Week 10 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week was a subpar week as I went 2-3 ATS with my Recommended Wagers. The week felt a lot better than it was because I called an outright Jets’ upset of the Saints, but ultimately, the day soured as it went on. I mistakenly locked in the Bills +3 on Friday when there were early reports that Thad Lewis was going to play; a mistake that I won’t make again. I’m still convinced the Ravens and Texans were the right sides in the other games that I played but a loss is a loss and I’ll move on.
This week’s board is a mixture of games that I either feel very strongly about or have a very minimal opinion on. If you’ve read my blog in the past you know that more often than not I’m an underdog bettor, and I’d advise holding off until Sunday if you’re playing the same dogs as me.
The Nickel Package Record: 26-17-2 ATS (60%)
As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast, which includes my top five plays in order of confidence for the week. Each week, Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me to analyze those picks and provide additional insight to the games I’ve selected. You can listen or download the MP3 file here.
Recommended Wagers Record: 31-24-2 ATS (56%)
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans
Friday Line: Titans -13, total of 41
Public Consensus: 68% on the Titans, 69% on the under
The Pick: Nothing gets the juices flowing like an epic AFC South battle between the Titans and Jaguars. I enjoyed my one week vacation from writing about Jacksonville, but unfortunately the holiday is over. There’s not much I can say about the Jags. They’ve been outscored by double digits in every game this year and to make matters worse, Justin Blackmon, their top offensive playmaker, was suspended for the rest of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. That leaves the Jaguars with a receiving corps of Cecil Shorts, Mike Brown, Stephen Burton, and Ace Sanders—three of whom spent their college careers at Mount Union, Liberty, and West Texas A&M. Not good. To make matters worse, the Jaguars’ offensive line has been completely decimated by injuries, which means that Chad Henne, who arguably hasn’t played a good game since his tenure at Michigan, isn’t likely to break the trend this week. The Jaguars could always try to run the ball but Maurice Jones-Drew looks like a crippled old man every time he gets handed the rock, so I wouldn’t expect much success on that front either. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, their defense has been just as bad as their offense. Chris Johnson finally had a breakout game for the Titans last week and his chances to duplicate that success this week are extremely high as the Jaguars give up a whopping 4.8 yards per carry. Jake Locker should also be pretty effective considering he’ll have a clean pocket all afternoon; Jacksonville has registered just 11 sacks in eight games this season.
This is a mismatch on paper and it’ll likely be a mismatch on the field on Sunday afternoon. Jacksonville could be the worst team that I’ve ever seen in my life and I don’t give them much of a chance of pulling off an upset in Tennessee. Titans 23, Jaguars 9
The Wager: As bad as Jacksonville is, I have ZERO interest in laying double-digits with the mediocre Titans. Tennessee could also be in a big look ahead spot here as they battle the Colts on Thursday Night Football. Pass
The Trend: The Jaguars are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers
Friday Line: Packers -1, total of 47
Public Consensus: 64% on the Eagles, 86% on the over
The Pick: This game has to be labeled the public overreaction of the week. Nick Foles had the game of his life last week, throwing for seven touchdown passes against the Raiders. We’re so quick to forget that in Foles’ previous start he threw for a total of 80 yards and a ridiculously low 2.8 yards per attempt against the Cowboys, who just so happen to have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. The Eagles went from scoring 10 points in their previous two games combined to 49 points against Oakland; a feat that’s not likely to be duplicated again this week. Foles had the luxury of picking on a rookie quarterback all game last week, but that won’t be the case against a Green Bay secondary that boasts three good, experienced cornerbacks in Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, and Sam Shields. The Packers will also get a boost in their pass rush with the expected return of Clay Matthews which should further hamper Foles’ success. With that being said, the Packers still have to find a way to produce points without Aaron Rodgers in the lineup. Seneca Wallace was awful on Monday night against the Bears but that was to be expected after he was thrust into the spotlight without taking any first team reps throughout the week. Wallace has now had a full week to practice with his offense and shouldn’t face much resistance against a Swiss cheese Eagles’ defense. The Eagles allow 419.3 yards per game and 24.3 first downs per game on defense, which puts them dead last in the league in both categories. Philadelphia also isn’t very good at stopping the run so Eddie Lacy should provide some much needed support for Wallace.
Time and time again we’ve seen backup quarterbacks step in and perform admirably in their first start. This year alone we’ve seen the likes of Thad Lewis, Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, Case Keenum, Nick Foles, and Josh McCown all excel in their first start under center. Don’t make a big deal out of last week’s results. Packers 27, Eagles 17
The Wager: Green Bay boasts one of the strongest home field advantages in the NFL and now I can get them in a pick’em range against the lowly Eagles? Sign me up! I love playing on backup quarterbacks making their first start as the team always seems to put in an inspired effort to make up for the loss of their starter. Packers pk (BetOnline), I’d take the Packers all the way up to -2.5
The Trend: The Packers are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 games following a loss.
Buffalo Bills @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Friday Line: Steelers -3, total of 44
Public Consensus: 58% on the Steelers, 77% on the over
The Pick: I’m still trying to figure out how the Bills lost to the Chiefs last weekend. Buffalo outgained the Chiefs by 260 total yards and 10 first downs but somehow managed to lose at home. Despite the loss, the Bills remain one of the better kept secrets in football, while the Steelers continue to struggle mightily. Pittsburgh has had a deplorable season with just two wins, and are coming off of a game in which they allowed franchise-records of 55 points and 610 yards. Two weeks ago, the Steelers allowed Terrell Pryor to break off a 93-yard touchdown run and dropped a 23-17 results to the lowly Raiders. Pittsburgh’s play against Pryor doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as they’ll go up against another mobile quarterback this week, whether it’s E.J. Manuel or Thad Lewis under center for the Bills. The Steelers probably won’t be able to put the clamps down on the Bills’ running game either. Pittsburgh gives up 131.2 yards per game on the ground and has surrendered a whopping 12 rushing touchdowns this season, which doesn’t bode well against the Bills’ seventh-ranked rushing attack. Last week, Fred Jackson and a banged up C.J. Spiller put up 193 yards on the ground against one of the best run defense in the NFL, so they shouldn’t face much resistance this week. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ offense remains a complete debacle. The Steelers’ offensive line has been a complete atrocity, surrendering 32 sacks this season and providing absolutely no support in the running game. Buffalo’s defense has gotten healthier as the year has worn on and aside from a drubbing in New Orleans a few weeks back, they’ve played pretty well as of late.
These are two teams heading in opposite directions right now. Normally I’d expect a veteran Steelers’ squad to rebound after last week’s blowout in New England, but this just isn’t the same Steelers’ team from years past. Pittsburgh is old, slow, and they seemingly get dominated in the trenches week in and week out. Bills 24, Steelers 19
The Wager: I’d love to bet Buffalo here but all line value is gone. When this line opened at Pittsburgh -5 late last Sunday, I was ready to drop the mortgage on Buffalo, but the two-point swing actually makes a huge difference. The Bills don’t have the best track record on the road, so I’ll lay off for the time being. Pass, I’ll almost definitely be in action at Bills +3.5 (I doubt it’ll get there though)
The Trend: The Steelers are 6-14-1 ATS in their last 21 games against AFC opponents.
Oakland Raiders @ New York Giants
Friday Line: Giants -7.5, total of 43.5
Public Consensus: 51% on the Raiders, 66% on the over
The Pick: This is one of the tougher games to handicap on this week’s card. The Giants were off last week and will have had a full two weeks to prepare for a subpar Raiders’ squad, but I’m not quite sure that the Giants are any good themselves. Eli Manning has been terrible this season; a 10:15 touchdown to interception ratio is pretty disgusting in this day and age. I’m not sure a bye week is enough to cure his issues, especially now that there are concerns around Victor Cruz’s availability due to a neck injury. The Giants may have won two straight games prior to their bye, but it’s important to note that they only picked up 16 and 17 first downs respectively in those two contests. New York will get a boost in the running game though, as Andre Brown is expected to be back in the lineup, which means no more plodding from former Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis or from old man Brandon Jacobs. Brown will also provide some much needed pass protection in the backfield which will give Manning some extra time to make plays (or throw some ducks) down the field. As evidenced by last week’s debacle against the Eagles, the Raiders’ secondary can be susceptible to the pass. The Giants’ defense has also improved exponentially as of late, limiting opponents to just 14 total points in their last two contests. That number is particularly impressive when you consider the fact that New York had allowed an average of 34.8 points per game through the first six weeks of the season (that’s not a typo). Terrell Pryor has thrown five interceptions in his first three career road games so there’s definitely an opportunity for the Giants to continue their recent success on defense. Oakland will also be without Darren McFadden for this week’s contest, thrusting the less impressive Rashad Jennings into the starting running back role for the Raiders.
Oakland is coming off of a blowout loss and while I’d usually expect a team to bounce back from a horrible performance, the cards are stacked against the Raiders. Not only do they have to fly across the country for an early start, they also catch an improving Giants’ team playing on extra rest. Giants 26, Raiders 18
The Wager: I’ve wavered on my opinion on this game a handful of times this week, so I sure as hell don’t want to bet it. The Raiders are a publicly backed underdog which is almost never a good sign, but I have absolutely no confidence in New York to cover a touchdown. Pass
The Trend: Giants are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 home games against a team with a losing road record.
St. Louis Rams @ Indianapolis Colts
Friday Line: Colts -9.5, total of 44
Public Consensus: 72% on the Rams, 91% on the over
The Pick: The Colts left me in hard orbit after their come from behind victory over the Texans on Sunday Night Football. After trailing 24-6 late in the third quarter, the Colts reeled off three straight touchdowns to pull off a 27-24 shocker. Some of that Colts’ win can be attributed to the Texans’ loss of head coach Gary Kubiak at halftime, but most of that win should be attributed to the brilliance of Andrew Luck. I’ve ragged on Luck’s inconsistency in the past, but he’s been awesome this season, possessing an economical 13:3 touchdown to interception ratio. Even without Reggie Wayne in the lineup last week, Luck was still able to move the chains against the Texans, and he definitely won’t have much of an issue moving the chains against a Rams’ secondary that surrenders nearly 68 percent completions. St. Louis also gives up a massive 8.4 yards per pass attempt, which is pretty unbelievable when you consider that they actually have one of the better pass rushes in the league. Indianapolis doesn’t have much of a running game to speak of but I’m not too concerned that Luck will have to move the chains by himself. In 12 career games at home, Luck has thrown 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions. On the other side of things, the Rams are set to start journeyman Kellen Clemens once again at quarterback. Clemens’ chances of matching points with Luck are—how do I say this?—not good. Clemens has managed to throw just one touchdown pass in his two starts this season, while maintaining a pedestrian 53-percent completion rate and a pathetic 5.6 yards per attempt. The one bright spot for the Rams’ offense has been the play of running back Zac Stacy, but the Colts will simply stack the box to prevent Stacy from having a big game. After all, there’s virtually no chance of Clemens beating them downfield.
St. Louis is on the verge of unraveling while the Colts have a chance to take a huge stranglehold on the AFC South. Even if Indianapolis is flat following their victory on Sunday Night Football, they shouldn’t have much trouble with the disappointing Rams. Colts 27, Rams 14
The Wager: All of my instincts tell me this will be a Colts’ blowout but I’ll lay off for a few reasons. #1; this is eerily similar to Cowboys/Vikings from last week. #2; Indianapolis has a game against Tennessee on Thursday Night Football which could be a big look ahead spot for them. #3; I don’t know how he does it but Jeff Fisher’s teams always seem to fair well in the underdog role. Pass
The Trend: Colts are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games against a team with a losing record.
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Friday Line: Seahawks -5, total of 44.5
Public Consensus: 60% on the Seahawks, 59% on the over
The Pick: This isn’t going to be a walk in the park for the Seahawks. In the last two weeks the Seahawks have nearly lost to the Rams and Bucs, both of whom are easily in the conversation for the second-worst team in the NFL (sorry Jacksonville, it’s not even close). Seattle simply hasn’t been playing good football lately and now they head out on the road, where they haven’t played well at all this season. Aside from a 34-22 victory in Arizona on Thursday Night Football, the Seahawks’ road results leave much to be desired:
Week 1 @ Carolina – won 12-7 after DeAngelo Williams fumbled deep in Seahawks’ territory late in the fourth quarter.
Week 4 @ Houston – won 23-20 after Matt Schaub urinated all over himself.
Week 5 @ Indianapolis – lost 34-28, where was that elite Seahawks’ defense?
Week 8 @ St. Louis – won 14-9 after a last-minute goal line stand against Kellen freakin’ Clemens.
Seattle should conceivable be able to move the ball effectively against the Falcons’ defense but as we’ve seen time and time again this season, the Seahawks can’t be trusted to do anything right on the road. Meanwhile, it would appear as though the Falcons are in shambles right now. Matt Ryan has thrown seven interceptions in his last two starts and Atlanta lost both games by a combined 38 points—what the hell is going on!? For the time being, try to erase those games from your memory. The Falcons have notoriously sucked ass on the road, but they now return home to Atlanta where Matt Ryan has an outstanding 112.9 QB rating this season, throwing for nine touchdowns and just one pick. Steven Jackson also looked pretty good against a tough Panthers’ defense last week, averaging a strong 4.4 yards per carry. Seattle’s run defense has been an abomination in recent weeks, so Jackson should be able to put forth a strong effort on the ground to help out the Falcons’ offense.
This game has all the ingredients for an upset. Seattle is being vastly overrated right now while the Falcons are nowhere near as bad as you’d be led to believe. Atlanta beat Seattle at home in the playoffs last year with a pretty similar squad—I’ll go out on a limb and say they do it again. Falcons 24, Seahawks 21
The Wager: One of the most important things to consider when betting on the NFL is home/road dichotomy. Atlanta stinks on the road but this game is at the Georgia Dome where they’ve been solid under Mike Smith. I’m taking the points. Falcons +6 (BoDog), I still like Atlanta at +5 but the extra point at BoDog is massive
The Trend: Falcons are 14-2 ATS in their last 16 games after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
Friday Line: Bengals -1, total of 44
Public Consensus: 63% on the Bengals, 68% on the over
The Pick: The theme of the week is overreaction. Baltimore put in a pretty underwhelming performance last weekend in Cleveland (I was on the wrong side of that one), but again, I encourage you to look at the bigger picture. The Ravens are brutal on the road (why didn’t I remember this last week?) but now they return to the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium where they’ve won 25 of their last 29 games. Joe Flacco has thrown nine interceptions this season, all of which have come away from Baltimore, but he boasts a solid 99.3 QB rating in three home starts. Flacco has been under constant duress this season as his offensive line has failed to hold up for the majority of the year, but that won’t be that big of an issue against a Bengals’ unit that will be without their top defensive lineman, Geno Atkins. Atkins is out for the year with a torn ACL which hurts a Bengals’ defense that already has cornerback Leon Hall and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga on the shelf. Last week, the Bengals took on a Dolphins’ squad that can’t protect their quarterback whatsoever and Miami was still able to move the ball for the majority of the game. Baltimore should be able to move the ball with some success here which will force Andy Dalton to keep pace. Dalton is pretty good when he’s at home in Cincinnati, but his nine turnovers in five road games this season provides a better indicator of how this game is likely to unravel. Whether it’s taking a safety in the endzone in overtime, throwing a ball into triple coverage, or tossing a ball across his body in the redzone, there always seems to be some sort of epic gaffe with Dalton. Cincinnati will try to establish their running game to aid Dalton but Baltimore surrenders just 3.7 yards per carry, so I’m skeptical that the Bengals can get things going on the ground.
