NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Chiefs, Texans, Seahawks, Vikings Are This Expert’s Top Spread Bets For Week 11
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes
NFL Week 11 has arrived as the stakes for each game continue to grow in importance. Will underdogs continue their run of good fortune after going 86-62-1 (58.2%) through the first 10 weeks? Or will favorites start to even the score?
There are four sides I really fancy for this Sunday: A pair of short home underdogs, a small home favorite and a larger road underdog. Let’s dive into each.
Cowboys at Chiefs
The league adjusted to the Chiefs offense by using two-high safety looks and not blitzing among other schematic changes.
At first, the Chiefs offense seemed too stubborn to adjust by using the run and short passing attack to set up the deep shots. Even Patrick Mahomes said it’s not in his nature to play that way. However, they’ve demonstrated a greater willingness to play more patient football in recent weeks.
It’s not as sexy of a product, but it’s a necessary shift in mindset. And that new approach bodes well against a Cowboys defense that remains vulnerable against the run (20th in rush EPA) and struggles to guard opposing tight ends (24th in DVOA).
The offense has also received a boost from Orlando Brown’s improvement over the past five weeks. It makes sense it took him some time to adjust to a brand new offensive scheme — one that couldn’t be more different than his previous stop in Baltimore.
The Chiefs offense also shot itself in the foot too many times with turnovers early on in the season. Some were warranted, but others were certainly flukey. Even so, after all of the struggles and turnovers, they rank second in EPA per play and first in success rate for the season.
This ultimately sets up as a very good matchup for their offense.
Dan Quinn has evolved from his all Cover 3 days, but this is still not a defense that’s played a lot of the Kansas City beaters this year. Plus, Dallas will have to make do without its top two pass rushers with Randy Gregory recently joining Demarcus Lawrence on IR.
Gregory is a huge loss for a D that ranks 10th in Adjusted Sack Rate, despite only blitzing and getting pressure at the 18th-highest rate. A major reason has been the play of Gregory, who only ranks below Maxx Crosby and Myles Garrett in pass rushing among edge rushers, per PFF.
And when Mahomes does take his inevitable shots, he should have ample opportunities to exploit an uber-aggressive Cowboys defense on the outside. That includes Trevon Diggs, who actually grades out extremely poorly in overall coverage despite the extreme amount of interceptions. He’s very susceptible to double moves and is one reason Dallas ranks 26th in DVOA against deep passes.
The Dallas defense has been one of the best turnaround stories of the NFL season so far, but it’s a unit that has benefited from an extreme amount of turnovers, which does not seem sustainable.
The Cowboys have the fourth-most takeaways in the NFL thanks to 14 interceptions. None of these defenses have more than that over an entire season since 2014. For reference, they had only 10 last year and has finished with single-digit interceptions in five of the past 10 seasons. You can expect regression to come in that department, which has certainly skewed their defensive output.
I would imagine the same is true for their third-down defense, which ranks third in the league at 32.1%.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs defense has showed improvement in recent weeks. Yes, the competition hasn’t been the fiercest, but the numbers are still trending up after adjusting for opponent.
Overall, it’s been a slightly below-average unit from the perspective of Success Rate and EPA Per Play over the past five weeks. That’s all this team really needs to go along with its prolific offense.
Earlier in the season, they were grading out as the worst in the league:
- First five weeks: 2-3 record, allowed 32.6 ppg
- Past five weeks: 4-1 record, allowed 15.6 ppg
It’s no coincidence this has coincided with Kansas City getting healthier and making some personnel changes. The team cut Daniel Sorenson’s snaps in half, which means less Sorenson (always a good thing) and more Juan Thornhill. Linebacker Willie Gay and cornerback Charvarius Ward have returned to the lineup from injury and it also added Melvin Ingram to bolster the defensive line. And, maybe most importantly, Chris Jones has returned to the interior after the experiment of moving him outside failed miserably.
Look, the Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the league — they rank fourth in both Success Rate and overall in DVOA. They should move the ball here against a still subpar defense, but an improved Chiefs defense can get enough key stops on third down and/or in the red zone.
Kansas City has undoubtedly struggled against the spread (ATS) over the past year, but primarily as a favorite of more than a field goal.
