Week 6 was a pretty average week, but I made another slight improvement to my record, running my Sunday predictions against the spread up to 43-33-2 on the season. My recommended wagers are 14-10-1 (58%), which is a little lower than I’d like, but I’ve still managed to be profitable despite having lost two of my five-star plays this year. I strongly considered a six-star play this week but ultimately decided against it—I’ll explain why a little bit later on.
Before I get to the predictions this week, I’d like to talk a little about my NFL betting strategy. As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been following my blogs, I love to take underdogs. I will occasionally bet on favorites as well, but for the most part I often find the favorites to be slightly overvalued. Oddsmakers know that the betting public loves to take favorites and consequently there always seems to be great value backing the underdog, no matter how ugly they may look. Occasionally I may go out on a limb and end up looking like a complete moron (i.e.: picking the Bills to upset the 49ers in Week 5), but I find that more often than not I’m on the right side. I’ve correctly called some big upsets this year and have come very close in other situations where most people give the underdog no chance of winning the game outright. I only bring this up because once again, this looks like a week where there is a ton of value on the underdogs. The most common mistake that the general public makes is assuming that the best teams in the league are going to cover the spread each week, while the worst teams in the league are going to get blown out. Don’t be stupid. This is the NFL—anything can happen in any given week! Eventually sportsbooks will react and try to encourage more people to bet on underdogs, but until it happens, I’ll gladly put my money down on some bad teams.
I’ve done some investigative research into my picks so far this season. There have been a total of 92 games in the NFL season up to this point and I’ve made a selection on each game. Out of those 92 games, I predicted that the favorite would cover 36 times, while I backed the underdog 56 times.
Here is a breakdown of my overall numbers ATS:
All games: 50-40-2 (55.4%)
When I bet on a favorite: 15-21 (41.7%)
When I bet on a home favorite: 12-17 (41.4%)
When I bet on a road favorite: 3-4 (42.9%)
When I bet on an underdog: 35-19-2 (64.3%)
When I bet on a home underdog: 15-7-1 (67.4%)
When I bet on a road underdog: 20-12-1 (62.1%)
Sunday Night Football: 3-3 (50.0%)
Monday Night Football: 3-3 (50.0%)
Thursday Night Football (includes Wednesday opener): 3-4 (42.9%)
When I bet on an AFC vs. AFC matchup: 14-15-2 (46.8%)
When I bet on an NFC vs. NFC matchup: 21-12 (63.6%)
When I bet on an AFC vs. NFC matchup: 15-14 (51.7%)
Based on the numbers above, it’s clear that I’ve been far more successful when I back underdogs. Does this mean that I’m going to blindly bet on underdogs going forwards? Hell no. I’ll continue handicapping games the exact same way that I’ve done for the entire season, but I’m definitely more likely to recommend wagers on underdogs and NFC vs. NFC matchups based on my records so far this season.
I’ve been hitting at a 61.5% clip since my disastrous Week 1, so hopefully the run continues this week.
Titans @ Bills: This is the kind of game that I had circled at the start of the season as an easy win for the Bills. I took the over on their win total and thought they were a good team to take a flyer on to win the division. They may be tied for the division lead right now, but I have to be realistic about their prospects going forward. The defensive line that was supposed to be the team’s strength has been a weakness as the team has dealt with injuries to Kyle Williams and Mark Anderson, and the $100 million contract given out to Mario Williams looks like a bigger waste of money than singing lessons for Carl Lewis. Their young secondary has been getting picked apart, and Matt Hasselbeck finally has a healthy core of receivers to get the ball to. When they aren’t getting beat through the air, they’re getting beat on the ground. The Bills have allowed 138 more rushing yards than any other team this season. Their linebackers are slow and the last thing they want to see is the speedy Chris Johnson, who I expect to get back on track against this pathetic defense. If you’re worried that Buffalo’s offense might exploit an equally sad Tennessee defense, don’t be. Ryan Fitzpatrick turns the ball over like it’s a bodily function. He has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his last 15 games. As far as the ground game, which was a bright spot for the team while C.J. Spiller was running the show, Fred Jackson’s knee brace is off, but he’s still running with Spiller on his back and until Chan Gailey can pick a horse in this race, neither player will contribute positively to the team. It’s possible I’m being a little overcritical of the Bills. I don’t think they’ll get slaughtered, but it’s tough to back them at this point, especially coming off of an emotional overtime win. Titans 27, Bills 24