This is Baltimore’s Super Bowl. If they lose this game they essentially have no chance of winning the division. They’ve beaten the Bengals three years in a row at home and that’s no surprise; they seem to match up very well with Cincinnati. I think they’ll take advantage of a depleted Bengals’ defense en route to a rebound victory this week. Ravens 23, Bengals 17
The Wager: Baltimore as a home underdog is almost an auto-bet in any situation. In this situation, it’s definitely a must bet. Cincinnati has struggled on the road all season, they’re banged up, and Marvin Lewis will surely be outcoached by John Harbaugh. The wrong team is favored. Ravens +1.5 (SIA), but I’d take the Ravens at any underdog price or even as a small favorite.
The Trend: Ravens are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games against a team with a winning record.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
Friday Line: Bears pk, total of 52.5
Public Consensus: 51% on the Lions, 73% on the over
The Pick: The NFL schedule makers haven’t done the Bears any favors with this week’s contest. Detroit enters this big divisional affair coming off of a bye week while Chicago has one less day of rest than usual following their Monday Night Football matchup against the Packers. We saw a similar scheduling situation last week where the well-rested Titans disposed of the Rams 28-21. Extra rest isn’t the only factor that the Lions have working in their favor this week—Detroit is playing some pretty good football. In their last second win over the Cowboys a couple of weeks ago, Detroit outgained Dallas by a massive 355 total yards and 16 first downs. Matt Stafford struggled to the tune of 20:17 touchdown to interception ratio last week but he’s regained his form from a couple of years ago and has posted a much better 16:6 ratio this season. The Bears’ defense gives up the second-most yards per play in the entire league, and given the amount of injuries that they have on that side of the ball, they’re not likely to slow down the Lions’ offense. Chicago is missing three players in their starting front seven with Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, and Lance Briggs all on the shelf. Detroit put up 40 points in their first meeting with the Bears this season and that was when Chicago was actually healthy on defense. The Bears would be wise to spend some time in the prayer room this week because they desperately need Jay Cutler to be back in the lineup for this week’s contest. Josh McCown simply won’t be able to match points with Stafford; he’s only thrown for 37 touchdowns in 34 career games as a starter. The Lions struggle mightily in run defense, but some of those struggles could be mitigated by stacking the box if McCown is under center this week.
Regardless of who’s at quarterback for Chicago this week, I have to give the edge to Detroit. Aside from being a great scheduling spot, they’ve already handled the Bears rather easily this season. Ignore Chicago’s win in Green Bay on Monday night because they likely would have got blown out of the water if Aaron Rodgers hadn’t went down. They’ll be hard pressed to make it back-to-back wins this week. Lions 31, Bears 23
The Wager: I’m going to hold off on making a wager until Sunday. If Josh McCown starts I’ll most definitely be in action on the Lions, but I still haven’t decided what I’ll do if Jay Cutler is under center. Jim Schwartz and his clown coaching staff should be able to beat a backup coming off of a bye but I could totally see the Lions falling flat if Cutler makes a return. Pass
The Trend: Bears are 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 home games.
Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers
Friday Line: 49ers -6, total of 43
Public Consensus: 84% on the 49ers, 95% on the over
The Pick: I’ve gone back and forth on this game plenty of times this week. The Panthers have improved to 5-3 on the season and enter this matchup on a four-game winning streak, but it’s important to note that those four wins have come against the Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers, and Falcons. If you include their first win of the season against the Giants, Carolina’s victories have come against opponents with a combined record of 8-33. That’s not to say that they can’t beat the 49ers—they can—but it’s hard to make that prediction without having seen Carolina beat a good team this season. Cam Newton has been particularly impressive in the Panthers’ turnaround but the former first-overall pick has notoriously struggled against 3-4 defenses, the type of defense that the 49ers employ. Earlier this season, the Panthers traveled to Arizona following their bye week and only managed to put up six points as Newton tossed three interceptions in a 21-6 loss. The Panthers also lost to the Bills in Week 2 and while the Bills run a 4-3 defense, they occasionally mix in some 3-4 looks as well. If history repeats itself, Carolina’s offense will be in for a long afternoon. On the other side of things, the bye week couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 49ers. San Francisco’s offense was rolling heading into last week’s week off, scoring a whopping 174 points in their last five contests. In fact, the 49ers have scored at least 31 points in five straight games, ridding themselves of the offensive struggles that plagued them to start the season. Wide receiver Mario Manningham was activated from the PUP list this week which will now give Colin Kaepernick a much needed target opposite of Anquan Boldin. Carolina’s front seven is the strength of their defense but San Francisco has only surrendered 15 sacks in eight games this season. If the 49ers can continue to pass protect this week, they should be able to expose a vulnerable Panthers’ secondary.