For his career, Mahomes is now just 19-23-1 (45.2%) ATS as a favorite of more than a field goal thanks to a current streak of 2-12 since the midpoint of last season. However, he still has a shiny 10-2-1 (83.3%) ATS record as an underdog or favorite of a field goal or less, covering by an average of 6.73 points.
This is a good spot to buy low on the Chiefs at home under a field goal. Even if their defense can’t stop the Cowboys, a win by a field goal in a shootout is very much in the cards. And considering a field goal could make all the difference, the Chiefs have a much more favorable situation at kicker with Harrison Butker.
Don’t sleep on Kansas City’s special teams edge in this matchup, either. For the season, the Chiefs rank first in DVOA on Special Teams while the Cowboys rank 22nd.
Cardinals at Seahawks
Update: With Kyler Murray reportedly expected to miss this game, I would now bet the Seahawks to -2.5 (find the best real-time line here).
For the third consecutive week, there’s upside in betting against the Cardinals before Sunday in the event that Kyler Murray and/or DeAndre Hopkins don’t suit up. Let’s hope this works out as it did last week (and not the week prior).
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has noted he wants to take a cautious approach with Murray after an injury lingered throughout last season. It also might make sense to hold him out one more week considering Arizona’s comfortable position in the playoff race with a bye next week.
Kliff Kingsbury said again that the @AZCardinals will be careful with Kyler Murray’s return. They are aware they have only a game left before the bye, which brings more rest.
As far as Murray playing in Seattle, “it’s going to be close.”
— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) November 15, 2021
Even if Murray plays, he may be less than 100% as he recovers from a sprained ankle. With his mobility such an integral part of the offense, that’s a big deal. Plus, he could have significant rust as we’ve seen often with quarterbacks in their first start back from injury (see: Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson as recent examples).
The Cardinals also still have major regression coming on fourth downs, third-down defense and fumble luck.
This is a good spot to buy low on the Seahawks after last week’s dismal performance in their shutout by the Packers, while also selling a Cardinals team I still believe is overvalued in the market. Wilson didn’t look great last week, but we’ve seen that from quarterbacks returning from injury as I mentioned. I expect a much more Russ-like performance on Sunday.
Last week, the Seahawks were shutout for the first time in Russell Wilson era. Underdogs coming off a shutout loss have gone 41-24-3 (63.1%) ATS since 2003, according to our Action Labs data.
Plus, Wilson is 24-11-2 (68.6%) ATS as an underdog and 27-14-4 (65.9%) ATS off a loss. He’s also never lost three straight starts in his career — a streak he will look to keep intact on Sunday in a game Seattle likely needs to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The sky is falling in the Emerald City after last week. Articles have surfaced in Seattle about the end of the Wilson era. That’s usually a classic buy signal in the NFL.
Texans at Titans
Will the Titans finally have a flat effort? Sitting at 8-2 and currently occupying the top spot in the AFC playoff race, could you really blame them for coming out a little flat against a 1-8 Texans team? After all, they just completed the following stretch with a perfect 5-0 record:
- vs. Bills
- vs. Chiefs
- at Colts
- at Rams
- vs. Saints
Tennessee got a bit fortunate in a handful of those games with key turnovers and late game-changing swings. It easily could’ve lost games against the Bills, Colts and Saints if not for some assistant from Josh Allen slipping, Carson Wentz interceptions and referee Jerome Boger.
Oh, and did I mention Tennessee travels to New England next week? And the Titans will still be without Derrick Henry and Julio Jones.
This is a good spot to back the Texans coming off a bye and with what should look like a much more normal Tyrod Taylor, who obviously had some rust to shake off in his return. Working with the first-team offense for two weeks should do him wonders. He still gives Houston a significantly better chance than Davis Mills. Taylor can effectively use his legs against a poor rush defense and normally doesn’t make costly mistakes.
While Mike Vrabel boasts a gaudy 17-9 (65.4%) ATS record as an underdog, he’s only 13-18-1 (41.9%) ATS as a favorite.
We’ve certainly seen his teams play down to competition before.
This spot reminds me of a game back in December 2018: The Titans were 10.5-point home favorites against the Jets after a brutal four-game stretch against teams that would all finish with double-digit wins. Tennessee rallied in the fourth quarter with 13 straight points to win by four against a New York squad led by Josh McCown.