Cardinals @ Vikings: If you’ve been reading my write-ups this season, you’ve probably noticed that I love to bet against teams when I think that they’re in a bad spot. With Minnesota hosting Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football next week and the Cardinals playing as poorly as they are, the Vikings could easily look past Arizona this week. After all, the Cardinals just lost their starting quarterback last week. But if you recall, I was all but begging Ken Whisenhunt to start Skelton at the beginning of the year because the guy just wins. His only notable attribute is his willingness to throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald at all costs, but the guy gets results, going 8-4 as a starter. Defensively, the Cardinals have been on par with anyone in the league. They have allowed fewer than 24 points in each of their last 15 games. I don’t envision the Vikings reaching 20 points, no matter how many times they throw the ball to Percy Harvin. This is a good week to question how much we really trust Minnesota, who are installed as nearly touchdown favorites in this game. They’re 4-2, but looking at their schedule they haven’t done anything all that impressive outside of holding off a San Francisco team that laid an egg in Week 3. Their losses have come to Indianapolis and Washington, two teams that will struggle to get to .500 this season. After going longer without an interception than any quarterback in the league, Christian Ponder is currently mired in a slump that would make Ryan Fitzpatrick proud, turning the ball over five times in the last two weeks. That’s not the type of form you want to be in with a top defense like that of the Cardinals on the schedule. In Vikings games, the favorite has covered 1 of the last 8, and in Cardinals games the favorite has covered 1 of the last 12. This is a great spot for Arizona to pull off an upset. Cardinals 20, Vikings 16
Browns @ Colts: Once in a while I come across a trend that I need to double and triple-check because it sounds so ludicrous that it simply can’t be right. I double and triple-checked this one and amazingly, it’s accurate: if you had bet on the Browns in each of their last 13 games, you would have lost only twice. It’s hard to associate the Browns with that type of consistency. That’s the type of win-loss record the real Browns could only dream of. Yet when you pick your jaw back up it makes a lot of sense. The general public doesn’t want to back the Browns, so oddsmakers shift the line away from them, leaving them with some favorable numbers. This year’s version of the Browns is headlined by rookies at quarterback and running back and they’ve gotten better play out of those positions than they have in a while. Brandon Weeden has shaken off a tough opener against Philadelphia to play well in every game since, while Trent Richardson looks like he’ll be one of the better running backs of the next decade. The Colts have a pretty good rookie of their own with Andrew Luck looking to be everything Indianapolis thought he was when they drafted him first overall. However, the odds are stacked against him this week. Rookie QBs laying points are 0-6 against the spread this season. This doesn’t look like a great matchup for Indianapolis as they can’t stop the run and Cleveland would love to pound the rock with Trent Richardson for four quarters. Defensively, Cleveland’s Joe Haden returned last week and he makes their secondary a formidable unit. They should make things tough for Andrew Luck who has completed only 53 percent of his passes this year. It’s not often I’ll call for a Cleveland upset, especially on the road, but with coaches declining safeties and Austrians jumping out of air balloons in space, backing the Browns just feels like the right way to go in a strange week. Browns 24, Colts 23
Ravens @ Texans: The Texans have had all week to sit at home and stew over the beating they took from Green Bay. It was their first loss of the season and they sure got beat pretty soundly. There’s no question they would love nothing more than to come out this week and put a hurting on someone, but this week they face a Baltimore team that has owned them in recent years. I don’t buy any type of argument that Houston is looking for revenge here. They’ve lost to Joe Flacco four times now, and they probably wanted revenge in one of those other games, only to get thwarted by the unibrowed wonder time and again. Even if Houston did come out with added motivation, we saw what happened to them last week when they took a step up in class to play Green Bay. With wins against Miami, Jacksonville, Denver, Tennessee, and the New York Jets, the Texans haven’t exactly been world-beaters. With the Ravens, I’m more concerned with the loss of Lardarius Webb than Ray Lewis. All the key injuries suffered last week were on the defensive side of the ball, and I think the offense will be able to sustain some drives to keep the defense on the sideline. The spread feels a little big to me with Houston not exactly showing us a lot last week. With oddsmakers installing them as favorites of about a touchdown, I have to think there is some type of revenge angle that’s getting played up here, but I don’t buy it. The underdog has covered in 10 of Baltimore’s last 12 games, and I think the Ravens keep that trend going. Texans 17, Ravens 13
