2018 record: 25-15-1 (62 percent)
Two-team tease: Kansas City Chiefs -2 @ Cleveland Browns & Green Bay Packers @ New England Patriots -.5
After a month off of teases, here’s finally one I like.
The Cleveland Browns still refuse to win in regulation on Sunday. This week, they fired their two highest-ranking offensive coaches (head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley) and promoted 2017 Arizona Cardinals running backs coach Freddie Kitchens to offensive coordinator. Kitchens has never called plays at any level of football before.
Kansas City’s offense is stronger than Cleveland’s defense. Kansas City’s defense is less weak than Cleveland’s offense. Kansas City has the veteran offensive coach in the NFL. Cleveland’s defensive coordinator moved to head coach this week while also having to promote two new coordinators. This is a great spot for the Chiefs on a tease.
The second leg of this tease is a Sunday Night Football matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, only their second matchup ever somehow. Since Mike McCarthy has taken over as the Packers head coach, the Patriots have gone an NFL best 85-15 at home. Five of those losses (three Cassel games, one Brissett game and one meaningless Week 17 game where Brady didn’t play the second half) can be thrown out of the data. Really, Belichick and Brady are good for a loss (one) at home every season. It’s a fool’s errand to pick against the Patriots in this spot.
Flash fact: There were 26 drives in Green Bay-Los Angeles this week and only 10 of them featured an Aaron Rodgers pass. Riddle me that.
Houston Texans +2.5 @ Denver Broncos
Playing in Denver on your first road game of the season is as hard as beating Nick Saban’s Alabama teams. For the last three years, the Broncos, at their high elevation, have managed to host back-to-back home games in Week 1 and Week 2. Start throwing out those numbers every season.
Last year, the Broncos went 2-0 and finished 3-11 over their last 14 games. This year, the Broncos started 2-0 and have since gone 1-5, with their only win since September 16th being a Thursday night game against the lowly Arizona Cardinals. At absolute best, Denver is a team flirting with being a third quarter to bottom quarter team in the NFL this season.
On the flip side, Houston’s defense is improving weekly and Deshaun Watson is a legitimate threat at quarterback. The Texans, off a long week’s rest, are building momentum the same way the 2017 New Orleans Saints did after their slow start last season. Currently, Houston is the favorite to win the AFC South despite starting the season 0-3.
Give me the team on a 5-0 stretch over a 1-5 stretch when the line is this tight. On a neutral field, Houston should be more than a half-point favorite.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Seattle Seahawks -1
The NFL’s sneaky good football team this season? The 4-3 Seattle Seahawks. Their three losses have come by a combined 12 points. Their four wins have come from a combined 52 points. Their 4-3 record makes them look a lot more average than they actually are.
Seattle’s passer rating of 112.8 ranks fifth in the NFL offensively. Defensively, their passer rating of 82.8 ranks third in the league. Mind you, their three losses came to:
- Their first road trip in Denver, which as we mentioned in the previous pick is an awful spot for any team.
- Chicago in Week 2 on a two-week road trip to open the season.
- A two-point loss against the Los Angeles Rams.
They have yet to play a bad game. They rank top-five in both passing efficiency on offense and defense. The Los Angeles Chargers are a good team, but Seattle shouldn’t be less than -3 at home against any non-Rams or Chiefs teams. Get on the Seahawks before everyone else catches up.
Los Angeles Rams +1.5 @ New Orleans Saints
These teams combine for a 14-1 record, but they are very different teams. Remember, close games should be treated as ties in terms of projecting forward. From that perspective, the Rams are 4-0-4 (.750) and the Saints are 2-1-4 (.571).
In offensive passer rating, the Rams (112.2) and Saints (118.3) are basically even. The Rams rank fifth in the league in passer rating, but the distance between them and the number six team is twice the distance between them and the Saints, who rank first in the NFL.
Defensively is really where these teams separate themselves. New Orleans’ defensive passer rating (111.5, 30th in NFL) does not compare to what the Rams (91.3, 15th) have done this year. To put that into context, a 67.3 passer rating, equidistant to 91.3 from 111.5, would be the best passing efficiency mark for an NFL defense by more than 10 points.
Propelling that 6-1 record for the Saints were two games (vs Cleveland, @ Baltimore) decided by kickers missing layups, an overtime win (@ Atlanta) and the Vikings firing a shotgun into their foot several times. The Saints have the record of a great team, but the Rams actually play like it. They’re on totally different tiers of performance.
Tennessee Titans +6.5 @ Dallas Cowboys
Are the Dallas Cowboys any good?
Dallas’ defense ranks 26th in passer rating (98.6) this year. The difference between Dak Prescott passing the ball and Marcus Mariota passing the ball is roughly the same as the difference between Tennessee’s defense and Dallas’ defense.
If they’re about an even split… why is Dallas a near touchdown favorite against an equal team? This could be your classic Cowboys overreaction spot after winning three straight home games. Since AT&T Stadium opened, Dallas is 30-44-1 ATS (covering just 41 percent of the time) at home with an even worse record of 8-15 (covering 35 percent of the time) when they’re favorites of 6.5 points or more.
Neither of these teams is good. The NFL deserves the awful ratings they get for putting this game on TV as one of three national games this week. With that being said, this line is off.