Big Five Picks for 2018 NFL Week 1

OK, the 7 month silence after an amazing Super Bowl LII contest is now over! We are back to making picks again and this time I have revised the model with all of the data science I have learned since the start of 2018. Let's hope I haven't overthought, or, as we say in the data science world, overfit my model!

The methodology goes like this ... use established metrics from a variety of renowned football analytic sites for the first few weeks of the NFL season to get a feel for how these teams stack up. Once we get enough in-season data, we can use that as a training set to determine a more robust predictive model that is reflective of the current season. Of course we will test our model with historical results to make sure the model is reliable.

Here are the top 5 teams the model spit out that show a large discrepancy between their true performance and the public perception (using lines established by Westgate and other books).

  1. Chicago +7.5
  2. Kansas City +3.5
  3. Pittburgh -3.5
  4. Philadelphia Pick 'Em
  5. Jacksonville -3

Since Philadelphia already played, we will replace them with Cincinnati at +3. Let's breakdown the games for these five teams this Sunday.

  1. Chicago is a road dog by more than a touchdown at Lambeau Field. While Green Bay has consistently been a better team than Chicago in the Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers have had their struggles and the Bears are a team on the rise. The Bears just added an elite pass rusher in Khalil Mack and they have a young and hungry offense. The Packers defense is nothing to write home about and to be getting more than 7 points in a historic rivalry like Bears - Packers, we will gladly take the Bears. The game should be close and as long as the Bears don't lose by more than a touchdown, we are good.

  2. Here we have another great divisional matchup between the Chiefs and the Chargers. The pass rush is very good for LAC and KC is showcasing a new and young QB. Also, the Chargers are the popular to pick to do what Philly did last year: be mediocre for a season and then go gangbusters the following season en route to a Super Bowl victory. However, the offensive firepower is still there for KC and head coach Andy Reid is one of the best in the business. Like the Bears - Packers game, this divisional matchup should be close and if the game is decided by a field goal, we cover regardless of the outcome.

  3. Again, another divisional matchup. What are we thinking with picking winners in divisional games that are usually unpredictable! In the previous two, we took the dogs. Now we are taking the favorite. We will play the emotional card with this one given that the Steelers have a lot to prove after the way last season ended and having knocked on the door to the Super Bowl for a few years now. Also, with the whole Le'Veon Bell situation, I think the Steelers are going to dominate the Browns to show that they can win without him. I like the new Browns roster on paper but based on the metrics, the difference in those metrics between Pittsburgh and Cleveland is larger than that difference between any other pair of opponents this weekend. That means a spread of -3.5 for Pittsburgh is low. The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender. The Browns are the Browns. Expect the Steelers to win by double digits.

  4. Now we can focus on a non-divisional game. The Bengals have been off the past two seasons but they are still a solid team after making the postseason every year from 2011 - 2015 with the same core players on this current roster. Maybe they will finally win a postseason game with Marvin Lewis as head coach. Who knows. The Colts return Andrew Luck but given that the Colts defense, especially their corners, is terrible, we can see the talented WRs/TEs for Cincinnati having a field on the turf at Lucas Oil Field Stadium. We all know that AJ Green is an elite talent but watch out for John Ross. The guy is speedster and he might have a great game given the surface of the field. Dalton should also have a great game in what can be a shootout. I will gladly take the more talented offense in a high scoring contest, especially when they are getting 3 points.

  5. Lastly, we will take Jacksonville against the NY football Giants. The Jaguars were very close to making the Super Bowl last season and they bring back an amazing defense. They also have a decent offense. The Giants are a team still trying to figure out who they are. Even with talented players like OBJ and Barkley, they lack an identity. Giving up just 3 points for the Jaguars is not asking much. They should beat the Giants by at least a touchdown.

OK, there you have it! I like three underdogs and two favors who happen to be legit Super Bowl contenders and are not giving up that many points against inferior competition. Three of these games are in the morning so consider parlaying or teasing all of them. Then press your winnings on the Chiefs in the afternoon game and press one more time on the Bears on Sunday Night Football. If all goes well, I will expect you to pay for my Week 2 predictions. LOL! Good luck and enjoy the first weekend of NFL football!