap of feeling like the spread should be bigger on a 6-2 home team who is facing a 2-5 road team.

A lot of people overvalue how difficult it is to play in Seattle. It has not been such a scary place this year. The Seahawks are 2-2 at home, with their two wins occurring by a one-point margin against the Rams and the lowly Bengals.

I also want to point out Tampa’s strength of opposition. The combined record of their opponents this season is 35-26. The only “easy” game was at home against the Giants, which they lost 32-31. However, they pulled off great wins in Carolina and at the Rams.

The Bucs could very easily hold a 4-3 record. A missed 34-yard field goal as time expired cost them the game against the Giants. And an inadvertent whistle cost them a touchdown on a fumble return against the Titans with less than 4 minutes left last week.

Six of Tampa’s seven games have been against top 10 defenses. In those matchups, they averaged 27.5 points per game. That’s impressive stuff! With Seattle’s defense ranking 30th in terms of yards per play, you can expect the Bucs to light up the scoreboard.

Granted, Seattle also has the weapons to score a boatload of points. I expect a shootout that can go either way, in which case I’ll always go with the underdog.

LEAN: Buffalo Bills -9.5 vs Washington Redskins

In my mind, there is a HUGE gap between Case Keenum and any of the other Washington QBs. Dwayne Haskins and Colt McCoy are just awful.

For this reason, I like this play a lot more if Keenum misses the game. He is going through the league’s concussion protocol and we don’t know yet if he going to get thrown into action or not at New Era Field this Sunday.

By the way, I’ll be attending this game in person and I’m looking forward to it! Hopefully, the Bills can rack up their sixth win of the season, so I’ll be just one win away from cashing that big $10,000 bet on over 6.5 regular season wins by Buffalo (a bet I placed back in May – see video here).

The rest factor plays largely in favor of Sean McDermott’s squad. A team staying at home four straight weeks is seldom seen in the NFL, but that’s the case for Buffalo (including their bye week). Meanwhile, the Skins are on the road for a third time in the past four weeks. However, one thing helps Washington: they played last Thursday so they benefit from three extra days of rest.

With a 1-7 record and their bye week up next, I can envision the Redskins giving up easily. In the meantine, after a solid 4-1 start the Bills have looked shaky in their two games since their bye week. They had all kinds of trouble handling the Dolphins at home, and they were gashed big time by the Eagles last week. After allowing just 14 points per game on average over their first five games, they have given up 21 and 31 points in their most recent matchups.

There is no way Buffalo will look past the Redskins after such disappointing performances. I expect their level of motivation to be 100 times higher than Washington’s.

That being said, I’d be cautious if Keenum plays. Like I said last week when I picked the Redskins to cover the spread in Minnesota, I’m probably one of the few that thinks Keenum is not a bad quarterback. He played great in the first half in Minnesota, before exiting because of a concussion. If he is out and Haskins steps in, I’ll jump on the Bills laying 9.5 points.

LEAN: Baltimore Ravens +3.5 vs New England Patriots

Boy, I hate fading New England. They often find a way to beat the spread. But let’s give it a try, shall we?

The Ravens are coming off their bye week, which leaves them with plenty of time to game plan against the Pats. They didn’t have to travel very often recently; they will be at home for the third time out of the past four weeks.

The crowd will be fired up for a meeting against the undefeated Pats on national television. It will be deafening at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday night. That will certainly give the Ravens a boost.

Bill Belichick is obviously a master at game planning against his next opponent. However, it’s hard to replicate in practice facing a QB like Lamar Jackson, who is so elusive. What you see on tape is different from playing him in actual speed.

New England will face a team with a positive record for just the second time in nine games.

I know, I know. Belichick eats young quarterbacks for breakfast. The Pats have won 21 games in a row against first- or second-year signal callers. That’s why this is probably the pick I have the least confidence in.

Best of luck, go get those bookies guys!

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Thursday Night Football - Week #10

LEAN: Los Angeles Chargers pick’em at Oakland Raiders


Wow, what a critical game this is for both teams! The loser will suffer a significant blow to its playoff hopes.

