The Black Cat – Winning NFL Picks against the Spread

Welcome to the 2023-2024 Black Cat NFL Picks

2006: 58%
2007: 58%
2008: 62%
2009: 49%
2010: 60%
2011: 53%
2012: 43%
2013: 52%
2014: 45%
2015: 60% Hilton Contest Winner w/ 65%
2016: 45%
2017: 48%
2018: 55%
2019: 47%
2020: 49% (57% dogs)
2021: 50% (54% dogs)
2022: 50%

Week 2: 3-4 (9 – 13 Stars)
Week 3: 6-5 (15 – 15 Stars)
Week 4: 4-4 (9-10)
Overall: 13-13 (33 – 38 Stars)

Favorites: 2-1
Underdogs: 5-9
Over/Unders: 6-3

For posting notices: Threads @blackcatnfl

Week 5

I’m stuck at .500 but this could be a breakout week as I can really follow some data now. I ran hundreds of thousands of simulations microanalyzing every play from this season and here is what I found that deviated most from where Vegas and the betting public sit!

27. Arizona +3 vs. Cincinnati (5 Stars)
Prediction: Arizona 24, Cincinnati 20
Analysis: As we approach this stage of the season, it’s time to let the data do the talking. Arizona’s performance this year has been nothing short of remarkable, given their challenging schedule. Even facing Cincinnati, another formidable opponent, we can’t ignore the issues plaguing Joe Burrow and his offense. It’s time to trust the data, even if some bettors are holding onto different expectations. The Cardinals rushing advantage is very substantial.

28. Miami -10.5 vs. NY Giants (4 Stars)
Prediction: Dolphins 33, Giants 17
Analysis: It’s a dire situation in New York, to say the least. When you can’t find excitement in laying 10.5 points in this matchup, it’s hard to imagine when you can. The Giants don’t just lose; they MELT under pressure like a scene out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Statistically, the Dolphins have just eye-popping advantages in both the pass and rushing game that lead the week’s board in BOTH categories, as well as sacks. Unbelievable!

29. Houston +2 vs. Atlanta (3 Stars)
Prediction: Texans 21, Falcons 20
Analysis: The stats favor the Texans, making them a solid small underdog. Admittedly, small underdogs haven’t been the best bet for me this season, but I believe it’s only a matter of time before they pay off. Small edges in the passing game, sacks and turnovers outweigh Atlanta being the better rushing attack in this game.

30. NY Jets +2 vs. Denver (3 Stars)
Prediction: Jets 26, Broncos 23
Analysis: It’s puzzling to see the Jets as underdogs when they have Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook running against the Broncos. Additionally, the Broncos’ best wideout will be covered in “Sauce”. I anticipate the Jets’ passing game will show significant improvement against a more manageable opponent. This small underdog could turn out to be a significant value play thanks to a massive edge in the running game, one of the best this weekend!

31. Green Bay -2 vs. Las Vegas (2 Stars)
Prediction: Packers 23, Raiders 19
Analysis: In this matchup, my trust lies with Jordan Love and the Packers, given their more successful track record compared to the Raiders. We’re riding this lean with confidence because while the two teams stack up very evenly, the fatal mistakes will be made by the Raiders.

32. Dallas +3.5 vs. San Francisco (2 Stars)
Prediction: Cowboys 21, 49ers 23
Analysis: It appears that San Francisco is getting a bit too much of a points cushion in what is likely to be a closely contested game. Giving them more than a field goal seems excessive, so we’ll take the Cowboys to cover. I even feel they have the edge everywhere but the running game – where they are still reasonably competitive.

33. Washington vs. Chicago Over 44.5 (2 Stars)
Prediction: 52 total points
Analysis: I’m sure this matchup makes you feel a bit sleep and bored, but the Skins should be able to push 30 points against the Bears horrendous defense and – frankly – I can see the Bears scraping enough together to get into the low 20s too! I think both teams will have some success getting rushing yards and be at least serviceable through the air.

Keep an eye out for potential updates before kickoff on Sunday, and for more notifications, follow me on Threads!


Week 4

Sunday was a pretty great day but “I have a bad feeling about this!” settled in before the double kickoff nightmare of Monday night. It was a rough week as ZERO small underdogs won and just a couple random big underdogs came home to roost. Probably the most painful one was the Rams +2.5 losing seemingly-predictably by 3. On the bright side of the ledger, I hit 4 of the 5 over/unders which was a nice debut considering it was the first full slate of over/unders I have posted in 15 years.

19. Atlanta +3 Jacksonville (3 Stars) LOSS
Projected Score: Falcons 21, Jaguars 21
I see this as a tight “flip a coin” game, so I’ll take 3 on the neutral field.

20. Pittsburgh -3 Houston (3 Stars) LOSS
Projected Score: Steelers 23, Texans 17
I’m having a really good year and riding Pittsburgh as a dog has primarily been my fuel. Now as a favorite, they are still a good value as the overachieving Texans step up in class. Pittsburgh is a winning franchise and they know how to win. 3 or more feels like another good deal. The Steelers defense is real and historically, they have destroyed young Qbs on the road. This could be very lopsided but I’ll generously spot the Texans 17 based on calculations.

