November 05, 2012

NFL Odds, Week 5: Around the League

The outcome of Monday Night Football last week was a bittersweet result for me. I had pushed my record ATS to 10-3 on the season when New England did the biggest number on the Bills in Buffalo during an otherworldly second half performance and Minnesota easily covered in Detroit when given 4.5 points against the Lions.
Dallas looked extremely good -3 at home to Chicago and still do bar Tony Romo throwing five picks, two being returned for touchdowns. However, how bad could it be? I can still boast a 10-4 record after four weeks and I backed the Bears to win this thing outright at 33/1 back in August so I was glad they made a statement, particularly after their demoralising loss in Green Bay in Week 2.

Last week was tough to predict, which is why I only went with three picks. Let’s see what spreads are available in Week 5 and where the potential betting gems lay.

BAL Eagles +3.5...BAL Steelers -3

As I’ve written previously, I’m a big fan of the Ohio derbies, when the Browns and Bengals meet twice a season, but this pairing off in Pennsylvania takes place a lot less frequently. However, less is more and this is one to really enjoy.
Pittsburgh’s coming off a bye week after a disappointing failure to cover the spread against an Oakland team going nowhere fast. Where does that leave the Steelers? Aside from being a game and a half behind Baltimore and the aforementioned Bengals, they also possess an inability to run the ball this year, something that goes very much against type in Steel Town. They rank 31st in run offense, but this contest is about so much more than that.

You might think Philly’s worth backing here with the points and here’s why: they became the first team in NFL history to achieve their first three wins in a season by two points or less. So, take the 3.5 points on offer and let them do their worst.

No, back the Steelers instead and here’s why: the Eagles are coming off an emotional win against the Giants and, while it isn’t far to travel to Pittsburgh, the hosts welcome back three hometown superstars in Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. This is maybe one of the bets of the week.

BAL Packers -7...BAL Colts +7

As this column looks at all things betting in the NFL, what odds would you have got on the Packers having the 18th ranked offense after four weeks of the season? Or being 1-3 ATS? Don’t, it’s a little too much to take in. 

I never had New Orleans running Green Bay as close as they did last Sunday, especially after what had transpired in Seattle the previous Monday night. I’d pegged the Pack to blow the Saints out of the water and am only thankful I didn’t tip them up as worth any of your hard earned.

Indianapolis are coming in off their bye week, but they went into it on the back of a desperately disappointing home loss to Jacksonville. I’d tipped them to easily cover the spread (-2.5) and I was counting my winnings when they led 14-3 at half time. I haven’t thought kindly of Andrew Luck since and kinda want the Packers to run riot on the Colts this week. However, it’s hard to trust even Aaron Rodgers to do that right now.

Tentatively, I take Indy to lose, but to cover the spread.


BAL Browns +10...BAL Giants -9.5

What to make of the New York Giants this season? Much like the beginning of last season, if you ask me. What’s that? OK, I’ll give you that. You weren’t. 

The Big Blue burst into life in Carolina with a much depleted team on primetime in Week 3 and last week was an emotional loss to the hated Eagles, which does make them a dangerous team this week, despite being without Hakeem Nicks for the third straight game on Sunday. However, it’s fair to argue how desperately the Giants actually miss him, considering they still possess the league’s second ranked passing offense; Victor Cruz, after a couple of early drops, is having a quite sensational time of it in 2012.

It’s hardly ideal for Cleveland to be travelling to MetLife Stadium a week after losing in Baltimore, but they would have had ten days to recover once kickoff rolls around. In addition, from a spread betting viewpoint, they’ve covered the spread twice so far this season as a heavy underdog. The first was when being given a nine point start at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and they covered again versus the Ravens last week, with a 12 point start.

I like Cleveland a lot here.   


BAL Falcons -3...BAL Redskins +3 

Washington last week brought to a shuddering halt the spread covering machine that had been the Buccaneers when they won straight up in Tampa and +3 on the handicap. This week they welcome a soaring Falcons team and these are high flying birds Noel Gallagher would be proud of.

For a team averaging 31 points per game (3rd in the league), Atlanta strangely ranks 15th in overall offense, an anomaly that I won’t begin to get to grips with here. Flipping that on its head and looking at the Redskins’ offense, they should be able to run the ball all day on the Falcons as their second ranked run offense (171 YPG) comes face to face with Atlanta’s 29th ranked run defense. I’m already intrigued as to how the time of possession battle pans out in this one.

Conversely, Matt Ryan (69.4 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 2 INTs), Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones will force their talents on a Washington pass D ranked next to last in the NFL.

This has the makings of a shootout and it’s no surprise that the over/under stands at 50. BUY! BUY! BUY! 

Leave this one well alone and just enjoy it for what it is...with a sneaky buck or two on the over, of course. 


BAL Dolphins +4.5...BAL Bengals -3.5
If the odds on Green Bay having the 18th ranked offense after four weeks of the NFL season is something arguably none of us could have predicted, the sportsbooks would’ve let you pick any price you like for Brian Hartline to be leading the league in receiving yards after four weeks. And that with a rookie quarterback throwing him the ball. Some things that transpire in the NFL truly are beyond reasonable explanation. 

After losing heavily in Baltimore in Week 1, Cincinnati have hit their stride, winning three on the bounce and covering the spread on each occasion, including twice in a row on the road over the past two weeks.

