Week 7 was a subpar week for me as I went only 3-7-1 ATS with my overall selections, but I improved my recommended wagers to 16-11-1 ATS by hitting two out of my three plays. I also advised betting the Lions +7 on Monday Night Football and had a slight lean to the Bucs +5 on Thursday night, so overall things weren’t as bad as they may have seemed. I don’t like the board at all this week. I’ve flip-flopped on at least a couple of games and I’ve found myself in agreement with the public on more than half of the games.
I’m really not confident in most of my selections, but here goes nothing.
Patriots @ Rams: Most people, including myself, have been waiting for the Patriots to turn things around. It was only three weeks ago when New England was beating up on Denver at home after dismantling the Bills by 24 points in the week prior. Something just doesn’t seem right with New England right now, and the Rams pose a tough matchup for them. The Jets were able to have some success against the Patriots offense last week by having their cornerbacks jam New England’s receivers at the line of scrimmage, and the Rams are capable of doing the same thing with Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins playing on the outside. Tom Brady relies on a lot of timing patterns and loves to throw bubble screens to get the ball in the hands of his speedy receivers. Those types of passes are significantly tougher to complete when cornerbacks are playing close to line of scrimmage. Brady will hope that his receivers can win their matchups because the Rams boast a really strong pass rush that will force the former Michigan quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly. As for the Rams, they’ll struggle to move the ball consistently as well, but they seem to have the tools to grind down the Patriots defense. The Jets pounded the rock extremely successfully in last week’s matchup with the Pats, and the Rams are equipped to do so as well with Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson in the backfield. Ultimately, I just feel like the Patriots are being extremely overvalued right now. The Rams have the tools to keep the ball away from Brady for extended lengths of time, and I think that they have a great shot of pulling off the upset in London. I also like the fact that the Rams flew to London on Monday and practiced there all week, while the Patriots practiced at home and flew out on Friday, although I may just be looking for more reasons to back the Rams. Rams 24, Patriots 23
Colts @ Titans: The Colts are getting a lot of love in this spot but I’m not sure why. Aside from the fact that Indianapolis has been destroyed in their only two road games this season, the Colts should have also lost at home to the lowly Browns last week. Tennessee on the other hand seems to be ascending with a pair of wins over the Steelers and Bills. Chris Johnson averaged almost 11 yards per carry in last week’s win over Buffalo and should have no trouble replicating that performance against a Colts run defense that is fourth worst in the NFL. Matt Hasselbeck is essentially a game-manager at this point in his career and can operate successfully when his team has an effective ground game, as witnessed in the last couple of weeks. On the other side of things, the Colts continue to struggle to move the ball on the ground. Indianapolis averages just 3.7 yards per rush which is the fifth lowest average in the NFL. The Titans have struggled in pass coverage this season, but they should fare much better this week as they’ll be able to handle the Colts’ running game with their base personnel. Tennessee will be able to use a lot of nickel and dime packages to help limit the opportunities for Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery down the field. These teams just don’t appear to be very even right now. The Titans have been significantly undervalued after their horrendous start to the year where they were beat up by the Patriots, Chargers, and Texans—all of whom happen to be good teams. They really shouldn’t have trouble with anything Indianapolis brings to the table this week. Titans 27, Colts 17
Jaguars @ Packers: The winner of this game won’t be in doubt at any point, but will the Packers do enough to cover the 14.5-point spread? This game could easily end in a blowout, but I’ll take the Jaguars getting over two touchdowns. This is one of those games where Jacksonville will pull out all the stops to try to come away with a huge upset—trick plays, fake punts, and surprise onside kicks are all in play here. The Packers are really banged up heading into this contest with both Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson having already been ruled out for the game, while a handful of other impact players—Jermichael Finley, John Kuhn, Nick Perry, Jordy Nelson, and Sam Shields—are questionable to play. This just seems like one of those games where Green Bay will be happy to get a win and move on to next week. The Jaguars secondary isn’t horrible on paper but the lack of a pass rush has been their Achilles heel all season. Jacksonville has registered only five sacks this season and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will put an emphasis on sending heavy blitz packages to try to disrupt Aaron Rodgers. It won’t work all the time but there could be some hiccups with Rodgers and his makeshift offense. OK, maybe I’m grasping for straws. Offensively, the Jaguars will definitely suffer from the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew, but Rashad Jennings can at least be serviceable as a fill-in. Jennings will probably account for the majority of the Jaguars offense considering Blaine Gabbert is pretty much incapable of throwing the ball down the field. Gabbert’s touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts last week looked more like a punt than a throw. The Packers have been susceptible to the short passing game this season so it’s possible that the Jaguars could actually post multiple touchdowns in this game. Historically, double-digit underdogs have been a winning proposition in NFL wagering, so I’ll ride that trend here. Packers 27, Jaguars 14
Chargers @ Browns: The Chargers are an absolute joke. I can’t believe that there was a point in time where I thought that Philip Rivers was a better quarterback than Eli Manning. I wish I could back in time and slap myself. Rivers has turned the ball over 36 times in his last 22 starts, and just to put that into perspective, that’s only two turnovers less than Michael Vick over that same time period. Aside from the fact that Rivers is bound to commit a couple of untimely turnovers here, there are a lot of other factors leading me to my decision. San Diego will be playing a 1 p.m. game on the East Coast which has been a historically poor spot for them. They also have an upcoming division home game against the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football and favorites are just 1-6 ATS prior to Thursday games this season. Then there’s the fact that the Chargers collapsed in epic fashion against the Broncos a couple of weeks ago and I have absolutely no faith in the biggest shitbag coach in the league, Norv Turner, to restore his team’s confidence. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden has been getting better every week and he has a good matchup against the Chargers pass defense that ranks 25th in the league in yards allowed per game. Last time I checked, the Chargers are still starting Atari Bigby at strong safety which means that Weeden should be able to connect with Josh Gordon on a couple of big plays down the field. Ultimately, this pick comes down to my complete lack of faith in Rivers. Cleveland can get after the quarterback pretty well and the Chargers offensive line is a complete disaster, which means that Rivers is bound to get rattled and toss a bunch of horrible picks. Browns 24, Chargers 21
Falcons @ Eagles: I can’t remember a game in recent history where I’ve flipped my pick as often as I have here. The Falcons may be undefeated but they’re definitely overrated, while the Eagles aren’t nearly as bad as they’ve looked at times this season. Andy Reid is a perfect 13-0 coming off of the bye, but in the end, I just can’t trust this Philadelphia team, especially since they’re laying points instead of getting points at home. The Eagles enter this game with a 3-3 record but they could easily be 0-6 right now if things hadn’t gone their way. They haven’t won a game by more than two points and now they’re favored by a field goal against the only undefeated team in the league who also happen to be coming off of a bye. What am I missing here? The Eagles are one of the easiest teams to gameplan for in the NFL because the key to beating them is simple: stop LeSean McCoy. Despite the fact that Atlanta has been susceptible to the run this season, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is one of the best in the business and will make sure that the Eagles are forced to rely heavily on Michael Vick to move the ball. Vick may walk around the Eagles’ practice facility holding a football in his hand, but that’s not going to make up for his poor decisions that lead to so many of his turnovers. The Philadelphia weather report is calling for a 60% chance of showers on Sunday afternoon so you can be sure that the ball is going to be extra slippery for Vick. Add in the fact that Andy Reid refuses to run the ball and this has all the makings of another Eagles’ piss job. Falcons 23, Eagles 17
Seahawks @ Lions: This looks like it has the makings of being a pretty one-sided contest. Chicago played one of the worst games I’ve seen them play in recent memory on Monday night and somehow the Lions still weren’t able to win that game. Detroit continues to be one of the most overrated teams in the league and they’re in for a rude awakening against one of the most physical teams in football. I don’t know what’s happened to Matt Stafford this season but it’s clear that he’s regressed heavily from last year. I don’t know if he’s just discovered the value menu at Wendy’s or whether he’s been hitting up a 24-hour drive-thru frequently, but it looks like he weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 pounds right now. He was actually gasping for air after being chased out of the pocket by Julius Peppers last week which was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen happen on a football field. Stafford has had no luck hooking up with Calvin Johnson this season because opposing teams are providing help over the top and limiting space down the field. That hasn’t stopped Stafford from throwing some ducks in Megatron’s direction though. Johnson will probably be erased by Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner this week, while the rest of the Lions’ scrub receivers will have difficulty finding any sort of space against a talented Seahawks secondary. There’s always the chance that Detroit tries to run the ball this week but that’s not going to work against a stout Seattle front seven that allows on 3.7 yards per carry. Meanwhile, on the other side of things, Detroit has been susceptible to the run all season and will now face one of the most ferocious backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch. Lynch will keep the chains moving while the Lions continue to do what they do best—miss tackles and take dumb penalties. The days of blindly betting against Seattle on the road are now over. This team is great in the trenches and has really performed admirably under Pete Carroll. With Detroit coming off of short rest and Seattle coming off of extended rest, expect the Seahawks to violate the Lions on both sides of the ball. Seahawks 22, Lions 14
Dolphins @ Jets: The Jets beat the Dolphins in Miami earlier this season and now they’re only a 2.5-point home favorite against Miami. Well, if it looks like a trap and smells like a trap, it probably is a trap. Truth is, the Dolphins are the better of the two teams here and would have won that first matchup against the Jets had Dan Carpenter not missed a 48-yard field goal in overtime. Both of these teams are extremely similar in that they are run-first offenses, but the main difference between these two teams is that New York surrenders 147.7 rushing yards per game while the Dolphins surrender only 78.2 rushing yards per game. Ryan Tannehill will find himself in favorable situations all afternoon while Mark Sanchez will be facing third-and-longs all afternoon. Don’t get fooled by Sanchez’s performance against New England last week—he stinks more than the stinky tofu that was served up at some Asian food festival that I went to this summer. I’ll have that smell engraved in my senses forever. As for the Dolphins, their rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has proven to be quite reliable. I don’t really want to go into this any further. Miami has an edge at every single position with the exception of defensive backs, but that shouldn’t hurt them too much against the ham-fisted excuse for a quarterback that will be trotting out on the field for the Jets on Sunday. Dolphins 19, Jets 13
Panthers @ Bears: This game has upset potential. The Bears are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and the Panthers might not finish with a handful of wins this season, but this looks like a good spot for Carolina. For starters, I’m not convinced that Jay Cutler will be completely healthy for this matchup. Jay Cutler hurt his ribs on Monday Night Football when Ndamokung Suh slammed him to the turf and he did not look the same after the hit. Rib injuries are notoriously difficult for quarterbacks to rebound from (see 2011, Tony Romo) so it’s quite possible that the Bears offense will be stagnant in this game. Carolina has allowed a lot of yardage to opposing tight ends this season but has been pretty tight-fisted against opposing wide receivers. Cutler prefers throwing to his big target Brandon Marshall on the outside but often forgets about his tight end Kellen Davis, who has been targeted only 20 times in seven games this season. If Cutler continues to force balls to his wide receivers this week, the Panthers have a chance to force some turnovers. Meanwhile, Cam Newton demanded change after last week’s loss to the Cowboys and he got it when General Manager Marty Hurney was fired earlier this week. Newton is mired in a sophomore slump right now but he has a chance to break out of it against a Bears’ defense that he ran all over last season. Newton had one of his best games as a pro in Carolina’s meeting with Chicago last season, throwing for 374 yards and a touchdown, while adding a couple of rushing touchdowns in the process. It’s far from a guarantee that he’ll duplicate that success this week, but the Bears were fully healthy in that matchup last year and had no answer for Newton. The Panthers are hanging around against good teams right now, losing to the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Falcons by a combined 11 points, and if they catch a little bit of luck, they’re eventually going to pull off a big upset. I think that this may be the week. Panthers 20, Bears 17
Redskins @ Steelers: I think there’s been a little bit of an overreaction to Pittsburgh’s victory over Cincinnati last week. The Steelers were able to run the ball effectively for the first time in a long time, and subsequently, they were able to keep Cincinnati’s offense off the field and out of rhythm. That’s not likely to happen again this week. The Redskins rush defense has been stout this season, giving up an average of only 3.9 yards per carry and 85.3 yards per game. Jonathan Dwyer showed glimpses of being a quality running back last week but he’s not going to enjoy much success on the ground in this matchup. It’s back to third-and-longs for Big Ben. As for the Steelers’ defense, they’re going to have some matchup nightmares against Robert Griffin III and company. Troy Polamalu will miss his third consecutive game due to injury and the Steelers’ defense just isn’t the same without him, particularly in run support. Pittsburgh put the clamps down on BenJarvus Green-Ellis last week, but Green-Ellis is terrible and the Steelers didn’t respect Andy Dalton’s ability to beat them downfield. That won’t be the case against RGIII. The Steelers tend to struggle defensively against creative offenses (see playoff game versus Tim Tebow last season), and will have trouble against the options, designed quarterback draws, and play actions passes that Washington is likely to run. You’ll rarely see me jump on board with a huge publicly backed underdog but I really think that Washington is going to give Pittsburgh a hard time this week. Redskins 31, Steelers 28
Raiders @ Chiefs: I can’t stomach writing any more than a few sentences on this game. The Chiefs are brutal. They’ve held a lead only once this season and that was when they kicked a field goal to win the game against New Orleans as time expired. Kansas City will be rocking Brady Quinn at quarterback again this week and we all know how that’s going to turn out. I gave Quinn a shot against Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago but he looked just an inept as he did in years past. As for the Raiders, they’re terrible as well but do tend to play well in Kansas City. In fact, the Raiders have covered the spread in every trip to Kansas City since 2003. The Chiefs don’t really defend anything well so the Raiders will probably have some moderate success moving the ball. In all seriousness, the prospect of thinking about this game any longer is hurting my brain. Raiders 21, Chiefs 14
Giants @ Cowboys: I would have loved Dallas in this spot a week ago but injuries have changed the complexion of this game. Cowboys’ Pro Bowl calibre linebacker Sean Lee is done for the season and while Dan Connor is a capable replacement, there is still a significant drop-off in talent. Meanwhile, Dallas is still without DeMarco Murray at running back, which forces the ever-fragile Felix Jones and the inexperienced Phillip Tanner into key roles in the Cowboys’ offense. The Giants have been exposed against better rushing teams this season, but the Cowboys will also be without their starting center Phil Costa and I doubt they’ll be able to push the Giants’ defensive front off the line of scrimmage. Tony Romo has historically played extremely well against New York but the Cowboys won’t want him dropping back to pass in third-and-long situations against the ferocious Giants’ pass rush. Romo has struggled with turnovers throughout his career and the lack of a running game may contribute to more turnovers this week. As for the Giants, they’re just so well balanced offensively. Ahmad Bradshaw comes into this game a little banged up but Andre Brown has proven that he can handle the bulk of the work load when called upon, while Eli Manning continues to be an elite quarterback. The Dallas secondary has been extremely strong this season but they’ll have their hands full with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on the outside. The Giants’ receivers as a group are averaging over 14 yards per catch and can stretch the field vertically on any given play. Ultimately, I don’t buy into “revenge factors” and I don’t think that New York wants to win this game any more than Dallas, but I do know that the Giants are the better team here. New York tends to play better away from home, while the Cowboys have a limited home field advantage nowadays. Giants 26, Cowboys 20
Saints @ Broncos: The Broncos have been digging themselves into holes all season, but with the Saints coming to town that shouldn’t be an issue. New Orleans has one of the worst secondaries of the last decade, surrendering a league-high 8.5 yards per passing play. To make matters worse, they’ve only been able to generate 13 sacks on the season, which means that Peyton Manning will likely have a lot of time in the pocket to find his receivers downfield. New Orleans’ run defense isn’t much better so Willis McGahee should be able to find some yardage on the ground as well. Basically, the Broncos should be able to move the ball at will. The real question is whether or not they can generate enough stops to win the game and cover the spread. I think they can. Drew Brees is on fire right now, averaging almost 400 yards per game over his last three outings, but he’ll be in tough against a strong Denver pass rush. Brees has had a clean pocket in his last two games against the Bucs and Chargers, but the Broncos are averaging three sacks per game and can apply consistent pressure throughout an entire game. Champ Bailey leads a group of solid cover cornerbacks and will allow defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to send extra pressure to disrupt Brees. In the end, the Broncos are coming off of their bye and they have the better football team here. Brees is always capable of finding a backdoor cover for the Saints, but I think Denver gets this done by more than a touchdown. Broncos 38, Saints 28
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 Raiders over the Jaguars, and would have lost that pick if Blaine Gabbert didn’t leave the game due to injury. Either way, a win is a win, and that would have been a great time to use a Raiders team that you’ll probably not have a chance to use again this season.
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:
New England vs. St. Louis (neutral field)
Tennessee vs. Indianapolis
Green Bay vs. Jacksonville
Chicago vs. Carolina
Pittsburgh vs. Washington
Denver vs. New Orleans
San Francisco at Arizona
I’ve already used the Patriots and Packers so they’re crossed off my list. The Packers are an absolute lock so take them if you haven’t used them yet.
I’ve predicted that the Bears will lose to the Panthers (ok, maybe I’m crazy) so I’m dropping them. I also hate taking road teams so I’m dropping San Francisco against Arizona on Monday night. That leaves me with Tennessee, Denver, and Pittsburgh. I don’t want to touch the Steelers because I like the Redskins to win outright, so it comes down to the Titans and Broncos. I could easily go with the Titans because I’ll likely never get a chance to use them again this season, but I prefer to err on the side of caution, so I’ll go with the Broncos over the Saints.
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 – W 26-23 (OT)
Week 8 – Denver Broncos
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.
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.
4* Miami Dolphins +3 (-120) – SportsInteraction
I have the Dolphins winning outright, but I’ll gladly pay a little bit of extra juice and get the only 3-point line on the board right now. Every other book has the Jets favored by less than a field goal.
3* Tennessee Titans -3 (-130) – 5Dimes
Again, I’m willing to pay the extra juice at 5Dimes to get this line down to a field goal. That’s not to say I’m not confident in the Titans. I just prefer to grab the best line whenever I can.
3* Cleveland Browns +3 (-105) – SportsInteraction
You may be able to hold off until game time and catch the Browns getting 3.5-points somewhere, but it’s unlikely. It seems like this game is going to be stuck on the 3-points right up until 1:00 pm on Sunday.
Here are my results on all of my plays this season: