Cincinnati Bengals vs San Diego Chargers: CIN -1 (Pinnacle)
Talk about a change of perception. A week ago the look ahead line was Chargers -3. After Week 12, it re-opened as a pick em, but that still wasn't enough. Now we have to lay some juice to grab -1. Some books have moved it up to a full -2. I might regret waiting, but I like this play at anything under -3. These teams aren't too far off from each other, but the Bengals are playing better ball over the last month. Head to head, they hold a few significant advantages in the X's and O's.
I didn't think I'd be buying into what the Bengals were selling this year, but the numbers don't lie. Dalton and Green are going to get most of the headlines, but the area that has impressed me most is what the team is doing in the "make-or-break" moments.
In the first half of the season not too many teams were worse on third down and in the red zone. The Bengals ranked near the bottom in both areas on both sides of the ball. Fast forward to today and they've moved closer to the middle of the pack with their 3rd down offense and near the top of the league converting touchdowns. Defenisively, they've climbed to the middle of the pack in both situations as well. The Chargers on the other hand can't stop anybody. When the game is on the line, they fold. And I'm not just talking about the Ray Rice play because it's been a trend for this team all season long with no signs of improving.
Somehow, Cincy have also improved with their pass defense. Actually I shouldn't say "somehow" because a lot of it is due in large part to their D-line. Based on adjusted sack rates, the Bengals have the best defensive front in the entire NFL. The Chargers O-line is in trouble because they are not even adequate, let alone good.
Finally, there is a clear advantage at quarterback. Andy Dalton is very quietly turning out a very good season. If he keeps up this pace it won't be long until we are talking about him among the top 10 quarterbacks in the game. Philip Rivers by comparison, continues to toil near the bottom in QB efficiency rankings. I was once a big believer in this guy, and I still think he can get back on track with the right weapons around him, but his downward spiral isn't an anomaly anymore. It's real.
Can San Diego win this game? Sure. This is the NFL. Having said that, there's no question who is playing better ball at the moment and it's Cincy's improvement at the critical times in the game that has me most excited for their prospects.
Part of the beauty of favorable point spreads is you will also get value on their team totals as well. This is especially true for offensive teams. The Giants have been completely average on defense this season, but people still perceive them as a top unit. The Packers O-line does present some concerns, but they've climbed out of the bottom of the rankings over the last month, while the Giants D-line has remained just around the middle of the pack.
Favorites took another bite out of the underdog lead in Week 11 by finishing 8-5-1 ATS. With the Monday game pending, dogs still hold a 86-69-4 overall edge (55.6%).
Week 11 Recap
UPDATE: It was still a 4th straight winning week, but the Bears loss tainted things with a train wreck performance. Final tally was 3-3 ATS and 5-1 on totals/teasers.
I felt great about having Chicago +7 after the Alex Smith news dropped the line to 3.5. Yet, what looks good on paper doesn't always translate to the field. Chicago's offensive play-calling was totally unimaginative. Even more surprising was the no-show effort by the Bears D. Gotta give Colin Kaepernick credit though. Great play from the kid.
Perhaps the most popular pick of the week were the Rams, but the Jets relished the role of spoiler. In fact they were the only dog to win straight up in Week 11. The Dolphins came up short on Thursday even though they were within a goal post from covering. That said, they sure didn't look like the right side as they had no business being in that game. At +3 it was more of a value play than anything else, but they continue to fall back to earth with their 3rd bad game in a row.
The Buccaneers cover might be considered lucky, but I thought the refs sparked a 14 point swing with their brutal non-TD call late in the 4th. I'll take it.
Overall, the hot streak extends to 16-6 ATS, 16-5 on totals, 7-1 on teasers, and 11-8 on props.
The top two picks in the poll were the Cowboys and Texans, but both needed to scrape out wins in OT to survive. People who took the Falcons barely survived despite a half dozen turnovers by Matt Ryan and company. 12% went with "other", which might have consisted of some Ravens picks after Big Ben went out?
For Week 12 I took out the Patriots as an option given how few votes they got last week. TeamRankings rolled with the Falcons in Week 11 and still remain unbeaten. Check to see what they take later in the week. Beyond the Betswent with the Cowboys and also remain unbeaten this year.
Survivor Pick: Seattle Seahawks
Week 11: Denver Broncos
Week 10: Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 9: Detroit Lions
Week 8: Green Bay Packers
Week 7: San Francisco 49ers
Week 6: Atlanta Falcons
Week 5: New York Giants
Week 4: Baltimore Ravens
Week 3: Chicago Bears
Week 2: New England Patriots
Week 1: Houston Texans
How important was Gronk to the Patriots? In a word, very. He's obviously unguardable and demands top priority from every defense that comes his way.
Having said that, I'm not worried about this offense in the slightest. It wasn't too long ago that the entire football world was writing Wes Welker off this team due to a contract dispute. Yet, he became the primary focus the last time New England switched to a three WR set. Along with Edelman and Hernandez, there will be more than enough opportunities to make plays. Tom Brady has made a living from making pass-catchers household names.
Now without a constant two tight end set, it will be a bit easier for the Jets D to scheme, so the run game might not be as effective. The problem is the Jets have been below average on defense ever since Revis went out. The Pats will get their points whether New York show up or not.
The bigger question for bettors is if the Pats defense can prevent the Jets from covering the number. New York had no problem putting up offense the last time they met, and New England's defense hasn't improved like I expected it to.
Are they as bad as last year? Not statistically, but they don't pass the eye-ball test on the field and continue to blow leads every other week. I really liked the addition of Talib though, but I'm not sure how long it's going to take him to get accostomed to the guys around him. The secondary is an area where continuity is important. For the most part, he's surrounded by scrubs. The Patriots defense is dead last on third down, which is a huge red flag. In a big game, I would have no faith in this unit whatsoever.
The best news is that we are talking about the Jets. I don't have to worry about the touchdown point spread when I tease them down to what is essentially a "pick em". All they have to do is win this game to give us the cover. The Pats not only have a huge edge offensively, but they do the little things better than NY as well - including average starting net field position, special teams, and turnover differential. That certainly hasn't always been the case when these teams have met.
Green Bay Packers vs New York Giants: GB +3 (5Dimes)
The change in this line is small, but it's significant. The look ahead line was Giants -2.5 and that's where it re-opened this week, but we've seen a slight move in favor of New York. Right now it's -2.75 so you can still get under the key number of 3 if you like the home team, or you can grab +3 if you prefer the Packers. I'm going with the latter because I think this line is all wrong. I realize Green Bay is banged up and the Giants are coming off a bye, but this line should be closer to "pick em" than 3. I'll take Aaron Rodgers as an underdog almost every time.
What's Up With This Point Spread?
Someone smarter than me is going to need to explain this number to me. As mentioned in another write-up, it's clear that home teams benefit greatly coming off a bye, but enough to make the Giants near field goal favorites against the Green Bay Packers?
I don't think so.
After a strong start to the year, Eli Manning has regressed. At one point he was 1-2 with his brother atop the QB efficiency ratings, but now he's fallen all the way down to 12th. That's quite a dropoff in a short amount of time. In his last performance, he had the worst week of any QB in the league. In the 2nd half alone, he had just as many turnovers as first downs (three).
