Talk about a week of surprises!
Just when you thought that we knew who the top teams in the NFL were, the Chiefs, Seahawks, Bucs, Steelers, Ravens, and other Super Bowl contenders failed to impress in Week 9. That leaves a lot of questions to be answered which Week 10, which also adds to the intrigue.
With that, I am happy to announce some exciting new revisions to my projection model. My model is able to calculate a team’s chances of winning by using Pro Football Focus grades and coaching adjustments, and from there, calculating the gap between the two teams before covering it into a win probability. In the past, that win probability was used to project a spread, and from there, it served as more a model to pick against the spread.
However, this was never my goal with the model. Rather, I want it to be able to project the estimated margin of victory by each team. Luckily, I have now transformed my model to calculate how much better a team is than average on a neutral field, and from there, those totals can be used to project how much one team will beat another by. Now, I can provide reasonable expectations for you all on how a game should turn out.
If you had been interested in the betting aspect of this model, however, fret not! You can still utilize the difference in margin of victory and spread to find the best values from a spread perspective, while my model now projects recommended money lines and over/under totals. After we go through all the games, I will go over the model’s top bets of the week, so you will want to stick around until the end!
With that addressed, let us get to the Week 10 slate! There are some very intriguing divisional matchups on slate this season, as well as SIX late afternoon matchups that all offer a lot of storylines. In other words, we’re in tune for another exciting week of football!
NOTE: Model will be updated with injury updates, power ratings calculated with injuries in mind
*Odds via Vegas Insider
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Indianapolis Colts (5-3, 11th) at Tennessee Titans (6-2, 7th)
Colts Win Probability: 46.23467171%
The Colts have been a very inconsistent team week-to-week, and it all comes down to Phillip Rivers. He has been extremely volatile on this season, and is coming off of a poor performance against the Ravens. On the bright side, receiver TY Hilton may be back for this game, and the veteran quarterback has had plenty of encouraging performances as well. It’s hard not to back head coach Frank Reich on a short week, and for whatever it is worth, they are the type of tough defense that is going to benefit from Tennessee’s insistence on running the ball early and often with Derrick Henry.
Titans Win Probability: 53.76532829%
For the Titans, the key for them will be to utilize more early-down passes. They have one of the most efficient early-down passing offenses in the NFL, so if they adapt, they’re in position to dominate. They have far more playmaking talent and big-play ability than the Colts, and though public perception would not lead you to believe this whatsoever, I think they even have the better defense. They rank second in Pro Football Focus coverage grade, now have slot corner Desmond King in the fold, and also are about to get back star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Meanwhile, they rank bottom-two in red-zone and third-down defense, and as that positively regresses, they should field top-ten defense in addition to a top-ten offense.
Projected Winner: TEN by 2.13
Spread: TEN (PK)
Projected Spread: TEN (-2.49)
Moneyline Value: None
Over/Under Projection: 50.63 (Real O/U= 48.5)
This should be a hard-fought game between two well-rounded divisional rivals. However, I believe the public is still too high on the Colts. Yes, their defense has played well, but they have had the second-easiest schedule in the NFL, and aren’t able to rely on their quarterback the way top-tier teams need to. Tennessee is far more explosive, and are loaded with much more perimeter talent. Also, due to the perception about Indianapolis’ defense, it is likely that the over/under total isn’t doing justice to the amount of points that will be scored in this game.
SUNDAY, 1 PM ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3, 2nd) at Carolina Panthers (3-6, 27th)
Buccaneers Win Probability: 76.72981923%
The Bucs were absolutely humiliated by the Saints in primetime, and many have sold their stock on them as a result. However, let us not forget this is the same team that was considered the favorite to represent the NFC just a week ago. In short terms, they played a poor game in which they didn’t catch a single break, and those types of games happen. Tom Brady, even after last week, is playing at an exceptionally high level, and what better time for the offense to get back on track than against a talent-barren Panthers defense?
Panthers Win Probability: 23.27018077%
Yet, the Panthers almost beat the Chiefs in Kansas City last week, so they are clearly are a difficult team to beat. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady is one of the top play-callers in the entire sport, and with how many playmakers Carolina has, they’ll be able to score a lot of points.
