I had some tough luck last week, and I picked a lot of big underdogs that got pushed around by the actual big dogs. Apparently it’s good bye to the days where double digit dogs just covered and made life tough on all those people that think NFL teams usually kill each other. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m not changing my whole approach based on a couple weeks of tough records, I still only dropped two games last week, and just as easily could have been 8-6 with a little better luck here and there. Week 5 promises to be intriguing, with new trades taking place, top notch surprises meeting top notch expectations, and some teams that are struggling and fighting for their lives way too early in the season. I pick ’em all, follow along and enjoy!
Cincinnati Bengals (+9) @ Baltimore Ravens:I think the Ravens and Bengals are eerily similar as far as team skill is concerned. So 9 points obviously seems like way too much for me. Many are forgetting that the Bengals are one hail-mary away from being 4-0 to start the season. They haven’t dominated their competition, but 3 wins (two against quality opponents like Green Bay and Pittsburgh) give me a lot to like. A lot of people like to say that spreads don’t mean much, that the team that wins covers 80% of the time – and that may be true, but I think this game has the makings of a down-to-the-wire contest, with either team needing a big play to get the win. In that case, I’ll take the team with the 9 points, even if I’d give the Ravens a slight not in chance to win straight up.
Cleveland Browns (+6) @ Buffalo Bills: I hate to do this, because seeing Eric Man-Jina trade away his star offensive receiver only to put together his first win of the season in the process kind of makes me sick to my stomach. But, as the cards begin to stack, I can see too much to like about Cleveland and the points. They proved last week that they can run the ball well against a good defense. That should go a long way to covering the spread against the Bills. Then I see the injuries mounting in Buffalo. Offensively, they are probably fine, but they are already down two offensive linemen since the start of the season. Defensively it seems like every starter in their secondary is injured. Their starting safeties could both miss the game, their #1 pick from last year’s draft is now on IR, and their highly touted linebacker, Paul Posluszny is also out. This team needs to grind out clock, and instead the Bills rock the hurry-up. Until they figure that out, I’ll happily take their opponent and 6 points. I’m not sure how this spread started this high in the first place.
Washington Redskins @ Carolina Panthers (-3.5): I don’t think this bet has great value. This line started out at -6 for the Panthers, but has moved to just -3.5 – on the other hand, most of the bets continue to come in on 0-3 Carolina. However, I think the Panthers have enough big play ability to capture their first win. They are coming off two weeks of preparation, are better than 0-4, and should be able to run the ball against the Redskins. Washington’s two wins come against two of the worst teams in football, and neither were decisive. The Panthers have shot themselves in the foot repetitively, and have suffered greatly from a lack of good play calling. I think they re-commit to the run and stay relatively mistake free on Sunday to take down the Redskins by a touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5) @ Detroit Lions: Let me preface this with telling you that Detroit covers double digit spreads most of the time. However, despite their single win two weeks ago, this team has been hit by the injury bug. Now, some of the injured players might make it to the field on Sunday, but I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. I expect the Steelers Defense to give Matthew Stafford fits if he plays. I expect that physical Steeler style of play to be tough on the guys out playing with physical problems. I also expect the Lions to continue their brutal play at home. They were 1-7 ATS in Detroit last season. That’s right, 1-7. ATS… And they were often huge dogs. They don’t play well against the fans that have become accustomed to watching them lose. I expect more Steeler fans than Lion fans, the Steelers here are an easy pick.
Dallas Cowboys (-8.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs: I know KC is a tough place to play, and I know the Cowboys haven’t been very good this year. But Tony Romo will find room in that secondary, plenty of it, and lets just say the Chiefs defense can cure a lot of ills for the Cowboys offense. On the contrary I don’t think KC will find much room to run against Dallas’s front line. They’ve been good much of the year and I think that continues. Dallas came into the season a little overrated, and their Week 1 win just added to that, but I still expect them to fight for a playoff spot in a tough NFC East – if they are going to do that, destroying a team like KC is expected. Dallas does their best work against bad teams, the Chiefs are that.
Oakland Raiders @ New York Giants (-15): I absolutely hate doing this, taking a 15 point favorite. But the Giants play at home, and with Eli hurting I think they run even more than usual. That might keep the game close, sure, but it will also keep the Giants on the field offensively, running the life out of that Raiders defense. This has the looks of a 27-3 game if I’ve ever seen one. 27 minus 3 is 24, that’s a cover. The Raiders have given up 23 points or more three times this year, I expect that to happen for the 4th time. If that does indeed happen, like I expect, then the Giants have to cover. Because no way are the Raiders scoring 10 points against the Giants defense. The Raiders have been out-rushed and out-passed in every single game this season. Oakland = JV team (with some varsity studs suiting up for fun) and one lunatic owner that likely enjoys making people millionaires that very well shouldn’t be. All this has me taking the Giants, even if I am with the public on a huge NFL favorite.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+15) @ Philadelphia Eagles: Here I am again, taking a huge dog. They surely didn’t help me last week, but if I believe anything it’s that last week rarely means much when picking this week’s games. What I like about the Bucs as a 15 point dog is that they’ve lost just one game by more than 13 points this season, a 24-0 trouncing at the hands of the Giants in a game where absolutely everything that could have gone wrong actually did. In the last 3 years they’ve only lost 3 games by more than 15 points. I know this is a different team than they have been. The Bucs aren’t a good football team, they aren’t as good as I expected them to be even though the most I expected was mediocre. But McNabb should be a little rusty, and Tampa should run the ball a lot, eating away at the clock and Philly’s chances to win by three scores. It’s always tough to take a huge dog, a team with a 95% chance to lose, but I have to here, the value is too good. The Bucs aren’t the Raiders after all.
Minnesota Vikings (-10) @ St. Louis Rams: My opinion, the Rams are the worst team in football. Another opinion, the Vikings are one of the best. I know this game is on the road in a dome after a short week, but I can’t over-think this match-up too much. It’s the Vikings and the Rams – and I have to think the Vikings are at least 10 points better than the worst team in football. A dissolved offensive line, a running game that will find no room, and a quarterback issue that has no answer on the team. Adrian Peterson couldn’t tear up the Packers, but I bet he makes his mark on St. Louis. I’ll take the Vikes, me and everyone else.
Atlanta Falcons (+2.5) @ San Francisco 49ers: I want to take the Niners here, before any research I liked the 49ers, especially just -2.5 at home. I think the 49ers are one of the better teams in football. Atlanta travels a long way to play an old foe, and the Falcons offense hasn’t been nearly as successful as they were last year. The running game has slowed down to a crawl, and Matt Ryan hasn’t thrown the ball all that much, taking very few chances. But I wonder what a week away will do to the Falcons, and I wonder what a week away from playing the JV team in St. Louis does for the 49ers. What I’ve found in my research with Atlanta is that they generally struggle against teams that throw the ball real well, not necessarily a strength of the 49ers. Over their last 14 games, they’ve only lost to the Eagles, Patriots, Cardinals, and Saints – what do all those teams have in common? Prolific passers, air attacks that do most of their offensive damage. Atlanta isn’t great against the run, but they seem to do okay if they can key in on that part of an offense. Shaun Hill has done a good job, but the Falcons will make him win the game for the 49ers. History says he won’t be able to, and that has me going with the small road dog.
Houston Texans @ Arizona Cardinals (-5.5): I like the Cardinals to win. Now, they don’t run the ball real well, so they won’t be taking full advantage of teh Texans defense, but Houston is generally terrible on the road, Arizona stops the run well, and the Cardinals score enough to keep up with and out-do the Texans. This game opened as a 7 point favorite game for the Cardinals, I think that’s more even value. But, since the line has moved, I see the Cardinals as a solid side bet here.
New England Patriots (-3) @ Denver Broncos: I’ll take Bill against his old assistant coach. Everybody has been talking about how the Patriots miss Josh McDaniels, about how the offense doesn’t look the same without him, well, I expect that to motivate a couple Patriots this week, and I’m still one of the few that think New England is an elite team in this league. Denver just can’t go 5-0, can they? They have a chance, definitely, I doubt this game will be a blowout. However, the Broncos beating the Cowboys last week doesn’t make them a great team. If they ice the Patriots in Week 5, I’ll give them their due, but until that happens, the Patriots as a 3 point favorite against a team that has beaten Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oakland, and Dallas – sure, I’ll take my chances and like them. Plus, if all else fails, I can just wait for the refs to give a huge call to New England, right?
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) @ Seattle Seahawks: As if the Hawks needed more problems, their best pass rusher (Patrick Kerney) is out on defense while their offensive injury woes continue with the loss of starting OT, Sean Locklear. It’s getting gross. I don’t know what it is about Seattle, one of the healthiest major cities in the world, but the home town Seahawks just can’t seem to stay healthy there. Injury free, I would probably take the Hawks here. But injury free isn’t an option, and Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars’ physical style of play only make room for more Seahawks injuries. David Garrard has played very well, and there’s holes in that Hawks secondary. If Matty Hasselbeck comes back, the Hawks have a chance, but I don’t know how the Hawk brass could put their main guy out there with rib problems and neither of his starting OTs to protect him. I’ll take the healthy team.
Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) @ Tennessee Titans: Bad value, bad value, but I pick them all! The Titans and Colts have split each of the last 3 years. That’s pretty interesting to me considering the persona of these two teams during that time period. Last year’s win by the Colts was basically meaningless, as it was Jim Sorgi leading the Colts to victory in a game where most starters sat from both teams. But this is a different year, no doubt, and the Colts have yet to lose while plowing through their last two opponents by a combined score of 65-27. The NFC West hasn’t stood a chance thus far. Peyton Manning has come in dominating, and the Colts defense that normally gives up tons of rushing yardage, has tightened a little. The Titans, on the other hand, are winless after 4 attempts. The best regular season record from yester-year hasn’t gotten over Alberty Haynesworth’s departure, and surprisingly it’s their secondary getting pushed around because of it. I really want to go against the Colts here, I know the public will be throwing everything at Indianapolis, and besides last week’s destruction at the hands of the Jaguars, the Titans have played pretty good football and lost to some pretty good teams (Pittsburgh, Houston, the New York Jets – all losses by a touchdown or less). But I believe the Titans secondary to be a lovely match-up for Colts’ backers. Peyton should pick apart one of the more porous secondaries in football, so I have to take the Colts, even with the bad line value.
New York Jets (-2) @ Miami Dolphins: It comes down to the Jets slowing the Dolphins rushing attack so Miami can’t score many touchdowns, the Jets pass rush putting too much pressure on a quarterback starting his second game at the NFL level, and an offense that struggled last week and will re-commit to the run this time around. The Dolphins are a solid football team, I like them, they are much better than their 1-3 record insists – but they just don’t have a good match-up with the Jets. The Colts are a nice match-up for them. Lots of good teams will have plenty of trouble with the Dolphins, I just don’t think the Jets are one of them. Neither does the public, but so what, the public wins sometimes too. Scary spread, it hasn’t really moved at all despite nearly 70% loving the road Jets on Monday Night Football in Miami. But I ain’t scared. Lets do work!