Can you feel the Chargers train picking up speed? That big win over the Packers last weekend may become their season turning point. Last year the Chargers started the season 1-2 before winning 11 of their last 13 games. In 2017, they got off to a disappointing 3-6 record before going 6-1 during the last stretch of the season. Can they do it again this year?

The largest margin of defeat by Los Angeles this year has been just 7 points! Meanwhile, the Raiders lost games by 20-, 18- and 18-point margins.

After holding out the first four games of the season, Melvin Gordon seems to be back to game speed. He had his best game of 2019 with 20 rushes for 80 yards and a couple of TDs versus the Packers.

Both teams have a solid and well-balanced attack. On the Chargers side, you’ve got Rivers, Gordon, Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and underrated tight end Hunter Henry. On the Raiders side, you’ve got Derek Carr under center with rookie sensation Josh Jacobs running the ball, along with Tyrell Williams and the surprising Darren Waller catching balls.

The big difference to me lies on the defensive side of the ball. Oakland lacks playmakers; they don’t have guys that can really put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram can. These guys pressured Aaron Rodgers all game long last Sunday, despite very few blitzes. One of the few bright spots for the Raiders on defense, Arden Key, broke his foot and will miss the remainder of the season.

Firing their offensive coordinator and replacing him with a new guy did wonders to the Chargers’ offense. They moved the ball very well against Green Bay. The players seemed to enjoy his playcalling. None of their 9 possessions ended with a three-and-out, and Los Angeles had to punt just once!

Josh Jacobs’ shoulder seems to be bothering him. He played last week, but he is still listed on the injury list. He might feel sore on such a short week.

It should be an entertaining game, but in the end I expect the Chargers to come out on top.

Enjoy the game folks!

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Week #10 Picks

PICK: Indianapolis Colts -10 vs Miami Dolphins (rated 3 stars)


When I told a friend I was thinking about picking the Colts in my survivor pool, he replied: “What? Are you sure? Even though Brissett is hurt?” That shows me most people are afraid of betting Indy because of this injury, and also because of Miami’s good recent performances.

First, let’s address the QB situation. Brissett has a sprained MCL, the Colts might be able to get past the Dolphins with Brian Hoyer under center, but Brissett is expected to try and play. Indianapolis is pushing hard for a playoff spot and they cannot afford to lose this game.

Speaking of injuries, the betting public might underestimate the impact of the Dolphins missing two key pieces to their offense. Running back Mark Walton got suspended for four games, while the very impressive wide receiver Preston Williams is done for the year after hurting his right knee.

One could argue the Colts may look past Miami since they are expecting matchups against their three divisional rivals in the next three weeks. But I could counter this argument by saying this is a sandwich game for the Dolphins; indeed, they played the Jets last week and have a meeting with the Bills in Week #11.

I believe Miami may not play as hard, now that they’ve finally earned their first win of the season. Meanwhile, the Colts are certain to give everything they’ve got, considering how tight the playoff race is.

PICK: Cincinnati Bengals +10 vs Baltimore Ravens (rated 3 stars)

We have many ingredients to an inflated point spread here.

First, the Ravens received great publicity following an impressive win over the undefeated Patriots on primetime television. Secondly, the Bengals are starting a rookie at quarterback, Ryan Finley, a fourth round pick out of NC State.

Winning by 11 points or more on the road is a difficult task. The elements I just mentioned have contributed to boosting the line.

Winless teams coming off a bye week are one of my favorites betting angles in the NFL, and that applies here. Cincinnati has had plenty of time to rest and game plan for their next opponent. Giving 2 weeks to the rookie QB to work with the first stringers was a smart move.

Ryan Finley is 24 years old so he’s a more mature rookie. From the reports I’ve read, he looked bad during offseason practices, but he improved significantly during preseason games.

He is considered a game manager. He’s an accurate passer, but not explosive. But that’s okay! We want him to sustain drives to keep Lamar Jackson off the field, and running out the clock to shorten the game.

Head coach Zac Taylor declared he expects star wide receiver A.J. Green to make his debut against the Ravens. However, Green didn’t feel well enough to practice Wednesday, so he is considered questionable to play. Even if he plays, he could be rusty and be limited to a specific number of plays. But he might still draw attention for Baltimore’s defense.