Projected Winner: TB by 13.11
Actual Spread: TB (-4.5)
Projected Spread: TB (-7.67)
Moneyline Value: TB
Over/Under Projection: 51.79 (Real O/U= 50.5)
My model remains very confident in the Bucs, and I can’t blame them. They have too much talent to not produce better at some point, while the Panthers have drastically overachieved based on their underlying metrics. This definitely looks like a “get-right” game for Tampa Bay.
Houston Texans (2-6, 22nd) at Cleveland Browns (5-3, 15th)
Texans Win Probability: 40.46171313%
Whenever you have Deshaun Watson, you have a chance to win. Watson is playing at a very high level right now, and with all the speed the receiving corps features, the Texans aren’t missing De’Andre Hopkins the way they were supposed to. I like their chances to continue to produce at a high level against a middling Browns defense.
Browns Win Probability: 59.5382868%
Coming off of of their bye, the Browns will be much healthier; edge rusher Myles Garrett, their offensive line, quarterback Baker Mayfield (once back from COVID-19 list) and even running back Nick Chubb all benefit from that rest. Given the way Houston’s defense has performed this season, this feels like a game where Cleveland’s zone-rushing, play-action-heavy offense can thrive, and they just have far more roster depth than the Texans.
Projected Winner: CLE by 3.8
Spread: CLE (-3)
Projected Spread: CLE (-4.4)
Moneyline Value: HOU
Over/Under Projection: 52.23 (Real O/U= 53.5)
Better quarterback versus better roster: who wins? Since Cleveland’s offense is better or on par with Houston’s, even with Watson in the fold, given the offensive scheme and supporting cast, the Browns appear to be in decent shape to win this game. Still, I wouldn’t discount Houston’s chances of winning this game should Watson perform at a very high level, especially with home-field advantage not a factor.
Washington Football Team (2-6, 28th) at Detroit Lions (3-5, 25th)
Washington Win Probability: 42.27600414%
Welcome back, Alex Smith! With Kyle Allen out for the season with an ankle injury, Smith will take over as the starting quarterback. While it is unclear to know what to expect for him, he had been an effective player in the past, and he gets rid of the ball quickly- that will help a poor offensive line. Plus, their defense continues to impress, as they rank in the top-ten in coverage and pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus.
Lions Win Probability: 57.72399586%
With Smith starting, Washington is unlikely to utilize the same concepts (play-action passes) that may put the veteran quarterback under pressure, and given how conservative he is, I don’t anticipate them fielding a productive offense. The Lions, on the other hand, have all the makings of an explosive offense, and this is the type of opponent their defense, particularly rookie cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, needs to get back on track.
Projected Winner: DET by 1.95
Spread: DET (-4)
Projected Spread: DET (-3.8)
Moneyline Value: WSH
Over/Under Projection: 45.55 (Real O/U= 45.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7, 31st) at Green Bay Packers (6-2, 4th)
Jaguars Win Probability: 11.17889347%
Move over Minshew magic, it is time for Jake Luton to steal the show! The sixth-round rookie quarterback, though he had some negative plays, produced far more positive plays than expected, and he still has playmakers to work with. In all honesty, though, I don’t think anyone expects them to win this game.
Packers Win Probability: 88.82110653%
You can make the case that Aaron Rodgers has been the best quarterback in the NFL this season, while Davante Adams has been the best receiver. When you have the top performing quarterback and receiver, you’re going to have a lot of success. Green Bay’s offense continues to click on all cylinders this season, especially with strong play-calling from head coach Matt LeFleur, and they have a middle-of-the-pack defense to support it.