Packers @ Rams: The Packers are undoubtedly the more talented team here but I like the Rams in this spot. For starters, I love betting against teams when they’re coming off of a blowout win, especially a nationally televised primetime win. Two weeks ago, everyone was asking themselves “what’s wrong with the Packers?”, but now after one blowout victory, most people believe that Green Bay has righted the ship. Green Bay did an effective job of shutting down Houston’s running game last week, but for the most part, the Packers have been extremely inconsistent with their rush defense this season. Packers’ nose tackle B.J. Raji has been limited in practice all week and linebackers Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith are on injured reserve. Without those key bodies on the field, the Packers will struggle to contain the Rams’ rushing duo of Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson. The best way to beat the Packers is to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, and the Rams are equipped to do so. When Rodgers is on the field, he’ll be throwing the ball behind an offensive line that has given up 23 sacks in 6 games this season. That’s not going to bode well against the Rams’ formidable pass rush pair of Chris Long and Robert Quinn, who should have their way with Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga on the outside. Sam Bradford played a great game against the Dolphins last week, and if he can carry that momentum into this week, the Rams have a legitimate shot of pulling off the upset here. The Packers could be vulnerable here in their third straight road game—they may pull out the win, but it’ll be close. Packers 23, Rams 20
Cowboys @ Panthers: As a Cowboys fan, I’ve learned my lesson on backing them in the past. Just when you think they’ve figured things out, they lay an egg on you. This week, they’re installed as small favorites against a Panther team that hasn’t been able to get anything right this year. Add to that the look ahead factor with a key divisional game against the Giants slated for next week, and this game has the stink of a trap. Taking a look at the home team, Carolina’s Cam Newton has struggled through his sophomore season, and his troubles are only piling up as he’ll be without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil for the rest of the season. Now he’ll have to face a Dallas pass defense that ranks tops in the league, allowing only 181 yards per game. Dallas also got back nose tackle Jay Ratliff last week to make things even tougher for Newton. Looking back to last week’s meeting with Baltimore, Dallas controlled the football for about two-thirds of the clock, keeping the Ravens offense off the field for most of the game. If they are able to do that against this week, I think Cam Newton will get a little restless on the sideline, and that may force him to make some dumb decisions when he is on the field. In the last 26 Cowboys games, the favorite has covered only 4 times, but I’ll stick with the Cowboys because the Panthers aren’t getting enough points this week. Cowboys 28, Panthers 17
Redskins @ Giants: If the Cowboys are in a look ahead spot this week, so are the Giants. Aside from their desire to get revenge on Dallas next week, the Giants also take on the Steelers two weeks from now. And don’t forget that the Giants are coming off of a huge win against the 49ers last week as well. New York is a good football team but they’re notorious for pissing themselves at home and I believe the Redskins have a great shot of winning this football game. The Redskins are ranked second in the league in rushing yards per game and go up against a Giants’ front seven that surrenders 4.6 yards per carry. Washington can run the ball in a wide variety of different ways with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, and look to have the type of offense that can really wear down the Giants’ defense. Last week, the Giants were able to sell out to stop the run against the 49ers but that was because there was no threat of Alex Smith beating them deep down the field. This week, New York won’t be afforded that luxury because RGIII is a natural playmaker that is easily capable of burning the Giants through the passing game. Washington will need to do their best to keep Eli Manning off of the field because their secondary has been a liability this season. DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson have looked lost in coverage for the majority of the year, but they’ve enjoyed success against Eli Manning in the past. In fact, in Manning’s two starts against the Redskins last season, he didn’t throw a single touchdown pass and turned the ball over four times. In the end, the Giants seem to be ripe for the picking here. The Redskins have all the tools to dominate time of possession in this matchup, and the Giants appear to be in a terrible spot. I’m calling the upset and I don’t think it’ll be close. Redskins 31, Giants 20
Saints @ Buccaneers: This is one of those spreads that makes you scratch your head. Even when they were at the top of their game, New Orleans had trouble with Tampa Bay. This season with Drew Brees on pace to break his own passing yardage record, the team has only been able to muster one win, yet they find themselves installed as road favorites in a division game against a Tampa Bay team that is 2-1 at home. With Jimmy Graham slated to be a game-time decision and unlikely to play any type of meaningful role, the Saints offense is taking a hit that it can’t afford to take in this situation. Graham caught 13 balls against Tampa Bay last year for over 200 yards. Even with his solid play, New Orleans dropped their game in Tampa last season. Now they travel to face the Buccaneers with the league’s worst defense, a unit that is allowing a whopping 456 yards per game. That group will try to slow a Tampa Bay wide receiving core that dwarfs them. The Saints do not have a lot of size out on the corner, and those cornerbacks will have their hands full with the likes of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Doug Martin showed some signs of life last week and he should have another good outing against this porous New Orleans defense. The victory by New Orleans heading into their bye may cause some cockeyed optimists to believe that New Orleans is going to get back on track and ring off one of their patented lengthy winning streaks, but anyone who watched that game knows that it was gifted to the Saints by the officials. Expect New Orleans’s struggles in Tampa Bay to continue. Buccaneers 24, Saints 21
