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.
Philadelphia Eagles -5 at Minnesota Vikings
The Eagles have been playing well lately and actually have the NFC East title in their sights. Most people think of them as a mostly offensive team, with Nick Foles one of the big surprises this year (20 TD passes and only 1 interception), but they have held 9 straight opponents to 21 points or less. Expect that to continue when they visit Minnesota. The Vikings aren’t a great football team, and might be without the services of all-world RB Adrian Peterson. Even if Peterson plays, Minnesota doesn’t seem to have a viable starter at the QB position and their defense gives up 30.4ppg (31.4ppg at home). On the flip side, the Eagles offense (25.7ppg) scores 32.7 on the road. The road team in all Eagles games is 15-4 against the spread, including a 5-1 record ATS for Philly as a visitor. They can do it on the ground (most rushing yards in NFL) and in the air (2nd-most passing yards per play). A lot of stat heads and handicappers love the “net yards per play” stat, and the Eagles are 4th in the NFL behind only Seattle, New Orleans, and Denver. That’s lofty company. This should be a blowout, but even if it isn’t, 5 points is a pretty manageable point spread for the Eagles to cover in Minnesota as they should easily win by at least 7 to 10 or more.
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons, Over 49.5
Washington is an absolute dumpster fire thanks to Mike Shanahan’s shenanigans and are now playing out the string of games until the coaching staff is fired. They are giving up the most points per game in the league at just over 31ppg, and Atlanta isn’t far behind, yielding 28 per contest. Washington famously benched QB Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the year this week, and now turn to capable young back up Kirk Cousins. I imagine Shanny and his offensive coordinator son will do all they can to give Cousins a chance to succeed (just to make themselves look good). They’ll be helped by the fact that a rookie will be starting at Safety for Thomas DeCoud (concussion) who hasn’t missed a game all year. These two teams are also giving up the best and second-best QB ratings to opposing quarterbacks, so Cousins and Matt Ryan should have a field day in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome. The Falcons season went south with the season-ending injury to Julio Jones, but Roddy White and Steven Jackson have returned from their injuries and TE Tony Gonzalez is still there as well. Look for this game to end up around 35-21 or 31-24 and easily sail Over the total.
Carolina Panthers -10.5 vs. New York Jets
This is a pretty big point spread, but I expect Carolina to come out focused and play well at home following their blowout loss at New Orleans last week. We still think of the Jets as a good defensive team, but they give up 26ppg and that number rises above 30ppg on the road. (Their cause won’t be helped by the questionable status of CB Antonio Cromartie.) On the other side of the ball, New York’s offense doesn’t scare anyone (only the Jaguars score less per game) and they’ve only averaged 13ppg on the road. Carolina gives up the least points per game in the NFL, and the least rushing yards. So it will be up to Geno Smith to beat them. I don’t see that happening, as Smith has just 9 TD passes to go with his 26 turnovers this year. This nasty Panthers defense will make life miserable for Smith and force him into some mistakes and more turnovers. Winning the the turnover battle in the NFL translates into covering the spread 77% of the time. I don’t see how the Jets score 10 points in this game, and while New York has been solid defending the run, Cam Newton has enough weapons in WRs Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, TE Greg Olsen, and his own feet to turn this into a 27-9 snoozer.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans, Over 41.5
For the last two weeks in this space, I’ve touted the fact that inter-conference games have trended heavily toward the Over (43-14 Over for the season, including 22-4 the last 7 weeks). It didn’t pan out for my Bill-Bucs Over pick last week, but it’s still a strong trend. The Titans have gone Over the total in 8 of their 13 games, including 5 of 6 at home. They gave up 29 at home to the lowest-scoring team in the league (Jacksonville) and surrendered a whopping 51 points last week in Denver. The Cardinals do have a good defense, but they give up 3 more points per game as visitors and are now without impressive rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu. I certainly don’t expect a shootout, but something along the lines of 24-21 or even 23-20 will get this one Over the total.
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