So what can we expect coming out of the bye? I'm not going to dwell on whether his arm is "tired" or not because I'll leave that to the talking hair-dos on ESPN. What I'm more interested in is if he can match the guy on the other side of the field - Aaron Rodgers. Eli is throwing just over an interception per game, while Rodgers is among the league leaders at 0.6.
The good news for Eli is the fact that Woodson is already out, and it's possible Matthews misses another game with a hamstring injury. B.J. Raji is also hobbled, but it's not believed to be as serious as first thought. These are serious injuries that do impact the game plan, but Hayward, House, McMillian, Jennings, Moses, and Zombo have stepped up and played well in Dom Capers scheme. Often times we look at a flashy name and just assume a team will be severely hampered, but if their replacements can come in and be serviceable, the impact isn't as dramatic.
To date, the only area that the Packers D really has trouble in consistently is in the red zone. Normally this would be a red flag for me, but the Giants rank just as bad with their red zone offense - and trending downward. A lot of credit has to be given to Dom Capers for turning around what most thought was a flat-out liability. Green Bay's win streak is in large part, thanks to their turnaround on D.
I have little doubt that the Giants D is going to come out fired up, confident, and ready for this challenge - especially coming off a bye.
The problem is - can they do anything about it?
Their best chance will once again be in the trenches. The Packers O-line hasn't done a good job protecting Rodgers this year and I don't care how many Super Bowls or MVPs you have, without a clean pocket the QB is going to struggle. The caveat is the Giants D-line has only been average sacking the QB this season.
Offensively, the Packers have put up very impressive numbers this season despite playing the 7th toughest defensive schedule. Rodgers is 4th at QB and they rank in the top 10 in passing, drive success, third down, and red zone. This gives them an edge right across the board against an underachieving (and inconsistent) Giants D. Even without Jennings, I like what they have in Nelson, Jones, Cobb, and Finley.
This should be a hard fought affair and the national media is going to eat up all the storylines dating back to last year. I expect the Giants to be better than they were leading up to the bye and Rodgers will be under fire at times, but when push comes to shove I have much more faith in the Packers offense in this spot.
Unless Eli suddenly morphs into his early season form, there is a big edge at QB. Why this game was not released as a "pick em" I don't understand, but I'm happy to take the extra points and ride the better team.
Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: ATL PK (5Dimes)
There's not a lot to report on this point spread. Last week Vegas had the Falcons favored by one point, but after the weekend it's re-opened as "pick em". In this specific match-up a fair argument can be made for either team so I understand throwing the game up as a pick em, but I see the advantages in favor of the Falcons that put them over the top. Tampa Bay has had a nice run, but I think the win streak ends here.
These two teams are getting the most attention in the polls so far this week and there's also been a lot of debate about where they should be on the power rankings. Football Outsiders have them side by side each other at 12th and 13th respectively. Meanwhile, the national media ESPN boys have the Falcons 2nd and the Bucs 10th.
If this isn't a perfect example as to why you should ignore the media when it comes to NFL analysis, I don't know what is. Unless you have a scouting background or spend copious amounts of time in the film room (Jaworski/Mayock), I'm not interested.
So why would I pick the Falcons if FO have them ranked evenly in the efficiency rankings? The answer is pretty simple, but maybe not so obvious. While some handicappers blindly use power rankings to create their own numbers, I prefer to breakdown specific matchups to see if one team is poised to exploit the others weaknesses, regardless of power ranking.
Run Forrest Run
If you voted for the Bucs to win this game, no one is going to blame you. They've been on fire lately. Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson, and Doug Martin might not be Aiken, Irvin, and Smith, but don't tell Tampa Bay fans that. Martin is on a tear and now he must be licking his chops going up against a struggling run defense. Without Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons are trying to slow down runners with a mix of looks - none of which are working particularly well.
This should open things up for Freeman in the passing game, but the question is whether or not he can do it against a good pass defense? The Bucs offense have benefited from a pretty soft schedule this year. They are great once they get inside the red zone, but well below average driving down the field. Atlanta's D ranks near the middle of the pack in drive success rate, so Tampa will have to earn it on Sunday.
On the other side, the Bucs rank at the very top of the NFL with their run defense. If Michael Turner was hoping to get back on track, this isn't the game. With Tampa controlling the clock on both sides of the ball, I can understand those of you going with the home team.
Two key guys for the Falcons are banged up in Asante Samuel and Julio Jones. Mike Smith wasn't very forthcoming when he updated their statuses on Tuesday, but Jones isn't the only threat in this Atlanta passing game.
Throw away the game Matt Ryan had vs the Cardinals because those sorts
of games happen from time to time. The Cardinals defense is also a top
10 unit, so give them some credit as well. Ryan ranks 6th in QB
efficiency, but he was even higher before he put up a stinker last week.
Part of the reason why I like Ryan to bounce back is because the Bucs
secondary seems to get torched every other weekend. Their defense isn't
that bad overall, but they are trending downwards despite the wins.
Now they have the task of slowing down one of the best passing attacks
in the NFL. Jones has obviously been a big part of that, but Roddy
White and Tony Gonzalez can't be overlooked either. In fact, White is
currently ranked 2nd in the NFL at WR, and Gonzalez ranks 2nd in the
league at TE.
Over the last couple of years, I've gradually given
more weight to passing over rushing in my system due to the increasing
importance on an air attack. The Falcons have the edge in this area on
both sides of the ball. It also explains why Atlanta rank near the top
offensively in drive success rate and third down efficiency, despite a
poor run game.
Vegas have been inflating the point spread for the Falcons when they play at home. Part of this is thanks to their record and part of it is due to Matt Ryan's home success. This inflation explains why they are winning (5-0), but not covering the spread (2-3) inside the dome.
However, on the road the Falcons are consistently getting graded as short favorites. The books have no choice but to factor in home field advantage and put up a reasonable number. Thus far, the Falcons are 4-1 ATS on the road this year. In fact, since Week 3 home teams are 45-81-1 ATS. I expect Atlanta to add to that total on Sunday with their advantages in the air.
Seattle Seahawks vs Miami Dolphins: SEA -2.5 (Pinnacle)
Last week this game was a "pick em", but after the Dolphins laid an egg for the third straight week, it re-opened as -1.5 on Sunday. Steady money has come in on the road team which has moved the line to -2.75. You can grab -2.5 with a bit extra juice or take them at -3 at "even" odds. Personally, I'd play this either way, but if I can get under the key number I'll pay a few extra cents for it when it's affordable. I would have opened this game at -3.5 at the very least.
Bye Weeks and Home/Road Dichotomies?
One of the things I noted on this game during the weekend was the fact that both teams were coming off periods of extended rest. The Seahawks though, had a full two weeks to regain their health and prepare for this game. Does this matter?
The other thing these teams have in common beyond extended rest is their wild home-road dichotomies. Over the last five seasons, the Seahawks have had the biggest home/road differential ATS in the NFL. In contrast, the Dolphins have had the biggest road/home differential ATS in the league. The other teams on this list can be found here.
I'm not very big on trends, but these appear to have some rationale behind them and the same story is playing out this season. So far, Seattle is 4-0 ATS at home and 2-3 on the road. Miami is 1-3 at home, but 3-3 on the road. As far as I'm concerned, this is a non-factor in this game but let's also not forget what happened when the Dolphins hosted the Titans just two weeks ago. Ouch.
I probably don't spend as much time as I should breaking down QBs in these write-ups given how important they are to the game, but I can't overlook what is happening with these two guys.
Over the first month of the season I ripped Russell Wilson for his horrible performances. On the flip side, Ryan Tannehill was exceeding everyone's expectations. Yet, both have gone in completely different directions since. After the bye, Tannehill has had four poor games in a row. He's now ranked 29th in QB efficiency.
Meanwhile, Wilson has consistently climbed the charts and sits at 15th in the rankings. He was among the bottom dwellers this year, so to move up that much is a big sign of progress. Against the Jets he was 6 of 7 for 2 TDs and 4 first downs on New York's side of the field.
Miami's defense should have a pretty solid game here, but the same can't be said for their offense. They are badly outmatched on that side of the ball as Seattle's D doesn't have a single weak area. They excel against the pass and keep most teams to field goals. Frankly, I'll be shocked if they found a way to lose this game. I've upgraded this pick to one of my best bets of the week.
Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys: DAL -3 (5Dimes)
A week ago, Vegas had the Cowboys favored by six points in this game. After the weekend, the line re-opened at -3.5. Bettors clearly saw something I didn't, because the early money has moved this line to -3.25 at the time of this write-up. This gives us the option to take Washington +3.5 or Dallas -3 with a bit extra juice both ways. I couldn't disagree more with this line movement. The Cowboys should be favored by more than a field goal and it's not very often we find "value" on America's Team. Sign me up.
Since I put up this pick yesterday, I've had the strongest disagreement in the polls all season long. Roughly 60% think the Redskins cover this game so far. That might change by Thursday, but Vegas was smart when they reduced this line down from -6 last week. The move was supported by early money as well.
After what we saw on the weekend it's hard to blame people, but let's see if I can make a legit case for the Cowboys.
Who Are the Redskins Anyways?
It wasn't that long ago that Mike Shanahan was writing off the season. Fast forward to the Eagles game and everybody is suddenly believers again? I must have listed five or six glaring flaws on Washington last week, but the biggest reason I liked them to cover was because of who they were facing.
I don't upgrade the Skins whatsoever for beating a team that has already given up on themselves. To be honest, Washington didn't really do anything that impressive in their win. RG3 is going to get a lot of accolades and he was all over the highlight film again, but the last time I checked he didn't play defense.
Other than RG3 and Morris, what do the Skins do well? Absolutely nothing. Ok, they have a great turnover differential, but that's a testament to how good RG3 is with his decision making. He has one of the lowest per game interception ratios in the league.
When it comes to the Cowboys, they are anything but a perfect team. They are 0-4 ATS at home this season and now must figure out a way to keep Romo upright after losing LT Tyron Smith. If Romo can get some protection, he'll have to figure out how to avoid the prime-time hex. This guy always makes me nervous anytime a pressure situation is on deck. Dallas also have a pretty poor pass defense and take far too many penalties on both sides of the ball.
That's the bad news.
The good news is this team has performed quite well this season even if it doesn't look pretty on the field. They've played a pretty tough group of defenses this season, but still managed to put up nice numbers in the stat columns. Things bog down once they get inside the red zone, but this isn't an area that the Skins D excels in.
I simply don't see how Washington is going to get enough stops to win this game. Their pass defense is even worse than the Cowboys and they are brutal in all the categories I consider important. They rank near the bottom of the league in disrupting drives, don't get off the field on third down, and allow more touchdowns than field goals. Dallas is vulnerable up front, but Washington can't rush the passer.
On the other side of the ball, people rave about RG3 (and rightly so), but look closer. They are the worst team in the NFL on third down. This is the make-or-break moment when your QB is supposed to win a game. Washington just doesn't have a good supporting cast right now and a gimpy Pierre Garcon isn't about to transform this offense. Conversely, the Dallas defense actually thrives on third down and sit among the league leaders in this situation. Say what you will about them, but that's an encouraging sign going forward. They also do a pretty good job slowing down opposing running games - something Washington heavily rely on.
What about special teams? The Redskins rank in the bottom half in average starting net field position, as well as every other special teams category - kicking/punting and kick/punt returns. Dallas rate higher in all those areas.
There is a big split between public perception and what is actually going on with these teams in the X's and O's. Perhaps Dallas struggle for a second week in a row and the poll proves me wrong, but I'm sticking with the numbers and what I've seen all season. I think the Cowboys are the better team and they have home field advantage on a short week. They should be favored by -4 at the minimum.
For me this is the most interesting point spread on the board in Week 12. The look ahead line had the Texans favored by -3.5. I really wasn't expecting a -3 to be available when the lines re-opened, but that's exactly what we have.
This line could be on the verge of moving because we now have to lay some extra juice. Texans are always a good bet at a fair number. Despite being ranked near the top all year, they are still 7-3 ATS this season.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
One of the things that makes the NFL so unique is the ridiculous rate of injuries that occur. What's even more interesting is how impactful these injuries are on the outcome of a game. It seems like every week people are debating how much a player is worth in the point spread, if anything at all.
In Week 11 we had guys like Big Ben/Leftwich, Vick/Foles, Cutler/Campbell, and Smith/Kaepernick to discuss. I made picks in all three of those games and went 2-1.
QB's are relatively easier to manage though. What's more challenging is what happens when the peripheral guys start dropping. What positions are the most important? How good are the replacements? This is all fun stuff for the stat-heads like myself, but the average fan/bettor could probably care less.
To simply things, the two injuries on the Texans worth noting is Joseph and Dobbins. The Texans just don't have anybody to come in and shut down the Lions passing attack if Joseph can't go. Calvin Johnson could wind up abusing this secondary if Wade Philips can't find a way to scheme him.
The Lions rushing game doesn't scare people, but they've been much more effective than people think this season. If Dobbins is out, the Lions might want to take advantage. Dobbins was doing a great job filling in for the much more important Cushing, but if both are out things could get dicey.
Detroit have injury concerns of their own. LT Backus is out which creates a whopping downgrade on Matthews blindside. This couldn't come at a worse time with the Texans coming to town. The Lions have done a good job pass protecting this season, but that could all change if they have to adjust their alignments.
Finally, Delmas has a chance to return to the Lions secondary. Given that he's the leader of the defense when he's on the field, it would be a welcomed addition. The one area where the Lions D struggles in the most is in the passing game. They tighten up inside the 20, but they give up far too many big plays up and down the field.
X's and O's: Advantage Texans
The primary reason why Houston can match-up with anybody in this league is because they are so good in every single area on the field with the exception of special teams - and even that is an area where they've been improving in.
