NFL Free Picks for
Posted Friday, November 16 at 2:00 PM EST.
This year we’re changing it up a little bit from what regular readers are used to. We have always posted our NFL writeups and selections on Friday and that will not change.
What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criterion we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.
We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST.
NFL WEEK 11
INDIANAPOLIS -1½ -110 over Tennessee
1:00 PM EST. Indianapolis was a tough-luck team through the first six-games, as they easily could have had better results in losses to the Bengals, Eagles, Texans, Patriots and Jets. Instead, the Blue Horseshoes went 1-5 to start the season, but have strung together three victories since. We're not going to sugarcoat wins over Buffalo, Oakland and Jacksonville, but neither will anyone else. What we will suggest is that it is actually the Colts that are the real darkhorse here in the AFC South. The biggest reason Indy can make a run is that they've got the best quarterback in the division and it's not close. Andrew Luck has been back and playing well all season and his teammates are keeping him upright, as the Colts lead the league with the fewest sacks allowed per pass attempt at 2.6%. As long as Luck is upright, the Colts can go throw-for-throw with anybody and this week is no exception. That said, this one is more about fading a team, whose stock is through the roof. The Titans are also a team that is not used to winning and will now play the uncharacteristic role of having expectations. There has never been a better time this year to sell high on the Titans.
The Titans were laughable losers after a three-game skid in October that started with a loss to the lowly Bills, saw them get shut out 21-0 in Baltimore and ended with their failed two-point conversion at the end of their Week 7 contest with the Chargers in London. Since then, Tennessee has won two very high profile games, the first was against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football and the second was last Sunday's eye-opening 34-10 drubbing of the Patriots. The Titans are now 5-4, as they started the season with a run of three Ws to start the season and are picking up steam as a sexy sleeper in the AFC. It's easy to understand why, but it's also important to remember that the last time the Titans were getting praised they laid that egg in Buffalo. That game last week was also a huge adrenaline dump for Tennessee, as there were many ties between those two teams, both positive and negative, as coach Mike Vrabel was a defensive leader in the early days of the Pats dynasty and Bill Belichick and he have a great respect for one another. The negative was with Malcolm Butler, who was notably benched in the Super Bowl and is now an irrelevant player with Tennessee and Dion Lewis, whose departure was just Bill Belichick not wanting you anymore. As it turns out, BB was right about both of them. When BB doesn’t want you anymore, you are finished. In any event, here was more than enough flesh on that rotting Pats carcass to go around and the Titans got their fill. One could even say there was some euphoria going around in that Titans locker room after they put a beatdown on the Patriots. Dion Lewis couldn’t help himself by telling reporters in the post-game press conference, “We just wanted to show them (the Pats) that they’re not all that. That they are beatable like anyone else”. The point is that after blowout wins over Dallas and New England in succession, the Titans are in line for a sugar crash. Recommendation: COLTS -1½ -110
JACKSONVILLE +5 -106 over Pittsburgh
1:00 PM EST. It was party week in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers reportedly had a field day looting now former teammate Le'Veon Bell's locker. In addition to shedding themselves of that lingering drama, the Steelers have also been playing well with wins and covers in five straight games. Last Thursday night's destruction of the Panthers undoubtedly left an impression, as that was one of the most anticipated TNF matchups this season. The Steelers stock is soaring, which makes them spotting this relatively small number to the lowly Jaguars stink to high heaven.
Jacksonville’s offense has been so bad that the oddsmakers could have set this line much higher and still not likely swayed a bet, as the last time anyone saw these Jags, they were putting the finishing touches on a five-game losing streak with a 29-26 defeat in Indianapolis but the Jags were down 26-13 late in the third quarter. So allow us to set it up for you a little clearer.The 6-2-1 Steelers won their last five games and are 3-0-1 on the road and they just destroyed the Panthers on prime time. The 3-6 Jaguars lost their last five games and are just 2-3 at home. The Jaguars swept the Steelers last year. They won 30-9 in Week 5 and later 45-42 during the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This is a good time for some revenge, which is the narrative of the week by all the talking heads. Revenge. One of the most talented and one of the hottest teams in the league have a score to settle here but all that talk just sets us up with an opportunity. The revenge angle has been destroying bankrolls for years.
The Jags season is pretty much done but that doesn’t mean that they are. There are some very good games left in this crew and there’s a great chance that they’ll have a lot of confidence here, knowing that they can and have beaten the Steelers, not once but twice. Some would even suggest that the Jags overall roster is better this year than last year but results once again influence more than anything else. The Jags are healthier this week, they have their RB back with a game under his belt and it's no surprise that quarterback Blake Bortles was also much better with Leonard Fournette in the backfield, as he had his best passing day in a month against the Colts. If we’re in the sell high/buy-low business, this is the epitome of that. Recommendation: Jacksonville +5 +108
WASHINGTON +3 -104 over Houston
1:00 PM EST. The Redskins have been dubbed "frauds" by many in the market and the media after their relatively poor showing in Tampa last Sunday. Sure it got the win, but Washington was expected to put up big points against one of the league's worst defenses. Instead, the 'Skins posted 16 to the Bucs three, while getting outgained by over 200 yards. There wasn't a more deceiving double-digit win on the board and last Sunday was loaded with them. Washington's IR is overflowing, but that is old news, as it was a major storyline headed into last week's game. However, with the fearsome Texans defense coming to FedEx Field, the 'Skins makeshift offensive line will be under the microscope again.
As you've no doubt heard, Houston has ripped off six straight wins after a 0-3 start to their season, but we warn you that last week's bye may have done nothing more than to disrupt that flow. When you are winning like that, there is nothing you want to do more than get right back on the field. Instead, the Texans sat out, which hits the reset button when it might be better to stay focused in that football bubble. A closer look at the teams they've beat also doesn't really inspire, as the Texans were outgained, but narrowly defeated Denver (3-6), rolled over Miami (5-5) on Thursday Night Football, downed the Jaguars (3-6) by double-digits, they would have lost at home to Buffalo (3-7) if not for Nathan Peterman, and Houston won back-to-back overtime games against the Dallas (4-5) and Indianapolis (4-5) respectively. There isn't one W against a team with a winning record. Tell us again, who are the frauds are here? Recommendation: Washington +3 +109
ATLANTA -3½ +106 over Dallas
1:00 PM EST. Two weeks ago the Falcons went into Washington and took apart a then very warm Redskins’ squad 38-14. On the heels of that victory, the market couldn’t get enough Dirty Birds last week, as they bet Atlanta up from a -4 favorite in Cleveland to a -6 point favorite by closing. If you “beat the closing line” and bet it early in the week, you still got crushed. That’s Atlanta’s story coming into this week.
Dallas’ story is the same but the opposite. Two weeks ago, Dallas was coming off its bye and was a listed as a 6½-point favorite in prime-time against the Titans. Some folks called it the worst Cowboys performance in a very long time, as they were booed off the field in a 28-14 loss. The performance was worse than the score. As a result of that resonating loss, the ‘Boys opened as a 6½-point dog to the Eagles last week and the market reacted to that horrible performance by the Cowboys the week prior and drove that number to -7½ by game time. If you bet the favorite early and “beat the closing line”,than you got crushed again.
Just to recap -- as a heavily bet favorite last week in Cleveland, the Falcons never stood a chance in a 28-16 defeat. As a heavily faded underdog against Philadelphia last week, the Cowboys looked like a different team in a 27-20 win over the Super Bowl champs. Combined, it sets up this classic case of “zig-zagging” and we’re all over it.
Atlanta is an absolute beast at home and always has been in the Matt Ryan era. In fact, Atlanta’s only loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year was in overtime to the Saints in Week 3. Process that for a second while the market focuses on Atlanta’s loss to Cleveland last week. And how about Dallas?
Dallas is good when the planets are aligned just perfectly. The Cowboys can compete when they have the lead and are constantly in 2nd and 3 and 3rd and 1 situations. The Cowboys compete when the opposition has trouble moving the ball and when Dak Prescott isn’t forced into throwing situations. The Cowboys are so much better on a slow track than on a fast one. They won’t have that luxury here. Chances are Dallas will be forced to score or play catch up. That is “bad Dallas”. Dallas visited this fast track last season and the Falcons had little trouble in a 27-7 victory and we do not see any signs of anything different for this one. Recommendation: Atlanta -3½ +106
Philadelphia +8 -109 over NEW ORLEANS
4:25 PM EST. The Saints appear to be an out of control freight train after they chugged right over the Bengals 51-14 for their ninth straight victory. Drew Brees is set to obliterate his own completion percentage record if he keeps up his current 77.3% pace and he's likely to pass Brett Favre and Peyton Manning on the all-time touchdown list, but that accolade will have to wait for another season. For now, Brees and his Saints have been the best bet on the board for two months after covering eight straight. It's not all sunshine and rainbows though, as New Orleans has been desperate for help at wide receiver and even signed Dez Bryant last week, but his knees didn't make it through the second day of practice. With their first option on the IR, the Saints went dumpster diving and found Brandon Marshall, who was cut after a short run with the Seahawks this season. The former Pro Bowler had 11 catches for 136 yards and a major in seven games with Seattle. If the 34-year-old Marshall had anything left in the tank, it's unlikely the Seahawks would have given him his walking papers. Like Bryant, Marshall has been a career malcontent. Why would Sean Peyton potentially upset the apple cart with spoiled fruit?
The Eagles dream season seems like it was 10 years and not 10 months ago at this point, but such is life in the churn and burn world of the NFL. Philadelphia is coming off a high profile loss on Sunday Night Football to the Cowboys in a game the market pounded the Eagles all day. After getting burned, it's unlikely that many of their backers in Week 10 will be eager to jump in again here in Week 11. Despite the loss, Carson Wentz had one of his best passing days of the season after putting up 360 yards. He also threw multiple touchdowns for the sixth straight game. "We realize a lot of people are going to want to write us off at this point. Now it's just time to play ball and try and go shock some people." It sounds like Wentz and company are playing with house money, as they've already got a championship in their back pocket, but the NFC East is still wide open. The Eagles also catch the Saints in a potential look-ahead spot, as New Orleans will host the Falcons on Thanksgiving next Thursday Night. If the Saints blew out the Eagles here it would not surprise us one bit. If you’re predicting the Saints to win big against the walking wounded, we can’t blame you. However, we’re not in the prediction business and therefore, one must understand that if you bet the Saints, they may cover but you are going with the worst of it in this inflated price. Just to recap, the Eagles just got smoked by the Cowboys in prime time while the Saints went into Cincinnati and put that game away in the first five minutes with a resonating 51-14 final. Of course you’re going to overpay to get behind the hottest team in the NFL this week. We’re in the taking back inflated points business. Recommendation: Philadelphia +8 -109
Tampa Bay +2 -108 over N.Y. GIANTS
1:00 PM EST. The Buccaneers likely deserved a better fate last Sunday, as they outgained the Reskins by 215 yards, won the time of possession battle and even had a 400-yard passing quarterback, but four turnovers and zero majors in their five trips to the red zone left little opportunity for victory. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a league-best four 400-plus-yard throwing days under his belt, but the giveaways have been his undoing, as he's given the ball up five times in the last two games. Coach Dirk Koetter said he knows what's hurting his team, "Turnovers are killing us right now. We're minus-19. We're last in the league, 13 in the last four games. 13 turnovers and no takeaways." That’s pretty much the Bucs in a nutshell, as they've won just one game in their last seven attempts. Turnovers have been the story in most of those games because the Bucs have only been outgained in two of those defeats. Sure those losses in Carolina and Chicago were terrible, but defeats to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta and Pittsburgh all came by five points are less. There's a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL and the Bucs haven't been good enough to overcome their mistakes. Lucky for Tampa, those bounces usually even out over time.
The Giants are coming off a win over San Francisco on Monday Night Football, which was just their second of the season. The Eli Manning Hall of Fame debate has also raged on this week, although the first of those facts has very little to do with the second. The "is he or isn't he" conversation is a fun one, but it's taking away from just how bad Manning and these Giants -have been this season. Despite getting the narrow 27-23 victory over the 49ers, who are on their third quarterback by the way, the G-Men were outgained and lost the time of possession by nearly 10 minutes. Manning had a very pedestrian day with just 188 yards passing, which is incredible when you consider he was sacked just one time after getting put on his back 31 times in the eight games prior. The Giants beleaguered offensive line will have its hands full here in Week 11, as former teammate, Jason Pierre-Paul will make his return to the swap. Pierre-Paul was a beast on the defensive line for years with the Giants before being traded to the Bucs in the offseason and JPP hasn't forgotten about how he was disrespected on his way out the door, "I had this game checked off since I left there, so emotions are running big. I'm coming, man. I'm bringing the house down" Pierre-Paul has eight sacks this season and if he has a big day it could be the end of Eli in New York, as head coach Pat Shurmur would not commit to his pivot for the rest of the season. The Bucs lead the league in passing yards per game and in total yards per game and now they’re playing an offense that can’t move five yards. Hall of Fame this! Recommendation: Tampa Bay +2 -108
Oakland +5½ -103 over ARIZONA
4:05 PM EST. Is there anybody other than Josh Rosen's grandmother watching this game if it weren't for wagering and fantasy football? The Cardinals got their man in the first round last April after Rosen dropped to number 10 in the draft. Arizona is finding out the hard way that one man does not make a team, as it has won just two games here 2018. The Cardinals have already fired their offensive coordinator this season and while the revival of star David Johnson last week in Kansas City was nice, we're not ready to crown new OC Byron Leftwich an offensive guru just yet, although actually getting DJ the ball is a good start. Arizona actually hung around with the Chiefs last Sunday, but it still lost by double digits, which is why it's nearly impossible to back the Cards especially since they are the betting favorites here. Arizona has been the chalk just once this season and that was in their opener against the Redskins. The Cardinals lost that day 24-6 and have only two wins on the season. Both of those came against the Garoppolo-less 49ers. If it weren't for their competition this week, it might be Arizona that would be the laughing stock this season, but the Raiders are such a mess on and off the field that the Cardinals can't even be the best at being the worst.