Projected Winner: GB by 14.45
Spread: GB (-13.5)
Projected Spread: GB (-14.06)
Moneyline Value: Neither
Over/Under Projection: 50.7 (Real O/U= 52.5)
All metrics indicate the Packers should win this game by roughly two touchdowns, especially since they’ll be coming off of ten-days rest. Are you going to trust Aaron Rodgers or Jake Luton? In the end, Green Bay gets one step closer to the #1 seed in the NFC, while Jacksonville gets one step closer to a franchise quarterback via the draft.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1, 21st) at New York Giants (2-7, 30th)
Eagles Win Probability: 67.868558943%
Don’t look now, but the Eagles are starting to get healthy? Offensive tackle Lane Johnson, interior offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo should join tackle Jason Peters to revamp a battered down offensive line, and having rookie receiver Jalen Reagor back certainly helps add more explosiveness to the offense. Now, it is up to Carson Wentz to lead a competent offense. So far, he has failed, but he also has a track record of being a mid-tier quarterback, and he did play well against the Giants the first time these two teams met. Also, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has done a great job with a defense that ranks top-ten in yards/play allowed.
Giants Win Probability: 31.31441057%
As of now, the Giants have the better-performing quarterback in this matchup. Getting back slot receiver Sterling Shepard back from injury has really helped Daniel Jones, who has as many big-throws per pass as Wentz, but half the amount of turnover-worthy plays (per Pro Football Focus). Despite their overall lack of talent, New York has generally been a difficult team to beat this season, as they’ve played tough and gotten surprising results from their defense.
Projected Winner: PHI by 4.4
Spread: PHI (-3.5)
Projected Spread: PHI (-4.91)
Moneyline Value: PHI
Over/Under Projection: 45.25 (Real O/U= 44.5)
Now that the Eagles are almost back to full strength, they should perform far better than they did when these two teams faced off earlier- they won by a single point. You’d assume Wentz will play better down the stretch, while New York’s defense has drastically overachieved this season. With that in mind, Philadelphia may actually be undervalued by the betting markets here.
SUNDAY, 4PM ET
Los Angeles Chargers (2-6, 19th) at Miami Dolphins (5-3, 24th)
Chargers Win Probability: 53.21683511%
The Chargers may be 2-6, but as their mere -11 point differential suggests, they deserve far better. All of their losses have come by one score or less, and that’s mostly against winning teams in the Chiefs, Bucs, Saints, and Raiders. At some point, they’ll be on the right side of variance, right? Justin Herbert continues to outperform all expectations for him; he is not only producing big plays, but he is limiting the negatives. Heck, you can make the case Los Angeles has the better offense AND defense, which obviously means they have a decent chance of winning.
Dolphins Win Probability: 46.78316489%
Yet, the Dolphins rank 4th in point differential, and are coming off of multiple wins against well-regarded NFC West teams in the Rams and Cardinals. Their coaching staff is quietly one of the best in the NFL, and Tua Tagovailoa performed very well last week. In what figures to be a close game between two rookie quarterbacks, the infrastructure they have in place, unlike the chaos going on with the Chargers, is something they ought to take advantage of.
Projected Winner: LAC by 1.07
Spread: MIA (-2.5)
Projected Spread: MIA (-0.17)
Moneyline Value: LAC
Over/Under Projection: 47.19 (Real O/U= 48)
Upset alert! The Dolphins are certainly darlings of the public right now, as you’d expect after multiple upset wins. Yet, they have benefitted from a severe amount of turnover luck, as they aren’t only getting turnovers, but are getting defense and special teams touchdowns. That certainly is not a stable approach to winning, and I could see Los Angeles’ receiving corps performing well against this man-heavy defense that has had issues in pass coverage at times. I see an overvalued, lucky team against an undervalued, unlucky team, so it is understandable why my model believes the Chargers will win.
Buffalo Bills (7-2, 10th) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3, 18th)
Bills Win Probability: 60.01000051%
They haven’t been talked about much this season, but the Bills are 7-2, and just dominated the Seahawks, of all teams. When trying to see why they’re having success, the reasons are obvious. They are a progressive team that passes on early downs, utilizes play-action passes, and also leverages Josh Allen in the designed quarterback rushing attack, while their defense is committed to stopping the pass, rather than sacrificing resources to defend the run. As a result, they might be the team you’d trust most in the AFC, outside of the Chiefs, to make optimal decisions, and it isn’t like they don’t have talent. Josh Allen is a top-five graded quarterback from Pro Football Focus, their receiving corps is prolific, their offensive line is strong, and their pass defense is adequate. They aren’t a team I’d want to play right now.