Head to head, Houston have six clear advantages over the Lions. I've already mentioned the liabilities in the Detroit secondary. Another edge comes in turnover differential. Detroit have lost the turnover game on a consistent basis this year, while the Texans have usually come out on top in this department. Of course in one game anything can happen, but if you've been watching Houston this year you'll know this edge comes from an opportunistic group of defenders and an efficient, ball-control approach on offense.
The other four areas Houston have the upper hand in are on the defensive side. They are head and shoulders above anyone else in the NFL in third down situations and drive success rate. Much of this is thanks to how good they are defending the pass and rushing the passer, but they also force most teams into field goal tries inside the 20.
How much will Joseph and Dobbins affect these advantages? That's impossible to say, but the Lions don't bother trying to fool you with different formations and fancy sets. They simply line up and execute.
What I do know is the Texans will not be as brutal as they were last week against the Jaguars. That was a classic letdown spot after a monster win in Chicago on prime-time. The best part of that win was how the Texans responded being down 14 points in the final quarter. This isn't a team that is necessarily built to come from behind.
I expect the Lions to put up a fight on national TV, but don't lose
sight of the fact that the Texans can clinch a playoff spot with a win.
Detroit on the other hand, know they are done. They will also have to
contend with the return of Ben Tate. No other team in the league can
boast a 1-2 punch in the backfield of Foster/Tate. The Lions are 0-4 in
the division this year which tells me they aren't very good in the big
games. They are 1-3 ATS at home, while Houston is 3-1 ATS on the road.
I think it's silly that the books are offering us -3, but I'm more than
happy to take it and I don't expect it to be available on gameday.
Chicago Bears vs San Francisco 49ers: CHI +7 (Pinnacle)
The look ahead line for this game had the 49ers as -5 favorites. Keep in mind this was before the concussions suffered by Alex Smith and Jay Cutler. The game has remained off the board up until now, where it re-opens at -6.5/-7. I thought the original line was inflated to begin with, so adding two more points up to a key number is even more enticing.
The 49ers are a top team, but I see some glaring weaknesses in the advanced stats that don't seem to be accounted for in the line. This number is an overreaction to the Jay Cutler-to-Jason Campbell situation. If I was setting this line, I'd put it at -4.
UPDATE: With the news that Alex Smith is out, this line has plummeted all the way down to -3.5. Smith was in the top third of the league in QB efficiency and propelled a solid passing attack. While Kaepernick has shown signs of Randall Cunningham in him, this injury hurts the 49ers more than the Cutler injury hurt the Bears. Having said that, it's hard for me to recommended taking +3.5 when better numbers have been available - even though I still think this line is a bit inflated.
Perception is Reality?
At what point did people start ignoring the 49ers flaws? It seems they've been anointed as this unstoppable force to be universally feared. Last season they steamrolled through the season and were monsters against the spread. At home, Jim Harbaugh only lost one game against the number heading into this season. They opened the season with a convincing win in Lambeau Field. The rest is history?
Not so fast my friends.
What if I told you the 49ers offensive line was just as pathetic as the Arizona Cardinals? While it's not a perfect stat, the 49ers adjusted pass protection sack rate ranks dead last with Arizona.
San Francisco's defense is great at getting off the field on third down, but when they allow opponents inside their 20, they are just average at keeping them out of the end zone.
Their special teams that was so dominant last season are nothing more than pedestrian this year - and that included David "Green" Akers.
Alex Smith has made improvements, but the offense as a whole is still very inconsistent - including a below average ranking on third down.
Are they still a contender? Sure. They do a lot of things at a high level, but let's not pretend that they are the dominant force that they were last season.
League Leading Bears
One of the primary reasons I like the Bears getting a full touchdown in this game is the fact that they lead the league in four important categories after 10 weeks of the season.
They rank right at the top defensively against the run, the pass, and drive success rate. No other defense in the NFL has disrupted more drives than the Chicago Bears. The best thing about these stats? They didn't come from a soft schedule.
The other category they lead the league in is in special teams. Normally this is a highly variable metric, but it's safe to say that it's part of the Bears identity at this point.
When you consider that the 49ers offense is largely made up of Frank Gore and an efficient, safe ball control approach, I think the Bears are licking their chops at the opportunity to show their mettle. There's not a single category on the board where the 49ers offense has an edge.
Jay Cutler = Aaron Rodgers?
I'm not sure why people are making such a big deal about Jay Cutler being out. Before this week he ranked near the bottom in QB efficiency and the passing game wasn't something opponents feared. How much worse can Campbell be? Is it a bigger dropoff than Big Ben vs Leftwich? Absolutely not. I see it more as a Vick-Foles situation, except the Bears aren't falling apart at the seams like the Eagles are. In fact, the biggest strengths of the Bears lies in every area outside of the offense.
might be prone to mistakes and very well could blow the entire game. It
also can't be good that he's making his first start against the 49ers
defense on the road in prime time, That said, what's more likely is
that he's going to get a ton of support from his surrounding cast. I expect the Bears to simplify the game plan on offense and he
might even surprise us and put together a good game. He was playing
quite well in Oakland before his season ended due to injury after all.
Fran should win this game, but asking them to win by two scores is a
lot - especially when you take a closer look at the X's and O's. I
can't pass up on this value and I won't even be surprised if Chicago
find a way to pull off the outright upset.
As expected, the favorites didn't clean out the books this week like they did in Week 9. With the Monday game pending, dogs went 7-6 in Week 10 and hold a 82-61-3 overall edge (57.3%).
Week 10 Recap
The winning continues for a third straight week. Final tally was 3-2 ATS and 3-1 on totals and teasers.
The unanimous pick among squares and sharps were the Lions, but they ran into an efficient Christian Ponder and an inspired defense. Even with a bad start I expected Detroit to make a game of it, but they were never really in this one. The other inexpilcable loss was the Dolphins. Jake Locker didn't have a very good overall game, but the Titans defense sure did. Miami continues to come up with non-covers at home and they sucked on both sides of the ball. Watching the game you would think it was the Dolphins about to go on vacation, not the Titans. Go figure.
Despite those two losses, I'm on quite a nice run across the board including 13-3 ATS, 13-4 on totals, 5-1 on teasers, and 10-4 on props.
Only 6.5% of the poll went with the Giants or Dolphins, but they were the only two teams to come up short. 34% went with the bigger favorites of the Patriots or 49ers and both had to sweat it out to the end. Some leagues are going to grade the 49ers pick as a loss, which would be a tough way to go out. Also nice job if you took a chance on the Broncos. A lot of "sharps" were on the Panthers in that game. TeamRankings rolled with the Ravens and remain undefeated on the season, so keep an eye on what they pick in Week 11.
Survivor Pick:Denver Broncos
Week 10: Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 9: Detroit Lions
Week 8: Green Bay Packers
Week 7: San Francisco 49ers
Week 6: Atlanta Falcons
Week 5: New York Giants
Week 4: Baltimore Ravens
Week 3: Chicago Bears
Week 2: New England Patriots
Week 1: Houston Texans
Miami might not be firing on all cylinders lately, but the Bills defense is proving to be every bit inept as they've been all season. Their rankings on 3rd down and in the red zone are god-awful. The other potential advantage I like here is the possibility of Fitzpatrick coming out erratic. They rank near the bottom in turnover differential and it's split pretty evenly between interceptions and fumbles. The Dolphins defense should be good enough to gain some favorable field position once or twice.
