Last week wasn’t a particularly good week for me as I went only 5-7 ATS. I didn’t really have a strong opinion on Monday night’s game and got burned by taking the Jaguars +4 on Thursday night. My recommended wagers have still produced a profit of 11.18 units on the season, but I’d definitely like that number to be higher right now.
This week will be particularly difficult to handicap because of last week’s public slaughter. The books got absolutely crushed in Week 9 with all of the major public plays covering the spread. I’ll be extra cautious in betting on publicly backed teams this week, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll avoid them entirely. I’m feeling a strong bounce-back week.
Bills @ Patriots: On paper, this matchup looks like it should result in a Patriots blowout victory, but games aren’t played on paper. New England has won their last two games against Buffalo by a combined 52 points, but a closer look at both of those games reveals that the Bills were leading each game at halftime. Buffalo hasn’t put in a complete effort against the Patriots in a while, but I like their chances to keep things close this week. For starters, New England has been far less efficient offensively at home this season. In New England’s three home games, they’ve averaged 26.0 points per game which is a far cry from the 36.8 points per game that they’ve averaged on the road. The Patriots have also notoriously struggled as big favorites, going only 7-18 ATS as a home favorite of nine points or more since November 2007. And if you think that New England will be super focused after their bye, that hasn’t been the case in recent years as they’ve gone just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games following a bye week. With Chan Gailey’s head on the chopping block, I fully expect the Bills to run the ball more this week. Buffalo has rushed for 141 yards per game this season and has arguably the best running back duo in the league in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. At 5.3 yards per rushing attempt, Buffalo has been able to dominate opposing defenders at the line of scrimmage. I think that the Bills will be able to control the tempo of the game on the road and keep Tom Brady off the field for extended periods of time. Ultimately, Buffalo’s defense is too poor to pull out the upset victory, but I think they’ll give New England a game. Patriots 31, Bills 24
Giants @ Bengals: I swore I wouldn’t do this in my Week 9 recap article earlier this week, but I’m going to go against my own advice and take the Bengals. I was on Denver last week against Cincinnati and while the Broncos were able to cover the spread, they really didn’t deserve to do so. A special teams touchdown totally altered the momentum in that game and likely prevented the Bengals from beating the spread. This week, Cincinnati gets to go up against a Giants defense that’s ranked 25th in the league in terms of yards allowed per game and has been exploited frequently in the last few weeks. Last week, the Steelers were able to use a lot of maximum protection schemes to give Ben Roethlisberger time to find his receivers downfield, and the Bengals should be able to follow that blueprint this week. If Andy Dalton has time to scan the field, he should be able to hook up frequently with his stud wideout A.J. Green going up against an incoherent secondary. New York has a plus-14 turnover margin this season mainly due to the fact that their defense is generating so many turnovers, but Dalton has thrown only 11 interceptions in 12 career home starts, so the Giants won’t be able to rely on turnovers to get stops this weekend. If you’ve followed the Giants in recent years, you’re well aware that they tend to play better on the road than at home, but you’re also well aware that they tend to play down to the level of their opponents. New York is just 1-4 ATS in their last five games against a team with a losing record and I think they’ll be in for a dogfight on Sunday afternoon. Giants 23, Bengals 21
Chargers @ Buccaneers: It’s hard to ignore how well the Bucs have been playing recently. Tampa Bay has won three of their last four games with the only loss coming at home to the Saints when they blew a 14-point first half lead. The Bucs and Chargers are pretty equal teams but Tampa Bay has turned the ball over only seven times this season, while San Diego has given the ball away 17 times. Tampa Bay heads into this game with the league’s number-one ranked rush defense and will be able to put the clamps down on a disappointing Ryan Mathews, forcing Philip Rivers into plenty of third-and-long situations. Rivers has thrown 40 interceptions and lost 15 fumbles in his last 40 starts, so I think there’s a good chance that Tampa Bay’s offense could be working with some short fields in this contest. Tampa’s offense has been lights out since their Week 5 bye week, averaging 36 points per game after their bye as opposed to 20.5 points per game prior to their bye. Josh Freeman is playing the best football he’s played since his rookie campaign and is learning to get the ball out of his hands quicker than he’s done in years past. He’ll also be targeting his top wideout Vincent Jackson very frequently as Jackson looks to make a statement against his former team. Even coming off of extra rest, it’s hard to back the Chargers here. Their four victories this season have come against the Raiders, Titans, and the Chiefs (twice), and they even somehow managed to lose a road game at Cleveland. San Diego is a measly 1-5 ATS in their last six 1 p.m. East Coast games, and oh yeah, they’ll have their hands full with the Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin. Buccaneers 27, Chargers 20
Broncos @ Panthers: I touched on this last week, and I’ll touch on it again here—the Carolina Panthers continue to be one of the most underrated teams in football. Prior to their victory over the Redskins last weekend, the Panthers had lost four straight games to the Falcons, Seahawks, Cowboys, and Bears by a combined 12 points. After getting dismantled by the Giants in Week 3, Carolina decided to move Luke Kuechly to the middle linebacker position and it has paid huge dividends. Kuechly totaled 15 tackles last week and will be instrumental in containing a Denver running game that was only able to compile 68 rushing yards in Cincinnati on Sunday. Peyton Manning will throw for big chunks of yardage against a vulnerable Panthers secondary, but if Carolina can force the Broncos offense into becoming one-dimensional, they have a decent shot to pull off the upset here. Meanwhile, Cam Newton has taken a lot of criticism for his play this season, but a lot of those criticisms aren’t completely warranted. Newton played extremely well last week against Washington and while he’s struggled to replicate the numbers that he put up last season, he’s still an extremely difficult quarterback to contain. Newton also now has the luxury of leaning on a running game as the Panthers offense has generated 100+ rushing yards in three straight games since promoting Jonathan Stewart to the role of lead back. Denver hasn’t given up a lot of yardage to opposing running backs this season but they’ve also faced a schedule of teams that are primarily pass-heavy. In the Broncos’ two games against teams that are in the upper half of the league in rushing yardage (Houston & New England), Denver surrendered a whopping 403 yards on the ground. This looks to be a game that will be decided in the final minutes so I’ll lean with the home underdog. Panthers 24, Broncos 23
Titans @ Dolphins: I am well aware that teams are 3-17 ATS in the game prior to their bye week this season, but that’s not going to deter me from taking the Titans here. While that’s certainly a staggering trend, there are also a number of trends that strongly support Tennessee in this spot. Miami has been a favorite of 3.5-points or more only ten times in the last four seasons, and the Dolphins have failed to cover the spread in every single one of those games. The Dolphins also have to travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills on Thursday night and favorites are only 1-6 ATS prior to Thursday night games this season. Aside from the trends, I particularly like Tennessee in this spot because Jacob Cooper Locker is taking back the reigns from Old Man Hasselbeck. In 9 career starts, Locker has compiled a quarterback rating of 93.7 and thrown only two interceptions. The Titans have one of the worst turnover margins in the league at -7, but that’s mainly due to the fact that Hasselbeck has been tossing ducks for the last six weeks. With Locker back under center, the Dolphins will have to respect Tennessee’s ability to move the ball through the air, and that should once again open things up for Chris Johnson. Miami has a pretty stingy run defense, but so does Chicago, and the Titans were able to pick up 159 yards on the ground against the Bears last week. Tennessee’s defense has been epically bad this season but they’ve also spent more time on the field than thirty other defensive units. If Locker can move the ball with any consistency, the Titans defense should be able to get some rest on the sidelines and have moderate success putting the clamps down on the Dolphins running game. Miami is 0-4 this season when Ryan Tannehill has to throw the ball more than thirty times, and I strongly believe that head coach Mike Munchak will try to make the Dolphins beat Tennessee through the air. It’s always dangerous to back a team that’s as terrible as the Titans but I think they’ll be motivated after their embarrassing loss at home last week. Titans 21, Dolphins 17
Raiders @ Ravens: If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you probably know what I think of the Ravens right about now. Baltimore was one of my top plays last week and while they were able to cover in Cleveland, they really didn’t deserve to do so. Despite the Ravens stellar home record under John Harbaugh, they could be really vulnerable here. For starters, Joe Flacco is playing like a steaming pile of dog feces. Flacco has been absolutely terrible in three of his last four starts, but it should be noted that those terrible starts all came on the road, and Flacco has performed significantly better at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Regardless, the inconsistency from the former Delaware product (yeah, that’s right… there’s a starting quarterback from Delaware) has to be concerning, especially since it’s extremely likely that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will forget that he has Ray Rice in the backfield at some point on Sunday. Baltimore’s offense should be the least of their concerns though. The Raiders aren’t exactly the most explosive team in the NFL but their dink-and-dunk type of offense should suit them just fine against a Ravens defense that has been susceptible to the run and short passes all season. Oakland will be without their starting running back Darren McFadden, but the truth is that McFadden has been extremely ineffective all season and Marcel Reece is a capable replacement. Reece isn’t exactly the most experienced back but boasts a solid 4.9 yards per carry and will look like the second coming of Barry Sanders against a Ravens rush defense that gives up nearly 140 yards per game. Oakland has already proven that they can overcome the early trip to the East Coast when they nearly knocked off the Falcons in Week 6, so I’m not really too worried about that factor either. Baltimore is only 1-6 ATS in their last seven home games, and while it’s unlikely that they lose this one outright, this could be a close game. Ravens 31, Raiders 28
Falcons @ Saints: It feels like this is the third or fourth week in a row that I’m hearing talk about how the Falcons are “due” for a loss. Betting against teams that are supposedly due for a loss is a great way to lose money. However, the Falcons may have met their match in the form of an old divisional foe. There was a lot of smoke and mirrors to the Saints’ performance on Monday night. The Eagles moved the ball at will, LeSean McCoy had what was probably his best pure rushing performance of the season, and Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson on a long touchdown pass that I think Blaine Gabbert could have completed because he was that wide open. However, the Saints reminded the world that they are no pushover. They will have to limit what Atlanta is able to do on offense, particularly on the ground. I say the focus should be on the Atlanta running game because I think Atlanta will be able to throw the ball successfully, but they still insist on running the ball enough to force their opponents to respect their run game, even though they’ve gone from being an elite running team to being in the bottom-third of the league in that category. When New Orleans has the ball, they showed that there is life beyond Darren Sproles on Monday night, as a three-headed rushing attack emerged and was largely successful. With Sean Weatherspoon likely to miss another week, I think New Orleans can establish their ground game and feed off that in the passing game. As impressive as that 8-0 record of Atlanta’s is, the Saints have won nine of the last 11 meetings between these teams. And they’re 14-3 ATS in their last 17 home games. And they’ve won their last 12 games in the month of November. And they’re going to win this game. Saints 30, Falcons 24
Lions @ Vikings: I don’t like Jim Schwartz. I just don’t trust the guy when it comes to putting my money down. However, there’s no questioning the fact that Detroit has been a very streaky team over the last couple of years. The team is 13-6-2 ATS in their last 21 games following a win. I think we might just be catching this team in the middle of one of those streaks. The team lost three in a row to close the month of September, went into their bye week, and have won three of four since. The team’s passing attack has still been a little off. Blame that on injuries to Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best, or if you’re like me, blame it on Matthew Stafford’s discovery of the Doritos Locos Taco. Either way, they have been better. The defense has been better as well, quietly limiting opponents to 15.0 points per game over their last three games. This week, they get a Minnesota team that has beaten them once already this season, but failed to score an offensive touchdown in that game. Minnesota scored twice on special teams in that contest, but Detroit seems to have fixed their special teams woes, so don’t count on a repeat performance. Also, any reports that tell you that Percy Harvin is “doubtful” are complete lies. Leslie Frazier is more likely to suit up in this contest than Harvin. That means Minnesota will be without one of the men that generated one of those special teams touchdowns in the last meeting, and more importantly, they’re without their most important player on offense. To make matters worse for the Vikings, Christian Ponder has been a flaming sack of garbage over the last few weeks. It feels like a very long time ago that we were admiring his ability to protect the football. I don’t like to give away points with road teams, but the Vikings are 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine games at the Metrodome. That’s not much of a home field advantage. I expect another balanced offensive performance by the Lions, who passed for 285 yards and ran for 149 last week against the Jaguars. Lions 26, Vikings 13
Jets @ Seahawks: CenturyLink Field has become the lion’s den of the NFL. The Seahawks are a completely different team at home, and it’s largely because of the involvement of the crowd. The Seattle fans have really taken to the role of the 12th man and have given the Seahawks the best home field advantage in the NFL. The Seahawks are 16-5 ATS as home favourites since 2007. However, they haven’t been installed as favourites of a touchdown at home very often. This game sees the Jets get some very solid line value as they come off their bye week. With an extra week to prepare for this game, I doubt that even the defensive-minded Jets coaching staff can be dumb enough to put together a game plan that relies in any way on the arm of Mark Sanchez. Seattle might just have the best secondary in the game, so attacking them would be futile. I really think that this is the week that Tony Sparano gets creative and puts Tim Tebow to work. Using Tebow in the option attack would be a good way of getting Seattle’s pass rush to slow down slightly off the ball. Another interesting note on the Seahawks is that despite their status as a top-10 defense, the team has struggled mightily on third downs, allowing opponents to convert on 44 percent of their third down opportunities, ranking the team 27th in the league. The Jets are 4-1 ATS in their last five games after a loss, and while they’ve had a week to rest, the Seahawks look to be the team that probably could have used a week off. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, K.J. Wright, and Red Bryant headline a group of Seattle players that have missed practice time this week. I think they’ll win, but the Jets will make them work for it. Seahawks 17, Jets 16
Cowboys @ Eagles: The Philadelphia Eagles did everything they could on Monday to destroy any notions you may have had about what goes on inside an NFL red zone. As I said earlier, the Eagles basically moved the ball at will against the Saints, but they completely butchered every play they ran inside the red zone. That led to them scoring just 13 points against a historically bad defense. It hasn’t been a good month for the Eagles. The team’s last win came on September 30th. To put that in perspective, the Philadelphia Phillies won their last game on October 1st. What do you think of that stat, Phil Rizzuto key chain? That sounds about right. Now the Eagles have put the month of October behind them, but they didn’t start the month of November any better, and now get a Cowboys team that has covered the spread in five of their last seven meetings with the Eagles. Philadelphia was able to generate a pretty effective pass rush against Dallas last season, but they’ve struggled to get to the quarterback this year, and have had even more trouble against the run. The pass rush that may have more success in this game belongs to the Cowboys. They have two very good edge rushers in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer… ok, one excellent edge rusher and one guy who plays opposite him, but they’ll have success largely because they get to face a banged up Philadelphia offensive line that was in dire straits before it lost Todd Herremans on Monday. He won’t play this weekend, meaning Michael Vick will have to spend more time scrambling away from the rush, and Marcus Vick will have to spend more time tweeting trade requests. One team that surely won’t be looking to trade for him is Dallas, at least not right now, as Tony Romo is 19-3 in the month of November. The Eagles may be 3-5 but they’re only four points away from being a winless football team right now. Cowboys 27, Eagles 19
Rams @ 49ers: This game stinks. The total is 38.5, but the 49ers are favored by 11? You don’t often see spreads that big in games with such a low total. The 49ers are one of the few teams with the defense to pull this off, and they’re coming off their bye week, but St. Louis is coming off of their bye week as well so don’t completely write them off. The NFC West has gotten a lot more competitive this season, and we’ll be seeing tightly contested, low-scoring battles when these teams meet. That makes me think there is some good line value with the Rams. They’ve been so bad for so long that they’ll continue to get favorable spreads for a little while longer. Sam Bradford is developing into an above average pocket passer. When he’s given time to scan the field and step into his throws he can be quite effective. I suspect the coaching staff will use extra blockers more often than not and let him take some shots down the field. It will be interesting to see if Randy Moss can come up with another highlight reel play or if his touchdown catch on Monday was just a fluke, but going up against a tough St. Louis secondary I doubt he’ll be all that effective this week. Steven Jackson was one of the more effective runners against San Francisco last season, but his role has been limited this season, so I don’t expect him to do all that much on Sunday. If someone were to suggest watching this game on Sunday, my reaction would likely look something like this. 49ers 20, Rams 13
Texans @ Bears: There aren’t too many people that would disagree if I said the biggest weakness for the Bears is their offensive line, particularly when it comes to pass protection. This week that group will get to face a Texans team that loves to throw different looks at the opposing offensive lines, and isn’t afraid to send a blitz. Even when they only send four men, it’s tough to keep a clean pocket as guys like J.J. Watt and Connor Barwin have been a nightmare for quarterbacks all season. Chicago’s defense is no pushover either. Chicago’s 28 takeaways are just unbelievable this early in the season. However, they’re getting a Texans team that doesn’t turn the ball over. Houston’s zone rushing attack is as fundamentally sound as they come, so the Bears will have to limit risks to avoid allowing big plays. Ben Tate will miss this game but Arian Foster will gladly pick up an extra handful of touches, while Justin Forsett is no slouch should he be called upon. Charles Tillman had flirted with the idea of missing this game to be present for the birth of his fourth child, but he’ll be on the field for the game, meaning the defensive MVP of the first half of the season will be on the field whether you think it’s Tillman or Watt. It sounds like Owen Daniels will miss this game, but it’s been a little while since Andre Johnson stepped up and had a really big game, and it seems like tight ends are pretty interchangeable in Gary Kubiak’s system. This game will be won by whichever side makes fewer mistakes and I think that will be the Texans, even though they’re on the road. Jay Cutler may not curse at any fans this week, but he may be cursing at his linemen as they struggle to defend him. Texans 20, Bears 16
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 Seahawks over the Vikings and Seattle won that game comfortably. It’s nice to have those kind of weeks where the result isn’t really in doubt.