Miami may be 1-3 on the season, but they’re 3-1 ATS. That’s impressive and they have been helped by a league leading run defense yielding just 56.8 yards per game. I didn’t see them covering the spread (+6.5) in Arizona last Sunday, but I honestly don’t see them doing the same this week.

As stout as their run D might be, Miami’s giving up 297.8 yards per game through the air (30th) and it’s hard to see how they’re going to contain A.J. Green from picking up huge chunks of yardage this week.

Reggie Bush was playing like a superstar (some would say he still is a genuine superstar) before picking up a knee injury against the Jets two weeks ago and he wasn’t the same player last week. He’s been limited in practice this week, but the indications are that he’ll definitely play on Sunday.

The Dolphins aren’t as bad as advertised before the season kicked off and despite them covering the spread the past three weeks, I really like the Bengals -3.5 at home this week.


BAL Ravens -4.5 ...BAL Chiefs +5 

Kansas City have been pretty shocking in three games out of four this season, particularly ATS. Baltimore began the season 2-0 ATS, but, despite winning their last two contests (against the Patriots and Browns) they’ve failed to cover the spread both times so should we trust them on Sunday? Considering that the Chiefs will look to control the clock with their league leading rushing offense, maybe not.

Another reason, and perhaps more importantly, is that the Ravens have much bigger fish to try over the next two weeks when they host the Cowboys followed by a trip to Houston for what could be a possible AFC Championship dress rehearsal (although I have a hunch the Patriots will get there).
Leave this one well alone.


BAL Bears -5...BAL Jaguars +5.5 

Why wouldn’t Chicago be a good thing this week? Perhaps because they’re on the road after a short week...having been on the road before that short week. They’ve experienced just one blip in four games thus far and that against the Packers in Green Bay and the most important facet of that defeat is that you just know they learnt from it, hence the hammering they dished out to the Cowboys on Monday night.

Jacksonville followed up a highly impressive win in Indy with a loss at home to the Bengals, hardly a surprise. I wouldn’t dream of placing any faith whatsoever in the Jaguars and while I’m not going to plug the Bears for a punt here (beware the MNF victory hangover...just ask the Seahawks), they should cover. Either way, they’ll win straight up.


BAL Broncos +7...BAL Patriots -6.5

Buy at the over/under of 52. Please.


BAL Bills +10...BAL 49ers -9

Thinking back to last week, it was so easy to predict San Fran would cover the spread against the Jets. The green half of NY/NJ was on a huge downer after Darrelle Revis was lost for the season, something nearly every media outlet reported. Why didn’t I listen to them?

The 49ers were also coming off a disappointing road loss in Minnesota and of course they were going to bounce back in style. It really was that obvious and I refused to see it. My only guess is that, being a Seahawk, it’s difficult to plot your lot on San Francisco. I missed out and don’t I know it.

Buffalo can’t plumb depths any lower than they did in the second half against the Patriots last week and this is a truly horrible matchup to follow that. The Bills don’t stand a chance and the Niners -9 looks to be a skinny line. 


BAL Titans +6...BAL Vikings -5.5

Minnesota are becoming very easy to bet on right now and this week looks to be no different. However, caveat emptor. Yes, the Vikings have covered the spread the last two weeks, but they were the underdog on both occasions (vs. 49ers, at Lions). They find themselves favoured this week and they’re 0-2 ATS this season (vs. Jaguars, at Colts) as the favourite.

However, I have to admit that they are attractive -5.5 against the Titans. They have weapons on offense, Christian Ponder has yet to throw an interception and they can be expected to score points on a leaky Tennessee D. In addition, Minnesota possesses a defense that is sound.

Jake Locker’s missing at quarterback for Tennessee and he may be out for a few weeks, but being able to turn the offense over to Matt Hasselbeck is no awful thing. Running back Chris Johnson (finally) broke out against Houston last week with 141 yards on 25 carries, but which Johnson will we see this week? 

The Vikings boast the league’s seventh ranked run defense so don’t pin anything on the Titans hitting three figures on the ground.

I’m sorely tempted to make Minnesota a really good thing this week, but will urge caution. The Titans are horrible on defense...on second thoughts, I do make Minnesota a really good thing this week. 


BAL Chargers +4...BAL Saints -3.5

Although this isn’t the last game on this list, it’s the last game I’ve chosen to write about, partly because the game below was too easy to write about; the Texans really could hammer the final nail into the Jets’ coffin after only five weeks of the season.

Without focusing on how good a bet either the Chargers or Saints might be, the biggest certainty of this one is Drew Brees to surpass Johnny Unitas’s record of 47 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass. Barring injury, it’s going to happen.

I’m working against a very unfortunate time constraint this weekend so need to curb it here: I take the Saints to cover on a tide of emotion.


BAL Texans -7.5...BAL Jets +9

How on earth are the Jets going to score on the Texans? The Jets are in a mess and the Texans are the hottest team in football. I appreciate Houston’s on the road here, but only asking them to cover by 7.5 points looks to be a stonking bet.

To recap, my ‘Aaron Curry’ is Cleveland +10 while my bet of the week is the one directly above, Houston -7.5. Picking only two teams is too conservative so I’ll also add in Cincinnati -3.5.

Please gamble responsibly.

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