Come all ye office-pool players, casual bettors, wiseguys, and degenerate gamblers: the NFL Picks Against The Spread column is here to help you win mountains of cash and/or bragging rights. They say you need to win at least 53% of your games to actually make a profit betting on NFL games. Well you and I know that I’ll probably only hit about 45% at the most, so go ahead and play the opposite of all my recommended Best Bets and you’ll be sure to make some money.
Houston Texans +2 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Both of these teams are coming out of their bye weeks, Indy on the highest of high notes after beating former franchise QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos (after notching early season wins over the Seahawks and 49ers). The Texans went into the bye week with their season already in flames at 2-5, but I’m guessing despite all of Houston’s problems this year, they are still mostly made up of the team expected to be contenders or at the very least a playoff team. After getting some live reps in a closer than expected loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead, QB Case Keenum might not be a horrible liability, especially at home after an extra week of prep. He might not be “better” than Matt Schaub, but right now having Schaub on the bench is 7 less points for Texans opponents, considering his pick-6 issues. Keep in mind this is a division game, at home on prime-time TV Sunday night. The average person knows about Andrew Luck and how good the Colts are, and wonder why they’re favored by only 2 over a struggling Texans team with an unknown backup QB. I think this line will get to -3 as the whole world bets on Indy, but either way I’m taking Houston. No matter how good or bad each team might be, time and again we see home underdogs step up. We saw it the other night in Miami, and we saw it when the Rams hosted the Seahawks last Monday night. And we’ll see it in Houston Sunday night when the Texans beat the Colts outright. But take the points just in case.
Tennessee Titans -3 at St. Louis Rams
Road favorites coming off the bye week are 43-21-1 against the spread (ATS) since 2003, and this game also falls under the “Bet against teams the week after they play Seattle” theory. Basically, every team that plays the Seahawks comes out of it so beat up that they lose the next week (0-6 straight up and ATS). The Cardinals actually won in that spot last week, but they were coming off a Thursday game so they had a few extra days (and were playing the decimated Falcons). Now the Rams have to do it on a short week (against a rested Titans team off a bye) with a backup QB and both running backs injured. This offense wasn’t any good when it was healthy at full strength. Everyone saw the Rams on national TV making it a game against the Seahawks, so this line is a lot shorter than it would have been if the Rams had been blown out. The Titans might be pretty good. Their losses are to the 49ers, Chiefs, Seahawks, and an early-season road loss at Houston. The bye week gave QB Jake Locker a little more healing time and the Rams will be in let-down mode after going toe-to-toe with a divisional rival on Monday Night Football. The fresh Titans can kickstart a run toward the last wild card in the AFC, and it starts when they notch the win over a tired Rams team, 24-10.
Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders OVER 45
The Eagles offense looked bad not being able to score at home against the Giants, but that was with an overwhelmed and so-far terrible Matt Barkley at QB. And other than the 93-yd run to start the game, Oakland couldn’t do much on offense against the Steelers last week either. But remember, as bad as Pittsburgh is–and I know their D isn’t what it once was–they can still play defense at a pretty high level in the NATIONAL. Football. League. So the perception of this game is two teams that cant score led by inexperienced QB’s. But Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor should fare much better against this Philly defense, and likewise the Eagles offense has a chance to resemble a professional outfit as they turn back to QB Nick Foles, who should be able to at least get the ball out quicker and into the hands of playmakers. I’m not necessarily calling for a shootout, but it certainly seems like it should skew closer to a 28-23 or 27-24 type game than the 23-21 or 24-20 game it would need to stay under.
(For those of you thinking about betting Oakland -2 in this game, consider: the Raiders as a favorite are 5-19 ATS over last 24 games. Another trend going against Oakland: teams favored the week after playing Mike Tomlin’s Steelers: 13-33 ATS.)
Minnesota Vikings +10 at Dallas Cowboys
The Vikings might be terrible, but I gotta take them getting so many points in this spot. This is the first time Dallas has been double-digit favorites in nearly two years. The Cowboys have only covered 6 of 22 games as a home favorite, and the underdog in Cowboys games is 40-16 ATS the last four seasons. Dallas should get back in the win column at home against the Vikings, but it wont be by 10 points.
New Orleans Saints -6.5 at New York Jets
The Jets have gone W-L, W-L, all season, but I expect that pattern to change this Sunday at the Meadowlands when they get shellacked by a Saints team on a mission. Drew Brees is out of his mind right now and the Saints are very well coached. They finally have a decent defense to complement that offense. I expect Rob Ryan’s unit (well, his defense) to be aggressive against a rookie QB who’s shown some flashes but obviously still a work in progress. At this point the Jets record is a little better than the dumpster fire many were predicting, but this is the time of year when teams show us that they are who we thought they were… The Saints are very good and rolling, and smart/veteran enough to not slip up against anyone. They need/want that homefield advantage this year so they can come back to the swamps of Jersey for the Super Bowl. Their only loss was AT New England on a vintage miracle comeback by Brady/Belichick.
The Saints under head coach Sean Payton are 15-3 ATS as road favorites vs. non-division opponents. When looking at some of these impressive Saints records against the spread, I always think about how they are usually big/inflated favorites. Not just this year, but all recent Brees/Payton years when they’ve been an offensive juggernaut. So they aren’t just “good against the spread” the way some weekly underdogs can be… they are almost always GIVING the points, and lots of ‘em.
Meanwhile, we think of NYJ as a defensive team, but they give up more than 26ppg. Once the Saints D can play with the lead, they will get after Geno Smith and he doesn’t have the weapons around him to help. It might not be a blow out, but the Jets cant keep up offensively and we’ve seen teams mail games in when heading into their bye week, so I don’t even think they’ll be able to sneak in the back door. Saints -6, 6.5, even 7 or 7.5, shouldn’t matter: Saints 28; Jets 16.
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