It’s entirely possible that the Panthers are for real and that they’re capable of winning this game, but my gut tells me they’re not ready for a step up in competition. San Francisco is coming off of a bye week and they’ve absolutely obliterated their last five opponents. Maybe it won’t be a complete runaway this Sunday but I still have to side with the home team. 49ers 28, Panthers 20
The Wager: At first glance, I really wanted to make a big bet on the 49ers here but I’ve become more hesitant as the week has worn on. The Panthers have been beating up on cupcakes all season, but then again, so have the 49ers. San Francisco got destroyed by Seattle and Indianapolis earlier this season, so it’s entirely possible that they lose this one outright. Pass
The Trend: 49ers are 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 home games.
Houston Texans @ Arizona Cardinals
Friday Line: Cardinals -2.5, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 65% on the Cardinals, 62% on the under
The Pick: How in the world are the Texans going to get up for this game? Gary Kubiak’s collapse at halftime of last week’s Sunday Night Football matchup led to a Texans’ collapse in the second half against the Colts. Aside from the distraction that Kubiak’s health has caused in the Texans’ locker room this week, Houston gets even worse news as the inept Wade Phillips takes over on the sidelines this weekend. Phillips is a complete tool (I’m a Cowboys’ fan—I’d know) and will almost certainly be outcoached by Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians, who served as both the offensive coordinator and head coach for a Colts’ team that split a pair of games with Houston last season. Arians’ familiarity with the Texans will provide a huge edge over Phillips’ familiarity with cattle and oil. The Texans have also been a complete gong show on the road this season, putting together a 1-3 record while scoring only 28 points in their last three away from home. Rookie quarterback Case Keenum has looked solid in his first two NFL starts but 65-percent of his passing yardage last week went to Andre Johnson, who will be covered by Arizona’s stud cover cornerback Patrick Peterson this week. The Texans won’t be able to run the ball effectively either. The Cardinals have the third best rush defense in the league in terms of yards per carry and both Arian Foster and Ben Tate enter this week’s contest banged up. Keenum will be forced to carry the load against one of the best defenses in football, and I’m betting that that doesn’t end well for Houston. On the other side of things, Houston’s defense has been a huge disappointment this season. Last year, the Texans’ defense faded when linebacker Brian Cushing went down for the season and the same thing appears to be happening this season. Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has had an extra week to nurse a hamstring injury and should be a Texans’ pass defense that was torched by Andrew Luck in the second half last week.
This is a great situation for Arizona. Aside from being a pretty strong home team, the Cardinals enter this game on extra rest against a Texans’ squad that has to be demoralized following last week’s events. Don’t be surprised if this one ends in a blowout. Cardinals 23, Texans 12
The Wager: Arizona has already beaten the Falcons, Lions, and Panthers at home this season and now they catch the Texans in a very vulnerable spot. There’s not a ton of line value with the Cardinals this week but I’ll gladly back them for all of the reasons mentioned above. Cardinals -1 (5 Dimes), but I’d be content with anything at -3 or lower
The Trend: Texans are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers
Friday Line: Broncos -7, total of 58
Public Consensus: 76% on the Broncos, 84% on the over
The Pick: The Broncos’ early season lopsided scores have created an aura of invincibility around the team, but they’re ripe for the picking this week. The records in this game show that Denver is 8-1 and San Diego is a mediocre 4-4, but the Chargers are pretty damn close to being a one-loss team themselves. San Diego has lost on the final play of the game to both the Redskins and Texans, and also blew a late lead against Tennessee, losing on a Jake Locker touchdown pass with 15 seconds left. The Chargers’ offense has been pretty solid this season and I think they’re one of only a handful of teams that can match scores with Peyton Manning. Manning’s numbers in the last four weeks have been decent, but nowhere near the dominant numbers that he was posting earlier this season. After committing only one turnover through the first four games, Manning has committed a hefty 10 turnovers in the four games since. Statistically, the Chargers’ defense is one of the worst stop units in the league but they’ve improved drastically in recent weeks, having held two of their last three opponents without a touchdown. Philip Rivers, meanwhile, is enjoying arguably the best season of his career. Rivers has compiled an awesome 106.5 QB rating while turning the ball over just seven times through eight games. The Broncos’ pass defense gives up just under 300 yards per game through the air and have little to no hope of containing Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and the Chargers’ new bonafide playmaker, Danny Woodhead. Denver is also dealing with a pretty big distraction heading into this contest as the health of head coach John Fox, who underwent heart surgery this week, has definitely caused some commotion in the Broncos’ locker room. Even if the Broncos keep their focus in this game, their last two road games show are an indication that other teams can play with Denver away from home. Denver won a thrilling 51-48 contest in Dallas in Week 6 before losing 39-33 in Manning’s return to Indianapolis in Week 7—the very same Colts that the Chargers defeated 19-9 in Week 6.
