Rob Pizzola

robpizzola

@robpizzola

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Week 7 betting preview

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Week 7 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week was a pretty average week. I went 3-2 against the spread on The Nickel Package but added three picks to my Recommended Wagers, and finished 4-4 against the spread for the week. I’ll try to be a little bit more selective this week even though I have a strong opinion on most of the games.

Before I get into the write-ups for this week, I’ll let you know that I am not locking in any of my plays as of this writing. I’m on a lot of ugly underdogs this week so I’m going to wait until game time on Sunday to get the best possible lines. I will grade my wagers this week based on the lines that I post in my Sunday morning betting update.

The Nickel Package Record: 17-11-2 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: 22-18-2 ATS (55%)

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Week 6 betting preview

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Week 6 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week was the rebound week that I had been looking for. I went 4-1 against the spread on The Nickel Package and split my other two plays on the blog to finish the week 5-2 overall with my recommended wagers. I like a lot of games on this week’s board, so hopefully the run can continue.

The Nickel Package Record: 14-9-2 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: 18-14-2 ATS (56%)

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Week 5 betting preview

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Week 5 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week was another pretty average week. I went 3-2 against the spread on The Nickel Package but decided to add a few other plays to the blog, finishing 4-4 for the week. I imagine a lot of my plays will be pretty unpopular with most people this week but hopefully all goes well.

The Nickel Package Record: 10-8-2 ATS (55%)

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: 13-12-2 ATS (52%)

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Week 4 betting preview

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Week 3 betting preview

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Week 3 of the NFL season is here, and so is your betting break down for all of Sunday’s games. Last week was a pretty average week. For those who took my advice on The Nickel Package, you went a solid 3-1-1 against the spread.

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.

The Nickel Package Record: 5-3-2 ATS (60%)Unfortunately, I added a couple of losing plays in the blog to finish .500 in Week 2.Recommended Wagers Record: 7-5-2 ATS (57%)

But that’s all in the past. It’s time for this week.

San Diego Chargers @ Tennessee Titans

Friday Line: Titans -3, total of 43.5

Public Consensus: 71% on the Chargers, 92% on the over

The Pick: San Diego looked very good offensively against Philadelphia last weekend, but it’s hard not to look good offensively against the Eagles’ defense. After mustering only 263 total yards of offense against Houston in Week 1, the Chargers picked up 539 against Philadelphia; including a rare 400-yard performance from Philip Rivers. I’d say the Titans’ defense is closer to Houston’s than Philadelphia’s, so I wouldn’t expect a duplicate performance from Rivers this week. Prior to last week’s contest against the Eagles, Rivers had thrown for over 300 yards in only three of his last 24 starts. The difference for the Chargers this season is that they’ve been able to keep their quarterback upright, surrendering just three sacks in their first two contests. The Titans will pose a big threat though, as they’ve managed seven sacks on defense this season. Tennessee’s biggest weakness is in run defense, where they finished in the bottom half of the league last season, but I’m still not confident in San Diego’s running game. Ryan Mathews has averaged a meager 3.7 yards per carry to start the season, and Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown are more effective as pass catching backs than they are on ground. I just don’t see the Chargers moving the ball consistently here.

While the Chargers’ offense has carried the team to start the season, it’s been the opposite for the Titans. Tennessee’s offense has totaled an embarrassing 477 yards through the first two games of the season—less yardage than San Diego racked up in one game against Philadelphia. If there was ever a game to get things going, this would be it. The Chargers are last in the league in pass defense through the first two weeks of the season. Jake Locker struggled mightily in his first career start against San Diego last season, completing only 50% of his passes for 174 yards, but that game was on the road, where Locker’s career quarterback rating is a full ten points lower than at home. Locker will need to rely heavily on his running game in order to be able to work out of manageable situations. Chris Johnson has produced 166 yards on the ground but it’s taken him 50 carries to do so. I’ll give Johnson a pass for the poor average because he’s gone up against the Steelers and Texans, two of the league’s top seven rush defenses from a year ago. Unfortunately, things don’t get easier this week as San Diego was also in the league’s upper echelon in run defense a year ago, surrendering a stingy 96.4 yards per game on the ground.

Call me crazy but I’m just not sold on the Chargers yet. Every time there seems to be optimism in San Diego, they turn in a stinker. Tennessee will be ready to go in their home opener and I give them a slight edge here.

Titans 17, Chargers 13

The Wager: It’s tough to make any play on this game. I think Tennessee is the better team and they have home field advantage, but I don’t know what their mentality will be like after a heartbreaking loss to the rival Texans last weekend. I also strongly considered a play on the under but both quarterbacks are turnover machines, so it’s entirely possible that there are some defensive scores and/or plenty of short fields on offense all game. Pass

The Trend: The Chargers are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.

Cleveland Browns @ Minnesota Vikings

Friday Line: Vikings -6.5, total of 41

Public Consensus: 96% on the Vikings, 96% on the under

The Pick: First things first, let it be known that I absolutely despise Michael Lombardi for making me have to re-do this write-up. It’s already tough enough to do a Browns-Vikings write-up, but to re-write it? That’s just one of the most painful things you can ask a human being to do. The Cleveland Browns were considered by many to be an AFC dark horse this season, but that thought has vanished from everyone’s mind after their atrocious start to the season. The Browns are 0-2 and have managed to score a measly 16 points through their first two games. To make matters worse (or possibly better, I don’t really know), Brandon Weeden has been ruled out for this contest, and Cleveland turns to a man half his age, Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has started only one career NFL game and didn’t really look good, completing just 56% of his passes and averaging 6.6 yards per attempt in the process. The good news for Hoyer is that there are a handful of defenses that you wouldn’t mind being thrust into the fire against, and the Vikings are one of them. Minnesota boasts an extremely young secondary that has already been victimized for 639 passing yards on the season, despite trailing for the majority of their games. Minnesota also hasn’t been very good against opposing ground games, though their struggles against the Lions in Week 1 can be attributed to the absence of defensive tackle Kevin Williams. That shouldn’t matter much though as the Browns just shipped Trent Richardson out of town and are now left with Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey as their ball carriers—yikes.

On the other side of things, I’m not actually sure that the Vikings have the better quarterback in this contest. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone —Christian Ponder blows. Ponder has already turned the ball over five times in two games this season, which now gives him a whopping 37 career turnovers in 29 career games. He’s only accounted for 35 touchdowns in that span which is just pathetic. The chances of Ponder actually making plays downfield in this contest are extremely slim because unlike the Vikings, the Browns actually have a pretty solid pass defense. Cleveland has limited Miami and Baltimore to just 37 points so far this season and that’s pretty incredible when you consider the fact that Brandon Weeden has been turning the ball over left and right. Joe Haden will completely shut down Greg Jennings, which means that Ponder will have to look to his less reliable secondary targets all afternoon. As is usually the case with Minnesota, Adrian Peterson will have to have a monstrous game for the Vikings to score any points. Peterson is as capable as any back in the league but Cleveland will surely place an emphasis on shutting him down, especially without the threat of getting beat downfield. The Browns have given up a stingy 119 yards on the ground in their first two games this season and Peterson has been kept in check by both the Lions and Bears.

I was ready to pick the Browns in an upset until Michael Lombardi had to go ahead and mess everything up. Cleveland competed for three quarters with Miami and Baltimore despite their offense literally producing nothing. Unfortunately, the Richardson trade essentially let everyone in the Cleveland locker room know that management has given up on their season.

Vikings 20, Browns 13

The Wager: This is now the most unbettable (is that even a word?) game of the week in my eyes. I’m not exactly in a hurry to jump on board with 96% of the public and back the Vikings. Pass

The Trend: The Vikings are 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 games as a favorite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots

Friday Line: Patriots -7, total of 44

 Public Consensus: 64% on the Patriots, 78% on the under

The Pick: The Buccaneers have managed to lose their first two games in the most heartbreaking ways possible. Ordinarily, I’d question Tampa Bay’s mindset heading into this game, but the Bucs can’t afford to be flat in this contest as their season is pretty much on the line. I wasn’t very high on Tampa Bay heading into this season, but I kind of like this matchup for their offense. New England’s defensive front seven has been getting torched on the ground, giving up a total of 265 yards on the ground to the Bills and Jets. Doug Martin went off for 144 yards on the ground against the Saints last week and that was without stud left guard Carl Nicks in the lineup. Martin should conceivably be able to duplicate that performance again this week and take some pressure off of the shoulders of Josh Freeman. Freeman is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and has almost no chance of carving up an improved Patriots’ secondary, but he can definitely be serviceable in this matchup. In many ways, Freeman is comparable to Geno Smith, who managed to keep the Jets within striking distance of the Patriots for last week’s entire contest. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has held up admirably thus far, and New England has only managed four sacks on defense this season, so Freeman should have time to scan the field and make some throws.