It's always risky playing "unders" in this league, but this total is a bit inflated. When you look at what the Cardinals defense has done this year, you'll see that they match up pretty good with Atlanta. Arizona rank near the top in pass defense and defensive sack rate. They are also excellent at stalling drives and getting off the field on 3rd down. They are in the top third in red zone defense and they've done all this consistently against a very tough schedule. Atlanta can put up points in bunches, but they'll have to earn it in this game.
New England spreads are almost always inflated. Yet, this Indy defense is atrocious. They have the worst pass and run defense in the entire NFL and they've put up those stats against a very weak schedule. Indy's D is average on third down which is encouraging, but they fold when opponents get inside the red zone. The Patriots rank near the top of every meaningful category on offense and should have no trouble moving the ball on Sunday. Andrew Luck is up and coming and might have a big game, but he's also shown a bit of a home/road dichotomy. Turnovers are a concern. Broncos O28
The Chargers defense isn't horrible, but they do have some glaring weaknesses that make this a great match up for Peyton and company. San Diego have a crap rating with their pass defense and they are even worse in the red zone. In fact they rank dead last inside the 20. The only thing they do well is slow down the run game, but that isn't the bread and butter of Denver's attack. The Broncos are humming right now and without the ability to pressure Petyon on a consistent basis, it could be a long day for San Diego.
Bush O24.5 rec yards Bush O2.5 pass receptions R Rice O69.5 rush yards R Rice O3.5 receptions Gore O2 receptions
Philadelphia Eagles vs Washington Redskins: WSH -3.5 (5Dimes)
Last week Cantor had the look-ahead line on this game as Redskins -1.5. That was a reasonable enough spread, but after what we saw on Sunday it's no surprise they re-opened at -3.5. I'm not going to make as big of a deal over the Vick-to-Foles move as others, but I do downgrade the Eagles a bit more because of it. He's simply not coming into a good (or safe) situation right now. I can't imagine enough money coming in on Philly to move this to -3 and if I had to guess, I'd say this line is going to move in favor of Washington as the week unfolds.
Washington Redskins 2013?
Mike Shanahan made a bonehead mistake before their bye when he said they were playing for next season. Regardless of the accuracy of this mindset, it's not something you come out and say after Week 9 of the NFL season. I don't think it will have any kind of impact on this game, but it's just another symbol of how dysfunctional this organization continues to be.
So why is Shanahan building for next year? They have some clear deficiencies this season and at the very top of the list is their horrendous pass defense. They aren't quite the worst in the league, but they are creeping closer with every sadsack performance. The mess on the back end is compounded by the fact that they've already lost Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo this year. What was supposed to be the strength of this team has become a flat-out liability.
The Skins lack a consistent pass rush (only 14 sacks), can't get off the field on 3rd down, and don't keep many teams out of the end zone either.
Things don't get much better on offense either. Alfred Morris is a pleasant suprise and RG3 is a lethal threat at QB, but beyond those guys what is there to hang your hat on? Pierre Garcon hasn't been able to play much and Fred Davis has joined him on the injury list. Without any reliable pass-catchers, the Redskins don't convert many third down conversions. They also shoot themselves in the foot more than any other team with offensive penalties.
So how can I possibly get behind them as a favorite in Week 11?
The Eagles are Toast
The national media have jumped all over the Eagles over recent weeks, but hints of their demise have been on display all season long. They barely escaped with wins over the Browns, Ravens, and Giants earlier this year. In those games the pass protection was piss-poor and Vick was a turnover machine. Some people (myself included) thought that they would eventually right the ship and go on a run, because there is too much talent on this roster not to.
Yet, I knew this team was doomed when they fired Juan Castillo. I made the Falcons my best bet of the week when they faced off three weeks ago because Todd Bowles wasn't about to turn around this defense. In fact, he's made it worse. This was followed up with the loss of Todd Herremans on the offensive line. Losing Peters and Kelce is one thing, but losing Herremans officially doomed this offense.
Now Vick is out with a concussion and they hand the keys over to Nick Foles. I like this kid and think he has a future in this league, but he is in danger of becoming a human pinata on Sunday. Andy Reid will undoubtedly turn to the short-passing game and rely much more on McCoy out of the backfield. He used the same game plan in previous seasons when AJ Feeley and Jeff Garcia came off the bench. Both of those QB's went on to become local folk heros, but this Eagles team is missing a key ingredient - a defense. Without a top flight defense, don't expect another late season run from Andy Reid's troops.
Mike Vick was ranked among the bottom third in QB efficiency when he went out with a concussion, so it's not like there should be a huge adjustment in the point spread for Foles. Instead, the big advantages I see come from a cringe-worthy O-line, a mess of a defense, and a dispirited team. I actually think the Eagles offense has a chance to be a bit better without Vick, but I can't see them matching RG3's production over the course of four quarters. Foles also doesn't have the elusiveness needed to withstand the kind of pounding headed his way. Philly lead the league in unblocked sacks this season, which is not a category you want to be first in.
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers: BAL -1 (5Dimes)
This game has had the most line movement over the past two weeks of any on the board and not just because of Big Ben's status. The look ahead line had the Steelers -5.5 point favorites, but after Baltimore shredded Oakland it went down to -3.25. Now that Pittsburgh is going to be without their star quarterback, the line re-opened at -1 and there are clear signs that it's on the move. I'd be surprised if this closed lower than -3, so if you like them now is the time to jump in. I like them at anything under -3.
It's not very often that I have a snap reaction to an injury, but when it was reported that Big Ben is closer to "doubtful" than "questionable", I immediately checked to see if this game was on the board. Surprisingly, it was and I'm shocked that the game isn't a full -3 in favor of the Ravens.
Right now we've seen some movement towards -2.5, but at the time of this write-up you can still get the Ravens below the critical number of "3".
The reason why Big Ben's injury is so important is because of the dropoff to Bryan Leftwich. Roethlisberger was not only near the top of the QB efficiency rankings before his injury, but he was almost single-handedly responsible for their elite level passing game this season. He was also the primary reason why the Steelers rank near the top of the 3rd down efficiency ratings. When you take away those advantages, the Steelers easily become the underdogs in this rivalry. Don't get me wrong. Leftwich is a veteran and he's familiar with this system so I don't think this will be a blowout, but let's get real here. If the Steelers want to win this game with their offense, they'll need to rely heavily on a run game. Antonio Brown and Rashard Mendenall are also nursing injuries, so Leftwich isn't exactly walking into an ideal situation. A closer look at Baltimore's defense isn't going to inspire a ton of confidence because they rank average-to-below-average in most critical categories. The injuries have taken their toll on this side of the ball, but they'll get a big boost from Haloti Ngata after he was sat out vs the Raiders. The best news for the Ravens is that they rank near the very top in red zone defense. It's quite possible that they are developing a bend-but-don't-break defense, so that's something to keep an eye on going forward.
