All lines from Betonline. Picks in bold.
1. New York Football Giants +3 @ Carolina Panthers.
I actually wrote this line up incorrectly at first, thinking the Panthers were 2.5 point underdogs. In that variant, I was all over the Panthers. I don’t think`all that much of the Giants defense, and their offense is prone to hilarious turnovers. However, seeing this line as it actually is, with the Super Bowl champs as three-point underdogs, I’m befuddled.
The computers say the Giants should be favored by between 1 and 3 points, even on the road. The Panthers have so far lost to the Bucs, and beaten a dazed and confused Saints team (although I’ll be picking the Saints later). I know the Giants have looked awful, and weren’t all that dominant last year until they won the Super Bowl, but they did actually do that, right? They won all those road games and then beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I’m not making that up, right? Why in this matchup of 1-1 teams is the team with the much better recent track record being treated as being no better than Cam Newton’s squadron?
The one caveat I have, and it’s not one I’ll raise often, is that Football Outsiders does love the Panthers. They say the Panthers are a better team straight up, before even getting into home field. I dunno – we’ll see. Until they show it to me though, I’m gonna take the points when I have no reason to think I’m betting on the worse team.
2. St. Louis Rams + 7.5 @ Bears
Did you ever notice what a dick Jay Cutler is? Need I say more? Okay, well the kind of cool thing about the NFL is that coaching and toughness may be a real thing. The 49ers hired Harbaugh, and all of a sudden they’re the best team in the NFL. Seems a weaker version may be happening with the Rams. First the Rams hung with might still be a good Lions team. Next they won as underdogs vs. Bob Griffin. Not exactly a massive turnaround, but a sign of competence at least.
On the other hand, this line opened at 10, and there’s some indication that home teams are being undervalued so far this year (more on this in a later post).
Sagarin says this should be + 9 by the way. Massey goes with 6.5. I think this line is probably kind of close to being right, but forced to pick, I say these teams still more resemble the squads they were last year, than the teams they’ve been so far. What did the Titans ever win anyways.
I do kind of like the under 43 here though.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7.5 @ Dallas Cowboys
Certain statistical indicators say Tony Romo is among greatest QBs of all time. Other indicators say he’s a choker, and the Cowboys can find a way to lose almost any game. Oh, and reputable sources tell me that Jash Freeman spent most of this offseason watching highlights of Eli on SNL or something.
I think the Bucs are kind of sort of okay, and I think the same is true of the Cowboys. Sagarin says this line should be 6.5, while Massey’s got it at 10. I’m not inclined to split the difference here though, nor go with the home team. Ultimately, if my position is that the Giants aren’t that much better than the Panthers (see game 1), then I don’t think I can claim the Cowboys are all that much better than the Bucs. Which is more or less true. I think these 4 teams may be pretty close to NFL average. Maybe the Giants a bit better, but I don’t think there’s a chasm. When in doubt, take the points.
4. San Francisco 49ers -6.5 @ the Minnesota Vikings
I’m gonna break my rule of staying away from the road favorites and take the 49ers here. Yeah, I know I’m following the squares that say the 49ers are clearly the best team. But you know what? Sometimes the squares are right and a team is just “doin it.” I think Alex Smith looks like an NFL QB, and Christian Ponder does not.
Massey says 11, Sagarin says 6. I know I’ve picked with Sagarin on the first three games, but I’m gonna go the other way here and take San Francisco. That said, I’d stay away from any 49ers moneyline action (for you suicide pool people). The 49ers could just randomly lose a game when their “no whammy no whammy no whammy” offense doesn’t score much. If I wake up Monday morning to a 14-3 loss by them, I just shrug my shoulders and move on.
5. Lions – 3.5 @ Titans
This is a pure anti-establishment pick. Everyone (looking at you Sportsguy33) is telling me that the Titans look broken. And yeah, you know what, they kind of do. On the other hand, so far they’ve lost to two of the most talented teams in the NFL in the Patriots and the Chargers, even if the Chargers always seem to bungle things up come playoff time.
Sagarin says the Titans should be 1 point favorites. Massey has the Lions by 3.5. I’m gonna take Sagarin here, but I’d also recommend some action on the Titans +165 to win outright. There’s no reason to think the Lions are some kind of road warriors or anything, and their secondary is in pretty awful shape.