Ultimately though, the Buccaneers’ defense is going to need to have another strong game to keep this game close. I’m not buying into the public belief that the Patriots’ offense is going to get better this week because they’ve had extra time to prepare. New England is seriously lacking quality personnel on the offensive side of the ball. Whether it’s frequent drops or running incorrect routes, the Patriots can’t cure the fact their receiving core is extremely young and inexperienced. Tampa Bay also catches a break here with safety Dashon Goldson’s suspension being overturned by the league. The Bucs also have two other elite defensive playmakers in Darrelle Revis and Mark Barron, and are fresh off of a quality performance against Drew Brees and his plethora of weapons. New England isn’t likely to take any pressure off of Tom Brady through the running game either. Tampa Bay was by far the best run defense in the league last season, giving up a paltry 82.5 yards per game on the ground; a full eight yards less than the next best run defense. Stevan Ridley couldn’t get anything going against the Jets’ front seven last week, so there’s no reason to believe he’ll be able to provide anything on the ground this week.

People are expecting the Patriots to eventually return to the dynamic offense that we’ve seen in years past, but Tom Brady can only do so much. The Bucs match up well with the Patriots and played a close contest with the Jets in Week 1—the same Jets that took the Patriots down to the wire last Thursday. Both teams have played back-to-back nail biters and I don’t see this game being much different.

Patriots 20, Buccaneers 16

The Wager: It’s always nerve racking betting against the Patriots, especially when you’re backing a second-rate squad, but I don’t see New England as a team that should be laying a touchdown against very many teams right now. The Patriots still have a long ways to go in terms of chemistry on the offensive side of the ball, so I’ll gladly take the points here. Buccaneers +7

The Trend: The Buccaneers are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 road games.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

Friday Line: Texans -1.5, total of 45

 Public Consensus: 65% on the Texans, 60% on the over

The Pick: The Houston Texans have been far from impressive to start the season. The Texans may be 2-0 but comeback wins over the Chargers and Titans don’t exactly instill confidence in bettors. The Ravens will be a huge step up in competition this weekend. Houston has excelled at running the ball in the past few years, but Baltimore has done very well against the run to start the season, limiting the Browns and Broncos to an average of 65 yards on the ground. The Texans may also be without their dependable left tackle Duane Brown this week due to a bad case of turf toe, which will undoubtedly hurt their ability to block Terrell Suggs on the outside. Arian Foster and Ben Tate will get their yardage but it won’t come as easy as it did against the Chargers or Titans. Meanwhile, the Texans’ aerial attack also has some serious question marks. Matt Schaub has tossed three picks in his first two starts and is one of only five starting quarterbacks yet to complete a pass of 35 yards or more. Andre Johnson will play after suffering a concussion last week but he shouldn’t find too much success down the field against Lardarius Webb. DeAndre Hopkins and Owen Daniels provide great secondary targets for the Texans but they’ll struggle to move the ball consistently against one of the leagues’ better defenses.

The Ravens’ 14-point output against the Browns last weekend would indicate that they’ve also struggled to move the ball, but that number is very deceiving. Baltimore moved the ball with great success in the second half against Cleveland, but a Ray Rice fumble and a dumb penalty only allowed for a pair of touchdowns to be scored. Baltimore has a good chance to get things going in this contest. Houston’s defense has surrendered 52 points to two of the leagues’ weaker offenses and should have their hands full again this week. Ray Rice’s hip flexor is a big concern for Baltimore, but Bernard Pierce has proven that he can be a very capable replacement. Pierce received the majority of Ravens’ carries down the stretch last season and picked up 212 yards on the ground against the Giants and Bengals in the final two weeks of the year. The Ravens should also be able to move the ball pretty consistently through the air. While I’ve been critical of Joe Flacco in the past, he’s been very dominant in his career at home. Last season, Flacco had a 99.0 QB rating at M&T Bank Stadium, throwing for nearly 300 yards per game and accounting for a solid 18 touchdowns. The Texans have small cornerbacks that will have a tough time matching up with Torrey Smith and the 6-foot-5 free agent find, Marlon Brown.

People often forget how dominant the Ravens can be at home. Baltimore is 24-3 in their last 27 home games, losing to the Steelers twice, and to the Broncos last season. Based on what I’ve seen from the Texans this season, they don’t have the ability to overcome that dominance.

Ravens 26, Texans 20

The Wager: I almost always take a good look at every home underdog in the NFL and I think there’s a strong case for the dog in this matchup. This point spread implies that the Texans would be 8.5-point favorites over Baltimore if this game was played in Houston, and that’s simply asinine. The wrong team is favored here. Ravens +1.5

The Trend: The Ravens are 13-6 ATS in their last 19 games after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game.

St. Louis Rams @ Dallas Cowboys

Friday Line: Cowboys -3.5, total of 47.5

 Public Consensus: 61% on the Rams, 89% on the over

The Pick: Dallas continues to be one of the more disappointing teams in the NFL. After forcing six turnovers and squeaking out a win against the Giants in Week 1, the Cowboys committed a pair of costly fumbles that led to a one-point loss in Kansas City in Week 2. Dallas will continue to struggle offensively until they can figure out some way to run the ball effectively, and that’s not likely to happen in this contest. Aside from the Rams’ possessing one of the best run defenses in the league, the Cowboys are a complete disaster in the interior of their offensive line. DeMarco Murray has averaged a paltry 3.47 yards per carry to start the season and that number is likely to decline against a Rams’ defense that surrenders less than three yards per carry. Dallas will have to move the ball through the air to keep the chains moving in this contest, but that’s easier said than done. St. Louis has one of the best pass rushing tandems in the league in Chris Long and Robert Quinn. The Rams have already registered six sacks this season and should have no problem teeing off on Tony Romo as he faces multiple third-and-long situations. The Cowboys’ wide receivers have a huge edge against the Rams’ questionable secondary but Romo won’t have enough time in the pocket to keep the chains moving consistently.

The Rams’ offense was non-existent in the first half of last week’s contest against the Falcons but they improved as the game went on. While St. Louis’ personnel on offense is much different than Dallas’, the Rams are going to have very similar problems. St. Louis completely lacks a running game with Daryl Richardson at tailback and that’s not likely to change against a Dallas front seven that shut down Jamaal Charles on the ground last week. The Rams are going to have to rely on Sam Bradford to move the chains here. Right tackle Roger Saffold will miss this contest with a sprained MCL leaving the Rams’ offensive line with a major problem on the outside, but it’s important to note that the Rams are the only team in the league yet to incur a quarterback sack this season. The Cowboys’ pass rush will be a bigger test than what they’ve faced against the Falcons and Cardinals, but Bradford has done a good job of mitigating the pass rush with his quick passes. The former first overall pick has shown an immediate chemistry with Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, and should be able to continue that connection against a Dallas defense that has yet to fully grasp their new defensive scheme.

These teams are pretty evenly matched, and while I’d normally side with the home team in this instance, Dallas’ home field has proven to be a disadvantage since moving to AT&T Stadium. This has all the makings of a game that’s close from start to finish but it’s less likely that the Rams incur any major self-inflicted wounds.

Rams 19, Cowboys 16

The Wager: As much as I hate betting against my home team, I think there’s too much value to pass up with the Rams here. Dallas’ home field isn’t worth three points and these teams are pretty evenly matched so I’ll grab the points with St. Louis. In my dream world, Dallas wins and St. Louis covers. Rams +3.5 (I’d search for a +4 at BoDog or BetUS though)

The Trend: The underdog is 36-14 ATS in the last 50 regular season games involving the Cowboys.

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

Friday Line: Saints -7, total of 48.5

 Public Consensus: 58% on the Cardinals, 73% on the over

The Pick: I was expecting the Saints to be an NFC powerhouse with the return of Sean Payton to the sidelines, but I haven’t been too impressed with New Orleans to start the season. Ironically, the Saints’ offense has been the unit that hasn’t been up to par to begin the year. Drew Brees was very poor in Tampa Bay last weekend, tossing two interceptions, one of which was a horrible pick six that gave the Bucs a temporary lead. In spite of back-to-back 300-yard performances by the former Super Bowl MVP, the Saints have only managed to put up 39 points in two contests. The Cardinals’ defense is very similar to the Buccaneers’ defense, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brees struggle again in this contest. Arizona sports the third best run defense in the league in the early going and will keep the Saints’ limited running game in check. Last week, Marques Colston had the unfortunate circumstance of having to battle Darrelle Revis, and things won’t get much easier against Patrick Peterson on the outside this week. The Saints’ offensive line has already surrendered six sacks in two games, so Brees will be under heavy duress without the services of Colston down the field. New Orleans still has a huge matchup nightmare in Jimmy Graham at tight end, but until they figure out a way to get everyone else involved, the Saints will continue to struggle to generate points.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offense seems to be rejuvenated with Carson Palmer at quarterback. Arizona is now in the top half of the league in passing offense and Palmer should have no problems carving up a decimated Saints’ secondary. Patrick Robinson was placed on IR earlier this week and Keenan Lewis is still a question mark, meaning that the Saints may be starting their dime cornerback Corey White alongside Jabari Greer this week. Arizona’s offense is no longer a one-man-show with Larry Fitzgerald on the outside. Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts provide great alternative options for Palmer down the field, and unlike last season, the Cardinals’ offensive line has actually held up in pass protection this year. Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan loves to dial up pressure on opposing quarterbacks and while that didn’t come back to hurt him against Josh Freeman last weekend, Palmer shouldn’t have any issues exploiting one-on-one matchups down the field. New Orleans is also susceptible to ground attacks, so Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith should keep Palmer in manageable situations all afternoon.

As you can probably tell, I’ve soured a bit on the Saints since last weekend. New Orleans has eked out a couple of wins to start the season and I think that’s the most likely scenario again this week.

Saints 24, Cardinals 23

The Wager: The Saints have historically been a very good home favorite under Sean Payton but I think that the Cardinals can hang around here. Arizona’s defense poses many of the same problems that Tampa Bay’s defense posed for New Orleans last weekend. New Orleans used to be a team that you’d blindly bet at home but there’s just something off about this year’s version of the Saints. Cardinals +7

The Trend: The Cardinals are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games.

 

Detroit Lions @ Washington Redskins

Friday Line: Lions -1, total of 48

Public Consensus: 59% on the Lions, 90% on the over

The Pick: Washington is a complete disaster right now. If it wasn’t obvious in the first game of the season, it became obvious in Week 2 that Robert Griffin III just isn’t right. Griffin is inaccurate with his throws and can’t move the chains with his feet anymore, which essentially puts him in the bottom tier of quarterbacks in the NFL. The Redskins no longer run the read-option that made them so effective offensively last season, so there’s no reason to believe that this offense is going to get back on track this week. Alfred Morris enjoyed great success on the ground last week against the Packers, but aside from allowing a 78-yard run to Adrian Peterson in the first carry of Week 1, the Lions have been relatively strong against the run. Remove that Peterson rush from the equation and Detroit has given up a stingy 114 yards on the ground in two weeks. As long as Griffin remains at less than a hundred percent, the Redskins will struggle to move the chains.

The Lions continue to remain one of the league’s most infuriating teams to watch. Detroit has committed a whopping 19 penalties through the first two weeks of the season and that’s not likely to get corrected under Jim Schwartz, who just may be the worst head coach in the league. Luckily for the Lions, their personnel on offense should have a field day against the Redskins. Washington has given up an average of 511.5 yards per game in the first two weeks of the season and no, that’s not a typo. The Redskins’ secondary is a complete abomination and it could be a hell of a lot worse if Washington didn’t have a half decent pass rush. There is literally no chance of the Redskins containing Calvin Johnson this week, especially since he was able to dominate a top cover corner in Patrick Peterson last weekend. Reggie Bush’s status is obviously a little bit of a concern, but Joique Bell has already proven that he can carry the workload if Bush misses any time.

I’m always looking for situations where I can “buy low” on a team, but this definitely isn’t one of them. Washington is horrible on both sides of the ball right now, and despite Detroit’s tendency to shoot themselves in the foot in road games, I still give them the edge in this matchup.

Lions 31, Redskins 23

The Wager: I’m done with betting on Jim Schwartz. The Lions should have a big edge in this contest but history has proven that they always manage to lose games on the road that they easily could have won (see last week in Arizona). I may kick myself for not backing Detroit here, but I’ve just been burned too many times by this team in the past. Pass

The Trend: The Redskins are 6-13 ATS in their last 19 September home games.

Green Bay Packers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Friday Line: Packers -2.5, total of 49

 Public Consensus: 85% on the Packers, 89% on the over

The Pick: Honestly, I have to say I’m pretty surprised that no one is giving the Bengals a chance in this game. Andy Dalton can be frustrating to watch at times (see Monday night against the Steelers), but he’s still more than capable of carving up this Packers’ defense. Green Bay has given up 718 yards through the air in their first two games of the season, and will continue to get torn apart with Casey Hayward and Morgan Burnett on the shelf. The Packers’ run defense isn’t much better either. Green Bay just allowed Alfred Morris to run for 107 yards on just 13 carries which doesn’t bode well for them against a Cincinnati offense that loves to run the ball. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard have already racked up 48 combined carries through two games this season, and the Bengals will likely employ a run-heavy game plan to try to keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines for as long as possible. The Packers won’t be able to stack the box to stop the run with the threat of A.J. Green down the field, so it’s likely that Dalton will be working out of manageable situations all afternoon. The Bengals have converted 50% of their third downs this season, mainly due to the fact that Dalton isn’t working out of constant third-and-longs. I really like this matchup for Cincinnati’s offense.

The big question here is whether or not the Bengals can stop Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has looked unstoppable in the early portion of the season, throwing for seven touchdowns and compiling an outstanding 127.2 QB rating. Cincinnati has a pretty average secondary — Terence Newman is starting for Pete’s sake — so it’s pretty unlikely that the Bengals are going to be able to contain the Packers’ overabundance of receivers. The Bengals should have a huge edge at the line of scrimmage though. Cincinnati finished third in the league in sacks last season with 51, and the Packers’ offensive line has already surrendered six sacks in the early going. The Bengals are capable of generating a lot of pressure with their strong defensive line, which will allow them to drop their linebackers and safeties into coverage. James Starks had a coming out party last week but the Redskins can’t stop anything so I wouldn’t take much out of that performance. Starks averaged a measly 3.6 yards per carry last season and the Packers showed how much confidence they had in his ability when they drafted two running backs in the offseason. The Bengals have a stout run defense and won’t have to worry about devoting too many bodies to stopping the run.

This is one of the toughest games for me to call this weekend. I kind of like the way that Cincinnati matches up with Green Bay but it’s tough to pick against Aaron Rodgers right now. In spite of the short week for the Bengals, I give them the slightest of edges here.

Bengals 26, Packers 24

The Wager: There is a ridiculous amount of money; public and sharp, coming in on Green Bay in this matchup. The Packers were once a one-point underdog in this matchup and are now a three-point favorite in some spots. I think there’s some outstanding value on the Bengals but I’m in no hurry to bet against Rodgers. Pass

The Trend: The Bengals are 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall.

New York Giants @ Carolina Panthers

Friday Line: Giants -1.5, total of 47.5

 Public Consensus: 93% on the Giants, 71% on the over

The Pick: I would have never thought that this would be a matchup of 0-2 teams. I thought Carolina could be a breakthrough team this season but that hasn’t proven to be the case in the early going. Cam Newton is really struggling to find any sort of rhythm under new offensive coordinator Mike Shula. Newton has been uncharacteristically hesitant in the pocket, choosing to force throws into coverage or throw balls away rather than using his legs to scramble for first downs. The Panthers have had a lack of weapons on offense for years now and Newton has always been able to overcome that deficiency, so it’s weird to see him struggling this badly. If there was ever a game where Newton could get going, this would be it. New York’s secondary has been a disgrace through the first two games of the season, and while the Panthers don’t exactly sport the best group of receivers in their league, there will definitely be some opportunities for Newton to make some throws downfield. The Giants’ pass rush has also been lacking early on in the season but it’s only a matter of time before Jason Pierre-Paul gets healthy and back on track.

On the other side of things, this looks like it could be a good matchup for New York. Carolina has a very good defensive front seven but their secondary is an atrocity, which works right into the hands of the pass heavy Giants. Eli Manning has thrown seven interceptions so far this season but those picks have come against formidable secondaries. Carolina’s secondary is depleted, with Josh Thomas, Josh Norman, D.J. Moore, Quintin Mikell, and Charles Godfrey all expected to miss this game with injuries. That means that the Panthers will potentially be without one of their starting cornerbacks, both starting safeties, and their nickel and dime cornerbacks. Not good. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle will have no problem finding holes in coverage downfield, and I’m confident that Manning can cut down on his turnovers against this depleted secondary. Carolina has only managed three sacks in the first two games of the season and the Giants’ offensive line has done a good job of keeping their quarterback upright, so it’s not like Manning will be under heavy duress all afternoon either. New York will try to get David Wilson going on the ground after a couple of lacklustre outings but yards will be tough to come by against a Panthers’ run defense that gives up only 3.7 yards per carry. Regardless, the Giants scored on eight of their 10 possessions in a 36-7 drumming of the Panthers last season, and shouldn’t have any problems duplicating that effort.

In the end, I simply have more faith in the Giants to rebound at this point. This is the third straight season in which Carolina has started slowly, and if the past is any indication, it’ll take this team another couple of weeks to get things together. Tom Coughlin’s younger brother passed away earlier this week and I think New York will put together an inspired effort to get the win for their head coach.

Giants 30, Panthers 17

The Wager: I’d love to back the Giants here but over 90% of all wagers in this game are coming in on New York. I’m still confident that they’re the right side and I’ll strongly consider adding them as a play on Sunday morning, but for now, I’ll lay off. Pass

The Trend: Carolina is 2-5 ATS when favored under Ron Rivera.

Atlanta Falcons @ Miami Dolphins

Friday Line: Dolphins -2.5, total of 45

 Public Consensus: 82% on the Falcons, 89% on the over

The Pick: I’m sure it comes as a surprise to many people that the Dolphins are favored in this game, but there’s good reason for it. Atlanta is the most banged up team in football. The Falcons will be without the services of their defensive captain Sean Weatherspoon after he sustained a foot injury last week, and defensive end Kroy Biermann is also on the shelf with a torn Achilles. To make matters worse, their top cornerback Asante Samuel aggravated a thigh injury last week and is questionable to suit up as well. Atlanta’s defense was already a hot mess before the injuries, but there’s no hope for them without their top playmakers. The Falcons have registered only two sacks on the season and mustered only 29 sacks in the entirety of last season, and that was with Weatherspoon and Biermann in the lineup. Their pass rush is bound to get much worse, if that’s even possible. Ryan Tannehill posted some solid numbers against Indianapolis last week when he was given time in the pocket, and it’s likely that he’ll do the same again here, especially if Samuel misses any action. The Dolphins should also be able to move the ball on the ground against a Falcons’ defense that gave up 4.8 yards per carry last season. Again, that was with Weatherspoon and Biermann in the lineup. Miami has some legitimate weapons on offense this season and I just don’t see the Falcons slowing them down with the inferior personnel that they’ll have out on the field.

Atlanta’s defense isn’t the only unit that’s banged up. Running back Steven Jackson will miss this contest with a hamstring injury, and Roddy White continues to be hobbled by a bum ankle. It’s rare that I’d say that a defense has the edge over the Falcons’ offense but I think that that’ll be the case this week. The drop off from Jackson to backups Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling is immense. Rodgers has only managed 3.6 yards per carry in his brief career and has picked up just 16 yards on 13 carries this season. As for Snelling, he’s nothing but a plodding utility back at this point. Miami has limited opponents to 90 yards per game on the ground so far this season and I’d be shocked if Atlanta came anywhere close to approaching that number. Matt Ryan will need to win this game with his arm, and that may not be the best strategy against the Dolphins. Miami has registered a whopping nine sacks in their first two games and Cameron Wake should have no problem getting into the backfield against the Falcons’ weak offensive tackles. Ryan won’t have much time in the pocket to scan the field, and while he’s still capable of making some plays, this isn’t a recipe for success on the road in the NFL.

Atlanta is a good football team; probably better than I give them credit for, but this is a tough matchup for them. Miami is much improved and should take advantage of a depleted Falcons’ squad in their home opener.

Dolphins 27, Falcons 20

The Wager: You won’t find very many trends to support the Dolphins as a favorite, but that doesn’t really bother me. This Miami team is better than in years past and I think laying anything less than a field goal with the home team is a bargain. Dolphins -2.5

The Trend: The Dolphins are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 home games.

Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers

Friday Line: 49ers -10, total of 46.5

 Public Consensus: 65% on the Colts, 93% on the over

The Pick: As I mentioned last week, I’m of the firm belief that the Colts aren’t a very good football team. This week Indianapolis went out and stole Trent Richardson from the Browns, which will definitely improve their offense going forwards (maybe not so much this week), but their defense still remains a glaring issue. How in the world are the Colts going to slow down the 49ers? Indianapolis made Terrell Pryor look like Steve Young in Week 1 and then followed that up by getting completed shredded by Ryan Tannehill. They literally have no hope of shutting down Colin Kaepernick this week, especially with the 49ers coming off of a lacklustre offensive outing against the Seahawks. Indianapolis’ secondary is a work in progress and they definitely won’t be able to shut down Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis like Seattle did last weekend. The 49ers will also have the luxury of being able to run the ball in this contest. Frank Gore has struggled to get anything going on the ground in the first two weeks of the season but San Francisco’s offensive line is a huge mismatch for the Colts’ defensive line. The 49ers will control the line of scrimmage on offense and get back to the running game that was so successful for them last season.

The Colts’ only chance of staying in this game is if they can match points with San Francisco. The addition of Richardson was a great move but I doubt he’ll be able to have an impact on this game after only being able to practice with his team for a couple of days. As is usually the case, Andrew Luck will have to do things on his own. The problem is that San Francisco’s front seven is going to dominate the Colts’ weak offensive line. Indianapolis has already given up seven sacks this season and that number is bound to skyrocket in this contest. Meanwhile, Luck just isn’t the same quarterback on the road that he is at the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. In eight career starts on the road, Luck has accounted for 13 touchdowns and 17 turnovers. That’s not a recipe for success against the 49ers. Luck’s QB rating on the road is a meagre 70.1; which is a full point less than Mark Sanchez’s overall QB rating in his career (ouch). And if that’s not bad enough for the Colts, it doesn’t help that 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh was Luck’s college coach at Stanford. Harbaugh knows Luck’s tendencies and should be able to put together a solid game plan to shut down his former quarterback.

I almost always gravitate towards double-digit underdogs in the NFL, but the 49ers are going to be ready to redeem themselves after being embarrassed on national television on Sunday night. San Francisco has a big edge on both sides of the ball and should win this game comfortably.

49ers 28, Colts 16

The Wager: As much as I like the 49ers here, I’m just not comfortable laying the points. If the past has taught me one thing, it’s that you’ll go broke laying double digits in the NFL. The Colts have a good offense which means that they also have backdoor cover potential. Pass

The Trend: San Francisco is 16-6-1 ATS in their last 23 home games.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Seattle Seahawks

Friday Line: Seahawks -18, total of 41

 Public Consensus: 51% on the Jaguars, 80% on the under

The Pick: It’s only the third week of the NFL season and I’m already sick of doing write-ups for Jaguars’ games. Jacksonville sucks. Maurice Jones-Drew is hobbled with an ankle injury, Chad Henne is a pile of trash, and the Jaguars went 35 minutes without picking up a first down against the Raiders. That’s about all you need to know. Even if Seattle suffers a huge letdown after beating the 49ers last week, I still don’t see Jacksonville being able to score ten points in this contest.

On the other side of things, the Jaguars’ defense also sucks. Jacksonville gives up 5.81 yards per carry so their chances of limiting Marshawn Lynch are extremely slim. They could always sell out to stop the run and get torched down the field by Russell Wilson though. Why am I still writing?

This game will probably be over by half time. Jacksonville is that bad and Seattle is that good. No need to provide additional details here.

Seahawks 28, Jaguars 6

The Wager: Again, I can’t see the Jaguars hanging around here but I just don’t do double-digit favorites; it’s not my thing. It’s also possible that the Seahawks take their foot off the gas in this one as the Jaguars’ head coach, Casey Bradley, was the defensive coordinator in Seattle from 2009-2012. Pass

The Trend: The Seahawks are 24-9-1 ATS in their last 34 games overall.

Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Friday Line: Jets -2.5, total of 39

 Public Consensus: 60% on the Bills, 87% on the under

The Pick: There’s reason to be excited about the Bills after their come from behind victory over the Panthers last week. Despite committing two turnovers, E.J. Manuel was able to engineer a game-winning drive to give Buffalo their first win of the season. Things won’t be so easy this week though. For starters, New York’s secondary is a lot stronger than the depleted Panthers’ secondary that the Bills faced last weekend. The Jets’ pass defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 48.6 percent of their passes, and they’re fresh off of a great performance against Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. Manuel has looked promising in his first two starts, but this will be his first start on the road and that has notoriously been a difficult spot for rookie quarterbacks. The Bills will try to establish the run to alleviate some pressure from Manuel, but New York has also been very stingy in run defense this year. The Jets have allowed a paltry 2.4 yards per carry to Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley this season, so there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to keep Buffalo’s running game in check as well. New York is in the top five in the league in run and pass defense right now, and I think that they have the edge over the young Bills’ offense.

Anyone who’s watched a Jets’ game in the past few years knows that it’s the offense that’s the main concern for this squad. Geno Smith has proven to be a slight upgrade over Mark Sanchez but New York has still struggled to move the ball consistently in their first two games of the season. The good news is that this Bills’ defense will be the weakest defense they’ve faced yet. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for 100 yards rushing on Thursday night and should be able to pick up yards in bunches against a Bills’ run defense that’s surrendered 283 yards rushing in their first two matchups. Smith is more than capable of picking up first downs in third-and-short situations so it will be integral for the Jets to establish their running game early on. New York may also be able to take some shots down the field against a decimated Bills’ secondary. Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd are still on the shelf for Buffalo, which may open things up down the field for Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes. Whether or not Smith can make an accurate throw down the field is a different story, but the opportunities will definitely be there.

These two teams are pretty evenly matched but I give a slight edge to the Jets because of their defense. E.J. Manuel has been effective in his two home starts this season but playing on the road in the NFL is a tough task for a rookie quarterback. With a few extra days to prepare, I think the Jets pull this one out.

Jets 20, Bills 17

The Wager: I’d be all over the Jets if they were an underdog in this spot, but they’ve been installed as a small favorite. I’m hesitant to even lay a couple of points with a team that has struggled mightily to score this season. Pass

The Trend: The Bills have lost 13 of their last 15 away games, going 4-10-1 ATS in that span.

