While my Week 14 record of 6-7-1 ATS wasn’t very impressive overall, I was able to connect on four of my five recommended wagers. I also nailed a play on the Patriots on Monday Night Football and the over on Thursday Night Football to increase my run to 6-1 ATS in the past week. Hopefully the trend continues.
I really like the board this week. I had to be extremely selective to narrow down my picks to a respectable amount of games, but I could have easily bet on a dozen games with confidence. Without further ado, here are my Week 15 selections.
Packers @ Bears: If the Bears were completely healthy I’d consider taking them in this spot, but I just can’t go against the Packers right now. Green Bay is slowly starting to round into playoff form. There’s been a much bigger emphasis on their running game in the past month and with Brian Urlacher still watching the Bears defense from the sidelines the Packers should be able to move the ball on the ground with relative ease. Green Bay has totaled 245 rushing yards against the Lions and Vikings in the past couple of weeks, and it’s really taken a lot of pressure off of Aaron Rodgers who continues to complete a staggering 67 percent of his passes. Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings is out with a shoulder injury which will force Kelvin Hayden and D.J. Moore into more prominent roles, trying to limit the production of a speedy group of Packers receivers. That’s not a good matchup for Chicago. This Bears squad just isn’t the same team that started the season 7-1. Most of Chicago’s first half success came from their ability to create turnovers and score points on defense, but now that those big plays have subsided the team has had to rely more heavily on Jay Cutler. Cutler is inconsistent to say the least, and has a horrible track record against Green Bay. In seven career starts against the Packers, Cutler has completed just 53% of his passes, throwing for seven touchdowns and an ugly 17 interceptions. Earlier this season, Cutler was 11-for-27 with four interceptions against the Packers on Thursday Night Football. Given the current state of the Bears’ offensive line and the possible return of Packers pass rushing force Clay Matthews, I’d say it’s likely that Cutler has a miserable outing again. Green Bay will continue their dominance over the NFC North. Packers 21, Bears 13
[UPDATE: The Packers are on the most heavily bet sides today, but they've dropped to -2.5 in some spots, indicating sharp action on the Bears. I'm not really confident in Green Bay but you can't ignore their recent dominance over Chicago. Weather won't be a factor either as reports indicate there's a 30% chance of light showers.]
Giants @ Falcons: The Falcons are a fraud and the Giants are usually extremely dangerous in December, so this looks like an easy play, right? Well, I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t read too much into last week’s games. The Giants dismantled the Saints, but the Saints are garbage. Meanwhile, the Falcons were pathetic against the Panthers, but that was a predictable flat spot for Atlanta coming off of an emotional victory over New Orleans. New York is going to have a really tough time slowing down Atlanta’s offense. The Falcons have a poor running game in large part due to the fact that Michael Turner is useless, but their passing game should be able to torch a questionable Giant secondary. New York was only able to get to Drew Brees once last weekend and their front seven has been largely inconsistent in pass rushing this season so expect Matt Ryan to have time to make accurate throws all afternoon. The Giants don’t boast the type of secondary that is capable of keeping the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White (assuming he plays), and Tony Gonzalez in check. Also, it’s possible that the Falcons may be able to get their running game going considering the Giants have surrendered 278 rushing yards in their past two games. On the other side of things, this could be a tough matchup for Eli Manning. Manning loves to utilize the middle of the field but Atlanta’s safeties and linebackers have done a great job of giving up few plays down the middle this season. Linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas have been great in coverage and haven’t missed very many tackles which gives the Falcons two solid matchups against the Giants’ running backs and tight ends. Falcon defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has done an outstanding job at limiting opposing quarterbacks this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Manning struggle mightily on Sunday. Atlanta is an outstanding 19-3 ATS in their last 22 games following a loss and I think they get back on track here. Falcons 27, Giants 20
[UPDATE: Roddy White looks like he's going to give it a go, but he'll be nowhere near 100%. That decreases my confidence in Atlanta a little bit, but I still think they're the right side. The Giants are a 70% publicly backed underdog.]
Buccaneers @ Saints: The wheels have fallen off the Buccaneers’ train in recent weeks, but that won’t stop me from backing them against the Saints this weekend. The best recipe for beating New Orleans is to put together time-consuming drives and keep Drew Brees off the field. Doug Martin got back on track last weekend against the Eagles and should be able to keep the chains moving against the league’s worst run defense in terms of total yardage and yards per carry. Josh Freeman threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns earlier this season against the Saints and while he’s not likely to replicate those numbers, he should have all day to find receivers downfield against the Saints’ terrible pass rush. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has surrendered just 19 sacks this season and the Saints have managed only one sack in their past three games so Freeman should have a clean pocket all afternoon. The Bucs boast a pair of big wideouts in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams who should have their way with a Saints secondary that is inept at tackling. Defensively, the Bucs shouldn’t find much success against Drew Brees, but then again, Brees has tossed a whopping nine interceptions in the past three games. The Saints will likely get nothing out of their ground game against Tampa’s league-best rush defense, so Brees will be forced to win the game on his own which could lead to some more turnovers. The Saints offense has turned the ball over 23 times this season, while the Bucs have only 12 giveaways and have a solid turnover margin of plus-12. It’s never easy to win at the Superdome, but I like the matchup for Tampa Bay here, especially since the Saints are giving up over 25 more yards per game than any team in the last decade. Buccaneers 28, Saints 23
[UPDATE: I'm still high on the Bucs today. I think they're the better team, so even with 3-points for home field advantage, New Orleans should be in -2 or -2.5 in this game. I rarely pass up on good line value.]
Vikings @ Rams: The Rams have quietly strung together three straight wins and I fully expect them to make it four straight on Sunday afternoon. Minnesota lives and dies with the running game and Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Rams are extremely stout at defending the run, having limited the Bills and 49ers to a combined 120 rushing yards in the last two weeks. Christian Ponder is as inept as it gets when it comes to the quarterback position, so Jeff Fisher will surely devise a game plan full of eight-man fronts and run blitzes to keep Peterson contained. Ponder has thrown for a total of 210 yards in the past two weeks, and without Percy Harvin in the lineup the former Florida State product has really struggled to find any chemistry the rest of his receiving core. It probably doesn’t help that he’s incapable of throwing the ball more than 20 yards downfield. The Rams have been great at getting to the quarterback this season, registering 39 sacks on the year, which all but dooms the Vikings offense if they’re continually forced into third-and-long situations. St. Louis will look to establish the run as well and should have no problems gashing the Vikings defense who have surrendered an average of over 110 rushing yards in their past three games. Minnesota gave up 6.6 yards per carry against Chicago last week, and while they’ll undoubtedly put a larger emphasis on the run, they may leave themselves open to numerous play-action passes. Sam Bradford has been a huge disappointment since being drafted 1st overall in 2010, but he’s been very effective when the Rams are able to get their running game going. Chris Givens has emerged as a strong go-to option, and Bradford should find openings in the passing game because of the Rams resourceful ground attack. Minnesota is a putrid 1-5 away from home this season, losing each of their last four road games by more than a touchdown. Rams 20, Vikings 9
[UPDATE: The top two players in the Las Vegas Hilton Supercontest have the Vikings +3 on their tickets, but I'm still high on the Rams. The Vikings are 1-5 ATS on the road, while the Rams are 4-2 ATS at home, and St. Louis has played the tougher schedule.]
Redskins @ Browns: This game is still off the board due to Robert Griffin III’s status. This outcome clearly depends on who’s at quarterback for the Redskins, so I’ll hold off on making my selection until Sunday morning.
[UPDATE: Kirk Cousins is starting and the Redskins are 3.5-point dogs. Normally, I like to bet on teams when they start their backup quarterback, but Cousins is a rookie and the Browns defense has been solid. I'd lean with Cleveland -3.5 but I won't have a cent on the game.]
Jaguars @ Dolphins: I wouldn’t be comfortable laying a touchdown with the Dolphins against anyone right now. If you follow me on Twitter (@robpizzola), you may have noticed that I went on a mini ‘Ryan Tannehill is useless’ rant last weekend. Tannehill has a ton of talent but he lacks two fundamental skills for a solid quarterback – decision making and accuracy. The former Texas A&M standout has produced only eight touchdown passes this season while throwing for 12 interceptions, and while he’s only a rookie, I doubt he’ll ever elevate himself to the franchise quarterback that Miami hopes he’ll be. The Jaguars are ranked second-last in the league in total defense, but Miami isn’t fairing much better on offense, ranking 29th overall. As long as Tannehill is under center, I don’t see the Dolphins putting up enough points to win by more than a touchdown. The Dolphins have managed only six touchdowns on offense in their last five games. As for the Jaguars, this is a huge game for Chad Henne. Henne has been awful (that might be an understatement) in recent weeks, but motivation will be a huge factor against his former team. He’ll also be able to rely on a running game for once as converted fullback Montell Owens looked very capable last week, registering 6.5 yards per carry against the Jets. Miami gave up 155 yards on the ground last week so there could be an opportunity for Jacksonville to control the line of scrimmage. If the Jaguars can limit Henne’s dropbacks, they’ll limit the ability of Dolphins’ defensive end Cameron Wake to affect the outcome of the game. Jacksonville is 5-1 ATS on the road this year and played close games with the Packers and Texans, so can’t they do the same against the subpar Dolphins? Miami hasn’t covered when laying 3.5 or more points in the past four years, so I’m not expecting them to do so here. I’ll grow some balls and go with the Jags outright. Jaguars 16, Dolphins 14
[UPDATE: Jacksonville is a bad football team but how can you trust the Dolphins to win by more than a touchdown? They've scored six offensive TDs in their last five games! I still like the Jaguars.]
Broncos @ Ravens: I’m aware of how good the Ravens have been at home in the past few seasons (they’ve won 20 of their last 22 home games), but I don’t like this matchup one bit. Baltimore fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron during the week and replaced him with Jim Caldwell, which could prove to be a great move in the long-term, but this will be his first go at calling plays. Luckily for Caldwell, Joe Flacco has played extremely well at home this season. Unfortunately, his offensive line has not. Flacco has been sacked 10 times in the past three games despite playing three teams that are in the bottom ten in the league in total sacks. Not good. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will be licking their chops all afternoon. Caldwell may try to give Ray Rice a bunch of touches to lessen the load on Flacco, but Rice is unlikely to get much going on the ground against the fourth best run defense in the league. Meanwhile, the Ravens “defense” has no conceivable hope of slowing down Peyton Manning and company. Baltimore’s defense has made Charlie Batch and Kirk Cousins look like Hall-of-Famers in the past two weeks. They’re old, they’re slow, they’re banged up, and they’re 0-8 in their last eight meetings against Peyton Manning. The Ravens couldn’t beat Manning when they had an elite defense, so I’m not sure how they’ll be able to beat him with an average one. Willis McGahee was a big loss to the Broncos offense, but Knowshon Moreno has performed adequately in relief, and has also provided Manning with a good pass catching target out of the backfield. In the end, Denver is simply a better team. Baltimore has been outgained in yards by eight of their last nine opponents. The Ravens last four games in a nutshell: Punt return TD to beat Byron Leftwich, miracle 4th-and-29 to beat the Chargers, loss to Charlie Batch, and collapse against Kirk Cousins. That doesn’t look like a team that’s ready to beat Denver. Broncos 37, Ravens 24
[UPDATE: The Ravens are one of the biggest sharp plays today, while the Broncos are a huge square play. Well, sign me up with the squares! I don't see where Baltimore has a single edge in this game. Terrell Suggs will give it a go today but he'll be nowhere close to 100% so I doubt he'll be a big factor.]
Colts @ Texans: After Monday night’s pathetic performance against the Patriots, it’s hard to fathom laying more than a touchdown with the Texans right now, but I think they’re the right side. If you read my blog on a weekly basis, you know that I think the Colts are the biggest fraud in the league. They sit at 9-4 on the season despite being outscored by 37 points. Football Outsiders’ team efficiency ratings attempt to compare a team’s performance to a league baseline. They have the Colts ranked 28th in the league, behind the Jets, Eagles, and even the Cardinals. The Colts have backed their way into favourable situations all year long, but they’ll get an angry Texans team this week. After struggling to run the ball effectively against the Patriots on Monday, you can be sure that the Texans will get back to their bread and butter. The Colts give up an average of 4.7 yards per carry and have no realistic hope of slowing down Arian Foster. With Foster back on track, Matt Schaub will be able to capitalize on a bunch of play-action opportunities against a weak Indianapolis secondary, especially since the Colts have no hope of getting to the quarterback. Houston boasts one of the best offensive lines in the league and Indianapolis has only been able to muster three sacks in their past four contests. Andrew Luck will have to have the best game of his career to keep the Colts within striking distance. The Texan secondary has struggled mightily in recent weeks, and Luck should definitely enjoy some success moving the ball, but I don’t trust his ability to protect the football. Luck has tossed 18 interceptions this season and with Wade Phillips dialing up the pressure, it’s likely that he’ll toss a couple more when faced with a disruptive pass rush. The Colts can’t compete with the better teams in the league. Texans 38, Colts 21
[UPDATE: The Texans have gone up to 10.5-point favorites in some spots despite the public action being split at 50/50. I can't lay this many points with Houston because Indianapolis has backdoor cover potential, but I still think the Texans are the right side. The Colts are a fraud.]
Panthers @ Chargers: It’s painful to wager on both of these teams, but both the Panthers and Chargers rewarded their backers with upset victories last week. This week the Chargers are coming back down to Earth. San Diego didn’t turn the ball over a single time last week against the Steelers, which marked only the third time this season that they didn’t turn the ball over in a game. I doubt they’ll pull that off again this week. The Chargers’ offensive line is a disaster and Philip Rivers has been under constant pressure in the last month, so it’s likely that Panthers’ defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will make a big impact this week. We’ve all seen Rivers under pressure before, and we all know that it doesn’t end well. San Diego’s offense has given up the ball more than any other team in the NFL. The Chargers can’t even rely on a running game to take some of the load off of Rivers because Ryan Mathews is completely useless. While San Diego figures to struggle offensively, Carolina should be just fine. Cam Newton has been nothing short of awesome since losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Bucs in Week 11. Newton has accounted for 10 touchdowns and ZERO turnovers in the Panthers’ last three games, and he should have all the time in the world to carve up a San Diego defense that can’t get after the quarterback. The Charger secondary is one of the slower units in the league and will be susceptible to Steve Smith and Louis Murphy’s speed down the field. Carolina also should be able to run the ball pretty effectively against a Chargers’ front seven that’s given up 4.4 yards per carry in the past month. Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera used to be the defensive coordinator in San Diego and with most of the personnel still remaining unchanged, Rivera should be able to pinpoint San Diego’s biggest weaknesses. Don’t be fooled by San Diego’s win over Pittsburgh last week. Traditionally, the Chargers have been a force in December, but Rivers just isn’t the same quarterback that he’s been in years past. Panthers 26, Chargers 17
[UPDATE: It doesn't look like I'll be able to find Carolina +3.5 this morning, but I'll gladly take the three points. Ultimately, this comes down my faith in Cam Newton over my lack of faith in Philip Rivers. I think the Chargers caught lightning in a bottle last week and I'll take advantage of an advantageous line.]
Seahawks @ Bills: The Bills may have received a blessing in disguise when Fred Jackson went down with a knee injury last week. Jackson is by no means a poor running back, but his injury will finally force Chan Gailey to use C.J. Spiller more often, especially in the red zone. Spiller is far and away the best player on the Bills’ roster. The Seahawks were extremely stout against the run earlier in the season, but they’ve been brutal in recent weeks. Prior to last week’s blowout victory over the Cardinals the Seahawks had given up an average of 131.3 yards on the ground to their previous six opponents. Spiller’s ability to get on track will allow for Ryan Fitzpatrick to work out of manageable situations instead of the all-too-familiar third and longs that have plagued the Bills in recent weeks. I particularly like the Bills this week because their defense has improved drastically in the past month. Russell Wilson has been a huge spark for the Seahawks in his rookie campaign, but he hasn’t been nearly as good on the road as he has been at home. Wilson has turned the ball over nine times in seven road games this season, compared to only three turnovers at home. The Seahawks will try to run the ball effectively with Marshawn Lynch, but that’ll be easier said than done. The Bills are in the bottom five in the league in rush defense but that number is EXTREMELY misleading because Buffalo’s run defense has been superb as of late. In their last four contests, the Bills have surrendered a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. With Buffalo putting the clamps down on Lynch, Wilson will be forced to convert a lot of third downs on his own against a Bills pass rush that has come alive in recent weeks. This isn’t a typical home game for the Bills because they’re playing in Toronto, but there’s definitely some upset potential here. Seattle is coming off of a blowout victory and has a huge game against San Francisco on deck next weekend, but Buffalo will probably find a way to lose in devastating fashion. Seahawks 20, Bills 17 (OT)
[UPDATE: I was really close to betting the Bills +5.5 yesterday, but I decided against it. The Seahawks are in a huge flat spot and they're on the road, but they match up pretty well against Buffalo. I may come to regret this one.]
Lions @ Cardinals: Arizona is coming off of an embarrassing 58-0 loss last week which definitely doesn’t make them an appealing wager against the Lions, but I’m taking them anyways. The Cardinals will undoubtedly be motivated to make people forget about their debacle last week, but the same can’t be said for the Lions. Detroit is coming off of yet another collapse as they blew a 14-0 lead at Lambeau Field and fell 27-20 to the Packers. Matthew Stafford had a breakout season in 2011, tossing 41 touchdown passes, but he’s really regressed this season. Stafford is extremely inconsistent and has really struggled with his accuracy. With Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, and Brandon Pettigrew all expected to be out of the lineup this week Stafford will be left with a receiving core that consists of a banged-up Calvin Johnson (limited in practice all week), a re-tread Mike Thomas, and some guy named Kris Durham who is extremely tall and extremely terrible. Detroit’s bread and butter is their passing game, but Arizona has been solid against the pass this season, surrendering only 197 yards per game and recording 19 interceptions. The Lions won’t move the ball with ease here. Ryan Lindley gets the nod at quarterback for the Cardinals this week, and needless to say, Arizona won’t move the ball with ease either. The Lions have a strong defensive front four but for whatever reason they struggle to stop the run, giving up an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are dead last in the league at running the football, so Lindley will have to make some plays to move the chains. While that’s unlikely to happen, the Cardinals have a significant edge in turnover margin. The Cardinals were a minus-7 in turnovers last week, but that brought them down to an even turnover margin on the season, which is actually pretty impressive. Meanwhile, the Lions sit at minus-6. Detroit has also been especially poor on special teams, giving up four touchdowns in the kicking game this season. Hello Patrick Peterson. Maybe I’m grasping for straws, but Arizona is in the perfect spot to rebound after last week’s shellacking. Cardinals 17, Lions 15
[UPDATE: Nothing has changed here. This is simply an anti-Lions play. Detroit shouldn't be favored by six points on the road against anyone, especially with their propensity to melt down late in games. Arizona is outmatched here but they'll give 110 percent because they're playing for pride.]