Jets @ Patriots: I wish the Jets were playing in New York this week so I could see the look on Fireman Ed’s face when his team gets crushed by the Patriots. The Jets are going to catch a bigger beatdown than the bully who got slammed by the fat kid. I’m glad the Jets blew out the Colts last week because this creates some sort of perception that New York is turning things around. New York was able to run the ball at will against Indianapolis, but they’ll have a much tougher time doing so against the Patriots, who surrender just 3.4 yards per carry. New England just limited Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards and 2.7 yards per carry last week, so I doubt they’ll have any trouble shutting down Shonn Greene. New York’s chances of scoring will hinge on the arm of Mark Sanchez, and considering that he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes this season, that looks like a recipe for disaster. On the other side of things, the Jets stand virtually no chance of slowing down the Patriots’ offense. In Tom Brady’s last four starts against the Jets, he’s thrown for an average of 306 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Those numbers were posted against a Jets’ secondary led by Darrelle Revis, who is now on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Antonio Cromartie is an elite cornerback, but the rest of New York’s secondary will be in orbit against the Patriots’ spread offense. And just in case Brady is having trouble finding receivers downfield, he’ll be able to rely on Stevan Ridley to gash the Jets’ rush defense that gives up an average of 150.5 rushing yards per game. The Patriots are always at their best when people starting doubting them and they’ll be out to prove that they’re still the team to beat in the AFC. This one has blowout written all over it. Patriots 52, Jets 13
Jaguars @ Raiders: This is such an ugly game. It’s one of those games where there isn’t a lot to like about either side, but there’s a lot more to dislike about one side than the other. Jacksonville is just exceptionally bad this year. They are last in the league on offense (both points and yards), are one of the worst teams in the NFL in the red zone, and lack the speed on the perimeter to strike quickly with an explosive passing game. Things don’t get any better on defense as they have not been able to generate any type of pass rush, recording a league-low three sacks on the season. The general public may be tempted to give the Jaguars some credit because they are coming off their bye week, but I don’t think that helped them one bit. Unless they used their bye week to replace their lemon of a quarterback, I don’t see how the bye week could have made any difference. For Oakland, I think this is the type of game where Darren McFadden can rack up some yards and scores to make up for his slow start. Carson Palmer should have a ton of time in the pocket so expect him to put up some numbers as well, although Oakland may play most of this game with the lead and Palmer may be reduced to the role of caretaker early on. If you get stuck watching this game on Sunday, may God have mercy on your soul. Raiders 27, Jaguars 16
Steelers @ Bengals: The Cincinnati Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The last time we saw the Bengals in primetime they were getting embarrassed by the Ravens on Monday Night Football in Week 1. I don’t think the Bengals have forgotten about that, and I think their loss last week is related to how badly they want to win this game. This is a statement game for Cincinnati. Andy Dalton spent all offseason hearing about how he couldn’t throw the ball hard enough to be an NFL quarterback, then he comes out in Week 1 and adds fuel to those fires. He’s looked very good since, and wide receiver A.J. Green is having the type of season Calvin Johnson did a year ago, catching everything in sight and demonstrating an outstanding leaping ability that’s nearly impossible to defend. This is a game they not only want to win, but to win in a blowout. Looking at the Steelers it’s tough to imagine them summoning up the type of motivation that Cincinnati will be bringing to the table. It’s harder to find a player on the Pittsburgh roster that isn’t on the injury report than it is to keep a television series running with Ted McGinley. We already know what a game-changer the absence of Troy Polamalu is for this club. They’ll be without him again, and also without both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. The team already averages a league-low 74 rushing yards per game, and now they’ll be turning to an unproven trio to carry their ground game. They’ll be forced to lean on Ben Roethlisberger, and even he left Thursday’s practice early with an ankle injury. I expect Cincinnati to make a statement against a Pittsburgh team that has covered the spread in only two of its last 13 on the road. Bengals 30, Steelers 23
I lost my survivor pick when New England blew it at home in Week 2, but I’ll continue providing my insight on a week-to-week basis. Last week, I went with the Falcons over the Raiders, and was extremely lucky to have won. The only other team that I would have considered strongly was Miami, but while the Dolphins won as well, that would have been dicey from start to finish.