Chicago Bears @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Friday Line: Bears -2, total of 40.5

 Public Consensus: 87% on the Bears, 75% on the over

The Pick: The Steelers’ offense is in complete disarray right now. Their offensive line is horrendous, their running game is non-existent, and their receivers can’t get open down the field. That’s not a recipe for success in the NFL, but the good news for the Steelers is that their deficiencies won’t hurt them that much against the Bears. Ben Roethlisberger has been under constant pressure through the first two weeks of the season, but Chicago has only been able to generate two quarterback sacks in that span. Aside from Julius Peppers, the Bears don’t really boast another strong pass rusher, so there’s a chance that Big Ben may actually have some time in the pocket this week to look for receivers downfield. Chicago boasts a decent secondary but they give up chunks of yardage through the air and are predicated on forcing turnovers. Roethlisberger has only thrown eight interceptions in his last 15 home games and if he continues to protect the ball this week, Pittsburgh may actually be able to produce some points on offense. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they can’t rely on a strong running game as they’ve done in years past. Isaac Redman is nothing more than a short yardage back, Felix Jones is on the downside of his career, and Jonathan Dwyer is lucky to still be on an NFL roster at this point. Pittsburgh will still try to run the ball but they won’t find much on the ground against a Bears’ defense that gives up just 3.4 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh’s defense has actually held up admirably against the Titans and Bengals this season and they should be able to force some stops against the new look Bears’ offense. The Steelers are in the bottom half of the league in run defense, giving up 119.5 yards per game on that ground, but that number is very misleading as Pittsburgh is giving up only 3.1 yards per carry. Matt Forte has been far more effective in the passing game than running game this season, and there’s a good chance the Steelers can keep him in check. Jay Cutler can be very mistake prone at times, and the Steelers will have an opportunity to force some turnovers if they can keep Cutler in third-and-long situations all night. The Bears also have a big injury concern on offense as Brandon Marshall left Thursday’s practice with a back injury. Even if Marshall suits up on Sunday night, he’ll be banged up, which will force Cutler to look to his less reliable receivers in certain situations. With that being said, the Steelers will still have to figure out a way to get some pressure on the quarterback. Chicago’s offensive line can be a disaster at times but Pittsburgh hasn’t generated much pressure this season, as they’re tied for last in the NFL with just one sack.

This is a really tough one to call. Jay Cutler hasn’t crapped the bed yet this season and my gut feeling tells me that he’s due to do so in primetime. Pittsburgh’s season is basically on the line here and I think they’ll give an inspired effort en route to their first win.

Steelers 23, Bears 19

The Wager: I want absolutely no piece of this game. I don’t think Pittsburgh is nearly as bad as they’ve looked and I don’t think that Chicago is nearly as good as they’ve looked, but it’s hard to get behind a team that’s seemingly done nothing right this season. Pass

The Trend: The Steelers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games against a team with a winning road record.

Week Two betting preview

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Week Two of the NFL is here, and so is your break down of all Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week could have been much more profitable than it actually turned out to be, but a small profit is better than no profit.

Recommended Wagers Record: 4-2-1 ATS (64%), updated to reflect win on NYJ Thursday night.

As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast, which includes my top five plays in order of confidence for the week. Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me once again to analyze those picks and provide additional insight to the games I’ve selected. You can listen or download the MP3 file here.

 

The Nickel Package Record: 2-2-1 ATS (50%)

There’s no point in living in the past—let’s get this week started.

San Diego Chargers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Friday Line: Eagles -7, total of 55

Public Consensus: 59% on the Eagles, 72% on the over

The Pick: There’s no denying that Chip Kelly’s new look offense was a big hit in Week One, but is it sustainable for the entire season? I don’t think so. It’s only a matter of time before a good defense sets the blueprint for this gimmick, but the Chargers aren’t the team that’s going to do that. The Chargers’ defense was an absolute atrocity in the second half of their meltdown against the Texans on Monday night. Texans’ receivers were running free down the field and the combination of Ben Tate and Arian Foster was picking up yardage in huge chunks. LeSean McCoy looked like the most dominant running back in the league in Week One and the Chargers simply don’t have the ponies to slow him down. Unlike in years past where Andy Reid would completely forget about McCoy, Chip Kelly has made sure that he’s heavily involved in the offense. With McCoy breaking big gains, the Eagles will be able to utilize the play action pass to work the ball down the field against a porous Chargers’ secondary. Michael Vick will undoubtedly miss some wide open receivers and may even be good for a couple of careless turnovers, but Philadelphia will have no problem scoring points.

Meanwhile, the Chargers’ offense is still awful. San Diego benefited from some early mistakes by Houston to build a big lead on Monday night, but as usual, Philip Rivers crapped the bed in crunch time. Rivers is totally useless when he’s under pressure and although the Eagles only have a mediocre pass rush, their defensive line should still be able to dominate a hapless Chargers’ squad up front. The Chargers would be wise to involve Ryan Mathews heavily in their game plan to alleviate some pressure from Rivers, but for some unexplainable reason, Ronnie Brown saw almost as much action as Mathews in their season opener. To make matters worse, the Chargers are in the role of West Coast team playing a 1:00pm ET start on the East Coast—a spot that notoriously has been extremely tough to deal with. I just don’t see them competing here.

Eagles 31, Chargers 17

The Wager: There are a lot of factors working against the Chargers, but I’m still not ready to lay points with the Eagles just yet. The Eagles didn’t win a single game by more than two points last season, and although they’re obviously better this season, I just can’t find it in myself to swallow the points here. Pass

The Trend: The Chargers are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games following an ATS win.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

Friday Line: Ravens -6.5, total of 43.5

Public Consensus: 67% on the Ravens, 60% on the under

The Pick: These teams are far closer to equal than most people think. Cleveland laid an egg in Week One against the Dolphins, but there are some positives to take away from that matchup. For starters, their defense looks like it could be one of the league’s better stop units this season. The Browns held Lamar Miller to a measly three yards on 10 carries which bodes well for them against a team that needs to establish their running game to win. The Ravens lost six games last season, with Ray Rice only surpassing the 100-yard mark in one of those six losses. The Browns also have a good shot at keeping Joe Flacco in check. Flacco enjoyed an inexplicable amount of success in last year’s playoffs but if Week One was any indication, Flacco is back to being the mediocre quarterback that he’s been for the last five seasons. Flacco will be without his number one wideout in Torrey Smith—not because Smith is injured—but rather because Joe Haden has quietly become one of the best cover corners in the league. Haden limited Smith to 46 yards in their second meeting last season and is fresh off of holding Mike Wallace to one reception for 15 yards.

The Browns did not look good offensively against Miami last weekend. Baltimore boasts a strong pass rushing tandem in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, so there’s good reason to believe that Brandon Weeden will be under constant pressure again in Week Two. With that being said, Weeden was nowhere near as bad as his Week One numbers would indicate. Weeden’s final stat line shows three interceptions and a 49.1 percent completion rate but the 48-year-old quarterback was victimized by drops all afternoon. Greg Little dropped a pair of passes; one resulting in an interception, while Travis Benjamin had trouble holding on the ball on occasion as well. Things aren’t guaranteed to improve this weekend with the same receiving corps but I’d bet that that Trent Richardson becomes more heavily utilized in the passing attack after making only two catches last week. Richardson is by the far the biggest playmaker on the Browns’ offense and Norv Turner has indicated that he’d like to get Richardson upwards of 20 touches this week. The Ravens get the nod because of home field advantage but I don’t see much separating these teams.

Ravens 19, Browns 16

The Wager: While I’m a little bit concerned about the Ravens’ dominance of the Browns in recent years, I think this year’s edition of the Browns is far more talented than years past. Also, I don’t buy into the notion that Baltimore’s extra rest helps them all that much in Week Two. Unfortunately, this line remains under the key number of seven at every sportsbook, so for now I’ll stay away. Pass

The Trend: The Browns are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games following a loss.

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans

Friday Line: Texans -9.5, total of 43

Public Consensus: 53% on the Texans, 81% on the over

The Pick: The Texans were in disarray for three quarters against the Chargers before they finally got things going. I’d expect their fourth quarter success from Monday night to carry over into this matchup. Houston has upgraded their offense with the addition of a legitimate #2 wideout in DeAndre Hopkins and with Ben Tate splitting carries with Arian Foster (Tate is by far the better runner). Tennessee didn’t allow a score against the Steelers’ offense until late in the fourth quarter last week, but that doesn’t lead me to believe that the Titans can shut down the Texans. Pittsburgh has a poor offensive line that was made even worse when Maurkice Pouncey went down early on in the contest. The dominance that the Titans’ defense enjoyed at the line of scrimmage will be hard to come by against a very strong Texans’ offensive line. Tennessee had trouble stopping the run all of last season, giving up 127.2 yards per game on the ground. With the two-headed monster of Foster and Tate moving the ball on the ground, Matt Schaub will be working out of manageable situations all afternoon.

The Texans have fared extremely well against non-elite quarterbacks in recent years. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips puts an emphasis on stopping the run and forces average quarterbacks to try to win the game with their arm. This didn’t work out so well for the Titans in last season’s second meeting against the Texans as Jake Locker tossed three interceptions on route to a two-touchdown loss. Locker has struggled mightily on the road in his young career, completing only 52.8 percent of his passes with a meagre 6.2 yards per attempt. The Titans upgraded their offensive line in the offseason and Chris Johnson looks as good as he has in a long time, but that won’t be enough to get the running game going as the Texans sell out to stop the run. The Texans were one of seven teams to give up less than 100 yards per game on the ground last season, so you can bet that Locker will be struggling in long yardage situations all afternoon. The most likely scenario is that the Titans get behind early and the Texans’ strong pass rush tees off on Locker. This is precisely what happened in the first matchup last season when Locker got annihilated and was forced to leave the game. Tennessee is improved, but I don’t think they’re ready to compete with Houston on the road just yet.

Texans 26, Titans 12

The Wager: I’ve never been a fan of laying a lot of points and I’m not about to change that. Sure, I think the Texans win this game comfortably but the Titans are a team that has backdoor cover potential. There are better games to wager on this weekend. Pass

The Trend: The Titans are 7-21-1 ATS in their last 29 games against a team with a winning record.

Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts

Friday Line: Colts -2.5, total of 43.5

Public Consensus: 73% on the Colts, 59% on the over

The Pick: I can’t say I’m surprised by the Colts’ narrow Week One victory over the Raiders. If you eliminate the quarterback position, Indianapolis has one of the worst rosters in football, and that’s just not going to cut it as the year goes on. The general public sees the Colts as a high-powered scoring machine but they only scored into the 30s in two games last season. After scoring only 21 points against a terrible Raiders’ defense, they’ll have trouble matching that output against a very strong Miami defense. The Dolphins’ defensive line manhandled Cleveland’s offensive line last week and should be able to do the same against a weak Colts’ unit. Indianapolis can’t run the ball effectively with Old Man Bradshaw alone, so the Colts will likely be working out of third-and-longs all afternoon. Andrew Luck is good enough to occasionally move the chains in these situations, but he’ll find it difficult to do so consistently against Miami’s potent pass rush. Luck also has a tendency to be sloppy with the ball, as evidenced by his 23 turnovers in 16 games last season.

If the Colts’ defensive performance against the Raiders last week was any indication, the Dolphins shouldn’t have much of an issue moving the chains in this contest. Terrelle Pryor can’t throw a football through an open door from five yards away but he somehow managed to keep the Raiders within striking distance all afternoon. Ryan Tannehill looked pretty solid against a strong Browns’ defense, which is particularly impressive because Browns’ cornerback Joe Haden completely shadowed Mike Wallace all afternoon. Indianapolis doesn’t have a cornerback capable of shutting down anything but a computer, so Tannehill should have all of his wideouts at his disposal this weekend. After a disappointing Week One in which he only picked up 10 yards on the ground, Lamar Miller should be able to get back on track against a Colts’ run defense that surrendered 137.5 yards per game on the ground last season. Unless Andrew Luck can pull another incredible game out of his ass, the Dolphins should be able to pull out a road victory.

Dolphins 20, Colts 17

The Wager: These teams met last year at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Colts emerged by a field goal when Andrew Luck led his team back from behind in the fourth quarter. Miami has the luxury of having seen Luck before and the Colts won’t have the emotional “Chuckstrong” factor that was working for them last year. A three point spread here implies that these teams are equal on a neutral field—I strongly disagree. Dolphins +3 (BoDog or SIA), pass at Dolphins +2.5

The Trend: The underdog is 40-18 ATS in the last 58 games involving the Dolphins.

Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills

Friday Line: Panthers -3, total of 43.5

Public Consensus: 52% on the Bills, 75% on the under

The Pick: I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Panthers were very disappointing last weekend, but that’s not entirely true. Carolina was a DeAngelo Williams’ fumble away from potentially taking the lead against arguably the best team in the league, and their defense was fantastic from start to finish. The issue right now with the Panthers is their offense. Cam Newton did not look very sharp in the preseason and couldn’t put together any consistent drives against the Seahawks in Week One. I don’t want to give Newton a pass, but the Seahawks’ defense is a lot different than the Bills’ defense. Buffalo will once again be without two of the mainstays in their secondary as Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore are sidelined with injuries. Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Greg Olsen struggled to create separation against the Seahawks’ stout defense but they’ll have no problem finding holes down the field against the Bills. Buffalo has a strong front seven that is capable of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but Cam Newton hasn’t taken more than a pair of sacks in eight straight games so I don’t picture him on his back very often here. Carolina should also enjoy some moderate success on the ground. DeAngelo Williams stinks but Buffalo is fresh off of a season where they allowed almost 150 yards per game on the ground.

As I already mentioned, Carolina’s defense looked awesome against the Seahawks last weekend and I can’t imagine the Bills causing this stop unit any problems this week. The Panthers may sport the best front seven in all of football with Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy, Star Lotulelei, Dwan Edwards, Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason, and Thomas Davis. Carolina just limited Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards on the ground, after Lynch finished last season with five 100-yard plus performances in his last six games. C.J. Spiller is an elusive back but it seems like he’s still mired in a timeshare with the less effective Fred Jackson, so I just don’t see the Bills producing much in terms of rushing yardage. If the Panthers are going to be exploited, Buffalo will have to take advantage of their questionable secondary. E.J. Manuel looked decent in his first career NFL start last week but I doubt he’s going to be able to carry the Bills on his shoulders in this one. The Panthers are very good at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks and should be able to force Manuel into making some bad throws. Buffalo is coming off an extremely tough loss to the Patriots and I’m not sure that a young team can easily put that loss behind them.

Panthers 19, Bills 13

The Wager: This is one of the few games this weekend where I really don’t have a strong opinion. Carolina should wipe the floor with Buffalo but winning on the road in the NFL is tougher than it seems. I’m also not too interested in laying points with the Panthers considering their struggles on offense in the preseason and in Week One. Pass

The Trend: The Bills are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game.

St. Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons

Friday Line: Falcons -6.5, total is 47

Public Consensus: 56% on the Falcons, 51% on the over

The Pick: As I mentioned in last week’s Falcons-Saints write-up, I strongly believe that the Falcons are the most overrated team in the league. Atlanta was very fortunate to pull out a lot of close victories last season but they still remain way too soft on defense to be a legitimate contender. Atlanta was only able to generate a couple of sacks on Drew Brees last weekend after mustering an insignificant 29 sacks in all of last season. Sam Bradford has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career but he hasn’t had a group of receivers this potent in his NFL career. Tavon Austin and Jared Cook looked great in Week One, running excellent routes and giving Bradford reliable targets down the field. Chris Givens was shaded by Patrick Peterson all afternoon but he can also be a big playmaker against weaker defenses. Atlanta’s top corner Asante Samuel is still dealing with an injury, leaving it up to a group of scrubs to try to shut down St. Louis’ passing game. Not bloody likely.

The Falcons usually rely on their offense to win them games, but there are some major question marks for Atlanta this season. For starters, the health of Roddy White is a big concern. White served as a decoy in Week One but his ankle was obviously nowhere near 100 percent as he could barely make any cuts. The Saints’ defense was able to focus their efforts on shutting down Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez as White never really posed a threat to them down the field. It’s rare to see the Falcons held to less than 20 points, and it’s even rarer to see it happen against one of the league’s worst defenses. The biggest question mark of all though is the Falcons’ offensive line. Matt Ryan was constantly under duress last weekend and the Rams boast arguably the best pass rush in the league with Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the outside. Ryan will need Steven Jackson to help carry the load this week, but that may not be in the cards as Jackson was only given 11 carries in Week One. The Rams’ defense will also be inspired to shut down their former teammate. St. Louis proved that they could play with the big boys last season with wins over Seattle and San Francisco, and if the Falcons aren’t careful, the Rams could pull off a big upset here.

Rams 24, Falcons 23

The Wager: Any time I think a team can win the game and they’re hovering around a touchdown underdog, I’m going to pull the trigger. These teams are far more equal than the media would have you believe. St. Louis thrived in the underdog role last season and I think they’ll continue to make strides this year under Jeff Fisher. Rams +7 (BoDog)—I’d play the Rams +6.5 if there wasn’t a seven on the board.

The Trend: The Rams are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 road games.

Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers

Friday Line: Packers -7.5, total of 49.5

Public Consensus: 72% on the Packers, 96% on the over

The Pick: Everyone is trying to figure out what happened to the Redskins on Monday night. Washington was unbelievably bad for three quarters against the Eagles. Robert Griffin III looked rusty; Alfred Morris had a case of butter fingers going on, and the Redskins looked inept on almost every single drive. Then the fourth quarter came along and RGIII looked like the same quarterback that took the league by storm last season. I’d expect that to continue this week. Green Bay had an entire offseason to prepare for San Francisco’s offense and still managed to get torched for 34 points. Granted, the 49ers had some new wrinkles and didn’t run as much of the read option, but that still has to be demoralizing for the Packers’ defense. Green Bay’s secondary was an abomination last week so I’d expect Griffin to have plenty of success moving the chains through the air. The Redskins also had to abandon their running game pretty early last week after falling behind big in the first half, but the team that led the league with nearly 170 yards per game on the ground last season should get back on track against a defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry.