Steelers @ Cowboys: I was dreading the moment when I’d have to write about this game. As a diehard Cowboys fan, it pains me to say this, but I don’t see many ways in which Dallas will be able to win this game. The Steelers looked awful against the Chargers last week, but they’re still a great football team. Pittsburgh loves to establish a physical running game on the road and they should be able to do so against a Cowboys defense that is without a number of their key run stopping personnel. With inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter out for the season, and nose tackle Jay Ratliff expected to miss another game, Dallas has a gaping hole in their interior defense. The Cowboys have given up over 550 yards on the ground in their past four games. The presence of a running game should open things up for Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben didn’t play very well last week but he didn’t get much help from his receiving core as they dropped a number of catchable balls. Dallas’ secondary has struggled against speedy receivers in the past and the Steelers boast two burners in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The Cowboys will have to do their best to keep Big Ben on the sidelines for long periods of time, but I don’t trust their offense enough to sustain lengthy drives. Even with the return of DeMarco Murray from injury, the Cowboys have been unable to run the ball and will have a tough time establish their running game against a stingy Steelers’ front seven. Tony Romo will be forced to work out of a lot of third-and-long situations and his top target in recent weeks, Dez Bryant, won’t be anywhere near 100% with a finger injury. The Steelers have the league’s best pass defense and will only improve down the stretch now that Troy Polamalu is back in the lineup. Expect Romo to force a couple of balls that result in turnovers as the Steelers are able to grind out a road victory. Steelers 20, Cowboys 13
[UPDATE: Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne is out with a concussion which elevates Mike Jenkins, the master of illegal contact penalties, into the starting lineup. Big Ben will be picking on Jenkins all afternoon. I'm a Cowboys' fan so I'm laying off the game, but the Steelers definitely look to be the right side.]
Chiefs @ Raiders: I just can’t fathom that the Raiders are favored over anyone, including the lowly Chiefs. Oakland doesn’t do anything well. At the least the Chiefs are able to run the ball. Kansas City actually has the league’s fifth-best rushing attack, averaging nearly 150 yards per game. Not bad. Oakland, meanwhile, is ranked 26th in the league, giving up 131.2 yards per game on the ground. Brady Quinn played great against the Panthers in Week 13 but struggled mightily against the Browns last week because the Chiefs were in constant third-and-long situations. With Kansas City likely able to run the ball successfully, Quinn should be in manageable situations all game. Quinn is also more than capable of converting longer third downs against an Oakland secondary that’s been non-existent this season. On the other side of things, I just don’t picture Oakland moving the ball with any consistency. Carson Palmer is a scrub. In fact, I firmly believe that the Chiefs have the better quarterback in this matchup. In nine games since the Raiders’ bye week, Palmer has thrown 12 interceptions and coughed up five fumbles. He’s a turnover machine. Kansas City has a pair of dominant pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, so there’s no reason to believe that the Chiefs won’t be able to force a couple of mistakes from Palmer this week. The Raiders could always try to turn to their running game, but Darren McFadden wasn’t very effective in his return to action last week, and that’s been the theme for the former Arkansas standout all season long. It definitely won’t be pretty but the Chiefs have won eight of their last nine trips to Oakland, and should be able to continue that trend. Chiefs 17, Raiders 16
[UPDATE: The Chiefs announced that they've placed WR Dwayne Bowe on injured reserve, and the Raiders have gone up to 4-point favorites. Who the hell is willing to lay 4-points Oakland right now? Somehow the Raiders are receiving 70% of the action in this game. Someone please tell me what I'm missing here.]
49ers @ Patriots: I really think the Patriots are the favourite to win the Super Bowl right now, but the 49ers pose some extremely tough challenges for them. San Francisco possesses a solid power running game that is perfect for grinding out victories on the road. The 49ers boast the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL and while the Patriots’ defensive line isn’t necessarily a weakness, San Francisco should find some success pounding the rock this week. The 49ers were able to exploit a solid Dolphins rush defense last week, picking up 155 yards on the ground. Another great strength of the 49ers’ offense is their ability to use a lot of multi-tight end formations. The Patriots have given up a lot of big plays to opposing tight ends this season and will struggle to keep Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker in check. If Colin Kaepernick can handle the pressure of playing a huge game on the road, San Francisco can definitely hang around. The 49ers defense gives even the best offenses in the league some problems. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in football against the blitz, but San Francisco is able to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks by sending three or four rushers at times because of the abilities of Aldon Smith and Justin Smith. The 49ers also boast a strong group of cover linebackers that should match up well against Aaron Hernandez down the middle of the field. Both Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman should be able to limit Hernandez’s touches. New England has had a lot of success with their running game in recent weeks as well, but they’ll find it much tougher to run on a San Francisco defense that’s limited their last four opponents to a measly 2.9 yards per carry. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take Kaepernick over Brady on the road just yet, but this game should be much closer than a lot of people are expecting. Patriots 23, 49ers 21
[UPDATE: Nothing's changed here. I think this will likely be a close game from start to finish but the Patriots are on a mission right now, so I'm not willing to bet against them.]