The Bengals will be looking for payback after dropping a Week #6 meeting with the Ravens by a 23-to-17 score earlier this year.

I expect the crowd to fully support his team despite an 0-8 record, considering they’ll be excited to see their new QB at work and also because it’s a divisional game against a hated rival.

PICK: Dallas Cowboys -3 vs Minnesota Vikings (rated 2 stars)

These two teams have a similar record and a comparable point differential. Therefore, a spread of three points favoring the home team isn’t surprising.

However, the injury to Adam Thielen will make the Vikings more one-dimensional. The Cowboys will stack the line of scrimmage and dare Kirk Cousins to beat them. He looks good at times, and bad at others. Without one of his top targets, I expect a long night for him.

The Cowboys defense is solid. Thielen’s absence will make it easier for them to stop Dalvin Cook. The Vikings defense is also good, but facing a more well-balanced attack will create more problems for them. In case you are wondering, Amari Cooper is expected to play despite being bothered by a knee injury.

Dallas is losing one day of rest after playing the Monday Nighter against the Giants, but Minnesota will be on the road for a third time over the past four weeks.

LEAN: Tampa Bay Bucs -4.5 vs Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians coached the Cards for five years and he will now face his former team. Do you think he’ll be motivated to beat them? I think so!

It has been six weeks (!!!) since the Bucs last played at home, so their players should be pumped. That was one of my arguments when picking the Raiders last week, as they were in the same situation. It worked out well, so let’s give it a try once again!

The rest factor favors Arizona, though, since they played last Thursday so they benefit from three more days of rest. However, the Cards will be traveling a couple of time zones to play an early Sunday game, which will make things tougher.

Tight end O.J. Howard is “ready to roll”, according to his coach. The timing for his return couldn’t be more perfect since the Cards have allowed league-highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year.

Arizona has beaten three teams this season. Do you know what those teams’ combined record is? An abysmal 3-22!! Meanwhile, the Bucs have just won a couple of games, but they were significantly more impressive: at Carolina and at the Rams.

I wish you the best of luck with your NFL plays!

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Week #11 Picks

PICK: Houston Texans +4 at Baltimore Ravens (rated 4 stars)


The Ravens have impressed a lot of people, including myself, with their three most recent wins: 30-16 in Seattle, 37-20 against the Patriots and an easy 49-13 victory in Cincinnati last week.

Lamar Jackson is such a different animal. No other quarterback matches his elusiveness. He is a lot of fun to watch!

However, I like the Texans to cover the spread here. DeShaun Watson is also very good and he can make plays out of nothing. Plus, he has more experience.

The Texans are a very solid team and you couldn’t tell they had lost J.J. Watt after allowing just three points to the Jaguars in their last game.

Obviously, I also like the fact that Houston is coming off its bye week. They have had plenty of time to analyze game tapes.

PICK: Carolina Panthers -5 vs Atlanta Falcons (rated 3 stars)

I tip my hat off to the Falcons for such an impressive performance in New Orleans last week. It must have been great relief for head coach Dan Quinn, who is certainly on the hot seat.

With that win out of the way, I expect a letdown for Atlanta, especially against a team that simply cannot drop this game. The Panthers are sitting at 5-4, and with such a crowded playoff race in the NFC, this is a must-win game for Carolina. They won’t let their feet off the gas.

The revenge factor comes into play since the Panthers lost both meetings to Atlanta last season. As a matter of fact, the Falcons won by a 7-point margin in Atlanta and by a 14-point margin in Carolina. That’s not gonna happen this year.

LEAN: Jacksonville Jaguars +3 at Indianapolis Colts

I’m really looking forward to seeing Nick Foles at quarterback for the Jaguars. He suffered a broken clavicle in Week #1 and had to be replaced by Gardner Minshew.

The backup QB with the mustache did very well at times, and not so good at others. After a bad performance in London against Houston, Doug Marrone decided to make the switch.