There isn’t much difference between these two teams. Both squads have great offenses, a quarterback playing at an elite level, and lacklustre defense. The kicker is that Denver has some off-field issues to worry about while the Chargers are playing in front of their home crowd where they’ve been great all season. Chargers 34, Broncos 31
The Wager: This line is insane. I’ve bet against the Broncos in their last two road games against the Colts and Cowboys, where the line was in this exact same range, and I’ve come out profitable in both contests. I’m going right back to the well. Chargers +7, this may move to 6.5 so grab it now
The Trend: Broncos are 3-9-2 ATS in the last 14 meetings between these two teams.
Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints
Friday Line: Saints -6.5, total of 54
Public Consensus: 53% on the Saints, 96% on the over
The Pick: Usually I have a pretty strong opinion on the Sunday Night Football matchup, but this is a tough game to call. On one hand, you have a Saints’ team that almost always covers at home under Sean Payton. On the other hand, you have a Cowboys’ team that excels in the role of the underdog. Which trend will win out? Well, Dallas brings the NFL worst passing defense to the table so it’s hard not to imagine the Saints moving the ball at will in this contest. New Orleans fell to the Jets last week in New York (I’ll pat myself on the back for that one), but they rebounded from their only other loss this season with a 35-17 beatdown of the Bills. In fact, New Orleans has outscored their opponents by a whopping 63 points in their last three home games. Dallas allowed Calvin Johnson to go off for 329 yards two weeks ago, which essentially leaves them with no hope of containing Jimmy Graham. Ordinarily, I’d be inclined to believe that Dallas is capable of matching points with New Orleans but the Saints have a big factor working their favor. Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator in Dallas and got to watch the Cowboys’ offense practice week in and week out. Ryan is undoubtedly alert to many of Dallas’ offensive tendencies and should be able to devise a game plan to limit Tony Romo’s effectiveness. This is also a primetime game for Dallas so there’s a good chance that Romo will just blow up in front of a national audience anyways. The Cowboys will need to establish the run in order to keep this game close. New Orleans is susceptible to opposing ground attacks, giving up a pathetic 4.9 yards per carry, but more often than not, the Cowboys’ offense becomes too pass happy and forgets to utilize DeMarco Murray (see last week vs. Minnesota).
Dallas tends to play up or down to their level of competition and they’ll probably put in an inspired effort this weekend, but I don’t think it’ll be enough. Unfortunately the Cowboys catch the Saints coming off of a loss, and New Orleans will be looking for retribution on Sunday night. Saints 30, Cowboys 23
The Wager: The Cowboys have a one-game lead atop the NFC East—do you think I’m going to sit at home and watch Sunday Night Football rooting against my favorite team? Ain’t happening. The Saints are probably the right side but I’ll pass on a potential cash grab in favor of cheering on the Cowboys. Pass
The Trend: Saints are 20-6 ATS in their last 26 home games.