My general rules of thumb for making survivor picks are:
a) No division games
b) No road teams
c) No underdogs
I should point out that I occasionally stray from these rules if there is one pick that I’m really confident in.
Most people will be considering one of the following seven games this week:
Minnesota vs. Arizona
Houston vs. Baltimore
Green Bay at St. Louis
NY Giants vs. Washington
New England vs. NY Jets
Oakland vs. Jacksonville
Chicago vs. Detroit
I’ve already used the Texans, Giants, and Patriots so I have to cross those off my list. Let me make it abundantly clear that I would definitely take New England this week if I had them available to me. That leaves four teams: the Vikings, Packers, Raiders, and Bears.
I was close to predicting that the Packers would lose to the Rams so I’m dropping them. I hate taking road teams regardless. And I also have the Vikings losing to the Cardinals at home so I don’t really think that that pick is safe either. That leaves us with the Bears and Raiders. Both teams are extremely dangerous, but I’m going to go with the Raiders over the Jaguars.
When I release my Monday Night Football preview on Monday afternoon, you’ll see that I think it’s definitely possible the Lions could upset the Bears. The Raiders are a joke and I really don’t trust them at all but it seems like they’re my best option this week. If there’s one week where Jacksonville might win another game, it would be this week coming off of their bye, but I’ll take a risk this week.
Week 1 – Houston Texans – W 30-13
Week 2 – New England Patriots – L 20-18
Week 3 – Dallas Cowboys – W 16-10
Week 4 – Green Bay Packers – W 28-27
Week 5 – New York Giants – W 41-27
Week 6 – Atlanta Falcons – W 23-20
Week 7 – Oakland Raiders –
AGAINST THE SPREADSHEET
Week in and week out, you will get a look at my spreadsheet which shows my confidence in each selection.
The “Strength of Pick” column indicates how confident I am in my selection with 1 being the most confident and 14 being the least confident.
The ‘Initial Reaction’ column indicates my confidence when the game lines were first released late Sunday night/early Monday morning.
The ‘Mid Week’ column indicates my confidence on Wednesday.
The ‘Final Selection’ column indicates my final picks against the spread.
It’s one thing to show you a table indicating who I like in each game, but it’s another thing to actually show you where I’m throwing my money down.
I rate my plays on a scale of 3* to 6* with a 6* play qualifying as my top play. I would estimate that 1 out of every 25 plays earns a 6* distinction, with approximately 50% of my plays earning a 3* distinction.
I could have easily gone with up to 6 games this week, but there are three that set themselves apart from the rest so I’ll stick to another small card.
5* New England Patriots -10.5 (-104) – Pinnacle
I was so close to making the Patriots a 6* selection this week, but backing double-digit favorites is never a great play. I think the Pats win in a blowout so I’m not too concerned with laying 10.5, but if you feel more comfortable laying only 10, you can easily pay some extra juice and buy the ½ point.
4* Arizona Cardinals +7.5 (-125) – 5Dimes
Every sportsbook has this listed at 6.5 except for 5Dimes. I don’t mind paying an extra 15 cents to push this line over the key number of seven. I could easily see Arizona hanging with Minnesota for the entire game but managing to lose by a touchdown, so I’ll go with the safer, less risky route here. For the record, if this line wasn’t available, I’d make a 3* play on Arizona +6.5.
4* Washington Redskins +6 (-104) – Pinnacle
This line is at 6 across the board right now but I doubt it’ll get to 7, so I’d grab it now. Washington owned the Giants last season so I’m pretty comfortable getting 6 points in this spot.
Here are the results of each individual selection I’ve made this season: