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.
Cleveland Browns +6 at Cincinnati Bengals
The Browns are fresh off a bye and looking to stay in the playoff hunt, while the Bengals are coming off two consecutive overtime games on the road. Cincy might eek out a win here but getting 6 points in a defensive divisional battle is too good to pass up. And I get the weird feeling the Brown win outright, 17-16. Trends: the Favorite has covered only 1 of the last 13 games when these teams play each other and the road team in Bengals games has covered only 1 of the last 12. Cleveland is 5-0 against the spread when QB Brandon Weeden does not start.
San Diego Chargers -1.5 at Miami Dolphins
It’s not just the Miami locker room in shambles, remember they’re missing half their offensive line. They are hoping to just play out the string of games at this point, a playoff push isn’t happening. Following that loss to previously winless Tampa, the Phins will be ready to pack it in. They’re on a short week and now face a Chargers team coming out of their bye with that final AFC wild card spot in their sights. They’re giving less than a field goal, so it’s a pretty safe bet. The last 3 years when the Chargers were a road favorite of 3 points or less they’ve gone 13-6 against the spread. Look for them to notch a relatively easy win here.
Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears, Over 43
Traditionally these have been defensive powerhouses with limited offenses, so on first glance the average Joe might think this is an easy “Under” bet, especially given the Ravens offensive struggles this season.
But we all know that right now the Bears are a horrible defensive team. We saw them give up 40+ at Washington. Then even after Aaron Rodgers went out on MNF, the Bears were letting RB Eddie Lacy gash them for huge runs up the middle. They did manage to hold the Lions to 21 points last week, but that was a division game and those tend to be like (lower-scoring) playoff games (especially with the Rodgers injury opening this division).
So we have two teams that are desperate for a win to say in the mix for their respective wildcard slots… This could be a Kitchen Sink game where they try any/everything to get this win. Maybe trick plays or fake punts or just more deep shots downfield.
This season the non-conference games are tending to go Over (35-11 Over, including 11-0 the last 3 weeks). So this game also fits that bill. While the Ravens have not been able to get their run game going (and hence QB Joe Flacco and his lack of weapons have been less dangerous), that sieve of a defense in Chicago might be just what the doctor ordered. If Baltimore follows last weeks win over the Bengals with a win in Chicago, I can really envision the media reaction, “Wow are the Ravens back and ready to make a run?!??!” just because they got Ray Rice and Flacco rolling against that horrible Chicago defense that is 31st vs the run. On the other side of the ball, QB Josh McNown has looked good running the Bears offense, both as a starter and in relief of Jay Cutler. With coach Marc Trestman and the Bears weapons, McNown should be fine at home vs a non-dominant Ravens defense.
And oh by the way…. Chicago is already with out Melton/Briggs etc on defense… now the Bears will also be without CB Charles Tillman, a major blow. They were giving up 27+ points per game before Tillman’s injury! Chicago is 27th in the league in points allowed…. Baltimore is much better, only giving up 21ppg, but they’ve played the following offenses: Cleveland twice, Cincy, Buffalo, Miami, Pittsburgh, Houston… they did manage to (somehow) hold the Packers to 19 (in baltimore) but famously gave up 49 to the Broncos.
One other note: not only are the Bears 6-3 to the Over, they are beating the Total by 9+ ppg… and their average Totals have been 46.44. Meanwhile, Baltimore has been going against defensive minded teams like Cincy and Cleveland the last 2 weeks so they should be happy to finally play an easy defense like this struggling Bears unit.
While “Bears-Ravens” used to conjure images of a 13-10 slugfest, I can see this being the “wild game” of the weekend: 38-35. I wrote all this up before I knew there were heavy winds and rainstorms in the forecast for Chicago Sunday. This over/under has plummeted from 47 to 43. If the weather is that bad, then all my analysis goes out the window. But maybe it passes or doesn’t affect the game as much as the forecast suggests. And really, all this game needs to go over is 27-20, 31-14, 28-17. Even a “normal” game like 24-21 would go over.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks, Over 45
Similar to Bears/Ravens, we think of Seattle as a defensive team and Vikings QB Christian Ponder has struggled. But this could be a blowout…. Seattle loses CB Brandon Browner to injury and gets Percy Harvin’s debut vs his former squad. Minnesota’s games have gone Over 7 out of 9 times this season, the defensive-minded Seahawks have gone 6-4 Over, and 45 is a manageable total in today’s NFL. RB Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson should GASH this defense. Vikes will manufacture a couple scores… Seattle coach Pete Carroll wont be shy about scoring, and going into their bye week, maybe some Seahawks defenders will be caught sleeping in gargabe time. This one smells like 34-14.