Both teams have very comparable defenses with 21 points allowed per game. Their offenses are similar too, maybe with a slight edge to Indy. But who knows what’s going to happen with Foles under center. Jacoby Brissett is expected to be back at quarterback, but his top target, T.Y. Hilton, seems like a long shot to suit up this Sunday.

I expect a very tight divisional game, in which case I’ll go with the Jags as 3-point dogs.

Cheers!

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NFL PICKS FOR WEEK #12

Written Wednesday November 20th, 2019 at 2 pm Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK #1: Los Angeles Rams +3.5 vs Baltimore Ravens (rated 4 stars)

Most sportsbooks have a 3-point spread, but MyBookie.ag offers an even more enticing line on the Rams at 3.5. I hesitated between rating this play 4 or 5 stars. Considering how unbelievably hot the Ravens have been of late, I opted to go with 4 stars.

We all know how great Baltimore’s running game is. Good news for the Rams: their rush defense ranks second in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per rush and fifth in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. Overall, L.A.’s defense has been pretty stingy recently. Indeed, they have allowed just 12.8 points per game over their last five games.

The most important source of concern about the Rams is their offensive line, which is in shambles after suffering many injuries. They held up fairly well last week against a solid Bears defense. The running game did okay and they did not allow a single sack.

Speaking of injuries, wide receiver Brandin Cooks is expected to return to action, while Robert Woods is questionable for personal reasons.

The Ravens will be traveling through three time zones for this game. This is also a non-conference road game and it might be hard to match last week’s level of intensity against the Texans.

Sean McVay’s squad will be at home for a third time over the past four weeks.

I am taking the Rams to either win this game, or to keep it close.

PICK #2: Dallas Cowboys +6.5 at New England Patriots (rated 3 stars)

My gut feeling tells me I should make the following bold call: the Cowboys are going to pull off the upset in New England this Sunday.

Why am I only rating it three stars then? Because I am always worried when it comes to betting against the Patriots. Always.

Based on each team’s rosters, I love this play. There is no doubt in my mind that the Cowboys can play with the Patriots. Dak Prescott has been playing at a very high level. Ezekiel Elliott has been more quiet in the last two games, but he rushed over 100 yards in the previous three.

Meanwhile, New England keeps racking up the wins, but they have showed signs of weaknesses. Tom Brady has openly said he is frustrated with the way the offense is going. Dallas has an above-average defense, I seriously doubt they will get shredded by New England’s offense.

Basically, all of the ingredients are there for a tight game and I can hardly see Dallas getting beaten up. I do feel an upset in the making.

PICK #3: Detroit Lions -3.5 at Washington Redskins (rated 3 stars)

How can I say this politely? The Redskins are bad. Very bad.

Washington’s best performances this season were a 17-16 win over the Dolphins and a 5-point loss to the Eagles. Other than that, they lost all of their remaining eight games by at least 9 points! In this case, give me the Lions laying 3.5 points for sure!!!

Sure, the Skins are at home for the third consecutive week. And this could be viewed as a sandwich game for the Lions, as they are coming off games against Chicago and Dallas, while awaiting meetings with Chicago and Minnesota.

Still, I’m taking Detroit. I expect them to win easily.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is still out for the Lions, but that’s not a problem. Backup QB Jeff Driskel has done well throwing the ball so far, and his athleticism allows him to extend plays or make good runs.

He has a good surrounding cast with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Scoring 27 points against Dallas was a good output last week. The only problem was their defense who struggled to stop Prescott and company. No one is going to confuse Prescott with Dwayne Haskins, who is simply not good.

The more I talk about this game, the more I like Detroit. Perhaps I should have rated it 4 stars? I’ll let you be the judge.

PICK #4: Seattle Seahawks +1.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (rated 2 stars)

The bye week gave plenty of time for Pete Carroll to come up with a sound plan against Philly. It also gave additional time for Seattle’s top target, Tyler Lockett, to heal his leg injury. He is good to go for Sunday.

Another key benefit was the extra time for newly acquired Josh Gordon to familiarize with his new offense. He picked up two big first downs in his first game with the Seahawks a couple of weeks ago against the Niners.

