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TOP 5 NFL PICKS by Stats Prof for Week 10

ProfessorMJ

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Written Tuesday November 10th, 2020 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)

A dreadful 0-3 performance for the picks last week. Ouch!

That does not shake my confidence at all. Bad weeks will invariably occur every season; they are part of the sports betting game.

Never go too high during winning streaks and never go too low in bad times.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get back on the winning track! Here are 4 picks for you.

PICK #1 (4 STARS): PITTSBURGH STEELERS -3.5 FIRST HALF VS CINCINNATI BENGALS

The news that Ben Roethlisberger was placed on the COVID-19 list broke not very long before I posted this article. The line might change depending on Big Ben’s status, but no matter what I’ll take Pittsburgh in the first half. If he misses the game, the spread will be smaller, obviously.

Some factors that I regularly look at are favoring the Bengals. First, the rest factor. Cincy is coming off its bye week, but statistical studies have shown that the best NFL teams use this extra time much more efficiently than weaker ones. Since the Bengals are not among the top tier, the bye week effect won’t be as large.

Secondly, there’s the revenge factor. The Bengals lost both meetings to Pittsburgh last year.

Also, big road underdogs who have been established underdogs for 4+ straight games have done well against the spread in the past.

So why the heck am I taking the Steelers? And why for the first half only?

Pittsburgh had a letdown game in Dallas last week. They took the Cowboys lightly and needed a late comeback to secure the win.

Now facing a division rival, head coach Mike Tomlin will make sure his big boys will be storming out of the gate. I expect a fast start from his squad.

I prefer taking Pittsburgh in the first half because Joe Burrow is capable of scoring 1-2 touchdown(s) late in the fourth quarter to cover the spread after trailing by a good margin.

In the last 9 matchups where the Steelers were at home facing a team with a losing record, they beat the spread on 7 occasions.

No need to remind me that Cincy lost four games by a 5-point margin or less, nor that Pittsburgh won four games by that same margin. I am aware that both teams have been involved in many tight games. That’s precisely why many people will jump on the Bengals train.

However, on paper we have a huge mismatch favoring the home team on both sides of the ball, and yet that home team was only a touchdown favorite before the line went off the board after the Roethlisberger news (which means it will be even lower if he’s out).

Defensively, Cincy ranks dead last in yards-per-carry average allowed, while Pittsburgh is 9th in that category. As for opposing team’s passer rating, the Bengals rank 13th versus 2nd for the Steelers.

On offense, I like what Joe Burrow has done but he’s still a rookie about to face a tough defense. Remember what happened when he faced the Ravens’ defense in a 27-to-3 loss.

To make matters worse, 4 out of the 5 Bengals starting offensive linemen are listed as questionable. You don’t want your offensive line being banged up when facing Pittsburgh’s stout defense.

PICK #2 (3 STARS): BUFFALO BILLS +2 AT ARIZONA CARDINALS

Is the Bills defense back to its 2018 and 2019 form where they were a top five unit?

Not yet, but they took nice steps last week. That might sound weird after allowing 34 points, but that was against the potent Seahawks offense. Buffalo’s defense was able to pressure Russell Wilson and he ended the game with his worst QB rating of the 2020 season.

On Arizona’s side, their defense was supposed to be pretty weak this year, but they have done a fine job thus far. I’m afraid they might regress, and having two starting cornerbacks, Byron Murphy and Dre Kirkpatrick, listed as questionable is worrisome when you are about to face the great WR trio of Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley.

You may want to keep an eye on the injury status of stud cornerback Tre’Davious White, though. He left the game against Seattle with an ankle injury and did not return. Head coach Sean McDermott called it a day-to-day injury, so I feel like he’s more likely to suit up than not.

Over their last 8 meetings as road underdogs, the Bills hold a nice 5-1-2 ATS record.

Meanwhile, Arizona has beaten the spread just once in the past six games where they were home favorites.

The Cards are at home for the fourth straight week, which boosts their chances of getting the victory. But could they be looking ahead to a critical meeting with the Seahawks next week?

In summary, I like Buffalo to pick up their eighth win of the season as small underdogs.

PICK #3 (3 STARS): LOS ANGELES RAMS -1.5 VS SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

After a very hot start to the 2020 season where many experts were calling him the league’s MVP (deservedly so), Russell Wilson has been struggling a bit.

Wilson’s three worst games, in terms of QB rating, occurred in the last four games. During this time frame, he posted a 12-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio, which is far worse than the 16-to-2 ratio he racked up in the first four matches.