Cardinals Win Probability: 39.98999949%
Speaking of dynamic young quarterbacks, Kyler Murray has been a joy to watch this season. What he is doing as a rusher right now is lethal, he gets rid of the ball quickly, and he is taking more shots down the field. Arizona’s offense ranks fourth in yards/play, and that speaks to how Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury have meshed together. They aren’t a fun team to plan against, and their uniqueness give them the chance to beat any team.
Projected Winner: BUF by 4.64
Spread: ARI (-1.5)
Projected Spread: BUF (-2.05)
Moneyline Value: BUF
Over/Under Projection: 53.04 (Real O/U= 56)
Why are the Cardinals favored in this game? The Bills are undoubtedly the all-around better team in this matchup, and home-field advantage has not been a factor at all this season. Thus, they should be favorites, not Arizona, who has had the easiest schedule in the NFL and proved to be closer to the Dolphins than Buffalo. I just don’t see what the Cardinals do better than the Bills, outside of running the ball. For that reason, I’m all-in on my model’s projections here.
Denver Broncos (3-5, 20th) at Las Vegas Raiders (5-3, 26th)
Broncos Win Probability: 55.59823533%
They’ve been a roller coaster this season, but the Broncos are not a bad team. They have had to deal with a substantial amount of injuries, but have managed to remain competitive this season. Drew Lock’s underlying metrics, particularly his ability to produce chunk plays, has improved, and rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy is starting to emerge as the elite separator he is. Plus, assuming cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Bryce Callahan play, they have one of the top defenses in the NFL, whereas Jeudy could dominate against a putrid Raiders defense.
Raiders Win Probability: 44.40176467%
The Raiders are pesky, to say the least. Head coach Jon Gruden has been one of the top play-callers this season, and he has built a very positive culture that the players can rally behind. Now that Derek Carr is willing to throw the ball down the field, their offense is much more dynamic than it was last year, and it’s only a matter of time before Henry Ruggs III has a big breakout game. This is a big game for them to try to stay at the top of the AFC wildcard picture.
Projected Winner: DEN by 1.73
Spread: LV (-5)
Projected Spread: DEN (-0.79)
Moneyline Value: DEN
Over/Under Projection: 46.8 (Real O/U= 52)
The Raiders are a fun story, but they also are an average offense on early downs, and have relied on their rushing attack and third-down luck to have success. That definitely isn’t likely to continue, especially against a Broncos defense that is super strong up front, and also is above-average in terms of pass coverage. It’s hard to have any faith in Drew Lock, but Las Vegas is walking on thin ice right now (would you expect anything else), so it is understandable why my model believes their luck will catch up to them.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1, 23rd) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0, 6th)
Bengals Win Probability: 33.70800877%
They may only have a 2-5-1 record, but there is a lot of optimism surrounding the Bengals right now. They’ve remained competitive in three-straight games against three playoff contenders in the Colts, Browns, and Titans, and even beat Tennessee by multiple scores. Now, they’re coming off of their bye, which allows their offensive line to get healthy. That will be needed for them to protect Joe Burrow against a fearsome pass rush, but to his credit, Burrow is the 12th-highest graded quarterback from Pro Football Focus this season. Overall, Cincinnati has a better offense than Pittsburgh, so I wouldn’t discount their chances of keeping this game tight.
Steelers Win Probability: 66.29199123%
Based on defense grade and EPA/play allowed, the Steelers have easily been the top defense in the NFL this season. As mentioned, their vaunted front four could cause major problems for Burrow behind a poor offensive line, and their secondary has played better as of late. Now, it is time for their offense to hold up their end of the bargain, which is more than possible against a below-average Bengals defense; if Ben Roethlisberger pushes the ball down the field or at least better distributes it to his playmakers, perhaps this can serve as a turning point for them.
Projected Winner: PIT by 7.81
Spread: PIT (-7)
Projected Spread: PIT (-6.81)
Moneyline Value: CIN
Over/Under Projection: 47.76 (Real O/U= 47.5)
This projection assumes that Roethlisberger, who is currently on the COVID-19 list, will be cleared for this game. If not, and Mason Rudolph has to start, this game gets even more interesting. Either way, Pittsburgh will need to win this game the same way they have in the past- their defense overcompensating for a middling offense. That’s not a sustainable approach to winning, which is why the Bengals present some money line value, but it most likely won’t be something they will have to worry about until they face more difficult teams (Ravens again, Bills, Colts) down the stretch.
Seattle Seahawks (6-2, 3rd) at Los Angeles Rams (5-3, 9th)
Seahawks Win Probability: 54.68777271%
The Seahawks certainly weren’t expecting to get blown out by the Bills, but now, they have to put that in the past. Luckily for them, I severely doubt Russell Wilson has two poor games in a row, and they still have the second-best offense in the NFL; they’re so explosive! They undoubtedly have a major quarterback advantage here, and although their secondary can get beat deep, the Rams are more of a horizontal offense that likes to run the ball a lot- this is a good matchup for Seattle.
Rams Win Probability: 45.31222729%
At the same time, head coach Sean McVay has had a lot of success against Seattle’s defense in the past; he has only been held under 28 points twice. Jared Goff plays far better when he is kept clean, and that shouldn’t be an issue in this game, while the Rams would appear to have the coaching advantage. They have the secondary and pass rush to provide some resistance to the Seahawks, additionally, and are also coming off of their bye.
Projected Winner: SEA by 3.2
Spread: LAR (-1.5)
Projected Spread: SEA (-0.35)
Moneyline Value: SEA
Over/Under Projection: 55.65 (Real O/U: 55.5)
This game has massive implications on the NFC West, as the winner will take control of the division. When you factor in the lack of home-field advantage, I just cannot understand why the Rams are a favorite in this game. Seattle’s offense is far more dynamic and explosive, and it is clear that they are being undervalued because of their defensive issues. Them winning by a field goal feels about right.
Also, look at that over/under projection! Great minds think alike!
San Francisco 49ers (4-5, 12th) at New Orleans Saints (6-2, 8th)
49ers Win Probability: 45.31222729%
Yes, the 49ers were demolished in primetime against the Packers. However, no team was going to play dealing with everything they were; a substantial amount of injuries in addition to a false positive COVID-19 test that led to some of their only remaining premier players being out with injury. Now, they’ll have ten days to prepare, and will get back receiver Brandon Aiyuk and take Trent Williams; receiver Deebo Samuel and cornerback Richard Sherman also have a decent chance to play in this game. Kyle Shanahan has had his way with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in the past, and the extra time to prepare should only help him continue to do so.
Saints Win Probability: 54.68777271%
With receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back in the fold, the Saints seem to be a team on the rise. Head coach Sean Payton is passing the ball far more often on early downs, and their offense is far more diverse now. Plus, they may finally be starting to get positive regression with penalties, red-zone, and third-down performance, while their pass rush and pass coverage are working in tandem. If you believe in momentum, you ought to be high on this team.
Projected Winner: NO by 2.6
Spread: NO (-9)
Projected Spread: NO (-2.8)
Moneyline Value: SF
Over/Under Projection: 51.57 (Real O/U: 50.5)
Public perception of the Saints has gotten out of hand, with the opening spread jumping 2.5 points in their favor. Per Pro Football Focus ELO rankings, San Francisco has a top-ten offense and defense, and there is a lot of reason to suggest that Shanahan will have his way with New Orleans’ defense. For that reason, I think that this game may be even more high scoring than the over/under projection would suggest, and I agree with my model believing that this will be a far closer game than people expect. In fact, after seeing my model’s projection, I wouldn’t be shocked if San Francisco wins this game outright.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Baltimore Ravens (6-2, 5th) at New England Patriots (3-5, 16th)
Ravens Win Probability: 58.19514561%
It hasn’t been quite as flashy as in the past, but the Ravens are 6-2 and rank second in average point differential. Their defense continues to perform at a high level thanks to their remarkable secondary, and they are able to generate enough pressure due to defensive coordinator Don Martingale’s unique blitz packages. Cam Newton’s Pro Football Focus grades have consistently been lower against the blitz, and I have no doubts that Baltimore’s secondary will have no issues with New England’s slow receivers. Also, Lamar Jackson and the offense gave Bill Belichick tremendous difficulties last season with his abilities as a rusher against a man-heavy defense.
