Week 11 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. I turned in a second consecutive sub-par performance last week as I went 3-3 ATS with my Recommended Wagers but only 2-3 ATS with my five selections on The Nickel Package. My overall season records still stand well above .500 but it would be nice to get back on track with a strong Week 11.
The Nickel Package Record: 28-20-2 ATS (58%)
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: 34-27-2 ATS (56%)
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Friday Line: Falcons -1, total of 43.5
Public Consensus: 57% on the Falcons, 51% on the under
The Pick: I don’t think many people imagined that the Bucs would be 1-8 and the Falcons would be 2-7 at this point in the season. Both of these teams are an abomination and trying to pick one over the other is proving to be extremely difficult. Tampa Bay just picked up their first win of the season and while some people might point to a letdown spot here, 0-6 or worse teams coming off of their first win of the season are 6-5-1 straight up and 11-1 ATS in their following game since 2005. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the loss of running back Mike James will be a big blow to their offense. Tampa Bay now turns to the combination of Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey; a slow fullback with 3.1 yards per carry and an undrafted running back that’s been cut by two separate teams this season. Not good. That being said, Atlanta’s defense is an atrocity so it’s possible that the Bucs may still be able to pick up yardage on the ground. Quarterback Mike Glennon also had a decent start in Atlanta in Week 7, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns, so Tampa should be able to move the ball semi-consistently. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s offense has been a train wreck in recent weeks. Steven Jackson has gained just 74 yards rushing in three games since his return from injury and that’s made things increasingly difficult for Matt Ryan behind a shoddy offensive line. Roddy White returned to the Falcons’ lineup last week but he was completely shut down by Richard Sherman and he’ll be completely shut down by Darrelle Revis again this week. To make matters even worse, Tony Gonzalez is dealing with a toe injury which will limit his route running ability.
Atlanta is playing some really bad football right now. Really bad. They’ve been outgained in four straight games and their once prolific offense is in complete shambles. The wheels are falling off for the Falcons while the Bucs finally have some momentum to build on. Buccaneers 20, Falcons 17
The Wager: I wouldn’t bet this game with my worst enemy’s money. Pass
The Trend: Falcons are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games following a loss of more than 14 points.
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
Friday Line: Bills pk, total of 40.5
Public Consensus: 66% on the Jets, 85% on the under
The Pick: Week in and week out I preach the importance of looking at a team’s home/road dichotomy. This week is no different. Buffalo is a mediocre team overall, but they’re one of the best home teams in the NFL. They’ve already beaten Carolina and Baltimore at home this season, covered the spread against New England and Cincinnati (both games that they could have won), and then outgained the Chiefs by 260 total yards before falling short because of Jeff Tuel’s gaffes. E.J. Manuel returned last week and although he looked awful in Pittsburgh, it’s important to note that Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a track record of great success against rookie quarterback. Manuel now returns home with a game under belt to take on a Jets’ defense that he’s already seen earlier in the season. The Jets have been teeing off on pocket quarterbacks in recent weeks (Tom Brady, Drew Brees), but they’ll find it much more difficult to take down Manuel, who boasts great scrambling ability. On the other side of things, the Bills’ defense has quietly been one of the better stop units in the league in recent weeks. Buffalo has allowed just 297 yards per game over their last four games and that includes a game against the Saints in the Superdome. The Bills’ defense also leads the NFL in combined interceptions and sacks (46 total) and they shouldn’t face much resistance from a Jets’ offensive line that’s surrendered 31 sacks this season, one for every nine pass attempts. Geno Smith has turned the ball over nine times in his first four career road starts, and that trend is likely to continue with Smith under duress for the majority of the afternoon. In addition to being a turnover machine on the road, Smith has struggled to move the ball, failing to top 16 first downs in any road start this season.
