NFL Picks Against the Spread is a weekly column of best bets and breakdowns to give an edge to office pool players and degenerate gamblers alike. We don’t need a disclaimer about condoning gambling, but we do recommend any actual wagers you make should be the opposite of the NFL picks advice given here.
SUNDAY MARKS THE full opening day of the 2014 NFL season, and after Thursday night’s Packer-Seahawks matchup, the first day to revel in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat that comes with making NFL picks. Week One is always a tough one to get a handle on, because obviously we don’t know who’s good or bad and we really won’t know for sure for several more weeks. The Las Vegas oddsmakers don’t know yet either (but it’s safe to say they know more than you and I) and a few lines might be confusing.
So while the point of this “NFL Picks Against the Spread” column is to give some advice on who to bet on (and against) and offer some semblance of, you know, actual NFL picks… I think you’d be best served if I told you what NOT to bet on.
First of all, don’t bet on that Eagles-Jaguars game. Seriously, just don’t. Sure, Philly is at home and ready to rev up that fast-paced high-scoring offense in Year 2 under Chip Kelly…. And they will likely take the still struggling Jaguars to the proverbial woodshed to the tune of 38-10. But are you ready to lay 11.5 points in the first week of the season? Double-digit favorites have a lousy track record of winning against the spread (ATS)… and this point spread has been inflated by public perception (the Eagles are NFC East favorites, last seen setting the league on fire with offensive weaponry; Jacksonville is still famous for being 28-point underdogs at Denver last year and is perennially battling the Raiders for League Doormat AND Most Likely to Relocate). I’m not telling you to take the points and bet on the Jaguars either (like I said, Philly will probably kill them). Don’t bet on this game. The guy from Silver Linings Playbook wouldn’t touch this game.
Here’s another one you shouldn’t bet on: Pittsburgh at home giving 7 to Cleveland. I know, the “Browns stink” and the Steelers are tough at home and all that. But the fact is, recently, the Steelers have been far from the dominant team they were when they appeared in 3 Super Bowls in 6 years from 2005 to 2011. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger will be happy to just secure the opening day win in a division game. And, in classic Pittsburgh fashion, they will win this game by 3 or maybe 4 points. Again, I’m not telling you to bet the Browns… but don’t assume they aren’t good enough to hang with a mediocre Steelers team. Just stay away from this game.
What’s that? You didn’t click to read an “NFL Picks” column to read about what NOT to bet on? So you want to know what you SHOULD bet on? Ah, okay… my bad, I’m still a little rusty from the offseason.
New York Jets -5.5 vs. Oakland Raiders
While anything more than 3 points might look like a big spread when you’re betting the offensively challenged Jets as a favorite… don’t forget this allegedly crappy team (public perception) did manage to get to 8-8 last year, and still has a sneaky great defense (that few people talk about since Darrelle Revis left 2 years ago). Now they have a home opener against a legitimately crappy Raiders team travelling west-to-east for a 1pm (“10am”) kickoff with a rookie QB at the helm. The Jets could blow them out, but you just need them to win by 6, which won’t be a problem. After this week, we’ll see the Raiders getting 7 or more points on the road, so bet against them now while you still only have to give 5.5 points. (The Pick: Jets -5.5.)
Cincinnati Bengals +1 at Baltimore Ravens
You probably think I’m gonna talk about how the Ravens are generally good at home (and at home ATS, and in home-openers). And you might suspect that I’ll then talk about how NFC North games are almost always 3-point spreads no matter who’s playing, and that this one is a great value bet on Baltimore giving less than 3 at home. But Cincy is the better team, and they are going to win this game over the Ravens in Baltimore this week. Of course, the oddsmakers weren’t going to make the Bengals road favorites (or Baltimore home dogs) just yet. But by setting this line at a virtual “pick’em” (instead of around -2.5 or -3 where it would usually be) they’re saying they have no confidence in the Ravens winning this week. (The Pick: Bengals +1.)
Tennessee Titans +3.5 at Kansas City Chiefs
Maybe the “magic of Arrowhead” wins this one for the Chiefs…. But I think KC comes back to earth after their surprise season of a year ago. I can see Alex Smith looking like…. well… Alex Smith and KC fans realizing he just signed a lucrative contract extension and remembering that Andy Reid aint going anywhere anytime soon (and that he’s a good-not-great coach who always bungles clock management and playcalling, which are important duties for a coach), and by the second half they won’t be so boisterous in those Arrowhead seats. Meanwhile, the Titans have built a nice offensive line and given Jake Locker some good young receiving weapons so he can make a leap under a solid head coach in Ken Whisenhunt…. All of a sudden you could envision the Titans pulling the upset. I think the Chiefs should manage to come away with the victory at home, but it will be a very close game. (The Pick: Titans +3.5)
TEASER OF THE WEEK
A “Teaser” lets you move the point spread 6 points (in both games you are “teasing” together) and both have to win. So for example, this week you could tease the Bears from -7 down to -1 (at home vs. Buffalo) and then tease New England from -5.5 down to +1/2 (at Miami). For this week’s Teaser pick, please re-read the preceding sentence. The Bills seem to play well at home, but this game is not at home. Their recent signing of veteran QB Kyle Orton might be a signal that Buffalo is as unsure about EJ Manuel’s viability as a starting NFL QB as the rest of us. The Bears are loaded on offense and wont lose this game. In Miami, the Dolphins should improve some this year, and sometimes manage to upset the Pats or play them close in crazy games, but New England will notch the victory this week. (The Pick: Tease Bears -1 with Patriots +1/2.)
Record Last Season:
If we tell you how good these picks were last year you’d just assume we were lying; and if we told the truth we’d be embarrassed. –Eds.
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