3 Sharp Bets in the NFL this Week
Atlanta Falcons (-4) at Cleveland Browns
Sun. 11/11, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Atlanta -3.5
After falling to 1-4 to start the season, the Falcons have won three straight games to put themselves right back in the thick of things in the NFC playoff conversation. Atlanta knows that it can’t afford to lose many more games this year, and that sense of urgency should help against an inferior Cleveland team this week. The Browns are dealing with some serious organizational dysfunction right now, as they fired both head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley a little over a week ago. And the coaches that remain with the Browns do not have the type of expertise that will do talented rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield any good. Last week, the Browns lost 37-21 to a very good Kansas City team. And while the Falcons don’t exactly have the same explosiveness as the Chiefs offensively, the teams are somewhat similar and Atlanta should not have much trouble scoring against Cleveland.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-6.5)
Pick: Chicago -6.5
Through empowering second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky and unleashing weapons like pint-sized running back Tarik Cohen, first-year Bears head coach Matt Nagy has led the Bears to a 5-3 record with a new and improved offensive attack. After averaging 4.9 yards per play and 16.5 points per game in 2017, Chicago has bumped those respective averages up to 5.6 and 29.4.
Not much credit can be given to the Bears offense for the team’s 41-9 drubbing of the Bills in Buffalo last week, though; Chicago gained only 190 total yards on 4.1 yards per play. Instead, it was the defense that did the job, sacking Nathan Peterman four times, intercepting him three times and scoring two second-quarter touchdowns. While tearing down Peterman is more of a right of passage for an NFL defense than a noteworthy accomplishment, Chicago’s D has been one of the best all season. The Bears rank among the NFL’s top-five defenses in yards allowed per play (5.1) and are top 10 in sack percentage (7.5%).
That pass rush will play a key role this week, as it prepares to go against the Detroit Lions. The Lions offense was embarrassed by Minnesota last week, allowing quarterback Matthew Stafford to be sacked a horrifying 10 times by the Vikings. With or without Khalil Mack, who has missed the Bears’ last two games, Chicago figures to give Stafford another long afternoon. Chicago is one the league’s best teams against the spread this season (+6.2 points per game) while Detroit is one of the worst (-3.0), and getting the Bears at home for less than a touchdown feels like a steal.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
Sun. 11/11, 1:00 p.m.
Pick: Colts -3
There’s no denying that Jacksonville has been abysmal of late, going 0-4 both straight up and against the spread while scoring a total of only 46 points during the month of October—that’s only six more points than the Jaguars allowed in a 40-7 blowout loss on Oct. 14 to a Dallas squad that’s one of only seven NFL teams averaging fewer than 20 points per game in 2018. Teams that have been beaten by the spread by more than 41 points over their previous five games are 28-5 against the spread since the start of the 2009 season when facing an opponent that has gone over the total by more than 34 points over its past three games. When teams with an average differential from their opponents of 40 or fewer total yards per game have met past the midway point of a season since 2014, home teams coming off a game with 400 or more total yards have gone 2-16 against the spread in games with a line of between +3 and -3.
This marks the eighth time since 2010 that Jacksonville will be coming off a bye week prior to the middle of November, and the Jaguars have gone 7-0 against the spread over the previous seven instances. The Jags have also gone 6-0 against the spread in games against the Colts since the start of the 2015 season, outscoring Indianapolis over those half-dozen contests by an average margin of 13 points per game. Consider also that road teams with a win percentage of between 25% and 40% that are coming off four losses in their prior five games are 13-0 straight up against a moneyline between +130 and -150 since the start of 2014 when facing an opponent with a losing record. Besides all these incredible trends favoring the Jags, WE ARE STILL SIDING with the Colts -3 in this one!