NFL Week 11 Early Picks: Falling For Patriots On Short Week Vs. Hapless Falcons

Value ... on the Lions?

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We’re a few weeks into this NFL betting experiment or exercise or whatever you want to call it, and after an initial burst of optimism, we’ve fallen on hard times.

The goal is simple: Pinpoint a few games in which the line feels somewhat vulnerable and ripe for early-week betting. In Week 10, we nailed the UNDER in the Detroit-Pittsburgh game even in spite of the fact that game saw a full overtime period. Other than that, though, it was a complete swing and miss, as Tampa Bay played its worst game of the season off the bye, and we completely misread the Denver-Philadelphia game.

Back on the horse, though, for Week 11, and here are the three early-week picks we’ve targeted.

New England Patriots (-6) at Atlanta Falcons
If there are cardinal rules for betting the NFL, one of them — perhaps the only one — is to not overreact week to week. Maybe being all over the Patriots in this spot — on the road for Thursday night with a rookie quarterback — is an example of that. But at the same time, the Falcons absolutely suck. They were able to knock everyone off the scent with four wins, which is fine, until you acknowledge those victories came against the Jets, Giants, Dolphins and Saints. Exactly one of those wins is anywhere near impressive. Their five losses have been by 99 combined points, including 23-, 26- and 40-point setbacks. They entered the week with the 27th-ranked run defense by DVOA and 28th-ranked pass defense. The offense ranked 25th overall. Even the special teams is putrid, ranked 31st. And in two of his last three weeks, Matt Ryan faced top-10 pass defenses, a group to which New England belongs. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per attempt with four picks. For what it’s worth, Mac Jones does know his way around Atlanta. The Patriots definitely should roll here and getting them at least within seven feels good.

Detroit Lions (+10) at Cleveland Browns
Give Detroit credit: Dan Campbell’s team battles every week. Despite being one of the least talented teams in the league, five of the Lions; eight losses have been by 10 points or fewer, and that doesn’t include Sunday’s tie, obviously. There’s a little bit of a lookahead factor here with Thanksgiving looming, but the Browns have their own issues, too, mainly Baker Mayfield’s health. If there’s one relative “strength,” for the Lions’ defense, it’s their run defense, which is middle of the road. If they can take away the interior run like Pittsburgh and New England did to Cleveland, there’s a path to get this thing ugly and keep it within the number.

Green Bay Packers (-2.5) at Minnesota Vikings
The Packers have kind of own the Vikings recently, winning their last four matchups against Minnesota by an average of eight points. On paper, this does feel like a tough spot for the Green Bay offense, though, as Minnesota quietly has a top-10 defense, while the Packers have struggled to match their output from a season ago. If the Vikings have a weakness, though, it’s against the run, ranking 31st in EPA/play allowed on the ground. Green Bay almost certainly will be without Aaron Jones, but A.J. Dillon might be the better back right now, and the Pack should lean on him to control the game. The more important point might be just how good the Packers defense is, as it’s allowing an average of 15 points over the last three weeks to Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. It’s always a little uncomfortable to take a public favorite on the road in the division, but getting Green Bay at less than a field goal is too tempting to pass.

Last week: 1-2
Total: 4-5

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