The Cards and the Bills have shown how to disrupt Wilson. You must blitz and put pressure on him. Aaron Donald and company have sacked opposing quarterbacks 25 times, fifth-highest in the NFL.

Jared Goff is extremely good when given time to scan the field, especially with such great weapons as Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. However, when Goff is feeling pressure, he is really awful and he doesn’t seem to know how to escape.

Which of these two scenarios is the most likely this Sunday? Considering Seattle’s ineptitude to rush opposing QBs this year, Goff has a good chance to have a clean pocket most of the time. L.A.’s offensive line has been nothing short of outstanding in 2020, allowing the second-fewest sacks this year despite having a QB who is not mobile at all.

Also note that the Seahawks are 2-6 ATS in their past eight trips to Los Angeles.

The Rams will be well-prepared coming off their bye week. They are also very likely to welcome back on the field their top cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, and their top running back, Darrell Henderson.

Los Angeles holds a good 5-1-1 ATS record coming off a straight up loss (they were beaten by the Dolphins before their bye week). And they post an identical ATS record in their past seven games as home favorites.

As if Seattle’s defense needed more bad news, their top two cornerbacks are listed as questionable: Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar. They might also be without linebacker K.J. Wright, who sprained his ankle in Buffalo last week. Finally, Seattle’s top two running backs, Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, are still uncertain to suit up.

PICK #4 (2 STARS): CLEVELAND BROWNS -3 VS HOUSTON TEXANS

Favorites off their bye week have posted a 36-20-4 ATS record over a four-year span. That’s one of the reasons I’m backing the Browns this weekend. They will also be at home for the third straight week.

Houston’s defense is just dreadful. They are 31st in yards-per-carry average and 32nd in opposing QBs’ passer rating. It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Sure, the Texans passing offense is capable of putting up points on the board. Their offensive line is suspect, though. Myles Garrett is licking his chops right now and he could have a huge day. As for the Browns, they quietly have one of the best offensive lines in football.

Odell Beckham is done for the season, but Nick Chubb could return to the lineup this Sunday, as well as right guard Wyatt Teller.

The Texans had five guys departing the previous game due to injuries, including linebacker Brennan Scarlett who broke his arm and running back David Johnson who suffered a concussion.

Houston is a perfect 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings with Cleveland, but they are 8-20 ATS on the road when facing a team with a winning record. They have also struggled on games played on grass, as shown by their 0-5-1 ATS record recently.

PICK #5 (1 STAR): CHICAGO BEARS +3 (@ -115 odds, Pinnacle) VS MINNESOTA VIKINGS

You can either take Chicago +3 at lower odds or +2.5 at higher odds. I recommend taking the former.

The Vikings have been struggling against Da Bears recently; they are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings between these two squads. Over their last 17 trips to the windy city, they beat the spread just three times and lost on 14 occasions.

The difference in Monday night performances between the two teams is staggering. On one hand, Minnesota is 2-12 ATS in such primetime games, while Chicago holds a 4-1 ATS record.

Moreover, the Bears have posted a 13-4-1 ATS record the last 18 times they were home dogs. That’s remarkable!

Let me tell you about a betting strategy that favors Chicago in this matchup:

Bet against a team that intercepted 3+ passes in its previous game, unless that team has a great passing offense and defense.

Last week, Minnesota picked off the Lions’ quarterbacks three times.

That being said, when a team intercepts many passes during a game, I believe there are two possibilities:

1. This team has a great passing attack, forcing its opponent to take chances, which creates more takeaways.

2. This team picked off many passes due to “good luck” more than defensive skill.

Do the Vikings fit in the mold of scenario #1? I don’t think so! Both of their offensive and defensive passing games are not great. Racking up three interceptions was much more likely an outlier than anything else.

From 2013 to Week #7 of the 2020 season, teams that intercepted 3+ passes in their previous contest and were now either underdogs or “small” favorites (i.e. 5 points or less) are 62-81-2 ATS, a 43% win percentage.

I’m going with the Bears to upset the Vikings on Monday Night Football.

UNOFFICIAL PICKS

Want two quick leans for this weekend?

a) Jaguars +14 at Packers (seems like a trap game for Green Bay, much like the Steelers in Dallas last week, especially after facing two big rivals in Minnesota and San Francisco);

b) Eagles -3 at Giants (Philly is 10-3 ATS in their past 13 visits in New York, while the G-Men are just 2-12 ATS as home underdogs. However, it could be payback time after a heart-breaking 22-21 loss by New York versus the Eagles in Week 7. The Eagles are coming off their bye week).

Let’s crush it this week, fellows!!!

Professor MJ
 
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