Ripping Jon Gruden and this Oakland team is the lowest hanging fruit on the tree, but the negative press has the Raiders stock at near rock bottom. Don't forget they were +325 to win the AFC West this season, which is saying a lot considering they were eliminated from contention weeks ago. It's not all "Chucky's" fault and owner Mark Davis fell on the sword after Oakland lost to the rival Chargers, "I always look in the mirror, and the buck stops with me. Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven't been able to build a 22-man roster." With a bowl haircut that would make Lloyd Christmas jealous we have to truly wonder how much time Davis spends looking in the mirror, but with a 10-year contract, Gruden isn't going anywhere. What does all of this have to do with anything? We're not sure, but what we do know is the Raiders were a +6-point dog at the Chargers just over a month ago, a 6½-point dog at the Rams, a three-point dog at Miami, a +5½-point underdog at Denver and now they’re in the very same range against Arizona. Are you serious? This is being disrespected at its highest level. Recommendation: Oakland +5½ -103.
Denver +7 -108 over L.A. CHARGERS
4:05 PM EST. The Broncos are wobbly again at 3-6, but avoided a setback last week because they were on their bye. Denver has not won an AFC West road game since 2015, when Peyton Manning was the quarterback and the Chargers were still in San Diego, but that fact is nothing more than a meaningless talking point that will influence the market to pile on the seemingly down and out Broncos. However, Denver has faced a murder's row of quarterbacks this season including Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and now Philip Rivers, who might be putting together his best all-around season of his 15-year career.
Premium quarterbacks come with a premium price and when you mix in the fact that Rivers hasn't lost a game in nearly two months, that cost is going to be even more inflated. The Chargers have won six in a row to rise to 7-2 in their chase of the Kansas City Chiefs. Los Angeles's AFC side hasn't lost since Week 3, but they've been all over the globe, literally, which has to take its toll. In their time since that last defeat, the Chargers have won games in Oakland, Seattle, London (Titans), and Cleveland. They played their last home game 42 days ago and while that run of victories sounds impressive, a glance shows they've smashed the Raiders (twice) and the 49ers without Jimmy GQ. A win in Cleveland looks a little better today than it did a month ago, but that 38-14 beatdown in C-Town is a big reason the Browns fired their coach and offensive coordinator. The Chargers other wins this season came in Buffalo, but that was way back in Week 2 when Nathan Peterman was still the quarterback. The L.A. offense has played just the 21st toughest schedule in the NFL according to Football Outsiders so forgive us if we're not ready to crown them quite yet. The Chargers were just five-point favorites over Oakland in Week 5, which also happened to be their last home game. Now they are spotting a more significant number to the Broncos? Denver might be bad, but it's not Oakland bad. Recommendation: Denver +7 -108
DETROIT +4½ -105 over Carolina
1:00 PM EST. Matt Patricia has coached three straight blowout losses, which makes the Panthers single week setback look much better by comparison, but don't let that influence you. His team has been pummeled and rarely competitive since the middle of October. Patricia fired his special teams coach a week ago and then stressed the team would go back to fundamentals last week, only to get blown out again – with some different fundamentals being the problem. Patricia insisted Monday that the outside perception of what is going on with his team is not correct but what is accurate is that this market that wants nothing to do with a Lions’ team that has been smoked, not once, not twice but three times in the past three weeks. We get that. If you bet Detroit like we did, you were out of contention of cashing that ticket by the second quarter. It’s really hard to come back on a team after not even having a fighting chance but sometimes you have to just stick with it. Besides, the score does not always tell the story of a game. Remember, Detroit was playing in Chicago against a well-coached and red-hot squad and they put up some decent numbers. Detroit had more first downs (24-20) and held a time of possession edge, 32:00 to 28:00. The difference in the game was turnovers, as the Lions lost that battle 3-0. When a team turns it over three times, it is rare to hold an edge in time of possession. Detroit actually dictated play in that game and were in the midst of coming all the way back when another turnover caused another 14-point swing on the scoreboard late in the 3rd quarter. The final read 34-22 for the Bears but truth be told, Detroit was supposed to cover that game and absolutely played well other than turnovers. That’s just one game, but the three losses in a row combined has influenced this number greatly. Had this game been played three weeks ago or the Lions upset Chicago last week like they were suppose to, this game would be in the pick-em range. The Lions now go from a 6½ or +7 point pup in Chicago last week to a +4 point home dog to a team that is not better than the Bears. If you’re looking for the bargain of the week, this might be it.
