When you're hot, you're hot! Another 4-1 week! That is the 3rd time the Big Five Picks have gone 4-1 and we are only six weeks into this young season. Overall the record is 17-12-1 or 58.62% accuracy. When picking against the spread, usually there is a 10% juice meaning the payout is at -110 or for each $100 placed on a team against the spread, the payout is $100 * 1/1.1 or $90.91. In order to reach profitability, you need to have at least 52.4% accuracy. Let's assume you place 1 unit on each game (or say $100) using the Big Five Picks this season. That means you were paid out for 17 of those games, lost 12 times, and pushed once (there was that weird field goal Sean McVay decided to kick with a few seconds left in the game but his team was down by 10 points). You would be up $345.45 which is a return on investment of 11.51% given that you have had to risk a total of $3000 over the last 6 weeks. Not bad!
For those who have been using my picks, you are very welcome! Hopefully you are near the top in your point spread/pick 'em contests, still alive in your survivor pool, or just making some nice side cash. With another week of in-season data at our disposal, the model is starting to become more robust. What does the model like this week? Check out the list below. The team expected to win is shown with their expected margin of victory (or what the spread should be in favor of the listed team) and the current spread in parentheses.
JAX -1.53 (-1)
LV -4.42 (-2.5)
CLE -6.05 (-3.5)
BUF -13.65 (-8)
WAS -6.11 (-3)
TB -0.44 (-2.5)
DET -2.06 (+3)
LAR -1.78 (-3)
SEA -9.04 (-7.5)
GB -5.11 (-1)
KC -8.37 (-5.5)
MIA -0.53 (+2.5)
SF -12.55 (-7)
As you can see, the model will tend to prefer favored teams and only two underdogs are preferred: Detroit and Miami. As a general rule, I try to avoid divisional matchups and I am weary of large spreads since I think the model is over-fitting the favored team (meaning it's giving the favored team too much credit). That means I will most likely avoid Buffalo. That spread kind of reminds me of the 49ers last week. Low point total but nearly double digit spread. So Vegas thinks that the Bills will win 24-14 or something like that? Perhaps but I would much rather take a double digit favor when the point total is close to 50. That way you are cheering for scoring, not an outcome that barely covers. Plus Buffalo is on the road (much like the 49ers were last week) and Buffalo hasn't looked too hot lately. Of course New England is terrible but divisional matchups are tough to predict.
It's usually wise to select teams with a rather large delta between their expected margin of victory and the current spread but, again, try to avoid divisional matchups and ask yourself if the model makes sense. That is where we infuse the art into the science when it comes to making predictions. Models are fine but they are not perfect. The eye test can carry just as much value such as how the teams are playing at the current moment, who is active or not, days of rest, travel, time game is played, weather, and so on.
With all that said, here are the Big Five Picks for Week 7 with my reasons.
- Cleveland -3
The Browns are coming off a huge win by handing the 49ers their first loss of the season. After the 49ers dismantled Dallas on national TV about two weeks ago, most pundits and NFL fans were thinking the 49ers hot start could be one of the best starts in NFL history. I certainly thought so! How dare we compare any team to the historically good 49ers teams from 1984, 1989, and 1994! Let's see how the 49ers finish this season. I still feel they can go 14-3 or 15-2 and win the whole thing but a lot can happen from now and February. For now, it's OK to lose a game. After all, only one team has ever run the table (1972 Dolphins) and I don't know if we will ever see a perfect team in our lifetime. The media pressure would just be too intense.
OK, but let's get back to Cleveland! Why do I like them? Well the model likes them but it's because the Browns have a very, very good defense and will face a backup QB prone to taking a decent number of sacks and making costly turnovers. Often times people will say that teams that can win the war in the trenches will win football games and that still holds true. I can't think of too many teams that are as dominant with both offensive and defensive lines as the Browns are with maybe an exception to the current 5-1 teams (SF, DET, PHI, and KC). Sorry MIA but you are a finesse team! The Browns don't quite have the playmakers on offense like the 4 teams I mentioned but they get Watson back and they have to brimming with confidence right now. Meanwhile, the Colts just announced that their top pick in the draft is out for the season. Another thing to consider is that Cleveland has allowed the 3rd fewest yards for a team's first five games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The two other teams who have allowed fewer yards are the 1970 Minnesota Vikings and the 1971 Baltimore Colts. The former went 12-2 that season and was a perennial Super Bowl contender making the Super Bowl four times from 1969 to 1976. The latter went 10-4 that season and was defending Super Bowl champions. Don't sleep on these Browns as they can surprise us by making their first trip in franchise history to the Super Bowl this year. Cleveland 27 - Indianapolis 10.
- Detroit +3
Speaking of teams that can make the Super Bowl this year for the first time in franchise history, how about the Detroit Lions?! For as long as I can remember, probably the most miserable fan bases were located in Cleveland and Detroit. Two cities I don't care to visit (what the heck is there to do in those cities?!) that have been hit hard by tough economic times and two teams that had winless seasons not too long ago (2017 for Cleveland and 2008 for Detroit). Of course it's still early in the season but there has to be a good deal of optimism in Detroit just as there is a high level of optimism for Detroit's rust belt neighbor just across Lake Erie. Could you imagine how nuts Lake Erie will be should the Browns and Lions square off in the Super Bowl! Who cares how cold it will be there in February! The video below I found on Twitter is just too funny!
@nflmemes_tiktok Incredible 💀 #NFL #Football #Detroit #Lions #SuperBowl #Sports #Michigan #Parade #Funny #FYP #AI ♬ original sound - NFL MEMES
Of course playing a 4-2 team on the road is not easy so it's understandable that Detroit will be an underdog but the model doesn't think so and I don't think the eye test thinks so either. The Lions beat KC on the road in the home opener! They also won in Green Bay and Tampa Bay by exactly 14 points in each of those games. Dan Campbell has to the front runner for Coach of the Year and I have to say I am incredibly impressed with how he has infused a winning culture for a franchise that had been so accustomed to losing. Baltimore finally returns home after a 3 game road trip but they look like an average team to me. They could win the AFC North but I think Cleveland will have something to say about that when they face each other again. The Ravens don't quite have the playmakers that Detroit has and the Lions now get firecracker rookie Jahmyr Gibbs back at RB. The better team is Detroit and it doesn't matter where this game is played. Expect a thrilling Lions victory in overtime. Detroit 26 - Baltimore 20.
- LA Rams -3
Now we move on to the afternoon games! There are a lot of strange spreads and point totals in the early games so you will want to be careful with the teams you select. However, the afternoon affairs have some juicy selections. The Rams are one of them, especially with Cooper Kupp back in the fold. He has not skipped a beat with two games over 100 receiving yards. The Rams are also at home and get a team that will be quite road weary. East Coast teams traveling to California usually don't fare well and I think the distractions that Hollywood and the southern California beaches have to offer will get the best of this young Pittsburgh team. Of course let's focus on the football side of things! The Steelers pass defense is trash while the Rams have two stud WRs. Just look at what Brandon Aiyuk and Nico Collins did to Pittsburgh earlier this season. If each of them could surpass 100 receiving yards and score 2 TDs, just imagine the damage Kupp and rookie WR Puka Nacua can do. Plus the Steelers offense lacks punch so I highly doubt they will keep pace with the Rams passing attack.
This is my favorite selection of the day and I am even picking the Steelers to lose in my survivor pool. The model indicates this game will be close but I don't think so. LA Rams 31 - Pittsburgh 17.
- Green Bay -1
Here we get another afternoon match between two teams going in opposite directions. The Broncos easily look like one of the worst teams in the league but on paper they should be better.
- Super Bowl winning coach Sean Payton.
- Super Bowl winning QB Russell Wilson.
- Plenty of Pro Bowl level talent at key positions such as RB, WR, and CB.
So what the heck is happening in the Rocky Mountains! Maybe the thin air is tough on Payton and Wilson who both came from NFL cities that play at sea level. Who knows but we know it's a dysfunctional arrangement. Meanwhile, the Packers have found their QB in Jordan Love. He still has a steep learning curve to overcome but he will get there under the tutelage of Matt LaFleur. The Packers are well rested after a bye week and they will finally have both Aaron Jones and Christian Watson on the field at the same time. Both are very good at what they do so I expect the Packers to attack the anemic Broncos defense both on the ground and through the air. Denver will do what it can on offense to keep up but this will be another tough game for the Broncos as they continue on their downward spiral. They might as well start looking towards next year's NFL draft for a new QB. Green Bay 27 - Denver 20.
- San Francisco -7
If all goes well with the morning and afternoon games, then we have saved the best for last in our quest for a 5-0 week. What better team to pick than our beloved 49ers to end the week in perfection! Of course no team is perfect and the 49ers-Browns game last week proved how hard it is to have a perfect season. Still, the 49ers came awfully close to winning in Cleveland even with the long travel, nasty weather, 3 hour time zone change, early start, questionable penalties, loss of Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, and missed FGs. What this tells me is that when the odds are stacked against the 49ers, they are still a very resilient bunch. Now they get to play in the comfortable confines of US Bank Stadium against a weak defense and an offense missing its best player.
Of course the big question is if both McCaffrey and Samuel will play on Monday Night Football. No doubt their absence hurts the 49ers chances of winning but something tells me that they will see the field. Definitely monitor the injury report today. However, I am still confident the 49ers can win big by giving McCaffrey and Samuel some rest. It is a long season after all and the ultimate goal is to win a 6th Super Bowl title.
If we get a bit more granular, when the 49ers played Cleveland last week, the 49ers faced a lot of man coverage. Cleveland ranks as one of the best teams playing man and the result was Brock Purdy's worst game of his young career. On the flip side, the Vikings play more zone and tend to blitz often. That is where Purdy thrives. Even if he doesn't have McCaffrey or Samuel, he still has Aiyuk and George Kittle who are great against zone defense. The run game will be fine with Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason and of course the 49ers defense will create havoc for Kirk Cousins who is very turnover prone. In fact, the 49ers lead the the league in turnover differential at +8 while the Vikings are 2nd to last -7. This will be the 49ers "get right" game and the model thinks so too with the largest delta between expected margin of victory and published point spread. San Francisco 31 - Minnesota 20.
There you have it! Two road teams in the morning, two favored teams in the afternoon, and then having faith in the 49ers to end the week. I smell a 5-0 week cooking in the kitchen!