NFL Picks Against the Spread: Why We Like the Eagles, Dolphins & Packers To Cover
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images. Pictured: Tua Tagovailoa
- Eagles +2.5 at Browns. Dolphins -3.5 at Broncos. Packers +2 at Colts.
- Yes, Raheem Palmer is betting on three road teams to cover on Sunday, including one favorite.
- Palmer -- who is 56-50-1 (52.8%) on NFL bets he’s tracked in the Action app this season -- supports his picks below.
Eagles +2.5 at Browns
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | More Odds
I’m sure you read the reports before last week’s matchup against Giants: The Philadelphia Eagles are as healthy as they’ve been all season.
Coming off a bye, the Eagles welcomed back running back Miles Sanders, wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, right tackle Lane Jackson, left guard Isaac Seumalo and left tackle Jason Peters. As a result, they took professional money all week as sharp money pushed the line up from -3 to the closing line of -5.
The results weren’t very favorable, however: They lost 27-17 outright on the road with Carson Wentz completing just 21-of-37 passes for 208 yards. The offense was downright abysmal as they went just 0-for-9 on third down and 1-for-3 on fourth down. Wentz has been dreadful this season with a league-high 12 interceptions, ranking 31st in quarterback rating (71.1) and 28th in ESPN’s Total QBR (47.6).
The good news is that the Eagles now travel to Cleveland to play the Browns, who are actually a step down in class defensively and will be missing the NFL’s sack leader in Myles Garrett (9.5), who tested positive for COVID-19.
The Browns are just 26th in defensive success rate (49.1%), 19th in expected points added, 19th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA while playing the second-worst schedule of opposing offenses. Cleveland is also 20th in points allowed at 27.2 points per game despite playing in two consecutive games aided by heavy rain and winds that restricted offensive output. That appears to be the case this week as well, with 10 mph winds and a 71% chance of precipitation forecasted.
In a game that could be decided on the ground, the Browns are just 25th in defensive rushing success rate (per Sharp Football Stats), so we should expect a solid game from Sanders — with another week under his belt and the offensive line getting healthy, this feels like a good spot for the Eagles offense.
Zach Ertz will be absent for this game, but look for Dallas Goedert to have a big game against a Browns defense that’s giving up a 59% success rate to opposing tight ends (24th in the NFL).
Even with the favorable offensive matchup, defense is where the Eagles could win this matchup.
They’re 11th in defensive efficiency, allowing only a 46% success rate on runs (ninth) and a 45% success rate against the pass (10th). The Browns may have Garrett, but the Eagles’ front line of Brandon Graham, Malik Jackson and Fletcher Cox is just as dangerous — Jim Schwartz’s defense is third in sacks and sixth in pressure rate. This unit’s ability to generate pressure without blitzing will be huge against Baker Mayfield, who has struggled against pressure throughout his career.
The Browns want to run the ball with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, however this provides a favorable matchup and game script for an Eagles defense that’s 10th in rushing efficiency — the Eagles allowed 152 yards on 36 carries in last week’s loss, but 64 came on nine rushes from Daniel Jones, who thrived in the read option, which is not something we’ve seen from Mayfield this season.
Overall, this is a good buy-low spot for an Eagles team that came out flat off the bye against a divisional opponent. They’ve been competitive against better teams in the Steelers and Ravens, and if Wentz doesn’t turn the ball over, we could see a bounce back performance. They could even have a chance to win this game outright.
I would also recommend adding the Eagles in 6-point teasers along with the Packers — with the weather concerns in Cleveland, this total is likely to come down, making the +8.5 more valuable.
Dolphins -3.5 at Broncos
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | More Odds
With the Dolphins winning three straight games since Tua Tagovailoa became the starting quarterback, it feels like we’re buying in at the highest point — something you never want to do in sports betting.
But is that what we’re actually doing?
The Dolphins are a top tier defense, allowing only 20.2 points per game while generating the fourth-most takeaways with 15. They’ve punished Jimmy Garoppolo, Joe Flacco and Jared Goff — they even forced Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert into mistakes. Enter Drew Lock, who has thrown eight interceptions to just six touchdowns passes. And while turnovers may not be predictive, some quarterbacks just can’t stop turning the ball over, and Lock is one of them.