Unfortunately, the Redskins don’t have much of a chance of slowing down Aaron Rodgers and company. Rodgers was outstanding against the 49ers’ defense on the road last week, and should have little to no trouble with the feeble Redskins’ secondary. The one issue for the Packers may be pass protection. Ryan Kerrigan has passed all of his concussion tests and is set to return for this matchup barring any setbacks in practice. With Kerrigan and fellow stud rush linebacker Brian Orakpo on the outside, the Packers’ offensive line which features a rookie left tackle, should have their hands full. Rodgers will surely throw a lot of quick bubble screens to counteract Washington’s rush, but that type of strategy can’t work for an entire game. The Packers also have the luxury of being able to run the ball this season with Eddie Lacy in the fold. Lacy only managed 41 yards on 14 carries in the season opener, but the Redskins’ defense isn’t nearly as strong against the run as the 49ers are. Green Bay should win this matchup but their issues on defense should allow for Washington hang around.

Packers 28, Redskins 24

The Wager: I’m very tempted to take Washington here. The Redskins have gone from a Super Bowl sleeper pick to a bunch of losers in the public’s eyes after being exposed on national television by the Eagles. If I knew with certainty that the Redskins would go back to running the offense that made them so successful last season, I’d be in play here. I may change my mind by Sunday. Pass

The Trend: The Redskins are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games overall (dating back to last season).

Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs

Friday Line: Chiefs -3, total of 46.5

Public Consensus: 75% on the Cowboys, 55% on the under

The Pick: The Chiefs destroyed the Jaguars in their season opener but Jacksonville is just so bad that I can’t really gain any valuable information from that matchup. Kansas City’s new look offense was able to dink and dunk their way downfield all afternoon, but that’s not going to work against the league’s better defenses. Dallas is susceptible to the long ball but that doesn’t play into the Chiefs’ hands here. Alex Smith takes care of the ball and prefers to throw short, safe passes than take shots down the field. This type of offensive strategy will counteract the Cowboys’ strong pass rush but it will also keep Dallas’ strong group of linebackers more involved in the game. While the Chiefs aren’t likely to move the ball consistently, they’re also not very likely to turn the ball over, even against a Monte Kiffin defense that is predicated on forcing turnovers. That in itself should be good for the Chiefs to eke out a win because the Cowboys are bound to shoot themselves in the foot at some point.

The Cowboys’ defense forced a whopping six turnovers last week, including two that led to defensive touchdowns, but Dallas’ offense couldn’t get much going against a subpar Giants’ defense. That doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys against a Chiefs’ defensive unit that I think can be elite this season. Kansas City has an excellent pass rush and aside from Tyron Smith at left tackle, the Cowboys have a pretty weak offensive line. Anyone who’s ever watched a Cowboys’ game knows that Tony Romo makes some horrible decisions under pressure, and that could prove to be the difference in this matchup. DeMarco Murray picked up 86 yards on the ground against the Giants last week but the Chiefs’ defensive front is much better than New York’s, so it’s hard to envision Murray replicating that success. Romo will have to make some plays down the field and while he’s fully capable of hooking up with his plethora of targets, he can also be careless with the ball. Ultimately, I think that this is a game where the defenses win out, so I’ll back the team that should have the better field position and the lesser likelihood of turnovers all afternoon. I’d reluctantly side with the Chiefs in a close game.

Chiefs 20, Cowboys 16

The Wager: The Chiefs looked enticing earlier on in the week but a) I’m a diehard Cowboys’ fan and don’t want to bet against my team early in the season, b) Kansas City is in a huge look ahead spot with the Eagles on deck—Andy Reid against his former team, and c) Dallas is one of the rare teams in professional sports that actually plays better away from home. Pass

The Trend: The Cowboys are 4-14 ATS in their last 18 games following a win.

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

Friday Line: Bears -5.5, total of 42

Public Consensus: 70% on the Bears, 63% on the over

The Pick: The Vikings are a bad football team. Adrian Peterson singlehandedly carried Minnesota to the playoffs last season but that success isn’t going to be duplicated this year. As long as Christian Ponder is under center, Minnesota is going to be a bad football team. Ponder’s road numbers in the past calendar year are ok, but when you look at his track record in outdoor stadiums you may just vomit all over yourself. In Ponder’s last four outdoor starts, including one against these very same Bears, he’s averaged a quarterback rating of 55.2 and a disgusting 4.6 yards per attempt. In those starts, he’s accounted for four touchdowns and seven turnovers. Yes, he’s that bad. Minnesota will literally need a 200-yard performance from Peterson if they stand any chance of winning this game. AD broke away for a 78-yard touchdown in his first carry last week but failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the Lions. Why? Well, Detroit was able to sell out to stop the run all game since there was no threat of Ponder beating them with his arm. And then there’s the Jerome Felton factor. Felton isn’t a well known name amongst NFL fans but he was key to Peterson’s success last season. Felton is one of the best run blocking fullbacks in the NFL but he’ll be serving the second game of a three game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. The Bears will stack the box to contain Peterson and that should pretty much do it for Minnesota’s chances here.

As long as Jay Cutler can protect the ball, the Bears should be able to win comfortably but that’s easier said than done. I’m convinced that Cutler drinks a bottle of whiskey prior to each game. Cutler looked good in last week’s win over the Bengals but he’s proven to be one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks of the last decade. After missing last week’s game, the Vikings welcome defensive tackle Kevin Williams back into the fold which should allow for Minnesota to dominate the line of scrimmage against Chicago’s putrid offensive line. Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman has put an emphasis on protecting Cutler in the pocket but that’s not likely to happen against the likes of Williams, Jared Allen, and Brian Robison. The Bears surrendered 44 sacks last season and that number isn’t actually indicative of the amount of pressure that Cutler faced on a weekly basis. With that being said, the Vikings’ secondary is absolutely atrocious and there’s no chance in hell that they can contain Brandon Marshall on the outside. Even if Minnesota chooses to double Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett should have plenty of space to work down the field. Chicago remains a work in progress but they’re still far superior to Minnesota in almost every facet of the game.

Bears 27, Vikings 13

The Wager: I’d love to back Chicago here but I have too many bad memories of watching Cutler shit the bed. If I back a favorite, I have to have trust in their quarterback, and I’m afraid that’s not the case here. Pass

The Trend: The Vikings are 8-20 ATS in their last 28 outdoor games.

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Friday Line: Saints -3, total of 47.5

Public Consensus: 67% on the Saints, 94% on the over

The Pick: I touted the Bucs as one of the worst teams in my write-up last week and my opinion obviously hasn’t changed after their pathetic performance against the Jets. Tampa Bay could only muster 250 total yards in that matchup, and managed to commit an insane 13 penalties. Josh Freeman is an absolute train wreck and the Bucs will continue to struggle offensively as long as he’s under center. Freeman failed to throw a touchdown in the preaseason, all while being sacked a whopping nine times. The former Kansas State product has been a huge liability since his rookie year and to make matters worse, his offensive line looked awful in last week’s matchup against the Jets. Tampa Bay may get Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks back for this matchup but it may not matter as the Saints were able to generate consistent pressure on Matt Ryan last weekend. It seems as though Rob Ryan’s new defensive scheme is paying immediate dividends. Tampa Bay will try to establish Doug Martin in this contest but it won’t be easy for the standout running back to break off big gains when the Saints don’t have to worry much about Freeman beating them deep down the field. The Bucs’ offense just doesn’t have what it takes to keep Drew Brees off the field.

The Saints’ offense didn’t exactly light it up against the Falcons in Week One but Brees will love seeing the Bucs in Week Two. Brees completed 53 of 76 passes against the Bucs’ defense last season, throwing for eight touchdowns and only one interception. The former Super Bowl MVP will be without the luxury of passing to Marques Colston this week as he’ll likely be stranded on Revis Island, but he still has an overabundance of other weapons on offense, including a matchup nightmare in tight end Jimmy Graham. The Bucs have a huge asset at defensive tackle in Gerald McCoy, but they still won’t be able to generate pressure on Brees without sending the blitz, leaving them susceptible to big plays down the field. New Orleans has won three straight meeting against Tampa Bay and I’ll be shocked if it isn’t four straight after Sunday.

Saints 38, Buccaneers 21

The Wager: This is a bad line. Tampa Bay has been horrible at home in recent years and New Orleans is simply a different team under Sean Payton. I fully expected to see the Saints installed as at least 4.5-point favorites here so I’ll gladly capitalize. I can’t believe people still have faith in the Bucs and Josh Freeman. Saints -3

The Trend: The Buccaneers are 9-25-1 ATS in their last 35 home games.

Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals

Friday Line: Lions -1.5, total of 48

Public Consensus: 81% on the Lions, 83% on the over

The Pick: In spite of their loss in Week One, I was actually pretty impressed with the Cardinals. Arizona still has the same putrid offensive line that they had last season but Carson Palmer performed fairly well under duress all afternoon. Despite my constant ragging on Palmer, he’s definitely a huge upgrade for Arizona simply based on the fact that he gives his receivers a chance to make plays. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Roberts are a strong trio of wideouts that can expose a questionable Lions’ secondary. This is different than years past where Fitzgerald was the only reliable target—all of these guys can make plays. Arizona can also get a small contribution from Rashard Mendenhall, although it might be difficult against a Lions’ run stopping unit that held Adrian Peterson in check last week.

Detroit looked outstanding offensively in Week One, but the Cardinals’ defense will prove to be a much tougher test than the Vikings’ defense did last week. For starters, Arizona has a legitimate #1 cornerback. Patrick Peterson isn’t going to shut down Calvin Johnson but he’ll definitely give him a battle on the outside. The Cardinals’ pass rush will also prove to be a stiff test for the Lions’ offensive line. Arizona didn’t register a sack against the Rams last week but they did boast one of the best pass rushes in the league last season. Additionally, Matthew Stafford often holds on to the ball for far too long, so the Cards will have a better chance of getting to the quarterback than they did against “Captain Checkdown” Sam Bradford last weekend. And let’s overlook the fact that the Lions could have easily shot themselves in the foot against a better opponent last week. Jim Schwartz may just be the worst head coach in the NFL and Detroit continues to play a stupid, undisciplined brand of football. Penalties have proven to be costly to the Lions in the past, especially in hostile road environments. These teams met when the Cardinals were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak last season—Arizona thrashed Detroit 38-10. This one will be closer but I still like the home team.

Cardinals 26, Lions 20

The Wager: I think the wrong team is favored here. The Lions have lost 10 of their last 13 road games with their only victories in that span coming against Jacksonville, Philadelphia (when they were awful last season), and Oakland. Arizona is a tough place to play, especially for an undisciplined team. Cardinals +1.5

The Trend: The Lions are 1-8-2 ATS in their last 11 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders

Friday Line: Raiders -5.5, total of 39

Public Consensus: 70% on the Raiders, 69% on the over

The Pick: Jags-Raiders 2013; I can’t imagine a worse game in the history of football. Seriously, I’ve spent the last twenty minutes starting at my computer screen wondering if I could get away with completely removing this game from the blog. Chad Henne gets the start for the Jaguars in replacement of the injured Blaine Gabbert, and while Henne is a complete pile of trash, he’s still a huge improvement at quarterback for the Jags. Jacksonville was completely screwed last week when Maurice Jones-Drew couldn’t get anything going on the ground, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue against Oakland. The Raiders’ defense is epically bad. Don’t let last week’s performance fool you; the Raiders’ stop unit has less talent than the cast of The Goldbergs. Oakland can stack the box to try to limit MJD, but Henne is actually capable of throwing the ball more than five yards downfield, so that may not be a sound strategy.

The way that people are talking about Oakland, you’d think that they actually beat Indianapolis last week. As an Ohio State Buckeyes’ fan, I have a soft spot in my heart for Terrelle Pryor but there’s no doubt in my mind that this isn’t going to end well. Pryor completely caught the Colts off guard last weekend, but now that opposing defenses can watch some tape of him; this experiment will be over very soon. It’s not like Pryor can just keep handing the ball off either. I don’t know what happened to Darren McFadden but he’s somehow managed to age ten years in the span of one calendar year. McFadden is literally defying science. Ok, I need to stop now. I think Jacksonville is slightly less garbage with Henne at the helm than Oakland with Pryor at the helm, so I’ll go with the upset.

Jaguars 27, Raiders 23

The Wager: If you have any money on this game may God have mercy on your soul. Pass

The Trend: The Raiders are 5-18 ATS in their last 23 games as a favorite.

Denver Broncos @ New York Giants

Friday Line: Broncos -4.5, total of 54.5

Public Consensus: 61% on the Broncos, 77% on the over

The Pick: The Giants are nowhere near as bad as they looked against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football last week. New York was unbelievably careless with the ball in Week One, but they managed to stay within striking distance in spite of six turnovers. Eli Manning threw for 450 yards in that contest and showed great chemistry with all of his receivers against an improved Cowboys’ secondary. The Broncos will likely be without Champ Bailey again for this contest and they’ll soon find out that the trio of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle is a much bigger test than Torrey Smith, undrafted free agent Marlon Brown, and senior citizen Brandon Stokley. The Broncos are also still missing their elite pass rusher in Von Miller, which will allow Eli Manning more time in the pocket to hook up with his wideouts. Denver did generate four sacks last week but those sacks came in garbage time when the Broncos had built up a big lead and the Ravens had become one-dimensional. I also think David Wilson is in line for a big bounce back game here. The Giants’ coaching staff has decided to give Wilson another shot after his fumbling issues last week, and based on Wilson’s explosiveness in the preseason, I can’t fault them for that decision. Denver has a strong rush defense but they won’t keep Wilson in check all game.

The real issue for the Giants is how they plan on slowing down Peyton Manning. The entire world watched Peyton carve up the Ravens’ defense for seven touchdowns in Week One, and now he’ll be on extra rest against one of the worst secondaries in the league. Well, New York isn’t going to stop Manning but they have a chance of slowing him down. The Giants have a good pass rush that can take advantage of the interior of the Broncos’ offensive line. Manny Ramirez is a huge question mark at center with Dan Koppen on the IR and JD Walton on the PUP List. New York caused havoc on the interior against the Cowboys last week, and although Manning is tough to sack, the Giants can at least force him to make throws under pressure. It also seems to take Manning a lot of time to get into rhythm, so if the Giants score points early as I expect them to, the Broncos will have to play this game from behind where they could become one-dimensional. I know it seems like I’m grasping for straws here but I really think that this game has strong upset potential. It’s a sickening feeling to pick Eli over Peyton, but I’m going to go with my gut here.

Giants 30, Broncos 27

The Wager: Right now the line stands at Broncos -4.5. Now imagine this game was in Denver instead of New York. Take away the 3-point home field advantage for the Giants and give it to the Broncos—would Denver really be -10.5 at home to New York? I don’t think so—maybe -7.5, but not into double-digits. I love capitalizing on what I perceive to be strong line value and I’m ready to do so here. Giants +4.5

The Trend: The Giants are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games against a team with a winning record.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Friday Line: Seahawks -3, total of 44.5

Public Consensus: 54% on the 49ers, 51% on the under

The Pick: This San Francisco 49ers are one of the best teams in football but I have a hard time picturing any team upsetting the Seahawks at home this season. Seattle’s offense didn’t look very good in Week One against Carolina, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the Seahawks topped 24 points in only one of their roads contest last season. At home, Seattle was nearly unstoppable as the 49ers learned firsthand in their 42-13 beatdown at CenturyLink Field in Week 16. Russell Wilson has completed 65 percent of his passes in his last 14 starts, with a stellar 25 touchdowns to only five interceptions. San Francisco’s pass defense looked very shaky last week against the Packers. Wilson should be able to exploit matchups against the free falling Nnamdi Asomugha and the mediocre Tarell Brown. Wilson can also rely on Marshawn Lynch to help to move the chains. Lynch’s 111 yards on the ground in last season’s Week 16 matchup can be thrown out the window because the 49ers were without Justin Smith for that contest, but it should be noted that Lynch ran for 103 yards on 19 carries in the Week 7 matchup against the 49ers. If San Francisco’s defense doesn’t improve on their less than average performance from last week, this game could be over in a hurry.

On the other side of things, Seattle’s defense matches up very well with San Francisco’s offense. The 49ers were able to take advantage of a weak Packers’ secondary last week, but they’ll have to face off against two stud cornerbacks in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, who’s expected back in the lineup on Sunday. Sherman and Browner are both big bodies that can easily play one-on-one with Anquan Boldin, while the Seahawks’ cover linebackers and safeties also should be able to limit Vernon Davis’ opportunities down the field. Without Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham in the lineup, Colin Kaepernick will have to rely on his legs to pick up some first downs here but that’ll be easier said than done against a defense that practices against Russell Wilson week in and week out. The Seahawks are familiar with the read-option and were successful in shutting down Kaepernick in Seattle last season. The 49ers love to pound the rock to set up manageable third down situations, but the Seahawks also sport a strong rush defense that limited opponents to 103.1 yards per game on the ground last season. Seattle matches up very well with San Francisco and that’s not even taking their enormous home field advantage into account.

Seahawks 28, 49ers 16

The Wager: This will be the first and last time that you get to lay a field goal or less with the Seahawks at home this season, and I’m ready to capitalize on that. The Seahawks are 10-0 straight up and 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games at CenturyLink Field for a reason—this is the loudest and toughest place to play in the NFL. I’ll gladly back Seattle at a short price. Seahawks -3

The Trend: The Seahawks are 18-4 ATS in their last 22 September home games.

In yesterday’s article I offered up some prop bets for the big game this weekend, but now it’s time to get down to business. Super Bowl XLVII pits the Harbaugh brothers against each other. A win for the 49ers would give them six Lombardi Trophies, equaling the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all-time, while the Ravens will look to send Ray Lewis off into the sunset as a champion.

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