Points of Interest: NFL Week 8 Over/Under picks and predictions

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The Chargers continued their habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but more concerningly have struggled on both sides of the ball, sitting middle of the pack by offensive EPA and 26th on defense.

And, while the Bears sit at .500, it’s hard to watch Mitch Trubisky in Week 7 and have high hopes for the team. The defense has predictably regressed (still a great defense but sixth by EPA and not the dominating force of 2018) but the offense has averaged just 4.4 yards per play (30th) and sits 28th by EPA – one spot ahead of the winless Bengals.

I’ll be filing those two away for future plays. On to this week’s picks.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT ATLANTA FALCONS (+5.5, 53.5)

The Atlanta Falcons are terrible: a 1-6 record and the worst defense in the NFL by EPA (worse than Miami) but at least their offense is good, right? Though they rank 17th in points scored, they sit ninth by EPA, fourth in number of first downs and 12th by yards per play. Not quite the Atlanta offense we’re used to but at least solid. Sadly, it’s much worse than that.

Atlanta has been the king of garbage time this season. Of its 19 touchdowns, 11 have come in the fourth quarter and five of those happened when its chances to win the game were sub-10 percent. Interestingly, Seattle sits not far behind in the garbage time rankings, scoring 10 TDs in the fourth quarter and four when they’d already lost the game (see Week 3 vs the Saints).

Now, it may be that Seattle jumps in front and the fourth quarter pushes this one Over, but I’ll take the side of the run-heavy Seahawks controlling the game and Matt Ryan having no reason to risk his tender ankle (if he does play) come garbage time in the final frame.

PREDICTION: Under 53.5

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-13, 46)

The Patriots offense certainly looked better than it had in previous weeks, though again much of that can be attributed to the defense creating havoc in Jets territory in the first half. The Patriots rank middle of the pack by offensive EPA and yards per play and have struggled to produce big plays, ranking in the Bottom 10 in plays of more than 10 yards. Fortunately for the offense, the defense ranks first in just about every important category which has more than hidden their struggles thus far.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns, meanwhile, have been one of the big (negative) surprises of 2019. They sit 26th in offensive EPA, with the lone bright spot being Nick Chubb, who’s averaging over 100 yards rushing per game.

When you look at the Browns’ performances versus the good defenses, they put up 13 points per game against the Titans, Jets, Rams and 49ers. Not a recipe for success against the Pats. I’m looking for a repeat of the last few week, with the Patriots defense doing the heavy lifting while the offense methodically moves the ball downfield, chewing up the clock.

PREDICTION: Under 46

MIAMI DOLPHINS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-14.5, 43)

Not exactly a marquee matchup but a perhaps a more interesting game than at first glance. Miami had a legitimate shot to win a game last week, putting up close to 400 yards of offense against a very good Bills defense. And while you can never count on getting the good Fitzpatrick, he can be counted on to create big plays of one type or another.

Among all QBs this year, Fitzpatrick ranks first in plays with EPAs of +/- 3 or more (i.e. big plays or mistakes), producing 11 on just 104 throws. Mason Rudolph isn’t far behind, sitting sixth at 8.4 percent of throws.

Add in a dreadful Miami defense that ranks just ahead of the Falcons by EPA, and we have the makings of an ugly game where they put up enough points to top a well below-average total.

PREDICTION: Over 43

Week 7: 3-0
Season to date: 9-12

Running up the points with Rockets, and the college football bets you need to make in Week 12

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Are you ready for some more MAC-tion? Because there are two more games on the schedule Wednesday night. We break down the best bets for these games and take a look at the weekend ahead in college football – from sides and totals to props and everything in between.

ROOM TO ROAM

The Toledo Rockets might be only slight favorites for Wednesday night’s MAC tilt with visiting Northern Illinois, but they have a significant advantage in at least one area – and it could turn this one into a bit of a laugher. The Rockets come into the game with the nation’s No. 12 rushing offense, averaging nearly 251 yards per game on the ground – and they’ve been especially dominant over their previous two games, racking up a combined 664 rushing yards in narrow victories over Eastern Michigan and Kent State. The Huskies, meanwhile, are coming off getting routed 48-10 to Central Michigan in which the Chippewas posted 327 rushing yards.

An edge like this makes Toledo a terrific option in a variety of different bet scenarios; we recommend buying a few points in their favor and taking an alternate line of -6.5.

MIAMI (OH) FOR 3

The Miami (OH) Redhawks should have little trouble filling the board Wednesday night as they host a Bowling Green defense that ranks among the worst in the nation in points allowed. But while the Falcons have surrendered a mind-boggling 33.8 points per game so far this season, the Redhawks might not necessarily be headed for a parade to the end zone. Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst touchdown-to-field-goal ratios in the country coming into Week 12, having scored 22 TDs compared with 16 FGs – six of those coming over the course of their current three-game winning streak.

Miami (Ohio) is a big-time favorite here, and is a good bet to open the scoring given BGSU’s 2.5 first-half-points-per-game average on the road this season. We like the Redhawks FG to kick off the point parade.

