NFL Point Spread Picks - Divisional

Feeling good after hitting all 3 top picks last weekend. Bucs, Chiefs, and Rams all predicted blowouts. Almost hit the honorable mention in the Raiders but whatev they suck. Also, 4 of the 5 quarterbacks getting their first playoff game lost by a lot. The only one who won? Burrow because he was facing a 1st timer in Carr. Carr, Murray, Hurtz, and Mac Jones all had to go home. Enough bragging, it's time to continue this streak and analyze these games: 

LOS ANGELES @ TAMPA BAY -3

The Los Angeles Rams just came out of a huge blowout against the Cardinals and beat these same Bucs in week 3 34-24 and hence we get a 3 point spread. Not even a half point for the Super Bowl champs or the goat. 

Don't get me wrong, these Rams are legit. Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr have powered these passing offense. The offense looked much better at the beginning of the season but dropped to 14th on the back half of the season. Some of it may have to do with Stafford's league leading 17 INT, and some with their struggling running game. The numbers tell us that the Rams are now an average offense that depends much on the passing game.

The stronghold for the Rams is Aaron Donald and the defense. They are strong against both the pass and the rush. They are fired up and can put pressure on Brady, which is his only weakness, pressure. They sacked him 3 times in game 3. But as of late with injuries in the secondary it could be trouble. It wasn't against Kyler Murray but Brady can exploit the newcomers' weaknesses.

The other problem with the Rams is that they struggled to beat good teams, teams in the playoffs. They had a win against the struggling Cardinals and the one win against the Bucs in week 3 and that's it. Then they lost against the 49ers (2), Packers, Titans and beat a bunch of bad teams like the Jaguars, Texans, Lions, and Giants. The Bucs on the other hand went 6-1 against playoff teams including the one loss on week 3. 

The number one offense in the league are the Bucs and by a lot according to DVOA. #1 passing offense and the #4 rushing offense. They rank #2 in first downs and #1 in late downs. Tom Brady led the league in TDs and passing yards with a top 5 rushing attack. This offense is humming even without Godwin or Brown.

The Bucs defense finished top 10 in the league. It started slow, then it got some injuries but it is healthy and much better as of late and especially at home. They struggled on the road all season so the venue change is a positive sign for this D. 

Models: All machine learning models predict Bucs by 7 or close to it. The home team favorite by 3 and a prediction of 7 gives a situational confidence of 56%. Not too high, but it's the playoffs so I prefer to stick with the narrative that all statistical signs point to the Bucs.

Injuries: Fournette and Jones at RB for the Bucs are a question mark, although Vaughn was able to fill in just fine. The worrisome injury are in the Bucs offensive line. RT Tristan Wirfs and C Ryan Jensen are two Pro Bowl linemen that are question marks this weekend but badly needed against the Rams. Watch for their injury updates.

This game for me does boil down to the two QBs. Stafford vs Brady. In that case, I'll take the GOAT.

THE PICK: Bucs -3 


For analysis and picks for the other 3 games visit Rokfin.com/NFLpickles

NFL Point Spread Picks - NFL Wild Card

PHILADELPHIA @ TAMPA BAY -8.5

The Bucs are at it again and after a roller coaster ride, Fournette is back to boost the offense and last week we saw Evans. Lavonte David, JPP, and Shaquil back so the defense is definitely healthier. This defense ended the season ranked #9th and for the most time was never completely healthy and now will benefit greatly against the #3 rush offense of the Eagles.

Here's why I'm backing the Bucs. The Eagles went on a 6-2 run at the end of the season to sneak into the playoffs but who did they beat? Lions, Jets, Giants (2), WFT (with covid). Their competition was terrible but it did hype up the team. Now they are getting over 70% of the money and bettors forget who's on the other side. I think people are also looking at last year's Bucs game vs Washington with a similar spread. The Bucs won of course but didn't cover.

These two teams faced each other in October and although the final score was 28-22, Tampa dominated that game. The first fourteen points for the Eagles were on 50+ yard penalties. The defense was rushing Hurtz but at the same time preventing him to run for big yardage. No Gronk. Again, a much healthier defense now. In this game, the Bucs were 7 point favorites on the road.

This year home favorite over a TD but less than double digits went 11-6 ATS (64.7%). My models don't have the Bucs covering by much more than the spread likely a more fair price for this game is 9.5 or 10 so there's some value at 8.5.

When the Bucs take a double digit lead, the run offense for the Eagles goes away making it very difficult to make a comeback.

The Pick: Bucs -8.5

Check out the rest of the machine learning NFL picks on Rokfin.com.





NFL Point Spread Picks - AFC Wild Card

LAS VEGAS @ CINCINNATI -5.5

When these two teams met in November, the final score was 32-13 but it was a 3 point game in the 4th quarter with 5 minutes left. At the end, Chase caught on in the endzone, Carr threw and interception, and Mixon scored to make it a 19 point game from a 3 point one.

Cincinnati benefited from a crappy division and one of the softest schedule by any team. Even with an easy schedule, they had nine one-score games. The are ranked right in the middle overall average team in DVOA both on offense and defensive side. On the defense, their weakness is in the pass as they rank 24th at 11 points below average.

Coincidentally the Raiders also had 9 one score games including the last 4 games of the season which they won. Their offense is ranked similar to the Bengals, but I would argue with Waller healthy they could be ranked slightly better. Derek Carr started the season on a tear but quickly regressed to his mean. The Raiders defensive corp is stronger against the run which will force more times for Borrow to throw. With the snowy weather, Cinci might be thinking of leaning on the run more and play conservatively which will not be the right strategy.

Two average teams that don't have any significant differences in matchups are hard to read and seem like a close game. Looking at the trends, this year home teams favorite by less than a TD are just 33-59 (35.9%) against the spread (ATS).

I'm not excited much about this game as it will come down to the last play. But in these situations of even teams, the price should be 3 or 3.5 for the home team and given it's 5.5, I'm taking the underdog. This is contrary to what my machine learning models say which is Cinci by 7. But the situational confidence is so low it's worth to look twice, handicap and adjust.

THE PICK: Raiders +5.5

All other picks can be found on Rokfin.com/NFLpickles