Before we get into this week’s breakdown, I wanted to share a trend with all of you that my man Brad Gagnon dropped in one of his columns last Thursday.
“Over the previous 15 seasons, teams that had to travel 1,500-plus miles to play a midseason Thursday game on super-short rest have gone 0-10 against the line and straight up, losing by an average of 19.7 points a game.”
That trend moved to 11-0 straight up and against the spread with Denver’s improbable come-from-behind win over the New York Jets last Thursday night.
Not only that, but this trend comes into play once again on Thanksgiving night, as Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers will travel over 2,000 miles on short rest to take on John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.
Guess which side my money will be backing?
CHICAGO BEARS (7-3, 2-2 road) at OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-4, 2-3 home)
Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Opening line: Chicago -1.5
Current line: Oakland -5
Current betting trends: 58% of the public is currently backing the Bears.
Chicago: 6-4 against the spread in 10 games played this season.
Oakland: 6-4 against the spread in 10 games played this season.
Interesting trend: The Bears are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games against the Raiders.
Analysis: What’s the difference between Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie? Besides millions of dollars and an engagement to reality star Kristin Cavallari, Las Vegas says it’s 4.5 points, as Chicago opened at -1.5 for Sunday’s showdown at Oakland but reemerged at +3 once the news came down that Cutler would be out of action for an extended period of time after undergoing thumb surgery on Tuesday.
But before you race to the counters in an effort to get your hard-earned cash down on the Silver & Black, be sure to keep a few key facts in mind:
1. This is NOT Tyler Palko and the Chiefs at New England. Hanie has been in this system for three years, has a week to prepare for his first career start and has been thrown into more pressure-filled situations than a regular-season game at Oakland. Remember, this guy completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in last January’s NFC Championship game. The Bears may have lost, but Hanie gained some very valuable experience in the process.
2. Look for the Bears to lean heavily on running backs Matt Forte and Marion Barber in an effort to control the clock and set up their play-action offense. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Oakland ranks 25th in the league against the run (131.6 yds/gm)? My bad.
3. They’ve been winning games, but the Raiders are an undisciplined football team. They’ve already committed 114 penalties this season (second in the NFL) and have a turnover differential of minus-1 through 11 weeks (17th in NFL). Meanwhile, the Bears are +11 in turnovers this season (third in NFL).
The Bears will certainly have their work cut out for them on Sunday, but don’t expect this defense to go quietly into the night just because their starting quarterback is out for the next 6-8 weeks. Remember, these guys have covered the spread in five straight games.
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-4, 3-2 road) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-3, 4-0 home)
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday night)
Opening line: O/U 52
Current line: O/U 50.5
Current betting trends: 56% of the public is currently backing the UNDER.
New York Giants: The OVER is 5-4-1 in 10 games played this season.
New Orleans: The OVER is 5-5 in 10 games played this season.
Analysis: When you think New Orleans, you think points. When you think New York, you think…well, I don’t know what the hell you would think after that egg the G-Men laid last Sunday night against Philadelphia.
When you think NFL totals, you better be thinking about my man Warren Sharp from Sharp Football Analysis.com, who has been cashing left and right on overs and unders this season. Lets open up the floor for his thoughts on this Monday night showdown:
“The Saints have seen two straight unders and are now playing off of a bye week, and bye week teams this season have seen unders go 12-3 if the total is set above 44.
“An interesting phenomenon takes place when the Saints play at home. Since 2009, for home games totaled above 45 in the first 8 weeks of the season, the Saints’ average home total is 49 and OVERS hit six of ten times, going over by four points per game.
“However, in the second half of the season, the Saints’ average home total is 50.5 and the UNDER is 7-0 since 2009, going under by seven points per game. This Saints team is not nearly as explosive as they’ve been in the previous few seasons. New Orleans has scored over 27 points just one time in their last five games and that was against the winless Colts.”
To further Warren’s point, take a look at the fact that this total opened at 52 and has already been bet down to 50.5. This may not be the shootout that most people think we’re in store for on Monday night.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-8, 0-4 road) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-10, 0-5 home)
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Opening line: Carolina -4
Current line: Carolina -3
Current betting trends: 70% of the public is currently backing the Panthers.
Carolina: 5-5 against the spread in 10 games played this season.
Indianapolis: 2-8 against the spread in 10 games played this season.
Interesting trend: The Colts are 7-20 against the spread in their last 27 games following a straight up loss.
Analysis: Here we have a classic example of a game that nobody wants to watch, but plenty of people want to bet. Carolina opened as a 4-point road favorite, but that number was quickly steamed down to -3 by the early bettors, who clearly like the home Colts and the points coming off a bye.
Indianapolis has been dreadful this season, as the Colts have covered only two spreads all year and are 0-9 ATS in their last nine games against a team with a losing record. But keep in mind that the Panthers aren’t much better. Carolina is 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games and has only covered one spread over their last five outings.
The key for the Indy offense will be to establish the running game early, as Carolina currently ranks 30th in the NFL against the run (140.7 yds/gm). On the flip side, the Colts have a run defense that ranks 31st in the NFL (145.6 yds/gm) and will likely have trouble slowing down running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
The big red flag we see with this game is that despite 70% of the bets coming on in Cam Newton and Carolina, the line is actually moving AWAY from the Panthers. That means the big money is backing the Colts.
In a game that could go either way, I’d feel more confident knowing my cash in on the same side as big-money players who get down on the best numbers early in the week.