Run Ray Run
My only prop bet for the Monday Night Football game in Week 10 was Jamaal Charles over 60.5 rushing yards. It's no secret that the Steelers defense isn't what it used to be and without Troy Polamalu, I really like Ray Rice's opportunity in this game. The Ravens have learned the hard way that Joe Flacco isn't the dynamo passer that they hoped he would be coming into the season, so Ray Rice is going to continue to be the centerpiece of their attack. The big mismatch in this game will come in the red zone. The Ravens are not only good inside the 20 on defense, but they are among the league leaders on offense too. When they needed a touchdown two weeks ago against the Browns, they capitalized on their chance and put the game away. Despite their issues elsewhere in the lineup, good teams come up big in those make-or-break moments. Conversely, the Steelers defense have been poor keeping opponents out of the end zone.
Finally, the Steelers can't rely on any advantages in the peripheral categories either. They are average on special teams and turnover differential this season. The Ravens rank near the top in both of those areas.
This game was shaping up to be another hard fought affair, but with the long list of walking wounded on Pittsburgh the luster has been taken out of it a bit. I still expect Pittsburgh to be competitive, but when push comes to shove I don't see how they'll be able to come away with a win here. The only areas that they excelled in were thanks to Roethlisberger. Now that he's out, the Ravens have a great opportunity to deliver a knock out punch. NFL Pick: BAL -1.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Carolina Panthers: TB -1 (Pinnacle)
A week ago this match-up looked much different to people. The Panthers were coming off a nice win in Washington and were a trendy pick by "sharps" vs the Broncos. That turned out to be an epic thud. Combined with another win from the Bucs, the favorite has flipped and Tampa Bay now sit at -1 or -1.5 favorites, depending on where you shop. I think this line is going to move even more and close closer to -3 by kickoff.
Freeman Express Train?
About a month ago I heard Steve Fezzik on his weekly Pregame.com segment talk about how the Buccaneers were a fraudulent team. I didn't understand what the heck he was talking about because the advanced stats sure didn't agree with him. This came shortly after a three game losing streak and not long after Greg Schiano stormed the Giants "victory formation", so I can understand being skeptical about a college head coach leading a group of NFL men. Yet, like most so-called "sharps" out there, opinions vary wildly.
I wonder what he thinks of them now because ever since the bye week Josh Freeman has been on fire. He's put up 13 TD's and just one interception over that stretch and the emergence of Doug Martin is a welcomed compliment to the passing game. Now one could argue that they haven't faced the toughest defenses and I'd agree with that, but the offseason additions did give enough of us optimism that this thing could work.
How do they match up against the Panthers defense? I'd say pretty good, but it's not a landslide mismatch either. Carolina have been just average across the board this year with the primary bright spot coming from the defensive line. The question is whether or not they are ready to slow down this Tampa Bay offense while it's hot? Sooner or later the Bucs are going to fall back to earth, but for now there's no reason to think they're about to put up a dud. Despite some key injuries on the offensive line, this unit has been well-coached and the skill position guys are all living up to expectations.
When I make these picks I don't take sides in a personal way, but I did enjoy it when Von Miller mocked Cam Newton with a Superman celebration following a sack last week. This is the kind of treatment an immature and misguided quarterback deserves when he's not backing up his own premature attitude. If you saw the Giants/Panthers game earlier this year, you'll remember Cam bringing out the celebration after scoring a garbage TD in an embarrassing blowout. Instead, he should buy a clue for $100 and get back to playing good football.
I'm not sure if any offense in the league has been more disappointing this season than the Panthers. I really expected them to be a force this year with a near-unstoppable rushing attack, but where did that go wrong? Last week they managed to put up a measly 52 yards running in another stinker effort. It seemed like the entire sharp community were on the Panthers last week, but I was busy kicking myself for not riding the Broncos one more week.
The Bucs have been really strong this year against the run, so for the Panthers to win this game they'll need Newton to take advantage of a depleted Tampa secondary. Greg Olsen has quietly had a good season, but since they changed their two-tight end base formation this year, he hasn't been featured nearly enough. Losing Quincy Black to a scary injury isn't going to help things at linebacker either, so if Carolina want to get back on track this just might be the opportunity to do so.
The challenge for the Panthers is finding a clear-cut advantage in this game. I'm not sure Cam is able to take advantage of the Bucs pass defense in the same way he could've last season. Straight up, the Buccaneers are playing much more confident ball right now and should be ready for another hard-fought divisional game.
The Panthers also fired their special teams coach on Monday. They probably aren't as bad as their record suggests, but the offense is sputtering and they don't do anything particularly well.
The Bucs are 4-0 ATS on the road this year, while the Panthers are 1-4 ATS at home. I expect those trends to continue on Sunday.
This is an interesting point spread. In the look-ahead line, the books had the Rams favored by -2. I'm not sure if that was a sign of respect for what the Rams have done this year or an indictment of the Jets. It's likely a combination of both, but based on what happened in Week 10 it's no surprise it re-opened at -3. Money has come in on the Rams and you now have to lay some juice to get the key number, but I think they should be favored by more than a field goal here.
I have to lead this write-up with a special mention for new head coach Jeff Fisher. I loved the hire back in the offseason, but I think his impact has been even better than I could have imagined. Going into the 49ers game, he benched up and coming star CB Janoris Jenkins for violating team rules. He also suspended Chris Givens, but it was the Jenkins move that impressed me more. A team like St Louis is desperate to get as much of a competitive balance as they can and sitting him down certainly doesn't help that. It's these kinds of decisions that earn the respect of a football team - especially one that is so young.
They didn't come away with the win though even though they played well enough to get the "W". Normally I think such silver linings are overrated when looking ahead to subsequent weeks, but their effort and performance was clear affirmation that they have bought into what Fisher is selling. The game must have instilled a belief that they can play with anybody, which is important for a young tam on the rise. The added bonus was that this came on the road, a place where the Rams haven't fared so well this season.
Stick a Fork in the Jets
This might be a bit premature since I wrote off the Titans last week and that came back to bite me in the rear. Having said that, I'm not sure why a coach like Rex Ryan is getting a free pass here. At some point this Jets team needs to get blown up because their game plan isn't working.
I would start with the quarterback. I don't want to spend too much time on this circus, but I've been up on my soapbox for over three years saying Mark Sanchez needs to get put on the bench. The guy simply can't win in this league. I could care less that he was under center in back-to-back AFC Championship games because he sure wasn't Mr. Difference-Maker in those runs. Tim Tebow would be an even worse choice, but this organization put themselves in this mess so they have to go with what they got. If it were up to me I'd start Greg McElroy for the rest of the season and revamp this offense.
The sad thing about this team is that they had two weeks to prepare for the Seahawks game and they laid an absolute egg. Is it a bad thing to lose to Seattle in their house? No. But to not put up any points is pretty pathetic.
X's and O's
There isn't a whole lot separating these teams on paper. The defenes are remarkably similiar statistically ranking nearly identical in every meaningful category. The Rams are a bit better on third down, but it's not a drastic difference.