6. Bengals + 3 @ Redskins
At first glance, I want to jump all over the Bob Griffin show here. The Bengals have half of the Cowboys former secondary, and only managed a push vs. the Brownies. On the other hand, the Redskins are now down maybe their two best defensive players in Orakpo and Carriker, and I’ve gotta figure that matters. The computers (which don’t know about those guys being done), say the line should be a bit higher actually (closer to 4 or 5), but I’m gonna say those losses matter and the Ginger might cut up the Washington secondary a bit as result.
7. Jets -2.5 @ Dolphins
I have a confession to make. I spent most of last week talking up how I believed in Mark Sanchez, and that he had walked through the invisible archway into competence, and how the Jets offense might be almost as good as their defense, if not better. In my defense, I’m a Patriots fan and much of that may have just been a reverse jinx, but either way, mea culpa or something.
People want to write off the Dolphins because they have a terrible QB. And you know what, they kind of do. But so do the Jets. It’s not clear to me these teams were all that different quality last year, and if anything, I like the Dolphins line strength more than the Jets. In a matchup where neither team has all that much as the skill positions, shouldn’t line strength count for something? Sagarin likes the fins here, Massey the Jets. I’m taking the home dog, as if that means something again.
8. Chiefs + 8 @ Saints
Bill Simmons kind of has a point. We can’t keep going on about how much coaching matters in the NFL and then just totally ignore it with the Saints, cause they have all that talent, and too many weapons. Saints bettors have paid the price for believing in them in the first two weeks, and the fact that this line isn’t 14 or more, against what is looking like the worst team in the NFL, is the evidence.
Both Sagarin and Massey say this line should be like 17 or something. They don’t know about Sean Payton, or whether Drew Brees is out there like Peyton Manning doing the horns. They just see a team with a history of excellence against a team that can’t bear to score, and they want to take the Saints.
However, here’s the answer to the “coaching matters” people. Who exactly is coaching the Chiefs? Oh yeah, it’s all time NFL great Romeo Crennel. Now I like Romeo. He seems like a nice dude. But he’s also got a decent track record of total ineptitude. In the battle of “insert coach here” vs. Romeo, sadly, I take the former. Plus, there are all sorts of “Saints want to show they’re for real” factors in this game. Ultimately, I gotta lay the wood.
9. Bills – 3 @ Browns
If you don’t look carefully, you’d see this line as a battle of two shitty teams, with the home team laying three. That sounds about right. The reverse end of any number of Steelers vs. Ravens games, with the home team always being favored by three. Except then you look closer, and you see that the Bills are somehow the road favorites? The Bills of Buffalo. The Bills that got annihilated by the Jets. The Bills who haven’t been to the playoffs since Saddam was in power. Really?
I know we all decided we were gonna like the Bills this year cause they signed Mario Williams and cause CJ Spiller is making it happen for our fantasy teams. Except there’s just no evidence to think that they’re good. They weren’t good last year after the first few weeks, and they haven’t been good this year. As far as Mario Williams goes, the Texans defense only got better without him. The Browns have assembled basically as good a resume as them. A one point loss to the Eagles has gotta count for as much as beating the Chiefs by 90 points no? Wrong team favorite I say. This is probably my favorite line of the week.
10. Jaguars + 3 @ Colts
See! This is what I what I was talking about with the Bills/Browns line. Shitty team @ home favored by three. Sagarin says take the Colts. Massey says take the Jags. I kind of want to like the Jaguars, but I do also remember that once upon a time the Colts were good, and they still have a couple of those pieces hanging around. I don’t know if Luck is enough, but I can’t even think of a catchy Blaine Gabbert tagline.
I really don’t have strong feelings here, but I’m basically taking the position this “home teams” trend is gonna continue one more week at least.
11. Eagles -3.5 @ Cardinals
I’m sad I’m not writing this up sooner, since this line was as high as 4.5. With that said, I still like the Cards here by a fair amount. Sagarin and Massey both like the Cardinals to win outright here, and I think there’s a good chance of that too. People have pointed out, and I kind of agree, that this Cardinals team may resemble the Jets in a lot of ways, especially how it’s based around one excellent cornerback and a rotating menagerie of bad Quarterbacks.
Anyways, the Eagles so far have a one point win vs. Cleveland, and a one point win vs. the Ravens. Now the Ravens win is kind of impressive, but less so if you saw how badly the Ravens got screwed at the end of that game. The Cardinals meanwhile have beaten an overhyped Seattle team, and a possibly overhyped Patriots team. And yeah, they did it with a lot of shenanigans. But take those shenanigans out, and you’ve still got the framework for a team that can win at home vs. a team prone to 6 or 7 interceptions per game. Maybe this is the game where the Eagles show their class, but I think it’s more likely this is the game they lose by 1 rather than eek it out at the end.
12. Falcons + 3 @ Chargers
I think it’s funny how quickly people got back on the Chargers bandwagon, because this game had all the markings of a pickem or something given how much sheen had fallen off the Chargers and how much hype there was on the Falcons. But you know what? I agree. The Charger are no worse a team than the Falcons.
I’m of the mind that the Falcons beat a college team in week 1 in the Chiefs. Then Week 2, Peyton spotted them three picks, then steadily climbed back into that game. I picked the Falcons in week 2 because I thought the Broncos were lemons, not because I liked Atlanta. Well, I’m going with that position again this week. Atlanta basically looks to me like a poor man’s San Diego honestly. Good in all facets of the game, but I don’t know where they’ve got an edge. This line is a tossup I’ll admit, but I’ll roll with the home team.
13. Texans – 2 @ Broncos.
Wouldn’t it have been lame if I’d picked all the home dogs? The really sharp play as pros know is when to lay the wood on the road. I don’t know if that’s what this is, but it certainly could be mistaken for one by the untrained eye. FWIW, Sagarin says I’m nuts here, and Massey says this line is fair.
What I say is that the Broncos are a bit inflated due to a home win week 1 against a Steelers team missing their three best defenders, and the Texans are a bit underrated for having to roll out Matt Leinart for part of the year last year. At least that explains why the computers disagree with me. I don’t know what Peyton Manning is going to show up of course, but my instinct is that the Texans are the best team in the AFC, and the Broncos are two or three rungs below them. It’s a suckers bet to take the road team here, but I can’t help myself.
14. Steelers – 4 @ Raiders
Road wood again!
Look, I don’t know where this idea that the Raiders were a decent team came from, but that idea needs to squashed, and given this line is less than a touchdown, it seems it hasn’t been yet. Massey says this line should be 6.5, while Sagarin has like an 8 up there. Now you could say those lines, since they remember last season, underrate the Raiders, who didn’t have Carson Palmer until late in the year. I would say, why the hell is Carson Palmer thought to be good again? He’s putting up QB ratings in the low 80s in an era where Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick can do the same.
I do acknowledge there’s a lot of potential for an upset here, as the Steelers are capable to losing to anyone at any time if Ben decides he’s done deflecting Richard Seymour sacks, but until he does that, I think I’m roll with Steel City.
15. Patriots + 2.5 @ Ravens
I think the Patriots are broken, and in a more serious way than is commonly acknowledged. Yeah, that loss to the Cardinals was fluky, but generally, their offensive line a huge huge mess. They lost their starting left tackle, their starting center, and their starting right guard from last year. It’s a good thing the Ravens have a notoriously bad defensive front. Oh wait… Plus Aaron Hernandez is a major part of this offense. It’s an offense with a ton of weapons, but if Gronkowski is staying in to block a lot, since the offensive line is in such bad shape, it’s not clear where the ball is going now. Brandon Lloyd is fine and all that, but Wes Welker is about 4’8″ and is an old man. How long did we think he was gonna keep it up.
Bonus: The Ravens have kind of thought they’re the best team in the AFC the last few years, and the Patriots keep beating them somehow. I kind of expect a “run up the score” situation here, and a bit of a panic in New England as the team falls to 1-2. Massey says this line should be 5.5, Sagarin says it should be 1.5 by the way.
16. Packers – 3 @ The 12th Man
It finally happened. After years of picking against the Seahawks @ home, I finally gave in after they crushed my Cowboys pick last week. I dunno what to think here. Massey says this line should by -4 for the Seahawks, which is insanity, while Sagarin has it a bit more modest, but also wants Seattle. Bill Simmons tells me Seattle is a Super Bowl team. I think Arizona is pretty okay… It all fits nicely, except the Packers have been pretty underwhelming this year for no real reason. What, did Aaron Rodgers just get bad?
I dunno man, I dunno. I have to pick Pistol Pete and the Seahawks here, and I think it’s a decent bet, but I don’t feel good about it.
My premium picks this week would be Saints, the Brownies, and the Cardinals.
Last week: 9-6-1; Premium bets: 3-1.
Upcoming post: On this “home field is back” effect, such as seen talked up here.