I am a bit worried about the Eagles being at home for the fourth week in a row, though. Also, Seattle is a West Coast team that will need to play an early Sunday game on the East Coast.

Alshon Jeffery was limited in practice Wednesday, but he should suit up for the game. However, right tackle Lane Johnson is less certain to play; that would be a big blow for Philadelphia because he’s the one who was supposed to face Clowney.

The big gamblers seem to agree with me, as the average bet size on Seattle is $249 versus just $54 on Philly!

In the end, in this key NFC matchup, I trust Russell Wilson more than Carson Wentz. Wilson is having a MVP year and he is simply hard to beat. Facing a suspect Eagles pass defense, I’ll go with the Seahawks.

PICK #5: Cincinnati Bengals +7 vs Pittsburgh Steelers (rated 2 stars)

The Bengals offense has not done well since they switched quarterbacks to see how Ryan Finley would do. They scored 13 points against the Ravens and just 10 in Oakland. Finley has completed less than 50% of his passes.

At least, Joe Mixon did a nice job trying to give his QB some support. During those past two outings, he rushed 45 times for 200 yards (a nice 4.4 yards per rush average, which is awesome considering defenses are probably focusing on him).

So why in the world should we pick Cincinnati? Well, I’m wondering if Pittsburgh’s offense is going to be any better than Cincinnati’s. They are severely banged up.

Juju Smith-Schuster is a long shot to play, while their second-best wide receiver Diontae Johnson is also unlikely to play. He took a severe hit, and we could see some blood around his ear after the play. To make matters worse, running back James Conner is questionable.

With a surrounding cast falling down, can Mason Rudolph be the savior? After watching his 4-interception performance last week, I doubt it.

Sure, Pittsburgh gets three extra days of rest after playing last Thursday, but their meeting in Cleveland left many scars. It was a very physical game.

I believe this game will be very low-scoring, in which case betting a seven-point underdog seems like the smartest move to do.

Cheers!

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NFL Games on Thanksgiving (Week #13)

Written Tuesday November 26th, 2019 at 4 pm Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: Buffalo Bills +6.5 at Dallas Cowboys (rated 3 stars)

Both teams have had a similar path thus far this season, with the exception of Dallas running into more bumps. Indeed, Buffalo and Dallas have yet to beat a single winning opponent; the lone exception is the Bills getting the W against the 6-5 Tennessee Titans.

However, Dallas is going to face A LOT more pressure in this game. Owner Jerry Jones spoke at length about his dissatisfaction with the team’s performance. I’m pretty sure head coach Jason Garrett is feeling the heat. Under such circumstances, playing at home may not be ideal. If things don’t go as plan, the boo birds will be quick to show up.

The point spread is simply too big, in my opinion. It won’t be an easy game for the Cowboys. Buffalo’s defense seems to be back to its early season form.

I expect a low-scoring game that will be decided in the final minutes of the game. I don’t know which team is going to win, but I certainly like the Bills to cover the 6.5 point spread. Buffalo definitely has a shot to win this game.

PICK: Chicago Bears -3 at Detroit Lions (rated 1 star)

The revenge factor goes in favor of the Lions since they lost their Week #10 meeting with Chicago by a 20-to-13 score. But I’m still going to go with the Bears (even though they have burned me several times in 2019).

The key thing is Jeff Driskel’s hamstring injury. Head coach Matt Patricia just said Driskel’s hamstring is pretty sore and he did not guarantee he’ll suit up this Thursday. If he cannot go, that would be a disaster for the Lions. They would need to turn to David Blough, a guy that is far from looking like a potential NFL starter.

Even if Driskel plays, a big part of his game is his mobility. Being hurt will limit his ability to escape from Khalil Mack and his friends. Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen for Detroit. Driskel has only played three games this season, and the Bears were one of those opponents. They got a chance to play him, so they already have some knowledge about the way he plays.

The Bears not only won the past three meetings with the Lions, but they also beat the spread in each of those games.