21. Minnesota -4.5 Carolina (2 Stars) ***WIN***
Projected Score: Vikings 24, Panthers 14
While the Panthers didn’t cover for me last week, the stats with a veteran Qb were notably better. So Bryce Young starting is not a positive. And this game does stack up as a “reversion to the mean”-type event. 4.5 is a tough number to justfify, however, but the air advantage is pretty massive. If I had played more reversion to the mean last week, it would have gone much better for me for sure.

22. Las Vegas +6 Chargers (2 Stars) LOSS
Projected Score: Raiders 23, Chargers 26
6 points is asking a lot for a team that figures to win all their games this season by a FG. Since when do the Chargers blow anyone out? Ok, maybe they win by 6 but I don’t see much upside here for the Chargers. I also see some signs that the Raiders are due for a good game.

23. NY Jets +8.5 KC (3 Stars) ***WIN***
Projected Score: Chiefs 20, Jets 15
I feel like we really know who these teams are. While the Chiefs are almost certainly going to win this game, this is not a team really known over the years for blowing out their opponents, last weekend being more of an abberation. Sure, taking the Jets feels a bit like flushing money down the toilet especially if they do indeed look as bad as we expect, but the numbers point to this side of the deck.

24. Chicago/Denver Over 46.5 (2 Stars) ***WIN***
Everyone is expecting this to be a pretty dull game, but with two terrible defenses on the field this could be a lot of points. I don’t know what Chicago will actually do offensively, but I’d be running Justin Fields every play after watching the Miami/Denver tape. Personally I like Chicago in this one but the computer likes Denver, but things really can only get better for the Bears. Maybe the Broncos can improve on defense this week too, cut it down to 35. I see this game 50+.

25. New Orleans/Tampa Bay Under 40 (2 Stars) ***WIN***
I have this game solidly in the 30s, it has all the earmarks of a boring defensive battle. It doesn’t hurt that Carr may not play against a really tough defense, or at least could be limited.

26. Seattle/NY Giants Over 47.5 (2 Stars) LOSS
I think this could be a pretty high scoring game too, also in the 50s. SO this total seems a bit low to me.

Week 3

We are not here to make you feel good and beach you off. While I haven’t had a strong overall season in many years, my underdogs still win. Vegas gives us a 50/50 – sometimes a 60/40 – and I’m pretty good at ferreting out the mongrels they add a couple points to for those willing to take the ugly step-child. So yeah, I know the other Qb is prettier and better but I evaluate the whole context and understand the NFL is a league where the top and bottom really aren’t all that far apart. So here are the ugly ducklings this week that I think will win you some cash!

7. Carolina +5 Seattle (4 stars) Seahawks 19, Panthers 17  LOSS
Reason: The 5-point spread seems a bit generous. Given the current state of both teams, this game should be closely contested. The Panthers, with a veteran quarterback now leading them, have a genuine chance to secure a victory or at least keep the game competitive until the final whistle. The quarterback change might make a difference.

8. Pittsburgh +2.5 Las Vegas (4 Stars) Steelers 21, Raiders 19 ***WIN***
Reason: The Steelers’ dominant defense was on full display last week, and they’re unlikely to ease up against the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. Gotta love Steelers – a winning team every year – as an underdog to…Vegas? Almost smells worthy of calling it a “trap”!

9. NY Jets +2.5 New England (4 Stars) Jets 19, Patriots 17 LOSS
Reason: Objectively, the Jets should handle the Patriots, as any improvement on the Patriots’ part hasn’t materialized yet. The Jets, despite criticism of their quarterback, are a known quantity from last season. Weather conditions may also limit the Patriots’ somewhat limited passing attack. This game has a premium for the winless Patriots having to win.

10. Tampa Bay +5.5 Philadelphia (3 Stars) Eagles 24, Bucs 21 (OT) LOSS
Reason: The Buccaneers appear capable of giving the Eagles a run for their money. This could have been a competitive match last season, and the Eagles are showing early signs of vulnerability, which might hinder their ability to contain the Bucs’ offense and put points on the board.

11. LA Chargers +1 Minnesota (3 Stars) Chargers 28, Vikings 27 ***WIN***
Reason: There is no arguing that – in a close game – the Vikings know better how to win those. And if you fear Justin Jefferson going all “Tyreek Hill” on the Chargers, that’s a very rational fear. And the (likely) unavailabily of Austin Eckler in this one is a concern. And typically, when we tell you why the other side is very attractive, that doesn’t turn out great for our win/loss record. All that aside, my algorithmic analysis does hate the Vikings defense and I am going with the Chargers here in a critical battle of two very offensively-explosive 0-3 teams.

12. LA Rams +2.5 Cincinnati (2 Stars) Rams 17, Bengals 14 LOSS
Reason: Regardless of Joe Burrow’s status, the Bengals’ offense is struggling, while the Rams have surprised with their balanced attack and defensive capabilities. The Bengals will fight to win this game, but it’s not certain they can match the Rams’ well-rounded performance. This is a 2022 line in 2023.

