The improbable continues to transition to reality.
Over the last three weeks, we have watched plays upon which we normally rely fail, and last-minute weights tip the scales. We don’t look to make excuses for these losses but, instead, learn from them. To anybody who has asked, we have provided the same reply: the areas that have burned us are temporary. Teams and trends only perform at an unsustainable level for so long. By definition, it cannot sustain itself.
In Week 6, only four favorites – as per our numbers that locked on Wednesday – covered the spread. While we absolutely love to target underdogs – and we did, last week – it was clearly not the emphasis on underdogs that hurt us, but rather the selection of underdogs. Of course, this appears obvious. Until we consider which teams have pulled us down.
The specific franchises we have targeted week after week act as microcosm of the season, in general. For example, if we pick the Bears every time they play, their 1-5 record against the spread obviously is reflected in our own. Their downtrend is our downtrend. But all teams have peaks and valleys throughout the season, especially against the spread. When Chicago takes off, we do not want to miss the flight.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the weeks providing losses have given us the opportunity to re-invest in previously unattractive assets. Only at a discount.
Buy low. Sell high. Right now, our picks and our teams are undervalued.
Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.
*Confidence Picks – 2016 Season: 20-21-1 (Last Week: 3-4-1)
(2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2)
All Picks Against Spread – 2016 Season: 44-46-2 (Last Week: 5-8-2)
(2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4)
New Orleans Saints (+6.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
The battle of ‘rebound teams’ from Week 6 – both of which won straight-up and against the spread following a bye – meet the following week as the New Orleans Saints travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. For a non-conference game, the stakes are surprisingly high for both squads.
Think back to where each team sat after Week 4. The 0-3 Saints went to San Diego and needed two miraculous fumbles on back-to-back plays by the Chargers in order to win. Kansas City showed up to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for a blowout that appeared to be in the works before the Chiefs knew what hit them. Both teams may have bounced back in Week 6, but they had already fallen quite far beforehand.
The Saints have been remarkably consistent in their approach to each game. That is, New Orleans has the second-best offense – in yards and points – but worst and second-worst defense in points and yards allowed, respectively. Basically, each game follows the same map to a shootout. Fortunately for New Orleans, this method of attack works well against one of the least explosive offenses in the league in the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even after a bye week in a game against the worst defense in the league in Oakland – the Raiders have allowed the most yards-per-game defensively – the Chiefs only tallied 26 points, the second-fewest the Raiders have given up in a game, this year. With that, even the matchup against New Orleans does not provide the likelihood of an explosion. Where the Saints have allowed the second-most passing yards in the league, the Chiefs have amassed the sixth-fewest net-yards-per-pass-attempt.
It is imperative to either run up the score or suppress the opponent in order to cover a large spread, and the Chiefs are simply unsuited for the task. In fact, New Orleans might actually be turning its season around and clawing back into contention. The Saints pull off the outright upset, winning by a field goal and beating the spread.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-1)*
While we are always hesitant to use a team’s last game as a true barometer to its level of talent and expected production, we absolutely factor it into what we believe the spread should be. With that, how are the Seattle Seahawks – after beating the previously 4-1 Falcons – underdogs to a division rival in Arizona? Indeed, the Cardinals somewhat salvaged their season by improving to 3-3 with a Monday Night Football win, but they did so against the lowly New York Jets in one of the least competitive games of the year.
While the Cardinals were toying with the Jets, the Seahawks were busy taking care of business at home against a top-notch Atlanta squad. As noted in the write-up for the game between the Falcons and Chargers, Week 6’s matchup in Seattle was punctuated by a non-call of a potential pass interference on the final pass attempt of the game. Regardless of one’s own opinion on the call – or lack thereof – it was undoubtedly a topic of conversation throughout league offices.
What happens when an added emphasis is placed on making specific calls? There is a heightened sensitivity to it and, thus, a higher likelihood of penalties. Think about how many hand grazes to a quarterback’s helmet were called ‘personal fouls’ when the rule was implemented or how many ‘defenseless receivers’ earned first downs via penalties. In fact, think about how many penalties were called in the Monday Night Football game the night after the final play in Seattle became sports media fodder – three defensive pass interference calls, four defensive holding penalties, and a combined 19 flags.
Now, what happens when the league’s top defense – in yards allowed – largely aided by its aggressiveness is hamstrung by tighter calls in a road game on national television? It suffers to the point of no recovery.
Arizona’s gameplan plays perfectly into Seattle’s new ‘weakness,’ as the Cardinals have attempted the fourth-most deep pass plays in the league. Now, we can see why the Cardinals are favored in the game.
It’s because they will win.
Arizona wins by a field goal and covers.
Click here to sign up for Sporfolio to see the rest of Mario Mergola’s NFL picks against the point spread. Mergola finished with the highest total of correct NFL picks against the spread for the past two seasons – tracked by NFLPickwatch, and finished 2015 with an accuracy of 60.53% for his confidence picks.
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