I won’t spend too much time here.
Assuming I have all teams remaining, here would be my top selections in order of confidence:
1. Houston vs. Indianapolis
2. Seattle “at” Buffalo
3. Miami vs. Jacksonville (even though I picked the Jags to win outright, there aren’t a lot of better options.)
4. New England vs. San Francisco
5. Toss-up between Detroit and New Orleans, both of whom I picked to lose.
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.
I probably could have bet on all but four games this week with some confidence, but I know that that’s not a winning strategy. I settled on six games in total, with a seventh selection that I will not personally be wagering on due to my allegiance to the Cowboys. This is one of the bigger cards that you’ll ever see me play, but I’m not extremely confident in any selection, making this a card filled with 3* and 4* picks.
4* St. Louis Rams -1 (-135) – Pinnacle
I’m not going to lock this in just yet. Unfortunately, I can only find -3s or -1s with extreme juice on the board right now. I’ll hunt on Sunday morning for a -2.5 -115 and hopefully find one. If I was playing the game right now, I’d settle on the -1 and pay the extra juice.
Sunday AM: Locked in 4* Rams -2.5 (-110) @ SIA
4* Jacksonville Jaguars +7.5 (-110) – SIA
This one is getting locked in immediately. We don’t get much more value if this line goes up to 8 or 9 tomorrow morning, but a drop to 7 points would really hurt. The Dolphins shouldn’t be favored by this margin over anyone right now.
4* Arizona Cardinals +6.5 (+100) – SIA
There are two 6.5s on the board right now at SIA and BoDog. If you have access to a 6.5, do yourself a favor and pay 15 cents to buy yourself a half-point and get the line up to seven. I’m going to be waiting until Sunday morning to lock this in myself because I think we may see some 7s pop up with all of the action on Detroit right now.
Sunday AM: Locked in 4* Cardinals +7 (-120) @ BoDog
3* Tampa Bay Buccaneers +4 (-108) – 5 Dimes
This line was at 4 across the board yesterday afternoon but most sportsbooks have brought it back down to 3.5. If you can find a 4, bet it immediately because it looks like 3.5 will be the closing number. This would also be a 3* wager for me at +3.5, but I obviously prefer getting the extra half point.
3* Denver Broncos -3 (-101) – Pinnacle
I’m going to monitor this line all day and hope that I can catch -2.5 somewhere. The Ravens +3 seems to be at -120 or -125 in most spots right now, so we may definitely see some 2.5s pop up. This is a huge square play, but I really think that Denver should be favored by more here, so I’ll hold my nose and bet against Baltimore at home.
Sunday AM: Locked in 3* Broncos -3 (+108) @ 5Dimes
3* Carolina Panthers +3 (-110) – Pinnacle
This line is more likely to move to 2.5 than 3.5, so I’m locking in Carolina at +3 today. The Panthers are getting the majority of the action in this game and while I’m usually deterred by betting on publicly backed underdogs, I’m not deterred by betting against the Chargers.
3* Pittsburgh Steelers -2 (-110) – SIA
I will not be putting any money down on this game due to my allegiance to the Dallas Cowboys. If you bet on this game, I will be cheering for you to lose all afternoon. With that being said, I have a pretty good read on the Cowboys and they tend to lose these types of games, so Pittsburgh is definitely the smart play… but I’m not betting it.
That’s it for me this week. I will update my thoughts on each game on Sunday morning.
Good luck this week! Let me know your top selections.