In this week’s NFL predictions, we’re also leaning heavily on the over/under bets despite last week’s “under” selection being a bust. These selections are driven by instinct rather than computer analysis, although the computer seems to concur in most cases. Let’s delve into our “Captain Obvious” 2-star over/under picks for this week:

  1. Colts/Ravens Under 43.5 ***WIN***
    • Reason: This game’s potential for a low score is influenced by the weather conditions and the absence of key running backs.
  2. Steelers/Vegas Under 43 ***WIN***
    • Reason: Both teams are expected to focus on a ground-and-pound style of play, keeping the scoring on the conservative side.
  3. Patriots/Jets Under 36 ***WIN***
    • Reason: Watching these offenses play is about as thrilling as watching paint dry, which justifies our bet on a low-scoring game.
  4. Broncos/Dolphins Over 48 ***WIN***
    • Reason: The Broncos’ defense allowed an abundance of points against Washington, and they now face the league’s top offense. Additionally, Russell displayed his deep-threat capabilities last week. While Waddle’s absence is a blow, Cracraft’s recent performance offers some hope. But let’s face it, it’s going to be all about Tyreek Hill.
  5. LA Chargers/Vikings Over 54 LOSS
    • Reason: Even if the over/under was set at 74, we’d still favor the over. With two potent offenses and rather pitiable defenses, this game promises to be a high-scoring affair.


Week 2

In Week 1, a lot of offseason hype proved irrelevant and teams more-or-less picked up where they left off last season. Unders also came through at a record-pace last week, with several teams missing the bus for their game entirely. For Week 2, we follow a similar approach that teams will largely pick-up where they ended the 2022 season and mitigate but tweak expectations from Week 1 to avoid an unbalanced over-reaction from 1 game.

As always, remember that sports betting involves risk (particularly when you follow OUR advice!), and these predictions are for entertainment purposes. Enjoy the games and good luck with your wagers!

Game #1: Tampa Bay -2.5 vs. Chicago (4 Stars) ***WIN***
Projected Score: Bucs 24, Bears 17

Reason: The projection suggests a 5-point gap from the spread, making Tampa Bay a solid bet. The Bears’ poor finish last season, coupled with a lackluster performance against the Packers in Week 1, raises concerns about their defense and offense. While Tampa Bay has room for improvement, their running game should be better than last year, making this a favorable pick.

Game #2: NY Jets +9 vs. Dallas (4 Stars) LOSS
Projected Score: Jets 17, Dallas 22

Reason: This is a good betting game because we know EXACTLY who these teams are from last year. If anything, it is the Jets who have made significant upgrades surrounding their efforts to win with Aaron Rodgers. With a dynamic duo at running back, they could outperform their pathetic 2022 offense even without Rodgers. Dallas coming off a 40-0 win creates inflated expectations, making this an attractive cash-in opportunity for the Jets backers.

Game #3: Las Vegas +8.5 vs. Buffalo (4 Stars) LOSS
Projected Score: Bills 24, Raiders 20

Reason: This projection is closer than the Vegas line suggests. Week 2 often sees top teams rebound from losses, but it’s crucial not to overestimate them. The Raiders can challenge the Bills in the running game, and Josh Allen’s turnover risk could be exploited by a team better than the Jets. Expect a closely contested match.

Game #4: Jacksonville +3.5 vs. KC (3 Stars – Over parlay 51) LOSS
Projected Score: 27-27 (OT win for KC?)

Reason: Like the Bills, the 0-1 Chiefs might face an overconfidence premium. Surprisingly, this projection calls it a pick ’em game, with the Jaguars’ offense expected to shine. Consider this in a parlay with the over, as a defensive battle is unlikely, and the Chiefs can match the Jaguars’ scoring.

Game #5: Washington +3.5 vs. Denver (3 Stars) ***WIN***
Projected Score: Washington 17, Denver 16

Reason: This pick isn’t necessarily an endorsement of Washington, but rather a cautious approach towards Denver’s hype. There’s no compelling reason to believe Denver has improved significantly, making this a battle of struggling teams. Take the points in what could be a closely contested game.

Game #6: Pittsburgh +2.5 vs. Cleveland (2 Stars) ***WIN***
Projected Score: Steelers 19, Browns 17

Reason: Despite doubts about Cleveland’s performance, the projections and Vegas odds indicate a fairly even matchup. The Steelers have a passing game edge and a potentially turnover-rich defense, which could make them a strong pick for Monday Night Football. Expect a low-scoring affair, although the line has already moved down this week.

Chargers/Titans Under 45 (2 Stars) LOSS
Projected Score: Chargers 21, Titans 17
Reason: A rare venture into over/under territory! This pick leans toward the under due to a full touchdown gap from the projection. Both the Chargers and Titans have shown a commitment to the running game, which might not make for the most exciting game but could result in a lower-scoring affair. Chargers may be without Eckler for some or most of the game, which may hurt rushing productivity and force them to the air more, so that’s a bit of a wildcard.