I’m taking Da Bears to win big.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

Professor MJ
 

ProfessorMJ

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Week #13 (Sunday Games)

Written Tuesday November 28th, 2019 at 11 am Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: Los Angeles Chargers -3 at Denver Broncos (rated 4 stars)

The Chargers have had plenty of time to reflect on their last two games, both losses to divisional rivals. Their bye week allowed them to game plan appropriately against the Broncos.

L.A. won’t take Denver lightly, considering they were upset at home 20-to-13 in Week #5. They’ll be looking for payback, while the Broncos may not play as hard after a stinker in Buffalo.

At the time of writing, Denver’s starting quarterback has yet to be decided. GM John Elway said Brandon Allen and Drew Lock will split the practice reps this week. A decision is expected to be made by Friday. No matter which one plays, he’ll face a tough task against strong pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

Saftey Derwin James has a real shot to be in the lineup for the Chargers. That would be a huge boost to their defense since James was graded as the seventh-best safety in the league by ProFootballFocus.

In my own opinion, the Chargers are a MUCH better team than their 4-7 record indicates. They have a lot more playmakers on both sides of the ball than the Broncos.

Please note that the Chargers are 6-0-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last seven road games against teams with a losing record. Sounds good to me!

PICK: Cincinnati Bengals +3.5 vs New York Jets (rated 2 stars)

The Jets are all happy about their recent 3-game winning streak, in which Sam Darnold has thrown 7 TD passes versus just one interception. Facing the Bengals should be easy, right?

I don’t think so. Cincinnati is looking for their first win of the season. They certainly want to give their head coach his first career NFL win. Andy Dalton will be back under center, which gives them a much better chance of winning since the Ryan Finley experiment failed.

The Bengals will be at home for the fourth week out of the past five. In other words, they did not have to travel too much recently so they should be ready to roll.

PICK: Indianapolis Colts -2.5 vs Tennessee Titans (rated 1 star)

The Colts are 7-0 ATS in their last seven meetings with AFC South teams. They are 7-1 ATS when facing the Titans at home over their past eight meetings in Indy. Those are pretty stunning numbers!

Indianapolis played last Thursday, so they’ll be well-rested.

Ryan Tannehill has done a nice job since taking over the QB position for Tennessee. However, look at the road/home split: he has thrown 9 TD passes versus 1 interception at home, compared to 1 TD and 3 picks on the road. Facing a tough Colts defense on the road does not bode well for him!

Sure, Marlon Mack is out for the Colts. I don’t want to imply that he is not a good player, but in my opinion most of the job is getting done through the strong play of their offensive line. Jonathan Williams and Nyheim Hines did very well replacing him last week, as the running game did not skip a beat in his absence.

I hope you enjoyed this write up, and best of luck with your plays!

Professor MJ
 

ProfessorMJ

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Monday Night Football (Week #13)

Written Tuesday November 28th, 2019 at 1 pm Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

PICK: Minnesota Vikings +3 at Seattle Seahawks (rated 3 stars)

After an ordinary 2-2 start, the Vikings have gone 6-1 since then. Their only loss during that seven-game stretch was a 26-23 defeat at the Chiefs, on a 44-yard field goal by Harrison Butker as time expired.

If you have been following my work for a while, you know I value the “rest” and “revenge” factors in the NFL. In this case, both point in Minnesota’s direction.

Indeed, the Vikings are coming off their bye week, which is a huge bonus prior to such a key game. Also, Mike Zimmer’s squad will be looking to avenge a 21-7 loss in Week #14 last year. Don’t be misled by the final score, though; the Seahawks were only up 6-0 with three minutes left in the game!

There’s no denying Seattle is a good team; they still hold a 9-2 record! But they haven’t been crushing their opponents, as shown by the fact that 8 of their 9 wins were by one possession (i.e. 8 points or less). As a matter of fact, they have won four games by a margin of just 1-2 point(s), and they came on top on a couple of overtime games.

Minnesota has a point differential of +84 versus +29 for Seattle. However, I’m a bit worried by Seattle having won the past five meetings with the Vikings.

Still, I expect a hard-fought game and I believe the Seahawks have much less than a 50% chance of beating the Vikings by 4 points or more.

Enjoy this great matchup!

Professor MJ
 
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