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.
There are a lot of decent options this week:
New England vs. Buffalo
Miami vs. Tennessee
Baltimore vs. Oakland
Seattle vs. NY Jets
San Francisco vs. St. Louis
Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City
Out of the six teams that I outlined above, I’ve only used the Patriots and Seahawks thus far, so I have four options available to me.
I picked the Titans to upset the Dolphins so I’m going to cross that game off completely. A lot of people will be willing to use Miami this week because they’re unlikely to be able to use them again in the future, but I just don’t trust the Dolphins with so many other good options available.
Baltimore also scares me a little bit. The Ravens are a really strong home team and should win roughly 70% of the time, but I feel as though San Francisco and Pittsburgh are both better options. I’m going to go with the Steelers over the Chiefs this week. San Francisco is probably an equally safe play but I’d prefer to go with Pittsburgh because they’re playing a non-divisional game. The Chiefs haven’t led at any point during regulation this season so I’m really hard pressed to see them winning at Heinz Field on Monday night.
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 – W 34-14
Week 9 – Seattle Seahawks – W 30-20
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.
For the second straight week, I like a lot of plays. I usually only bet three to four games per week but I’m going to expand my horizons and go with a whopping six plays this week. Some jackass named Henry was ripping me on my blog last week for going with five plays, so I can only imagine that he’s going to have an ulcer when reading through this this week. Still no 6* play though—it’ll come eventually.
5* New Orleans Saints +3 (-125) – BoDog
Most sites have the lines posted at two and a half points, but BoDog has a three on the board. Based on the juice, it may not stay there long, so bet it right away. This line won’t hit anything above three points.
5* Detroit Lions -1 (-129) – 5Dimes
This line is going to go up to at least a full point so bet the Lions as soon as you possibly can. I normally don’t like taking road chalk, but the Lions should be bigger favorites in this spot with Percy Harvin on the shelf.
4* Dallas Cowboys -1 (-120) – 5Dimes
Everything that I just wrote in regards to the Lions can be said about the Cowboys. This is a short line and will be driven up at least a point by the betting public and/or sharps. Bet it as soon as humanly possible.
4* Oakland Raiders +9.5 (-130) – Pinnacle
I checked five major sportsbooks for a line in this game and they all had a different spread posted. Make sure to do some line shopping to get the best possible spread with Oakland. 5Dimes also had a 9.5 posted yesterday so you may want to check there as well.
3* New York Jets +6.5 (-105) – SportsInteraction
Most major sportsbooks have this line at six points, but SportsInteraction has a six and a half listed. I don’t need to tell most of you that seven is a key number so you could consider waiting until game-time to see if you can find a seven, but I think it’s extremely unlikely. The Jets may be a publicly backed underdog by game-time so you may not get the same value if you wait until Sunday morning.
3* Tennessee Titans +6.5 (-110) – SportsInteraction
This line has remained right around six at most sportsbooks but SIA has the only six and a half that I’ve seen. The line will probably remain in that range up until game time but there’s a slight chance you may see a seven a game-time. I’m going to bet this now and hope I don’t regret it.
Just in case you’re interested, I’ll post my results up until this point.