Lock is also dead last in completion percentage (55%), 32nd in QBR (36.3) and 31st in DVOA. By all metrics, this is not the quarterback of the future in Denver, and it’s no coincidence that the Broncos have found themselves down at the half in each of the past four games.
In some ways, Denver’s points spreads are being artificially suppressed by Lock’s garbage time output.
Packers +2 at Colts
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | More Odds
Nearly every advanced defensive metric tells us that the Colts have a top tier unit: They’re fourth in defensive efficiency as well as fourth against the pass and the run. They’re also fifth in expected points added per play, fifth in total success rate and seventh in early down success rate (per Sharp Football Stats).
This stingy Indianapolis defense is allowing a league-best 290.4 total yards and only 19.7 points per game, fourth behind Baltimore, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
On the surface, it’s impressive. But upon digging into the schedule, it becomes immediately clear that the Colts haven’t played anyone. They’ve played just one quarterback within the top 10 of QBR in Ryan Tannehill, and it took a disastrous performance from a Titans special teams unit that handed the Colts the win on a silver platter.
The Colts have yet to prove they can beat good teams in 2020.
Despite starting the season 6-3, their six victories have come against teams that have a combined record of 21-33 with a point differential of -246: The Vikings, Jets, Bears, Bengals, Lions and Titans. Even removing the lowly Jets, from the equation, this still doesn’t look good.
Now the Colts face Aaron Rodgers, who is first in QBR (84.7) and quarterback rating (116.4), sixth in passing yards, as well as second in touchdown passes (26) and Football Outsiders’ DVOA while leading a second-ranked Packers offense. His performance truly demonstrates why he has the third-best odds to win MVP.
Nevertheless, this game comes down to whether you think Old Man Rivers and the Colts can keep up offensively.
The Packers have been successful as underdogs in the Matt LaFleur era, going 5-1 straight up and against the spread over the past two seasons. Their only loss came at the hands of the eventual NFC champion 49ers, who had the Packers’ number last season.
I see no reason to buck the trend. I like the Packers at +2 or on the moneyline as I project this game as a pick’em.
I’d also recommend adding the Packers to 6-point teasers. Here are my picks for Week 11 teaser legs:
- Eagles +2.5 up to +8.5
- Packers +1.5 up to +7.5
- Kansas City Chiefs -7.5 down to 1.5
- Ravens -6 down to -1
Rams-Buccaneers Under 48.5
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday | More Odds
We’ve run out of superlatives to describe first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Sean McVay was hailed as an offensive genius when he took over the Rams’ head coaching position in 2017, and it appears he’s found his equal on the defensive side of the ball.
The Rams are second in points allowed, holding teams 18.7 points per game. They’re first in expected points added per play, fourth in defensive success rate (41.4%) and they’ve held five out of eight opposing quarterbacks to sub-70 passer ratings. They aren’t just doing it against inferior competition, either — they held Russell Wilson and a Seahawks offense that’s averaging a league-high 31.8 points per game to only 16 points last week.
In the greatest scoring era in NFL history, the Rams’ second-half defense has reached historical levels, allowing just 36 points through nine games with only two second-half touchdowns (both against the Bills). The Rams are only allowing four second-half points per game, too, and have given up only three field goals over the second half of their past six games.
On the other side of the ball, we see quite possibly the biggest mismatch of the week: Jared Goff vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-ranked defense.
When handicapping games featuring Goff, there’s are a couple key questions to answer:
- Is he on the road?
- Will he face pressure?
The answer to both of those questions this week is yes.
Goff’s home/road splits may be one of the worst in the NFL as he sees his completion percentage drop by three points and sharp declines in passer rating and yards per game as well as an increase in turnovers.
Todd Bowles’ defense specializes in getting to the quarterback and the Buccaneers are second in both sacks (110) and pressure rate (27.4%). With the absence of left tackle Andrew Whitworth, we can expect this Rams offensive line to struggle, which should subsequently suppress their offensive output. With the Rams having the ninth-highest run/pass ratio (46%/54%), I don’t expect a high-scoring game.
From a numbers perspective this game doesn’t have a substantial edge, though it should still be low-scoring, so take the first-half under down to 24 and full-game under down to 48.