Patriots Win Probability: 41.80485439%
Regardless, Baltimore’s offense was far better last season, as Jackson currently has a turnover-worthy play rate of 4.81%, compared to a big-time throw rate of 3.33%. Overall, the Ravens rank just 22nd in yards/play, which is actually lower than the Patriots. Cam Newton is quietly playing at a high level, despite public narratives; his underlying metrics do not line up with his actual numbers. I’d expect his 90.3 passer rating when kept clean to regress positively, while over time, a Bill Belichick-led defense will figure things out.
Projected Winner: BAL by 4.63
Spread: BAL (-7)
Projected Spread: BAL (-1.46)
Moneyline Value: NE
Over/Under Projection: 49.84 (Real O/U: 43.5)
The matchups favor Baltimore in this game, but they haven’t been dominant at all this season. Jackson’s propensity for negative plays is concerning, and with Stephon Gilmore coming back, I think New England should fare much better this season.
The Ravens are the projected winner this game for a reason, as these teams are very similar, yet they have much moe roster talent. The real intrigue with this game is on the over/under total. It only sits a 43.5, but we just saw a Patriots/Jets game lead to 57 points. In other words, 43.5 points is remarkably low for a game in a season in which scoring is up and both offenses have smart play-callers and dynamic quarterbacks.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Minnesota Vikings (3-5, 14th) at Chicago Bears (5-4, 17th)
Vikings Win Probability: 55.6313082%
My model has remained confident in the Vikings, even as they were only 1-5 and considered by many to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. Now, with the easiest schedule in the NFL left remaining, they have a chance at making the playoffs! Don’t sleep on their offense, which ranks first in yards/play. Kirk Cousins, for all his warts, is a top-ten quarterback in Pro Football Focus grade, while Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are the top-two graded receivers in the NFL that have played in every game this season. Heck, even their offensive line is performing well! Even if their rushing attack inevitably regresses, they’re still well-built offensively. Plus, it was only a matter of time before head coach Mike Zimmer got his defense back on track, and now, their linebackers and safeties are performing well, which is helping them mitigate their issues at cornerback.
In short terms, the Vikings have become the team they hoped to be on both sides of the ball, and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about them.
Bears Win Probability: 44.368918%
The only caveat with Minnesota’s optimistic outlook is that he is only averaged 17 attempts over the past two games. The Bears have a very strong front seven, so if they stop the Vikings on early down runs, it will put Cousins in some tough third-down situations. Facing a vaunted pass rush behind a poor offensive line, that may end poorly, similar to his past games against Chicago. Receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are going to get open against a below-average cornerback group, so if Nick Foles holds his end of the bargain, they perhaps can win a low-scoring grudge match.
Projected Winner: MIN by 2.48
Spread: MIN (-2.5)
Projected Spread: MIN (-0.61)
Moneyline Value: CHI
Over/Under Projection: 48.05 (Real O/U= 45)
Kirk Cousins in the cold against a strong pass rush in obvious passing situations feels like a recipe of disaster. At the same time, the Bears offense this season has been nothing but a disaster. I expect this to be a game down to wire, and, hey, look at how close the spread is to the margin of victory!
Model’s Best Picks
Although my model is more of a projection model than a betting model, we can still use it to identify the best value picks. To do so, I calculated the average difference from Vegas’ lines and the model’s projections, as well as the standard deviation. Thus, all of these picks are listed because they are one deviation over from the average difference.
- TB (-4.5) at CAR
- DEN (+5) at LV
- SF (+9) at NO
- BUF (+1.5) at ARI
- DEN (+200) at LV
- BUF (+110) at ARI
- SEA (+110) at LAR
- BAL at NE (Over 43.5)
- DEN at LV (Under 52)
All odds are updated from Vegas Insider as of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Additionally, all advanced metrics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus. Remember, these are based on blind projections, so when it comes to betting on games, please bet responsibility and realize that as a small-sample size sport, anything can happen within one game of football! Hey, that’s the fun of it all; enjoy a great week of football!