New York may be coming off of a bye week but their struggles on the road this season can’t be overlooked. Until Geno Smith proves that he’s capable of winning a game against a good defense away from home, I’ll continue to fade the Jets on the road. Bills 26, Jets 16
The Wager: The books are encouraging Jets’ money by making this game a pick’em. Everyone is wondering how 5-4 Jets’ team coming off of a bye isn’t a favorite against a 3-7 Bills’ team, completely ignoring the fact that Buffalo is a very strong home team. Ignore the records; these teams are much more equal than you realize. Bills pk
The Trend: Underdogs coming off of a bye who won as a home dog prior to the bye are 0-13-1 SU and only 4-10 ATS in the last 14 instances.
Detroit Lions @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Friday Line: Lions -2.5, total of 46
Public Consensus: 76% on the Lions, 64% on the over
The Pick: The Steelers are really starting to impress me. Aside from a blowout a couple of weeks ago against New England, the Steelers’ defense has performed admirably since their bye week. Pittsburgh now has the luxury of taking on a Lions’ squad that has notoriously struggled outdoors on grass field. Detroit has only covered nine of their last 13 games on a grass field, and the harsh weather conditions in Pittsburgh should also make it more difficult for Matthew Stafford to move the ball through the air. The Steelers’ have a pretty solid pass defense, limiting opposing quarterbacks to 6.8 yards per attempt and just over 200 yards per game. It would be unrealistic to expect Pittsburgh to completely shut down Calvin Johnson but they have a good chance of holding him to moderate numbers on Sunday afternoon, especially since Dick LeBeau is one of the best defensive coordinators in the league at limiting an opposing teams’ star player. Conversely, I think the Steelers have the offensive tools to give Detroit’s defense problems. Pittsburgh’s rushing offense was awful to begin the season but it has improved greatly since the return of Le’Veon Bell to the lineup. Bell is a three-down back that is solid in pass protection but can also carry the full rushing load. Bell shouldn’t face much resistance on the ground against a Lions’ rush defense that surrenders a whopping 4.7 yards per carry. The Steelers’ ability to run the ball will slow down Detroit’s pass rush and give Ben Roethlisberger some extra time in the pocket to find his receivers downfield. The Steelers’ struggles this year have come from a poor minus 11 turnover ratio, but that number should regress to the mean as Big Ben is afforded more time in the pocket.
This is a really bad spot for the Lions. They’re coming off of a hard fought emotional win over one of their division rivals and have to travel to the harsh confines of Heinz Field. The Steelers excel in the role of the underdog (7-2-1 ATS in last 10 as a home dog) and I think they match up very well Detroit. Steelers 27, Lions 23
The Wager: I think the wrong team is favored here. Pittsburgh is a hell of a lot better now than they were earlier this season and I don’t think the general public has realized that yet. The Lions have notoriously crapped the bed on the road under Jim Schwartz, so I’ll gladly take the points here. Steelers +3 (BoDog), although I’d take Pittsburgh at any underdog price
The Trend: The Lions are 1-8 ATS as road favorites of less than 6 points coming off of a win.
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
Friday Line: Eagles -4.5, total of 53
Public Consensus: 57% on the Eagles, 63% on the over
The Pick: I’m still not sold on the Eagles. Three weeks ago Eagles’ fans were calling for Chip Kelly’s head, but now there’s excitement in Philadelphia following a pair of wins over the lowly Raiders and a crippled Packers’ squad with a third-string quarterback under center. It’s important to note that both of those victories came on the road, where the Eagles are a thousand times better than they are at home. The Eagles have lost their last ten home games and haven’t covered a spread at Lincoln Financial Field since 2011. No, that’s not a typo. Philadelphia may look they’re starting to get their act together but a trend like that is hard to ignore. The Eagles have already lost home games to the Chargers (west coast team), Cowboys, and Giants this season, so there’s no reason to believe that they should be the favorites in this contest. Washington is coming off of loss to Minnesota but they outgained the Vikings by over 120 yards and probably should have won that game. The Redskins will be on extra rest after last Thursday’s outing and will head into this game with their offense finally starting to click on all cylinders. Robert Griffin III has posted a QB rating of 86.8 or better in three of his last four starts and has shown great chemistry with Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed in recent weeks. The Redskins are also getting a huge contribution from Alfred Morris, who’s posted 5.1 yards per carry and 260 rushing yards in his last two starts. The main issue with the Redskins is their porous defense but at least they’ve had the luxury of seeing the up-tempo Eagles’ offense earlier this season. The Giants are the only NFL team that’s played the Eagles twice this season—they gave up 439 yards in their first meeting and held Philadelphia to a measly 201 yards in their second meeting. Washington isn’t likely to keep Nick Foles in check all game but they also shouldn’t get completely run over.
The Redskins have playing the seventh toughest schedule in football and outgained their opponents by 22 yards per game. The Eagles have played the 22nd-toughest schedule in football and have been outgained by four yards per game. There are just too many factors favoring the ‘Skins here. Redskins 31, Eagles 28
The Wager: This spread continues to rise with a bunch of early money poring in on Philadelphia. I’ll gladly wager against a team that has continuously proven that they can’t win a game at home. Give me the points. Redskins +4.5
The Trend: Redskins are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 games against NFC East opponents.
San Diego Chargers @ Miami Dolphins
Friday Line: Chargers -1.5, total of 45.5
Public Consensus: 87% on the Chargers, 81% on the over
The Pick: The Dolphins have turned into the laughing stock of the league in the wake of the Jonathan Martin vs. Richie Incognito situation. I would have strongly considered the Dolphins in this spot if it weren’t for the locker room distractions, but this situation has become a mess. The worst part of it all for the Dolphins is that the absence of Martin and Incognito turns an already poor offensive line into a complete abomination. Miami has surrendered a whopping 37 sacks in nine games this season, roughly one sack for every nine dropbacks. San Diego shouldn’t have much trouble applying pressure to Ryan Tannehill, especially since they don’t have to fear the Dolphins’ lacklustre running game either. Miami averages just 87 yards per game on the ground, in part because of their offensive line woes and in part because the combination of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas isn’t very good. The Chargers got themselves into trouble last week when they were forced to play catch up against the high-octane Broncos’ offense; that won’t be the case this week. Miami has scored 13 first quarter points in their last seven games, so the Chargers won’t have to be too worried about playing from behind this week. Philip Rivers will also be licking his chops at the possibility of carving up a vulnerable Dolphins’ secondary. Miami ranks 25th in the league in pass defense and they’ve only faced one quarterback this season that ranks in the top 10 in quarterback ratings. In that contest, Drew Brees completed 77% of his passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns. Rivers is having a huge bounce back season and has performed admirably on the road, throwing for nine touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Miami is in a terrible spot here. There is a huge distraction surrounding the team and now they’re forced to prepare for a good Chargers’ squad on a short week. San Diego hasn’t been deterred by east coast road games as they’ve gone 4-1 ATS in their last five games in that role, with the only loss coming in overtime. The Chargers could be flat following their loss to Denver but they still have a big edge here. Chargers 23, Dolphins 13
The Wager: San Diego is one of the most heavily bet public sides this week. The books took a beating on the Colts on Thursday night, so they’ll have to recoup their losses this weekend. Everything points to the Chargers here but those are the scariest types of games to wager on. Pass
The Trend: Dolphins are 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS in their last 8 home games following a Monday Night Football game.
Baltimore Ravens @ Chicago Bears
Friday Line: Bears -3, total of 44
Public Consensus: 55% on the Ravens, 76% on the under
The Pick: This is a recording—the Baltimore Ravens suck on the road. Baltimore is just 1-4 straight up and against the spread away from home this season with losses to the Bills, Steelers, and Browns. Their lone road win came at Miami where they faced a Dolphins’ squad that essentially no zero home-field advantage. The main issue with the Ravens is that their offense blows. There are a number of factors that contribute to Baltimore’s struggles on the offensive side of the ball but none bigger than their awful offensive line. The Ravens’ zone blocking scheme has been an abomination this year—Baltimore running backs are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and the offensive line has surrendered a massive 30 sacks. Joe Flacco has been under constant duress this season and has tossed nine interceptions in just five road starts. To make matters worse, Ray Rice is running like a 90-year-old man behind an offensive line that can’t open up any holes whatsoever. Chicago’s biggest weakness on defense is a front seven that has been decimated by injuries but the Ravens simply don’t have the ability to expose that deficiency. On the other side of things, Josh McCown gets the start in place of the injured Jay Cutler. McCown has proven to be pretty solid in relief this year and should be able to move the ball fairly consistently against a Ravens’ pass defense that gives up 7.4 yards per attempt. Baltimore’s cornerbacks just don’t have the size to match up with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside. Most importantly for the Bears though is that their offense line has been more than serviceable this season. Head coach Marc Trestman has done a great job shoring up an issue that plagued the Bears in years past as Chicago has only surrendered 14 sacks on the season. The Bears’ offensive line has also done a great job of opening up holes for Matt Forte who is enjoying a great campaign, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
You wouldn’t think it with the way that the Bears have been playing as of late, but this is a big mismatch. Chicago has an edge on both sides of the ball and they’re also in a great spot, catching Baltimore coming off of a huge win within their division. Bears 24, Ravens 14
The Wager: Baltimore continues to be an auto-fade when they’re on the road. Chicago just so happens to match up pretty well with the Ravens which makes me even more confident in this play. Swallow the points. Bears -2.5 (5 Dimes), I’d still take Bears -3 but love the -2.5 at 5 Dimes
The Trend: Bears are 9-4-1 ATS in their last 14 games in November.
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals
Friday Line: Bengals -6, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 64% on the Bengals, 50% split on the total
The Pick: These teams are much closer to equal than you’ve probably been led to believe. Cleveland comes off of their bye week in second place in the division and takes on a Bengals’ squad that’s struggling on both sides of the ball. Andy Dalton has been awful in recent weeks, tossing six interceptions in his last two starts. Dalton continues to be plagued by inaccuracy and that’s not an issue that can be corrected in the span of a week. Dalton has been bailed out by A.J. Green on many occasions in the past but Green will be shadowed by Joe Haden, one of the league’s premier shutdown cornerbacks, limiting Dalton’s ability to make big plays down the field. Cleveland held Cincinnati to just six points and a season low 266 yards in their first meeting this season, and they could easily duplicate that success again this week. Cincinnati’s struggles also extend to the defensive side of the ball. The Bengals are without their top defensive lineman in Geno Atkins, and their best cornerback Leon Hall is also on injured reserve. There are just some players that are considered irreplaceable and both Atkins and Hall fit that mould. Jason Campbell gets the start at quarterback for the Browns which is great news for Cleveland fans as the Browns have covered every game that Brandon Weeden hasn’t started this season. Campbell has performed remarkably well so far this season; he’s the first Browns’ quarterback to post back-to-back games with a QB rating above 100 since 2007, and he should find continued success again this weekend. The Bengals haven’t scored more than 20 points in either of their last two games despite both of those games going into overtime, so Campbell will simply need to be serviceable in this contest.
In the last five years, the Bengals haven’t beaten an AFC North opponent by more than ten points, regardless of the spread. These AFC North games always end up being close contests and I think that’ll be the case again this weekend. Cleveland has an elite defense and they protect the ball well on the offensive side of the ball so I’m going with the road upset here. Browns 19, Bengals 16
The Wager: This one’s a no-brainer for me. The Browns are getting nearly a touchdown and I have them winning the outright—I’d be an idiot not to pull the trigger. Browns +6.5 (SIA), I would take the Browns all the way down to +4.5
The Trend: Underdog is 12-3-1 ATS in the last 16 meetings between these two teams.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
Friday Line: Texans -7, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 73% on the Texans, 83% on the over
The Pick: If you take a statistical look at the Texans, they have the portfolio of a team that should be 7-2 on the season rather than 2-7. It’s perplexing. Houston has outgained their opponents on the season and seem to be in the upper half of most important statistical categories, yet they continue to find a way to lose (eerily similar to the 2012 Lions). The Texans should conceivably be able to have their way with the lowly Raiders but they should have conceivably had their way with many opponents this season. I rarely ignore the X’s and O’s for a game but that’s precisely what I’m doing here because it seems that time and time again the Texans just find a way to shoot themselves in the foot. Whether it’s Randy Bullock missing field goals, Houston’s inept coaching staff calling a horrible game, or the Texans committing a costly turnover, this Houston team will simply find a way to blow it. Oakland has gone down that same route in recent weeks as well. After giving up seven passing touchdowns to Nick Foles a couple of weeks ago, the Raiders lost a 24-20 “battle” to the Giants last weekend in what was undoubtedly one of the ugliest football games of the season. Terrell Pryor is dealing with a sprained MCL and has an awful 1-to-8 touchdown to interception ratio in the last four games. With that being said, the Texans have already been torched by Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford this season, so it isn’t a guarantee that Pryor will continue to struggle.