The issue I have match-up wise is the play of Mark Sanchez and the play-calling during the game. Bringing in Tebow does nothing but disrupt the timing and efficiency of an already bad offense. I say either feature him or don't, because the gimmick isn't working.
On the flip side how can you not love the play of Danny Amendola? I've watched this guy since he was a member of the Eagles and I didn't understand why they let him go when they did. He was a no-brainer choice for his season yardage prop and it's abundantly clear how much better this offense is when he's on the field. The comparisons to Wes Welker are legit.
I like the way Bradford plays at home and the running game continues
to improve as the season unfolds. It might not be pretty at times, but I
think the Rams can get even better as a team.
on the other hand are a team headed in the wrong direction. It's just a
matter of time before the bottom falls out, if it hasn't already.
Give me the Rams at home at a fair number and I'll take it. The tie in San Francisco might be disappoiting, but I think they'll take it as a positive by the time the dust settles on Sunday.
Note*: We've already seen the Broncos bet off the 7 and I won't be surprised if more money comes in on both of these teams. I like this teaser at anything under -9 for each team.
Denver Broncos -1.5 & Dallas Cowboys -1
This is a game I really wanted to release at -7, but it was quickly bet off the key number on Sunday night. Therefore, the only option is putting it in a teaser since I don't like posting picks at unfavorable numbers.
But needless to say I love the Broncos to win this game. There really isn't a lot of weaknesses to highlight with Denver with the exception of McGahee's ongoing fumbling problems and the not-so-good red zone defense. Otherwise, this team is steamrolling through the schedule.
Funny enough, the Broncos surge started when they went into halftime trailing 24-0 against the same Chargers. Ever since that game, both of these teams have been going in opposite directions.
Rivers has been putting up decent numbers, but this isn't a game that he's going to feel comfortable in. His O-line is not protecting him well enough and Denver can bring a lethal pass-rush. It's uncertain if Dumervil will play, but his injury isn't nearly as bad as first thought. Whether he goes or not, the Chargers will have to find a way to slow down Von Miller. Additionally, DJ Williams makes his return, which could be downright scary for opponents. Look for him to be eased back in and Woodyard has played very well in DJ's absence.
For the Chargers, while Norv Turner isn't busy biting the heads of reporters, he's trying to figure out how to get this team to play consistently. They've shown more than enough signs that the potential is there on both sides of the ball, but they just can't put it together for long stretches. Peyton's pass protection has been excellent this season and I expect him to continue his tear this game. He should have more than enough opportunities to burn a less-than-stellar secondary. Given that Denver rank among the top in drive success, third down conversions, and red zone efficiency, it's safe to say they'll get their points. Even though the Broncos struggle with their own red zone D, the Chargers rank dead last in that area.
Finally, we have a guy named Trindon Holliday. He ripped it up in the preseason, but the Texans cut him after an unproductive September. Given Houston's problems on special teams, I was a bit surprised they gave up so quickly. Now he's become a weapon to be accounted for as he already has two return TD's for the Broncos. San Diego isn't horrible on special teams, but they aren't great either.
Week 10 marked one of the few times I added Dallas as a straight pick for the simple reason that they always have an inflated number. Being "America's Team" of yesterday still resonates with the betting public so it's not often you find true value on their point spreads. Yet, the Eagles have become all-fade material this year so I couldn't pass it up.
The first thing that jumps off the page with them is the schedule they've played. The bulk of their games have come on the road so far and the competition has been stiff. Some might say they are due for a letdown against an inferior opponent, but they are still alive in the playoff hunt. Motivation should not be a problem.
The obvious problem for the Browns is that Brandon Weeden has been terrible this season. Trent Richardson is a bright spot, but he hasn't paid dividends in short yardage situations. This season Cleveland is 8 for 18 on third and 1 and Richardson was 2 of 7 on those plays. Therefore it should be no surprise their offense ranks near the bottom in drive success and red zone efficiency. The Cowboys D have been above average in those categories this year, despite playing some very good offenses.
Things are much better for the Browns on the other side of the ball where they rank average across the board. This doesn't provide a huge advantage for the Dallas offense, but they should be able to do enough to put up some points. They've had very little trouble moving the ball this year, but things continue to break down in the red zone. It also doesn't help that Dallas have among the most penalties on offense either. I don't think they are about to turn that around anytime soon because I'm not a big fan of Jason Garrett, but we are talking about the Browns here so I don't foresee it being a big issue this week.
It might not be pretty, but Dallas is primed to win this game. They own too many advantages across the board and have the benefit of home field advantage. This is a no-brainer teaser option.
When this line came out on Sunday I was a little bit confused. The look-ahead line before last weekend had the Dolphins -1 favorites. After they put up a stinker for the second straight week, they became +1.5 underdogs vs Buffalo. My initial reaction was "this can't be right". Yet, the NFL is league that changes quickly, so based on recent results I shouldn't be too surprised. Given the short week I decided to pass, but now that we've seen a move all the way to +3 I have no choice but to add it to the card. If you don't have it, you should be able to get an affordable 3 since most books are offering +2.5 at 'even' odds. If you still can't get that, add them in a teaser with the Broncos or Cowboys and call it a day.
We've seen lots of examples this season where teams go on streaks (good and bad). The Cardinals, Vikings, Giants, and Eagles started off hot, only to fade into irrelevancy in October/November. The Bucs, Colts, and Packers began the season inconsistently, but have strung together some good weeks.
So what do we make of the Dolphins? Statistically, they've had a very strong season thus far. Ryan Tannehill and his receivers surprised everybody out of the gate and managed to land in the upper half of the rankings on the backs of a strong defense.
Yet, two weeks in a row we've seen them completely tank it. I assumed the shredding they received from the Colts was an aberration, but they followed it up with one of the worst performances of the season against the Titans.
My take is that this is still a solid football team. They aren't going to scare anybody, but keep in mind that turnovers were the biggest story coming out of their game vs Tennessee.
Granted, their defense hasn't faced stiff competition overall this year, but this is the NFL and everybody can move the ball against a porous unit. We do have to give them some credit for ranking high vs the run, on third down, and in the red zone. Injuries aren't a big concern, so I think they'll be alright tonight against an inconsistent Bills offense.
Speaking of the Bills, let's look at their defense for a moment. Many people (including me) thought this would be one of the strengths of their team heading into the season. I liked the additions of Mario Williams and Stephon Gilmore. Dave Wannestat was supposed to simplify things with a basic 4-3, but for whatever reason things haven't clicked.
And not "clicking" would be an understatement. They not only rank near the bottom vs the run and the pass, but they are dead last on third down and in the red zone. To top it all off they've put up these stats against a weak group of offenses this season.
Their consistenty rating is also bad, which in this case means they've been "bad" some weeks and "atrocious" in others.
I'm taking a bit of a chance here since Miami could be one of those teams headed back down the rankings. It would surprise no one if Tannehill starts looking more and more like a rookie. The defense might have overachieved vs a soft schedule. Still, what I do know is their defense can't be worse than what the Bills have shown us this season.