GILBERT  GETTING BACK

Kansas State’s premier rushing threat might be back on the field this weekend. Wildcats senior James Gilbert practiced on Tuesday and is trending in the right direction as he recovers from an undisclosed ailment that kept him out of last week’s 27-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns. It was originally thought that Gilbert would be in the lineup vs. Texas, but he was a late exclusion – and Kansas State struggled in his absence, finishing with a paltry 51 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Gilbert ranks ninth in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards (558) while adding five touchdowns on the ground.

Gilbert’s return would invigorate a Kansas State rush attack that has a favorable matchup against a West Virginia defense allowing 173 rushing yards per game. We recommend the hosts ATS if Gilbert is deemed fit to return.

WAKING NIGHTMARE

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have seen their season take a terrible turn with word that standout wide receiver Sage Surratt will miss the remainder of 2019 with an undisclosed injury. Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that Surratt, who wasn’t featured on the team’s depth chart ahead of its Week 12 encounter with Clemson, would be out for the rest of the season – though he wouldn’t specify what was wrong with the star wideout. Surratt finishes the year with 1,001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions as the premier target for quarterback Jamie Newman.

The absence of Surratt should give bettors even less of a reason to bank on Wake Forest, which has seen the line shift as far as four points in Clemson’s favor. Look for the Tigers to keep the undermanned Deacons below their team total.

Too late to start fading the Fins, and the NFL bets you need to make in Week 11

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This may require a double-take, but listen up. The Miami Dolphins have been the best bet in the NFL since the start of October. Yes, those Miami Dolphins. We break down the odds and let you know what bets we like in Week 11 of the NFL as we dive into sides, totals, props and more. 

STAYING HOT IN Q1

The hottest team in the league right now is Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens. After knocking off the Patriots in Week 9, they turned their crosshairs on the winless Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. The Ravens ran just 48 offensive plays but managed to put up 49 points. Lost in the 49-13 win was the fact that Baltimore moved to 8-1 against the first-quarter spread after winning the first 15 minutes 14-0.

This week, Baltimore is a 4-point home favorite versus a Houston team that is coming off their bye. If you don’t trust a team coming off a blowout win versus the worst team in the league and/or covering their last three games, take a look at the 1Q Ravens -0.5 (-105) as an alternative.

Baltimore is second in the league in first quarter points per game at 9.5 and third in the league in points against in the first quarter at 3.67 while the Texans are 0-3-1 on the road this year in the first quarter. Take the Ravens 1Q -0.5.

FEAST AWAITS EVANS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face a very motivated New Orleans Saints team Sunday, but NOLA will be without their top cornerback in Marcus Lattimore. The third-year CB is week-to-week with a hamstring injury meaning Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will face sub-par corners in P.J. Williams and Eli Apple.

As Brad Evans pointed out on twitter, this is especially great news for Mike Evans who has struggled over his career versus Lattimore. Evans put up a donut early this year in Week 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and averaged 9.5 targets for three catches and 34 yards in two games in 2017 (last year Lattimore struggled following up his 2017 DROY but has been much better this year).

Even with Jameis Winston getting sacked nearly four times a game, Evans is averaging 139 yards a game over his last four contests. Jump on Evans’ receiving yard total on any number below 85 and check in on his reception total, hitting the Over on any number below 7.

LOADING SCREEN

No team in the league relies on the screen game more than the Minnesota Vikings. Per ESPN, Minnesota is averaging 9.8 yards per screen attempt which is 3.5 yards more per attempt than the No.10 team.

The beneficiary of this is running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Cowboys in primetime every time he got the ball with blockers ahead of him. Over the last three games, Cook has amassed 193 yards receiving and will face a Denver Broncos’ defense that is giving up 8.6 yards per pass to RBs since Week 8.

Grab the Over on Cook’s receiving yards on any total less than 40 yards.

LOADING SCREEN PT. 2

If you’re tailing the Cook receiving yards play and want some action on the other side of the ball, maybe look to fade the Broncos’ backfield in receiving yards. Denver is the worst team at generating yards on the screen game (3.7 yards per attempt) and neither Phillip Lindsay nor Royce Freeman has topped 17 yards receiving in the last two weeks. In the only game Brandon Allen has started at quarterback, Lindsay wasn’t targeted at all and Freeman saw one target which he lost a yard on.

Feel confident in taking Lindsay’s Under receiving yards on anything greater than 19 and Freeman’s Under on any number greater than 25.

AIN’T FADING THE FINS NOW

The best team ATS over the last five weeks has been the Miami Dolphins. The former 0-7 team has rattled off five-straight wins ATS and face a Buffalo Bills team that has zero offensive identity of late and trailed the Dolphins by five points heading into the fourth quarter just four weeks ago.

We are a little bearish on Miami hitting a sixth-straight win ATS but have no problem fading Josh Allen’s Bills who are putting up just 288 yards of total offense over the last three weeks, good for sixth-worst. Their once stellar defense now sits 12th in Wtd DVOA — 9th against the pass and 27th against the run.

The Bills needed 22 4th-quarter points in their last meeting to cover their team total and we don’t see Brian Daboll’s offense clearing 23.5 points since they are 2-5 O/U that total in their last seven.

Get on the Bills’ team total Under 23.5 now, as it may drop under this key number later in the week.