Usually, we are weary of piling on a team that is coming off such a huge loss in a high profile prime time game like the Panthers are here, but there are exceptions to every rule. Carolina is a popular team in the market, while the Lions are still the Lions so it is no surprise that most of the action has been on the Panthers. Much was made of Carolina's three-game winning streak before getting blown out by the Steelers, but Cam Newton and company were fortunate to pick up the W in Philadelphia, while their other two wins over that stretch came at home to the Ravens and Buccaneers, neither of which have a winning record. At the end of the day, the market is going to trust the Panthers much more than it does the Lions and so we must step in and take advantage. Recommendation: DETROIT +4½ -105
Minnesota +2½ +104 over CHICAGO
8:20 PM EST. We've sung the praises of Bears coach Matt Nagy all season and what he has done for that offense this season is nothing short of a football miracle. Sure, there are some nice players like Tarik Cohen, Trey Burton and the often injured Allen Robinson, but that Chicago is able to win with the likes of Mitch Trubisky is incredible. If not for fantasy football, he would be criticized much more for his ugly play. Now, we're not talking about his numbers because they aren't that bad. The problem with Trubisky is that he doesn't pass the eye test. He makes poor throws and bad decisions, but the Bears incredible defense makes up for nearly all of his flaws. Chicago had no business beating the Lions last week, but three Detroit turnovers made life much easier for Trubisky and company than it should have been. In Week 9 against the lowly Bills, Trubisky threw for a paltry 135 yards on 12-of-20 attempts. He was literally outdueled by Nathan Peterman, who was cut after that 41-9 blowout loss. Trubisky's only touchdown pass came in garbage time late in the fourth quarter. The Chicago defense led the way, as it did last week, but you can't expect your D to carry the offensive load week after week. The Bears lead the league in interceptions and are second in total takeaways, but generating turnovers is not a skill and those bounces are bound to start breaking bad.
It's unlikely many had this first meeting between the Vikings and Bears as a showdown for top spot in the NFC North, but it's because of that fact that we are presented with a great opportunity. The Vikes were a Super Bowl favorite when the season kicked off but off the field issues as well as a failure to fulfill expectations on the field has left them undervalued. There is no way Minnesota would have been a pooch in this spot had this game been played in the first few weeks. Market perception of Vikes quarterback Kirk Cousins is down and he has been labeled a "bust" since Minny's Sunday Night Football loss to New Orleans, but one bad bounce that we have outlined before did the Vikings in that night. A 24-9 win against the Lions in Week 9 was very much ho-hum and with the Vikes off last week on a bye, it appears that they are still under the radar. Now is the time to buy in because Minnesota is still very much a Super Bowl threat, but they are not priced as such. This is a classic underdog number (+2½) that confirms what we already suspected. That being that we get to back the superior team here and we don’t have to spot a damn thing. Recommendation: Minnesota +2½ +104
L.A. RAMS -3½ +104 over Kansas City
8:20 PM EST. As per your request, we are going to include our early Monday Night lean from now on but please be aware that it could change on game day. This is just an early lean, preview and some insight into our approach.
The 9-1 Chiefs have won their last four games and are 4-1 on the road. The 9-1 Rams are 5-0 at home. This could very well be a preview of the Super Bowl or at least who will be playing a home game or two in January but there’s no doubt that it’ll be one of the most watched games in NFL history during the regular season.
This Monday night game was slated to be played in Mexico City but Azteca Stadium could not handle a mass of Shakira fans which apparently involved gophers, backhoes and strip mining. So back to Los Angeles now where the Rams actually get their eight home games. Look, we know that K.C. has appeal taking back points but let’s leave that out for a sec and pay attention to the number. The Rams were a 2½-point choice when the game was scheduled at a neutral site and now they are just one-point more at home? That makes no sense when home field is automatically awarded three points. The hook on a key number is also telling, as 3½ is not an underdog number. Therefore, our early lean is on the Rams, as we play the number and not the team. Recommendation: L.A. Rams -3½ +106
NOTE: Ravens/Bengals off the board at the time of this writing.
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NFL Historical - Totals
|Last 30 Days||16||14||0.00||+6.36|
|Season to Date||52||36||0.00||+41.96|