Packers at Vikings
There’s value on the small home pup in the 120th regular-season meeting of the Border Battle
I will start out by saying Aaron Rodgers has owned the Vikings. Including the postseason, he has 51 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 25 games against them. That includes a robust 108.3 passer rating — the highest of any opposing quarterback against the Vikings with a minimum of 200 attempts.
Davante Adams has also feasted on the Vikings in the past. Look no further than the five touchdowns he scored against them last season.
However, last year’s Vikings defense was the exception to the rule under Mike Zimmer. That unit suffered an unimaginable amount of personnel losses due to COVID and injuries. This year’s version is the norm under Zimmer.
Minnesota’s defense ranks inside the top-10 of Football Outsiders’ DVOA as well as Expected Points Added (EPA) per play. This unit should also have a much cleaner bill of health this week with the expected return of star safety Harrison Smith in addition to the potential returns of Anthony Barr and Patrick Peterson.
#Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had said on Monday he was “hopeful” of Patrick Peterson, Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr all playing against the Packers. Peterson and Smith in line to practice today and we’ll see about Barr.
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) November 17, 2021
It’s pretty amazing what this unit has done despite many new faces and key injuries.
This also isn’t the same potent Packers offense we’ve become accustomed to seeing in recent years. After already losing tight end Robert Tonyan to injury, they likely won’t have Aaron Jones this week. That will hurt in the passing attack. It also has injuries along the offensive line.
On the other side, the Packers defense has played at an elite level over the past month. The growth of this unit under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry has to excite Packers fans about this team’s ceiling. It’s really carried Green Bay at times this season.
That said, this shorthanded defense has played over its head, especially considering the injury situation. Already without star cornerback Jaire Alexander and stud edge rusher Z’Darius Smith, Green Bay just lost Whitney Mercilus for the season and could also be without Rashan Gary.
The latter is a massive loss. Gary, who leads the team in sacks, ranks in the top-five in QB pressures and hits among edge rushers. While he may try to play with a hyperextended elbow, he likely won’t be at full strength.
It’s also important to note the Packers are one of the most conservative teams in the league when it comes to injuries. Plus, there’s really no reason to rush anyone back with an 8-2 record and a bye on the horizon the week after next.
I expect to see regression for this defense. Can we really expect Kevin King, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes and Chandon Sullivan to keep this up at corner? And is De’Vondre Campbell suddenly an All-Pro linebacker? I’m not buying it.
Kirk Cousins, who is playing at a top-five level, should have ample opportunities to attack this secondary with his dynamic duo of receivers. And Dalvin Cook should run wild against a still very vulnerable Packers run defense.
Backing Zimmer as an underdog has historically turned a nice profit for bettors. He’s 31-20 (60.8%) ATS as an underdog, making him the seventh-most profitable coach out of 137 since 2003 — that includes a 13-6 (68.4%) mark against teams that have won at least two-thirds of their games.
I also believe the market is overvaluing the Packers due to their record. These two teams profile very similarly when you look at season long metrics. And it’s the Vikings — not the Packers — that rank inside the top-10 DVOA.
Yes, the Packers are 8-2 while the Vikings are just 4-5, but both teams have 6.4 Estimated Wins. Green Bay has simply won the coin-flip games while Minnesota hasn’t (0-2 overtime).
Just look at two common opponents each has played on the road:
- Against the Cardinals: Arizona turned it over at the goal line in the final seconds against Green Bay, while Minnesota missed a chip shot game-winning field goal in Phoenix.
- Against the Bengals: Minnesota lost to Cincinnati in overtime on a questionable fumble call. Meanwhile, Green Bay won in overtime in a game filled with missed field goals.
Lastly, the Vikings should have an advantage on special teams as the Packers special teams have been an absolute mess (30th in DVOA), especially in the kicking game.
Bonus: Teaser of the Week
If you can tease both the Vikings and Seahawks over a touchdown, that’s the best teaser option on the board.
Not only do I already see value on each individual side, but…
- The Vikings have yet to lose a game by more than one possession
- Russell Wilson has covered a 6-point teaser as an underdog 33-of-36 (91.7%) time when he starts and finishes a game, including a 21-2 record as an underdog between 1-3 points.