I really don’t know what to make of this game. For all the reasons mentioned above, I think Houston probably finds a way to make this a close game but in the end, it would take a pretty embarrassing performance for them to lose this one outright. Texans 24, Raiders 20
The Wager: As mentioned above, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to this matchup. Pass
The Trend: Raiders are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games following a loss.
Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Friday Line: Cardinals -8.5, total of 41
Public Consensus: 71% on the Cardinals, 63% on the over
The Pick: Going from a Houston/Oakland write-up to an Arizona/Jacksonville write-up is just downright depressing. I’m not going to waste a bunch of my time or your time here. Arizona is a mediocre football team, but that’s only because they’re solid at home. The Cardinals only road win this season was a 13-10 triumph over Tampa Bay in a game where they were thoroughly outplayed and capitalized on some awful late-game play calling by the Bucs in Mike Glennon’s first career start. This will be Arizona’s first road game since October 13th, so don’t be surprised to see them come out extremely flat in this contest. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians is very familiar with the Jaguars from his tenure in Indianapolis, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference here. After all, Carson Palmer is still under center for Arizona. Palmer has turned the ball over 19 times in nine starts this season and has only managed five touchdowns in his four road starts. And for some God forsaken reason, Arians continues to start Rashard Mendenhall over Andre Ellington even though everyone on this planet knows that Ellington is by far the better back. The Cardinals’ offense is a hot mess, but they can at least rely on their defense to keep them in games. Jacksonville’s 29 points last week against the Titans was a facade as the Jaguars managed only 214 yards on offense. If the Jags could barely move the ball against a mediocre Tennessee defense, they’re in for a world of hurt against a strong and continuously improving Cardinals’ defense.
Jacksonville doesn’t have much of a chance of moving the ball here but that should be offset by Palmer gifting the Jags’ offense with a couple of short fields. As I mentioned in the Bucs/Falcons write-up, teams actually tend to play well after picking up their first win of the season. Since I have no clue how this game is going to play out, I’ll take the Jaguars so that I can say I had the Jaguars if they somehow manage to win. That’s right—a pure glory pick. Jaguars 17, Cardinals 16
The Wager: This week’s board sucks. The public is betting the Cardinals like this game is already over but I’m done with the Jaguars. I’m 0-3 betting on Jacksonville this season and I refuse to back this garbage team again, even if I feel like they could be the right side. Pass
The Trend: 0-6 or worse teams coming off of their first win of season are 6-5-1 SU and 11-1 ATS in their next game since 2005.
Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks
Friday Line: Seahawks -12, total of 45
Public Consensus: 55% on the Seahawks, 59% on the over
The Pick: The Seahawks were handed a nice present last weekend when the Panthers knocked off the 49ers in San Francisco. Seattle now has a 2.5-game lead in the NFC West and consequently, there’s a strong chance that they’ll be passive in this contest. The Seahawks were outstanding last week as they avenged last season’s playoff loss with a 33-10 rout of the Falcons, but let’s not forget that Seattle was taken to the wire by Tampa Bay and St. Louis in back-to-back weeks prior to last week’s win. The Bucs and Rams were both able to run the ball effectively against the Seahawks’ defense, which presents a huge opportunity for the Vikings’ All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. Seattle surrenders 4.2 yards per carry to opposing running backs, so Peterson should be able to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground and setup manageable situations for Christian Ponder. Minnesota is by no means a good football team but they come into this matchup on extra rest after disposing of Washington on Thursday Night Football. The Vikings were also pretty close to pulling off an outright upset of the Cowboys in Dallas two weeks ago. There’s no denying that they’ve been playing much better football in recent weeks. Remember, this exact same Vikings’ squad made it to the postseason last year; they’re definitely capable of playing good football. As for the Seahawks’ offense, they should be able to score some points on a weak Minnesota defense, but again, it’s important to recognize that this could be a huge flat spot for Seattle. The Seahawks are now in cruise control and are coming off of a blowout victory, so it’ll be easy for them to overlook Minnesota. The return of Percy Harvin will do wonders for the Seahawks’ offense going forward, but it will take time for Russell Wilson to get acclimated with Harvin, and there could be some growing pains in this one.
Seattle is undoubtedly the better football team here, but there are just so many factors working against them. The Vikings are slowly improving as the year goes on and should be able to keep up with the Seahawks for a bit, until the Seahawks wake up and finish them off. Seahawks 24, Vikings 15
The Wager: I really want to take Minnesota here but I don’t think I’m getting enough points. If the Vikings were two-touchdown underdogs I’d jump on them here, but Seattle could play a poor game and still be able to cover this spread. Pass
The Trend: Seahawks are 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game.
San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints
Friday Line: Saints -3, total of 47.5
Public Consensus: 75% on the Saints, 79% on the over
The Pick: The entire world is going to be on New Orleans this weekend. Seriously, I haven’t talked to a single person that even gives the 49ers a chance in this contest. This game is being played at the Superdome where the Saints have a huge homefield advantage, but let’s not forget that the 49ers beat the Saints in the Superdome last season. Granted, New Orleans wasn’t as good last year and Sean Payton wasn’t on the sidelines, but that win will give San Francisco a lot of confidence heading into this week. The 49ers dropped a big game to the Panthers last week, but that was against a very strong Carolina defense. Prior to the loss to the Panthers, the 49ers had scored 42, 31, 32, 34, and 35 points in their last five games, with three of those point totals amassed against quality defenses. The Saints’ defense is decent but they have the worst rush defense in the league and that plays right into the hands of the run-heavy 49ers. New Orleans gives up 5.0 yards per carry which means that Colin Kaepernick should be able to utilize the read-option very effectively in this contest. The 49ers’ running game will be able to neutralize the Saints’ pass rush, leading to plenty of points. But can San Francisco stop New Orleans? The Saints just set an NFL record with 40 first downs but that was against a decimated Cowboys’ defense, missing five of their 11 starters. New Orleans loves to move the ball through the air but the 49ers have a top-five pass defense, holding opponents to a paltry 6.4 yards per pass attempt. Moving the ball won’t be as easy for the Saints this weekend.
This is a terrible spot for New Orleans. They’re coming off of a blowout win against “America’s team” and they have a Thursday Night Football matchup against their rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, on deck. Everyone is talking about how good the Saints are and how the 49ers can’t get past good teams. I love that San Francisco is getting disrespected here—I’ll take them to pull the upset. 49ers 34, Saints 30
The Wager: This spread is insanely low. I expected Saints -4.5 at the bare minimum, but it looks like Vegas is encouraging New Orleans money here. I would love to take San Francisco but three points just isn’t enough with the Saints’ dominance at home. The 49ers are the right side but there’s just no line value whatsoever. Pass
The Trend: 49ers are 20-7-3 ATS in their last 30 games following an ATS loss.
Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants
Friday Line: Giants -4.5, total of 42
Public Consensus: 65% on the Packers, 93% on the over
The Pick: After losing their first six games of the season, the Giants have rebounded to win their next three contests, albeit with a ton of luck. New York’s three wins have come against the Vikings quarterbacked by (useless) Josh Freeman, the Eagles with Michael Vick getting hurt midway through the game, and the Raiders with Terrell Pryor playing on a strained MCL. Apparently Jesus Christ is a Giants’ fan because New York lucks out again this week. The Packers are set to start Scott Tolzien who was bumped up to their active roster from their practice squad last week. Tolzien was serviceable in relief of Seneca Wallace last week but a lot of his success had to do with the fact that the Eagles hadn’t game planned for him. Tolzien will likely struggle against a much-improved Giants’ defense that’s held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 55.5 or less in three straight outings, although that stat is skewed by the lacklustre quality of competition. Green Bay will have to get Eddie Lacy going on the ground in order to sustain any consistent drives but that will prove to be difficult against a Giants’ run defense that gives up just 3.7 yards per carry. New York will also have the luxury of stacking the box without the threat of getting beat deep down the field by Tolzien. Unfortunately for the Giants, their quarterback isn’t much better than a backup right now either. Eli Manning has been a heaping pile of trash this season, throwing for 11 touchdowns and a whopping 16 interceptions. The good news for Manning is the Packers’ defense has been pathetic, although they’re bound to improve now that Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are healthy. Manning also finally has the luxury of a decent running game with the return of Andre Brown, taking over the reins from the plodding Peyton Hillis.
I don’t know what to make of the Giants’ last three victories. New York has beaten up on a bunch of nobodies but the Panthers proved last week that quality of competition doesn’t always tell the full story. New York smashed Green Bay 38-10 at home last season (with Aaron Rodgers starting), and while that’s not likely to happen again, I’d be inclined to believe that the Giants will do enough to eke out another victory. Giants 20, Packers 16
The Wager: Normally in games between two bad teams (yes, the Packers are considered bad without Rodgers) I’d take the points, but this Packers’ squad doesn’t instill any confidence whatsoever. I’m not sure the Giants should be laying 4.5 points against anyone right now but I’m not convinced that Green Bay can keep this close. Pass
The Trend: Packers are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games following a loss.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
Friday Line: Broncos -7.5, total of 49
Public Consensus: 58% on the Chiefs, 84% on the under
The Pick: This is a really difficult game for me to handicap. This point spread reeks of a trap, but it’s hard to not consider the Chiefs a live dog in this game. Kansas City does a ton of things right—they run the ball well, they play strong defense, they pressure the quarterback, they have solid special teams, and now they enter this week’s game on extra rest. The big knock on the Chiefs though is that none of their nine wins have coming against a team with a winning record. With that being said, they’ve won four games this season which is never an easy feat in the NFL, and they’ve done so while allowing an average of only 11.2 points per game. Peyton Manning’s mobility was limited late in last week’s game at San Diego, and that’s not good news against a Chiefs’ defense that’s generated an unbelievable 36 sacks so far this season. Manning should still be able to move the ball fairly consistently against the Chiefs—this is Peyton Manning after all—but I wouldn’t expect the Broncos to come anywhere close to the 41.2 points per game that they average this season. If the Chiefs stand any chance of pulling off the upset they’ll need a big game out of Alex Smith. Jamaal Charles has been great all season but the Broncos are very stout in run defense, so it’ll be on Smith to make some plays out of the pocket. Denver’s defense surrenders a poor 7.8 yards per pass attempt so I’m pretty confident that Smith can move the chains semi-consistently in this matchup.
Kansas City may not be an elite team but you can’t argue with results. Andy Reid has a solid 72-51-1 record in his career on the road and has been dominant coming off of the bye in his career. I think the Chiefs give the Broncos a game here but ultimately Denver’s offense will be just too much to handle, especially since Kansas City settles for field goals far too frequently. Broncos 28, Chiefs 23
The Wager: I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I’m going to play this game and I ultimately decided against it. I just can’t get over the fact that the Chiefs have played so many close games against inferior opponents. Their stats dictate that they’re one of the best teams in the league but it’s easy to pile up good numbers against creampuffs. Pass
The Trend: 5-0 or greater teams playing with a week of rest in the NFL are 17-4 SU and 15-6 ATS in the last 21 instances.