NFL Point Spread Picks Week 2, 2020

With only one week in the bag, some of these week's spreads scream recency bias. There are teams that are hyped up too much and others that are just plain garbage. Let's dig in. 

We got 4 visiting teams covering the spread this week. Last year as you may know, we pounded visiting teams because the home field advantage was over rated for some teams. One of the main trends was that strong teams on the road was a killer strategy and it worked. We had over 70% ATS success with visiting teams we found undervalued. Not sure some of these visiting teams are strong, but the home teams seem week. Here are the picks:


I've never been a huge fan of Carson Wentz. Last year they covered 7 of 17 (41%) and last week didn't seem like an improvement. Yes, they have some guys in the OL coming back this week but without Jeffrey they don't seem to be a big threat offensively. They also allowed 27 points against Washington. Meanwhile the Rams looked solid especially on defense. They're gonna come crashing and I expect a few turnovers from the Eagles. The models really like this game and so do the sharps and everyone on the planet but like about 18% which is probably all Eagles fans. Should be an easy win for the Rams.

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NFL Point Spread Model Results - Week 1, 2020

Week 1 model results are out! They are very interesting. Last year we picked on a lot of visiting teams, but this week the 3 of the top 4 picks with most confidence are home teams. I usually don't bet on week 1 through 4. Definitely when the pick includes teams which changed QBs (e.g. Tampa, Indianapolis) or made significant trades (e.g. Arizona). Stay away would be my advice or sprinkle it in just to make it more fun to watch. 

 There were times I didn't even run the models the first few weeks because only start keeping track of ATS % and ROI until week 5. People have asked me for the results and I think it's good for newcomers to start getting familiar with the system. I didn't deep dive on these as I usually do in looking at DVOA, sharp money, trends and other data I like to geek on. Here are the point spread model outputs for week 1 of the NFL!

You can get the whole list of games from week 1 to week 6 FREE on my channel on Rokfin. Why Rokfin? It's a long story, but it's only $9.99. You get emails and notifications when I post and a bunch of other channels included for the same subscription. If you've been tracking me over the years, you know $50 for the whole year it's a deal when compared to the many fake handicappers out there. I do the research and we all win money.


Why is NFL Pickles so Damn Good?

 Who doesn't like to brag about their accomplishments? I'll make it short, I promise. First a bit of history.

In 2005, as I was finishing my doctoral thesis in Stochastic Games, I met a finance professor who had just published a paper on how he could predict the outcomes of figure skating results. His paper explained the use of an ensemble of models with traditional regression components, human bias, and a situational component. My mind was spinning with ideas and we talked for hours. The ensemble component was amazing and is probably the beginnings of what today is called AI. Human Bias is market inefficiencies; aka prices determined by people. Finally, the situational component (location, ice, competitors) is all the situations that could be captured at the beginning of a game. Although I didn't have much knowledge of the NFL at the time, in a short time I got access to over 20 years of NFL Point Spread Data, and the rest is money.

2019 Results
Thank you to all who support and profit from my work. Last year was an amazing season. Here are some quick highlights:
  • 62.5% ATS for the season
  • 80% ROI if you followed my rules, but likely doubled your money if you spent more during the playoffs
  • 67% during the playoffs with a correct prediction for the Super Bowl which puts me at 12 of 13 during the last 13 years

2019 NFL Spread Record

2019 NFL Super Bowl Point Spread Pick

First a bit of context of who am I and how I've picked the Super Bowl in the past. In 12 years doing this, I've picked correctly the Super Bowl winner 10 of 11 times. Yes, that's 90.9% ATS in the big game. Let that sink in. This season, I got 2nd place in a 1,400 entries content picking every game at 58% ATS. Games with high situational confidence are at 61% ATS and over 60% ROI. Ok enough bragging, good luck going against Mahomes. Here's why the Chiefs are going to win and cover Super Bowl 54.

Kansas City -1 correct NFL point spread pick here's why:
  • Models are detecting a huge superiority in stats for KC. Probably due to the strong offense, but as of late not so bad defense. The situational confidence is at 66.9%.
  • Offense wins championships as analyzed in my previous post. 22 of the last 30 Super Bowls are teams with DVOA higher than 10 aka very strong offense but not necessarily strong defenses.
  • Andy Reid. He's the veteran coach hungry for a ring. His record coming off a bye is 18-3 SU speaks for itself
  • The 49ers defense is amazing, no doubt. The 49ers did struggle against offensive powerhouses in the last few weeks of the season (Saints, Falcons and Rams).
  • KC already had a test in stopping the run against the Titans and they did.
  • The 49ers recently played against a poor coach and depleted Green Bay Packers team. The Packers kept running the ball without success, unable to adjust. Recency bias.
  • Patrick Mahomes vs Jimmy Garappolo, if you bet the 49ers you somehow disregard that the Chiefs have the better captain
  • Experience matters and losing last year in the AFC Championship has given this team the experience needed to win this year. This energized their confidence and attitude which is going to be what matters in this game
I don't do props or other guessing bets. But I still hit 7 of 10 on the podcast double dipping on the Chiefsl I do stick to what I know, the NFL point spread. Here are the models' output for the Super Bowl LIV point spread pick. Let's goooooooo!

Game Vegas Line Estimate Diff Confidence
SAN FRANCISCO - KANSAS CITY -1 -12.6 -11.6 66.9

Defense Wins the Super Bowl: Myth or Fact?

We all want to make a big wager on the big day. I've been really lucky on Super Bowl Sunday in my career going 10-1 ATS. Nevertheless, this year I'm doing a lot more analysis. In a series of posts of deep analysis of this year's Super Bowl 54 posted on my Rokfin channel, we first tackle the elephant in the room.

Does defense wins championships in the NFL?  We couldn't help but noticing that this year's Super Bowl teams are a strong offense against a strong defense. Then the quick thought was "defense wins championships", everyone knows that.  Remember Super Bowl 50 when Payton Manning sucked and yet won the Super Bowl and linebacker Von Miller won the MVP? But as a data scientist, I can't take a mantra and a game I remember and believe it's true.

We dig into the data to prove or debunk this mantra by looking at the last 30 Super Bowl games and each of the team's DVOA.

Check out the article here. It's FREE, but you do have to create an account to read it. It's worth it.

2019 NFL Conference Championship Point Spread Picks

Seven winning weeks in a row! 5-1 ATS during the playoffs. Now we're going into a week were both home teams are favorite by 7.5. Both games will be awesome to watch and hard to pick. Let's rely on machine learning, as we've done all year, to give us the winning picks. Ok, lets get to these week's games.

There are two trends that I want to point out that my models might be picking on from this year's data and historical:
  1. Road dogs in the playoffs with a 7.5 line are 5-2 ATS (small sample). Two of those games, the home team ended up winning by 7. Make sure to get it at 7.5!
  2. With a line of 7 or higher, road dogs in playoffs are 36-30 (54.5%)

Tennesse +7.5 

This is the game with the most confidence this week! Having said that, let's pocket some of those winnings from the season and stick to 20% of bankroll. All my models are predicting Tennessee to win outright and my best model has the situational confidence at 66%. 

Tennessee has shocked the world and they have potentially the best running back in NFL history yet they are underdogs by 7.5? The line seems to have also forgotten about their win at Tennessee against the Chiefs. Chiefs at home as a slightly better team, so why isn't the spread 3.5 or 4.5, lots of value here. Here's trends to think about:
  • Since Tannehill, TEN is 9-3 ATS
  • The Titans' defense has forced more than 2 TO in last 7 games
  • KC's #29th rushing defense will have their hands full against Henry and the #4 rush offense (#1 imo)
  • Derrick Henry is the only NFL player in history to...": that should just be my point but...
    - Rush for 180+ yards in two post season games
    - Rush for 180+yards games in 3 consecutive games
  • Recency bias for KC after scoring 51 points in the last game, but it was against the horrible Texans defense.

Green Bay +7.5 
Whaaaat? After they lost on week 12 by a landslide? If you watch that game again, it was over after the first Packers drive where Rodgers got sacked and fumbled on the 49ers 5 yard line. The Packers sacked Garoppolo 3 times and Rodgers got sacked 5 times. The Packers will definitely need to protect Rodgers better in this game. 

Rodgers looks determined. His mental game and confidence you can see from last week's final play on 3rd and 10 is at his highest. There's a huge mismatch here in QBs and I like betting the better captain. The San Francisco D is legit so Rodgers knows that to win, he needs to make big plays and protect the ball. He wants this more.

All my models but one have Green Bay covering 7.5. Half of them have the 49ers winning outright so there's less value than in the previous game. The situational confidence is at 59% which is an official bet. Trust the models, I say to myself. Besides the road dogs trends we talked there, here are some other points I like about this game.
  • Garappalo's first playoff appearance wasn't great. 11/19, 131 yds, 1TD, 1INT. The Vikings did way to many errors and this game got unreachable against a solid D.
  • The Packers are 11-6 ATS (64%) this year, 3-1 ATS as dogs. One loss was vs SF (38-7)
  • Green Bay's #4 rush offense needs to attack the "weakness" in SF's #11 rush D (#2 in passing D)
  • Recency bias alert on a 38-7 loss that started with a fumble

Here are the models' output for the 2019 NFL Conference Championship point spread picks. Let's goooooooo1

Game Vegas Line Estimate Diff Confidence
TENNESSEE @ KANSAS CITY -7.5 3.1 10.6 66.7
GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO -7.5 -3.5 4.0 59.3

2019 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks

Another awesome week last week for the best NFL point spread data scientist. The models predicted 4-0 ATS all games with 3 of them being locks. They were too close for comfort, but in the playoffs it's hard to find blowouts (although I think we spotted one this week).

The NFL Divisional playoffs are here and the #1 and #2 seeds will be making their playoff debuts. We will again lock 3 of the 4 games and analyze the 4th one and tell you why that one in particular is so hard to predict. Enough chit chat, here are the 2019 NFL Divisional Playoff Picks:

Tennessee +9 
correct NFL point spread pick
You gotta trust data science and trends to bet against the Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. I've said all season he's an outlier and these guys are hard to predict. On the other side you got another outlier in Derrick Henry who looked unstoppable all year and especially last week against arguably the best defense in the league. For my models, it was also a tough decision. Two of my 5 statistical models had Tennessee even winning, but not my best one (displayed below). Nine points seems like a lot for the #3 vs #1 offense, the difference is in the defense. The question is if the #19 defense in Tennessee will be able to keep it close, maybe if the offense is on the field a lot they will. If you think about it, the pressure is on Lamar. He's the MVP, the one everyone is expecting to blow this team out. If at 23 he's not mentally prepared, he will flop. Here are some other reasons why I like Tennessee in this spot:
  • Road underdogs are 8-3 (40%) ATS against Lamar Jackson
  • Since Tannehill, the Titans is 7-3-1 ATS
  • Divisional round underdogs are 36-24 ATS since 2003
  • Ravens had big spreads this year against the Dolphins, Cardinals, Bengals, Jets and Browns (they lost 2 of those)
  • The Ravens #19 rush D will have their hands full against Henry
  • Tannehill might struggle against the #4 pass D, but with185 yds and 4 TD he can run
  • The pressure to perform is on Lamar Jackson's shoulders, no one else
Kansas City -9.5 correct NFL point spread pick
This could be a blowout. The Chiefs #2 offense (arguably #1 if Hill would've been healthy all season) is going against the #27 defense. Sure they have JJ Watt now, but what you saw was a performance against a poor Buffalo offense. All my models have KC covering (some by just a half point) but the situational confidence is the highest of all games. This is the one game where the road team heavy favorite doesn't cover. Other reasons to like KC: 
  • Kansas City's defense is quietly ranked #13, similar to the Eagles who performed 
  • Andy Reid after a bye week is 59% ATS during playoffs
  • Bill O'Brien is 3-8 (27%) as an underdog of a TD or more during playoffs
  • The #2 passing offense vs the #26 passing defense is a recipe for a blowout
  • Houston especially bad against the TE so Kelce to have a party
  • Models are predicting this game at an average of 13 point spread, but when considering games where Kelce and Hill were playing it shoots up to 17
  • The sharps agree giving KC 52% of the bets but 57% of the money

Vikings +7 
The Vikings are playing awesome and it's because they have a bunch of weapons. Cook, Theilen and Rudolph can put any defense on its feet. Kirk Cousins wasn't supposed to be good, but he's performing and maybe all he needed was players of the caliber of the above 3 mentioned. All my models have the Vikings covering and one of them even winning this game. The situational confidence is not as high as I would like it, but here some other trends that could help boost your confidence in this bet:
  • Overall both teams are ranked similarly at 7 vs 5 so why is it a 7 point spread?
  • Garappalo's first playoff appearance, follow the trend. Last week 2 of 3 lost and overall it is still at close to 28%. Hard to bet against this trend imo
  • Road dogs by 7+ are 19-14 (57.6%) and 6 of last 8 during playoffs
  • At first SF was getting close to 65% of the money and that's now down to 54%

Seattle or Green Bay???
For some this may seem like the lock of the week. Certainly it is for many bettors since Seattle is getting over 60% of the bets and money. To me Seattle is not performing well, their offense looked unimpressive last week. I think they're running game has suffered a lot after losing their 3 RBs. Sure it's fun to watch Beast Mode go in at the goal line, but that's all he's going to be able to do. Rodgers is 10-5 ATS during playoffs and the skills and the mentality to win these types of games. My models have Seattle not only covering, but winning at low situational confidence which is why I'm going to spread the wealth across the 3 games above, go 3-0, and stay away from this one. Here's some other random facts:
  • Russel Wilson is 7-6 ATS and Rodgers is 10-5 ATS during playoffs
  • Two other teams that are evenly ranked and both with poor rushing defenses which will benefit GB more
  • This is the only game where SOS is statistically different between the two teams. Seattle with 1.5 standard deviations tougher of a schedule
  • Seattle's offense wasn't impressive against Phi (#12) and now against GB (#15), not so different. That's why the under is so popular, but Rodgers and company will figure out how to outscore them
Here are the models' output for the 2019 NFL Divisional Playoffs point spread picks.

Game Vegas Line Estimate Diff Confidence
HOUSTON @ KANSAS CITY -9.5 -12.4 -2.9 62.1
MINNESOTA @ SAN FRANCISCO -7.0 0.8 7.8 59.6
TENNESSEE @ BALTIMORE -9.0 -3.0 6.0 58.1
SEATTLE @ GREEN BAY -3.5 2.4 5.9 52.5