Every Friday during the season, ESPN betting analysts Doug Kezirian (0-5 last week, 4-8 overall), Joe Fortenbaugh (2-3, 8-16), Anita Marks (1-6, 11-16), Preston Johnson (0-1, 6-9), Mike Clay (2-0, 8-3) and Tyler Fulghum (3-3, 4-7), sports betting deputy editor David Bearman (1-2, 8-4), Seth Walder (0-4, 9-9) of ESPN analytics and Aaron Schatz (2-3, 12-11-1) of Football Outsiders will tell us what they like from Sunday’s NFL slate.
Note: Lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill as of Thursday.
4 p.m. ET games
Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (-9, 49.5)
Bearman: Anyone who stayed up to watch the Eagles-49ers game last Sunday night would agree that San Francisco should not be laying nine points here. Jimmy Garoppolo and Raheem Mostert might be back, improvements over Nick Mullens and Jerick McKinnon, but not to the point to get this number to nine. San Francisco, ravaged by injuries, has not looked solid this year unless playing the two New York teams. The defense continues to play well despite injuries, but remember, they have played the Giants, Jets and Eagles the past few weeks. Miami, meanwhile, has hung tough against some of the better teams in the league (New England, Buffalo and Seattle) and is sticking with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins’ weaknesses thus far have been on defense, not a huge concern against a struggling 49ers offense. While I don’t expect Miami to win, I do think the Dolphins can keep it to a one-score game, as they have done for the most part in all three of their losses this season (the Patriots scored late to win by 10). In addition, this is not a spot the 49ers have done well in, going 3-9-1 as a home favorite the past three seasons.
Pick: Dolphins +9
Indianapolis Colts (-1, 47) at Cleveland Browns
Marks: The Colts’ defense is one of the best in the league, and the Browns are in for a rude awakening. Baker Mayfield and crew will not be able to score at will, like they have the past three weeks against Cincinnati, Washington and Dallas. DeForest Buckner will make Mayfield’s day difficult, and I expect Xavier Rhodes to limit Odell Beckham Jr. Zach Pascal and Trey Burton will win the matchup battle from the slot, and the Colts should win on the road.
Pick: Colts -1
Fulghum: The Colts’ defense is tops in Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA metric. The same goes for the rankings over at Pro Football Focus. Indianapolis’ opposing QBR allowed is the best in the NFL by 20 points. The Colts are allowing the fewest yards per play, and per game, in the NFL. That being said, this will be their toughest test yet. Cleveland’s revamped offensive line is among the most dominant in the NFL, and Kevin Stefanski’s run game is humming along. Still, Colts games are averaging the fewest plays per game (118.3), and with Stefanski’s propensity to run and Frank Reich’s rather methodical offense, we are in line for a game script that suppresses plays and opportunities to score.
Pick: Under 47
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5, 54)
Schatz: This pick is all about the Dallas offense and defense — everything about the Cowboys says that there will be points scored by both the Cowboys and their opponents. The Cowboys are still way ahead of the rest of the league in both total pace and situation-neutral pace. They put their foot on the gas and run a lot of plays. The Giants are higher in pace than you think: ninth in total pace, 18th in situation-neutral — so they don’t exactly slow things down. The bet here is that the power of the Dallas offense and the ineptitude of the Dallas defense will overcome the ineptitude of the Giants’ offense, currently last in the league by DVOA.
Pick: Over 54
Walder: Three of the bottom five interior linemen in run stop win rate (an ESPN metric using Next Gen Stats) are on the Cowboys. Three! Dontari Poe, Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford rank 72nd, 73rd and 76th in the metric out of 76 qualifiers, respectively. The Giants’ run blocking is nothing special, and because of that I’m not particularly high on Devonta Freeman over the long haul. But if he’s ever going to have a decent game, it’s this week.
Pick: Freeman over 47.5 rushing yards
8:20 p.m. ET game
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-7, 57.5)
Fortenbaugh: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em — that’s what I’ve come to realize betting against Seattle week in and week out. So if the Seahawks flop in this spot, you have me to blame. An astounding 22 of Seattle’s past 26 games have been decided by one score. What’s even funkier is that the Seahawks have won 17 of those 22 games. The Minnesota defense currently ranks 26th in the NFL in scoring (31.3 PPG allowed), as this unit has fallen off dramatically from last season. And don’t forget, quarterback Kirk Cousins is just 6-15-1 ATS in prime-time games during his career.
Pick: Six-point teaser with Seahawks -1 and Steelers -1
Fulghum: Russell Wilson is scoring on everybody. That trend is likely to continue against a Minnesota defense that looks nothing like the formidable unit of the past few years. Injuries have removed Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr from Mike Zimmer’s squad, and the secondary has been completely revamped for 2020 … and it is not going well. On the other side, the Seahawks will be without Jamal Adams, and they haven’t stopped anyone either. With the emergence of Justin Jefferson, Cousins and the Vikings’ offense are in line for a spike game on the road. Seattle’s defense is allowing a whopping 401 passing yards per game this season, by far the worst in the league. Minnesota, by the way, is not much better — 29th in the league defending the pass (291.8) — so Wilson will undoubtedly cook again in a likely shootout.
Pick: Over 57.5
1 p.m. ET games
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-1, 54.5)
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