Offensively, there isn't a lot separating these teams. The Bills have put up stronger rush stats this season, but Fred Jackson has been ruled out. This leaves the bulk of the work for CJ Spiller. A month ago that would be a good thing, but now? Let's see how he does against what is supposed to be a good run D.
I have to go with the value here and take Miami on a key number.
This was an easy choice. Tampa Bay's offense has been on fire the last several games. Do I see it slowing down this Sunday? Possibly, because they have been inconsistent throughout the season, but the Chargers pass defense hasn't been very good this year. San Diego also rank dreadfully low in red zone defense - an area the Bucs thrive in. Keep in mind the Chargers D has put up these stats against a weak schedule.
Jake Locker returns to the show, but he returns to a mess. The Titans offense doesn't do much right with the exception of pass blocking. CJ is going to have a tough time rushing against this Miami D which will really hurt the Titans ability to sustain drives. Once they get in the red zone? Dolphins rank near the top. I expect field goals with the only danger coming from garbage points at the end of the game.
As mentioned in my game preview, the Vikings defense is trending in the wrong direction - especially vs the run. Detroit isn't a run-first team, but they do use the run effectively much more than people think. Stafford has returned to the top group of QBs in the league in efficiency rating and should have a good day against a poor secondary. Lions are also one of the best teams at sustaining drives and converting their chances into touchdowns - all advantages over the Vikings D.
Schaub U230.5 passing yards Foster O17.5 rec yards Cutler U220.5 passing yards A Johnson +15.5 rec yards vs Marshall J Charles O60.5 rush yards
Some books are keeping the Ravens and Texans out of the teaser window at -9 and +1. You can either pay a bit extra juice with a 6.5 teaser or shop around at a different shop. I also expect late money to come in on the Raiders which should move the line, so waiting is another option.
Ravens -2.5 & Texans +7.5
Despite making Baltimore my "best bet" last week, they are always a team that make you nervous. The defense has been ordinary this season and injuries haven't helped. It's good that Suggs is back though and I trust they can do enough to defeat an erratic Raiders offense. Palmer is actually playing more efficiently than I expected him to, but with no McFadden it's going to be a grind - especially in the red zone where they already rank near the bottom.
Look for a lot of Ray Rice in this match-up as Oakland has been poor vs the run all year. Finally, the Raiders can't do the little things right either. Their average net starting field position is the worst in the league and their overall special teams isn't far behind. Baltimore should win this game, but they haven't been good covering big numbers.
Favorites took a huge bite out of the underdog lead in Week 9 going 10-4 ATS. Underdogs still hold the overall edge at 75-55-3 (57.7%), but the gap is closing. It shouldn't come as a big surprise when you look at all the favorable matchups that were on the board, but I don't think things will be so one-sided in Week 10. After the weekend adjustments, the opening lines are pretty sharp.
Week 9 Recap
It's another short write-up with the only loss coming from the New York Giants. This was the one game that had the most disagreement in the polls with 51% on the dog. Props if you came out on the winning side. I was a bit surprised at how inefficient the Giants offense was, but full credit to Pittsburgh.
Overall I finished 5-1 ATS and 3-0 on totals. Despite the slow start, things are beginning to balance out. There is still half a season to go so there's plenty of time to finish strong.
Week 10 Picks
*Note: The Jets @ Seahawks has the nice combo of off the bye/into the bye that has worked so well this season, but I'm passing on it for the simple reason that the game is in Seattle. Otherwise, it's a nice edge to consider.
Two sites I've been tracking this year are Beyond the Bets and TeamRankings. One went with the Chargers and the other the Seahawks. Both remain undefeated with their survivor picks this season using slightly different strategies. In week 9 there were no significant upsets so everybody still alive came away unscathed. For Week 10, my choice was pretty simple. TeamRankings have full coverage here.
Survivor pick:Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 9: Detroit Lions
Week 8: Green Bay Packers
Week 7: San Francisco 49ers
Week 6: Atlanta Falcons
Week 5: New York Giants
Week 4: Baltimore Ravens
Week 3: Chicago Bears
Week 2: New England Patriots
Week 1: Houston Texans
Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings: DET -1 (Pinnacle)
In Week 4 the Lions closed as -3.5 point favorites when they hosted the Vikings. This was when Minnesota were playing much better ball than the Lions. Fast forward to Week 9 and we had the Vikings as -2.5 point favorites in the look-ahead line.
That was clearly a bad line and it was immediately pounced on when it re-opened this past Sunday. The game was taken off the board on Monday, but it re-opened with the Lions hovering around the -1 to -2.5 range, depending on where you shop.
I don't think this is enough of an adjustment as I have the Lions favored by -3.5 based on my numbers. That is significant since we have value crossing through the key number of 3. I would make this a play this at anything under -3.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Over the last month, the Vikings have given up an average of 165.8 yards rushing per game. Overall they still have a decent run defense ranking, but this team is clearly headed in the wrong direction. After a very efficient start to the year, Christian Ponder has fallen back to earth as well. In reality, he's been nothing short of atrocious.
One could make the case that it's not all Ponder's fault since his O-line ranks near the bottom in pass protection and outside of Percy Harvin, he doesn't have any reliable pass-catching weapons. Having said that, he doesn't pass the eye-ball test right now. He's been so bad that Leslie Frazier had to come out and give him a public vote of confidence after their loss in Seattle.
Now he has to bounce back likely without the service of Harvin, who has been their undisputed MVP this year. Adrian Peterson has been much better than expected, but he isn't keeping opposing coordinators up late at night the same way Harvin is. This is a huge loss for an offense that can't afford to be without him. Even if he is in the lineup, he won't command the same kind of attention as he normally would.
X's and O's: Advantage Lions
If you read my write-up last week for the Lions vs Jaguars game you'll know that I quietly raved about the Lions efficiency on defense this season. They do give up big chunks of yards in the passing game, but that shouldn't be a huge concern given how bad Minnesota is.
Instead they'll load up the box and game-plan for Peterson. This worked quite well in Week 4 and I see no reason why it won't work again. Sure the Lions lost that game, but the Vikings had two return touchdowns on special teams. This is still an area of weakness for Detroit, but it's safe to say that won't be happening agian.
The big advantage Detroit should have here is with their passing game. I'm not going to declare that Stafford is "back" just yet, but he's definitely improved over recent weeks. The Vikings pass defense has slipped back to their 2011 level and they aren't very good at slowing drives down either.
The Vikings are only average rushing the passer and in their red zonedefense, but the Lions rank in the top third of the league in pass protection and near the top in red zone offense.
Both defenses rank around the middle of the pack, but they are trending in different directions. The same could be said for their offenses. This is why the Lions are surging as they've covered the spread in three straight weeks (even though one was an undeserved back-door cover).
Both Harvin and Megatron are banged up, but the former is unlikely to play. CJ on the other hand is still healthy enough to keep secondaries honest. And if this game is close, there's no question which quarterback is better in the clutch.
Finally, the Vikings are heading into a bye week, so it never hurts to continue riding this flash-in-the-pan trend for the time being. Teams heading into the bye are 3-17 ATS so far in 2012.