NFL Betting Guide: Week 11
Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.
Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.
That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.
Week 10 Recap
Last Week: 1-4
Year-to-Date Record: 27-23-0 (54.0%)
I said a wanted a monstrous week last week. I should have specified not the type of monster that hides under your bed.
Our only cover was the Packers' spirited win at Lambeau, but even they trailed by double digits. It did make up for some bum luck in the morning wave.
If Riley Patterson did his job, the Jaguars would have covered pretty handily in Kansas City. Overall, we saw late Jacksonville and Houston touchdowns wiped off the board, which would have resulted in a winning week. Both of those games had the exact feel I was hoping for.
Both totals were a disaster, as well. Josh Allen played, spoiling the under in Buffalo during the game of the year. Plus, a late, meaningless John Wolford touchdown pass burst the other. Outside of an 0-5 disaster this week, things can only go up from here.
Pick #1: Cowboys (-1.5) at Vikings
This is my favorite line of the year.
Betting NFL spreads requires a feel for public perception. Uneducated bettors move lines all the time. There's not a team that picked up more buzz last week than Minnesota with its wild win in Buffalo, and there's not a team that lost more than Dallas after blowing a double-digit lead as the supreme public bet of the week.
Given that, the Cowboys are just slight favorites here, but they're the better team in a good matchup for them. They've got numberFire's fourth-best defense behind a league-best 36% pressure rate. A tough stop through a solid Packers offensive line doesn't change that, and Minnesota's offensive line (27% pressure rate allowed) has been spotty at times.
Unsurprisingly, the Vikes are getting 66% of bets in this spot, yet the line hasn't budged. That speaks volumes to me.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Cowboys 27-23
Pick #2: Raiders (+2.5) at Broncos
Like the Cowboys, the Raiders are the other "sky is falling" squad at the moment. There are even reports they can't fire Josh McDaniels because they can't afford it.
Last year, Las Vegas had a -65 point differential but went 8-1 in one-score games. They were immensely lucky. This year, they're on pace for just a -44 point differential, but they're 0-6 in one-score games. Those games have an element of luck or randomness to them. The Raiders are arguably better than they were last year.
The real problem is they're basically allowing every quarterback they face to become Patrick Mahomes. They're numberFire's worst pass defense, but here come the Broncos -- numberFire's fourth-worst passing offense.
The Raiders are actually 2-0 this year against bottom-five passing offenses, notching with against Denver and Houston. When a team struggles to beat the Raiders' secondary, Vegas has typically done well.
Josh Jacobs obliterated the Broncos for 144 yards rushing in their first matchup, and it can happen again this week given Denver is our 12th-worst rushing defense.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Raiders 20-16
Pick #3: Colts (+7.0) vs. Eagles
This number varies by book. Obviously, we'd like to get se7.0ven, but even at 6.0 or 6.5 points, the Colts are in a decent spot as an underdog.
Sure, it took four turnovers for the Eagles to lose last Monday, but on display was also a trend that's been flagged by our model all season with Philadelphia -- they struggle defending the run.
The Commanders ran for 152 yards on this Philly D, and Philadelphia is our fourth-worst rushing defense for the entire season. That's a massive concern given Jonathan Taylor proved to be healthy last week for Indianapolis, who had a 50.8% rush rate in Jeff Saturday's debut with the team.
We've got positive trends on interim coaches against the spread, so this is a dangerous spot to assume Philly rebounds. As of now, 65% of tickets are assuming the Eagles will cover the spread, but 60% of the money lies with Indianapolis.
Given the Colts' defense came in with the 11th-fewest Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play allowed last week (0.03), I'm pretty sold to ride the wave at this number.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Eagles 24-19
The Texans are on the verge of what I call "a timeout." I put teams in timeout throughout the year, and it's not out of vengeance. I just clearly don't have a good read on the team (and its value) at present.
A week ago, Lovie Smith's guys fumbled and bumbled in a game where they outgained the Giants. They should have covered 5.5 points (and did if not for a wiped-out touchdown), but on paper, this is one of the best matchups in the league for them.
Houston's rush defense is the worst in the league by numberFire's metrics -- and by a good margin, too. Luckily, Washington is our fifth-worst rushing offense. That gives the Texans a prayer to compete in this game against the Commanders, a team coming off their biggest win of the year and dealing with a short week.
This is a great number given you can push a field goal, and sharps agree. While 65% of bets are on Washington, 76% of the money is on the lowly Texans. They could win outright.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Texans 22-20
In games without Watt, that mark has been 0.15 Offensive NEP per play allowed, which was the fourth-worst clip in the league. Watt is a massive upgrade for Pittsburgh, and I'm not sure books have properly valued it as such.
Plus, the Steelers -- as a home underdog -- are historically a side I want to back in this position. Mike Tomlin is absurdly 47-26-2 against the spread (ATS) as an underdog in his tenure with Pittsburgh. I'm almost always down for points with Mike, and the number here includes a hook on a field goal.
Some might note Joe Burrow had five turnovers in Week 1, and that likely won't happen again, but I'd also say he had Ja'Marr Chase in that contest. As my colleague Jim Sannes noted earlier this year, Burrow isn't the same when he doesn't have both Chase and Tee Higgins active.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Bengals 20-19
Totals of the Week
Pick #1: Bears at Falcons (Over 49.5)
My concern for this over was pace, but my colleague Brandon Gdula has this game's average pace rating out...about average.
Those concerns were wrapped up in the fact both of these teams love to run the ball. They're the top-two squads in rush rate over expectation, and they're good at it. Both are top-five rushing offenses in efficiency, per our nERD rankings.
The over has hit in three straight games for Chicago, and Atlanta -- depending on the line you got for last week's downpour in Carolina -- has hit the over in three (or four) of its past five. This high total was a bit surprising, but I think it's the right direction for what should be a higher-scoring affair.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Falcons 28-27
Pick #2: Jets at Patriots (Under 38.0)
The Pats have won 12 straight meetings versus Gang Green, including in Week 8. New England beat New York 22-17 earlier this season in a clash that was close thanks to a last-minute score. Zach Wilson threw three interceptions, and Wilson has averaged -0.11 Passing NEP per drop back in three career meetings with Bill Belichick and the Pats.
However, the Jets' defense is special -- and also why yours truly isn't comfortable laying 3.5 points with New England. They're numberFire's second-best overall defense and are facing the Patriots, who are our fourth-worst overall offense. That's not a phenomenal recipe for points.
Knowing all of this, I have no idea why 64% of bets are on the over with such a low total. But 66% of the handle is on the under. Sharps aren't expecting many points in New England, and I couldn't agree more.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Patriots 17-13